- 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
On the evening of that day Joseph sat up late, informing his family of the new revelations told by (he angel. He was so weary, however, (hat at the suggestion ol his brother Alvin all agreed to rise early the next morning and to finish the next day’s work an hour before sunset. Larly supper would then allow a long evening for hearing Joseph’s report. And so, when sunset came again, the boy continued his story, first warning his family that what he told them must be held secret. The world, he said, was so wicked that (hey would be persecuted, perhaps murdered, if they told these things to their neighbors. From that time on, the parents continued getting the children together after supper to hear the instructions which Joseph said he was receiving from (he Lord. His mother wrote of these evenings years later: “I presume our family presented an aspect as singular as any that ever lived upon the face of the earth—all seated in a circle, lather, mother, sons and daughters, and giving the most profound attention to a hoy, eighteen years ol age, who had never lead the HiI)Ie through in his life: he seemed much less inclined to the perusal of hooks than any of the rest of our children, but far more given to meditation and deep study.”
It was this same hoy, grown Io manhood and recently married Io brown eyed l.mma Hale, who, with his bride on the wagon seal beside him, drove Joseph Knight’s horse to the foot of the familial hill on the anniversary night of September yi, iSyy. There is no record of his meetings with the angel of the hill in the intervening years, save his statements that they took place and that on each occasion he received’ additional instructions. Xor is there any account other than hearsay of what happened at this reunion when the angel was to fulfill his promise. Hclievers think it logical to assume that Joseph left Kmma in the wagon at the foot of the slope and took his accustomed path to the west side of the summit. There, according to his tell, Moroni awaited him. Since later companions beheld the holy light that surrounded supernatural beings appearing before them, Emma might have claimed to have seen the glow on ihc hill where her husband spoke with the angel. If so, she did not describe it.
Moroni, Joseph wrote later, directed him to take the (ontents of the stone box but charged him that he should be responsible for them and should not carelessly let them go on pain of his being “cut off.’ The angel said that he would call for these treasures when he wished them returned, and he bade Joseph Io preserve and protect them.
Although Joseph s mother could not provide a chest lor the golden plates, he may have found one or obtained a substitute thai would hide them from human sight. Six years later, one Fayette Lapham, a neighbor, is reported to have claimed that Joseph s father said his son carried the plates down the hill in a chest which was concealed in a pillow-slip. If, as one of the ablest Mormon historians, K. H. Roberts, deduces, neither Kmma nor Lucy Smith was aware, on that morning after Joseph returned home, of his actual possession of the golden record, he must have hidden it before returning to the wagon. Fayette Lapham said that according to Father Smith’s tell, a host of devils, yelling hideously, met Joseph as he climbed a fence on his downward journey, ami one of them struck him so hard that “a black and blue spot remained for three or four days.” Joseph did not ever mention these devils. He said only that he hid the plates in a hollow birch log lying in ihe woods two or three miles from his home. The walk from the bo l torn of the hill to this place must have been long, and it is not surprising that Lucy Smith did not hear the sounds of the horse and wagon until after she had served breakfast.
At the sight ol her son she was so unnerved that, fearing his mission had been unsuccessful, she left the room. Joseph understood and followed her.
“Do not be uneasy, Mother,” he said kindly, “all is right—see here, I have got a key.”
Apparently his mind had raced beyond Lucy’s to (he problem of translating the plates, while she still worried over whether or not he had obtained them. He then held out to his mother the gleaming spectacles, LJrim and Thummim, the “key” by which he would be enabled to translate the golden record he had hidden in the hollow birch. Lucy took them in her hand and saw them as “two smooth, three-cornered diamonds set in glass and the glasses set in silver bows.” With them was a breastplate which her son had wrapped in a muslin handkerchief. “It was concave on one side and convex on the other,” she wrote, “and extended from the neck downwards as far as the center of the stomach of a man of extraordinary size.