JS-History 1:55 my father’s worldly circumstances were very limited
“The tranquility of those first evenings after Moroni’s visit soon ended… For the moment, religious questions gave way to temporal concerns. Alvin’s death sharply reduced the family’s earning power. Work on the new frame house was completed in late 1824 and had to be paid for on top of the burdensome annual contract payment [for their land]. While the… land agent was not on the scene, the Smiths had diverted money for the land purchase to construction of the house. Now they had at least two land payments to make and no Alvin to help out. To raise money, Joseph Jr. and Hyrum scouted the countryside for work.
“…They needed every penny they could scrape together. Russell Stoddard the carpenter who had completed the house, had sued the Smiths for payment in February 1825, a matter not settled until April 1826. Meanwhile the new agent for the [land], John Greenwood, was foreclosing on occupants who were too far behind in their payments…
“In 1825, Lucy was fifty and Joseph Sr. fifty-four, both weary from lives of toil. They no longer had the help of Alvin, and Hyrum and Joseph were nearing marriage age. The moment when the unified effort of father and sons could raise the money to buy a farm had passed. They [seemed] doomed to revert to tenancy, and when old age overtook them, instead of the dignity of a house and land of their own, they would live as guests in the house of one of the children.” (Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, [Random House, NY, 2005], 47)
JS-History 1:56 my father’s family met with a great affliction by the death of my eldest brother, Alvin
Lucy Mack Smith
On the fifteenth of November, 1823, about ten o'clock in the morning, Alvin was taken very sick with the bilious colic. He came to the house in great distress and requested his father to go immediately for a physician, which he accordingly did. But the doctor who generally attended upon our family being absent, Mr. Smith was compelled to go further than he expected. However, he found in the next village one Dr. Greenwood, who, when he came, immediately administered a heavy dose of calomel to the patient, although he objected much against it.
This calomel lodged in his stomach, and all the powerful medicine which was afterwards prescribed by skillful physicians could not remove it.
On the third day of his sickness, Dr. McIntyre, the favorite of the family and a man of great skill and experience, was brought and with him four other professors of medicine. But all their exertions were of no avail, just as Alvin had declared would be the case. He said, "The calomel is still lodged in the same place and you cannot move it. Consequently, it must take my life."
He then called Hyrum to him and said, "Hyrum, I must die, and now I want to say a few things to you that you must remember. I have done all that I could do to make our dear parents comfortable. I now want you to go on and finish the house and take care of them in their old age and do not let them work hard anymore."
…But to Joseph he said, "Joseph, I am going to die now. The distress which I suffer and the sensations that I have tell me my time is very short. I want you to be a good boy and do everything that lies in your power to obtain the record. Be faithful in receiving instruction and in keeping every commandment that is given you. Your brother Alvin must now leave you, but remember the example which he has set for you, and set a good example for the children that are younger than you. Always be kind to Father and Mother."
He then asked me to take his little sister Lucy up and bring her to him, for he wished to see her. This child was the youngest of the family, and he was extremely fond of her and was in the habit of taking her up and caressing her, which naturally attached her to him. She could not then talk plainly, and always called her brother "Amby." I went to her and said, "Lucy, Amby wants to see you." At this she started out of her sleep and screamed out, "Oh, Amby, Amby." We took her to him, and she sprang from my arms and caught him round the neck and cried out, "Oh, my Amby," and kissed him again and again.
To Lucy he said, "You must be the best girl in the world and take care of Mother. You can't have your Amby anymore. Amby is going away; he must leave little Lucy." He then kissed her and said, "Take her away. I think my breath offends her." We took hold of the child, but she clenched hold of him with such a desperate grasp that it was very difficult to disengage her hands.
As I turned with the child, Alvin said, "Father, Mother, brothers, sisters, farewell! I can now breathe out my life as calmly as a clock," and immediately closed his eyes in death.
The child still cried to go back to Alvin. One present said to her, "Alvin is gone. An angel has taken his spirit to heaven." When the babe heard this, she renewed her cries, and as I bent over his corpse with her in my arms, she again threw her arms around him and kissed him repeatedly, screaming as before. And until the body was taken from the house, she continued constantly crying and showing such manifestation of affection mingled with terror at the scene before her as is seldom witnessed in a child.
This harrowed up our feelings almost to distraction, for Alvin was a youth of singular goodness of disposition—kind and amiable manners, so much so that lamentation and mourning filled the whole neighborhood where we lived, and, of course, more than usual grief filled the hearts of those from whose immediate circle he was taken, those who felt and saw the effects of his nobleness and generosity every hour of his existence.
Thus was our happiness blasted in a moment. When we least expected the blow, it came upon us. The poisoned shaft entered our very hearts' core and diffused to deadly effect throughout our veins. We were for a time almost swallowed up in grief, so much so that it seemed impossible for us to interest ourselves at all about the concerns of life. The feeling of every heart was to make speedy preparation to follow him who had been too much the idol of our hearts. And then if it pleased God to take us also, we would receive the call as a favor at his hands from whom it came.
Alvin had ever manifested a greater zeal and anxiety, if it were possible, than any of the rest with regard to the record which had been shown to Joseph, and he always showed the most intense interest concerning the matter. With this before our minds, we could not endure to hear or say one word upon that subject, for the moment that Joseph spoke of the record it would immediately bring Alvin to our minds with all his kindness, his affection, his zeal, and piety. (The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, SF Proctor and MJ Proctor, [SLC: Bookcraft, 1996], 115-119)
JS-History 1:56 In the month of October 1825, I hired with an old gentleman by the name of Josiah Stoal
Detractors of the Prophet have often used this story to malign Joseph’s integrity. While magic and treasure seeking was a cultural phenomenon in New England of the time, the implication was that Joseph was obsessed with finding hidden treasures. The assertion seems to be that after years of failed attempts to find treasure, he made up the story about finding gold plates.
In March 1826, Josiah Stowell’s nephew lodged a complaint against Joseph with the Chenango County, NY court. What was the crime? “New York law specified that anyone pretending to have skill in discovering lost goods should be judged as a disorderly person.” In probably his first court appearance, Joseph made his own defense. “Treasure seeking, he said was not his idea. ‘He did not solicit business of this kind, and had always rather declined having anything to do with this business.’ He had been under pressure from neighbors, form the enthusiastic and well-off Stowell, and from his own father. They kept after him even thought the hunts invariably failed.” (Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, [Random House, NY, 2005], 52)
The issue arose again in 1833 when apostate Doctor P. Hurlbut travelled to New York and Pennsylvania for the purpose of gathering damaging affidavits against the Prophet. Of all the hundreds of falsehoods that were circulated about Joseph, money digging was very prevalent in his own day.
It’s true that Joseph Smith had found a seer stone while digging a well in 1822. This stone was used by the Prophet for years thereafter. Word of his special tool had been widely circulated, and this was part of the reason Josiah Stowell sought for him. Lucy Mack Smith said: “He came for Joseph on account of having heard that he possessed certain means by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye…Joseph endeavored to divert him from his vain pursuit, but he was inflexible in his purpose and offered high wages to those who would dig for him in search of said mine, and still insisted upon having Joseph work for him.” (The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, SF Proctor and MJ Proctor, [SLC: Bookcraft, 1996], 124)
“Martin Harris… remembered Joseph saying that ‘the angel told him he must quite the company of the money-diggers. That there were wicked men among them. He must have no more to do with them. He must not lie, nor sear, nor steal.’… Alva Hale, a son in the household where the Smiths stayed in Harmony while digging for Stowell, said Joseph Jr. told him that the ‘gift in seeing with a stone’ was ‘a gift from God’ but that ‘peeping was all d—d nonsense’; he had been deceived in his treasure-seeking, but he did not intend to deceive anyone else. By this time, Joseph apparently felt that ‘seeing’ with a stone was the work of a ‘seer,’ a religious term, while ‘peeping or ‘glass-looking’ was fraudulent.” (Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, [Random House, NY, 2005], 51)
One of the first objections that was urged against Joseph Smith was that he was a money digger; and now, the digging of gold is considered an honorable and praiseworthy employment. They are hunting for gold all over the country, doing the very thing which they condemned in him. (February 16, 1868, Journal of Discourses, 12:165)
JS-History 1:57-58 I was put to board with a Mr. Isaac Hale… [where] I first saw my wife (his daughter), Emma Hale
Joseph was away from home most of 1826. He was working for Josiah Stowell and Joseph Knight and boarding with the Hale family in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. Isaac Hale was a stern and successful landowner who had little interest in religion. He knew Joseph claimed supernatural experiences and was not impressed. He didn’t see Joseph as a man who had sufficient prospects to support his daughter.
