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Joseph Smith SR. Imprisoned for His Faith

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(Compiled and written by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, [email protected])

The summer of 1830, following the organization of the Church, brought further

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particularly for the Smith family. Joseph Smith, Sr., father of the Prophet, was one of his

On one occasion that fall, he was at home with his wife Lucy, and had been “rather ill.” A

neighbors came to call, mostly critical of the reputation of the Smith family. One “Quaker

came with a note for a fourteen-dollar debt owed him by Joseph Sr.

, demanding payment,

apparently was not in great need of the money. Father Smith offered to pay the man six

was all he had, and arrange to get the rest as soon as possible.

According to Lucy, the Quaker man responded, “No, I will not wait one hour; and if thou

pay me immediately, thou shalt go forthwith to the jail, unless (running to the fireplace and

violent gestures with his hands towards the fire) thou wilt burn up those Books of

wilt burn them up, then I will forgive thee the whole debt.

Mr. Smith emphatically declined the offer to free himself of the debt by destroying the

Lucy offered the creditor a gold bead necklace, which he also refused. Lucy bore a

reply: “Now, here, sir,” I replied, “just look at yourself as you are. Because God has raised

to bring forth a book, which was written for the salvation of the souls of men, for the

soul as well as mine, you have come here to distress me by taking my husband to jail; and

by this, that you will compel us to deny the work of God and destroy a book which was

the gift and power of God. But, sir, we shall not burn the Book of Mormon, nor deny the

A constable was waiting outside the door, and though he was quite sick, the father of the

was ordered into a wagon to be taken to jail. To add insult to injury, while Joseph waited

sun, “faint and sick,” the constable came back to the house and ate the food Lucy had

her weakened husband. They then departed for Canadaigua, a nearby city, leaving Lucy

small daughter, as all her sons were absent on business or missions.

Joseph was verbally abused the whole way, told that if he would only deny his testimony

of Mormon, he would be freed and have the debt excused. He made no reply. When they

Canadaigua he was confined in a dungeon with a convicted murderer. Joseph said later, “I

when I first heard these heavy doors creaking upon their hinges; but then I thought to

not the first man who had been imprisoned for the truth’s sake; and when I should meet

Paradise of God, I could tell him that I, too, had been in bonds for the Gospel which he

preached. And this has been my only consolation.”

He was confined for four days with only a bowl of weak broth to eat before his son

to plead for his release. He was forced to remain in the city for a month working at a

to repay the debt. During that month, he took time off to preach on Sundays, and baptized

(See Lucy Mack Smith, _History of Joseph Smith_, pp. 179-186)


Copyright 1998, David Kenison and LDS-Gems, [email protected]

Distributed on the Internet via the LDS-Gems listserver; for more

information, see: http://www.xmission.com/~dkenison/lds/ch_hist/

– Vivian M. Adams is a gospel doctrine teacher in the Monument Park 16th Ward, Salt

– This is the first in a series of articles, to be published weekly through July 2, marking the

anniversary of the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum. The

killed by a mob at Carthage Jail in Carthage, Ill., on June 27, 1844.

When I was a child my father, Bruce R. McConkie, directed that our Sunday School and

meeting talks center on the restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I

well how many times he recited to us the words: “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of

has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man

When we visited our mother’s father, Joseph Fielding Smith, he would on occasion show

pocket watch which had belonged to the Prophet and which had come to him by way of

Joseph F. Smith, who was the son of Hyrum. Grandfather had a beautiful chair that had

Hyrum, the Prophet’s older brother. The frame was exquisitely carved, and it was

 The Prophet owned a companion chair which is now in the bedroom of the Mansion

Nauvoo, Ill. We thought sitting in Hyrum’s chair to be a great honor. These tangible things

link for us with the reality of the Prophet’s life.

