“Lesson 3: Obtaining the Record,” Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material (2018)
“Lesson 3,” Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material
Because Joseph Smith continued to affirm that he had seen a vision, he was persecuted during the three-year period that followed the First Vision. Joseph Smith later related that during this time, he “fell into many foolish errors” and “often felt condemned for [his] weakness and imperfections” (Joseph Smith—History 1:28–29). In response to Joseph’s prayer on the evening of September 21, 1823, the angel Moroni appeared and told Joseph that God had forgiven him and had a work for him to do (see Joseph Smith, “History, circa Summer 1832,” 4, josephsmithpapers.org). He also told Joseph that an ancient record written on golden plates was deposited in a hill near the Smith home. The following day, Joseph Smith viewed the plates, but Moroni forbade him to take them. During the next four years, the Lord prepared Joseph Smith for the time when he would be able to obtain the plates. On September 22, 1827, the Prophet received the plates from the angel Moroni.
September 21–22, 1823
The angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith five times.
The Lord prepared Joseph Smith to obtain the golden plates.
November 19, 1823
Joseph Smith’s oldest brother, Alvin, died.
Joseph Smith met Emma Hale in Harmony, Pennsylvania, while working for Josiah Stowell.
January 18, 1827
Joseph Smith and Emma Hale were married.
September 22, 1827
Joseph Smith received the golden plates from Moroni.
Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 1, The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846 (2018), chapters 3–4
Display the accompanying diagram:
Based on your reading of chapter 3 of Saints: Volume 1 and your knowledge of Joseph Smith’s life, what kinds of challenges did Joseph experience during the three and a half years between his First Vision and his first encounter with the angel Moroni?
Invite a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:28 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for words or phrases Joseph Smith used to describe some of the challenges and feelings he experienced during the three and a half years following the First Vision.
What words or phrases in verse 28 describe some of the challenges and feelings Joseph Smith experienced as a young man?
How might Joseph’s challenges be similar to challenges youth and young adults of the Church experience today?
Invite a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:29 aloud. Ask the class to look for what Joseph Smith did to overcome the feelings of condemnation he had experienced. Ask students to report what they find.
Display the following accounts recorded by the Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44), and invite a student to read them aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Joseph described his experience that night.
“When I was about 17 years old … , after I had retired to bed, I had not been asleep but was meditating upon my past life and experience. I was very conscious that I had not kept the commandments, and I repented heartily for all my sins and transgression and humbled myself before Him whose eyes are over all things” (Joseph Smith, Journal, 1835–1836, 24, josephsmithpapers.org; spelling and punctuation standardized).
“I called again upon the Lord and he shewed unto me a heavenly vision, for behold an angel of the Lord came and stood before me, … and he called me by name, and he said the Lord had forgiven me my sins” (Joseph Smith, in “History, circa summer 1832,” 4, josephsmithpapers.org; punctuation standardized).
What do we learn from Joseph Smith—History 1:29 and from Joseph’s account that indicates that he was sincere about his repentance?
Based on the angel Moroni’s response to Joseph’s plea, what principle can we learn about sincere repentance? (Students may identify a principle such as the following: When we sincerely repent of our sins, the Lord will forgive us. Write this principle on the board.)
To help students understand this principle, display the following statement by Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and ask a student to read it aloud:
“The fact that we can repent is the good news of the gospel! Guilt can be ‘swept away.’ We can be filled with joy, receive a remission of our sins, and have ‘peace of conscience.’ We can be freed from feelings of despair and the bondage of sin. We can be filled with the marvelous light of God and be ‘pained no more.’ Repentance is not only possible but also joyful because of our Savior” (Dale G. Renlund, “Repentance: A Joyful Choice,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2016, 124).
Invite students to think about a time when they felt that the Lord had forgiven them after they sincerely repented of their sins.
Encourage students to continue to sincerely repent and seek the Lord’s forgiveness as needed in their lives.
Display the accompanying pictures, and ask a student to summarize Moroni’s first four visits to Joseph Smith on September 21–22, 1823. If needed, refer students to Joseph Smith—History 1:30–53.
What were some of the instructions Moroni gave Joseph Smith during these visits?
Explain that during Moroni’s second and third visits, he provided instruction that he did not give during his first visit. Invite a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:44–46 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for Moroni’s additional instructions to Joseph.
What additional information did Moroni give Joseph in these subsequent visits?
Why do you think it was important for Joseph to be warned that he could have no other motive in obtaining the plates but to build the kingdom of God?
Inform students that after he told his father about the angel, Joseph went to the Hill Cumorah. Display the following statement by Oliver Cowdery, and invite a student to read it aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened to Joseph Smith as he walked to the hill.
“Two invisible powers were operating upon his mind during his walk from his residence to Cumorah, and that the one urging the certainty 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” (Oliver Cowdery, “Letter VIII,” Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1835, 197).
Ask students to locate chapter 3 of Saints: Volume 1. Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from page 25, starting with the paragraph that begins “Arriving at the hill …” and concluding with the paragraph on page 26 that begins “Joseph turned and saw Moroni. …” Ask students to follow along, looking for how Joseph Smith’s thoughts and desires influenced his ability to receive the plates.
In what ways had Joseph disobeyed the commandments of the Lord?
Explain that as Joseph learned that he could not obtain the plates and began to pray, the heavens were opened and he saw the glory of the Lord. He also saw the devil and his angels (see Oliver Cowdery, “Letter VIII,” 198). The contrast deeply impressed Joseph. Display the following statement by Joseph’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, who wrote about this experience, and invite a student to read it aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Joseph was shown.