Emma on the other hand, had a much more religious side to her. She was tall, dark, and beautiful with a refinement that Joseph found attractive. Joseph was 20. Emma was 21. Boarding with the family, Joseph had plenty of opportunity to get to know Emma.
By September 1826, Joseph was back at home for his visit with the angel Moroni. The next month, he returned to Colesville with the Stowells where he was closer to Emma.
She has been described as 5’9” tall, “Fine looking, smart, a good singer” and “well turned, of excellent form...with splendid physical development.” Joseph’s mother recalls, “...he had come to the conclusion of getting married...and he thought that no young woman...was better calculated to render [him] happy than Miss Emma Hale...” Joseph twice asked Emma’s father, for her hand in marriage, but was refused because he was a “stranger”.
On January 17, 1827, Joseph and Emma rode away from the Hale residence on a horse and the following evening were married by a judge in South Bainbridge. Emma remembers, “I had no intention of marrying when I left home... [but] Preferring to marry him to any other man I knew, I consented.” Emma and Joseph retreated to Palmyra to live with Joseph’s parents. Months later they returned to the Hale home to retrieve Emma’s belongings. Isaac Hale was angered: “You have stolen my daughter and married her. I had much rather have followed her to the grave.” In an attempt at reconciliation, Joseph promised Isaac he would give up the treasure seeking business. (http://www.wivesofjosephsmith.org)
It is hard to image that Emma had any idea what she was getting herself into. Joseph was good looking and charismatic. She was better educated, and Joseph didn’t have a solid plan to support her. His focus was on his mission as a prophet. One remarkable thing about Emma is that she must have believed Joseph; she must have seen something deep in his soul that resonated with her. Emma was a believer and would be her entire life.
Lucy Mack Smith
I have never seen a woman in my life who would endure every species of fatigue and hardship from month to month and from year to year with that unflinching courage, zeal, and patience which she has ever done; for I know that which she has had to endure—she has been tossed upon the ocean of uncertainty—she has breasted the storms of persecution, and buffeted the rage of men and devils, which would have borne down almost any other woman. (The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, SF Proctor and MJ Proctor, [SLC: Bookcraft, 1996], 249)
What transports of joy swelled my bosom, when I took by the hand, on that night, my beloved Emma—she that was my wife, even the wife of my youth, and the choice of my heart. Many were the reverberations of my mind, when I contemplated for a moment the many scenes we had been called to pass through, the fatigues and the toils, the sorrows and sufferings, and the joys and consolations, from time to time, which had strewed our paths and crowned our board. (History of the Church, 5:107)
JS-History 1:59 At length the time arrived for obtaining the plates
Joseph’s history indicates that the plan all along was for him to get the plates at the 1827 visit (v. 53), but the Smith family records suggest he had hoped to get them earlier. This underscores what a period of mentoring this was for Joseph. Moroni was not about to put his life’s work into the hands of an unprepared teenager.
Joseph was hoping to get the plates when he went to Cumorah in September of 1824.
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.
As he was aware that we would expect him to bring the plates home with him, he was greatly troubled, fearing that we might doubt his having seen them. As soon as he entered the house, my husband asked if he had obtained the plates. The answer was, "No, Father, I could not get them."
His father then said, "Did you see them?"
"Yes," replied Joseph, "I saw them, but could not take them."
"I would have taken them," rejoined his father, with much earnestness, "if I had been in your place."
"Why," returned Joseph, in quite a subdued tone, "you do not know what you say. I could not get them, for the angel of the Lord would not let me."
Joseph then related the circumstance in full, which gave us much uneasiness, as we were afraid that he might utterly fail of obtaining the record through some neglect on his part. We, therefore, doubled our diligence in prayer and supplication to God, in order that he might be more fully instructed in his duty and be preserved from all the wiles and machinations of him "who lieth in wait to deceive." (The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, SF Proctor and MJ Proctor, [SLC: Bookcraft, 1996], 122-124)
Moroni and Joseph met on several occasions other than the prescribed annual visits. Moroni was preparing a prophet. Joseph still had too much interest in worldly things and in general lacked the maturity to safeguard something so important. The following story represents the 9th recorded visit between Moroni and Joseph. It was likely early in the year 1827. (The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, SF Proctor and MJ Proctor, [SLC: Bookcraft, 1996], footnote, 8, p. 136)
Lucy Mack Smith
Mr. Smith had occasion to send Joseph to Manchester on business. He set out in good time, and we expected him to be home as soon as six o'clock in the evening, but he did not arrive. We had always had a peculiar anxiety about this child, for it seemed as though something was always occurring to place his life in jeopardy, and if he was absent one-half an hour longer than expected, we were apprehensive of some evil befalling him.
It is true he was now a man, grown and capable of using sufficient judgment to keep out of common difficulties. But we were now aware that God intended him for a good and an important work; consequently we expected that the powers of darkness would strive against him more than any other, on this account, to overthrow him.
But to return to the circumstances which I commenced relating. He did not return home until the night was considerably advanced. When he entered the house, he threw himself into a chair, seemingly much exhausted. He was pale as ashes. His father exclaimed, "Joseph, why have you stayed so late? Has anything happened to you? We have been in distress about you these three hours."
As Joseph made no answer, he continued his interrogations, until finally I said, "Now, Father, let him rest a moment-don't trouble him now-you see he is home safe, and he is very tired, so pray wait a little."
The fact was, I had learned to be a little cautious about matters with regard to Joseph, for I was accustomed to see him look as he did on that occasion, and I could not easily mistake the cause thereof.
After Joseph recovered himself a little, he said, "Father, I have had the severest chastisement that I ever had in my life."
My husband, supposing that it was from some of the neighbors, was quite angry and observed, "Chastisement indeed! Well, upon my word, I would like to know who has been taking you to task and what their pretext was. I would like to know what business anybody has to find fault with you."
Joseph smiled to see his father so hasty and indignant. "Father," said he, "it was the angel of the Lord. He says I have been negligent, that the time has now come when the record should be brought forth, and that I must be up and doing, that I must set myself about the things which God has commanded me to do. But, Father, give yourself no uneasiness as to this reprimand, for I know what course I am to pursue, and all will be well."
It was also made known to him, at this interview, that he should make another effort to obtain the plates, on the twenty-second of the following September, but this he did not mention to us at that time. (The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, SF Proctor and MJ Proctor, [SLC: Bookcraft, 1996], 134-135)
JS-History 1:59 On the twenty-second day of September, (1827)… the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me
Artists might show Joseph receiving the plates in the middle of the day, but Joseph received them in the middle of the night, early in the first hours of 22 September, 1827. He and Emma had ridden by carriage from the Smith home to the hill Cumorah, some 4 kilometers south. He received the plates in the middle of the night and found a place in an old log to store them. He didn’t bring them home with him right away because he did not have a safe enough place to keep them yet.
Lucy Mack Smith
On the twentieth of September Mr. Knight came with his friend Mr. Stowell to see how we were managing matters with Mr. Stoddard and company. They remained with us until the twenty-second. On the night of the twenty-first, I sat up very late, as my business pressed upon my hands, and I did not retire until past twelve. About twelve o'clock, Joseph came to me and asked me if I had a chest with a lock and key. I knew in a moment what he wanted it for and was alarmed, fearing that this might be a matter of great importance to him at that time. But Joseph replied, "Never mind, I can do very well just now without it. Be calm. All is right." But I found it very difficult to do so, for I had not forgotten the first failure.
Shortly after this, Joseph's wife passed through the room with her bonnet and riding dress; and in a few minutes they left together, taking Mr. Knight's horse and wagon. I spent the night in prayer and supplication to God, for the anxiety of my mind would not permit me to sleep. At a reasonable time for rising, I went to preparing breakfast, my heart fluttering at every footfall, for I now expected Joseph and Emma every moment and was in dread of a second disappointment in his obtaining the plates.
