A Watch, Some Buttons, and Joseph’s Cloak
July 2008

“A Watch, Some Buttons, and Joseph’s Cloak,” Ensign, July 2008, 38–41

A Watch, Some Buttons, and Joseph’s Cloak

Items from the Museum of Church History and Art give us a glimpse into the everyday life of Joseph Smith and his family.

A gold watch, a cloak, rusty farm tools, and slate pencils from a bygone era. These common items from the 1800s are meaningful because they come from the daily life of Joseph Smith.

Because he lived 200 years ago, looking at artifacts from the Prophet’s life helps us understand him better. Makenzie Head, a teen from Cedar Hills, Utah, visited the Museum of Church History and Art to see these items. She wrote that viewing artifacts from the Prophet Joseph’s life “has really given me a better understanding of how he lived and the different things he had during his life that are so different from what we have now. What also amazed me were the many things that were actually used by the Prophet. It definitely strengthened my testimony of him.”

Following are some photos of the artifacts that were on display or are stored at the Church museum.

Left: A replica of the gold plates that was on display at the museum. Martin Harris, one of the Three Witnesses, said three silver rings held the plates together so they could open like a book. Below: These buttons and clasps were found during an archaeological investigation at the Smith family’s log home site in Palmyra, New York.

Above: A false shirtfront, made by Lucy Mack Smith for her son Joseph in 1841. This popular men’s clothing element, known as a bosom, was typically worn to hide buttons or seams or to provide decoration. Left: Joseph Smith owned this gold watch but gave it to pay for legal services.

Above: This cradle was made around 1805 and is similar to what Joseph Smith’s family would have used.

Right: These nails and oxshoe were found at the Joseph Smith log home site. The round metal piece attached to the handle of a scythe. As a boy Joseph Smith used a scythe to cut grain. Below: A stone fragment from the Nauvoo Temple.

Below: Recovering from leg surgery, Joseph used a crutch like this.

Far left: These slate pencils were likely used as Joseph Smith’s parents taught him to read, write, and solve math problems at home. Above: This first edition Book of Mormon was a gift from Joseph Smith to Martin Harris. It is open to the testimony of the Three Witnesses. Right: The Prophet wore this cloak as lieutenant general of the Nauvoo Legion.

These silver ladles belonged to Joseph and Emma Smith.

Right: An earring that belonged to one of the women in the Smith family. Far right: This gold bead belonged to Lucy Mack Smith.

Left: These surgical instruments are similar to the ones used when Joseph Smith was young. He had an infection that killed a portion of his leg bone. A doctor recommended amputating his leg, but young Joseph and his mother refused.

Right: This issue of the Nauvoo Neighbor, published after Joseph and Hyrum Smith were martyred, was printed to share the details of their deaths with a general audience. Below: After the Prophet’s death, locks of his hair were given to some of his friends. It was common in the mid-1800s to share locks of hair as a way to remember loved ones who had died.

Photographs by Welden C. Andersen, except as noted; photograph of shirtfront courtesy of the Museum of Church History and Art; background by Jed Clark; watch shown courtesy of the Lavorn G. Sparks family

Photographs of earring, bead, hair, and slate courtesy of the Museum of Church History and Art; photographs of surgical tools and crutch by Craig Dimond; cloak: gift of Vienna Jacques; surgical instruments: gift of Rolla Burns Williams; lock of hair: gift of Clara W. Beebe and A. E. Hyde Jr.