Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Joseph and Emma's Harmony, Pennsylvania


One of the most memorable sites on our tour was Harmony, Pennsylvania.  I know I have said many times how I could feel the spirit of each of these sacred sites, and it is true.  You could feel it in Harmony! 

First off Pennsylvania is beautiful. My husband and I kept telling each other  "We could live here". It is so green and lush and cozy.  We loved it in Harmony.

The morning we were there it was kind of misty with drizzling rain.  We parked the bus and walked back into this hidden grove.  In the grove, there were log seats to sit on in a circle encompassing all the walls of the grove. I could of just sat there...feeling....  Our tour guides mentioned that this is where the Stakes of that area, celebrate the Aaronic Priesthood Commemoration, otherwise known as Father-and-sons camp out.  I have never had a desire to go to a Father-and-sons camp out, until that misty morning sitting in the grove at Harmony. 

The Susquehanna River flowed not too far from that very spot where we sat. We didn't actually see it.
In fact, the actual location where Joseph and Oliver were baptized has since dried up.  But we were in the location where John the Baptist as well as Peter, James, and John appeared to Joseph.  You could feel it.  It is a sacred spot. 

I did not take any pictures inside this grove of trees. I now wished I would have. I didn't want the camera to get wet, and I didn't know how much this site would mean to me later.  It was a special place.

The Church is in the process of restoring Harmony

...much like they restored Joseph Smith's birthplace and Kirtland and Nauvoo. 
See the official announcement [here]
Site of the Isaac and Elizebeth home

Here you can see the white stakes of where Joseph and Emma's house will be.
The Church  knows exactly where the house once stood and what it looked like from floor plan to floor boards. 

Not too far from the site of  where Joseph and Emma's home will be restored,
 and where the priesthood was restored, is a cemetery. 
Here is the sweet gravestone of Joseph and Emma's first born son, Alvin, who lived only a few hours.


Three major events happened in Harmony


  1. Joseph and Emma meet in November of 1825, and were married January 18th, 1827 in South Bainbridge.
  2. The Translation of The Book of Mormon
  3. The Restoration of the Priesthood
Previous Posts in the Church History Series :

            Re-visiting the First Vision

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Re-Visiting the First Vision

The Lord's Hand of Providence was over the Joseph and Lucy Smith family. They had devastating losses moving 9 times in 20 years of marriage. Although they didn't know it at the time, each trial had a high "providence"purpose. Each one putting them in the right place, at the right time in history to bring about, what they all wanted, what the world needed, and what God had in store:

The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith and their family moved to Manchester County New York,where they eventually purchased 100 acres of land.They lived down town in Palmyra for a while before moving to their land where they built 2 different houses here: the log home, and the frame home.

During the early 1800's religion was a hot topic in Palmyra and also in the whole region and district as Joseph wrote in his history. I would also add, that it was a hot topic in the Joseph and Lucy Smith home.

Lucy and several of the children joined the Presbyterian church and were baptized. Joseph Sr., Alvin, and Joseph Jr. did not. They were waiting to know or to find God's true church. They received a lot of pressure from the religious community for their un-baptized condition. To not be a part of a religion, and joining that faith with baptism was seen as "worldly". While being "worldly" isn't looked down in today' society by many...in Joseph's era, that was a serious judgement.

The Joseph Smith Story

3 aI was born in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and five, on the twenty-third day of December, in the town of Sharon, Windsor county, State of Vermont … My father, bJoseph Smith, Sen., left the State of Vermont, and moved to Palmyra, Ontario (now Wayne) county, in the State of New York, when I was in my tenth year, or thereabouts. In about four years after my father’s arrival in Palmyra, he moved with his family into Manchester in the same county of Ontario—

Joseph Smith's log home
The family kitchen in the log home.

5 Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester, there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, a“Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!” Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist.
Palmyra is the only place in the US with 4 major churches on each corner of the main intersection
Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist

6 For, notwithstanding the great alove which the converts to these different faiths expressed at the time of their conversion, and the great zeal manifested by the respective clergy, who were active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of religious feeling, in order to have everybody converted, as they were pleased to call it, let them join what sect they pleased; yet when the converts began to file off, some to one party and some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more bpretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.

7 I was at this time in my fifteenth year. My father’s family was proselyted to the Presbyterian faith, and four of them joined that church, namely, my mother, Lucy; my brothers Hyrum and Samuel Harrison; and my sister Sophronia.
8 During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and astrife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was bright and who was wrong.

9 My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others

10 In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be aright, which is it, and how shall I know it?
An 1820 era Bible.
Joseph read James 1:5 from a Bible like this.

