excerpt – An American Prophet’s Record

The Diaries and Journals of Joseph SmithThe following document was evidently written sometime between 20 July and 27 November 18321 and is in the handwriting of Frederick G. Williams and Joseph Smith (in italics). It represents Joseph Smith’s first and, so far as is known, only attempt to record the events of his first vision ca. 1820 in his own hand. This sketch was written on the first three leaves, subsequently removed, of what would later be used as a letterbook. The original is housed in the archives of the Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

A History of the life of Joseph Smith, Jr.

An account of his marvelous experience and of all the mighty acts which he doeth in the name of Jesus Ch[r]ist the Son of the Living God of whom he beareth record. Also an account of the rise of the Church of Christ in the eve of time according as the Lord brought forth and established by his hand. /Firstly,/ he receiving the testamony from on high. Seccondly, the ministering of Angels. Thirdly, the reception of the Holy Priesthood by the ministring of Angels to admin[i]ster the letter of the Gospel /the Law and commandments as they were given unto him/ and the ordinenc[e]s. Fo[u]rthly, a confirmation and reception of the High Priesthood after the Holy Order of the Son of the Living God [with] power and ordinence[s] from on high to preach the Gospel in the administration and demonstration of the spirit, the Kees of the Kingdom of God confered upon him and the continuation of the blessings of God to him &c.

I was born in the town of Charon [Sharon] in the /State/ of Vermont, North America on the twenty third day of December AD 1805 of goodly parents who spared no pains to instruct/ing/ me in /the/ Christian religion.

At the age of about ten years my Father Joseph Smith, Siegnior [Senior] moved to Palmyra, Ontario County in the State of New York. And being in indigent circumstances [we] were obliged to labour hard for the support of a large Family having nine chilldren. As it required the exertions of all that were able to render any assistance for the support of the Family, therefore we were deprived of the bennifit of an education. Suffice it to say I was mearly instructid in reading, writing, and the ground /rules/ of Arithmatic which const[it]uted my whole literary acquirements.

At about the age of twelve years my mind become seriously imprest {page 1} with regard to the all importent concerns for the wellfare of my immortal Soul which led me to searching the scriptures believeing, as I was taught, that they contained the word of God. Thus applying myself to them and my intimate acquaintance with those of differant denominations led me to marvel excedingly. For I discovered that /they did not adorn/ instead of adorning their profession by a holy walk and Godly coversation agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository. This was a grief to my Soul.

Thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning the sittuation of the world of mankind, the contentions and divi/si/ons, the wicke/d/ness and abominations, and the darkness which pervaded the minds of mankind. My mind become excedingly distressed for I become convicted of my sins and by searching the scriptures I found that mand /mankind/ did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatised from the true and living faith. There was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament and I felt to mourn for my own sins and for the sins of the world.

For I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday, to day, and forever. That he was no respecter to [of] persons, for he was God. For I looked upon the sun, the glorious luminary of the earth. And also the moon rolling in their magesty through the heavens. Also the stars, shining in their courses. And the earth also upon which I stood. And the beast of the field and the fowls of heaven and the fish of the waters. And also man walking forth upon the face of the earth in magesty and in the strength of beauty whose power and intiligence in governing the things which are so exceding great and {page 2} marvilous even in the likeness of him who created him /them/.

When I considered upon these things my heart exclaimed, “Well hath the wise man said the /it is a/ fool /that/ saith in his heart, ‘there is no God.'” My heart exclaimed, “All these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotent and omnipreasant power. A being who makith Laws and decreeeth and bindeth all things in their bounds. Who filleth Eternity. Who was, is, and will be from all Eternity to Eternity.” When I considered all these things and that /that/ being seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth. Therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and obtain mercy. The Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in /the/ attitude of calling upon the Lord /in the 16th year of my age/ a pillar of fire light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me. I was filled with the spirit of God and the /Lord/ opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord.

He spake unto me saying, “Joseph /my son/ thy sins are forgiven thee. Go thy way, walk in my statutes and keep my commandments. Behold I am the Lord of Glory. I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life. /Behold/ the world lieth in sin at this time and none doeth good, no not one. They have turned asside from the gospel and keep not /my/ commandments. They draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them acording to th/e/ir ungodliness and to bring to pass that which /hath/ been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Ap/o/stles. Behold and lo, I come quickly as it [is] written of me, in the cloud /clothed/ in the glory of my Father.”

