History of the Church, Vol.1
Chapter 2. [1820-Jan. 1827]
The Visitation of Moroni--Existence of the Book of Mormon Made Known.[For an explanation of abbreviations see volume 1, chapter 1.]
[ Copyright © 1997 BOAP all rights reserved]
I CONTINUED to pursue my common vocation in life(1) until the twenty-first of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-three, all the time suffering severe persecution at the hands of all classes of men, both religious and irreligious, because I continued to affirm that I had seen a vision.
During the space of time which intervened between the time I had the vision and the year eighteen hundred and twenty-three--having been forbidden to join any of the religious sects of the day, and being of very tender years, and persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends, and to have treated me kindly, and if they supposed me to be deluded to have endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me,--I was left to all kinds of temptations; and mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God(2). In making this confession, no one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins. A disposition to commit such was never in my nature. But I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been. But this will not seem very strange to any one who recollects my youth, and is acquainted with my native cheery temperament.(3)(3a)
In consequence of these things, I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections; when, on the evening of the above-mentioned twenty-first of September, after I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies,(4) and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before Him; for I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had done. While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room,(5) which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor. He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant. His hands were naked and his arms also, a little above the wrist, so, also were his feet naked, as were his legs, a little above the ankles. His head and neck were also bare. I could discover that he had no other clothing on but this robe, as it was open, so that I could see into his bosom. Not only was his robe exceedingly white, but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person.(6)
When first I looked upon him, I was afraid; but the fear soon left me. He 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(7); that God had a work for me to do(8); 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.(9) He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the sources from whence they sprang. He also said that the fullness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants; also that there were two stones in silver bows--and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim--deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted "Seers"(10) in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book.
After telling me these things, he commenced quoting the prophecies of the Old Testament. He first quoted part of the third chapter of Malachi(11) and he quoted also the fourth or last chapter of the same prophecy, though with a little variation from the way it reads in our Bibles. Instead of quoting the first verse as it reads in our books, he quoted it thus:
For behold the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
And again, he quoted the fifth verse thus:
Behold I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.(12)
He also quoted the next verse differently:
And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers; if it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.
In addition to these, he quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah(13), saying that it was about to be fulfilled. He quoted also the third chapter of Acts, twenty-second and twenty-third verses(14), precisely as they stand in our New Testament. He said that that Prophet was Christ; but the day had not yet come when "they who would not hear his voice should be cut off from among the people," but soon would come. He also quoted the second chapter of Joel, from the twenty eighth verse to the last(15). He also said that this was not yet fulfilled, but was soon to be. And he further stated that the fullness of the Gentiles was soon to come in. He quoted many other passages of Scripture, and offered many explanations which cannot be mentioned here.(16)
Again, he told me, that when I got those plates of which he had spoken--for the time that they should be obtained was not yet fulfilled--I should not show them to any person; neither the breast plate with the Urim and Thummim; only to those to whom I should be commanded to show them; if I did I should be destroyed. While he was conversing with me about the plates, the vision was opened to my mind that I could see the place where the plates were deposited, and that so clearly and distinctly that I knew the place again when I visited it.
After this communication, I saw the light in the room began to gather immediately around the person of him who had been speaking to me, and it continued to do so, until the room was again left dark, except just around me, when instantly I saw, as it were, a conduit open right up into heaven, and he ascended until he entirely disappeared, and the room was left as it had been before this heavenly light had made its appearance. I lay musing on the singularity of the scene and marveling greatly at what had been told to me by this extraordinary messenger; when, in the midst of my meditation, I suddenly discovered that my room was again beginning to get lighted, and in an instant, as it were, the same heavenly messenger was again by my bedside. He commenced, and again related the very same things which he had done at the first visit, without the least variation; which having done, he informed me of great judgments which were coming upon the earth, with great desolations by famine, sword, and pestilence; and that these grievous judgments would come on the earth in this generation. Having related these things, he again ascended as he had done before.
By this time, so deep were the impressions made on my mind, that sleep had fled from my eyes, and I lay overwhelmed in astonishment at what I had both seen and heard. But what was my surprise when again I beheld the same messenger at my bedside, and heard him rehearse or repeat over again to me the same things as before; and added a caution to me, telling me that Satan would try to tempt me, (in consequence of the indigent circumstances of my father's family,) to get the plates for the purpose of getting rich. This he forbade me, saying that I must have no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God, and must not be influenced by any other motive than that of building His kingdom; otherwise I could not get them. After this third visit, he again ascended into heaven as before, and I was again left to ponder on the strangeness of what I had just experienced; when almost immediately after the heavenly messenger had ascended from me the third time, the cock crowed, and I found that day was approaching, so that our interviews must have occupied the whole of that night.
I shortly after arose from my bed, and, as usual, to the necessary labors of the day; but in attempting to work as at other times, I found my strength so exhausted as to render me entirely unable. My father, who was laboring along with me, discovered something to be wrong with me, and told me to go home.(17) I started with the intention of going to the house; but, in attempting to cross the fence out of the field where we were, my strength entirely failed me, and I fell helpless on the ground, and for a time was quite unconscious of anything. The first thing that I can recollect was a voice speaking unto me, calling me by name. I looked up, and beheld the same messenger standing over my head, surrounded by light as before. He then again related unto me all that he had related to me the previous night, and commanded me to go to my father and tell him of the vision and commandments which I had received. I obeyed; I returned to my father in the field, and rehearsed the whole matter to him. He replied to me that it was of God, and told me to go and do as commanded by the messenger. I left the field, and went to the place where the messenger had told me the plates were deposited; and owing to the distinctness of the vision which I had had concerning it, I knew the place the instant that I arrived there.
Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county, New York, stands a hill(18) of considerable size, and the most elevated of any in the neighborhood.(19) On the west side of this hill, not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates, deposited in a stone box. This stone was thick and rounding in the middle on the upper side, and thinner towards the edges, so that the middle part of it was visible above the ground, but the edge all around was covered with earth.
Having removed the earth, I obtained a lever, which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up. I looked in, and there indeed did I behold the plates,(20) the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate, as stated by the messenger. The box in which they lay was formed by laying stones together in some kind of cement. In the bottom of the box were laid two stones crosswise of the box, and on these stones lay the plates and the other things with them.(21)
I made an attempt to take them out, but was forbidden by the messenger,(22) and was again informed that the time for bringing them forth had not yet arrived, neither would it(23), until four years from that time; but he told me that I should come to that place precisely in one year from that time and that he would there meet with me, and that I should continue to do so until the time should come for obtaining the plates. Accordingly, as I had been commanded, I went at the end of each year, and at each time I found the same messenger there, and received instruction and intelligence from him at each of our interviews, respecting what the Lord was going to do, and how and in what manner His kingdom was to be conducted in the last days.(24)
As my father's worldly circumstances were very limited, we were under the necessity of laboring with our hands, hiring out by day's work and otherwise as we could get opportunity. Sometimes we were at home, and sometimes abroad, and by continued labor, were enabled to get a comfortable maintenance. In the year 1824(25) my father's family met with a great affliction by the death of my eldest brother, Alvin. In the month of October, 1825, I hired with an old gentleman by the name of Josiah Stowel,(26) who lived in Chenango County, state of New York. He had heard something of a silver mine having been opened by the Spaniards in Harmony, Susquehanna county, state of Pennsylvania; and had, previous to my hiring to him, been digging, in order, if possible, to discover the mine. After I went to live with him, he took me, with the rest of his hands, to dig for the silver mine, at which I continued to work for nearly a month, without success in our undertaking, and finally I prevailed with the old gentleman to cease digging after it. Hence arose the very prevalent story of my having been a money digger.(27)
During the time that I was thus employed, I was put to board with a Mr. Isaac Hale,(28) of that place; it was there I first saw my wife (his daughter), Emma Hale.(29) On the 18th of January, 1827 we were married, while I was yet employed in the service of Mr. Stoal. Owing to my continuing to assert that I had seen a vision, persecution still followed me, and my wife's father's family were very much opposed to our being married. I was, therefore, under the necessity of taking her elsewhere; so we went and were married at the house of Squire Tarbill(30), in South Bainbridge, Chenango county, New York. Immediately after my marriage, I left Mr. Stoal's and went to my father's, and farmed with him that season.
