Notes from ‘The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother’

Here are my notes (there are a lot of them) from reading The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, by Lucy Mack Smith. My notes consist of direct quotes from the book and some of them may not have much context. But those who are familiar with the history of Joseph Smith should be able to place the notes in their proper context.

This is an essential read for those interested in expanding their knowledge and testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The book is full of intimate accounts of the prophet’s life, many of which I was not familiar with.

You can get a copy from Amazon here.


“Then,” said the doctor, “Will you take some wine? You must take something, or you can never endure the severe operation to which you must be subjected.”

“No,” answered the boy. “I will not touch one particle of liquor, nor will I be tied down, but I will tell you what I will do. I will have my father sit on the bed close by me, and then I will do whatever is necessary to be done in order to have the bone taken out. But, Mother, I want you to leave the room. I know that you cannot endure to see me suffer so. Father can bear it. But you have carried me so much and watched over me so long, you are almost worn out.” Then, looking up into my face, his eyes swimming with tears, he said beseechingly, “Now, Mother, promise me you will not stay, will you? The Lord will help me. I shall get through with it, so do leave me and go a way off, till they get through with it.”

“At the age of fourteen an incident occurred which alarmed us much, as we knew not the cause of it. Joseph being a remarkably quite, well-disposed child, we did not suspect that anyone had aught against him. He was out on an errand one evening about twilight. When he was returning through the dooryard, a gun was fired across his pathway with evident intention of killing him. He sprang to the door, threw it open, and fell upon the floor with fright.

We went in search of the person who fired the gun, but found no trace of him until then next morning when we found his tracks under a wagon where he lay when her fired. We found the balls that were discharged from his piece the next day in the head and neck of a cow that stood opposite the wagon in a dark corner, but we never found out the man, nor ever suspected the cause of the act [Note 3: This attempted assassination of young Joseph occurred just a few months before the First Vision]”

“…When his father saw that Joseph was very pale, he urged him to go to the house and tell his mother that he was sick. He went a short distance till he came to a beautiful green under an apple tree. Here he lay down on his face for he was weak he could go no farther.

He was here but a short time, when the messenger whom he had seen the night before came to him again and said, “Why did you not tell your father what I told you?” Joseph said he was afraid his father would not believe him. “He will believe every word you say to him said the angel.”

“From this time forth Joseph continued to receive instructions from time to time, and every evening we gathered our children together and gave our time up to the discussion of those things which he instructed to us. I think that we presented the most peculiar aspect of any family that ever lived upon the earth, all seated in a circle, father, mother, sons, and daughters, listening in breathless anxiety to the religious teachings of a boy eighteen years of age who had never read the Bible through by course in his life. For Joseph was less inclined to the study of books than any child we had, but much more given to reflection and deep study.”

“In the course of our evening conversations, Joseph gave us some of the most amusing recitals which could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, their manner of traveling, the animals which they rode, the cities that they built, and the structure of their buildings with every particular, their mode of warfare, and their religious worship as specifically as though he had spent his life with them. It will be recollected by the reader that all that I mentioned and much more took place within the compass of one short year.”

Alvin, on his deathbed, to Joseph, “I want you to be a good boy and do everything that lies in your power to obtain the record.”

Young Joseph to his mother who wanted to go a church in Palmyra, “I will take my Bible and go out into the woods and learn more in two hours than you could if you were to go to meeting for two years.”

The angel had informed Joseph that he might make an effort to obtain the plates on the twenty-second of the ensuing September [1824]. Accordingly, when the time arrived he visited the place where the plates were hid; and supposing at this time that the only thing required, in order to possess them until the time for their translation, was to be able to keep the commandments of God -and he firmly believed he could keep every commandment which had been given him- he fully expected to carry them home with him. Having arrived at the place appointed, he removed the moss and grass from the surface of the rock, and then pried up the flat stone, according to the directions which he had received. He then discovered the plates lying on four pillars in the inside of the box. He put forth his hand and took them up, but when he lifted them from their place, the thought flashed across his mind that there might be something more in the box that would be of a pecuniary benefit to him. In the excitement of the moment, he laid the record down in order to cover up the box, lest someone should come along and take away whatever else might be deposited there. When he turned again to take up the record, it was gone, but where he knew not, nor did he know by what means it had been taken away.

He was much alarmed at this. He knelt down and asked the Lord why it was that the record was taken from him. The angel appeared to him and told him that he had not done as he was commanded, for in a former revelation he had been commanded not to lay the plates down, or put them for a moment out of his hands, until he got into the house and deposited them in a chest or trunk having a good lock and key; and contrary to this, he had laid them down with the view of securing some fancied or imaginary treasure that remained.”

“After Joseph recovered himself a little, he said, “Father, I have had the severest chastisement that I ever had in my life.”

“My husband, supposing that it was from some of the neighbors, was quite angry and observed, “Chastisement indeed! Well, upon my word, I would like to know who has been taking you to task and what their pretext was. I would like to know what business anybody has to find fault with you.” “Joseph smiled to see his father so hasty and indignant. “Father,” said he, “it was the angel of the Lord. He says I have been negligent, that the time has now come when the record should be brought forth, and that I must be up and doing, that I must set myself about the things which God has commanded me to do. But, Father, give yourself no uneasiness as to this reprimand, for I know what course I am to pursue, and all will be well.”