“The angel showed him, by contrast, the difference between good and evil and the consequences which [would] follow both obedience and disobedience to the commandments of God, in such a striking and forcible manner that the impression was always bright in his recollection until the very end of his days. And in giving a relation of this circumstance, not long prior to his death, he remarked that ever afterwards he was willing to keep the commandments of God.
“… The angel furthermore told him that the time for the plates to be brought forth to the world had not yet come; that he could not take them from the place wherein they were deposited until he had learned to keep the commandments of God—not only willing, but able to do it” (Lucy Mack Smith, “Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845,” 85, josephsmithpapers.org; spelling and punctuation standardized).
What did Moroni show Joseph that had such a profound effect on him?
What principle can we learn from this account of Joseph’s experience on the Hill Cumorah? (Students may give several correct responses, including the following: Through His servants, the Lord can help us understand the consequences of our good and bad choices. Write this principle on the board.)
In what ways can it be helpful for us to understand the consequences of our choices?
What are some examples in our day of how the Lord, through His servants, can help us understand the consequences of our choices? (Examples may include patriarchal blessings, counsel from local Church leaders, and warnings and teachings from General Authorities and Officers of the Church, particularly the living prophets, seers, and revelators.)
Explain that during the next four years, the Lord prepared Joseph in many ways to obtain the record and accomplish the work the Lord had called Him to do. Joseph returned to the hill every year on September 22 to be instructed by the angel Moroni. During this time, Joseph also received “many visits from the angels of God unfolding the majesty and glory of the events that should transpire in the last days” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 59).
Help students understand that the next four years also brought changes in Joseph’s life, including his place of residence and work. Display the accompanying map, “The New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio Area of the USA,” and ask students to locate Manchester, New York, and the village of Harmony, Pennsylvania (see also Church history map 3, “The New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio Area of the USA”).
According to your reading of Saints: Volume 1, why did Joseph Smith go to work for Josiah Stowell in Harmony, Pennsylvania? (Mr. Stowell employed Joseph to help him search for Spanish treasure he believed was buried in Harmony. Many people in the area held speculative beliefs about buried treasure and were engaged in similar pursuits in Joseph’s day.)
Point out that Joseph Smith eventually convinced Josiah Stowell to stop searching for the treasure (see Joseph Smith—History 1:56).
Display the accompanying image. Explain that during this important time of preparation, while Joseph was working for Josiah Stowell, he met Emma Hale. After courting for a little over a year, they were married on January 18, 1827. Emma Smith was a positive influence on Joseph. She played a very important role in the Restoration not only by supporting and assisting her huband in a variety of ways (see D&C 25:5–6) but also through her personal devotion and courage in the face of often severe trials.
Explain that after their wedding, Emma and Joseph moved into the home of Lucy and Joseph Smith Sr. in Manchester, New York. One evening in early January 1827, Joseph came home hours later than expected.
Display the following statement by Lucy Mack Smith, and invite a student to read it aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Moroni told Joseph Smith.
“On coming in, [Joseph] threw himself into a chair, apparently much exhausted. My husband … immediately exclaimed, ‘Joseph, why have you stayed so late? Has anything happened [to] you? We have been much distressed about you these three hours.’ As Joseph made no reply, he continued his interrogations until I finally said, ‘Now, Father … let him rest a moment—don’t trouble him now—you see he is home safe, and he is very tired, so pray wait a little.’ … Presently [Joseph] smiled and said in a very calm tone, ‘I have taken the severest chastisement that I have ever had in my life.’ My husband, supposing it was from some of the neighbors, was quite angry and observed, ‘I would like to know what business anybody has to find fault with you!’
“‘Stop, father, stop,’ said Joseph, ‘it was the angel of the Lord—as I passed by the hill Cumorah, where the plates are, the angel met me and said that I had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord; that the time had come for the record to [be] brought forth; and that I must be up and doing and set myself about the things which God had commanded me to do’” (Lucy Mack Smith, “Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845,” pages 103–4, josephsmithpapers.org; spelling, capitalization, and punctuation standardized).
What stands out to you in this rebuke Moroni gave to Joseph?
What principle can we learn from Moroni’s message to Joseph? (Students may identify a principle such as the following: To receive the opportunities and blessings the Lord has in store for us, we must be actively engaged in His work. Write this principle on the board.)
What are some ways that we can be actively engaged in the Lord’s work so we can qualify for the blessings and opportunities He has in store for us?
Invite a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:59 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened during Joseph’s fourth annual visit to the Hill Cumorah.
According to the end of verse 59, what promise did Moroni give Joseph?
Why would it be important for Joseph to know the Lord would help him protect the plates?
Explain that when Joseph was bringing the plates home, there were men hiding in the forest determined to take the plates from him. Although he was attacked three times on his way home, he escaped from his attackers each time and kept the plates safe. When he arrived home, his family was anxious to see him.
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Joseph’s brother William. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Joseph’s father requested of him and how he responded.
“When the plates were brought in they were wrapped up in a tow frock. My father then put them into a pillow case. Father said, ‘What, Joseph, can we not see them?’ [Joseph replied:] ‘No. I was disobedient the first time, but I intend to be faithful this time” (William Smith, “The Old Soldier’s Testimony,” The Saints’ Herald, vol. 31, no. 40 [Oct. 4, 1884], 643–44).
How does Joseph’s response illustrate that he was now prepared to receive the plates?
Review the principles listed on the board and ask:
How do you think these principles may have prepared Joseph Smith to obtain the golden plates?
Display the following question, and invite students to record their answers in their study journals: How might applying the principles we have discussed today help prepare you for the work God has in store for you?
Encourage students to act on the principles you have discussed.
Invite students to prepare for the next class by reading chapters 5–6 of Saints: Volume 1.