Of greater impact than the artifacts, however, was the deep and abiding testimony that

my father and my grandfather; my mother, Amelia Smith McConkie; and those who

our youth. It was their testimony as it is now ours, that Joseph Smith was sent into the

the greatest of all gospel dispensations, a work which he began in his youth, and to which

the Church are by covenant committed to uphold and sustain.

The Prophet Joseph was foreordained in premortal councils specifically to lay the

great latter-day work, to build temples, and to provide ordinances for the redemption of

(D&C 138:53.) He was among the noble and great, chosen to be rulers in the Church of

in premortal existence that he first received lessons concerning his work and was prepared

forth and labor “for the salvation of the souls of men.” (D&C 138: 53-56.) My father

Joseph was one of a select group who stood “in intelligence and power and might next to

T So vital was his mission that all prophets knew and testified of it. (Acts 3: 19-21.)

exception of Christ and His atoning sacrifice, there is no subject receiving more prophetic

than that of the restoration Joseph was to head. Isaiah’s profuse utterances concerning this

work have earned him a title as a prophet of the restoration. (See Isa. 11; 29; and 2 Ne.

was told that Joseph would be “like unto thee.” (Moses 1:41.) Joseph in ancient Egypt

Joseph Smith should come through his loins, that “his name shall be called after me, and

be after the name of his father. And he shall be like unto me.” (2 Ne. 3: 15.)

This child of promise was born to humble circumstances on a farm belonging to his

Solomon Mack, in Sharon, Windsor County, Vt. His mother wrote of his birth, “We had a

whom we called Joseph, after the name of his father; he was born December 23, 1805.”2

words were the echo of prophecy and reveal the spiritual sensitivity of the Prophet’s

The Lord had, in fact, been watching over the Prophet’s progenitors for many generations.

Young taught, “The Lord had his eye upon him, and upon his father, and upon his fathers,

their progenitors . . . to Adam.”3 When the Restoration occurred, the Prophet’s family

ready to receive the gospel and support him in his call.

The Prophet’s parents, Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith, were of Pilgrim-Puritan

ancestors were patriots to the bone, many having fought for American independence. The

grandfather, Asael Smith, supposed the newly framed Constitution of the United States to

stone cut out of the mountain without hands,” and directed his children to hold it as a

Though deeply religious, the Prophet’s ancestors did not particularly conform to the

religious systems of New England. Many of the Prophet’s ancestors believed there had

universal apostasy which required a universal restoration. Grandfather Asael “had a habit

and writing about gospel themes – the Restoration in particular.”5 He predicted “there

prophet raised up in his family” who would do a work that would “revolutionize the

of Church, hereafter HC) 2:443; Journal of Discourses 5:102.)

The Prophet’s father, Joseph Smith Sr., was tall and vigorous, cheerful by nature, and

integrity – an acknowledged Smith trait. The Prophet wrote that his father “stood six feet

inches high, was very straight and remarkably well proportioned. His ordinary weight was

pounds, and he was very strong and active. In his younger days he was famed as a

Jacob-like, he never wrestled with but one man whom he could not throw.” (HC 4:191.)

occasion the Prophet said his father possessed a holy and virtuous mind and that he

mean act, that might be said to be ungenerous in his life.”6

The Prophet’s Mother, Lucy Mack, was small in stature, not five feet tall, judging by the

wore. She was “possessed of a high sense of duty,” a woman of action who “sometimes

weighty matters into her own hands and carried them through to successful completion.”7

Prophet declared his mother to be “filled with benevolence and philanthropy.” (Teachings,

Lucy had little of this world’s substance, yet her home was open to all in need. A grandson

“there never was a more earnest and social body than Mother Smith.”8

As with his father, the Prophet’s mother was fore-chosen by the Lord. During her Nauvoo

Lucy Mack Smith reported a vision in which she was told, “Thou art a mother in Israel.

arose and said in eternity, that it would take a body to be a mother to

theT Prophet who should be raised up to save the last dispensation.”9

Spiritual matters were of first concern to Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith. “I was born . .