11 While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of aJames, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads:

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

12 Never did any passage of ascripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did;

13 At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkenss and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.

A Witness Tree
-trees that are large enough to have been witnesses to the First Vision
14 So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.

15 After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
16 But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm,

I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
17 It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me

I saw two Personages whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son Hear Him!


18 My object in going to ainquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

19 I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all awrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those bprofessors were all ccorrupt; that: “they ddraw near to me with their lips, but their ehearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the fcommandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the gpower thereof.”
20 He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself alying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home.


What does the First Vision show us?

here's a few I came up with

  • The scriptures can help us solve our problems
  • God answers prayers
  • The power of Satan is a real power 
  • The heavens are  now open
  • God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ have bodies and are two separate personages
  • The Lord knows us by name
  • The power of God is stronger than the power of Satan
  • The true gospel of Jesus Christ in it's complete fullness was not on the earth at that time, but has since been restored through Joseph Smith the Prophet
What else happened in the grove that morning?  Did other angels visit on that epic morning? How long were they there?  What else did Joseph learn or see? 
As a prophet, as young as he was, he was shown a lot!  Like Moses, Abraham, and Nephi, he was possibly shown aleverything. Not sure, but it is a thought!

He tells us in his history that he cannot tell us everything that happened.

 "...many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time."

 When he got home, he was reflecting by the fireplace, when his mother asked  him if something was wrong. He did not share with his mother at this time about his vision.  He said, "I am well enough off...I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true" [kind of an all encompassing answer]

My husband pretending to be Joseph in the classis line
"I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true"

My own testimony:

This would not be complete with out my personal testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. 
I wish that I could have lived at that time to have personally known, seen, and been acquianted with Joseph.  I know that he saw what he said he saw in the Sacred Grove.  To have made up this story and then endured a life-time of severe persecutions for himself and everyone that he was associated with, would have be impossible. At some point, enough would have been enough, if it was false. No one would have sacrificed that much or given up everything, unless it was true and from God.
 It is true!  Like Moses, Abraham, Adam, Noah, and other ancient prophets, he was a prophet, called during this dispensation to bring back what was lost: the gospel of Jesus Christ in it's fullness, with the proper authority of the priesthood, prophets, and apostles.
In Joseph's own words:
" I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsley for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation." [Joseph Smith-History 1:25]
If anyone questions this...I would tell you to do as Joseph did,
Ask of God
Previous Posts in the Church History Series :

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Alvin Smith- the Ideal Son and Older Brother

Previous Posts in the Church History Series :

Who Were Joseph Smith's Ancestors
Religion Prior to the First Vision

As I went on this tour of the Northeastern Church Sites, I found myself being so inspired by these GREAT GREAT people who we have grown up hearing about, but have not necessarily come to know.  I found myself coming to know each of them and gaining insights as well as deep feelings into who they were.

Alvin was definitely one of those that  deserves his own post!

Those of us/you who are members of the LDS faith are probably familiar with the Joseph Smith film: The Prophet of the Restoration.  I personally love this film and never tire of watching it.  It is very well cast and they do a beautiful job of telling the story.  In this film, you get a visual of Alvin: a mature, caring, loving older brother who Joseph looked up to from his early childhood.  That is in essence who Alvin really was.

source: William Whitaker

Alvin was the 2nd child born to Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith.[ The first child was a stillborn death.] Alvin was born February 11, 1798 in Tunbridge, Massachusetts and died an untimely death 2 months after Angel Moroni's first visit to Joseph on November 19, 1823.  He was 25 years old.

Alvin Smith was the ideal oldest son, a dream for any parent.  Many years after his death, Joseph reminisced about his brother:

"He was the oldest and noblest of my fathers family.  He was one of the noblest of the sons of men...In him there was no guile. He lived without spot from the time  he was a child... He was one of the soberest of men and when he died the angel of the Lord visited him in his last moments" [Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. 2]
There is also a poem Joseph referred to as 'childishlines' about Alvin:
"From the time of his birth, he never knew mirth. He was candid and sober, and never would play; and minded his father and mother, in toiling all day."
Alvin was Joseph's role model in everything-in his work ethic and obedience to his parents and to God.

Alvin's education was similar to that of the other children in the family. He learned the basics in reading, writing, and arithmetic because so much of their time and energy was devoted to the supporting the family work on their farm. His mother's history says that Alvin had the responsibility in the family second only to his father.

