Unit 2: Day 4, Joseph Smith—History 1:55–65

    “Unit 2: Day 4, Joseph Smith—History 1:55–65,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2017)

    “Unit 2: Day 4,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide

    Unit 2: Day 4

    Joseph Smith—History 1:55–65


    After four years of receiving instructions from the angel Moroni, Joseph Smith was given charge of the gold plates, and he began to translate the Book of Mormon. Martin Harris was allowed to show some of the characters copied from the plates and their translation to scholars in New York. Notice how Joseph Smith took his charge concerning the plates seriously.

    Joseph Smith—History 1:55–58

    Joseph experiences significant events in early adulthood

    Think about significant events that have happened in the lives of teenagers you know. (These might include patriarchal blessings, jobs, education, family situations changing, or even deaths of loved ones.) What is a significant event that has happened to you in the past few years? How do you feel this event has affected your character and your future?

    Read Joseph Smith—History 1:55–58, and identify important events in Joseph Smith’s life that occurred before he received the gold plates from the angel Moroni.

    It is important to know that during this time Joseph’s older brother Alvin died. This event played a role in future revelations that you will learn about later in the year (see D&C 137:1–6).

    Another important event during this time was his marriage to Emma Hale. The Prophet’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, remarked about her son’s marriage to Emma: “We were pleased with his choice and not only consented to his marrying her, but requested him to bring her home with him and live with us” (History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, ed. Preston Nibley [1958], 93).

    Joseph Smith—History 1:59–62

    Joseph receives the plates and begins translating

    Imagine that your father entrusted you with a copy of the first edition of the Book of Mormon (which is worth nearly $180,000 in today’s currency). How would you treat that book if you understood its monetary value? How would you treat it if you found out it was the last original copy of the Book of Mormon in existence?

    Joseph Smith was entrusted with something very significant. Ponder what you can learn from his example as you study his account. Read Joseph Smith—History 1:59, and look for the significant items the angel Moroni entrusted to Joseph (consider marking these items in your scriptures).

    What responsibility did Joseph receive concerning these items? Complete the following principle based on what Moroni promised Joseph, as recorded in Joseph Smith—History 1:59: As I take responsibility for and preserve that which the Lord has given me, He will .

    One way you could complete the principle is “provide His protection and help.”

    Joseph Smith Receives the Gold Plates

    Read Joseph Smith—History 1:60, and look for what occurred as Joseph took possession of the gold plates. As you read, notice how the Lord fulfilled His promise as Joseph was faithful to the responsibility he had been given.

    After Joseph Smith received the plates from Moroni, he initially hid them in a decayed birch log about three miles from his home. To understand how the Lord provided His protection and help as Joseph Smith used all his power to be responsible for the gold plates, read the following description from Joseph Smith’s mother about what occurred shortly after he obtained the plates at the Hill Cumorah from Moroni:

    Lucy Mack Smith

    “Joseph, on coming to them, took them from their secret place, and, wrapping them in his linen frock, placed them under his arm and started for home.

    “After proceeding a short distance, he thought it would be more safe to leave the road and go through the woods. Traveling some distance after he left the road, he came to a large windfall, and as he was jumping over a log, a man sprang up from behind it and gave him a heavy blow with a gun. Joseph turned around and knocked him down, then ran at the top of his speed. About half a mile farther he was attacked again in the same manner as before; he knocked this man down in like manner as the former and ran on again; and before he reached home he was assaulted the third time. In striking the last one, he dislocated his thumb, which, however, he did not notice until he came within sight of the house, when he threw himself down in the corner of the fence in order to recover his breath. As soon as he was able, he arose and came to the house. He was still altogether speechless from fright and the fatigue of running” (History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, 108).

    Although protecting the gold plates was never easy for Joseph Smith, notice how God blessed and strengthened him to be able to fulfill his responsibility. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave some counsel about the sacred trusts the Lord has given you:

    Elder D. Todd Christofferson

    “Be wise with what the Lord gives you. It is a trust. …

    “Rather than letting your life drift into carelessness, may it be one of increasing exactness in obedience. I hope you will think and feel and dress and act in ways that show reverence and respect for sacred things, sacred places, sacred occasions” (“A Sense of the Sacred,” New Era, June 2006, 31).

    Think about some of the sacred trusts that Heavenly Father has given us, such as treating our bodies with reverence, baptismal and temple covenants, priesthood authority and duties, Church callings, the responsibility to nourish our minds and spirits, family responsibilities and relationships, and the admonition to share the gospel. Evaluate whether you are currently being careless and neglectful or responsible for those things entrusted to you. Ponder what blessings may come to you as you strive to treat all of your sacred trusts with greater care.

    1. journal icon
      In your scripture study journal, record some of the sacred trusts you feel you have been given and the blessings that may come to you as you treat those trusts with care.

    To see how the Lord continually blessed Joseph and Emma Smith for their faithfulness, read Joseph Smith—History 1:61–62. By what means did the Lord bless the Prophet and his wife at this time?

    Joseph Smith—History 1:63–65

    Martin Harris presents characters from the plates to scholars in New York

    Imagine that you were allowed to copy some of the actual characters from the gold plates. What would you do with the copy? What would you do if you wanted to prove to a friend that the gold plates really were of ancient origin, just as you had been saying all along?

    characters from the gold plates

    The preceding picture is an example of characters that were written on the gold plates. In 1827, Joseph Smith copied some of the characters onto a piece of paper. Martin Harris asked if he could show the characters to scholars who had some knowledge of ancient languages and civilizations. Martin may have felt that the scholars’ certification of the characters would help his wife, who did not approve of Martin helping Joseph Smith in the process of translation. Martin Harris may also have hoped a certification of the authenticity of the characters could help him raise money to pay for the publication of the Book of Mormon. We do not know if the copy depicted here is the same as the one Martin Harris presented to the scholars because several copies of the characters were made.

    1. journal icon
      Copy the following chart in your scripture study journal:

      Joseph Smith—History 1:63–65

      Isaiah 29:10–12

    Joseph Smith and Martin Harris

    Joseph Smith—History 1:63–65 gives the account of Martin Harris meeting with the scholars. This event was prophesied by the ancient prophet Isaiah. Read that scripture passage; then read Isaiah 29:10–12. (It will be helpful to read the chapter heading to Isaiah 29 as well.) As you read these passages, summarize what is being said in the corresponding column in your chart. When you have completed both sides of the chart, look for similarities between Martin Harris’s account and Isaiah’s prophecy and record what you find in your scripture study journal.

    What truth does Isaiah’s prophecy and the account of Martin Harris showing the characters to the scholars teach us about God’s foreknowledge and the prophecies of the Lord’s servants?

    You may desire to write the following statement of truth in your scriptures next to this account in Joseph Smith—History 1:63–65: The prophecies of the Lord’s servants will come to pass. Can you think of a scripture mastery passage that teaches this same truth?

    Two scripture mastery passages that teach that the prophecies of the Lord’s servants will come to pass are Doctrine and Covenants 1:37–38 and Amos 3:7. You may want to write these references next to Joseph Smith—History 1:65 in your scriptures.

    After Martin Harris showed the characters to Professor Anthon and Dr. Mitchell, he returned to Palmyra with renewed determination to assist in the publication of the Book of Mormon.

    1. journal icon
      In your scripture study journal, write a few sentences summarizing what you learned in today’s lesson and why it is important to you. Consider sharing what you wrote with your family or a friend.

    2. journal icon
      Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:

      I have studied Joseph Smith—History 1:55–65 and completed this lesson on (date).

      Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: