The background for the first half of Joseph Smith History (JS-Hist. 1:1-26) deals with the historical document itself—the context and time of its production. But perhaps more important is to give some historical background on the Restoration. God was preparing the world for the Restoration for many centuries before it took place. To ignore this fact is to fail to see the hand of God working among the nations to bring about his purposes.
Those familiar with the four R’s of Repentance should enjoy the four R’s of the Restoration. They are 1) the Renaissance, 2) the Reformation, 3) the Revolution (American Revolution), and 4) the Restoration. Without steps 1-3, step 4 could never take place.
1) The Renaissance
The Lord’s plan for 1820 began unfolding in Florence, Italy with the 14th century flourishing of arts, culture, and literature. The Renaissance paved the way for the transformation of European life and the subsequent dominance of the Western tradition of thought. Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
“With the revival of learning and the rebirth in man's breast of a thirst for truth, the dark ages were doomed. Beginning in the 14th century, the Lord began to prepare those social, educational, religious, economic, and governmental conditions under which he could more easily restore the gospel for the last time among men. The spirit of inspiration rested upon Wycliffe, Huss, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Knox, and others, causing them to rebel against the religious evils of the day and seek to make the Bible and other truth available to all who would receive such. The age of Renaissance and Reformation were part of the Lord's program preparatory to ushering in his great latter-day work.” (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 717)
As the influence of the Renaissance moved into northern Europe, humanism was applied to religion, contributing to an increasing discontent with corrupt and rigid Catholicism.
“Ironically, one could say the most important result of the Northern Renaissance was a religious revolution. This was the result of a several factors: anger at the church's corruption, the rising power of kings at the expense of the popes, and the fusion of Renaissance ideas from Italy with the still intense religious fervor and emerging national cultures of the North. The dynamic combination of these factors would lead to the Protestant Reformation.” (http://www.flowofhistory.com/units/west/11/FC78)
2) The Reformation
A host of courageous men then rose up, known as the Reformers, to fight against tyranny, immorality, and illiteracy. These men did not come on the scene by chance. Their births were not part of some random selection process. To the contrary, Paul, speaking of all men, observed that the Lord “hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26). God knew both when and where the Reformers would be born. These divinely chosen men were vocal critics of the doctrines that had become corrupted. Likewise, they were vigorous opponents of the clergy, many of whom were the epitome of hypocrisy…
These Reformers (Wyciffe, Huss, Zwingli, Knox, Calvin, Luther) opposed many of the existing church practices such as celibacy, the doctrine of transubstantiation, indulgences, failure to pass the sacrament to the entire lay membership, worshiping of relics, and the unavailability of the scriptures. These men, however, wanted only to reform the existing church not start a new church or restore Christ’s Church. But unfortunately, they met bitter resistance—some even being required to give their lives. The time was not quite ripe for the Restoration…
The Reformers were great men, but they were not prophets of God. They still taught misconceptions such as faith without works, predestination, and certain misguided concepts concerning the sacrament and baptism. Nonetheless, their influence was profound and their contribution significant. It was a giant step forward… a necessary precursor to the restoration of Christ’s Church. (The Inevitable Apostasy, [SLC: Deseret Book, 2006], 324-327)
Thomas S. Monson
Honest men with yearning hearts, at the peril of their very lives, attempted to establish points of reference, that they might find the true way. The day of the reformation was dawning, but the path ahead was difficult. Persecutions would be severe, personal sacrifice overwhelming, and the cost beyond calculation. The reformers were like pioneers blazing wilderness trails in a desperate search for those lost points of reference which, they felt, when found would lead mankind back to the truth Jesus taught…
Such were the teachings and lives of the great reformers. Their deeds were heroic, their contributions many, their sacrifices great—but they did not restore the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Of the reformers one could ask, "Was their sacrifice in vain? Was their struggle futile?" I answer with a resounding "No!" The Holy Bible was now within the grasp of the people. Each man could better find his way. Oh, if only all could read and all could understand. But some could read, and others could hear; and every man had access to God through prayer. (Be Your Best Self [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979], 12)
Were the Renaissance and the Reformation enough? Once spirit of reformation had settled into Western Europe, some were open to new religious ideas. But imagine Joseph Smith trying to restore the Church in a European country. The rigidity of tradition, the power of the monarchy, and the oppressive stamp of the religious establishment would have crushed the infant church. In short, there was not enough freedom of religion for the Restoration. A new country, founded on greater liberties, especially religious liberties, would have to be created.
Here is where the hand of the Lord becomes obvious. Seeking religious liberty, Europeans left the Old World for the New. Was this chance? Nephi declared that the religious intolerance of Europe was “captivity”:
I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.
And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise… and they did prosper… and the power of the Lord was with them. (1 Ne. 13:14-16)
The Lord inspired the Pilgrims to seek new religious freedom in the New World, but getting “the Gentiles” to America was not enough either. While the colonies were well established by the 1600’s, imagine if Joseph Smith was raised in Salem, Massachusetts. He would surely have been hung for witchcraft in the witch hunts of 1692. Two full centuries had passed since Columbus discovered America, but religious freedom was still not possible.
Next would be the Enlightenment (too bad the term doesn’t begin with the letter “R”. You could say the age of Reason was an essential step) and its influence on the colonists.
“An Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason) was a cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th-century Europe, that sought to mobilize the power of reason, in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted science and intellectual interchange and opposed superstition, intolerance and abuses in church and state… The new intellectual forces spread to urban centers across Europe, notably England, Scotland, the German states, the Netherlands, Russia, Italy, Austria, and Spain, then jumped the Atlantic into the European colonies, where it influenced Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, among many others, and played a major role in the American Revolution. The political ideals influenced the American Declaration of Independence, the United States Bill of Rights.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment)
It was the enlightened thinking of this age that would scoff at witch trials and religious oppression. It was the philosophies of these enlightened souls which found their way into Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. Certainly, it was an integral step towards the American Revolution.
