:Moroni's Visits to Joseph Smith 181 Years Ago Today

By Lucy Mack Smith

Edited by Scot and Maurine Proctor

Editors’ Note:  We love thinking about history on the very date an event took place.  We have taken many photographs in the place and on the same date as the event we are trying to capture on film or digital imagery.  It is appropriate that we publish to you, today and tomorrow, the account from Lucy Mack Smith’s history of her son, portions of the chapters concerning the initial visits of the Angel Moroni to the young, seventeen-year-old Joseph Smith.  Those first visits of Moroni took place on Sunday night, September 21 and Monday morning, September 22, 1823. 
We invite you to enjoy reading this account on these very dates in history.  The following excerpts are taken from The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, 1996.

Excerpt of a portion of Chapter 17.

We were still making arrangements to build us a comfortable house, the management and control of which devolved chiefly upon Alvin. [1] And when November 1822 arrived, the frame was raised, and all the materials necessary for its speedy completion were procured. This opened to Alvin’s mind the pleasing prospect of seeing his father and mother once more comfortable and happy. He would say, “I am going to have a nice, pleasant room for Father and Mother to sit in and everything arranged for their comfort, and they shall not work anymore as they have done.”

From this time until the twenty-first of September, 1823, Joseph continued, as usual, to labor with his father, and nothing during this interval occurred of very great importance-though he suffered every kind of opposition and persecution from the different orders of religionists.

The third harvest time had now arrived since we opened our new farm, and all our sons were actively employed in assisting their father to cut down the grain and store it away in order for winter.

On the evening of the twenty-first of September, as he recorded: [2]

“After I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before him; for I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one. [3]

“While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor.

“He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant. His hands were naked, and his arms also, a little above the wrist; so, also, were his feet naked, as were his legs, a little above the ankles. His head and neck were also bare. I could discover that he had no other clothing on but this robe, as it was open, so that I could see into his bosom.

“Not only was his robe exceedingly white, but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. [4] The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. When I first looked upon him, I was afraid; but the fear soon left me. [5]

“He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues; or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.

“He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants; also, that there were two stones in silver bows-and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim-deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted “seers” in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book. [6]

“After telling me these things, he commenced quoting the prophecies of the Old Testament. He first quoted part of the third chapter of Malachi; and he quoted also the fourth or last chapter of the same prophecy, though with a little variation from the way it reads in our Bibles. Instead of quoting the first verse as it reads in our books, he quoted it thus: ‘For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.’

“And again, he quoted the fifth verse thus: ‘Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.’

“He also quoted the next verse differently: ‘And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.’

“In addition to these, he quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, saying that it was about to be fulfilled. He quoted also the third chapter of Acts, twenty-second and twenty-third verses, precisely as they stand in our New Testament. He said that that prophet was Christ; but the day had not yet come when ‘they who would not hear his voice should be cut off from among the people,’ but soon would come.

“He also quoted the second chapter of Joel, from the twenty-eighth verse to the last. He also said that this was not yet fulfilled, but was soon to be. And he further stated the fulness of the Gentiles was soon to come in. He quoted many other passages of scripture, and offered many explanations which cannot be mentioned here.

“Again, he told me, that when I got those plates of which he had spoken-for the time that they should be obtained was not yet fulfilled-I should not show them to any person; [7] neither the breastplate with the Urim and Thummim; only to those to whom I should be commanded to show them; if I did I should be destroyed. While he was conversing with me about the plates, the vision was opened to my mind that I could see the place where the plates were deposited, and that so clearly and distinctly that I knew the place again when I visited it.

“After this communication, I saw the light in the room begin to gather immediately around the person of him who had been speaking to me, and it continued to do so until the room was again left dark, except just around him; when, instantly I saw, as it were, a conduit open right up into heaven, and he ascended till he entirely disappeared, and the room was left as it had been before this heavenly light had made its appearance.

“I lay musing on the singularity of the scene, and marveling greatly at what had been told to me by this extraordinary messenger; when, in the midst of my meditation, I suddenly discovered that my room was again beginning to get lighted, and in an instant, as it were, the same heavenly messenger was again by my bedside.

“He commenced, and again related the very same things which he had done at his first visit, without the least variation; which having done, he informed me of great judgments which were coming upon the earth, with great desolations by famine, sword, and pestilence; and that these grievous judgments would come on the earth in this generation. Having related these things, he again ascended as he had done before.”