The Religious Tone of his Home 

Joseph tells of" being born of goodly parents who spared no pains to instructing us in the Christian religion"  A spiritual tone filled their home.  Their parents were "one in commitment to prayer, and trust in the providence of God"  The Joseph and Lucy Mack children were exposed to the examples of their parents in sincerely seeking God as part of their education and up-bringing.

The Smith Family's  Financial Situation

In general, we know that the Smith family was poor and had times of poverty and great struggle.  However, what we don't always hear, is that they had times of prosperity, although these times were short-lived.  Alvin spent a great deal of his young adult years working to help his parents to get out of debt and to have a home where they could live a comfortable life.  Unfortunately he died before that home was completely built.

In 1811, the year before the Typhoid Fever hit the family and Joseph had his excruciating surgery, the family was in the Middle-Class of society.  The town assessment shows that the Smith's owned a cow, two horses, and thirteen acres, with a total appraisal of $76.25.  $76.00 to us, is nothing for all of that, but in their day, it was double what they had from the two previous years.

Things were going so well, that they decided to put a couple of their older children in school. In the fall of 1812, Hyrum was actually chosen to attend the academy in Hanover, a preparatory school to Dartmouth College.  This decision could have been based on Alvin's generosity for his brother [it was his nature to do such things],or the family's necessity to have the older stronger worker at home.

Of coarse, that dream didn't last long due to the typhoid fever epidemic that hit that whole area, and most of the Smith family.  The medical expenses from this experience took the family finances down to nothing again.

The Log Home

The back view taken from the path leading to the Sacred Grove

The Smith's moved to this home in 1818. The family had 100 acres of land that they cleared, farmed, and lived on. This was the home Joseph lived in at the time of the First Vision, the visitations of Angel Moroni, the birth of Lucy, and the death of Alvin. A small cozy home with so much history! A very sacred home!

the Frame Home just down the road from the log home






Alvin and the Frame Home

Alvin was extremely excited in his goal to give his parents a better life-style of living. He said, "I am going to give my parents a nice  pleasant room for them to sit in and everything arranged for their comfort and they shall not work as they have done anymore" 

Alvin planned the construction of this New England style frame home to provide for his future family [he was engaged at the time], and to care for his parents in their elderly years. The Smith's moved into this ho me in late 1825. Joseph and Emma came to live here in 1827.  Eight months later Joseph received the golden plates and kept them hidden inside the home.

In this home, Joseph learned that Martin Harris had lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon translation. A home with many many memories!!

View from the side of the house[nice garden]

The parlor-note the box on the dresser similar to the one use for the plates.
 The white washed wall boards are original to the home

The kitchen sink, which was state of the art of their day-the first granite sink!  The kitchen was large with a cooking area and a separate dining area.  During this time, they lived in solid Middle-Class status.
Alvin died before this home was finished, and asked his brothers to do all they could to finish it for their parents. The family moved in two years later in late1825 .  This was the last house that Lucy Mack Smith ever had to herself again.

The sacrifices this family made....!!

Alvin's Untimely Death

The fence that runs through the Smith property
with an orchard in the background
On September 21, 1823, after Joseph and his brothers went to bed for the night, Angel Moroni appeared to Joseph 3 times during the night. The next morning Joseph and Alvin were in the field reaping wheat.

 Joseph stopped as if in deep thought, and Alvin tried to hurry him along saying, "We must hurry Joseph or we will not get our task done." His father saw Joseph pale and told him to go to the house and tell his mother that he was sick.

Joseph did as his father said when he attempted to climb a fence and fell from pure exhaustion of no sleep the night before.  Angel Moroni appeared to Joseph the 4th time with the same message as before, except  to "go tell your father of the visions and commandments you have received." [See Joseph Smith-History 1:27-54]

Joseph then went to the field and asked Alvin to get their father. After telling his father of Angel Moroni's message and visitation, and with his father's permission, Joseph went to the hill Cumorah as instructed by the messenger.  There he learned more and was taught.  That evening, Joseph then began relating to his family the amazing experiences he had learned.

Alvin noticed that Joseph was too emotionally drained to talk any further that night and proposed they all work hard enough the following days so they could end an hour earlier to have enough time to hear Joseph. Alvin was a very eager listener to Joseph's first spiritual experiences.

Two months later in November of 1823, Alvin has horrible stomach pains which they believe was appendicitis.  The family's doctor who they trusted was out of town and another doctor came in his place. He gave Alvin calomel, a chalky substance which lodged in his intestine surrounded by gangrene. Treating a ruptured appendix or severe blockage in the intestine was beyond the medical skills of that time.