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Notes Chapter 2
1. Farmer and day-laborer. The 1820 census does not list Joseph Smith, Jr. as a resident with Joseph and Lucy. He probably lived with other farmers during the growing season. During this period of his life he was of greatest use to his family, since he was too young to save for his own farm but old enough to work at near a man's ability.
2. The ms text reads "During the space of time which intervened between the time I had the vision and the year eighteen hundred and twenty-three (having been forbidden to join any of the religious sects of the day, and being of very tender years, and persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends, and to have treated me kindly, and if they supposed me to be deluded to have endeavored, in a proper and affectionate manner, to have reclaimed me), I was left to all kinds of temptations, and mingled with all kinds of society. I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the corruption of human nature, which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, to the gratification of many appetites offensive in the sight of God. In consequence of these things I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections . . ." Roberts and the First Presidency felt this text expressed in the then current language an inaccurate situation. In fact, Joseph confirms their view when he writes to Oliver Cowdery about his forthcoming series in the Messenger and Advocate on the history of Joseph Smith. See following note.
3. This agrees with a letter which the Prophet addressed to Oliver Cowdery upon hearing that it was the intention of the latter to publish a series of articles in the Saints' Messenger and Advocate, on "Early Scenes and Incidents in the Church." The letter referred to appeared in vol. I, no. 3, of the MA, 1834.
LETTER OF JOSEPH SMITH TO OLIVER COWDERY:
Dear Brother: Having learned from the first number of the Messenger and Advocate, that you were not only about to "give a history of the rise and progress of the Church of the Latter-day Saints;" but that said history would necessarily embrace my life and character, I have been induced to give you the time and place of my birth; as I have learned that many of the opposers of those principles which I have held forth to the world, profess a personal acquaintance with me, though when in my presence, represent me to be another person, in age, education, and stature, from what I am.
I was born (according to the record of the same, kept by my parents) in the town of Sharon, Windsor county, Vermont, on the 23rd of December, 1805. At the age of ten my father's family removed to Palmyra, New York, where, in the vicinity of which, I lived, or, made it my place of residence, until I was twenty-one; the latter part in the town of Manchester.
During this time, as is common to most, or all youths, I fell into many vices and follies; but as my accusers are, and have been forward to accuse me of being guilty of gross and outrageous violations of the peace and good order of the community, I take the occasion to remark that, though as I have said above, "as is common to most, or all youths, I fell into many vices and follies," I have not, neither can it be sustained, in truth, been guilty of wronging or injuring any man or society of men; and those imperfections to which I allude, and for which I have often had occasion to lament, were a light, and too often, vain mind, exhibiting a foolish and trifling conversation.
This being all, and the worst, that my accusers can substantiate against my moral character, I wish to add that it is not without a deep feeling of regret that I am thus called upon in answer to my own conscience, to fulfil a duty I owe to myself, as well as to the cause of truth, in making this public confession of my former uncircumspect walk, and trifling conversation and more particularly, as I often acted in violation of those holy precepts which I knew came from God. But as the "Articles and Covenants," of this Church are plain upon this particular point, I do not deem it important to proceed further. I only add, that I do not, nor never have, pretended to be any other than a man "subject to passion," and liable, without the assisting grace of the Savior, to deviate from that perfect path in which all men are commanded to walk.
By giving the above a place in your valuable paper, you will confer a lasting favor upon myself, as an individual, and, as I humbly hope, subserve the cause of righteousness.
I am, with feelings of esteem, your fellow-laborer in the Gospel of our Lord,
[Signed] Joseph Smith.
3a. The previous three sentences are not in the hand of James Mulholland. They come from a note on page 133 of Book A-1 of the ms history written by Willard Richards. The note was penned on December 2, 1842 according Richards' diary.
4. Oliver Cowdery (MA, 1834) fuses together the religious excitement issue, Rev. Lane and Joseph's feeling the need of forgiveness with the Moroni visits:It is necessary to premise this account by relating the situation of the public mind relative to religion, at this time: One Mr. Lane, a presiding Elder of the Methodist Church, visited Palmyra, and vicinity. Elder Lane was a talented man possessing a good share of literary endowments and apparent humility. There was a great awakening, or excitement raised on the subject of religion, and much inquiry for the word of life. Large additions were made to the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches. Mr. Lane's manner of communication was peculiarly calculated to awaken the intellect of the hearer, and arouse the sinner to look about him for safety--much good instruction was always drawn from his discourses on the scripture, and in common with others, our brother's mind became awakened. . . . You will recollect that I mentioned the time of a religious excitement in Palmyra and vicinity to have been in the seventeenth year of our brother Joseph Smith, Jr.'s, age. This brings the date down to the year 1823.This narrative raises the possibility that Joseph's involvement in the awakenings of the region did not terminate with the first vision experience and Joseph himself makes it clear that he is still concerned about his sinful status before God at this point. However, the MA text suggests a reliance on the 1832 F. G. Williams history (see note 21 chapter 1). Richard L. Anderson explains:
On the evening of the 21st of September, 1823, previous to retiring to rest our brother's mind was unusually wrought up on the subject which had so long agitated his mind--his heart was drawn out in fervent prayer, and his whole soul was lost to everything of a temporal nature that earth, to him, had lost its charms, and all he desired was to be prepared in heart to commune with some kind messenger who would communicate to him the desired information of his acceptance with God.Since Oliver Cowdery and William Smith narrated early Church history without mentioning the First Vision, it has been assumed that their silence proves that the event did not occur. Both associate Joseph Smith's revival investigations with 1823 instead of 1820, but in each case there is an apparent reason for this procedure that is consistent with the reality of the First Vision. Cowdery made the first public attempt to narrate pre-1830 Church history in letters to the 1834-35 Messenger and Advocate. It is incorrect to say that he wrote without an awareness of the First Vision. It may be that the reason for leaving it out is ambiguous, but, as shown in this issue by Dean Jessee, the initial manuscript history of the First Vision was entered in official Church records at least two years before Cowdery's history. When he stated that he would utilize "authentic documents now in our possession," it is virtually certain that he was alluding to the 1831-32 account. There is a clear verbal relationship between the two narrations, although the simple language of the earlier record is obviously not to the taste of Cowdery, with his early talent for ornate eloquence. Essential dependence upon the 1831-32 account is also minimized by the personal availability of Joseph Smith for consultation, a point which the editor stresses at the beginning of his letters and demonstrates by direct quotes in their progress. But at two points where the Prophet's personal experiences are narrated, identical phrases or structural similarities betray Cowdery's use of the earlier document.While Joseph's first visionary experience may not have been uncommon in terms of its message [see chapter 1 note 22] his second experience, with Moroni, was completely out of the ordinary Burned-Over-District event. He found that his life was not to be that of an average rural bumpkin at all. The information was certainly sobering. While instant maturity did not result, Joseph did pass the initial test of faith.
Angel's Warning Recorded Twice
The final Messenger and Advocate installment (October 1835) depicted an incident that had not yet appeared in any LDS writing except the 1831-32 manuscript history. This was the first view of the plates by the young Joseph, who was so overwhelmed with their value that he reached to take them for selfish motives, only to be checked and rebuked in a sudden appearance of the divine messenger. Both accounts refer to the angel's original warning in identical words: the Prophet was directed to obtain the plates with "an eye single to the glory of God." Both accounts record the same question of frustration: "Why can I not obtain this book?" And the answer of the angel is identical in each: "You have not kept the commandments of the Lord."
The conclusion of interrelationship is reinforced by comparing the earliest religious conflict of Joseph Smith in the two documents. Mere verbal correlations do not always prove dependence, but added to these is a precise sequence of events that indicates that Cowdery composed his sketch of Joseph's first religious investigations with the 1831-32 manuscript history before him:
1831-32 Manuscript History December 1834, Cowdery Letter . . . my mind became seriously impressed with regard to the all important concerns for the welfare of my immortal soul . . . . . . his mind was led to more seriously contemplate the importance of a move of this kind. . . . I discovered they did not adorn their profession by a holy wald and Godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository. This was a grief to my soul. To profess godliness without its benign influence upon the heart, was a thing so foreign from his feelings, that his spirit was not at rest day or night. . . . there was no society or denomination that built upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament, and I felt to mourn . . . To unite with a society professing to be built upon the only sure foundation, and that profession be a vain one, was calculated . . . to arouse the mind . . . Therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy, for there was none else to whom I could go . . . In this situation where could he go?