goodly parents,” the Prophet wrote, “who spared no pains to instructing me in

theT Christian religion.”10 The family met morning and evening for prayer, hymns, and

reading. At times Joseph Sr. taught his nine children “in his own home school and used

text.11 My father’s religious habits were strictly pious and moral,” Joseph’s younger

reported.12 His mother, he said, “made use of every means which her parental love could

to get us engaged in seeking for our soul’s salvation.”13 “Father used to carry his

vest pocket,” William recalled, “and when us boys saw him feel for his specs we knew that

Neither Joseph Sr. nor Lucy believed in the religious sects of the day. Lucy wrote that her

“contended for the ancient order as established by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and

Apostles.”15 William noted that Father Smith had “faith in the universal restoration

Lucy’s views paralleled her husband’s, yet she wished to do what she could with what she

what she knew. She desired baptism because the scriptures taught it. She urged Church

Joseph Sr., skeptical of clergy and doctrine, remained aloof. A significant stress developed

Smith household on the approach to conventional religion.

In 1811, the Prophet’s father had the first of seven dreams apparently received by way of

for the restoration to come. In each, he seemed on the verge of salvation but it was just

reach. Joseph Sr. shared these experiences with Lucy, and possibly others in the family

of these visions. All were aware of his feelings.

The early family training and the family dilemma left an indelible print. “There never was a

were so obedient as mine,” Lucy said.17 Young Joseph had learned the principle of prayer

believed implicitly in the word of God. His mother described Joseph as quiet and well

to meditation and study. He indicated that on occasion he took his books to study in the

Joseph also began to ponder the questions of salvation and authority.

Father and Mother Smith having provided the rudiments, the Lord now brought Joseph to

the revivals, and the Sacred Grove. The Smith family came to Palmyra, Ontario County,

10th year of Joseph’s age. They arrived, Lucy said, “with a small portion of our affects,

As the family prospered they moved to Manchester in the same county. Sometime during

year in Manchester, the surrounding country erupted in religious excitement. Competing

meetings “caused no small stir and division amongst the people.” “Great multitudes,” the

later wrote, united with one sect or another. (JS-History 1:3-5.) Joseph attended these

yearned “to feel and shout like the others but could feel nothing.”21 The revivals provided

of words and a tumult of opinion which “exceedingly distressed” young Joseph’s mind. He

uneasy, his feelings “deep and often poignant.” (JS-History 1:8.) “I felt to mourn for my

he wrote, “and for the sins of the world.” His anxiety took him to the scriptures,

taught, that they contained the word of God.”22

Words from James struck Joseph with great force: “If any of you lack wisdom,” Joseph

him ask of God, which giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given

(James 1:5.) Joseph determined to do as James directed. On a spring morning in 1820, he

place in the woods where his father had a clearing and where he had left his ax in a stump

had quit work.23 There he knelt and offered up the desires of his heart to God.

“Then followed the most glorious vision of which we have record in the entire history of

dealings with men – the personal appearance of the Father and the Son, and the

in of the greatest of all dispensations, the dispensation of the Fulness of Times. The

mission and ministry of that prophet who was to do more, `save Jesus only, for the

this world, than any other man that ever lived in it’ had commenced.”

An obscure boy in his 15th year walked from the grove knowing more about God than any

living. Joseph’s mind was “satisfied” with respect to religion; he was filled, he said, with a

love and joy.26 He had seen and heard for himself. Joseph was told that the fulness of the

would be made known unto him and that “he would be an instrument in laying the

kingdom of God.”26 He took the message the Lord had communicated to him home to his

What Joseph’s spiritual thoughts and feelings were immediately following the First Vision

know. We do know that he continued to labor with his father and brothers to obtain a

maintenance. We also know that he was very much a boy. We also know that on Sunday,