“Joseph kept the Urim and Thummim constantly about his person, by the use of which he could in a moment tell whether the plates were in any danger. Having just looked into them before Emma got there, he perceived her coming, came up out of the well, and met her.”

“Joseph took the plates from their place and, wrapping them in his linen frock, put them under his arm and started for the house. After walking a short distance in the road, he thought it would be safer to go across through the woods. Traveling some distance after he left the road, he came to a large windfall, and as he was jumping over a log, a man sprang up from behind and gave him a heavy blow with a gun. Joseph turned around and knocked him to the ground, and then ran at the top of his speed. About half a mile further, he was attacked again in precisely the same way. He soon brought this one down also and ran on again, but before he got home, he was accosted the third time with a severe stroke with a gun. When he struck the last one, he dislocated his thumb, which, however, he did not notice till he came in sight of the house. He threw himself down in the corner of the fence to recover his breath. As soon as he was able, he rose and finished his race for the house, where he arrived altogether speechless from fright and exhaustion.”

“Martin Harris had not only lost his spiritual blessing, but a great temporal blessing also. The same day on which the foregoing circumstance took place, a heavy fog swept over Mr. Harris’s fields and blighted all his wheat, so that he lost about two-thirds of his crop, while the fields on the opposite side of the road remained untouched.”

“The angel was rejoiced when he gave me back the Urim and Thummim, and he told me that the Lord was pleased with my faithfulness and humility, and loved me for my penitence and diligence in prayer, in the which I had performed my duty so well as to receive the Urim and Thummim and was able to enter upon the work of translation again.”

“One day, Oliver came home from school in quite a lively manner. As soon as he had an opportunity of conversing with Mr. Smith, he told him that he (Oliver) had been in a deep study all day, and it had been put into his heart that he would have the privilege of writing for Joseph. And when the term of school which he was then teaching was closed, he would go and pay Joseph a visit.”

“When Oliver was introduced to Joseph, he said, “Mr. Smith, I have come for the purpose of writing for you.” This was not at all unexpected to Joseph, for although he had never seen Mr. Cowdery before, he knew that the Lord was able to perform, and that he had been faithful to fulfill, all his promises.

They then sat down and conversed together until late, and Joseph told Oliver his entire history as far as it was necessary for his information in those things which concerned him. The next morning they commenced the work of translation and were soon deeply engaged. Now the work of writing and translation progressed rapidly.”

“This suggestion pleased David, and he asked the lord for a testimony that it was his will that he should go. He was told by the voice of the Spirit to harrow in his wheat, and then go straightway to Pennsylvania. The next morning David went to the field and found that he had two heavy days’ work before him. He then asked the Lord to enable him to do this work sooner than the same work had ever been done on the farm before—and he would receive it as an evidence that it was God’s will that he should do all in his power to assist Joseph Smith in the work in which he was engaged. He then fastened his horses to the harrow, and instead of dividing the field into what is, by farmers, usually termed bands, he drove round the whole of it, continuing thus till noon , when, on stopping for dinner, he looked around, and discovered to his surprise that he had harrowed in full half the wheat. After dinner he again went on as before and by evening he finished the whole two days’ work.”

“I am astonished at that,” replied his (David’s) sister, “for the children came to me in the forenoon and begged of me to go out and see the men sow plaster in the field, saying that they never saw anybody sow plaster so fast in their lives. I accordingly went and saw three men at work in the field, as the children said, but supposing that you had hired some help.”

“First Officer: “Did you not feel something strange when Smith took you by the hand? I never felt so in my life.”

Second Officer: “I felt as though I could not move. I would not harm one hair of that man’s head for the whole world.”

Third Officer: “This is the last time you will ever catch me coming to kill Joe Smith or the Mormons either.”

First Officer: “I guess this is my last expedition against this place. I never saw a more harmless, innocent -appearing man than the Mormon Prophet.” Second Officer: “That story about his killing them men is all a d—d lie. There is no doubt of that, and we have had all this trouble for nothin. It’s the last time I’ll be fooled in this way.”

“After arriving in Washington, Joseph and Sidney waited upon his excellency Martin Van Buren for some time. They had no opportunity to lay their grievances before him, as rather than lend an ear to the complaints of a distressed people, he chose to give his attention to the frivolous chat of visitors, who had no other business but to compliment him upon his fine circumstances. At length, however, he concluded to listen to them, and heard the entire history of our oppression, and the abuse we had received from our existence as a people until the slaughter of our brethren at Haun’s Mill, and our final expulsion from our homes. They concluded with an appeal to him as the principal officer of his great, mighty republic for his assistance.” “Has not everyone read our tale of woe? If you have not, I beseech you to take the trouble to do so. I’ve not told the half, but if you will peruse a pamphlet entitled “Missouri Persecutions,” you will then be able to appreciate the magnanimous reply of this mighty ruler of a mighty republic when his heart was under the fresh influence of the story of his people’s grief. “Hear it ye nations. Hear it, oh ye dead.” Martin Van Buren said, “Gentlemen, your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you.”

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