When the male part of the family sat down to breakfast, Mr. Smith inquired for Joseph (as no one knew where he had gone but myself). I told him that I thought I would not call Joseph, for I would like to have him take breakfast with his wife that morning… [a little later] Joseph returned.
I trembled so much with fear lest all might be lost again by some small failure in keeping the commandments, that I was under the necessity of leaving the room to conceal my feelings. Joseph saw this and followed me. "Mother," said he. "Do not be uneasy. All is right. See here," said he, "I have got the key.”
I knew not what he meant, but took the article in my hands and, examining it with no covering but a silk handkerchief, found that it consisted of two smooth three-cornered diamonds set in glass, and the glasses were set in silver bows connected with each other in much the same way that old-fashioned spectacles are made. He took them again and left me, but did not tell me anything of the record.
Soon after he came again and asked my advice what was best to do about getting a chest made. I told him to go to a cabinetmaker who had been making some furniture for my oldest daughter, and tell the man we would pay him for making a chest as we did for the other things he had made for us, namely one-half in cash and one-half in produce.
Joseph said that he would, but that he did not know where the money would come from, for there was not a shilling in the house. (The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, SF Proctor and MJ Proctor, [SLC: Bookcraft, 1996], 137-139)
Joseph Smith 1:60 I soon found out the reason why I had received such strict charges to keep them safe
Lucy Mack Smith
The next day Mr. Warner came to him from Macedon and requested Joseph to go with him to a widow's house in Macedon. The widow, by the name of Wells, wanted a wall of a well taken up, and she would pay Joseph money for the labor. As this afforded us an opportunity to pay the cabinetmaker for the chest, Joseph accompanied Mr. Warner to Macedon according to Mrs. Wells's request. Since this woman had never seen one of the family before, but had sent purposely for Joseph, we considered it a provision of Providence to enable us to pay the money we were owing the cabinetmaker.
Joseph had been absent but a little while when one of the neighbors began to ask Mr. Smith many questions about the plates. Here let me mention that no one knew anything of them from us except one of my husband's confidential friends to whom he had spoken of them some two or three years before. It now seemed that Satan had stirred up the hearts of those who had in any way gotten a hint of the matter, to search into it and make every possible move towards preventing the work.
Mr. Smith was soon informed that ten or twelve men were clubbed together, with one Willard Chase, a Methodist class leader, at their head, and what was more ridiculous, they had sent some sixty miles for a conjuror to come to divine by magic art the place where the record was deposited.
We supposed that Joseph had taken the plates and secreted them somewhere, and we were somewhat uneasy lest they might be discovered by our enemies. Accordingly, the morning after we heard of their plans, Mr. Smith went over a hill which lay east of us to see what he could discover among the neighbors. At the first house he came to, he found the conjuror and Willard Chase, together with the company. This was the house of one Mr. Lawrence. Making an errand, he went in and sat down near the door, leaving it ajar, for the men were so near that he could overhear their conversation. They stood in the yard near the door and were devising many plans and schemes to find "Joe Smith's gold bible," as they termed it. The conjuror was really animated, although he had traveled sixty miles during the latter part of the day and the night before.
Presently, the woman of the house became uneasy at the exposures they were making. She stepped through a back door into the yard and called to her husband in a suppressed voice (but so loud that Mr. Smith heard every word distinctly). "Sam, Sam," said she. "You are cutting your own throat." At this, the conjuror bawled out at the top of his voice, "I am not afraid of anybody. We will have the plates in spite of Joe Smith or all the devils in hell."
When the woman came in again, Mr. Smith laid aside a paper which he had been holding in his hand with the pretense of reading, and coolly remarked that he believed he could not then finish the article which he was reading. He then left the house, and returned home.
Mr. Smith, on returning home, asked Emma if she knew anything of the record-whether Joseph had taken them out of their place of deposit or where they were. She said she did not know. My husband then related what he had both seen and heard.
Upon this, Emma said that she did not know what to do, but she thought if Joseph was to have the record, he would get it, and that they would not be able to prevent him.
"Yes," said Mr. Smith, "he will, if he is watchful and obedient; but remember that for a small thing Esau lost his birthright and blessing. It may be so with Joseph."
"Well," said Emma, "if I had a horse I would go and see him."
Mr. Smith said she should have one in fifteen minutes, for although his team was gone, there had been a stray horse on the premises for two days. So he sent William immediately for the horse.
In a few minutes William brought the horse with a large hickory withe around his neck (as it was according to law to put a withe round the neck of a stray horse before turning him into an enclosure), and Emma was soon on her way to her husband.
Joseph kept the Urim and Thummim constantly about his person, by the use of which he could in a moment tell whether the plates were in any danger. Having just looked into them before Emma got there, he perceived her coming, came up out of the well, and met her. When she informed him of what had occurred, he told her that the record was perfectly safe, for the present; nevertheless, he concluded to return with his wife, as something might take place that would render it necessary for him to be at home where he could take care of it.
He went immediately to Mrs. Wells and told her that he must return home to attend to some important business. She was not willing for him to leave, but upon his promising to come back when he was at liberty again, she consented. She sent a boy to bring him a horse, which he mounted in his linen frock, with his wife by his side on her horse, decorated as before with a green hickory withe on his neck. And thus they rode through the village of Palmyra.
When he came, he met his father about a mile from the house pacing back and forth in great anxiety of mind. "Father," said Joseph, "there is no danger. All is perfectly safe. There is no cause of alarm."
When he had refreshed himself a little, he sent Carlos, my youngest son, to his brother Hyrum's to ask him to come up immediately, as he wished to see him. When Hyrum came, Joseph requested him to get a chest that had a good lock and key and, "Have it here," said Joseph, "so that it may be ready by the time I get home."
The plates were secreted about three miles from home in the following manner: Finding an old birch log much decayed, excepting the bark, which was in a measure sound, he took his pocketknife and cut the bark with some care, then turned it back and made a hole of sufficient size to receive the plates, and laying them in the cavity thus formed, he replaced the bark; after which he laid across the log in several places some old stuff that happened to lie near, in order to conceal, as much as possible, the place in which they were deposited.
Joseph took the plates from their place and, wrapping them in his linen frock, put them under his arm and started for the house. After walking a short distance in the road, he thought it would be safer to go across through the woods. Traveling some distance after he left the road, he came to a large windfall, and as he was jumping over a log, a man sprang up from behind and gave him a heavy blow with a gun. Joseph turned around and knocked him to the ground, and then ran at the top of his speed. About half a mile further, he was attacked again in precisely the same way. He soon brought this one down also and ran on again, but before he got home, he was accosted the third time with a severe stroke with a gun. When he struck the last one, he dislocated his thumb, which, however, he did not notice till he came in sight of the house. He threw himself down in the corner of the fence to recover his breath. As soon as he was able, he rose and finished his race for the house, where he arrived altogether speechless from fright and exhaustion.
After a moment's rest, he said, "Mother, send Carlos for Father and Mr. Knight and his friend Stowell, and tell them to go and see if they can find some men who have been pursuing me. Then let Carlos go tell Hyrum to bring his chest."
When Carlos went into Hyrum's house, he found him at tea with two of his wife's sisters. Carlos touched his brother's shoulder just as he was raising his cup to his mouth. Without waiting to hear a word of the child's errand, Hyrum dropped his cup, sprang from the table, fetched up the chest, turned it upside down, and, leaving the contents on the floor, left the house in an instant with the chest on his shoulder.
The young ladies were much surprised at his singular behavior and protested to his wife (who was bedfast, her oldest daughter, Lovina, being but four days) that her husband was positively crazy. She laughed heartily, "Oh, not in the least. He has just thought of something that he has neglected, and it's just like him to fly off on a tangent when he thinks of anything that way."
When the chest came, Joseph locked up the record and threw himself on the bed. After resting himself a little so that he could converse, he went out and related his adventure to his father, Mr. Knight, Mr. Stowell, and others, who had come back from their scouting expedition without seeing anyone. He showed them his thumb, saying, "I must stop talking, Father, and get you to put my thumb in place, for it is very painful."
When this was done, he related to our guests the whole history of the record, which interested them very much. They listened and believed all that was told them.
