Moroni's Visits to Joseph Smith

Part 2
by Lucy Mack Smith

Edited by Scot and Maurine Proctor

Editors’ Note:  As we said in yesterday’s account, we love thinking about history on the very date an event took place.  Today, September 22, is another very significant date in the history of the Church.  The visits of the Angel Moroni continued with the Prophet Joseph on September 22, 1823.  This would be the beginning of at least 22 visits from Moroni to Joseph (of which we have record).
Mother Smith’s account which follows is the intimate look at that memorable day and of days to follow.  Her insights talk of special “family home evenings” held by the Smith Family as young Joseph would talk to them about “the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, their manner of traveling, the animals which they rode, the cities that they built, and the structure of their buildings with every particular, their mode of warfare, and their religious worship as specifically as though he had spent his life with them.”

Don’t miss the opportunity of reading this account on this very date in history.  The following excerpt is taken from The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, (Edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, 1996), Chapter 18.

The next day Joseph, his father, and his brother Alvin [1] were reaping in the field together. Suddenly, Joseph stopped and seemed to be in a deep study for some time. Alvin hurried him, saying, “Joseph, you must keep to work or we shall not get our task done.” Joseph worked again diligently, then stopped in the same way a second time. When his father saw that Joseph was very pale, he urged him to go to the house and tell his mother that he was sick. He went a short distance till he came to a beautiful green under an apple tree. Here he lay down on his face, for he was so weak he could go no farther.

He was here but a short time, when the messenger whom he had seen the night before came to him again and said, “Why did you not tell your father what I told you?” Joseph said he was afraid his father would not believe him. “He will believe every word you say to him,” said the angel. [2]

Joseph then promised to do as he was told by the angel and rose up and returned to the field, where he had left my husband and Alvin; but when he got there, his father had just gone to the house, as he was somewhat unwell. Joseph then requested Alvin to go to the house and ask his father to the field, for, said he, “I have something to tell him.” When his father came to him, Joseph rehearsed all that had passed between him and the angel the previous night. Having heard this account, his father charged him not to fail in attending strictly to the instruction which he had received from this heavenly messenger.

Soon after Joseph had this conversation with his father, he repaired to the place where the plates were deposited, which place he describes as follows:

“Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county, New York, stands a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated of any in the neighborhood. On the west side of this hill, not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates, deposited in a stone box. [3] This stone was thick and rounding in the middle on the upper side, and thinner towards the edges, so that the middle part of it was visible above the ground, but the edge all around was covered with earth.

“Having removed the earth, I obtained a lever, which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up. I looked in, and there indeed did I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate, as stated by the messenger.”

While Joseph remained here, the angel told him, “Now I will show you the distance between light and darkness, and the operation of a good spirit and an evil one. An evil spirit will try to crowd your mind with every evil and wicked thing to keep every good thought and feeling out of your mind, but you must keep your mind always staid upon God, that no evil may come into your heart.” [4]

The angel showed him, by contrast, the difference between good and evil, and likewise the consequences of both obedience and disobedience to the commandments of God, in such a striking manner, that the impression was always vivid in his memory 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. [5]

Furthermore, the angel told him at the interview mentioned last that the time had not yet come for the plates to be brought forth to the world; 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 till he was willing, but able to do it. The angel bade Joseph come to this place every year, at the same time of the year, and he would meet him there and give him further instructions. [6]

When Joseph came in that evening, he told the whole family all that he had made known to his father in the field and also of finding the record, as well as what passed between him and the angel while he was at the place where the plates were deposited.

We sat up very late and listened attentively to all that he had to say to us, but his mind had been so exercised that he became very much fatigued. When Alvin saw this he said, “Now, brother, let us go to bed. We will get up early in the morning and go to work so as to finish our day’s labor by an hour before sunset, and if Mother will get our suppers early, we will then have a fine, long evening and all sit down and hear you talk.”

The next day we worked with great ambition and were ready by sunset to give our whole attention to the discourse of my son, pertaining to the obtaining of the plates, the goodness of God, his knowledge and power, our own liability to error and transgression, and the great salvation that lay before the faithful. “Now,” said he, “Father and Mother, the angel of the Lord says that we must be careful not to proclaim these things or to mention them abroad, for we do not any of us know the weakness of the world, which is so sinful, and that when we get the plates they will want to kill us for the sake of the gold, if they know we have them. [7] And as soon as they do find that we pretend to have any such thing, our names will be cast out as evil, and we shall be scoffed at and all names of evil spoken concerning us.