1823, after much reflection he sought the Lord as to his “state and standing.” (JS-History

At this point of readiness the Angel Moroni appeared to the young prophet and began a

was intense and systematic. Moroni told Joseph the Lord had a work for him to do, and

name would be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues. Joseph

scriptural overview of the work he was to perform. He was informed of a book written on

which contained “the fulness of the everlasting gospel.” (JS-History 1:34.) Joseph was to

The angel repeated this same message three times that night and again the following day.

was etched on his soul. Joseph called these visions “interviews,” suggesting an exchange

ensuring that a 17-year-old boy understood what he was being taught. In the four years

reported to the Hill Cumorah, where Moroni instructed him in “what the Lord was going

how and in what manner his kingdom was to be conducted in the last days.” (JS History

Joseph wrote that he received many visits from the angels of God prior to receiving the

537.) President John Taylor and Elder George Q. Cannon remarked that Nephi, Alma and

ancient prophets and “apostles that lived on this continent came to him.”27 When Joseph

his vision of Moroni to his family they felt it to be “something upon which we could stay

In family gatherings Joseph described in detail ancient American inhabitants and their

these meetings, Lucy said, “the sweetest union and happiness pervaded our h0ouse.”28

In spite of these happy scenes, Joseph found himself in hand-to-hand combat with Satan

his infancy. The adversary had endeavored to destroy Joseph in the grove. A bitter

followed the First Vision. Moroni warned Joseph that as his work commenced men would

“destroy your reputation, and also will seek to take your life.”29 Joseph’s work was to

mental and physical power he possessed. He was to be tested and tried. Joseph, his mother

must not only be willing, but able to do the work.30

The work which Joseph Smith began in his youth is even now proceeding to the ends of

just as Moroni outlined on that early September night. Joseph’s subsequent revelations

first. The fulness promised in the First Vision included the building of temples and the

ordinances for the living and dead. The completion of Joseph’s work required his life.

In the days of Joseph Smith many converts recognized him at first sight, perhaps because

premortal promises. Scripture tells us that Hyrum, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford

and other spirits came to the earth with Joseph to assist him. (D&C 138: 53.)

As Church members we, by covenant, are also committed to sustain his work, to build on

foundation he laid. Were we not reserved for this work we would not be where we are at

As the Prophet’s father approached the end of his life, he blessed his son with these words:

hast been called, even in thy youth to the great work of the Lord; to do a work inthis

which no other man could do as thyself . . . . From thy childhood thou hast meditated

God’sT law. Thou hast suffered much in thy youth . . . . Thou hast been an obedient

great was this son, how great his obedience, how great was his work.

1Bruce R. McConkie, “A Revealer of Christ,” fireside address in the Marriott Center at

2Preston Nibley, ed., The History of the Prophet Joseph Smith by His Mother Lucy Mack

Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, 1958, p. 46.

3Ivan J. Barrett, Joseph Smith and the Restoration, Brigham University Press, 1982, pp.

4Joseph Fielding Smith, The Life of Joseph F. Smith, Deseret News Press, 1938, p. 27.

5Mark L. McConkie, The Father of the Prophet, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, 1993, p. 33.

7Journal of History, XII, p. 108; Mary Audentia Smith Anderson, Ancestry and Posterity

9The Father of the Prophet, p. 175 n 21.

10The Papers of Joseph Smith, Dean C. Jessee, ed., Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake

11The Father of the Prophet, p. I 1.

13Richard Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, The University of

Press, Urbana and Chicago, 1988, p. 39.

15The History of the Prophet Joseph Smith by His Mother Lucy Mack Smith, p. 46.

16The Father of the Prophet, p. 172 n 35.

17“Lucy Mack Smith,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Ludlow, Daniel H., ed. McMillan

Company, New York, 1992, Vol. 3, p. 1356.

18History of the Prophet, p. 67 and 82.

19Joseph Smith and the Restoration, p. 43.