The room right off the kitchen in their log home where Alvin died.
This room was actually called the birthing room, where the youngest Lucy was born. It was also used for a sick bed.


Alvin used his last moments expressing love for his family:
"He urged Hyrum to finish the house and for Sophronia to lighten the load of his parents. He gave a final a caress to 2-year old Lucy and encouraged Joseph to be a model for his brothers and sisters and to be strictly worthy of receiving the plates."
According to his mother's account, Alvin was never so happy as when he was contemplating the final success in his brother obtaining the record.
Four other doctors were called, but Alvin died late on November 19, 1823. His death was "a great affliction" for their family. Joseph was almost 18 when Alvin died, "I remember well the pangs of sorrow that swelled my youthful bosom and almost burst my tender heart when he died."
 From Luck Mack's account:
"We all wept' our irretrievable loss'.  The whole neighborhood felt Alvin's loss, but none as much as his finace' who was left desolate by his unexpected death and as long as we knew her she never recovered her wonted animation and good spirits."

Alvin's original gravestone on one side
And a more readable version on the other side

Cemetery hilltop where Alvin is buried

The hilltop looked more like man-made mound perhaps created anciently. That is another subject for another day.  I wish I could describe to you the spirit I felt on this hilltop cemetery. It was like entering another realm almost, so peaceful, so serene.  One of the most spiritual sites of our tour. 

Alvin's Tree

This tree was planted by the Smith family in memory of Alvin in the yard of the frame home. As you can see it is still living.  Huge, huge tree!

Sources for this post:
 United by Faith, the Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Family, by Kyle R Walker
My own notes from our tour
*As the principles of the gospel began to be revealed, Joseph learned and was very validated in his feelings that Alvin still lived, that his soul was not damned because he was not baptized like preachers of his day suggested. In a vision he saw Alvin and his parents [who were still living at the time] together in heaven, more specifically the Celestial Kingdom-the highest degree we can obtain in heaven.

Joseph was baptized for his brother Alvin, the first one to receive this proxy baptism in this dispensation.

For more information on Baptisms for the Dead, see the following links:

Why do Mormons perform baptisms for the dead? from Mormon.org
Why Do We Baptize for the Dead? from Elder D. Todd Christofferson
Baptism for the Dead -from the Bible Dictionary

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Birthplace of Joseph Smith

This is mainly for my mother who wanted to know all about the Northeastern Church history tour Richard and I went on this past summer. We began in Boston and ended in Ohio visiting every early Church History site you know about and many you have never heard of before. It was life-changing and remarkable is so many ways. Hope you enjoy!

Previous Posts:
Who Were Joseph Smith's Ancestors
Religion Prior to the First Vision
The next stop on our tour was Sharon, Vermont: the birthplace of the Prophet Joseph Smith. This was one of the most spiritual places on our whole tour. This was a very special place where you could definitely feel the spirit of this family here.

[Side note: I was slightly emotional this day anyway as while we were on the bus driving to this site, our missionary daughter who had been in the MTC, called us from the airport on her way to her mission.]

I was overwhelmed in my thoughts and feelings as I began mentally putting together and realizing in such a profound way how Joseph truly was a prophet of God--called and foreordained for a great mission and purpose. He was second only to Christ in greatness. The more you learn, the more this becomes apparent.

In the birthplace visitor's center there is a spirit there. As I walked in and saw the portraits of Lucy Mack and Joseph Sr.   I felt I was amongst them looking into their faces. I felt like a welcome visitor in their home.
I loved this beautiful painting of young Joseph Smith's surgery which is displayed there. It shows so much: A mother traumatized, heart-broken, and helpless through what had to happen to her 7 year old boy; a young boy acting in courage and wisdom, the father sitting there ready, and the surgeons standing by waiting to perform the procedure. The doctors faces even show some signs of in trepidation. Joseph, concerned for his mother, shows such courage and faith.  Most of us are very familiar with this story. If you are not, here is a quick version of it:

*Typhoid fever attacked the Smith family in the year 1812.  Each one in the family took their turn, except the parents who were spared.  Sophronia, the sister just older than Joseph almost died. She lay sick for 3 months and the doctors all but gave up on her recovering. It was the faith and tender care of her mother that helped her to live through this ordeal. Hyrum had it for 2 weeks, as well as Alvin, and Joseph.  After it seemed that Joseph had recovered--one day he screamed out in pain with his shoulder. Then the pain "shot like lightening" into his lower leg.  Doctors came to see what they could do for months.  Finally they decided that amputation was the only cure to save his life. Lucy Mack Smith begged or demanded that the doctors try something else.  So they decided to cut into the bone of his leg and remove the diseased bone tissue. 