When Joseph first took the plates into his hands, the angel of the Lord stood by and said:
"Now you have got the record into your own hands, and you are but a man, therefore you will have to be watchful and faithful to your trust, or you will be overpowered by wicked men, for they will lay every plan and scheme that is possible to get them away from you. And if you do not take heed continually, they will succeed. While they were in my hands I could keep them, and no man had power to take them away, but now I give them up to you. Beware, and look well to your ways, and you shall have power to retain them until the time for them to be translated."
That of which I spoke, which Joseph termed a key, was indeed nothing more nor less than a Urim and Thummim by which the angel manifested those things to him that were shown him in vision; by which also he could at any time ascertain the approach of danger, either to himself or the record, and for this cause he kept these things constantly about his person. (The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, SF Proctor and MJ Proctor, [SLC: Bookcraft, 1996], 140-145)
JS-History 1:60 persecution became more bitter and severe than before, and multitudes were on the alert continually to get them from me
Lucy Mack Smith
After bringing home the plates, Joseph now commenced work with his father on the farm in order to be as near as possible the treasure that was committed to his care.
Soon after this, he came in from work one afternoon, and after remaining a short time, he put on his greatcoat and left the house. I was engaged at the time in an upper room in preparing some oilcloths for painting. When he returned, he requested me to come downstairs. I told him that I could not leave my work just then, yet upon his urgent request, I finally concluded to go down and see what he wanted, 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.
Shortly after this circumstance, Joseph came to the house in great haste and inquired if there had been a company of men there. I told him no one had come to the house since he left. He then said that a mob would be there that night, if not before, to search for the record, and that it must be removed immediately.
Soon after, one Mr. Braman came from the neighboring village of Livonia, a German man in whom we reposed much confidence and who was well worthy of the same. Joseph told him his apprehensions of a mob being there that night and that they must prepare themselves to drive them away; but the first thing to be attended to was to secrete the record and breastplate.
It was resolved that a portion of the hearth should be taken up and the plates and breastplate should be buried under the same, and then the hearth relaid to prevent suspicion.
This was carefully and speedily done, but the hearth was scarcely relaid when a large company of armed men came rushing up to the house. Joseph threw the door open and, taking a hint from the stratagem of his Grandfather Mack, hallooed as if he had a legion at hand, giving the word of command with great importance. At the same time, the males that belonged to the house, from the father down to little Carlos, ran out with such vehemence upon the mob that it struck them with terror and dismay, and they fled before our little Spartan band away into the woods, where they dispersed themselves to their several homes.
We had but a few days rest, however, before Joseph received another intimation of the approach of a mob and the necessity of removing the record and breastplate again from their hiding place. Consequently, Joseph took them out of the box in which they had been placed, wrapped them in clothes, carried them across the road to a cooper's shop, and laid them in a quantity of flax which was stowed in the shop loft. He then nailed up the box as before and tore up the floor and put the box under it.
As soon as it was dark, the mob came and ransacked the place, but did not come into the house. After making a satisfactory search, they went away.
The next morning we found the floor of the cooper's shop taken up and the wooden box which was put under it split to pieces.
In a few days we learned the cause of this last move and why their curiosity had led them in the direction of the cooper's shop. A young woman, who was a sister to Willard Chase, had found a green glass through which she could see many wonderful things, and among the rest of her discoveries, she said she had found out the exact place where "Joe Smith kept his gold bible." And so in pursuance to her directions, they gathered their forces and laid siege to the cooper shop, but went away disappointed.
This did not shake their confidence in Miss Chase, for they still went from place to place by her suggestion, determined to get possession of the object of their research. (The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, SF Proctor and MJ Proctor, [SLC: Bookcraft, 1996], 148-151)
JS-History 1:60 according to arrangements, the messenger called for them, I delivered them up to him
Where are the gold plates? Why can’t we see them? What happened to them after Joseph translated the book? These are the questions of investigators and detractors.
If we only had the gold plates to show the world, then people would believe! Right? Joseph gave Moroni the plates when he was done with them. Now we have no proof. Or do we?
We have exactly the kind of proof the Lord intends. It is enough proof for those with faith, and not enough for those without. We have the proof of the 3 witnesses; we have the proof of the 8 witnesses; we have the proof of the book itself; we have the proof of the historical success the message of Mormonism over the last 2 centuries. For the faithful, that is enough.
“Many times today nonmembers of the Church suggest that if they could see the gold plates, they would be convinced that Joseph Smith actually had an ancient set of records. It seems that many believe, if the plates were put on exhibit, this would be sufficient evidence to them. In this revelation the Lord does not concur with such a thought. He says:
Behold, if they will not believe my words, they would not believe you, my servant Joseph, if it were possible that you should show them all these things which I have committed unto you. (D&C 5:7.)”
(Roy W. Doxey, The Doctrine and Covenants Speaks [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1964], 1: 56)
“If we are interested in finding proof of the Book of Mormon we should begin by seeking faith rather than by seeking signs.
“If the world understood this principle and also the scriptures pertaining to it, they would also understand why the Lord does not have the gold plates displayed in the Church museum, or why he does not send an angel to demonstrate the Urim and Thummim on television…‘Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.’ (Ether 12:6)” (Daniel H. Ludlow, “A Priceless Possession,” New Era, Oct. 1986, 48)
JS-History 1:60 he has them in his charge until this day, being the second day of May, (1838)
Joseph started working on this history of his life on April 27, 1838 (History of the Church, 3:25-26). It took him six days to get to verse 60. Given the accuracy of the record, the eloquence of the language, and the importance of telling the story right, that is good progress.
JS-History 1:61 we found a friend in a gentleman by the name of Martin Harris
I was not with Joseph Smith at the time he received the plates… but I had a revelation the summer before that God had a work for me to do…
A day or so before I was ready to visit Joseph, his mother came over to our house and wished to talk to me. I told her I had not time to spare, she might talk with my wife, and, in the evening when I had finished my work I would talk with her…
I waited a day or two, when I got up in the morning, took my breakfast, and told my folks I was going to the village, but went directly to old Mr. Smith’s.
I found that Joseph had gone away to work for Peter Ingersol to get some flour. I was glad he was absent, for that gave me an opportunity of talking with his wife and the family about the plates. I talked with them separately, to see if their stories agreed, and I found they did agree.
When Joseph came home I did not wish him to know that I had been talking with them, so I took him by the arm and led him away from the rest, and requested him to tell me the story, which he did as follows:
He said an angel had appeared to him, and told him it was God’s work. Joseph said the angel told him he must quite the company of the money-diggers. That there were wicked men among them. He must have no more to do with them. He must not lie, nor swear, nor steal.
He told him to go and look in the spectacles, and he would show him the man that would assist him. That he did so, and he saw myself, Martin Harris standing before him.
That struck me with surprise. I told him I wished him to be very careful about these things.
“Well,” said he, “I saw you standing before me as plainly as I do now!”
I said, “If it is the devil’s work I will have nothing to do with it; but if it is the Lord’s, you can have all the money necessary to bring it before the world.”
He said the angel told him, that the plates must be translated, printed and sent before the world.
I said, “Joseph, you know the doctrine, that cursed is every one that putteth his trust in man, and maketh flesh his arm; and we know that the devil is to have great power in the latter days to deceive, if possible, the very elect; and I don’t know that you are one of the elect. Now you must not blame me for not taking your word. If the Lord will show me that it is his work, you can have all the money you want.”
While at Mr. Smith’s I hefted the plates, and I knew from the heft that they were lead or gold; and I knew that Joseph had not credit enough to buy so much lead.
I left Mr. Smith’s about eleven o’clock and went home. I retired to my bedroom and prayed God to show me concerning these things; and I covenanted that if it was his work and he would show me so, I would put forth my best ability to bring it before the world. He then showed me that it was his work, and that it was designed to bring in the fullness of his Gospel to the Gentiles to fulfill his word, that the first shall be last and the last first. He showed this to me by the still small voice spoken in the soul. Then I was satisfied that it was the Lord’s work, and I was under a covenant to bring it forth.
The excitement in the village upon the subject had become such that some had threatened to mob Joseph, and also to tar and feather him. They said he should never leave until he had shown the plates.