If Oliver Cowdery demonstrably followed the 1831-32 document in rehearsing the background of the First Vision, why didn't he report the full event as found in that history? If the reason for the break in narrative is hypothetical, the interruption is obvious. As shown by the above quotations, Cowdery's entire emphasis in recounting the Prophet's first religious experience was on the question of which church to join, a point of agreement with every official record of Joseph Smith. Confusion stemmed from the "strong solicitations to unite with one of those different societies," but no man could solve this specific problem:In this situation where could he go? If he went to one he was told they were right, and all others were wrong--If to another, the same was heard from those. . . . [A] proof from some source was wanting to settle the mind and give peace to the agitated bosom.But after virtually stating that only God could answer the problem of which church was right, Cowdery records no prayer on that subject or any answer to that question. In the next installment, the revivals are glossed over, and a transition is made to a new situation:[O]ur brother's mind was unusually wrought up on the subject which had so long agitated his mind . . . and all he desired was to be prepared in heart to commune with some kind messenger who could communicate to him the desired information of acceptance with God.In Cowdery's narrative the answer to this prayer matches the second circumstance where church conflict is not significant: an angel brought the message "that his sins were forgiven, and that his prayers were heard . . ." By date and verbal dependence, it is known that Cowdery had access to the 1831-32 document, which described two different prayers and two responding visions. Because the logical Cowdery presented differing prayer situations but an answer to only one of them, it must be assumed that he left out reference to the First Vision for a reason.
It is hard to avoid the impression that the second elder was corrected by Joseph Smith and exercised his editorial privilege of saving face. The installment of December 1834, in which the First Vision background was given, dated the "excitement raised on the subject of religion" in the "15th year" of the Prophet's life, a time which is strictly December 23, 1819, to December 23, 1820. That period was presented with certain detail never confirmed in any account of Joseph Smith. Cowdery named the leading minister in these revivals as "one Mr. Lane, a presiding Elder of the Methodist Church," and identified the scene of his labors as "Palmyra, and vicinity." In the next installment (February 1835) this chronology was modified. Pleading "an error in the type," the editor said that the above events happened "in the 17th" year of Joseph Smith's life. Although this adjustment "would bring the date down to the year 1823," the correction is confused, since "the 17th" year is strictly December 23, 1821, to December 23, 1822. "I do not deem it necessary," the editor assures his audience, "to write further on the subject of this excitement." Yet this plan was not strictly followed, for Cowdery's narrative portrays the Prophet's continued search for "assurance that he was accepted of him" until 1823--"while this excitement continued." Is this a hint that the initial installment over-simplified an extended revival period described by the Prophet? It is specifically on the the point of chronology that Cowdery later admits imperfection:I have now given you a rehearsal of what was communicated to our brother, when he was directed to go and obtain the record of the Nephites. I may have missed in arrangement in some instances, but the principle is preserved . . .Since Cowdery knew of the First Vision and began to describe its circumstances, his failure to continue implies a correction. One might envision a reprimand for giving public details of a sacred experience, though that is inconsistent with Joseph Smith's open description of the event for the Jewish minister Joshua some months afterward. The more likely point of departure is to isolate the only background information not confirmed by other Joseph Smith accounts, which pertains to Rev. Lane. As shown by Larry Porter's accompanying article, this Methodist leader had no Palmyra ministry until several years after 1819-20. Yet it is clear that he attended the 1819 Genesee Conference sessions in nearby Vienna-Phelps, for his name appears in the minutes, and a fellow-minister remembered that "he and I set off together on horseback" for the gathering. Joseph Smith's proximity to this impressive occasion and his proven connection with Methodism about this time make it distinctly possible that the two had personal contact several years prior to Lane's residence at Palmyra. If Cowdery mistook an 1820 contact with Lane for a later Palmyra ministry, he probably advanced his chronology abruptly to coincide roughly with the later circumstances that he had unwittingly narrated. The absence of the First Vision in these circumstances is an accident of presentation never rectified because the letter-presentation of early history was terminated some months afterward. The next serious move to record these early events was inaugurated by the Prophet. Perhaps the possibility of misunderstanding convinced Joseph Smith that his personal history could only be accurately written by himself. [Richard L. Anderson, "Circumstantial Confirmation of the First Vision Through Reminiscences," BYUS, Vol. 9, No. 3, 393-398]
5. Whether this room was in the homestead cabin or in the frame house under construction at the time is not clear from the record. In fact it would have taken place in the cabin. In any case, other family members would be sleeping in the same room as was customary among country families of the day. Six boys would sleep in two beds in the larger of two attic rooms while two girls slept in a smaller room. [See Russell R. Rich, BYUS, 10 (Spring 1970) no.3, 257.] For a review of events surrounding the Smith residences in New York, see Donald L. Enders, "A Snug Log House," Ensign August 1985, 14-23.
Following the death of Alvin Smith in 1823, the work on the new frame home slowed down considerably. It was not completed until late 1825 or early 1826. The annual contract payment on the land became more difficult with the death of the oldest son. Since the previous land agent for the Smith property had died, and a new agent had not been appointed, the family decided to put the land payment they had saved toward a new frame home to replace the over-crowded cabin. This became doubly unwise with the death of Alvin. The older boys had to hire out for pay. Joseph's money-digging for Stowell was a result. Joseph had a local reputation as a scryer having had some success with his seer stones. Hyrum, while older than Joseph was approaching marriage and had to save for his anticipated needs. The hired carpenter on the frame home, Mr. Stoddard, had to be paid. While such skilled laborers often worked on credit, the reckoning was drawing near. The family decided to borrow the money with the next year's wheat crop as collateral. Joseph Knight and Josiah Stowell who had come to the vicinity to buy grain, agreed to lend the money. Hyrum went to the Canandaigua land agent to inform him that the final payment on the land would be made, but a few days late. During this period, many farmers in the area went bankrupt because of falling prices on farm commodities. The Smith's were doing fairly well by comparison. Many farmer's contract payments were late but as long as improvements continued, land agents generally did not foreclose. Stoddard apparently wanted the Smith home himself and offered them $1,500. They refused to sell. Stoddard raised the money from his neighbors and went to the Smith's land agent with the story that the Smith's had run away and Hyrum was cutting the sugar orchards and tearing down the fences. He offered full payment for the farm in cash. The land agent took the deal in behalf of the owners. Stoddard went to the Smith's and told them to vacate. However in a series of last minute negotiations, the Smith's were able to find their own buyer, Lemuel Durfee, Sr. who purchased the farm on the deadline date of December 20, 1825 and allowed the Smith's to remain on the land for the time being as tenant farmers. In 1829, Joseph Sr. and Lucy moved in with Hyrum. The events were a fatal blow to a secure independent old age for the Smith's. They were relatively old (in their fifties) and it would be nearly impossible to start over. With this final defeat, Joseph Sr. seems to have given over leadership of family affairs to his wife. Even before this, Alvin appeared to have assumed the primary role of bread-winner, decision-maker in the family. Joseph Sr.'s confidence was broken and he appears reduced to a bystander, with both his alchohol consumption and financial failures the major contributors. He would find rehabilitation and self-respect to some extent from Joseph Jr. who eventually appointed him as the first Church 'patriarch' and a member of the Church governing 'First Presidency.' [See Bushman, Beginnings, 67-68]
6. Cowdery continues the narrative:At length the family retired, and he, as usual, went his way, though in silence, where others might have rested their weary frames "locked fast in sleep's embrace," but repose had fled, and accustomed slumber had spread her refreshing hand over others beside him--he continued still to pray--his heart, though once hard and hard and obdurate, was softened, and that mind which had often flitted, like the 'wild bird of passage,' had settled upon a determined basis not to be decoyed or driven from its purpose.
In this situation hours passed unnumbered--how many or how few I know not, neither is he able to inform me; but suppose it must have been eleven or twelve and perhaps later, as the noise and bustle of the family, in retiring, had long since ceased. While continuing in prayer for a manifestation in some way that his sins were forgiven, endeavoring to exercise faith in the scriptures, on a sudden a light like that of day, only of a purer and far more glorious appearance and brightness, burst into the room. Indeed, to use his own description, the first sight was as though the house was filled with consuming and unquenchable fire. This sudden appearance of a light so bright, as must naturally be expected, occasioned a shock or sensation, visible to the extremities of the body. It was, however, followed with a calmness and serenity of mind, and an overwhelming rapture of joy that surpassed understanding, and in a moment a personage stood before him.