 

This astonished us very much, and we wondered in our hearts how these things could be. Why would anyone have a disposition to take our lives merely for a thing like this? But he continued, “If we are wise and prudent in that which is revealed to us, God is able to make all things known to us. Do you believe it?” said he to his father.

“Why, yes, certainly,” answered Mr. Smith. “He has all power and wisdom, knowledge and understanding and, of course, can teach us all things if we are worthy, and we will try to live in such a way as to deserve the favor of God, that he may be pleased to instruct from day to day.”

From this time forth Joseph continued to receive instructions from time to time, and every evening we gathered our children together and gave our time up to the discussion of those things which he instructed to us. I think that we presented the most peculiar aspect of any family that ever lived upon the earth, all seated in a circle, father, mother, sons, and daughters, listening in breathless anxiety to the religious teachings of a boy eighteen years of age who had never read the Bible through by course in his life. For Joseph was less inclined to the study of books than any child we had, but much more given to reflection and deep study.

We were convinced that God was about to bring to light something that we might stay our minds upon, something that would give us a more perfect knowledge of the plan of salvation and the redemption of the human family than anything which had been taught us heretofore, and we rejoiced in it with exceeding great joy. The sweetest union and happiness pervaded our house. No jar nor discord disturbed our peace, and tranquility reigned in our midst.

In the course of our evening conversations, Joseph gave us some of the most amusing recitals which could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, their manner of traveling, the animals which they rode, the cities that they built, and the structure of their buildings with every particular, their mode of warfare, and their religious worship as specifically as though he had spent his life with them. It will be recollected by the reader that all that I mentioned and much more took place within the compass of one short year.

Notes


[1] At this date Alvin was twenty-five years old and engaged to be married; and unbeknownst to any in the family, he would pass away in just fifty-eight days.

[2] Joseph recorded: “I started with the intention of going to the house; but, in attempting to cross the fence out of the field where we were, my strength entirely failed me, and I fell helpless on the ground, and for a time was quite unconscious of anything. The first thing that I can recollect was a voice speaking unto me, calling me by name. I looked up, and beheld the same messenger standing over my head, surrounded by light as before. He then again related unto me all that he had related to me the previous night, and commanded me to go to my father and tell him of the vision and commandments which I had received. I obeyed; I returned to my father in the field, and rehearsed the whole matter to him. He replied to me that it was of God, and told me to go and do as commanded by the messenger.” (JS~H 1:48JS~H 1:49JS~H 1:50 JS-H 1:48-50; or History of the Church 1:14-15.)

[3] Oliver Cowdery visited the Hill Cumorah in 1830 and later gave this detailed description: “The hill of which I have been speaking, at the time mentioned, presented a varied appearance: the north end rose suddenly from the plain, forming a promontory without timber, but covered with grass. As you passed to the south you soon came to scattering timber, the surface having been cleared by art or by wind; and a short distance further left, you are surrounded with the common forest of the country. It is necessary to observe, that even the part cleared was only occupied for pasturage, its steep ascent and narrow summit not admitting the plow of the husbandman, with any degree of ease or profit. It was at the second mentioned place where the record was found to be deposited, on the west side of the hill, not far from the top down its side; and when myself visited the place in the year 1830, there were several trees standing: enough to cause a shade in summer, but not so much as to prevent the surface being covered with grass-which was also the case when the record was first found.” (In Papers, pp. 81-82.)

[4] In the Preliminary Manuscript, Lucy relates that the angel made this comment while Joseph still lay exhausted in the field. However, it seems more consistent with the rest of the message from the angel given at the hill.

[5] One example of this in Joseph’s life was in 1834 when he wrote: “No month ever found me more busily engaged than November; but as my life consisted of activity and unyielding exertions, I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it” (History of the Church 2:170).

[6] Joseph came to the hill on the same date, September 22, in each of the years 1823, 1824, 1825, 1826, and 1827. In one of the many later interviews with David Whitmer, it was reported that “three times has he [David] been at the hill Cumorah and seen the casket that contained the tablets. . . . Eventually the casket had been washed down to the foot of the hill, but it was to be seen when he last visited the historic place.” (In Lyndon Cook, Whitmer Interviews, p. 7.)

[7] In an 1878 Deseret Evening News article reporting on an interview with David Whitmer, he is quoted as saying: “I saw the place where the plates were found, and a great many did so, and it awakened an excitement at the time, because the worst enemies of ‘Mormonism’ stirred up the confusion by telling about the plates which Joseph found, and the ‘gold bible’ which he was in possession of, so he was in constant danger of being robbed and killed” (in Cook, Whitmer Interviews, pp. 22-23).