It was unsafe for him to remain, so I determined that he must go to his father-in-law’s in Pennsylvania. He wrote to his brother-in-law, Alvah Hale, requesting him to come for him. I advised Joseph that he must pay all his debts before starting. I paid them for him, and furnished him money for his journey. I advised him to take time enough to get ready, so that he might start a day or two in advance, for he would be mobbed if it was known when he started. We put the box of plates into a barrel about one-third full of beans and headed it up. I informed Mr. Hale of the matter, and advised them to cut each a good cudgel (i.e. wooden club) and put into the wagon with them, which they did. It was understood that they were to start on Monday; but they started on Saturday night and got through safe. This was the last of October 1827; it might have been the first of November. (Hyrum and Helen Andrus, Personal Glimpses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, [American Fork: Covenant Communications, 2009], 30-36)
JS-History 1:62 immediately after my arrival there I commenced copying the characters off the plates
Characters taken from the Gold Plates
Lucy Mack Smith
The first step that he was instructed to take in regard to this work was to make a facsimile of the characters composing the alphabet, which were called reformed Egyptian, and send them to all the most learned men of this generation and ask them for the translation of the same…
It was agreed upon that Martin Harris should follow him [to Pennsylvania] as soon as Joseph should have sufficient time to transcribe some of the Egyptian characters. Then Mr. Harris was to take the characters to the East and through the country in every direction, and on his way he was to call on all who were professed linguists to give them an opportunity of showing their talents in giving a translation of the characters. (The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, SF Proctor and MJ Proctor, [SLC: Bookcraft, 1996], 151, 154)
In matters of language and composition the Book of Mormon from the first presented a welcome target to the critics: here was something that even a child could see was fraudulent, something that no intelligent person, let alone a clever deceiver would dream of—"from the reformed Egyptian!!!" screamed Alexander Campbell, with three exclamation points.
Nobody knew anything about reformed Egyptian then. The word Demotic (i.e. the Demotic Egyptian language) had not yet come into general use. Lacking that, "Reformed Egyptian" is as good a term as any to describe that peculiar and remarkably abbreviated style of "cursive writing developed out of the Hieratic by systematic abbreviation from the eighth to the fourth centuries (BC)," which enjoyed the heyday of its international popularity in Lehi's own time. We pointed out long ago that that peculiar type of writing known as Meroitic, a baffling and still largely undeciphered Egyptian script which developed out of Demotic under circumstances remarkably paralleling the purported development of Nephite writing, has the most striking affinities to the characters on the so-called Anthon Transcript, which is thought to be Joseph Smith's own copying of a sample of the writing on the plates. The point is that there was such writing. (Since Cumorah, 2nd ed. [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., FARMS, 1988], 149-150, italics added)
JS-History 1:64-65 Professor Charles Anthon and Dr. Mitchell
“The foregoing… raises at least three questions: (1) Who were Professor Charles Anthon and ‘Dr. Mitchell’? (2) Why did Martin Harris seek their opinion in preference to that of other learned men? (3) How valid was their testimony respecting the transcription and translation of ancient Nephite-Egyptian characters?
“Charles Anthon, LL.D. (1787-1867), destined to fulfil ancient prophecies, was a professor of classical studies at Columbia College (now Columbia University) in New York City for forty-seven years from 1820 until his death. In those days Columbia College, founded as King's College in 1754, was located on a plot of ground enclosed by Barclay, Church, Murray, and Chapel (now west Broadway) streets. This area today is one block north of the post office and federal building near City Hall Park. Professor Anthon, a bachelor, lived in the college, at number 7 College Green. His quarters were in one of the residence wings of the building. It was probably here that the prophesied visit between Martin Harris and Professor Anthon must have taken place.
“Charles was one of eight children born to Dr. George Christian Anthon, a German surgeon, and his second wife, Genevieve Jadot, who made their home in New York City. Young Charles was probably one of the most brilliant students who had ever attended Columbia College. He won so many prizes and honors that, to give other students a chance, his name was withheld from scholastic competition.
“At first his main interest was law, but in 1820, one year after being admitted to the bar, he became adjunct professor of Greek and Latin at Columbia College and in 1830 was advanced to professor of Greek language and literature. A contemporary of Professor Anthon described him as:
. . .a man whose personal appearance harmonized singularly with his character. In person he was very large, strongly built, and of a most imposing presence. His head was a very fine one, the forehead high, massive, and well-proportioned. His eyes were black and deeply set, and extremely sharp and piercing . . . the lower part of his face was square, massive, somewhat heavy, but extremely firm. . . . He was always exceedingly neat in personal appearance, dressing with care and nicety. . . .
“The Dictionary of American Biography adds,
Though brilliant in conversation and of a cheerful disposition, he had few familiar friends and almost never appeared in general society or in places of public amusement. (Vol. I, p. 313.)
“Dr. Anthon was a prolific writer in the area of classical studies and for more than thirty years produced at least one volume annually.
Each of his textbooks passed through several editions, and for thirty years, about the middle of the nineteenth century, his influence upon the study of the classics in the United States was probably greater than that of any other one man. (Ibid., Vol. I, p. 314.)
“So much for Anthon, a very real person, and widely known in 1828.
“Establishing the identity of ‘Dr. Mitchell’ is somewhat more complicated… We now have good reason to believe that ‘Dr. Mitchell’ and Dr. Samuel L. Mitchell are one and the same… Samuel Latham Mitchill was of Quaker parentage, the son of Robert and Mary (Latham) Mitchill of North Hemstead, Long Island, New York. His early studies were in the classics. After receiving his medical and scientific training in New York and Edinburgh, he was appointed to the chair of natural history, chemistry, and agriculture at Columbia College in 1792. He was a man of many talents and much energy. In addition to teaching he was twice in the U. S. House of Representatives, 1801-1804 and 1810-1813; a Senator from 1804-1809; professor, College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, 1807-1826; and an organizer and a vice-president of Rutgers Medical College during its brief existence, 1826-1830.
“First, last, and always Mitchill was a promoter of science. He has been called the ‘Nestor of American Science’; he was a member of dozens of scientific and scholarly societies and wrote scores of learned books, pamphlets, articles, etc., on a Multitude of subjects. His contemporaries described him as ‘a living encyclopedia’ and ‘a chaos of knowledge.’ According to the Dictionary of American Biography:
. . .through the sincerity of his interest, the extent of his learning, and the simple amiability of his character, he won renown both at home and abroad as a man of science and was able to exert a profound influence in the promotion of scientific inquiry and in the practical application of scientific principles of life. (Vol. XIII, p. 71.)
“It is very possible, therefore, that ‘Dr. Mitchell’ was the learned Dr. Samuel Latham Mitchill, and that both Martin Harris and Dr. Charles Anthon simply used a variant and more common spelling of the man's last name. Further evidence of his identity and connection with Martin Harris may turn up some day in the still incomplete collection of Dr. Mitchill's papers.
“The answer to question (2), ‘Why would Martin Harris have gone to Anthon and Mitchill in preference to other learned men?’ has partially been ,answered. Both these men were highly esteemed as great scholars. Anthon was the greatest classical scholar of his day in the United States, and Mitchill was pre-eminent among American scientists.
“Both men were accomplished linguists. Anthon knew at least Latin, Greek, French, and German. Mitchill knew German, Latin, and was capable of ‘deciphering a Babylonian brick,’ or holding his own ‘in profound exegetical disquisition on Kennecott's Hebrew Bible with the great Jewish Rabbi, Gershom Seixas.’ They were both in the main stream of New York intellectual and cultural life. Anthon was a popular lecturer at the New York Athenaeum where, in 1826, he discoursed on Latin literature during the same season that Samuel F. B. Morse lectured on painting and William Cullen Bryant held forth on poetry. Mitchill was a founder of the New York Historical Society in 1814. [Hereafter I shall use the Mitchill spelling in this article.]
