“Before I saw Joseph I did not care how old he was, or how young he was,” wrote Wilford Woodruff. “I did not care how he looked—whether his hair was long or short; the man that advanced that revelation was a prophet of God. I knew it for myself. I first met Joseph Smith in the streets of Kirtland. He had on an old hat, and a pistol in his hand. Said he, ‘Brother Woodruff, I’ve been out shooting at a mark, and I wanted to see if I could hit anything.’ And, said he, ‘Have you any objection to it?’
“‘Not at all,’ said I. ‘There is no law against a man shooting at a mark, that I know of.’
“He invited me to his house. He had a wolf skin, which he wanted me to help him to tan; he wanted it to sit on while driving his wagon team. Now, many might have said, ‘You are a pretty prophet; shooting a pistol and tanning a wolf skin.’ Well, he tanned it, and used it while making a journey of a thousand miles. This was my first acquaintance with the Prophet Joseph. And from that day until the present, with all the apostasies we have had, and with all the difficulties and afflictions we have been called to pass through, I never saw a moment when I had any doubt with regard to this work. I have had no trial about this. While the people were apostatizing on the right hand and on the left, … it was no temptation to me to doubt this work or to doubt that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.” (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, ed. G. Homer Durham, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946, pp. 29–30.)
The hat and the wolf skin Brother Woodruff mentions may have disappeared over the years, but many items the Prophet used are still in existence. In the following pages, we present some of these, as well as a few items owned by Emma Hale Smith, the Prophet’s wife, and Lucy Mack Smith, his mother. Included in the photographs are such things as the Prophet’s family Bible, his hymnbook, and his eyeglasses. We even see a pistol he owned—perhaps the very one he was holding when Wilford Woodruff first met him.
Latter-day Saints do not revere these objects, of course. They are not icons or religious relics. They are historical artifacts, items from another time and place that tell us something about the persons they were associated with.
At this point in this dispensation, we cannot personally meet Joseph Smith. But we have a link with him, through the physical memorabilia we have of him, and through his work as the great prophet of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in these latter days.