Joseph Smith Receives the Gold Plates (Joseph Smith—History 1:47-59)
At length the time arrived for obtaining the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate. On the twenty-second day of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven, having gone as usual at the end of another year to the place where they were deposited, the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me. (Joseph Smith—History 1:59)
Seventeen-year-old Joseph Smith went about his usual duties on the farm the morning after Moroni had visited him three times during the night. But he was tired and weak. His father, who was working with him, could see something was wrong with Joseph and told him to go home. (Joseph Smith—History 1:47-48)
Joseph started for the house. When he tried to cross a fence, he was so weak that he fell to the ground unconscious. As he regained consciousness, he heard a voice calling him by name. He looked up and saw Moroni standing above him surrounded by light. Moroni repeated everything he had told Joseph the night before and then told Joseph to tell his father of his vision. (Joseph Smith—History 1:48-49)
Joseph went back to the field and told his father. His father said it was of God and told him to do what Moroni had commanded him. Joseph went to the place where Moroni said the plates were buried. He immediately recognized it because he had seen it in the vision. (Joseph Smith—History 1:50)
The plates were located in a hill near the village of Manchester, Ontario County, New York. They were in a stone box under a large stone on the west side of the hill, not far from the top. (Joseph Smith—History 1:51)
Joseph got a stick to use as a lever and raised up the stone. He looked in and saw the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate. Joseph tried to take them out of the box, but Moroni stopped him. Moroni said it would be four years before Joseph could take them. He told Joseph to meet him at the same location exactly one year from that day. (Joseph Smith—History 1:52-53)
Joseph went to the hill every year for four years. Each time, Moroni met him and told him what the Lord was going to do and how His kingdom would be conducted in the last days. (Joseph Smith—History 1:54)
After four years, on 22 September 18-27, Moroni gave Joseph the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate. Moroni told Joseph to be careful and not let anyone else have them. If he did, Joseph would be "cut off." Joseph was to be responsible for them until Moroni came to get them. (Joseph Smith—History 1:59)
The next day after Moroni's three visits, the angel visited Joseph Smith a fourth time to repeat his message. This time, Moroni directed Joseph to tell his father about his vision. Joseph obeyed, and his father assured him it was of God and told his son to follow Moroni's instructions. Joseph went and found the gold plates buried in a nearby hill, just as Moroni had said. Moroni appeared and told Joseph not to touch the plates yet but to return at the same time each year to meet him and receive instructions. After four years, in September 18-27, Moroni gave the plates to Joseph. He promised that if Joseph did his best to keep them safe, the gold plates would be protected until Moroni returned for them.
Artist, Kenneth Riley
John the Baptist Conferring the Aaronic Priesthood (D&C 13; Joseph Smith—History 1:68-73)
Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. (D&C 13)
Joseph Smith translated the gold plates into English, and Oliver Cowdery wrote it down. While translating, they learned about baptism for the remission of sins. On 15 May 18-29 they went into the woods to pray, to ask Heavenly Father about baptism. (Joseph Smith—History 1:68, Joseph Smith—History 1:72)
As they prayed, an angel from heaven appeared in a cloud of light. He laid his hands on Joseph and Oliver and ordained them, saying, "Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness" (Joseph Smith—History 1:69; Joseph Smith—History 1:68; D&C 13).
The angel said the Aaronic Priesthood had the power to baptize but not to give the gift of the Holy Ghost. The angel commanded Joseph and Oliver to be baptized. He told Joseph to baptize Oliver and then Oliver to baptize Joseph. (Joseph Smith—History 1:70)
They baptized each other in the Susquehanna River near Harmony, Pennsylvania. Then, following the angel's instructions, Joseph laid his hands upon Oliver's head and ordained Oliver to the Aaronic Priesthood. Oliver then ordained Joseph in the same way. (Joseph Smith—History 1:71); introduction to (D&C 13)
The angel said his name was John the Baptist. He told them he was acting under the direction of Peter, James, and John, who held the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Joseph and Oliver, he said, would receive the Melchizedek Priesthood in due time. (Joseph Smith—History 1:72)
After Joseph and Oliver were baptized, they "experienced great and glorious blessings from ... Heavenly Father" (Joseph Smith—History 1:73).
While translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery learned about baptism. They went into the nearby woods to ask the Lord more about this important ordinance. As they prayed, John the Baptist appeared. He laid his hands upon Joseph and Oliver and gave them the Aaronic Priesthood, which gave them the power to baptize. John the Baptist instructed Joseph to baptize Oliver and Oliver to baptize Joseph, which they did in the Susquehanna River. Afterward Joseph and Oliver ordained each other to the Aaronic Priesthood, as instructed by John the Baptist.
Artist, Del Parson
Melchizedek Priesthood Restoration (D&C 27:12-13; D&C 107:8; D&C 128:20; Joseph Smith—History 1:72)
Peter, and James, and John ... I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them. (D&C 27:12)
When Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the Aaronic Priesthood from John the Baptist, they were promised they would later receive the Melchizedek Priesthood (Joseph Smith—History 1:72). "The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right of presidency, and has power and authority over all the offices in the church" (D&C 107:8).
In June 18-29 Joseph was translating the Book of Mormon, and Oliver was writing for him. During this time Joseph and Oliver went into the wilderness area near the Susquehanna River between the towns of Harmony and Colesville, Pennsylvania. Peter, James, and John appeared and conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Peter, James, and John said they held the keys of the kingdom, and they were to bring the Melchizedek Priesthood to the earth in the dispensation of "the fulness of times," or the latter days. (D&C 27:12-13; D&C 128:20) Because of this great event, we have the Melchizedek Priesthood on the earth today. (See John A. Widtsoe, Priesthood and Church Government, rev. ed. [19-54], 11-011.)
Sometime after John the Baptist gave them the Aaronic Priesthood, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were visited by the Apostles Peter, James, and John near the Susquehanna River in the state of Pennsylvania. The Apostles conferred upon Joseph and Oliver the Melchizedek Priesthood, which had been taken from the earth anciently. With this power and authority, Joseph could organize the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth again.
Artist, Kenneth Riley
Saving the Book of Commandments
Fifteen-year-old Mary Elizabeth Rollins and her thirteen-year-old sister Caroline lived in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, in 1833. At this time, revelations Joseph Smith had received were being printed by William W. Phelps, who had opened a print shop and newspaper office on the upper floor of his home. The printed revelations were to be bound into a book called the Book of Commandments.
By July the non-Mormons in the area were angry because of the growing number of Mormons. Earlier in the year some people in Missouri had been trying to get the Mormons to move away from Jackson County. When Brother Phelps wrote a newspaper editorial that was misunderstood by the non-Mormons, it increased their anger. The non-Mormons held a town meeting and ordered the Mormons to leave their new homes or be killed. Mormon leaders called to the meeting were told they had only 15 minutes to move out of the county.
Before the 15 minutes had passed, the mob broke into the home of Brother Phelps. "Sister Phelps was alone with her children when the threatening mob surrounded the house" (p. 36). She quickly took "her sick baby in her arms [and] hurried with the other children ... to safety in the woods close by. Concealed in a corner of a nearby fence, Mary Elizabeth and Caroline watched with horror as the angry men rushed into the house [and threw] the family's [things] into the street. Upstairs the mob found the valuable press and ... eagerly they hurled the [printing press and type out the window] to the street below" (pp. 36-37). Someone said, " 'So much for the Mormon commandments,' [and then] dumped the huge sheets of printed pages onto the pile of [trash] in the street. Mary Elizabeth decided to try to save the revelations. 'They will kill us!' warned Caroline" (p. 37), but she agreed to help.
When the mob had their backs turned, the girls ran into the street and filled their arms with the pages. They "were just turning away when some of the mob spotted them. ... Squeezing through a gap in the fence, [the girls] found themselves in a cornfield, hidden ... by thick rows of [cornstalks]" (p. 37). The men searched through the corn but could not find the girls, who had placed the "precious printed sheets on the ground [and] covered them with their bodies" (p. 37).
When the sound of footsteps faded, the girls made their way to an old log stable. "They approached cautiously ... [and] found Sister Phelps and her older children, carrying branches to pile up to make beds for the night" (p. 37). Knowing Brother Phelps would know what to do with the papers, the girls gave them to Sister Phelps.