“The principal surgeon, after a moment’s conversation, ordered cords to be brought to bind Joseph fast to the bedstead, but Joseph objected. When the doctor insisted that he must be confined, Joseph said decidedly, ‘No, Doctor. I will not be bound. I can bear the process better unconfined.’

“‘Then,’ said the doctor, ‘will you take some wine? You must take something, or you can never endure the severe operation to which you must be subjected.’

“‘No,’ answered the boy, ‘I will not touch one particle of liquor, nor will I be tied down, but I will tell you what I will do. I will have my father sit on the bed close by me, and then I will do whatever is necessary to be done in order to have the bone taken out. But, Mother, I want you to leave the room. I know that you cannot endure to see me suffer so. Father can bear it. But you have carried me so much and watched over me so long, you are almost worn out.’ Then, looking up into my face, his eyes swimming with tears, he said beseechingly, ‘Now, Mother, promise me you will not stay, will you? The Lord will help me. I shall get through with it, so do leave me and go a way off, till they get through with it.’ . . .

“The surgeons began operating by boring into the bone of his leg, first on one side of the affected part, then on the other side, after which they broke it loose with a pair of forceps or pincers. Thus, they took away nine large pieces of the bone. When they broke off the first piece, he screamed so loud with the pain of his leg that I could not forbear running to him, but as soon as I entered the room, he cried out, ‘Oh, Mother! Go back! Go back! I do not want you to come in. I will tough it out, if you will go’” (Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, 74–75).

His recovery was slow, but young Joseph’s leg eventually healed, leaving him with only an occasional slight limp.

It is hard to imagine this experience from Joseph Smith's life. He was seven years old. SEVEN. I have a 7 year old. While I was there I imagined our daughter going through an experience like Joseph did. Seven year olds are so tender and so innocent about everything. My 7 year old is very sensitive to her feelings getting hurt. She cries if you just "mention" the word blood on her, even if she doesn't see or feel anything. My 7 year old is anxious to be independent, but still needs her parents love and nurturing.
Joseph here, reminds me of the Savior at the temple. They were both extremely young for the wisdom and maturity they exemplified. Joseph had the wisdom and strength of an adult. And the doctors respected him as such With the maturity and calmness far beyond his years, he asked his mother to leave because he knew she couldn't bare to watch such a horrible scene. He depended upon his father to hold him through the pain and agony of the procedure. INCREDIBLE. This experience alone shows that Joseph was no ordinary boy. Although I have heard this story numerous times, this was a very touching part of our tour.

Another tender mercy miracle of the story is the surgeon. He was the only surgeon in the United States who know how to do that type of bone surgery. He was 5 generations ahead of his time! That type of surgery was not performed on the general public until World War I. It is the exact same procedure used today except the tools are more advanced. 

*This makes me think of God's Hand of tender mercies in my life.  He sees the whole picture for each of our lives and places us where we need to be when we need to be there. 

Some other interesting things at this site

The doorstep to Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith's cabin. They lived on some property of her father Solomon Mack. 

The Joseph Smith Memorial monument  is 38 1/2 feet tall- one foot for every year of Joseph's life.  It was built in 1905! Think of it!  With the tools they had available as well as horse and buggy for transportation, miracles, faith, prayers, and hard work  happened to erect this monument and put it into place.  You can read more about that {here}  Joseph F. Smith dedicated it on December 23, 1905-the 100 year anniversary of the prophet's birth.

In the Joseph Smith birthplace visitors center there was a great bronze statue of Joseph Smith which was created with the request of President Hinckley for Joseph's 200 birthday celebration. It was beautiful and to life-scale. President Hinckley said this is exactly what Joseph looked like. I found great comfort in this as there are a lot of funny, awkward pictures of Joseph. I like to think of him as very handsome which this statue emulates.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Joseph Smith Sr. the Father of the Prophet

This is mainly for my mother who wanted to know all about the Northeastern Church history tour Richard and I went on this past summer. We began in Boston and ended in Ohio visiting every early Church History site you know about and many you have never heard of before. It was life-changing and remarkable is so many ways.   Hope you enjoy!

Previous Posts: Who Were Joseph Smith's Ancestors
                          Religion Prior to the First Vision

By William Witaker

 Through this tour, I gained a GREAT love for the Smith family. This was truly one of the greatest families to have ever lived.  Born of noble ancestors, this family was called of God to lead the gospel in it's beginning restoration stages.  It would be hard to find a family as obedient, faithful, enduring, sacrificing,  as they were.  Great, great people.

