Joseph Smith—History 1:55–75

“Joseph Smith—History 1:55–75,” The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual (2017)

“Joseph Smith—History 1:55–75,” The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual

Joseph Smith—History 1:55–75

Joseph Smith Received the Golden Plates and the Priesthood

Joseph Smith—History 1:55–65

Joseph Smith Received the Golden Plates


Significant Event

October 1825

Joseph met Emma Hale while working for Josiah Stoal

January 18, 1827

Joseph married Emma Hale

September 22, 1827

Joseph received the Book of Mormon plates

February 1828

Martin Harris visited Charles Anthon in New York City

April 7, 1829

Joseph resumed translating the plates, with the help of Oliver Cowdery

Joseph Smith—History 1:56. Joseph’s Brother, Alvin Smith

“Alvin was a faithful and serious young man, and Joseph idolized him. Joseph saw in him a guileless person who lived an upright life. Alvin loved Joseph, too, and was greatly interested in the sacred record. As death neared he counseled Joseph: ‘I want you to be a good boy, and do everything that lies in your power to obtain the Record. Be faithful in receiving instruction, and in keeping every commandment that is given you’ [in Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, 87]. Joseph learned by revelation years later that Alvin was an heir to the celestial kingdom (see D&C 137:1–6)” (Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 42).

Joseph Smith—History 1:55–56. Money-Digging

Concerning Joseph’s money-digging for Josiah Stoal, Joseph’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, wrote the following in her history:

“A man by the name of Josiah Stoal came from Chenango County, New York, to get Joseph to assist him in digging for a silver mine. He came for Joseph from having heard that he was in possession of certain means by which he could discern things that could not be seen by the natural eye. Joseph endeavored to divert him from his vain project, but he was inflexible and offered high wages to such as would dig for him and was still very anxious to have Joseph work for him. Consequently, he [Joseph] returned with the old gentleman, besides several others who were picked up in the neighborhood, and commenced digging. After laboring about a month without success, Joseph prevailed on his employer to cease his operations. It was from this circumstance, namely working by the month at digging for a silver mine, that the very prevalent story arose of his [Joseph’s] having been a money digger” (“Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845,” 95,; capitalization, punctuation, and spelling standardized).

Joseph Smith—History 1:57–58. Emma Hale

Emma Hale Smith

“[Emma] was born in Harmony on July 10, 1804. She is reported to have been a beautiful woman, above average in size, dignified in body, with ‘bewitching dark eyes’ and raven hair. She was an attractive personality, intelligent and capable. For one year she attended an academy for girls where she received training in social behavior. It was said of her that she ‘never used slang and was very particular about her grammar and choice of words.’ She had the reputation of being a meticulous housekeeper and an excellent cook. She, like her mother, was a member of the Methodist Church, had a good singing voice, and sang in the village choir” (Ivan J. Barrett, Joseph Smith and the Restoration [1973], 71).

Joseph Smith’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, wrote:

“While Joseph was laboring for … Mr. Stoal, he boarded a short time with Isaac Hale, at which interval he [Joseph] became acquainted with his daughter, Miss Emma Hale, and immediately commenced paying his addresses to her, and at a subsequent period married her. …

“… Joseph called my husband and myself aside and said, ‘I have been very lonely ever since Alvin died, and I have concluded to get married, and if you have no objections, Miss Emma Hale would be my choice before any other woman I have ever seen.’ We were pleased with his selection and not only gave our consent to his marrying her, but requested that he should bring her home with him and live with us” (“Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845,” 96–97,; punctuation standardized).

Joseph Smith—History 1:59–60. Joseph Received the Plates

“Little is known of Joseph’s visits with Moroni between 1824 and 1827, but sometime before fall of 1827, Joseph returned home one evening later than usual. His family was concerned, but he told them he had been delayed because he had just received a severe chastisement from Moroni. He said that as he passed by the Hill Cumorah, ‘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’ [Smith, History of Joseph Smith, 100].

“Much must have transpired in Joseph’s four years of preparation. He passed through his teens largely untainted by the precepts of men. He enjoyed the emotional support of his family, and he took on the responsibilities associated with marriage. Angels prepared him to translate a divinely inspired record and taught him the necessity of self-discipline and obedience. He was undoubtedly anxious to begin translating the Book of Mormon. At this time Joseph Knight and Josiah Stowell were in Manchester visiting with the Smith family. This might have been in anticipation of Joseph’s receiving the plates.