Notwithstanding the room was previously filled with light above the brightness of the sun, as I have before described, yet there seemed to be an additional glory surrounding or accompanying this personage, which shone with an increased degree of brilliancy, of which he was in the midst; and though his countenance was as lightning, yet it was of a pleasing, innocent and glorious appearance, so much so, that every fear was banished from the heart, and nothing but calmness pervaded the soul.
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. To be sure, the Lord appeared to His apostles after His resurrection, and we do not learn as they were in the least difficulted to look upon Him; but from John's description upon Patmos, we learn that He is there presented as most glorious in appearance; and from other items in the sacred scriptures we have the fact recorded where angels appeared and conversed with men, and there was no difficulty on the part of the individuals, to endure their presence; and others where their glory was so conspicuous that they could not endure. The last description or appearance is the one to which I refer, when I say that it is no easy task to describe their glory.
7. In the original publication of the history in the Times and Seasons at Nauvoo, this name appears as "Nephi," and the Millennial Star perpetuated the error in its republication of the History. That it is an error is evident, and it is so noted in the manuscripts to which access has been had in the preparation of this work. See also Book of Doctrine and Covenants, section 27, par. 5, and section 128, par. 20. (BHR)
In his 1832 history, Joseph identifies the angel as Moroni. [PJS 1:8]
8. Cowdery:But it may be well to relate particulars as far as given. The stature of this personage was a little above the common size of men in that age; his garment was perfectly white, and had the appearance of being without seam.
Though fear was banished from his heart yet his surprise was no less when he heard him declare himself to be a messenger sent by commandment of the Lord, to deliver a special message, and to witness to him that his sins were forgiven, and that his prayers were heard; and that the scriptures might be fulfilled which say--"God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world, and the things which are despised, has God chosen; yea, and the things which are not, to bring to naught things which are, that no flesh should glory in his presence. Therefore, says the Lord, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder; the wisdom of their wise shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent shall be hid; for according to His covenant which He made with His ancient saints, His people the house of Israel, must come to a knowledge of the gospel, and win that Messiah whom their fathers rejected, and with them the fulness of the Gentiles be gathered in, to rejoice in one fold under one Shepherd."
9. Cowdery: "This cannot be brought about until first certain preparatory things are accomplished, for so has the Lord purposed in his own mind. He has therefore chosen you as an instrument in his hand to bring to light that which shall perform His act, His strange act, and bring to pass a marvelous work and a wonder. Wherever the sound shall go, it shall cause the ears of men to tingle, and wherever it shall be proclaimed, the pure in heart shall rejoice, while those who draw near to God with their mouths, and honor Him with their lips while their hearts are far from Him, will seek its overthrow, and the destruction of those by whose hands it is carried. Therefore, marvel not if your name is made a derision, and had as a by-word among such if you are an instrument in bringing it, by the gift of God, to the knowledge of the people."
10. This is the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 8:13; 28:16) tradition for the term (someone authorized to look in the seer stones). The Book of Moses (specifically the Enoch text, Moses 6:35-36) gives a slightly different definition (someone who can see what is invisible to the natural eye.) The OT simply defines the word as an archaic term for "prophet." (1Sam9:9)
11. Most likely the first part of the chapter, as that deals with the coming of a messenger to prepare the way for the glorious coming of Messiah. (BHR)
If Roberts is correct, the text would be:Malachi 3
1 ¶ 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.
2 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 fullers' soap:
3 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.
4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.
12. Placed with the next quoted verse as D&C 2 by Orson Pratt in the 1880 edition.
1 ¶ AND there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den.
9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
10 ¶ And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.
11 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, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.
12 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.
13 The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.
14 But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them.
15 And the LORD shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his mighty wind shall he shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make [men] go over dryshod.
16 And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.
22 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.
23 And it shall come to pass, [that] every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.
28 ¶ 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:
29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.
32 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.
16. Cowdery gives this version of the experience (this quotation is a more complete excerpt than the one already given in previous notes):But it may be well to relate the particulars as far as given -- The stature of this personage was a little above the common size of men in this age; his garment was perfectly white, and had the appearance of being without seam. [Later in his notes Cowdery identifies the angel as "Moroni."]
Though fear was banished from his heart, yet his surprise was no less when he heard him declare himself to be a messenger sent by commandment of the Lord, to deliver a special message, and to witness to him that his sins were forgiven, and that his prayers were heard; and that the scriptures might be fulfilled, which say "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen; yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things which are, that no flesh should glory in his presence. Therefore, says the Lord, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder; the wisdom, of their wise shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent shall be hid; for according to his covenant which he made with his ancient saints, his people, the house of Israel, must come to a knowledge of the gospel, and own that Messiah whom their fathers rejected, and with them the fulness of the Gentiles be gathered in, to rejoice in one fold under one Shepherd."
"This cannot be brought about until first certain preparatory things are accomplished, for so has the Lord purposed in his own mind. He has therefore chosen you as an instrument in his hand to bring to light that which shall perform his act, his strange act, and bring to pass a marvelous work and a wonder. Wherever the sound shall go it shall cause the ears of men to tingle, and wherever it shall be proclaimed, the pure in heart shall rejoice, while those who draw near to God with their mouths, and honor him with their lips, while their hearts are far from him, will seek its overthrow, and the destruction of those by whose hands it is carried. Therefore, marvel not if your name is made a derision, and had as a by-word among such, if you are the instrument in bringing it, by the gift of God, to the knowledge of the people."
He then proceeded and gave a general account of the promises made to the fathers, and also gave a history of the aborigines of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham. He represented them as once being an enlightened and intelligent people, possessing a correct knowledge of the gospel, and the plan of restoration and redemption. He said this history was written and deposited not far from that place, and that it was our brother's privilege, if obedient to the commandments of the Lord, to obtain, and translate the same by the means of the Urim and Thummim, which were deposited for that purpose with the record.
"Yet," said he, "the scripture must be fulfilled before it is translated, which says that [Isa 29:11] the words of a book, which were sealed, were presented to the learned; for thus has God determined to leave men without excuse, and show to the meek that his arm is not shortened that it cannot save."
A part of the book was sealed, and was not to be opened yet. The sealed part, said he, contains the same revelation which was given to John upon the isle of Patmos, and when the people of the Lord are prepared, and found worthy, then it will be unfolded unto them.
On the subject of bringing to light the unsealed part of this record, it may be proper to say, that our brother was expressly informed, that it must be done with an eye single to the glory of God; if this consideration did not wholly characterize all his proceedings in relation to it, the adversary of truth would overcome him, or at least prevent his making that proficiency in this glorious work which he otherwise would.
While describing the place where the record was deposited, he gave a minute relation of it, and the vision of his mind being opened at the same time, he was permitted to view it critically; and previously being acquainted with the place, he was able to follow the direction of the vision, afterward, according to the voice of the angel, and obtain the book. [MA (Feb 1835) Oliver Cowdery "Letter IV," p.79-80]
17. Lucy gives an expanded account:The next day, my husband, Alvin, and Joseph, were reaping together in the field, and as they were reaping, Joseph stopped quite suddenly, and seemed to be in a very deep study. Alvin, observing it, hurried him, saying, "We must not slacken our hands or we will not be able to complete our task." Upon this Joseph went to work again, and after laboring a short time, he stopped just as he had done before. This being quite unusual and strange, it attracted the attention of his father, upon which he discovered that Joseph was very pale. My husband, supposing that he was sick, told him to go to the house, and have his mother doctor him. He accordingly ceased his work, and started, but on coming to a beautiful green, under an apple tree, he stopped and lay down, for he was so weak he could proceed no further. He was here but a short time, when the messenger whom he saw the previous night, visited him again, and the first thing he said was, "Why did you not tell your father that which I commanded you to tell him?" Joseph replied, "I was afraid my father would not believe me." The angel rejoined, "He will believe every word you say to him."