When the angel ascended the second time, he left Joseph overwhelmed with astonishment, yet gave him but a short time to contemplate the things which he had told him before he made his reappearance, and rehearsed the same things over, adding a few words of caution and instruction, thus: that he must beware of covetousness, and he must not suppose the record was to be brought forth with the view of getting gain, for this was not the case, but that it was to bring forth light and intelligence, which had for a long time been lost to the world; and that when he went to get the plates, he must be on his guard or his mind would be filled with darkness. The angel then told him to tell his father all which he had both seen and heard.


Tomorrow we will bring you the rest of the account from Lucy Mack Smith’s history concerning the Angel Moroni’s visits to her son, Joseph.

[1] A daughter, Lucy, was added to the Smith home on July 18, 1821. Her father was fifty years old at her birth and her mother was forty-six.

[2]   This account, now found in the Pearl of Great Price, was likely inserted in the revised manuscript of Lucy Mack Smith’s history that was the basis for the 1853 edition, presumably to give Joseph’s fuller, more accurate account of Moroni’s first visits rather than Lucy’s more general description. In her Preliminary Manuscript she records the events as follows: “One evening we were sitting till quite late conversing upon the subject of the diversity of churches that had risen up in the world and the many thousand opinions in existence as to the truths contained in scripture. Joseph never said many words upon any subject but always seemed to reflect more deeply than common persons of his age upon everything of a religious nature. After we ceased conversation, he went to bed and was pondering in his mind which of the churches was the true one. But he had not lain there long till he saw a bright light enter the room where he lay. He looked up and saw an angel of the Lord standing by him. The angel spoke: ‘I perceive that you are inquiring in your mind which is the true church. There is not a true church on earth-no, not one-and has not been since Peter took the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood after the order of God into the kingdom of heaven. The churches that are now upon the earth are all man-made churches. There is a record for you, Joseph, but you cannot get it until you learn to keep the commandments of God, for it is not to get gain, but it is to bring forth that light and intelligence which has been long lost in the earth. Now, Joseph, beware or when you go to get the plates, your mind will be filled with darkness and all manner of evil will rush into your mind to prevent you from keeping the commandments of God. You must tell your father of this, for he will believe every word you say. The record is on a side of the hill of Cumorah, three miles from this place. Remove the grass and moss, and you will find the record under it, lying on four pillars of cement.”

[3] Oliver Cowdery wrote of this moment: “His heart was drawn out in fervent prayer, and his whole soul was so lost to every thing of a temporal nature, that earth, to him, had lost its claims, and all he desired was to be prepared in heart to commune with some kind messenger who could communicate to him the desired information of his acceptance with God.

“At length the family retired, and he, as usual, bent his way, though in silence, where others might have rested their weary frames ‘locked fast in sleep’s embrace;’ but repose had fled, and accustomed slumber had spread her refreshing hand over others beside him-he continued still to pray. . . .

“In this situation hours passed unnumbered-how many or how few I know not, neither is he able to inform me; but supposes it must have been eleven or twelve, and perhaps later, as the noise and bustle of the family, in retiring, had long since ceased.” (In Papers of Joseph Smith, Volume 1, pp. 50, 51.)

[4] Oliver Cowdery insightfully comments here: “It is no easy task to describe the appearance of a messenger from the skies-indeed, I doubt there being an individual clothed with perishable clay, who is capable to do this work” (in Papers, p. 51). Joseph gives the best description of an angel available to man.

[5] Oliver Cowdery continues with further insight about the angel’s appearing to Joseph: “The first sight was as though the house was filled with consuming and unquenchable fire. This sudden appearance of a light so bright, as must naturally be expected, occasioned a shock or sensation, visible to the extremities of the body. It was, however, followed with a calmness and serenity of mind, and an overwhelming rapture of joy that surpassed understanding, and in a moment a personage stood before him.” (In Papers, p. 51.)

[6] This Urim and Thummim was the same that was given to the brother of Jared upon the mount. See D&C 17:1; also Ether 3:22-24.

[7] David Whitmer claimed that he “had conversations with several young men who said that Joseph Smith had certainly gold plates, and that before he attained them he had promised to share with them, but had not done so, and they were very much incensed with him” (quoted in Lyndon Cook, Whitmer Interviews, p. 60).