My soul was filled with love and for many days I could rejoice with great Joy and the Lord was with me. But [I] could find none that would believe the he[a]venly vision. Nevertheless, I pondered these things in my heart. about that time my mother and But after many days {page 3} I fell into transgression and sinned in many things which brought a wound upon my soul. There were many things which transpired that cannot be writ[t]en and my Father’s family have suffered many persicutions and afflictions.

And it came to pass when I was seventeen years of age, I called again upon the Lord and he shewed unto me a heavenly vision. For behold an angel of the Lord came and stood before me. It was by night and he called me by name and he said the Lord had forgiven me my sins. He revealed unto me that in the Town of Manchester, Ontario County, N[ew] Y[ork] there was plates of gold upon which there was engravings which was engraven by Maroni [Moroni] and his fathers, the servants of the living God in ancient days, deposited by the commandments of God and kept by the power thereof and that I should go and get them. He revealed unto me many things concerning the inhabitants of the earth which since have been revealed in commandments and revelations.

It was on the 22d day of Sept[ember] AD 1822 [1823]. Thus he appeared unto me three times in one night and once on the next day. Then I immediately went to the place and found where the plates was deposited as the angel of the Lord had commanded me and straightway made three attempts to get them. Then being excedingly frightened I supposed it had been a dreem of Vision, but when I consid[e]red I knew that it was not. Therefore I cried unto the Lord in the agony of my soul, “Why can I not obtain them?”

Behold the angel appeared unto me again and said unto me, “You have not kept the commandments of the Lord which I gave unto you. Therefore you cannot now obtain them, for the time is not yet fulfilled. Therefore thou wast left unto temptation that thou mightest be made acquainted with the power of the advisary. Therefore repent and call on the Lord [and] thou shalt be forgiven. And in his own due time thou shalt obtain them.” {page 4}

For now I had been tempted of the advisary and saught the Plates to obtain riches and kept not the commandment that I should have a eye single to the glory of God. Therefore I was chastened and saught dilegently to obtain the plates and obtained them not untill I was twenty one years of age.

In this year, I was married to Emma Hale, Daughter of Isaach Hale, who lived in Harmony, Susquehana County, Pen[n]sylvania on the 18th [of] January AD 1827. On the 22d day of Sept[ember] of this same year I obtained the plates.

In December following, we mooved to Susquehana [Harmony] by the assistence of a man by the name of Martin Harris who became convinced of the visions and gave me fifty Dollars to bare my expences. Because of his faith and this rightheous deed the Lord appeared unto him in a vision and shewed unto him his marvilous work which he was about to do.

/He/ imediately came to Su/s/quehannah and said the Lord had shown him that he must go to New York City /with/ some of the c/h/aracters, so we proceeded to coppy some of them. He took his Journ[e]y to the Eastern Cittys and to the Learned /saying/, “Read this I pray thee” and the learned said, “I cannot,” but if he would bring the plates they would read it but the Lord had fo/r/bid it. He returned to me and gave them to /me to/ translate and I said, “I cannot for I am not learned,” but the Lord had prepared spectticke spectacles for to read the Book. Therefore I commenced translating the characters. Thus the Propicy [prophecy] of Is/ia/ah was fulfilled which is writ[t]en in the 29[th] chapter concerning the book.

And it came to pass that after we had translated 116 pages that he desired to carry them to read to his friends that peradventure [preadventure] he might convince them of the truth. Therefore, I inquired of the Lord and the Lord said unto me that he must not take them. I spoke unto him (Martin) the word of the Lord {page 5} and he said inquire again. I inquired again and also a third time and the Lord said unto me, “Let him go with them, only he shall covenant with me that he will not shew them to only but four persons.” He covenented with the Lord that he would do according to the word of the Lord.

Therefore he took them and took his journey unto his friends to [in] Palmira, Wayne County, State of N[ew] York. He brake the covenent which he made before the Lord and the Lord suffered the writings to fall into the hands of wicked men. Martin was chastened for his transgression and I also was chastened also for my transgression for asking the Lord the third time. Wherefore the Plates was taken from me by the power of God and I was not able to obtain them for a season.

And it came to pass after much humility and affliction of soul, I obtained them again when [the] Lord appeared unto a young man by the name of Oliver Cowdery and shewed unto him the plates in a vision, also the truth of the work, and what the Lord was about to do through me his unworthy servant. Therefore, he was desirous to come and write for me and translate. Now my wife had writ[t]en some for me to translate and also my Brother Samuel H. Smith but we had be come reduced in property and my wive’s father was about to turn me out of doors. I had not where [nowhere] to go and I cried unto the Lord that he would provide for me to accomplish the work whereunto he had commanded me. [rest of page blank] {page 6}

Footnote

1. This is according to Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1984), p. 640n6.