3) The Revolution
After having taken the foregoing preparatory steps, the Lord needed to cut America’s political umbilical cord with its mother country—England. England was so entangled in a state religion that its iron-fisted hand would not easily lend help to the birth of a new religion. The Revolutionary War proved to be the solution. Nephi saw it almost 2400 years in advance of its happening: (quotes 1 Nephi 13:17-19)
Who can doubt the Lord’s hand in the Revolutionary War? One can visualize Washington’s rag-tag band of soldiers struggling for survival at Valley Forge. They were ill-trained, ill-equipped, and ill-fed. They were outnumbered, outgunned, and outdisciplined. They were victims of a severe winter—but there was a sense of divine purpose that transcended it all, that somehow gave them the stamina and will to carry on, to stick it out one more day, to find sustaining power in the vision of their inspired commander…
In reminiscence of those hallowed days, Washington spoke these farewell words to his army on November 2, 1783:
The disadvantageous circumstances on our part, under which the war was undertaken, can never be forgotten. The singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition were such, as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving; while the unparalleled perseverance of the Armies of the U[nited] States through almost every possible suffering and discouragement for the space of eight long years was little short of a standing miracle.
On another occasion Washington made this significant statement, which is so applicable to our times: “The man must be bad indeed who can look upon the events of the American Revolution without feeling the warmest gratitude towards the great Author of the Universe whose divine interposition was so frequently manifested in our behalf.” (The Inevitable Apostasy, [SLC: Deseret Book, 2006], 331-333)
M. Russell Ballard
I believe the reformers played an important role in preparing the world for the Restoration. So did the early explorers and colonizers of America and the framers of the Constitution of the United States. God needed a philosophical climate that allowed for theological restoration and a political arena where people could share ideas and talk about their beliefs openly without fear of persecution or death. He created such a place on the American continent—thanks to those reformers, explorers, and patriots—and by the early 1800s the American frontier fairly bristled with interdenominational fervor and excitement. Ministers competed for the hearts and souls of entire congregations. Cities, towns, and even families were divided by their various religious alliances. Never in the history of the world did the sincere seeker of truth have more ecclesiastical options from which to choose. (Our Search for Happiness, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1993], 32)
JS-History 1:27 I continued to pursue my common vocations in life until the twenty-first of September 
Lucy Mack Smith
From this time until the twenty-first of September, 1823, Joseph continued, as usual, to labor with his father, and nothing during this interval occurred of very great importance—though he suffered every kind of opposition and persecution from the different orders of religionists.
The third harvest time had now arrived since we opened our new farm, and all our sons were actively employed in assisting their father to cut down the grain and store it away in order for winter. (The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, SF Proctor and MJ Proctor, [SLC: Bookcraft, 1996], 101)
JS-History 1:28 I had… been forbidden to join any of the religious sects of the day
Lucy Mack Smith
Shortly after the death of Alvin (Nov. 19, 1823), a man commenced laboring in the neighborhood, to effect a union of the different churches, in order that all might be agreed, and thus worship God with one heart and with one mind.
This seemed about right to me, and I felt much inclined to join in with them; in fact, the most of the family appeared quite disposed to unite with their numbers; but Joseph, from the first, utterly refused even to attend their meetings, saying, "Mother, I do not wish to prevent your going to meeting, or any of the rest of the family's; or your joining any church you please; but, do not ask me to join them. I can take my Bible, and go into the woods, and learn more in two hours, than you can learn at meeting in two years, if you should go all the time."
To gratify me, my husband attended some two or three meetings, but peremptorily refused going any more, either for my gratification, or any other person's.
During this excitement, Joseph would say, it would do us no injury to join them, that if we did, we should not continue with them long, for we were mistaken in them, and did not know the wickedness of their hearts. One day he said, that he would give us an example, and that we might set it down as a prophecy; viz.:
"You look at Deacon Jessup," said he, "and you hear him talk very piously. Well, you think he is a very good man. Now suppose that one of his poor neighbors should owe him the value of a cow, and that this poor man had eight little children; moreover, that he should be taken sick and die, leaving his wife with one cow, but destitute of every other means of supporting herself and family—now I tell you, that Deacon Jessup, religious as he is, would not scruple to take the last cow from the poor widow and orphans in order to secure the debt, notwithstanding he himself has an abundance of everything."
At that time, this seemed impossible to us, yet one year had scarcely expired when we saw Joseph's prophecy literally fulfilled. (The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, SF Proctor and MJ Proctor, [SLC: Bookcraft, 1996], 121-122)
JS-History 1:28 I was left to all kinds of temptations… I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company
It would appear that Joseph Smith is making a confession. He doesn’t tell us exactly what he did wrong, but indicates that he made some mistakes in choosing friends and telling jokes. In essence, he is confessing to be a normal teenager. He was 17 years old at the time! Chances are, he acted like a typical 17-year-old and did some of the stupid things which only teenagers do. It’s a good thing there is room in the gospel plan for the foibles of youth. Otherwise, the Lord would be justified in raining fire and brimstone on all teenagers.