20The History of the Prophet Joseph Smith by His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith, p. 63.

21Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Momonism, p. 6.

22The Papers of Joseph Smith, pp. 5-6; 125.

23See JS History 1: 11-15; Joseph Smith and The Beginnings of Mormonism, p.4.

24Bruce R McConkie. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City,

25JS-History 1: 26; and see The Papers of Joseph Smith, p. 7.

26HC 4:537 and see Larry C. Porter and Susan Easton Black, eds., The Prophet Joseph,

the Life and Mission of Joseph Smith, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 1988, p. 3 1.

27Joseph Smith and the Restoration, p. 73 n.

28The History of Joseph Smith, p. 83.

29Joseph F. McConkie, Sustaining and Defending the Faith, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City,

31The Prophet Joseph, Essays on the Life and Mission of Joseph Smith, p. 138.

Moroni, the last Nephite prophet, his up a record of his people written on plates of gold

in a stone box and buried it in the earth.

Fourteen-year-old Joseph Smith was visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ the

Son in a grove near his fathers farm in Palmyra, New York. They came in answer to

1823: September 21-22 Joseph’s First Interview with Moroni

Late in the evening on Sunday, 21 September, seventeen-year-old Joseph, concerned

about his standing before the Lord, prayed earnestly for forgiveness of his sins full

expecting another divine manifestation. In answer to his prayer the resurrected being,

Moroni, visited Joseph in his room. He described to Joseph the appearance, contents,

purpose, and exact location of the record that he had buried over 1400 years earlier.

Joseph was to translate and publish this record. Moroni quoted many scriptures by

Biblical prophets concerning the preparations in the last days for the Second Coming of

Christ. Moroni returned 2 more times that night and repeated to Joseph the exact

message given the on the first visit, adding information each time. On the last visit,

Joseph is instructed that his only purpose for obtaining this record must be to glorify

God. These interviews lasted most of the night and at the end of his third visit, Joseph

heard the rooster crow. JS-H 1:27-47

Joseph arose as usual to perform his labors on the farm but was so weak from the

experience of the night before that his father sent him home. On his way home, Joseph

collapsed. Upon hearing his name, Joseph opened his eyes to see Moroni, standing

above him in the air. Moroni repeated his message to Joseph for the 4th time and told

him to tell his father of the vision. Joseph did so and his father urged him to follow

Moroni’s instructions. Joseph immediately traveled the three miles from his home to the

location on the Hill Cumorah that he had seen so clearly in vision. Upon his arrival,

Joseph pried off the large stone that served as a lid for the box which contained the

While travelling, Joseph’s mind had been occupied with thoughts that so much gold

would “raise him above a level with the common earthly fortunes of his fellow men, and

relieve his family from want” (Oliver Cowdery, Messenger and Advocate, July 1835,

p. 157) As he reached for the plates he received a shock and could not remove the

plates from the box. Each subsequent attempt produced the same results until, after his

third attempt he cried out, “Why can I not obtain this book?” Moroni then appeared and

told him that he could not obtain the plates because he had yielded to the temptations of

Satan to het them for riches rather than for God’s glory as he had been commanded.

Repentant, Joseph sought the Lord in prayer and was filled with the Spirit. A vision was

opened and the “glory of the Lord shone round about and rested upon him… He beheld

the prince of darkness… The heavenly messenger [Moroni] said, ‘All this is shown, the

good and the evil, the holy and impure, the glory of God and the power of darkness,

that you may know hereafter the two powers and never be influenced or overcome by

that wiched one… You now see why you could not obtain this record; that the

commandment was strict, that if ever these sacred things are obtained they must be by

prayer and faithfulness in obeying the Lord. They are not deposited here for the sake of

accumulating gain and wealth for the glory of this world: they were sealed by the payer

of faith, and because of the knowledge which they contain they are of nor worth among

the children of men, only for their knowledge.'” (Cowdery, Oct 1835, p 198) Moroni

finished by telling the 17-year-old Joseph that he would not be able to get the plates

