In many of the early Mormon personal histories I am seeing an interesting conversion narrative. We know that the first LDS missionaries did not use the First Vision to introduce the gospel. The Church was formally organized in 1830 and the First Vision account did not exist in published form until 1842. The scriptural version of the First Vision was not even written until 1838.  Even then, the story of the boy-prophet’s theophany did not become important in restorationist efforts until the early 20th century.
Instead, the prophecy of Daniel was important to LDS preachers. Joseph Smith tied Daniel 2:44 to the Mormon Kingdom of God in 1831, and by 1835 Mormon elders were engaged in the use of Daniel typology.  They used this scripture to introduce the advent of the “Kingdom of God” which had rolled forth to break all other religions and political systems in pieces.
Early Mormon journals relate the importance of the Book of Daniel in their investigation of the Mormon Church. For example, Isaac C. Haight’s account shows how missionaries framed their discussion of the prophecy and related it to the Mormon Church:
“In this state of mind I was found by a preacher of the gospel by the name of Pelatiah Brown in the winter of eighteen hundred and thirty-eight. The first time I heard him preach he preached from the seventh chapter of Daniel. In his discourse he set forth the apostasy of the primitive church and finally the taking away of the priesthood, and finally the setting up of the kingdom that was to be set up in the last days with all its gifts and graces with all its power and blessings and then bore testimony that God had set up his kingdom and had again called men by revelation to preach the gospel and the baptize for the remission of sin and to lay hands on for the gift of the Holy Ghost…The spirit bore testimony to me of the truth and after close investigation I became convinced that God had set up his kingdom on the earth again and on the third day of March 1839 I and my wife were buried in the waters of baptism for the remission of sins” 
This Kingdom of God as prophesied by Daniel found a prominent place in the missionary tracts of the day. Parley P. Pratt’s “A Voice of Warning” contained this declaration:
“…the kingdom spoken of by Daniel is something to be organized in the last days, by the God of heaven Himself, without the aid of human institutions or the precepts of men. And, when once organized, it will never cease to roll; all the powers of earth and hell will not impede its progress, until at length the Ancient of Days shall sit, and the Lord Jesus will come in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory, as the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and destroy all these kingdoms, and give the kingdom and the greatness of the kingdom, under the whole heaven, to the Saints.” 
Early LDS Hymns from the 1835 hymnal further elucidate how the Saints interpreted Daniel 2:44. For example, “What Fair One is This?” connected the fulfillment of Daniel’s vision with elders going forth and preaching the gospel:
The elders of Israel a standard are raising,
And call on all nations to come to the same:
These elders go forth and the gospel are preaching.
And all that will hear them, they freely are teaching,
And thus is the vision of Daniel fulfilling:
The stone of the mountain will soon fill the earth.
“How Often in Sweet Meditation” also linked Daniel’s prophecy with the preaching of the Latter-day gospel. The expectation that the Mormon Kingdom of God would overcome the political systems of the world is evoked with the image of thrones being cast down:
To lift up my voice and proclaim the glad news,
First unto the Gentiles and then to the Jews…
From north, and the south, from the east and the west.
We’ll bring home our thousands in Zion to rest…
And thrones be cast down as wise Daniel proclaim’d.
And Israel shall flourish and spread far abroad,
Till earth shall be full of the knowledge of God:
And thus shall the stone of the mountain roll
forth– Extend its dominion, and fill the whole earth.
Another hymn, “The Time is Nigh, That Happy Time” proclaimed that although the nations did not yet realize it, the kingdom of God was slowly growing and would soon overcome the superstition of false religion:
The prophecies must be fulfil’d
Though earth and hell should dare oppose;
The stone out of the mountain cut,
Though unobserved, a kingdom grows.
Soon shall the blended image fall,
Brass, silver, iron, gold and clay;
And superstition’s dreadful reign,
To light and liberty give way.
Eliza R. Snow wrote several poems which took Daniel 2 as the text. “The Kingdom of God” reflected the Saints’ understanding of a developing political Kingdom which would conquer the nations of the earth:
The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of Power:
In th’ midst of oppression its sinews have grown:
All people who fight against Zion will perish—
To tread on her peace, is to forfeit your own.
The feet of the “image,” the clay and the iron,
The Kingdom of God into pieces will break:
The brass and the silver will also be broken—
Earth’s nations will tremble—her kingdoms will shake…
The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of Conquest,
To which ev’ry knee of all nations must bow.
Peter Cartright recalled hearing Joseph Smith preach in 1839, “I will show you, sir, that I will raise up a government in these United States which will overturn the present government and I will raise up a new religion that will overturn every other form of religion in the country.” 
I am convinced that the emphasis on Daniel 2:44 and its rhetoric of a little stone which rolls forth to break in pieces the kingdoms of the earth was pivotal in early Mormon attempts to establish a political Kingdom of God in America. Since this idea formed a significant part of the Elders’ preaching, new converts consisted largely of people who were drawn to this concept. Though some may disagree, I think that the Saints’ understanding of the breaking and subduing of other nations, political systems, and religions was non-metaphorical. (If you disagree, I’d love to hear why in the comments!) In further writings on this subject, I plan to investigate how the Danite band was conceived and influenced by this particularly Mormon slant on Daniel’s prophecy.
 Early accounts with limited circulation were: the Joseph Smith Letterbook account, 1832 (published 1965); and the Matthias account, 1835. The official account now found in the Pearl of Great Price was recorded in 1838.
 Parley P. Pratt, A Voice of Warning and Instruction to All People, Containing a Declaration of the Faith and Doctrine of the Church of the Latter-day Saints, Commonly Called Mormons (New York: W. Sandford, 1837), ch. 1.