“Long before sunrise on September 22, 1827, Joseph and his wife hitched Joseph Knight’s horse to Josiah Stowell’s spring wagon and drove the three miles to the Hill Cumorah. Leaving Emma at the base, Joseph climbed the hill for his final interview with Moroni. Moroni gave him the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate. He also gave Joseph a specific warning and promise concerning his responsibilities. Joseph was now responsible for these sacred objects, and if he was careless or negligent and lost them he would be cut off. On the other hand, if he used all his efforts to preserve them until Moroni returned for them, he was assured that they would be protected (see Joseph Smith—History 1:59).

“For the first time in over fourteen hundred years the precious records were entrusted to a mortal. Joseph carefully hid the plates in a hollow log near his home. The Prophet’s friends were not the only ones who eagerly anticipated his receiving the plates. Others in the neighborhood had heard that Joseph was going to bring home valuable metal plates. … Joseph soon learned why Moroni had strictly charged him to protect the plates. ‘Every stratagem that could be invented’ was used to get them from him (verse 60). For example, Willard Chase, a neighboring farmer, along with other treasure seekers, sent for a sorcerer to come and find the place where the plates were hidden. When the Smiths learned of the plot they sent Emma to get Joseph, who was working in Macedon a few miles west of Palmyra. He returned immediately and retrieved the plates. Wrapping them in a linen frock, he started through the woods, thinking it might be safer than the traveled road. But just as he jumped over a log, he was struck from behind with a gun. Joseph, however, was able to knock his assailant down and flee. Half a mile later he was assaulted again but managed to escape, and before he arrived home he was accosted a third time. His mother said that when he reached home he was ‘altogether speechless from fright and the fatigue of running’ [History of Joseph Smith, 108].

“Efforts to steal the plates intensified, but Moroni’s promise of protection was also fulfilled. Joseph often moved the plates from their hiding place just minutes before the treasure seekers arrived. Once he hid them under the hearthstone of the fireplace of his home. A large group of men gathered in front of the house, but they scattered when Joseph and his brothers faked a counterattack by running out the front door screaming and yelling as if a large company of men were assisting them. Joseph then hid the chest under the wooden floor of the cooper shop on the Smith farm, but he was prompted to conceal the records themselves under the flax in the loft. That night his enemies tore up the floor of the cooper shop, but the plates remained safe” (Church History in the Fulness of Times, 43–45).

Joseph Smith—History 1:60. Attempts to Get the Plates from Joseph

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) wrote: “Joseph soon learned why Moroni had charged him so strictly to guard the record taken from the hill. No sooner was it rumored that he had the plates than efforts were made to seize them from him. To preserve them he first carefully hid them in a hollow birch log. Then he locked them in a chest in his father’s home. Later they were buried beneath the hearthstone of the family living room. A cooper’s shop across the street was their next hiding place. All of these and other stratagems were employed to keep them safe from neighborhood mobs who raided and ransacked the Smith home and surrounding premises, and even employed the services of a diviner in their zeal to locate the record” (Truth Restored [1947], 13–14).

Joseph Smith—History 1:61–62. Preserving the Plates

Joseph Smith Jr. Map

“The Smiths continued to be harassed, and the Prophet had to resort to numerous hiding places. Joseph Smith first placed them in Hyrum’s chest, then, at various times, secreted the plates under the hearth of his father’s home, in a pile of flax in the cooper’s loft, in Father Beman’s Ontario glass box, and in Emma’s red Morocco trunk [see Smith, History of Joseph Smith, 112–13].

“However, Joseph Smith’s calling was not merely to preserve the gold plates, but also to translate them. With people in the area around Manchester so intent on stealing the plates, Joseph and Emma decided to move to Harmony to live on her father’s farm. They hoped to have the necessary peace there to accomplish the divine task. Martin Harris gave Joseph $50 to make the move, and Emma’s brother Alva lent them a team and wagon. They left after hiding the record in a barrel of beans in the wagon. Several men detained the travelers but were unsuccessful in finding the plates. [See Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (1984), 85.]