“In some ways Mitchill is of more interest than Anthon. Some authorities say that he was probably the most versatile man of science of his day. He had an encyclopedic memory, and ranked high in his range of interest and studies in all fields of knowledge. (“I Cannot Read a Sealed Book,” Stanley H. B. Kimball, et al., A Book of Mormon Treasury: Selections from the Pages of the Improvement Era [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1959], 21-28)
JS-History 1:64 Anthon stated that the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian
While we hate to disparage Martin Harris’ report of the conversation between Professor Anthon and himself, it is doubtful that Dr. Mitchell, Dr. Anthon, or anyone else for that matter, could have translated the characters. In the 1820’s, the Egyptian language had not been completely worked out. Besides, the written language was peculiar to the Nephites—not their spoken tongue. Rather, it was a language taught in Nephite schools handed down over centuries and altered to better match the spoken language (Mosiah 1:4; Morm. 9:32).
Whether Anthon and Mitchell could vouch for the translation is not important with respect to fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy (Isa. 29:11-12). It was perhaps more important to Martin himself. He was the one spending his time and money helping Joseph in spite of his reputation and his wife. That was the message Martin wanted to hear, that Joseph could really translate ancient documents.
“That Anthon and Mitchill recognized the characters as Egyptian, is, I believe, the most probable. In 1828 there were few if any in the United States who had sufficient knowledge of the Egyptian to have vouched for the correctness of Joseph Smith's translation. The basic books which led to an understanding of the Egyptian language, Champollion's Grammaire égyptienne and Dictionnaire égyptienne, appeared posthumously in 1836 and 1841. No serious work on the Egyptian language was done in the United States until the late nineteenth century.
“It is probable, however, that both Dr. Anthon and Dr. Mitchill were acquainted with the appearance of Egyptian writing. Many books had been published by 1828 containing facsimiles of Egyptian characters, some of which were understood. Among the books Anthon and Mitchill may have been acquainted with were the great series Description de l'Égypte, published between 1809 and 1828 in Paris and Champollion's Précis du système hieroglyphique des Ancien Égyptiens, 2 vols., Paris, 1824. There were at least eight libraries in New York City in 1828. Some day a complete and exhaustive searching out of what books on the Egyptian language were in these libraries and the private libraries of Anthon and Mitchill may be made. This, plus research among Anthon's and Mitchill's scattered papers, may reveal more clearly their acquaintance with the Egyptian language.
“B. H. Roberts, a great Church historian, supports this… interpretation:
The writer is of the opinion that there is in this statement [the before quoted story of Martin Harris] too wide a scope given to what Professor Anthon said of the translation of the Egyptian-Nephite characters. Of course in the transcripts the professor would doubtless recognize some Egyptians characters of the hieratic Egyptian, and in the translation would also find a right interpretation of those characters . . . he acknowledges [in the Howe and Coit letters] that the characters submitted to him were true characters, but beyond this I do not think he could give much confirmation as to the correctness of the translation.
“Dr. William C. Hayes, Curator of the Egyptian Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, in a recent interview with this writer, identified several of the character as closely resembling hieratic Egyptian characters and indicated their possible meaning. Dr. Hayes also said that the above analysis of B. H. Roberts was entirely feasible.” (“I Cannot Read a Sealed Book,” Stanley H. B. Kimball, et al., A Book of Mormon Treasury: Selections from the Pages of the Improvement Era [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1959], 27-28)
JS-History 1:65 no such thing now as ministering of angels
Professor Anthon epitomizes the attitude of the learned with respect to anything miraculous—“There is no such thing.” Reason, they say, rejects the belief in angels, miracles, tongues, etc. If Mormon had anything to say to Professor Anthon, it would have been:
…has the day of miracles ceased?
Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved?
Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain. (Moro. 7:35-37)
Spencer W. Kimball
Fortunately, active Church members are aware of modern miracles—angelic visitations, gospel restoration, the Book of Mormon, for example… Indeed the day of miracles has not passed except for those who will not heed the call of the Lord and of his servants, who night and day warn and plead and implore. There is a glorious miracle awaiting every soul who is prepared to change. Repentance and forgiveness make a brilliant day of the darkest night. When souls are reborn, when lives are changed then comes the great miracle to beautify and warm and lift. When spiritual death has threatened and now instead there is resuscitation, when life pushes out death when this happens it is the miracle of miracles. And such great miracles will never cease so long as there is one person who applies the redeeming power of the Savior and his own good works to bring about his rebirth. (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 361-2)
“After the Book of Mormon was published, Martin Harris paid a second visit to Professor Anthon in New York City. The rebuff with which his first visit to the famed scholar had met rankled in his memory. Martin was now equipped with the material evidence to prove the learned man had been mistaken when he declared there was no such thing now as ministering angels. He had with him a printed volume of the Book of Mormon, which he first offered to sell to the professor, and when this offer was refused, he proffered the volume gratis.
“Martin was then told very bluntly and with vehemence to depart and take his book with him—if he persisted in leaving it, the book would be thrown after him. Here again Martin was acting in character, proving his persistence and determination, as would have been expected of him. Probably he had in mind Doctrine and Covenants, Section 5:18: ‘And their testimony [that of the three witnesses] shall also go forth unto the condemnation of this generation if they harden their hearts against them.’
“On one occasion, after he had moved to Ohio, Martin Harris was in the company of a number of acquaintances who attempted to get him intoxicated. They plied him with wine until they thought his tongue was properly loosened, then said to him, ‘Martin, you are one of us. We are old friends and acquaintances, and we are distressed to see the course you are following with these Mormons. Now please tell us frankly that it is all a mistake, that you do not believe what you have signed your name to.’ Martin's reply was, ‘No, gentlemen, I do not believe it.’ Whereupon his hearers were elated. But their pleasure was short-lived. Martin hesitated just long enough for his answer to impress them fully, then he continued, ‘No gentlemen, I do not believe it. It has become a matter of knowledge with me. Belief has been swallowed up in absolute knowledge that what I have testified to is the truth.’” ("Publish It Upon the Mountains,” William H. Homer, Jr., Improvement Era, 1955, Vol. Lviii. April, 1955. No. 4.)
JS-History 1:65 I cannot read a sealed book
Professor Anthon didn’t know he was fulfilling ancient prophecy (Isa. 29:11-12). He didn’t know he was fulfilling Nephite prophecy either. Nephi wrote:
behold, it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall say unto him to whom he shall deliver the book: Take these words which are not sealed and deliver them to another, that he may show them unto the learned, saying: Read this, I pray thee. And the learned shall say: Bring hither the book, and I will read them.
And now, because of the glory of the world and to get gain will they say this, and not for the glory of God.
And the man shall say: I cannot bring the book, for it is sealed.
Then shall the learned say: I cannot read it.
Wherefore it shall come to pass, that the Lord God will deliver again the book and the words thereof to him that is not learned; and the man that is not learned shall say: I am not learned.
Then shall the Lord God say unto him: The learned shall not read them, for they have rejected them, and I am able to do mine own work; wherefore thou shalt read the words which I shall give unto thee. (2 Ne. 27:15-20)
Joseph Fielding Smith
Isaiah refers to the words of "a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned." (Isa. 29:11-12)
This prophecy was literally fulfilled when Martin Harris took copies of the engravings of the plates of the Book of Mormon to Professor Anthon in New York. Mr. Anthon answered Martin in almost the language of Isaiah, when he was informed that the book from which the characters were taken was sealed, Said he: "I cannot read a sealed book." How remarkable it is that Isaiah said that the words of the book were delivered to one who was learned and that the book was delivered to the one who was not learned. How perfectly this harmonizes with the history of the case respecting Mr. Anthon and Joseph Smith! (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 3: 213)
JS-History 1:65-66 Break
History of the Church, vol. 1, begins with Joseph Smith telling us his story. This break in the narrative omits the story of the 116 pages and includes several sections of the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 3, 10, 4, 5). Chronologically, the story of the lost 116 pages and these four sections of the D&C belong here.