Joseph then promised the angel that he would do as he had been commanded. Upon this, the messenger departed, and Joseph 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 desired Alvin to go straightway and see his father, and inform him that he had something of great importance to communicate to him, and that he wanted him to come out into the field where they were at work. Alvin did as he was requested, and when my husband got there Joseph related to him all that had passed between him and the angel the previous night and that morning. 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. [History of Joseph Smith, p.80]
18. While Cowdery refers to this hill as "Cumorah" in his account, Joseph does not. Indeed at one point, Joseph may have suggested that the "Cumorah" of the Book of Mormon text was in Central America (TS 3:921-22, [Sept. 15, 1842]; See "Book of Mormon Geography" in EM, vol 1.) But later, Joseph seems to call the New York hill by that name (D&C128:20.) Cowdery also evidently believed that the last battles of the Nephites took place near this hill in New York:You are acquainted with the mail road from Palmyra, Wayne County, to Canandaigua, Ontario County, New York, and also, as you pass from the former to the latter place, before arriving at the little village of Manchester, say from three to four, or about four miles from Palmyra, you pass a large hill on the east side of the road. Why I say large, is because it is as large perhaps, as any in that country. To a person acquainted with this road a description would be unnecessary, as it is the largest and rises the highest of any on that route. The north end rises quite suddenly until it assumes a level with the more southerly extremity, and I think I may say an elevation higher than at the south a short distance, say half or three-fourths of a mile. As you pass toward Canandaigua, it lessens gradually until the surface assumes its common level, or is broken by other smaller hills or ridges, water courses, and ravines. I think I am justified in saying that this is the highest hill for some distance around, and I am certain that its appearance, as it rises so suddenly from a plain on the north, must attract the notice of the traveler as he passes by.Edward Partridge gives this description: "It is a hill perhaps 100 feet high, running from a trifle west of north to a little east of south, the north end breaks off very square, and when from a distance we view it the sides appear steep like the roof of a house." [Edward Partridge journal, p. 23, LDS Church Archives]
At about one mile west rises another ridge of less height, running parallel with the former, leaving a beautiful vale between. The soil is of the best quality for the country, and under a state of cultivation, which gives a prospect at once imposing, when one reflects on the fact that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed.
The hill and surrounding property were purchased by the LDS Church in 1928 under a providential set of circumstances. [See Rex C. Reeve, Jr., and Richard O. Cowan, "The Hill Called Cumorah," in Church History Regional Studies-New York, BYU Department of Church History and Doctrine, 1992]
19. The following description of Cumorah is from the pen of Oliver Cowdery:
[B. H. Roberts here includes Cowdery's description from the preceding note.] (BHR)
20. Cowdery relates his own experience here: "However, on this point I shall leave every man to draw his own conclusion, and form his own speculation, as I only promised to give a description of the place at the time the records were found in 1823. It is sufficient for my present purpose, to know that such is the fact: that in 1823, yes, 1823, a man with whom I have had the most intimate and personal acquaintance, for almost seven years, actually discovered by the vision of God, the plates from which the Book of Mormon, as much as it is disbelieved, was translated! Such is the case, though men rack their very brains to invent falsehoods, and then waft them upon every breeze, to the contrary notwithstanding."
21. Cowdery:The manner in which the plates were deposited:
First, a hole of sufficient depth, (how deep I know not) was dug. At the bottom of this was laid a stone of suitable size, the upper surface being smooth. At each edge was placed a large quantity of cement and into this cement, at the four edges of this stone were placed, erect, four other, their bottom edges on the first stone. The four last named, when placed erect, formed a box, the corners, or where the edges of the four came in contact, were also cemented so firmly that the moisture from without was prevented from entering. It is to be observed, also, that the inner surface of the four erect, or side stones, was smooth. This box was sufficiently large to admit a breastplate, such as was used by the ancients to defend the chest, etc., from the arrows and weapons of their enemies. From the bottom of the box, or from the breastplate, arose three small pillars composed of the same description of cement used on the edges; and upon these three pillars was placed the record of the children of Joseph, and of a people who left the tower far, far before the days of Joseph or a sketch of each, which had it not been for this, and the never failing goodness of God, we might have perished in our sins, having been left to bow down before the altars of the gentiles and to have paid homage to the priests of BAAL!
I must not forget to say that this box, containing the record, was covered with another stone, and the bottom surface being flat and the upper, crowning. But these three pillars were not so lengthy as to cause the plates and the crowning stone to come in contact. I have now given you, according to my promise, the manner in which this record was deposited; though when it was first visited by our brother, in 1823, a part of the crowning stone was visible above the surface while the edges were concealed by the soil and grass, from which circumstance you will see, that however deep this box might have been placed by Moroni at first, the time had been sufficient to wear the earth so that it was easily discovered, when once directed, and yet not enough to make a perceivable difference to the passer-by.
22. The now infamous Mark Hofmann forged a letter from one of Smith's associates to say that a (occult) "salamander" appeared here. Hofmann, a psychotic liar-murderer wanted to destroy the LDS Church by "discovering" fake documents about its history. [See Richard E. Turley, Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case, (Urbana:University of Illinois Press, 1992)]
23. Joseph Smith's mother relates circumstances that make it appear that the phrase "neither would it, until four years from that time" is not a quotation from the angel, but merely a statement of how the matter came out. Her version relates what happens when Joseph returned to the hill in 1824.On the twenty-second of September, 1824, Joseph again visited the place where he found the plates the year previous; 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. Therefore, having arrived at the place, and uncovering the plates, he put forth his hand and took them up, but, as he was taking them hence, the unhappy thought darted through his mind that probably there was something else in the box besides the plates, which would be of some pecuniary advantage to him [this is the difficulty which Cowdery relates as preventing Smith from getting the plates the in 1823, except that he apparently learned from that previous encounter that it would not do to lust for the plates themselves - this suggests the poverty the Smith's contended with]. So, in the moment of excitement, he laid them down very carefully, for the purpose of covering the box, lest some one might happen to pass that way and get whatever there might be remaining in it. After covering it, he turned round to take the Record again, but behold it was gone, and where, he knew not, neither did he know the means by which it had been taken from him.The pathos in Joseph Smith Sr.'s voice suggests his desparate circumstances. Starting life with a relative fortune, losing that in deals gone bad, grasping at the possiblity of a new start in Manchester, failing again, increasingly turning to alcohol, pushing young Joseph into the treasure seeking business, all that and more is embedded in Lucy's recital of the events here. Joseph Sr. felt he had failed his family and he knew it in bitter terms. Young Joseph's hope of using the golden plates to turn the family's fortune was not an idle wish of a greedy young man. See note 24.
At this, as a natural consequence, he was much alarmed. He kneeled down and asked the Lord why the Record had been taken from him; upon which the angel of the Lord appeared to him, and told him that he had not done as he had been 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.
Having some further conversation with the angel, on this occasion, Joseph was permitted to raise the stone again, when he beheld the plates as he had done before. He immediately reached forth his hand to take them, but instead of getting them, as he anticipated, he was hurled back upon 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."[History of Joseph Smith, 84-85; RSR, 48-52.]
In his 1832 history, Joseph relates the experience:
. . . I immediately went to the place and found where the plates was deposited as the angel of the Lord had commanded me and straightway made three attempts to get them and then being excedingly frightened I supposed it had been a dreem of Vision but when I considred I knew that it was not therefore I cried unto the Lord in the agony of my soul why can I not obtain them behold the angel appeared unto me again and said unto me you have not kept the commandments of the Lord which I gave unto you therefore you cannot now obtain them for the time is not yet fulfilled therefore thou wast left unto temptation that thou mightest be made acquainted with the power of the advisary therefore repent and call on the Lord thou shalt be forgiven and in his own due time thou shalt obtain them for now I had been tempted of the advisary and saught the Plates to obtain riches and kept not the commandment that I should have an eye single to the glory of God therefore I was chastened and saught diligently to obtain the plates and obtained them not untill I was twenty one years of age . . .24. Cowdery offers more details:
[PJS 1:8-9]You will have wondered, perhaps, that the mind of our brother should be so occupied with the thoughts of the goods of the world, at the time of arriving at Cumorah, on the morning of the 22nd of September, 1823, after having been wrapped in the visions of heaven during the night, and also seeing and hearing in open day; but the mind of man is easily turned if it is not held by the power of God through the prayer of faith, and you will remember that I have said that two invisible powers were operating upon his mind during his walk from his residence to Cumorah, and that the one urging the uncertainty of wealth and ease in this life, had so powerfully wrought upon him that the great object so carefully and impressively named by the angel, had entirely gone from his recollection that only a fixed determination to obtain now urged him forward. In this, which occasioned a failure to obtain, at that time, the record, do not understand me to attach blame to our brother: he was young, and his mind easily turned from correct principles, unless he could be favored with a certain round of experience. And yet, while young, untraditioned, and untaught in the systems of the world, he was in a situation to be led into the great work of God, and be qualified to perform it in due time.
