Many people over the years have asked me if I have a favorite item I have collected over the past six decades. Several pieces come to mind; but this handwritten statement by the Prophet on Virtue is perhaps my very favorite.
The Prophet had not been out of Liberty Jail very long, when the Lord directed him in late 1839 to take up the Saints’ Missouri grievances over the loss of life and property with the national government. After an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Congress and President Van Buren to assist them, Joseph and his companions travelled to Philadelphia from Washington D.C. While there, he and Judge Higbee stayed with a non-Mormon, Susan Conrad (later Wilkinson) who opened her bed and breakfast to them for most of a month.
The Prophet preached at a Jewish synagogue and helped to strengthen the tiny branch by baptizing several new converts and in further interesting the local community in the work of the Lord. Before he left, a number of individuals asked to be baptized, including Susan Conrad. Miss Conrad also asked the Prophet as he was leaving if he would mind writing something in her autograph album. It was an interesting request, because other than a few signatures, Joseph Smith rarely wrote out anything in his own handwriting. He used scribes for most of his correspondence.
In fact, one of our great historians who helped to start the Joseph Smith Papers Project once told me that out of around five thousand pages the Prophet authored, if we don’t count the small handwritten journal he kept, less than fifty pages have survived in his actual handwriting. This Statement on Virtue he wrote out in the Spring of 1840 in Philadelphia is one of them:
“Virtue is one of the most prominent principles that enables us to have confidence in approaching our Father who is [in heaven] in order to ask wisdom at his hand
therefore if thou wilt cherish this principle in thine heart thou mayest ask with all confidence before him and it shall be poured out upon thine head and thou shalt not lack
anything that thy soul desires in truth and again the Lord shall bless this house and none of them shall fail because they turned not away the servants of the Lord from their doors even so Amen.
Joseph Smith Jr.”
It is also interesting to me that there is no punctuation in the text and that the manuscript has three distinct parts: a statement on the principle of virtue, an almost scriptural promise and the leaving of a blessing. I can feel the Spirit working on the Prophet each time I read his own words in his own handwriting. It is very precious to us now.