“until he had learned to keep the commandment of God — not only till he was willing but

able to do it… The ensuing evening, when the family were altogether, Joseph made

known to them all that he had communicated to his father in the field, and also of his

finding the record, as well as what passed between him and the angel while he was at

the place where the plates were deposited.” Lucy Mack Smith, The History of Joseph

Smith, ed. Preston Nibley (Salt Lake City:Bookcraft, 1958), p 81

Alvin Smith, Joseph’s oldest brother, died after 4 days of illness.

Joseph and Hyrum, his brother, scouted the countryside for work to support the family,

continued the work of building the new Smith home, and prepared for Hyrum’s

upcoming marriage to Jerusha Barden. This year brought some great religious revivals to

Palmyra. Joseph’s mother attempted to persuade Joseph to attend a few meetings but

he insisted that “he could learn more in the woods from the Bible than from any number

of meetings.” Bushman, Beginnings of Mormonism, p 65

1824: September 22 Joseph’s Second Interview with Moroni

Joseph Smith returned to Cumorah for his interview with Moroni and to obtain the

plates. He was able to remove the plates from the box and after setting them down, he

looked back into the box to see if there was anything else he should remove. When he

turned back, the plates were gone. As Joseph prayed to find out why they were taken,

the angel Moroni appeared and reminded Joseph that he was not to put the plates for

even a moment out of his hands until he had gotten them home and deposited them in a

strongbox with a good lock. He was again permitted to peer into the box and saw the

plates resting securely inside. Joseph wept as he returned home to share his

disappointing experience but was comforted by his family.

1825: September 22 Joseph’s Third Interview with Moroni

Joseph received “instruction and intelligence… respecting what the Lord was going to

do, and how and in what manner his kingdom was to conducted in the last days”JS-H

Joseph and his father traveled to South Bainbridge, NY to work for Josiah Stowell.

While boarding with the Hales, Joseph Smith met his future wife, Emma Hale. Because

of financial need, Joseph and his father agreed to search for buried treasure for Mr.

Stowell. After a month without success, they convinced Josiah Stowell to stop digging

and they returned home. Upon their arrival, the Smith’s lost their farm to Lemuel Durfee,

Joseph Smith was arrested upon complaint of Mr. Stowell’s nephew. Josiah and his

daughters testified in behalf of Joseph’s character but he was still convicted though

“designedly allowed to escape” because of his youth. (A.W. Benton letter in

Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Asvocate, 9 April 1831, p 120) Joseph, having

learned his lesson, completely forsakes any form of treasure hunting. Richard Lloyd

Anderson, “The Mature Joseph and Treasure Seeking,” BYU Studies 24[Fall

Joseph returns home to work at home and prepare for his upcoming interview.

1826: September 22 Joseph’s Fourth Interview with Moroni

The angel Moroni told Joseph that he could receive the record the following September

if he brought with him the right person. By revelation, Joseph determined the right

person was Emma Hale. “Joseph Knight’s Recollection,” p31

Joseph returns to South Bainbridge and was married to Emma Hale on January 18 by

the Justice of the Peace. Because her father would not consent to the marriage, Joseph

and Emma eloped. A few months after the marriage, Joseph went to Manchester on

business for his father. He was expected back by six in the evening but he did not return

till after nine. He told his family that on his way home as he passed the Hill Cumorah,

Moroni had appeared and chastised him severally. Moroni told him that he “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 [Joseph] must be up and going and set myself about the

things which God had commanded me to do” Lucy Smith, History of Joseph Smith, p

1827: September 21-22 Joseph’s Fifth Interview with Moroni

Cite this Joseph Smith SR. Imprisoned for His Faith

Joseph Smith SR. Imprisoned for His Faith. (2018, Aug 29). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/mormism-essay/

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