After arriving at the repository, a little exertion in removing the soil from the edges of the top of the box, and a light pry, brought to his natural vision its contents. No sooner did he behold this sacred treasure than his hopes were renewed, and he supposed his success certain and without first attempting to take it from its long place of deposit, he thought, perhaps, there might be something more, equally as valuable, and to take only the plates, might give others an opportunity of obtaining the remainder, which could he secure, would still add to his store of wealth. These, in short, were his reflections, without once thinking of the solemn instruction of the heavenly messenger, and that all must be done with an express view of glorifying God.
On attempting to take possession of the record, a shock was produced upon his system, by an invisible power, which deprived him, in a measure, of his natural strength. He desisted for an instant, and then made another attempt, but was more sensibly shocked than before. What was the occasion of this he knew not--there was a pure unsullied record, as has been described--he had heard of the powers of enchantment, and a thousand like stories, which held the hidden treasures of the earth, and supposed that physical exertion and personal strength was only necessary to enable him to yet obtain the object of his wish. He therefore made a third attempt with an increased exertion, when his strength failed him more than at either of the former times, and without premediating he exclaimed, "Why can I not obtain this book?" "Because you have not kept the commandments of the Lord," answered a voice, within a seeming short distance. He looked and to his astonishment there stood the angel who had previously given him the directions concerning this matter. In an instant, all the former instructions, the great intelligence concerning Israel and the last days were brought to his mind; he thought of the time when his heart was fervently engaged in prayer to the Lord, when his spirit was contrite, and when this holy messenger from the skies unfolded the wonderful things connected with this record. He had come, to be sure, and found the word of the angel fulfilled concerning the reality of the record, but he had failed to remember the great end for which they had been kept, and in consequence could not have power to take them into his possession and bear them away.
At that instant he looked to the Lord in prayer, and as he prayed, darkness began to disperse from his mind and his soul was lit up as it was the evening before, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit; and again did the Lord manifest His condescension and mercy; the heavens were opened and the glory of the Lord shone around about and rested upon him. While thus he stood gazing and admiring, the angel said, "Look!" and as he thus spake he beheld the prince of darkness, surrounded by his in-numerable train of associates. All this passed before him, and the heavenly messenger said, "All this is shown, the good and the evil, the holy and the impure, the glory of God and the power of darkness, that ye may know hereafter the two powers and never be influenced or overcome by that wicked one. Behold, whatever entices and leads to good and to do good, is of God, and whatever does not is of that wicked one: it is he that fills the hearts of men with evil, to walk in darkness and blaspheme God; and you may learn from henceforth, that his ways are to destruction, but the way of holiness is peace and rest.
"You now see why you could not obtain this record; that the commandment was strict, and that if ever these sacred things are obtained they must be by prayer and faithfulness in obeying the Lord. They are not deposited here for the sake of accumulating gain and wealth for the glory of this world: they are sealed by the prayer of faith, and because of the knowledge which they contain they are of no worth among the children of men, only for their knowledge. On them is contained the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as it was given to His people on this land, and when it shall be brought forth by the power of God it shall be carried to the Gentiles, of whom many will receive it, and after will the seed of Israel be brought into the fold of their Redeemer by obeying it also. Those who kept the commandments of the Lord on this land, through the prayer of faith obtained the promise, that if their descendants should transgress and fall away, that a record might be kept and in the last days come to their children. These things are sacred, and must be kept so, for the promise of the Lord concerning them must be fulfilled. No man can obtain them if his heart is impure, because they contain that which is sacred; and besides, should they be entrusted in unholy hands the knowledge could not be interpreted by the learning of this generation: consequently, they would be considered of no worth, only as precious metal.
"Therefore, remember, that they are to be translated by the gift and power of God. By them will the Lord work a great and a marvelous work; the wisdom of the wise shall come as naught, and the understanding of the prudent shall be hid, and because the power of God, shall be displayed those who profess to know the truth but walk in deceit, shall tremble with anger; but with signs and with wonders, with gifts and with healings, with the manifestations of the power of God, and with the Holy Ghost, shall the hearts of the faithful be comforted. You have now beheld the power of God manifested and the power of Satan; you see that there is nothing that is desirable in the work of darkness; that they cannot bring happiness: that those who are overcome therewith are miserable, while on the other hand the righteous are blessed with a place in the kingdom of God where joy unspeakable surrounds them. There they rest beyond the power of the enemy of truth, where no evil can disturb them. The glory of God crowns them, and they continually feast upon His goodness and enjoy His smiles. Behold, notwithstanding you have seen this great display of power, by which you may ever be able to detect the evil one, yet I give unto you another sign, and when it comes to pass then know that the Lord is God and that He will fulfill His purpose, and that the knowledge which this record contains will go to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people under the whole heaven. This is the sign: When these things begin to be known, that is, when it is known that the Lord has shown you these things, the workers of iniquity will seek your overthrow; they will circulate falsehoods to destroy your reputation, and also will seek to take your life; but remember this, if you are faithful, and shall hereafter continue to keep the commandments of the Lord, you shall be preserved to bring these things forth; for in due time He will again give you a commandment to come and take them. When they are interpreted, the Lord will give the holy Priesthood to some, and they shall begin to proclaim this gospel and baptize by water, and after that they shall have power to give the Holy Ghost by the laying on of their hands. Then will persecution rage more and more, for the iniquities of men shall be revealed, and those who are not built upon the rock will seek to overthrow this Church; but it will increase the more opposed, and spread farther and farther, increasing in knowledge till they shall be sanctified and receive an inheritance where the glory of God shall rest upon them; and when this takes place, and all things are prepared, the ten tribes of Israel will be revealed in the north country, whither they have been for a long season; and when this is fulfilled will be brought to pass that saying of the prophet--`And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord.' But, notwithstanding the workers of iniquity shall seek your destruction, the arm of the Lord will be extended and you will be borne off conqueror, if you keep all His commandments. Your name shall be known among the nations, for the work which the Lord will perform by your hands shall cause the righteous to rejoice and the wicked to rage: with one it shall be had in honor, and the other in reproach; yet, with these it shall be a terror because of the great and marvelous work which shall follow the coming forth of this fullness of the gospel. Now, go thy way, remembering what the Lord has done for thee, and be diligent in keeping His commandments, and He will deliver thee from temptations and all the arts and devices of the wicked one. Forget not to pray, that thy mind may become strong that when He shall manifest unto thee, thou mayest have power to escape the evil, and obtain these precious things."
25. The correct date is 1823; however B. H. Roberts confirms the wrong date in his footnote at this point: "A genealogy of the Prophet's family in the Church records gives the date of Alvin's death, November 19, 1825. Lucy Smith's History of the Prophet agrees with the text above.--1824, November 19."
26. Cowdery relates this event:Soon after this visit to Cumorah, a gentleman from the south part of the state, (Chenango County), employed our brother as a common laborer and accordingly he visited that section of the country; and had he not been accused of digging down all, or nearly so, the mountains of Susquehanna, or causing others to do it by some art of necromancy, I should leave this for the present unnoticed. You will remember, in the meantime, that those who seek to vilify his character, say that he has always been notorious for his idleness. This gentleman whose name is Stoal, resided in the town of Bainbridge, on or near the head-waters of the Susquehanna river. Some forty miles south, or down the river, in the town of Harmony, Susquehanna County, Pa., is said to be a cave or subterraneous recess, whether entirely formed by art or not, I am uninformed, neither does this matter; but such is said to be the case--where a company of Spaniards, a long time since, when the county was uninhabited by white settlers, excavated from the bowels of the earth ore, and coined a large quantity of money, after which they secured the cavity and evacuated, leaving a part still in the cave, purposing to return at some distant period. A long time elapsed, and this account came from one of the individuals who was first engaged in this mining business. The country was pointed out, and the spot minutely described. This, I believe is the substance, so far as my memory serves, though I shall not pledge my veracity for the correctness of the account as I have given it. Enough, however, was credited of the Spaniard's story, to excite the belief of many that there was a fine sum of precious metal lying coined in this subterraneous vault, among whom was the employer; and accordingly our brother was required to spend a few months with some others in excavating the earth in pursuit of this treasure.