Mr. Harris, having returned from his tour, left me and went home to Palmyra, arranged his affairs, and returned again to my house about the 12th of April, 1828, and commenced writing for me while I translated from the plates, which we continued until the 14th of June following, by which time he had written one hundred and sixteen pages of manuscript on foolscap paper. Some time after Mr. Harris had begun to write for me, he began to importune me to give him liberty to carry the writings home and show them; and desired of me that I would inquire of the Lord, through the Urim and Thummim, if he might not do so. I did inquire, and the answer was that he must not. However, he was not satisfied with this answer, and desired that I should inquire again. I did so, and the answer was as before. Still he could not be contented, but insisted that I should inquire once more. After much solicitation I again inquired of the Lord, and permission was granted him to have the writings on certain conditions; which were, that he show them only to his brother, Preserved Harris, his own wife, his father and his mother, and a Mrs. Cobb, a sister to his wife. In accordance with this last answer, I required of him that he should bind himself in a covenant to me in a most solemn manner that he would not do otherwise than had been directed. He did so. He bound himself as I required of him, took the writings, and went his way. Notwithstanding, however, the great restrictions which he had been laid under, and the solemnity of the covenant which he had made with me, he did show them to others, and by stratagem they got them away from him, and they never have been recovered unto this day.
In the meantime, while Martin Harris was gone with the writings, I went to visit my father's family at Manchester. I continued there for a short season, and then returned to my place in Pennsylvania. Immediately after my return home, I was walking out a little distance, when, behold, the former heavenly messenger appeared and handed to me the Urim and Thummim again—for it had been taken from me in consequence of my having wearied the Lord in asking for the privilege of letting Martin Harris take the writings, which he lost by transgression. (Insert D&C 3, 10, 4, and 5 in that order) (History of the Church, 1:20-31)
JS-History 1:66 Oliver Cowdery came to my house… having been teaching school in the neighborhood where my father resided
Lucy Mack Smith
[Oliver] had not been in the place long until he began to hear about the plates from all quarters and immediately commenced importuning Mr. Smith (Joseph Smith, Sr.) upon the subject. He did not succeed in eliciting any information from him for a long time. At length, however, he gained my husband's confidence so far as to get a sketch of the facts which related to the plates.
One day, Oliver came home from school in quite a lively manner. As soon as he had an opportunity of conversing with Mr. Smith, he told him that he (Oliver) had been in a deep study all day, and it had been put into his heart that he would have the privilege of writing for Joseph. And when the term of school which he was then teaching was closed, he would go and pay Joseph a visit.
The next day was so very stormy as to render it almost impossible to travel the road between the schoolhouse and our place. The rain fell in torrents all the evening, so I supposed that Oliver would certainly stop with some neighbor who lived nearer the schoolhouse than we did. But he was not to be deterred from coming by any common difficulty, for his mind was now fully set upon a subject which he could not converse upon anywhere else.
When he came in, he said, "I have now resolved what I will do-for the thing which I told you about yesterday seems working in my very bones, insomuch that I cannot for a moment get rid of it. My plan is this: My term of school will be out in March, and I want Hyrum, as he is one of the trustees, to manage to have my school money ready for me as soon as the school closes, that I may be able to set off for Pennsylvania immediately upon making the necessary preparations. Samuel, I understand, is going to stay with Joseph through the spring. I will endeavor to be ready to go by the time he recovers his health again. I have made it a subject of prayer, and I firmly believe that if it is the will of the Lord that I should go, and that there is a work for me to do in this thing, I am determined to attend to it."
We told him that we thought it was his privilege to know whether this was the case and advised him to seek for a testimony for himself. He did so and received the witness spoken of in the book of Doctrine and Covenants, section 8.
From this time Oliver was so entirely absorbed in the subject of the record, that it seemed impossible for him to think or converse about anything else…
In April, all Mr. Cowdery's affairs being arranged according to his mind, he and Samuel set out for Pennsylvania. The weather, for some time previous, had been very wet and disagreeable—raining, freezing, and thawing alternately, which had made the roads almost impassable, particularly during the middle of the day. But Mr. Cowdery was determined not to be detained by wind or weather and persevered until they arrived at Joseph's house, although Oliver froze one of his toes and he and Samuel suffered much on the road from fatigue.
When they arrived there, Joseph was not at home. He had been so hurried with business and writing, etc., that he could not proceed with the work as fast as it was necessary for him to do. There was also another disadvantage under which he had to labor. Emma had so much of her time taken up with the care of her house that she could write but little for him. Accordingly, two or three days before the arrival of Oliver and Samuel, Joseph called upon his Heavenly Father to send him a scribe as the angel had promised, and he was informed that the same should be forthcoming in a few days.
When Oliver was introduced to Joseph, he said, "Mr. Smith, I have come for the purpose of writing for you." This was not at all unexpected to Joseph, for although he had never seen Mr. Cowdery before, he knew that the Lord was able to perform, and that he had been faithful to fulfill, all his promises.
They then sat down and conversed together until late, and Joseph told Oliver his entire history as far as it was necessary for his information in those things which concerned him. The next morning they commenced the work of translation and were soon deeply engaged. Now the work of writing and translation progressed rapidly. (The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, SF Proctor and MJ Proctor, [SLC: Bookcraft, 1996], 181-184)
JS-History 1:67 I commenced to translate the Book of Mormon, and he began to write for me
A general conference of the church held at Kanesville, (now Council Bluffs, Iowa) October 21st, 1848… was the occasion of [Oliver Cowdery’s] returning to the church after an estrangement of eleven years, and renewing his covenants and fellowship with the people of God. He arose and said:
"Friends and Brethren: My name is Cowdery, Oliver Cowdery. In the early history of this church I stood identified with her, and one in her councils. True it is that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance; not because I was better than the rest of mankind was I called; but, to fulfill the purposes of God, he called me to a high and holy calling.
"I wrote, with my own pen, the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages) as it fell from the lips of the Prophet Joseph, as he translated it by the gift and power of God, by the means of the Urim and Thummim, or, as it is called by the book, Holy Interpreters. I beheld with my eyes, and handled with my hands, the gold plates from which it was transcribed. I also saw with my eyes and handled with my hands the Holy Interpreters. That book is true. Sidney Rigdon did not write it. Mr. Spaulding did not write it. I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the Prophet.
(A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1930], 1: 139)
These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, “Interpreters,” the history or record called “The Book of Mormon.” (JS-History 1:71 footnote)
JS-History 1: 67-68 Break
Again, we have a break in the narrative. This time, History of the Church records Doctrine and Covenants 6-9. These four sections have to do with Oliver Cowdery’s search for a testimony, his gift and calling, and his desire to try translating himself. (See History of the Church, 1:33-38)
JS-History 1:68 we… went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism
Joseph and Oliver started translating in the Book of Mosiah which was about where the 116 lost pages left off. When they got to 3 Nephi, they learned about baptism being performed for the people (3 Ne. 19:5-14). Baptism wasn’t first mentioned there as Alma’s people were famously baptized in the waters of Mormon in Mosiah 18, but Oliver Cowdery testified their desire was kindled by the account of the Savior’s visit.
After writing the account given of the Savior’s ministry to the remnant of the seed of Jacob, upon this continent, it was easy to be seen, as the prophet said it would be, that darkness covered the earth and gross darkness the minds of the people… that… none had authority from God to administer the ordinances of the Gospel… and we only waited for the commandment to be given ‘Arise and be baptized.’ (JS-History 1:71 footnote)
Before baptism our souls were drawn out in mighty prayer, to know how we might obtain the blessings of baptism and of the Holy Spirit according to the order of God; and we diligently sought for the right of the fathers, and the authority of the holy priesthood, and the power to administer the same; for we desired to be followers of righteousness, and in the possession of greater knowledge, even the knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God. Therefore we repaired to the woods… and called upon the name of the Lord, and he answered us out of the heavens. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 3: 99)
JS-History 1:69 Upon you my fellow servants
This verse is repeated as the 13th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. The reader is referred to section 13 for commentary on this remarkable statement by John the Baptist.
JS-History 1:72 the Priesthood of Melchizedek… would in due time be conferred upon us
The exact date of the Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood is not known but it was probably just a few weeks or months later.
Somehow, the Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood became part of our scriptures and the Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood did not. We know the date of the former but not the latter. We have extensive descriptions from both Joseph and Oliver of the Baptist’s visit but not of Peter, James, and John’s. The Restoration of the Aaronic was prompted by prayer and study, the Restoration of the Melchizedek occurred unsolicited on the Lord’s timetable. It occurred when Oliver was exhausted and overwhelmed. It came as welcome relief to two weary servants running from persecution’s ugly hand.