Spencer W. Kimball
There are enemies to God's cause who have tried to make much of this statement, but good men recognize it as a simple and honest confession which is consistent with the character of a great though still imperfect man. (The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], chap. 3)
John S. Reid
The first acquaintance I had with [Joseph] Smith was about 1823. He came into my neighborhood, being then about eighteen years of age, and resided there two years; during which time I became intimately acquainted with him. I do know that his character was irreproachable; that he was well known for truth and uprightness; that he moved in the first circles of the community, and he was often spoken of as a you man of intelligence and good morals, and possessing a mind susceptible of the highest intellectual attainments. (Hyrum and Helen Andrus, Personal Glimpses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 23)
JS-History 1:28 this will not seem very strange to any one… acquainted with my native cheery temperament
“Ezra Booth, a former Mormon whose published letters in Ohio newspapers stirred opposition against the Church, argued against the prophetic character of Joseph Smith on the grounds of his ‘habitual proneness to jesting and joking.’ And Thomas Ford, the non-Mormon governor of Illinois during the last years of Joseph’s life, wrote in his History: ‘It must not be supposed that the … Prophet … was a dark and gloomy person, with a long beard, a grave and severe aspect, and a reserved and saintly carriage of his person; on the contrary, he was full of levity, even to boyish romping.’
“Addressing the saints in Nauvoo on one occasion Joseph acknowledged his ‘playful and cheerful’ nature; and, in the pages of his history he wrote that he had been ‘guilty of levity and sometimes associated with jovial company,’ which, he said, ‘would not seem very strange to anyone acquainted with my native cheery temperament.’
“…Some individuals rejected Joseph Smith because he didn’t seem to fit their conception of a prophet’s personality.” (Dean C. Jessee, “The Spirituality of Joseph Smith,” Ensign, Sept. 1978, 16)
JS-History 1:29 I betook myself to prayer… for forgiveness of all my sins and follies
If Joseph was guilty of sins and follies, how was he worthy to receive a manifestation from God? The point is made that the Lord is more willing to forgive us than we realize. If we have a broken heart and contrite spirit, confessing our sins before Him, we are forgiven. There is no obligatory period of time in which the Spirit must be withdrawn. Joseph recognized his faults, confessed them, and was forgiven by the Lord.
This idea is important for those saints who believe that because of their imperfections, they are not worthy to have their prayers answered or to have the Spirit with them. If their heart is in the right place, the Lord will not withhold his grace or his angels.
JS-History 1:29 I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation
Joseph declared that he learned that James’ admonition was true; “a man who lacked wisdom might ask of God, and obtain and not be upbraided” (v. 26). But he also learned how to ask, “let him ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:6). That is quite a statement to say he had full confidence that he would obtain a divine manifestation. We might pray with full confidence that the Lord is listening or that the Lord will answer our prayers, but Joseph had full confidence he was going to have another vision.
M. Russell Ballard
Does it seem a little presumptuous for Joseph to assume that he could receive a manifestation from God simply by asking for it? Perhaps. But that was the nature of young Joseph's faith. (Our Search for Happiness [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1993], 43)
JS-History 1:30-32 I discovered a light appearing in my room… [and] a personage appeared at my bedside
In all of scripture there is not a better description of an angel than given here by Joseph Smith. Describing the Mount of Transfiguration, Matthew says Jesus “face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (Matt. 17:2). The Brother of Jared was descriptive in what he saw (Ether 3:6-16). Many others have described angelic visitation, but rarely is the angel described in any detail. Joseph must have been repeatedly asked what an angel looks like. Here he satisfies our curiosity.
It is no easy task to describe the appearance of a messenger from the skies—indeed, I doubt there being an individual clothed with perishable clay, who is capable to do this work. (The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, SF Proctor and MJ Proctor, [SLC: Bookcraft, 1996], footnote 16, p. 107)
JS-History 1:32 his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning
Angels come in a few types—see D&C 129. Moroni was a resurrected, glorified individual. At the First Resurrection in the meridian of time (Matt. 27:52-53; 3 Ne. 23:9-13), the righteous were brought forth as resurrected beings. Since that resurrection, only a few souls are known to have been resurrected to fulfill the Lord’s purposes. These include Moroni, Peter, and James. John the Revelator was still in a translated state, and John the Baptist was probably resurrected with Christ. Peter, James, and John needed resurrected hands to place on the heads of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Moroni needed resurrected hands to carry and keepsake the plates. “Angels, who are resurrected personages, [have] bodies of flesh and bones” (D&C 129:1).
Latter-day Saints should have their hope centered on the Resurrection. For them as individuals, it means they will be glorified as Moroni was, even to have bodies that are “glorious beyond description”—so luminescent as to fill any room with light. Often, we think of Paul’s description of the three degrees of glory as speaking of the three different kingdoms. More accurately, Paul is describing the physical, resurrected bodies that belong to those three kingdoms, “all flesh is not the same flesh” meaning “all resurrected flesh is not the same.” Every resurrected body is brought forth with either the glory of the sun, moon, or stars. Celestial resurrected bodies are like Moroni, “celestial bodies… [with] the glory of the sun” (1 Cor 15:39-41).
“Speaking of the glory to come in the celestial Resurrection, the Prophet said, ‘The old man with his silvery hairs will glory in bloom and beauty. No man can describe it to you—no man can write it.’” (Selected Writings of Robert J. Matthews: Gospel Scholars Series [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1999], 501)
Those who attain to the blessing of the first or celestial resurrection will be pure and holy, and perfect in body. Every man and woman that reaches to this unspeakable attainment will be as beautiful as the angels that surround the throne of God. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 10: 24 - 25)
JS-History 1:33 said unto me that… my name should be had for good and evil among all nations
“Today, the expanding missionary program, the activities and examples of faithful Saints, and the media have further helped make the name of Joseph Smith known throughout the world. As prophesied by Moroni, the Prophet’s name has indeed been had for good and evil. For decades his detractors have played the same themes over and over, and they will undoubtedly continue to do so. But in recent years there have been some scholars who have attempted to more fairly weigh Joseph Smith and his work.
“Thus Harold Bloom, a Yale humanities professor, looked at what Joseph Smith accomplished and called him, in a 1993 book, an ‘authentic religious genius.’ And in the mid-1980s, Finnish theologian Heikki Raisanen, writing in a German publication, asserted that theologians must take the teachings of Joseph Smith seriously, since the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had recognized and dealt with problems that have puzzled Christian theologians for generations.