Joseph Smith Sr. was born on  July 12, 1771 in Topsfield, Massachusetts to Asael and Mary Duty Smith in "a little house near the mill."

As a child of  10 years old he helped out in the Revolutionary War.  What he did, we are not sure. We can imagine what a young boy of his age would be used for in battle? Maybe he played the drum, loaded a musket, or carried a flag?  We can imagine that he was a dedicated, faithful, loyal, boy, trustworthy in every assignment he was given.

Very little is known of his growing up years. He was brought up by God-fearing Bible-believing, Bible-teaching, Bible-reading parents.  They were intensely religious, and brought up Joseph to fear God and to walk up-rightly before Him.  Like his father Asael, he did not affiliate with any church because none of them were the Church established like Christ's Church in ancient times. He spent much of his life waiting and seeking for His true church.
 While living in Tunbridge, Massachusetts  as a young adult, he met Lucy Mack.
Family legend is that they met in this Tunbridge Store.  They were married in January of 1796. Lucy was 20 and Joseph was 24.
"The village store built on the same site as the original village store in Tunbridge."
On our tour we were able to go shopping in this quaint little building that was kept up and looked quite authentic to that era.  The wooden floor boards were original, and I tried to imagine a young Joseph Smith Sr., and Lucy Mack meeting for the very first time--their paths crossing in what was no accidental meeting: The Parents to be of the Prophet of the Restoration!

Along with being"father of the Prophet"  Who was Joseph Smith Sr?

He was a man of incredible faith and fortitude.  He possessed a rare humility and resilience that allowed him to endure many of the hardships he was called upon to endure in his life-time.

He worked with his hands and was taught the skills of a cooper from his father. He perfected that trade so well, he then became a "wet cooper". A wet cooper is more skilled than  just a cooper. A wet cooper is someone who makes barrels, tubs, buckets that can hold water.  We know the importance of being able to make barrels from Joseph's Jr.s account of hiding the plates in a barrel of beans.

He had a great personality that attracted many to him. Many said he was the happiest person they had ever met. He was kind of a jokester and loved to make others feel comfortable by joking around a bit at first. 
He was incredible strong physically. He was 6'2" and about 200 pounds and could out wrestle anyone. He who thoughtful, reflective, prophetic, and deeply sensitive.
"Father Smith was a blending of the eternal and the mortal each supporting and giving vigor to the other. From his youth, he loved the scriptures, and the things they taught, and throughout his life they guided his conduct. But more than that he had a natural love of life, of laughter, of the value of hard work, and for the value of  useful recreations and relaxation. He was a mixture of the divine, not too embarrassed by his feelings to weep in front of family and friends, and yet strong enough to withstand the lash of persecution and the weight of oppression." (United by Faith, Kyle R. Walker, pg. 29)

How close was their family?

The Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith Family was a very close family. They were a family who went through everything together. They all felt to joy. They all experienced the persecution. They all Felt the power and importance of the work Joseph [the Prophet] was called to do. They were a remarkable family.

When problems arose, they met them together as a family. When Joseph told the family of the visitation of Moroni, the whole family were melted to tears and they believed every word that Joseph Jr. said." United by Faith, Kyle Walker  Their whole family suffered because of Joseph Smith's persecution.  Katherine speaks of how she suffered because of her brother's First Vision and visitation of angel Moroni.

Many of us are well acquainted with the accounts of Joseph [the Prophet's] persecutions.  But may not be aware of how each member of the Smith family endured so much for the gospel sake.  Father Joseph had to go into hiding many many times, as well as several of his sons.  Father Smith also was sent to debtors prison once for a small $14 debt.  He was told they would forgive the debt if he would deny the Book of Mormon, which of coarse he didn't.

They were a very close faithful family who endured all that they were asked to endure, who sacrificed, and who cared for one another deeply.  As a young 7 year old boy, Joseph had his leg operation [which I will talk about in another post] it was his brother Hyrum who carried Joseph around for weeks, holding his leg in a certain way as to ease the pain.

Alvin was a huge part of this family although he died at such a young age. This is an example of how tight, loving, sacrificing, and close this family was: When Alvin died, it completely devastated this entire family. For a long time afterward, they couldn't even talk about the Book of Mormon because Alvin loved it so much. Joseph[the Prophet] eluded to the fact that he never got over his death. He loved his older brother and looked up to him for everything.