“In Harmony, the couple moved into a two-room house owned by Jesse, another of Emma’s brothers, about 150 yards from Isaac Hale’s house. The Prophet was ready to begin the translation. On at least six different occasions, Joseph Smith gave brief descriptions of how he translated the Book of Mormon. All six accounts agree that he translated them by the gift and power of God, through the Urim and Thummim [see Joseph Smith—History 1:62; D&C 9:4–12; Joseph Smith, “Journal, 1835–1836,” 26,; Elder’s Journal, 1 July 1838, 43; Times and Seasons, 3 May 1842, 772; and Times and Seasons, 4 Nov. 1843, 373]” (Kenneth W. Godfrey, “A New Prophet and a New Scripture: The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, Jan. 1988, 11).

Joseph Smith—History 1:63–65. Prophecy Fulfilled

Joseph Smith Translating the Golden Plates

Long before Joseph Smith received the plates, prophets testified that they would be translated by an unlearned man and that a learned man would be unable to translate them (see Isaiah 29:11–12 and 2 Nephi 27:6–26). Elder James E. Talmage (1862–1933) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote: “Joseph began his work with the plates by patiently copying a number of characters, adding his translation to some of the pages thus prepared. The prophet’s first assistant in the labor, Martin Harris, obtained permission to take away some of these transcripts, with the purpose of submitting them to the examination of men learned in ancient languages. He placed some of the sheets before Professor Charles Anthon, of Columbia College, who, after examination, certified that the characters were in general of the ancient Egyptian order, and that the accompanying translations appeared to be correct. Hearing how this ancient record came into Joseph’s hands, Professor Anthon requested Mr. Harris to bring the original book for examination, stating that he would undertake the translation of the work; then, learning that a part of the book was sealed, he remarked, ‘I cannot read a sealed book’; and thus unwittingly did this man fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the coming forth of the volume: ‘And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed’ [Isaiah 29:11]. Another linguist, a Doctor Mitchell, of New York, having examined the characters, gave concerning them a testimony in all important respects corresponding to that of Professor Anthon” (The Articles of Faith, 12th ed. [1924], 267–68).

Joseph Smith–History 1:66–75

Joseph Smith Received the Priesthood of God


Significant Event

May 15, 1829

John the Baptist restored the Aaronic Priesthood

May or June 1829

Peter, James, and John restored the Melchizedek Priesthood

Joseph Smith—History 1:66–67. Oliver Cowdery

“Oliver Cowdery was born October 3, 1806, in Wells, Rutland County, Vermont. He was the youngest of eight children. As he grew up he received an education consisting of reading, writing, and the basic rules of arithmetic. Several of the elder Cowdery brothers had found that business opportunities were limited in Vermont and had moved to western New York. In 1825 Oliver followed and took employment as a clerk in a village general store. He also engaged in blacksmithing and farming. Oliver was slight of build, about five feet five inches tall, with dark, wavy hair and piercing dark eyes.

“Early in 1829 one of Oliver’s older brothers, Lyman Cowdery, was hired to teach at the village school in Manchester township close to where Joseph Smith’s family lived. Lyman was unable to fulfill his commitment and suggested that the trustees hire his brother Oliver. Approved by the trustees, one of whom was Hyrum Smith, Oliver commenced teaching and was invited to board at the home of Joseph Smith, Sr. Lucy Smith related that almost immediately ‘he began to hear from all quarters concerning the plates, and as soon began to importune Mr. Smith upon the subject, but for a considerable length of time did not succeed in eliciting any information’ [History of Joseph Smith, 138]. The Smiths were reluctant to share their experiences because they had been ridiculed by neighbors in the past” (Church History in the Fulness of Times, 52–53).

Oliver Cowdery pressed the Smiths for more information about Joseph and the Book of Mormon. Lucy Smith’s memoirs indicate that Oliver became obsessed with the story and insisted on traveling with Samuel Smith (Joseph’s brother) when he went to Harmony, Pennsylvania, to visit the Prophet. Oliver had prayed for understanding and felt there was a work for him to do with Joseph. Oliver Cowdery arrived in Harmony on Sunday, April 5, 1829, and Joseph recognized him as the assistance the Lord had promised. They sat down together and discussed Joseph’s experiences until late in the evening. The next day they attended to some business, and on Tuesday, April 7, they commenced the work of translation.