“This kind of commentary is in line with a trend noted by a researcher at Ball State University in the early 1970s. Raymond Dale Roberson commented in his master’s thesis that in the twentieth century, non-LDS writings have tended to become more respectful of the Prophet. Even critics who reject Joseph Smith’s account of how the Book of Mormon came forth generally do so now with intellectual arguments rather than by simply calling Joseph a plagiarist…
“A very recent study by sociologist Rodney Stark of the Micro-Case Corporation recognizes the great religious movement that the Church has become in our day. He projects that based on past growth in membership, membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will reach 265 million by the end of 2080. 6 He writes: ‘We are observing an extraordinarily rare event. After a hiatus of fourteen hundred years, in our time a new world faith seems to be stirring.’” (Edwin O. Haroldsen, “Good and Evil Spoken Of,” Ensign, Aug. 1995, 8)
“’Would you be kind enough to share with me what you feel the impact of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon on the world has been?’… ‘To what do you attribute the remarkable growth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?’… The bicentennial of the Prophet’s birth… has given many scholars an opportunity to ask these and similar questions in very formal settings: at symposia hosted by the Library of congress in Washington, D.C., by the New South Wales Parliament in Sydney, Australia, and by the national University of Taiwan in Taipei. When Joseph Smith was just a boy of 17, he said, and angel appeared to him and declared ‘that [his] name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.’ This year  in particular has seen that prediction born out. Secular scholars and Christians, Hindus, Muslims, and presumed atheists, in many nations and in many tongues, speak good of Joseph’s name. In Sydney, Dr. Kazi Islam, a Muslim and Chairman of the Department of World Religions, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh explained that he introduced Mormonisms as a compulsory part of the Masters Degree in his Department ‘because of [his] profound love and respect for the ideals’ of that tradition Joseph Smith founded. Dr. Jason Lase, a Director General in the Indonesian Department of Religious Affairs, affirmed his belief that Joseph Smith was ‘a modern religious genius,’ who created what he called ‘one of the most stable and well organized religious organizations’ he has ever known. A few months later, Arun Joshi, a Hindu journalist from India, gave a remarkable talk at the Taipei conference, in which he related the experience of the First Vision to the conflicts in Kashmir and the Middle East, concluding, ‘the message of Joseph Smith is more relevant… today than ever before.’
… Joseph succeeded in creating a community with no real parallel, and few precedents, in the history of the world.” (“Lightning out of Heaven: Joseph Smith And the Forging of Community,” Terryl L. Givens, 1-3)
Gordon B. Hinckley
The miracle of this work as it spreads over the earth never escapes me. I took occasion here to open the testimony of Joseph Smith concerning the words spoken to him when a young man seventeen years of age. He was visited by Moroni in the night, and he reports, “He [Moroni] called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.” (JS—H 1:3.)
We see in this congregation today a fulfillment of those remarkable words of prophecy. This has become a great, cosmopolitan church. We rejoice in the tremendous growth of the work across the world. We are thankful for your great faith and faithfulness. We all look upon one another as brothers and sisters, regardless of the land we call home. We belong to what may be regarded as the greatest society of friends on the face of the earth. (“Fear Not to Do Good,” Ensign, May 1983, 79
James E. Faust
As time moves on, the stature of Joseph Smith will loom ever larger. He will stand higher and higher in the esteem of mankind. Ever so many will come to a profound conviction, as I have, that there is a divine source to the message he taught and an eternal purpose to the work which he restored on earth. (“The Expanding Inheritance from Joseph Smith,” Ensign, Nov. 1981, 77)
JS-History 1:34 a book… written on gold plates
These records were engraven on plates which had the appearance of gold, each plate was six inches wide and eight inches long, and not quite so thick as common tin. They were filled with engravings, in Egyptian characters, and bound together in a volume as the leaves of a book, with three rings running through the whole. The volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed. The characters on the unsealed part were small, and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction, and much skill in the art of engraving. (History of the Church, 4:537)
JS-History 1:35 two stones in silver bows… called the Urim and Thummim
Bruce R. McConkie
A Urim and Thummim consists of two special stones called seer stones or interpreters. The Hebrew words urim and thummim both plural, mean lights and perfections. Presumably one of the stones is called Urim and the other Thummim. Ordinarily they are carried in a breastplate over the heart. (Ex. 28:30; Lev. 8:8.)
Because of the sacred nature of these holy instruments they have not been viewed by most men, and even the times and circumstances under which they have been held by mortals are not clearly set forth. Undoubtedly they were in use before the flood, but the first scriptural reference to them is in connection with the revelations given the Brother of Jared…
Joseph Smith received the same Urim and Thummim had by the Brother of Jared for it was the one expressly provided for the translation of the Jaredite and Nephite records. (D. & C. 10:1; 17:1; Ether 3:22-28.) It was separate and distinct from the one had by Abraham and the one had by the priests in Israel. The Prophet also had a seer stone which was separate and distinct from the Urim and Thummim, and which (speaking loosely) has been called by some a Urim and Thummim. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, pp. 222-226)
President Joseph Fielding Smith, with reference to the seer stone and the Urim and Thummim, has written: “We have been taught since the days of the Prophet that the Urim and Thummim were returned with the plates to the angel. We have no record of the Prophet having the Urim and Thummim after the organization of the Church.” (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, p. 225) (Mormon Doctrine, p. 818)
JS-History 1:35 these stones [were] fastened to a breastplate
The Old Testament describes the ornate breastplate that Aaron wore before the Lord in the ancient tabernacle. See Exodus 28:15-30.
And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron’s heart, when he goeth in before the Lord; and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the Lord continually. (Ex. 28:30)
Lucy Mack Smith
When [Joseph] returned, he requested me to come downstairs… upon which he handed me the breastplate spoken of in his history.