When Joseph [the Prophet], Hyrum and others were betrayed into the hands of mob in Far West, Missouri, Joseph Sr. and Lucy stood in the doorway of their home and watched the events.  When they heard the horrid screaming from the mob, they concluded that Joseph [the Prophet] had been killed. Five or six guns were shot and Father Joseph "folding his arms across his heart cried out, 'Oh my God, my God! they have killed my son! they have murdered him! and I must die, for I cannot live without him!"  Father Joseph fell on his bed and never fully recovered from this event. Even after he learned the truth, the effects from this event and the sickness it caused eventually took his life. He died 2 years later.

This was an extremely obedient, faithful and loving family. One of the greatest to have ever lived.

What was Joseph Smith Sr's reaction to the First Vision and the visit of Angel Moroni?

Joseph Sr. loved the gospel and was a fierce defender of The Book of Mormon and the Restoration of the gospel from the very beginning. Almost immediately after they happened, he was teaching and testifying to others.

Keep in mind, the restoration of the gospel was not about "their family" as many of their time and ours believe.  This was about the true gospel that once was established on the earth through Jesus Christ and his apostles, being re-established on the earth again through the Prophet Joseph Smith.  He was the Lord's instrument on the earth.  Joseph Smith Sr. and their whole family knew this and never believed contrary. They testified of it's truthfulness until their last day.

There is not a lot recorded of Joseph Smith Sr.'s reaction to  Angel Moroni, however Angel Moroni told Joseph, that his father "would believe every word you say to him"...and he did. He was the first person after Joseph [the Prophet] to know about the visitation. He told his son, "be faithful and do everything he tells you"  He knew this was of God, and he believed his son.

Joseph Smith Sr.  was baptized on April 6, 1830.  "When he came out of the water, Joseph [the Prophet] stood upon the shore, and taking his father by the hand, exclaimed with tears of joy 'Oh my God! I have lived to see my own father baptized into the true Church of Jesus Christ'" 

Joseph Smith Sr. was prophet-like himself

When I think of Joseph Smith Sr. I think of an Abraham-like father figure of his time.
As the first great Patriarch of the Church, he gave thousands of patriarchal blessings in his life-time, as well as many many blessings in general. He had a spiritual gift for healing and many sought "Father Smith" as he was called, for a blessing. Prior to his death, he called all of his family around and gave each of them a father's blessing much like the prophets of old.
When he blessed his wife, he said, "Mother do you not know that you are the mother of as great a family as ever lived upon the earth?"
He was deeply spiritual and with a for-ordained mission of his own, he had dreams and visions pertaining the the true gospel of Jesus Christ.  Lucy Mack Smith, has recorded five, although there were seven in all. The one we are the most familiar with is the dream that is almost identical to Lehi's Dream recorded in 1 Nephi 8 of The Book of Mormon.
When he prophesied, everything came true to the letter.
"During the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, a woman who had walked a great distance to attend the dedicatory services was told she could not attend because she brought a 6 month old baby with her. Upset, the mother sought out Father Smith and explained she had no one to leave her child with. He told her to come in and that the child would not be a disturbance.  His promise was not only fulfilled, but enlarged. The baby slept soundly for the long 6 hour meeting. When the Hosanna shouts began, the infant awoke as if to join the congregation, then went right back to sleep."

By William Witaker
Joseph Smith Sr. died at the age of 63 in Nauvoo, Illinois on September 14, 1840.

*There are many great books out there on Joseph Smith.  I love the book United by Faith the Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Family, by Kyle R. Walker.  Great book with a chapter devoted to each member of the Smith family.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Religion Prior to the First Vision

This is mainly for my mother who wanted to know all about the  Northeastern Church history tour Richard and I went on this past summer. This is  a Church History Series sharing with all of you some of the gems I have learned from the tour and other readings since.  Hope  you enjoy!

Previous Post: Who Were Joseph Smith's Ancestors

The hardest part of this Church History Series is knowing how to lay this all out for you in an order that flows and makes sense.  I am anxious to share with you some insights into Joseph Smith Sr., Lucy Mack, Joseph, Alvin, and others people and sites, but before we get to that part, we need to lay some background down first.