Regarding his experiences working with Joseph Smith, Oliver later reminisced: “These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim” (Joseph Smith—History 1:71, note).

Joseph Smith—History 1:67. The Translation of the Book of Mormon

Concerning his translating the Book of Mormon, the Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) explained: “With the records was found a curious instrument, which the ancients called ‘Urim and Thummim,’ which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breast plate. Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift and power of God” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 60).

“Joseph and Oliver labored ‘with little cessation’ on the translation throughout April. With Oliver’s help, Joseph proceeded faster than ever before. During the next three months Joseph and Oliver completed the amazing task of translating approximately five hundred printed pages. This was a glorious period in their lives” (Church History in the Fulness of Times, 53).

Joseph Smith—History 1:68–74. Aaronic Priesthood Restored

On September 22, 1823, the Angel Moroni announced: “When they [the golden plates] 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” (in Oliver Cowdery, Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1835, 199).

As Joseph and Oliver translated the Book of Mormon they came to the Savior’s visit to the inhabitants of the western hemisphere and His teachings about baptism (see 3 Nephi 11:18–41). They determined to go to the Lord in mighty prayer to learn how they could obtain the blessing of baptism. On May 15, 1829, Joseph and Oliver went into the nearby woods along the Susquehanna River to pray. Oliver described their experience: “On a sudden, as from the midst of eternity, the voice of the Redeemer spake peace to us, while the veil was parted and the angel of God came down clothed with glory, and delivered the anxiously looked for message, and the keys of the Gospel of repentance. What joy! what wonder! what amazement! While the world was racked and distracted … our eyes beheld, our ears heard” (Joseph Smith—History 1:71, note).

John the Baptist appeared and restored the Aaronic Priesthood and significant spiritual manifestations attended Joseph’s and Oliver’s baptism (see Joseph Smith—History 1:73–74).

Joseph Smith—History 1:72. Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood

Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood, The

Soon after John the Baptist conferred the Aaronic Priesthood on Joseph and Oliver, “the Lord’s chief Apostles, Peter, James, and John, appeared to them on the banks of the Susquehanna River (see D&C 128:20). The angelic visitors conferred upon Joseph and Oliver the holy Melchizedek Priesthood and the keys of the apostleship (see D&C 27:12). Joseph and Oliver now had the authority to act as legal agents for the Lord in building the kingdom of God upon the earth” (Church History in the Fulness of Times, 56). This restoration most probably occurred between May 16–28, 1829 (see Larry C. Porter, “The Restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods,” Ensign, Dec. 1996, 33–47).

President Wilford Woodruff (1807–98) explained: “Joseph Smith never attempted to organize this Church until he received commandment so to do from God. He never attempted to baptize a man until he received the Aaronic Priesthood under the hands of John the Baptist. … He never attempted to officiate in any of the ordinances of the Gospel until he received the Apostleship under the hands of Peter, James and John. These men appeared to him. They laid their hands upon his head and sealed the Apostleship upon him with all the power thereof” (“Discourse,” Deseret News, Sept. 19, 1883, 546).

On January 13, 1849, Oliver Cowdery penned the following lines at the request of Samuel W. Richards, who was hosting Oliver and his wife in the Richards home in the upper part of Missouri:

“While darkness covered the earth and gross darkness the people; long after the authority to administer in holy things had been taken away, the Lord opened the heavens and sent forth his word for the salvation of Israel. In fulfillment of the sacred scriptures, the everlasting gospel was proclaimed by the mighty angel (Moroni) who, clothed with the authority of his mission, gave glory to God in the highest. This gospel is the ‘stone taken from the mountain without hands.’ John the Baptist, holding the keys of the Aaronic priesthood; Peter, James and John, holding the keys of the Melchizedek priesthood, have also ministered for those who shall be heirs of salvation, and with these administrations ordained men to the same priesthood. These priesthoods, with their authority, are now, and must continue to be, in the body of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Blessed is the elder who has received the same, and thrice blessed and holy is he who shall endure to the end.

“Accept assurances, dear brother, of the unfeigned prayer of him who, in connection with Joseph the Seer, was blessed with the above ministration and who earnestly and devoutly hopes to meet you in the celestial glory” (in B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God [1909], 2:289–90).