It was wrapped in a thin muslin handkerchief, so thin that I could see the glistening metal and ascertain its proportions without any difficulty.
It was concave on one side and convex on the other, and extended from the neck downwards as far as the center of the stomach of a man of extraordinary size. It had four straps of the same material for the purpose of fastening it to the breast, two of which ran back to go over the shoulders, and the other two were designed to fasten to the hips. They were just the width of two of my fingers (for I measured them), and they had holes in the end of them to be convenient in fastening.
The whole plate was worth at least five hundred dollars. After I had examined it, Joseph placed it in the chest with the Urim and Thummim. (The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, SF Proctor and MJ Proctor, [SLC: Bookcraft, 1996], 148-149)
JS-History 1:36 He first quoted part of the third chapter of Malachi
Based on the other passages Moroni quoted, it is likely that the portion of 3 Malachi that he quoted was the first 4 verses:
Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.
But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap:
And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years. (Malachi 3:1-4)
The messenger preparing the way before the Lord’s Second Coming is Joseph Smith and the gospel he restored. His ministry was according to the spirit and power of Elias to prepare the way of the Lord. Through him was revealed the everlasting covenant “to be a standard for my people, and for the Gentiles to seek to it, and to be a messenger before my face to prepare the way before me.” (D&C 45:9).
Bruce R. McConkie
The everlasting covenant is the latter-day messenger before the Lord. It is the ancient standard raised anew. It is an ensign upon Mount Zion around which the honest in heart from all nations may rally. The everlasting gospel itself is the messenger. And whereas the gospel came through Joseph Smith, he becomes and is the messenger. He it is who raised the Lord's standard; he it is who raised the ensign to the nations; he it is who waved the banner of truth and righteousness in the sight of all men—all as promised in the ancient word. (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 338)
The next theme of Malachi is the purging which is to occur at the time of the Second Coming. The wicked will be destroyed and the righteous will be purified. Specifically, the priesthood (sons of Levi) needs to be re-established so that they can offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness. To Joseph, this priesthood would be restored, so that a righteous priesthood could perform temple ordinances in righteousness.
Before Moroni’s visit, Joseph Smith certainly never thought of himself as part of the fulfillment of Malachi 3:1-4, but in the space of these few verses we learn that the Lord needed a prophet to restore his gospel in preparation of the Second Coming. And that this would require a righteous priesthood and righteous temple offerings. The Restoration, the Second Coming, the Priesthood, and the Temple are pretty big themes—all covered in a few otherwise obscure verses in Malachi.
JS-History 1:36-37 he quoted also [Malachi 4:1]… though with a little variation from the way it reads in our Bibles
What is the difference? In Malachi, those that do wickedly “shall be as stubble” was changed to “shall burn as stubble.” A second change is from the original “the day that cometh shall burn them up” to “they that come shall burn them.”
The first change emphasizes the very literal burning at the Second Coming. Joseph Fielding Smith was asked, “’Brother Smith, do you mean to say that it is going to be literal fire?’ I said, ‘Oh, no, it will not be literal fire any more than it was literal water that covered the earth in the flood.’” (Signs of the Times [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1952], 38)
The second change emphasizes the source of the fire. It does not seem to be from a nuclear warhead but from a group of angels. While other scriptures emphasize the source as the sun (Rev. 16:8-9) or the Son of God (D&C 29:9; Isa. 30:27), this version seems to emphasize the angels tasked with burning the tares (D&C 38:12; 63:54).
JS-History 1:37 it shall leave them neither root nor branch
Theodore M. Burton
What is meant by the expression "that shall leave them neither root nor branch"? This expression simply means that wicked and indifferent persons who reject the gospel of Jesus Christ will have no family inheritance or patriarchal lineage—neither root (ancestors or progenitors) nor branch (children or posterity). Such persons cannot be received into the celestial kingdom of glory of resurrected beings, but must be content with a lesser blessing. (Conference Report, October 1967, Afternoon Meeting 81)
JS-History 1:38 I will reveal unto you the priesthood by the hand of Elijah
The restoration of the priesthood began with John the Baptist restoring the Aaronic, and Peter, James, and John restoring the Melchizedek, but that was not enough. There was more—not really more priesthood but more priesthood keys which were Elijah’s to restore.
Elijah was the last Prophet that held the keys of the Priesthood, and who will, before the last dispensation, restore the authority and deliver the keys of the Priesthood, in order that all the ordinances may be attended to in righteousness. It is true that the Savior had authority and power to bestow this blessing; but the sons of Levi were too prejudiced. "And I will send Elijah the Prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord," etc., etc. Why send Elijah? Because he holds the keys of the authority to administer in all the ordinances of the Priesthood; and without the authority is given, the ordinances could not be administered in righteousness.
…These sacrifices, as well as every ordinance belonging to the Priesthood, will, when the Temple of the Lord shall be built, and the sons of Levi be purified, be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications, and blessings. This ever did and ever will exist when the powers of the Melchizedek Priesthood are sufficiently manifest; else how can the restitution of all things spoken of by the Holy Prophets be brought to pass. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 172-173)
The spirit, power, and calling of Elijah is, that ye have power to hold the key of the revelations, ordinances, oracles, powers and endowments of the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood and of the kingdom of God on the earth; and to receive, obtain, and perform all the ordinances belonging to the kingdom of God, even unto the turning of the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the hearts of the children unto the fathers, even those who are in heaven.
… The spirit of Elias is first, Elijah second, and Messiah last. Elias is a forerunner to prepare the way, and the spirit and power of Elijah is to come after, holding the keys of power, building the Temple to the capstone, placing the seals of the Melchizedek Priesthood upon the house of Israel, and making all things ready; then Messiah comes to His Temple, which is last of all. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 337, 340)
JS-History 1:39 He also quoted the next verse differently
Moroni’s version of this verse omits the phrase, “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children” (Mal. 4:6). The reason for this omission is simple.