Religion prior to the First Vision
One of four churches on four corners
 in downtown Palmyra, New York
  • We all know that the country was founded upon  liberty to think, speak, live, and worship according to the dictates of our own conscience.
  •  The Pilgrims who came to this country were Bible-teaching, Bible-believing folk who feared God and wanted to walk uprightly before Him. 
  • 45% of Pilgrims were original ancestors to the Mormon Pioneers.
  • There were great social pressures to be religious, God-fearing people who  belonged to a church. If you did not, you were thought of  as "of the world" and looked down upon by society
  • If someone joined the "wrong" church, the others would say they were in error.  The only church that said one was right, was they were following.  They each witnessed against one another and none were like the Church of Christ as it once existed.
Two main branches of Christianity were Calvinism, and Arminianism. In New England, most churches were strongly Calvanistic.
"The system of Calvinism adheres to a very high view of scripture and seeks to derive its theological formulations based solely on God’s word. It focuses on God’s sovereignty, stating that God is able and willing by virtue of his omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, to do whatever He desires with His creation. It also maintains that within the Bible are the following teachings: That God, by His sovereign grace predestines people into salvation; that Jesus died only for those predestined; that God regenerates the individual where he is then able and wants to choose God; and that it is impossible for those who are redeemed to lose their salvation.
Arminianism, on the other hand, maintains that God predestined, but not in an absolute sense. Rather, He looked into the future to see who would pick him and then He chose them. Jesus died for all peoples' sins who have ever lived and ever will live, not just the Christians. Each person is the one who decides if he wants to be saved or not. And finally, it is possible to lose your salvation (some arminians believe you cannot lose your salvation). " The Five Points of Calvinism

  Calvinism is known as T.U.L.I.P-the acronym for their beliefs:
Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)
Unconditional Election of certain people
Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)"Jesus died only for the elect"
Irresistible Grace-"there is nothing you can do about it"
Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)

The Smith Family's Religion prior to the Restoration

 The restoration of the gospel began with the formation of this country where one could worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience.  The Pilgrims came here seeking religious freedom.
Interesting note: 45 % of the Pilgrims were the original ancestors to the Latter-Day Saint Pioneers.
 One thing I have noticed in my study of the Smith family and others of their time period, is that they were  fiercely loyal to God, religion, and liberty. Where you found one trait, you found the  others. They were never one without the other.  Just a personal observation.

I have not done a lot of study of Joseph's ancestors, just brief insights.  What I have learned is that they were intensely loyal to their country and faithful God-fearing people.They were Bible-teaching, Bible-reading, Bible-believing folk who were  searching earnestly for Christ's church as it was once was upon the earth, but could not find it.  Some joined churches regardless, others did not. 

Robert and Mary French Smith (born in1648) Joseph Smith Jr.'s Great-Great-Great  Grandparents "participated fully in the community's religious life"  They are also listed to be in "full communion" in the Topsfield church records. [Joseph Smith: An American Prophet, John Henry Evans]

Congregational Church in Topsfield Massachessets
Congregational Church founded founded in 1663 where 4 generations of Smith worshipped, though not members.Calvanism was what was taught in this church.

Asael Smith, Joseph's Grandfather, became dissatisfied with religion.  Although in the early part of his marriage he and his wife Mary actively participated in organized religion in Topsfield, Massachusetts. He felt the religions of his day were seriously lacking and he became the "hinge of religious dissatisfaction in the Smith family"  As a result he began a three generational drift from traditional religion:  grandfather-father- young Joseph Smith. 

They were very religious minded and were yearning for truth to be restored to the earth. Asael Smith firmly believed that one of his family members would bring this gospel to the earth and be a great benefit to mankind.

Joseph Sr. like his father, Asael, was passionately religious, but was not quite sure what to do with it.  The religion he was seeking, was not to be found according to him.  He had 7 dreams or visions of spiritual nature where he was trying to save his family or find Christ's true church.  He did not join any church or accept baptism as his wife Lucy did.  He was an un-affiliated Christian.  This was an uncomfortable place to be in their time as one with out a church or religion was thought to be "of the world". With his father and brother Jesse he helped found the Universalist Society in Tunbridge whi ch promoted the belief that everyone would receive salvation regardless of their beliefs.

Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph's mother was also brought up to fear God and to walk uprightly before Him.  Her soul yearned for the truth and light of Christ. Her salvation was very important to her.  After a serious illness at the beginning of her marriage, that almost took her life, she covenanted with God that she would will serve Him and do His will. After this experience she became even more consumed about religion, life and salvation. She believed that baptism was required for the remission of sins.  So within the Joseph Smith Jr. home, there were a few different religious views and beliefs.

My own observation*  There was a conflict on the earth about religion and truth, there was conflict in the town of Palmyra about religion and truth, and there was a conflict within the Smith home-although not obvious as they were a close loving family, about religion and truth.  You can see how this environment and time in history that  young Joseph Smith was brought to the point he was of wanting to know what church was true.