27. For a recital of facts and legends about the practice of "money digging," especially of "enchanted" treasure see Ronald W. Walker, "The Persisting Idea of American Treasure Hunting," BYUS 24, no. 4, pp.429-451. This was written in the heat of excitement about the "discovery" of certain Hofmann forgeries. When the forger was discovered, enthusiasm for related subjects regained some perspective. See RSR, 48-52. For a cogent treatment of Joseph Smith's invovlment in village "seeing," treasure hunting and related matters, see Mark Ashurst-McGee, "A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet," Thesis, Utah State University, 2000.
28. See Susan Easton Black in Regional Studies -New York; Dean Jessee, "Legal Trials of Joseph Smith,"EM, vol. 3; Gordon A. Madsen, "Joseph Smith's 1826 Trial: The Legal Setting," BYUS vol. 30, no. 2, 91ff, from which the following is sourced:Isaac Hale, son of Reuben Hale and Diantha Ward, was born on 21 March 1763 at Waterbury, Connecticut. As a boy, Isaac left his parental home to live with his grandfather Ward in Wells, Vermont. He remained there through the Revolutionary War and was a participant in that war at the age of seventeen. At the death of Ward, Isaac inherited his land in Wells with the stipulation that he would take "into his care his Grandmother Phoebe Ward in her old age, to keep and provide for during her life." He left Vermont to work one summer in Connecticut. While in Connecticut he concluded that he wanted a more frontier environment; this led him in 1787 to explore the Susquehanna River to the Great Bend.
David Hale, son of Isaac wrote, "After exploring the country, and getting acquainted with the oldest settlers. . . he went back to Vermont, and married Elizabeth Lewis" on 20 September 1790. She was twenty-three, and Isaac twenty-seven.
Shortly after his marriage, Isaac, with extended family members, moved approximately 220 miles southwest from Rutland County, Vermont, to Pennsylvania along the Susquehanna River. The migration by the Hale family was typical of the pattern of most families during this early development of the United States.
As Isaac arrived, he purchased and subsequently repurchased property on the north side of the Susquehanna River. He lived within a few miles of the village of Harmony on approximately 620 acres. On this property he built his home, his nine children were born, and he is buried.
During his almost fifty years of residence in the Susquehanna region, Isaac gained a reputation as a solid citizen, serving in diversified occupations. At one point he was a "Supervisor, Assessor, and Collector" for Susquehanna. Isaac's main occupation was hunting deer. Reverend George Peck, a Methodist minister who visited the Hale home, claimed, "Hale was a mighty hunter." Even on his tombstone his skill of hunting was mentioned: "The body of Isaac Hale, the Hunter, like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out, and stript of its lettering and guilding, lies here food for worms."
Annually, Isaac slaughtered approximately one hundred deer. Most of the deer meat he sent to markets in Philadelphia. He often killed bear and elk, as well as a great variety of smaller game. In addition, David Hale reported that his brother Jesse learned "to hunt panthers with our father, Isaac Hale."
He was also known for his Christian charity. Besides being an assessor and a hunter, Hale was spoken of as a man with "forethought and generosity." This is evident when the meat from the animals he shot "often found its way unheralded, to the tables of others when the occupants of the house were out of sight."
Also, his contribution of time and means to the Methodist Episcopal Church further indicated his generosity. Isaac was numbered among those of the first religious class conducted at Lanesboro, Pennsylvania, located about two miles east of his property. The Methodist Quarterly Review reported that Isaac's home was used by preachers for their congregation.
By 1824 Isaac had become highly excited about the prospects of sudden riches through an unorthodox means. About a year before he met Joseph, Isaac experienced a change that appears to have been initiated by a woman known as a "peeper." Although not known in the records by name, she was described by contemporaries as having powers to see underground. She told Isaac's brother William that great treasures were concealed in a hill just northeast of Isaac's house. Excited rumors about buried treasure had now swept through Harmony. Many, including Isaac, had developed an unsatiable desire for wealth.
Approximately a quarter of a mile north of the cemetery in which Isaac Hale is buried, the dig for treasure began. Josiah Stowell of South Bainbridge entered a partnership in 1825 with William Hale, whose interests had now moved beyond Isaac's property. Together they dug in an open air pit for buried treasure on the Oquago Mountain. Soon they realized that progress would be faster if they hired men to help. This entailed not only hiring men, but making arrangements for their board and room. Together with William, Josiah contacted Isaac's wife to see if she would board several "treasure hunters." She agreed.
The most famous "treasure hunter" was Joseph Smith, Jr., of Palmyra, New York. Stowell had previously purchased wheat from the Smiths in Palmyra and was thus chosen to ask if Joseph would join William and him in the dig. In 1825 Stowell came to the Smith residence to employ Joseph. Lucy claimed that Josiah came "on account of having heard that he possessed certain means by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye."
Joseph and his father accepted Josiah's employment opportunity. [The Smith's financial difficulties have been considered elsewhere. Their circumstances played a role in many of the events in Joseph's early life.] The opportunity included a division of the wealth when the treasure was found. The Smiths were reportedly to receive two elevenths of all the property, whether it be in "coined money and bars or ingots of Gold or Silver." With the terms of employment arranged, in October 1825, Joseph and his father left with Stowell to search for treasure.
Joseph did not know that the treasure he would find was not to be on the Oquago Mountain but at the home of Isaac Hale. After accepting the board and room offered by Isaac, Joseph later wrote, it was here "I first saw my wife . . . Emma Hale."
Emma, the sixth child and third daughter of Isaac, was a schoolteacher who stood about 5 feet 9 inches tall and had dark hair and hazel eyes. One historian described her as "well turned, of excellent form with splendid physical development."
The happiness of meeting his future wife was immediately tempered by the cold reception of Emma's father, Isaac Hale. It was here that Joseph first met his continuing antagonist--sixty-two year old, Isaac. Isaac wrote,I first became acquainted with Joseph Smith, Jr. in November 1825. He was at that time in the employ of a set of men who were called "money-diggers," and his occupation was that of seeing, or pretending to see, by means of a stone placed in his hat, and his hat closed over his face. In this way he pretended to discover minerals and hidden treasure.
The origins of the "Joseph-Isaac clash" are lost in obscurity and can only be inferred from a few scanty documents. The principal document is an affidavit supposedly written by Isaac five years before his death and appearing in the Susquehanna Register on 1 May 1834. According to the affidavit, the source of conflict was buried treasure.
This may not be a valid assumption. In the purported Articles of Agreement of 1 November 1825, it appears that Isaac supported the treasure-seeking concept, for he witnessed the agreement which formed a digging company. In the beginning Isaac Hale may have subsidized Stowell's expeditions into the mountains, but with the first failures he was apparently quickly disillusioned and shortly became contemptuous.
It appears he blamed Joseph for the failure. Isaac wrote years later,Young Smith gave the money-diggers great encouragement at first, but, when they had arrived in digging to near the place where he had stated an immense treasure would be found, he said the enchantment was so powerful that he could not see.This allegation lacks support from other possible witnesses and may have its roots in later animosity between Isaac Hale and Joseph.
Joseph attributed the animosity to his spiritual message, not to his alleged treasure finding claims:Owing to my continuing to assert that I had seen a vision, persecution still followed me, and my wife's father's family were very much opposed.Joseph's continual assertion aroused his new acquaintances in Pennsylvania. As Joseph steadfastly adhered to the reality of that revelation, false expectations, prejudice and persecution followed him, even into the house of his future wife's family.
Whatever the reason or reasons for failure, the digging stopped. Joseph wrote simply, "I continued to work for nearly a month, without success in our undertaking." Isaac stipulated that Josiah Stowell and his associates closed their "diggings" on the Great Bend of the Susquehannah River "about the 17th of November, 1825."