In the meridian of time, the Church performed baptisms for the dead (1 Cor. 15:29). This was possible because Elijah had restored the priesthood keys to Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration. At that time, individuals in the spirit world began to turn their hearts to the children. They learned that they needed vicarious ordinances to be performed. Think of all the good people who were under the Law of Moses! While some of them may have received baptism, they still needed other saving ordinances of the higher law. They probably only learned that after Christ’s ministry among them (D&C 138:30, see commentary for Luke 1:17).
On this side of the veil, the spirit and power of Elijah was lost with the Apostasy, but not on the other side of the veil. Ever since the meridian of time, the spirits of the just fathers have had their hearts turned to the children, waiting for the time when their work could be performed. Many of them are still waiting. It’s a sobering thought.
So when Moroni appears to Joseph Smith, he talks only about the hearts of the children turning to the fathers. He adds the phrase “And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers.” This additional phrase speaks of the work on this side of the veil, that the spirit of Elijah would rest upon the saints of the restored church inspiring us to do the work for the dead. At the time of Moroni’s visit, Elijah had already done his work to turn the heart of the fathers to the children. Their hearts have been turned to us for very, very long time.
JS-History 1:39 he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers
See commentary for D&C 2.
Earl C. Tingey
The word plant was introduced by the angel Moroni…The seed planted by the Lord, through Elijah’s appearance to Joseph Smith in 1836, was not a full-grown tree, but only a seed. At that time there were no genealogical societies in existence. History confirms that family research in America generally commenced with the forming of the New England Historical Genealogical Society in Boston in 1844.
Thus, just eight years after that small seed of genealogical interest in our ancestors was planted by Elijah, it began to grow until now, as a result of skills, tools, and computer technology, which have been provided by the Lord, the lowly seed has become a beautiful, fruit-bearing tree.
Brothers and sisters, in conclusion, many years ago humble listeners asked Peter, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37.) Peter replied, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you.” (Acts 2:38.) To your silent questions, Where should I begin? What should I do? we say, Seek out those who are called to direct this work in your ward or branch. Go to your family history center and the temple. Identify those of your ancestors whose identity may be lost to human memory. Get started now, and the Lord will help you. (“Redemption of the Dead,” Ensign, May 1991, 27)
JS-History 1:40 he quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah
The eleventh chapter of Isaiah prophesies of the missions of two individuals: Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith. It teaches us that their ministries are related—especially that Joseph Smith’s mission is necessary to gather Israel in preparation for Christ’s Second Coming.
And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse (Joseph Smith), which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left…
And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. (Isa. 11:10-12)
Elias Higbee asked the Prophet Joseph about this passage; specifically, “who is the root of Jesse?” The answer was “a descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom, for an ensign, and for the gathering of my people in the last days.” (D&C 113:6). That prophet was Joseph Smith.
Now, when Moroni is telling Joseph of an Isaiah passage which prophesies of his mission, it is hard to imagine that the 17-year-old understood the full meaning. But every time after that night, when Joseph would read Isaiah 11, he would think about Moroni’s visit and begin to see how his life and mission were in direct fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.
JS-History 1:40 he quoted also the third chapter of Acts, twenty-second and twenty-third verses
For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.
And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. (Acts 3:22-23)
The prophet spoken of is Jesus Christ. When he comes again, it will be with the same demonstrative power that Moses had before the court of Pharaoh. At that great day, the wicked who will not hearken to his voice will be destroyed. This prophecy about the Second Coming is given to Joseph Smith because his prophetic mission would prepare the world for the greater Prophet’s Advent.
JS-History 1:41 He also quoted the second chapter of Joel, from the twenty-eighth verse to the last
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call. (Joel 2:28-32)
This is heady stuff for a 17-year-old mind to grasp in the middle of the night. These are big prophecies about the biggest events of the last days. In our day, most of this passage has been fulfilled. The Holy Ghost has been poured out without measure upon the inhabitants of the earth and the elect are gathering in droves to the covenant. Thanks to Joseph’s mission, the Spirit is inspiring great prophesies, dreams, and visions—not just for grey-haired prophets but for the common man, for the common woman, for the young people, for the servants, for the children—all are entitled to divine manifestations.
Jeffrey R. Holland
Dreaming dreams and seeing visions. The Lord’s spirit upon all flesh—sons and daughters, old and young, servants and handmaidens. I may be wrong, but I can’t imagine an Old Testament verse of any kind that could have helped this boy prophet more. He was being called into the battle of his life, for life itself, or at least for its real meaning and purpose. He would be driven and hunted and hounded. His enemies would rail and ridicule. He would see his children die and his land lost and his marriage tremble. He would languish in prison through a Missouri winter, and he would cry out toward the vault of heaven, “O God, where art thou? … How long … O Lord, how long” (D&C 121:1–3). Finally he would walk the streets of his own city uncertain who, except for a precious few, were really friend or actually foe. And all that toil and trouble, pain and perspiration would end so maliciously at Carthage—when there simply were finally more foes than friends. Felled by balls fired from the door of the jail inside and one coming through the window from outside, he fell dead into the hands of his murderers at 38 years of age.
If all of this and so much more was to face the Prophet in such a troubled lifetime, and if he finally knew what fate awaited him in Carthage, as he surely did, why didn’t he just quit somewhere along the way? Who needs it? Who needs the abuse and the persecution and the despair and death? It doesn’t sound fun to me, so why not just zip shut the cover of your scriptures, hand in your Articles of Faith cards, and go home?
