- Historic Sites
The Farm Boy And The Angel
Of sensitive, mystical Joseph Smith, of a heavenly visitor and a buried scripture, and of the founding of a new religion destined to enlist many followers and carve from the desert a new Zion
October 1962 | Volume 13, Issue 6
By morning the yellow wheels had rolled as far as Hanford’s Tavern, just outside of Rochester. There waited a team of bays hitched to another carriage, black and funereal.
The journey reached its end at the small, round powder-chamber of old Fort Niagara, where the captors locked up their charge. Few doubt now that soon thereafter they murdered him and threw his body into the Niagara River.
To a lovesick young man these events, at the time of their happening, may have meant little. Nevertheless, the crime and the shocked talk that it aroused were to make a lasting impression on Joseph Smith.
By the end of the year the lovers could wait no longer. They sought the aid of Josiah Stowel, and it was eagerly given. On January 18 of the new year of 1827, Joseph met Emma secretly for the last time and drove her to South Bainbridge. There, in the home of Squire Tarbill, they were married by Tarbill himself. Almost immediately, and probably to escape the wrath of the bride’s father, they set out for Manchester, where they received a hearty and approving welcome. The neighbors were too excited at this time by the Canandaigua murder trial of the men who had attacked and transported William Morgan, to give much attention to a runaway bride, and Joseph, now facing responsibility as a husband and potential father, happily set about the farm duties allotted to him by his father and his brothers. These, to a young man whose life had already proved his intolerance of boredom, must have seemed xdull indeed, but he was buoyed up by a consciousness v that before long something would happen—an event so momentous that it would change the course of his life in miraculous ways. Whether, as nearly two million good Mormons believe today, he was waiting in awe and reverence for the return of the angel who had promised him that in September he would at last receive the book of golden pages lying in the nearby hill, or whether, as skeptics have suspected, he was planning the perpetration of the most amazing hoax in history, the spring and summer of 1827 must have been a time of almost breathless anticipation for the tall and thoughtful bridegroom as he went about his homely and over-familiar tasks. Seedtime came and went; the heat of summer danced above the hills and waters; the September harvest was at hand.
At last came the moonless night of the twenty-first. Outside their home in the nearby Cayuga County town of Aurelius, a twenty-six-year-old carpenter, painter, and joiner, Brigham Young, and his young wife, Miriam, stared long at the western sky. Years afterward this man, whose name would be linked throughout posterity with that of Joseph Smith, remembered that they had seen a strange light there which was “perfectly clear and remained for several hours.” As they continued to look, “it formed into men as if there were great armies in the West; and I then saw in the North West armies of men come up. They would march to the South West and then go out of sight. It was a very remarkable occurrence. It passed on, and continued perhaps about two hours.” At about that moment Joseph Smith had prepared himself to make what he later said was his fourth annual ascent of the Hill of Cumorah.