During the period of the dig, the opposition from Isaac mounted. Joseph left the Hale home to board with Josiah Stowell below South Bainbridge. While there he worked as a farm hand cutting timber for Stowell and Joseph Knight. Had anyone had cause to feel that Joseph misrepresented himself as a treasure digger, it would have been Josiah Stowell, who hired Joseph and financed the dig. The fact that Stowell hired Joseph and housed and boarded him immediately after the digging stopped, suggests that Stowell and Joseph were amicable. This gives no support to allegations of any deception or irresponsibility by Joseph, as Isaac Hale later alleged. It seems that Isaac was far more disturbed by Joseph's prophetic teachings, as reported by Joseph, than alleged deceptions about treasure seeking.
It appears that Joseph's main interest for staying in the vicinity was to continue courting Emma Hale. Isaac wrote of Joseph's courting:
After these occurrences [the conclusion of the digging], young Smith made several visits at my house, and at length asked my consent to his marrying my daughter Emma. This I refused, and gave him my reasons for so doing; some of which were, that he was a stranger, and followed a business that I could not approve; he then left the place.
Joseph's visits with Emma were interrupted in March 1826, when Joseph was arrested and brought to trial in South Bainbridge. Peter Bridgeman, a nephew of Mrs. Stowell, had become another antagonist of Joseph. He claimed Joseph to be a disorderly person and an imposter. [The charge of being a "disorderly person" involved treasure hunting for hire. When Stowell refused to testify against him at the trial, Joseph was discharged. In July 1830 in the same venue, Joseph was tried and acquitted by another magistrate on charges of "being a disorderly person, of setting the county in an uproar by preaching the Book of Mormon, etc." The trial ended at midnight. The next day, he was seized and tried in neighboring Broome County on the same charges, as well as charges of casting out a devil and using pretended angelic visitations to obtain property from others. Following a twenty-three-hour trial involving some forty witnesses, Joseph was again acquitted.]
Following the South Bainbridge trial, Joseph's attentions once again turned to Emma. But to his dismay, he discovered that he was even more unwelcome in the Hale household. Emma's brothers, who had previously been reasonably accommodating, had joined forces with their father. On one occasion they teased Joseph so incessantly that he threw off his coat and offered to fight them. Undeterred, Joseph asked for Emma's hand from her father. Isaac Hale refused.
Discouraged but not thwarted, Joseph returned to the Smith farm in Manchester. He harvested wheat for his father and, according to Joseph Knight, Sr., learned how to "harvest the treasure" in the Hill Cumorah. Apparently, Joseph confided in Knight that Moroni told him he could receive the treasure the following September if he brought with him the "right person." Joseph looked into the seerstone and discovered the right person to be "Emma Hale."
Emma wrote of her marriage:
I was married at South Bainbridge, New York; at the house of Squire Tarbell when I was in my 22nd or 23rd year. I was visiting at Mr. Stowell's and saw [Joseph] there. I had no intention of marrying when I left home; but, during my visit at Mr. Stowell's [Joseph] urged me to marry him, and preferring to marry him to any other man I knew, I consented. We went to Squire [Zachariah] Tarbell's and were married.
Isaac's reaction to this marriage was one of distress. He claimed that his twenty-two year old daughter had been abducted by a "careless young man, not very well educated." He wrote, "While I was absent from home, [Joseph] carried off my daughter into the State of New York, where they were married."
Knowing in advance the reaction of Isaac, the newlyweds traveled to Manchester, where Lucy had worked "to put [her] house in order for the reception of [her] son's bride."
While in Manchester, Emma corresponded with her father, asking if she could acquire clothing, furniture, her cow, and other articles left behind during the elopement. Isaac responded more kindly than might have been expected. "Her property was safe and at her disposal."
With this assurance, Joseph secured the services of a neighbor, Peter Ingersoll, to assist and accompany him in acquiring Emma's property. In August 1827, eight months after their marriage, Joseph and Emma returned with Ingersol to face Isaac. Ingersol reported that Isaac exclaimed in a flood of tears, You have stolen my daughter and married her. I had much rather have followed her to her grave. You spend your time digging for money--pretend to see in a stone, and thus try to deceive people.
Yet on that visit there was an attempt to reconcile Joseph and his father-in-law, for an invitation was extended to Joseph and Emma to make their home in Harmony.
Isaac, with evident paternal concern and with some compassion, indicated to Joseph that if he would move to Pennsylvania and work, giving up "his old practice of looking in the stone," Isaac would assist him in getting into business. Isaac claims, "Smith stated to me he had given up what he called `glass-looking,' and that he expected and was willing to work hard for a living." [Obviously, Hale here attempts to cover up his own interests in treasure hunting by means of "glass-looking" which brought Joseph Smith to the area in the first place.]
Joseph did not accept this offer of reconciliation by his father-in-law until persecution mounted in Palmyra/ Manchester, Joseph then sent word to Isaac of his acceptance.
Shortly following Joseph's acceptance, Isaac's son, Alva, came to Palmyra with a conveyance to move Joseph and Emma and their property to Harmony. In December 1827 the three left Manchester for Harmony, a distance of 128 miles, a four-day wagon journey. Among the effects Joseph and Emma moved was a chest that contained the plates, the breastplate, and the Urim and Thummim.
Years later, Isaac confirmed the existence of this chest. In an affidavit, he said,
I was informed they had brought a wonderful book of Plates down with them. I was shown a box in which it was said they were contained, which had, to all appearances, been used as a glass box of the common size window-glass. I was allowed to feel the weight of the box, and they gave me to understand, that the book of Plates was then in the box"into which, however, I was not allowed to look.
I inquired of Joseph Smith, Jr., who was to be the first who would be allowed to see the Book of Plates? He said it was a young child. After this I became dissatisfied, and informed him that if there was anything in my house of that description, which I could not be allowed to see, he must take it away; if he did not, I was determined to see it. After that the Plates were said to be hid in the woods.
Isaac's ultimatum caused Joseph and Emma to move from the Hale home to a small adjoining farm about 150 yards southeast of Isaac's house. This sturdy house, built by Isaac and his sons, belonged to Jesse, who had recently moved to Illinois. Emma's recollection, as well as the deed of purchase, indicates that Joseph bought the house. This house became their home for the next two and a half years. Had Isaac's feelings towards Joseph been intense anger, it seems unlikely he would have consented to have Joseph live a mere block away. Differences yes, hatred no.
Significant events pertaining to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began in that house in February 1828 with the arrival of Martin Harris. Isaac Hale wrote of the arrival of Martin. The Lord had revealed to Harris that he was to go to New York City with characters that Joseph would copy from the plates; and he should show them to learned linguists. Isaac's response to the characters was "I told them, then, that I considered the whole of it a delusion, and advised them to abandon it." Not heeding the advice of Isaac, Joseph prepared a manuscript, and Harris returned to Palmyra to prepare for his trip to the metropolis.
Others who arrived in Harmony interacted with Isaac. The principal guests were Joseph and Lucy Smith. Lucy wrote:
While on this visit we became acquainted with Emma's father, whose name was Isaac Hale[and] family. They were an intelligent and highly respectable family. The time of our visit with them, we passed very agreeably.
Although Lucy wrote positively of Isaac and his family, others disagree. For example, Joseph Knight wrote: "His wifes father and familey ware all against him and would not h[e]lp him." However, Emma contradicts this statement noting that she wrote for Joseph Smith during the work of translation, as did also Reuben Hale.
The family member who appeared to oppose Joseph the most was Nathaniel Lewis, Emma's uncle.
After the story of the Golden Bible, and the miracle-working spectacles had come out, Joe undertook to make a convert of Uncle Nat. The old gentleman heard his tale with due gravity, and then proceeded:
"Joseph, can anybody else translate strange languages by the help of them spectacles?"
"O yes!" was the answer.
"Well now," said Mr Lewis, "I've got Clarke's Commentary, and it contains a great many strange languages; now if you will let me try the spectacles, and if, by looking through them, I can translate these strange languages into English, then I'll be one of your disciples."
29. Emma Hale was born in the town of Harmony, Susquehanna county, Pennsylvania, July 10, 1804. It will therefore be observed that Emma Hale was in her twenty-third year at the time of her marriage with the Prophet; hence of age; hence, under the law, mistress of her own actions. This is remarked because the Prophet, in works written against him, is charged with having abducted his wife. (BHR)
30. Justice of the Peace, Zechariah Tarbil, (possibly Tarble.)