Why not? For the simple reason that he had dreamed dreams and seen visions. Through the blood and the toil and the tears and the sweat, he had seen the redemption of Israel. It was out there somewhere—dimly, distantly—but it was there. So he kept his shoulder to the wheel until God said his work was finished. (New Era, Sept. 1983, 41)
JS-History 1:42 I should not show them to any person… only to those to whom I should be commanded
We know what happened when Satan’s servants got a hold of the 116 pages, the translation of the Book of Lehi. Imagine what would have happened if his servants got a hold of the plates themselves! This was such an important point that later, Moroni placed Joseph under covenant never to show them without permission (D&C 5:3). Accordingly, other than Joseph Smith, 12 people saw the plates: the three witnesses, the eight witnesses, and Mary Whitmer. The prophet’s mother saw the breastplate covered in cloth and Emma Smith saw the plates covered in cloth. “Emma Smith relates she moved the plates many times while they were covered.” (Franklin S. Harris, Jr., The Book of Mormon: Message and Evidences, 2nd. ed [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1961], 191)
JS-History1:45 he informed me of great judgments which… would come on the earth in this generation
Indeed great judgments did come upon Joseph Smith’s generation, particularly during the Civil War (D&C 87). But did these great judgments mean that the Second Coming would be in Joseph Smith’s day—in his generation? He was never told the answer to this question.
I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following:
Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter.
I was left thus, without being able to decide whether this coming referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face. (D&C 130:14-16)
JS-History 1:46 Satan would try to tempt me… to get the plates for the purpose of getting rich
Lucy Mack Smith
The angel had informed Joseph that he might make an effort to obtain the plates on the twenty-second of the ensuing September . Accordingly, when the time arrived he visited the place where the plates were hid; and supposing at this time that the only thing required, in order to possess them until the time for their translation, was to be able to keep the commandments of God—and he firmly believed he could keep every commandment which had been given him—he fully expected to carry them home with him. Having arrived at the place appointed, he removed the moss and grass from the surface of the rock, and then pried up the flat stone, according to the directions which he had received. He then discovered the plates lying on four pillars in the inside of the box. He put forth his hand and took them up, but when he lifted them from their place, the thought flashed across his mind that there might be something more in the box that would be of a pecuniary benefit to him. In the excitement of the moment, he laid the record down in order to cover up the box, lest someone should come along and take away whatever else might be deposited there. When he turned again to take up the record, it was gone, but where he knew not, nor did he know by what means it had been taken away.
He was much alarmed at this. He knelt down and asked the Lord why it was that the record was taken from him. The angel appeared to him and told him that he had not done as he was commanded, for in a former revelation he had been commanded not to lay the plates down, or put them for a moment out of his hands, until he got into the house and deposited them in a chest or trunk having a good lock and key; and contrary to this, he had laid them down with the view of securing some fancied or imaginary treasure that remained.
In the moment of excitement, Joseph was overcome by the powers of darkness and forgot the injunction that was laid upon him.
After some further conversation, Joseph was permitted to raise the stone again, and there he beheld the plates, the same as before. He reached forth his hand to take them, but was hurled to the ground with great violence. When he recovered, the angel was gone, and he arose and returned to the house, weeping for grief and disappointment. (History of Joseph Smith, Revised and Enhanced, edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 122-123)
JS-History 1:48-49 I shortly after arose from my bed, and, as usual, went to the necessary labors of the day
Lucy Mack Smith
The next day Joseph, his father, and his brother Alvin were reaping in the field together. Suddenly, Joseph stopped and seemed to be in a deep study for some time. Alvin hurried him, saying, "Joseph, you must keep to work or we shall not get our task done." Joseph worked again diligently, then stopped in the same way a second time. When his father saw that Joseph was very pale, he urged him to go to the house and tell his mother that he was sick. He went a short distance till he came to a beautiful green under an apple tree. Here he lay down on his face, for he was so weak he could go no farther.
He was here but a short time, when the messenger whom he had seen the night before came to him again and said, "Why did you not tell your father what I told you?" Joseph said he was afraid his father would not believe him. "He will believe every word you say to him," said the angel.
Joseph then promised to do as he was told by the angel and rose up and returned to the field, where he had left my husband and Alvin; but when he got there, his father had just gone to the house, as he was somewhat unwell. Joseph then requested Alvin to go to the house and ask his father to the field, for, said he, "I have something to tell him." When his father came to him, Joseph rehearsed all that had passed between him and the angel the previous night. Having heard this account, his father charged him not to fail in attending strictly to the instruction which he had received from this heavenly messenger.
Soon after Joseph had this conversation with his father, he repaired to the place where the plates were deposited. (History of Joseph Smith, Revised and Enhanced, edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 108-109)
JS-History 1:51 Convenient to the village of Manchester… stands a hill of considerable size
Hill Cumorah, New York
Gordon B. Hinckley
About four miles south of Palmyra is a hill of considerable size, rising abruptly on the north side and tapering to the south with a long slope. On the west side, not far from the top, as Joseph had seen it in vision, was the weathered surface of a rounded stone, the edges of which were covered with earth.
Eagerly he removed the earth so that he might get a lever under the edge. Lifting the rock, he looked into a box formed by a stone in the bottom with other stones cemented together to form the sides. There, indeed, was the treasure!—a book of gold leaves bound together with three rings, the breast-plate and the two stones set in silver bows. (What of the Mormons? [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1947], 68-69)
JS-History 1:52 In the bottom of the box were laid two stones… on these stones lay the plates and the other things
Joseph Smith reported that he had found inscribed gold plates buried in a stone box, the idea seemed novel. Yet, prominently on display in the Louvre is a stone box containing copper plates with writing from the foundation of the temple of Dagan at Mari. These date back to 3000 b.c. The British Museum also houses two ancient boxes—one is from Balawat and contains two stone tablets; the other is of clay and was found in Babylonia, dated 600 b.c.