Franklin D. Richards
The account of this is not given us very fully as to when it occurred; but Brother Addison Everett, who died a short time ago, has left it on record that he heard the Prophet Joseph say in the Mansion House, in Nauvoo, that it was on an occasion when they were returning from Colesville in York State, to Harmony, in Pennsylvania. A numerous mob had gathered in Colesville determined to destroy him, and the only way to save his life, to all human appearance, was to leave at once, and he and Oliver Cowdery went. After traveling and wandering along on the banks of the Susquehanna, through the marshes and swamps, all night long, and having had little or nothing to eat the day before, they were weary, faint and well nigh exhausted. Oliver became so weary that Joseph had to put his arm around him to steady him while they got out on to dryer land where they could sit down and rest. When they came out into this place, this brother [Everett] says, Joseph told him that it was there that Peter, James and John met them in their loneliness and weariness, and declared unto them their testimony, that they had been sent of the Lord Jesus Christ to ordain them to the Apostleship. The Prophet Joseph, in writing about the great work of the Lord in his seclusion in the days of Nauvoo, says: (quotes D&C 128:20-21).
This corresponds with our brother's statement, though we are nowhere told just when it occurred. When they had received this ordination and blessing, they arose and walked the remaining seventeen miles like giants refreshed with wine, strong and able to finish their journey to Harmony. The Lord in His various and peculiar ways has restored authority and power to the human family, to administer and to receive the everlasting gospel. How strangely He led the Prophet Joseph from time to time, from place to place, in His great work to build Temples and establish His people in the gathering places and to accomplish the wonders that have been performed, for he was attacked by the powers of darkness from the day he began to receive the discipline of the Lord. He says himself that he was used continually to wading in deep water. (Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses, 5 vols. [Burbank, Calif., and Woodland Hills, Ut.: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987-1992], vol. 5, October 5, 1896)
In a conversation I heard between Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Oliver Cowdery was spoken of. Joseph said, "Poor boy!"
He then said that at Colesville, New York, in 1829, he and Oliver were under arrest on a charge of deceiving the people. When they were at the justice's house for trial in the evening, all were waiting for Mr. Reid, Joseph's lawyer. While waiting, the justice asked Joseph some questions, among which was this: "What was the first miracle Jesus performed?"
Joseph replied, "He made this world, and what followed we are not told."
Mr. Reid came in and said he wanted to speak to his clients in private and that the law allowed him that privilege, he believed. The judge pointed to a door to a room in the back part of the house and told them to step in there. As soon as they got into the room, the lawyer said there was a mob outside in front of the house. "If they get hold of you they will perhaps do you bodily injury; and I think the best way for you to get out of this is to get right out there," pointing to the window and hoisting it.
They got into the woods in going a few rods from the house. It was night and they traveled through brush and water and mud, fell over logs, etc., until Oliver was exhausted. Then Joseph helped him along through the mud and water, almost carrying him.
They traveled all night, and just at the break of day Oliver gave out entirely and exclaimed, "Oh, Lord! Brother Joseph, how long have we got to endure this thing?"
They sat down on a log to rest, and Joseph said that at that very time Peter, James and John came to them and ordained them to the apostleship.
They had sixteen or seventeen miles to go to get back to Mr. Hale's, his father-in-law's, but Oliver did not complain any more of fatigue. Letter of Addison Everett to Oliver B. Huntington, February 17, 1881, Young Woman's Journal, II (November, 1890), pp. 76-77. (Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 15)
JS-History 1:73 No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery, than the Holy Ghost fell upon him, and he stood up and prophesied many things
Interestingly, John the Baptist came to confer the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood which he specifically stated, “had not the power of laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost” (v. 70), yet both Joseph and Oliver are filled with the Spirit after their baptism. As Joseph would later say, “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.” (History of the Church, 5:499)
When Joseph and Oliver were baptized they got both halves: baptism by water and baptism by the Holy Ghost. They were endowed with the Spirit which loosed their tongues as Nephi prophesied, “then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.” (2 Ne. 31:13)
JS-History 1:74 Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings
No better example of the importance of the Spirit in understanding the scriptures could be given than this one. Joseph had seen God and angels. He was translating an ancient document with the Urim and Thummim. All of that was great, but what he needed to understand the scriptures was the Holy Ghost. All of the sudden, his mind is opened, his understanding broadened, his vision expanded. That is what the Holy Ghost can do for us.
Parley P. Pratt
The gift of the Holy Spirit… quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections; and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation and social feeling. It develops and invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, invigorates, and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being. (Key to the Science of Theology/A Voice of Warning [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1965], 101)
Bruce R. McConkie
To a degree every sincere investigator begins to have his mind opened to the scriptures, as he seeks the truth even before baptism, but the great flood of enlightenment comes after the receipt of the companionship of the Holy Ghost. (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 854)
JS-History 1:75 We had been threatened with being mobbed
The mob spirit in Harmony, Pennsylvania and nearby Colesville, Broome County, New York started very quickly after the Prophet began translating the plates. Within a little more than two years, the persecution would drive them out of the Harmony-Colesville area for good. The exact instance of Isaac Hale, Joseph’s father-in-law, using his influence to protect the Prophet is difficult to find. But the history of subsequent persecutions from the mobs in that area is plentiful.
Joseph Fielding Smith
This spirit of opposition which took such a decided form, was the result of agitation on the part of professors of religion. The Rev. Shearer, Cyrus McMaster, Dr. Boyington and a Mr. Benton, pillars in the Presbyterian Church, were the leaders in exciting the mob spirit. Benton was the man who signed the first warrant for Joseph Smith's arrest as "a disorderly person" for preaching the Book of Mormon. In this manner Satan stirred up the hearts of the people to extreme bitterness in his endeavor to overthrow the work. (Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1946-1949], 1: 110)
When I first commenced this work, and had got two or three individuals to believe, I went about thirty miles with Oliver Cowdery, to see them. We had only one horse between us. When we arrived, a mob of about one hundred men came upon us before we had time to eat, and chased us all night; and we arrived back again [at Harmony] a little after daylight, having traveled about sixty miles in all, and without food. I have often traveled all night to see the brethren; and, when traveling to preach the Gospel among strangers, have frequently been turned away without food. (Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 2: The Pearl of Great Price [Salt Lake City: Randall Book, 1985], 405)
JS-History 1:71 Footnote
This website is dedicated to providing commentary to enhance the understanding of the scriptures. This footnote, comprising Oliver Cowdery’s account of the same events, is given as part of our scriptures for the same purpose.
Joseph and Oliver experienced the same vision. They described it quite differently. Joseph was always quite manner-of-fact in his descriptions of visions. They were commonplace for him. He would neither embellish nor wax grandiose. Oliver’s perspective is different. He answers the question, “What was it like to see John the Baptist as an angel of God?” “How did you feel?” “What were you thinking?”
It is one thing to state that Moses saw a burning bush and spoke with God. It is another to explain how that revelation affected Moses as a man. Like the bush, Moses’ heart must have been on fire as well. He must have been struck with awe and amazement. He must have wondered why he was so privileged as to communicate with God. But these are experiences hard to explain. Oliver does us the favor of trying to put it into words.
I shall not attempt to paint to you the feelings of this heart, nor the majestic beauty and glory which surrounded us on this occasion; but you will believe me when I say, that earth, nor men, with the eloquence of time, cannot begin to clothe language in as interesting and sublime a manner as this holy personage. No; nor has this earth power to give the joy, to bestow the peace, or comprehend the wisdom which was contained in each sentence as they were delivered by the power of the Holy Spirit! Man may deceive his fellow-men, deception may follow deception, and the children of the wicked one may have power to seduce the foolish and untaught, till naught but fiction feeds the many, and the fruit of falsehood carries in its current the giddy to the grave; but one touch with the finger of his love, yes, one ray of glory from the upper world, or one word from the mouth of the Savior, from the bosom of eternity, strikes it all into insignificance, and blots it forever from the mind. The assurance that we were in the presence of an angel, the certainty that we heard the voice of Jesus, and the truth unsullied as it flowed from a pure personage, dictated by the will of God, is to me past description, and I shall ever look upon this expression of the Savior's goodness with wonder and thanksgiving while I am permitted to tarry; and in those mansions where perfection dwells and sin never comes, I hope to adore in that day which shall never cease.