Mary Elizabeth and Caroline were sad that they had not had time to read the revelations they had risked their lives to save. However, before long "Oliver Cowdery made up copies of the book, incomplete as it was, and gave one [book] to [Mary Elizabeth]. Two years later the revelations in the little Book of Commandments were [reprinted], together with [other revelations]" (p. 37). Today we have these important revelations printed in the Doctrine and Covenants.
Adapted from Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, "Discover Your Heritage: 'They Will Kill Us!' " New Era, Sept. 19-74, 36-37.
In July 1833, people in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, were angry with the Mormons and wanted them to leave. A mob broke into William W. Phelps's print shop and threw his printing press and printed pages out the window. The pages contained revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith that were to be bound into a book called the Book of Commandments. Two girls, Mary Elizabeth Rollins and her sister Caroline, were hiding nearby and decided to save as many pages as possible. They ran out, filled their arms with papers, and hid in a cornfield. The mob tried to find the girls but failed. The pages the girls saved and others were later used to make up copies of the Book of Commandments. Today the contents of this book are part of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Artist, Clark Kelley Price
Mary Fielding and Joseph F. Smith Crossing the Plains
Mary Fielding Smith was left a widow when her husband, Hyrum, was killed with his brother the Prophet Joseph. She had to care for not only her own large family but also several other helpless or ill people. Hyrum and Mary's son, Joseph F. Smith, who would later become the sixth President of the Church, was only five years old at the time.
Mary and her family left Nauvoo in 18-46. Joseph, then seven, drove "one of the ox teams from Montrose [across the river from Nauvoo] to Winter Quarters," which was about 200 miles (see Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Life of Joseph F. Smith [19-69], 131).
In the spring of 18-48 most of the Saints were leaving Winter Quarters to travel to the Salt Lake Valley. Mary determined to go with them. She had no money, no oxen, and no provisions, but she relied on the Lord and managed to reach the starting point with seven "almost ready" wagons in her care. When the captain of the group to which Mary was assigned saw Mary's situation, he told her she was foolish to attempt the journey. He said she would be a burden to the company the whole way. Mary calmly replied that not only would she not ask for his help but "that she would beat him to the Valley"! (Don Cecil Corbett, Mary Fielding Smith: Daughter of Britain [19-66], 228).
And so the long journey began. Nine-year-old Joseph and his 15-year-old half brother John cared for the cattle and helped guide the huge oxen along the trail.
Despite hardships, it seemed Mary's group would make it to the valley. Then one hot day, one of Mary's best oxen collapsed. The wagons behind Mary's were forced to stop. It looked as though the ox would die. The captain came and declared that the ox was dead. He said he would have to find a way to take that wagonload the rest of the way and that he had known all along Mary would be a burden.
But Mary's faith never faltered; she "went to her wagon and returned with a bottle of consecrated oil. She asked her brother Joseph and James Lawson to administer to her fallen ox" (Corbett, Mary Fielding Smith, 237). So Joseph Fielding "knelt, laid his hands on the head of the ox ... , and prayed over it." When the prayer was finished, a moment passed; then, to the astonishment of the onlookers, the stiffened ox stirred, gathered his legs beneath him, stood, and "started off [pulling again] as if nothing had happened" (Corbett, Mary Fielding Smith, 237).
Not far from the end of the journey, some of Mary's cows were lost. While her stepson John went to find the cattle, the captain ordered the rest of the company to move on. Mary waited for John and prayed he would be able to find their cows. Then a sudden rainstorm came, and the company that had moved ahead was thrown into confusion. The cattle scattered, and it took all day to round them up. Meanwhile, John had returned with the lost cows. The Smith party moved forward, past the rest of the company, and on into the valley.
Mary had kept her word. Her courage and faith had led her family across the plains and finally into the Salt Lake Valley, 20 hours in advance of the captain who had tried to discourage her.
Mary Fielding Smith was left with a large family when her husband, Hyrum, was killed with his brother the Prophet Joseph Smith. She was determined to travel to the Salt Lake Valley with the Saints and managed to gather wagons, oxen, and supplies for the journey. Mary was told she would be a burden to others, but she pressed forward. Her young son Joseph helped care for the oxen and cattle along the way. Mary relied on the Lord when her oxen became sick and when the cows became lost. With courage and faith Mary led her family into the Salt Lake Valley.
Artist, Glen S. Hopkinson
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