Joseph Smith said that the history written on his gold plates was of a people whose roots began in the Middle East and who brought with them to the New World the traditions and customs of their land. These customs included writing on metal plates and burying them in stone boxes. Although stone boxes were used commonly in the Old World to bury and preserve histories and other treasures, only recently have ancient stone boxes been discovered in America in significant numbers. Many of these are now on display in the archaeological museum in Mexico.
Stone boxes have been found in the Old World as well as the New. These boxes usually contained gold, jewelry, tools, or other valuables. A stone box found in Persepolis, Iran, contained two thin metal plates—one of gold and the other of silver—upon which was an engraved record of King Darius. Several hundred different histories engraved on gold, silver, and copper plates have been discovered in the Old World. (“By Study and Also by Faith: Essays in Honor of Hugh W. Nibley on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday,” [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., FARMS, 1990], 2: 83.)
“In 1938, archaeologists from the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute uncovered, at the ancient Persian capital of Persepolis, a foundation deposit consisting of two gold and two silver tablets in a stone box in the northeast corner of the Apadana palace. The inscription on each of the plates was the same and reads, ‘Darius the great king, king of kings, king of countries, son of Hystaspes, anAchaemenid. King Darius says: This is the kingdom which I hold, from the Sacae who are beyond Sogdia to Nubia, and from Sind to Lydia – [this is] what Ahuramazda, the greatest of gods, bestowed upon me. May Ahuramazda protect me and my royal house!’ It is inscribed in cuneiform script in three different languages, Old Persian (10 lines), Akkadian (the language of ancient Assyria and Babylon, 7 lines), and Elamite (the language of Elam in southern Persia, 8 lines). Darius I was king of Persia 550-486 BC.
“The stone box included a lid and was covered by a large flat round stone, as shown in the photo taken at the time of discovery. The plates, along with the box in which they were found, are on display at the national museum in Tehran, Iran.” (http://bookofmormonresearch.org/metal-records/persia/darius-i-persepolis)
JS-History 1:53-54 Joseph’s first visit to Cumorah
Lucy Mack Smith
While Joseph remained here, the angel told him, "Now I will show you the distance between light and darkness, and the operation of a good spirit and an evil one. An evil spirit will try to crowd your mind with every evil and wicked thing to keep every good thought and feeling out of your mind, but you must keep your mind always staid upon God, that no evil may come into your heart."
The angel showed him, by contrast, the difference between good and evil, and likewise the consequences of both obedience and disobedience to the commandments of God, in such a striking manner, that the impression was always vivid in his memory until the very end of his days; and in giving a relation of this circumstance, not long prior to his death, he remarked that ever afterwards he was willing to keep the commandments of God.
Furthermore, the angel told him at the interview mentioned last that the time had not yet come for the plates to be brought forth to the world; that he could not take them from the place wherein they were deposited until he had learned to keep the commandments of God—not only till he was willing, but able to do it. The angel bade Joseph come to this place every year, at the same time of the year, and he would meet him there and give him further instructions.
When Joseph came in that evening, he told the whole family all that he had made known to his father in the field and also of finding the record, as well as what passed between him and the angel while he was at the place where the plates were deposited.
We sat up very late and listened attentively to all that he had to say to us, but his mind had been so exercised that he became very much fatigued. When Alvin saw this he said, "Now, brother, let us go to bed. We will get up early in the morning and go to work so as to finish our day's labor by an hour before sunset, and if Mother will get our suppers early, we will then have a fine, long evening and all sit down and hear you talk."
The next day we worked with great ambition and were ready by sunset to give our whole attention to the discourse of my son, pertaining to the obtaining of the plates, the goodness of God, his knowledge and power, our own liability to error and transgression, and the great salvation that lay before the faithful. "Now," said he, "Father and Mother, the angel of the Lord says that we must be careful not to proclaim these things or to mention them abroad, for we do not any of us know the weakness of the world, which is so sinful, and that when we get the plates they will want to kill us for the sake of the gold, if they know we have them. And as soon as they do find that we pretend to have any such thing, our names will be cast out as evil, and we shall be scoffed at and all names of evil spoken concerning us."
This astonished us very much, and we wondered in our hearts how these things could be. Why would anyone have a disposition to take our lives merely for a thing like this? But he continued, "If we are wise and prudent in that which is revealed to us, God is able to make all things known to us. Do you believe it?" said he to his father.
"Why, yes, certainly," answered Mr. Smith. "He has all power and wisdom, knowledge and understanding and, of course, can teach us all things if we are worthy, and we will try to live in such a way as to deserve the favor of God, that he may be pleased to instruct from day to day."
From this time forth Joseph continued to receive instructions from time to time, and every evening we gathered our children together and gave our time up to the discussion of those things which he instructed to us. I think that we presented the most peculiar aspect of any family that ever lived upon the earth, all seated in a circle, father, mother, sons, and daughters, listening in breathless anxiety to the religious teachings of a boy eighteen years of age who had never read the Bible through by course in his life. For Joseph was less inclined to the study of books than any child we had, but much more given to reflection and deep study.
We were convinced that God was about to bring to light something that we might stay our minds upon, something that would give us a more perfect knowledge of the plan of salvation and the redemption of the human family than anything which had been taught us heretofore, and we rejoiced in it with exceeding great joy. The sweetest union and happiness pervaded our house. No jar nor discord disturbed our peace, and tranquility reigned in our midst.
In the course of our evening conversations, Joseph gave us some of the most amusing recitals which could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, their manner of traveling, the animals which they rode, the cities that they built, and the structure of their buildings with every particular, their mode of warfare, and their religious worship as specifically as though he had spent his life with them. It will be recollected by the reader that all that I mentioned and much more took place within the compass of one short year. (History of Joseph Smith, Revised and Enhanced, edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 109-112)