I’ve been visiting, studying and photographing Harmony, Pennsylvania for more than thirty years. I love this place. In my estimation it is one of the most beautiful church historical sites from the early restoration.
I’ve brought hundreds of people here over the years and it never ceases to amaze me how much people can feel here when there is really nothing to see except for a small monument, a raised mound of earth a few little plaques and three tombstones.
In order to understand Harmony, Pennsylvania you have to understand a brief history of the Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith family. The Smith had purchased a beautiful 100 acres of virgin forest land in Manchester Township (just south of Palmyra), New York. They had made improvements on the property and had four payments to make (one payment each year for four years) in order to pay off their mortgage. All the family joined in helping, including nineteen-year-old Joseph Smith, Jr.
Inasmuch as rumors had been flying that Joseph had a gift of finding “buried treasure,” one Mr. Josiah Stowel hired him to come to the area of Harmony, Pennsylvania to help dig for a supposed Spanish silver mine.
Joseph came (because the family needed the money) and found a place to board while he was there—the home of Isaac and Elizabeth Hale. Joseph recorded: “As my father’s worldly circumstances were very limited, we were under the necessity of laboring with our hands, hiring out by day’s work and otherwise, as we could get opportunity…In the month of October, 1825, I hired with an old gentleman by the name of Josiah Stowel, who lived in Chenango County, state of New York. He had heard something of a silver mine having been opened by the Spaniards in Harmony, Susquehanna county, state of Pennsylvania; and had, previous to my hiring to him, been digging, in order, if possible, to discover the mine. After I went to live with him, he took me, with the rest of his hands, to dig for the silver mine, at which I continued to work for nearly a month, without success in our undertaking, and finally I prevailed with the old gentleman to cease digging after it. Hence arose the very prevalent story of my having been a money digger.”[i] Joseph’s thirty days of digging and probing for the Spanish treasure yielded nothing, but his boarding with the Hales did yield an immense treasure: An acquaintance and friendship and later courtship and marriage with their beautiful daughter, Emma. Joseph and Emma were married January 18, 1827.[i] Smith, Joseph. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. V. 1. pp 15,16.
It was during his time here in Harmony that he came to know the Joseph and Polly Knight family and would become very close to their son, Newel Knight. Newel and the Prophet Joseph had many serious conversations on the subject of man’s eternal salvation. Joseph was treated like a son among the Knight family. It was Joseph Knight who provided assistance and provisions so that the translation of the Book of Mormon could go forward.
So, Joseph’s time in Harmony would yield friendships with the Hales, the Stowel’s and the Knights, would bring about his marriage to Emma Hale, and would also be the setting for Joseph and Emma’s first home (separate from the family).
Joseph and Emma purchased a small cabin and 13 ½ acres from Emma’s brother, Reuben Hale. They moved here in December 1827 about 11 months after they married. This land was part of Reuben’s inheritance from the Hale estate (which was more than 600 acres of land there in the Harmony Township).
The property was long and narrow and ran from both sides of the old road, south to the banks of the Susquehanna River. It was this move to Harmony from Manchester, New York where Martin Harris gave Joseph Smith $50. It was during this move of 135 miles when the plates were hidden in a barrel of beans in Joseph and Emma’s wagon.
This would become the setting for one of the most significant sites in all of church history. Here in or near this cabin (which will now be reconstructed and restored) the following things occurred:*A good portion of the Book of Mormon was translated.*The scribe, Martin Harris, would work with Joseph Smith from April 8 until June 15, 1828.*The 116 pages of the Book of Lehi were translated and then later lost.*The scribe, Oliver Cowdery, would start work on the translation, Tuesday, April 7, 1829 until about June 1, 1829.
*Here, on the banks of the Susquehanna River (about ¼ mile from the Smith cabin), John the Baptist would come and restore the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood on Friday, May 15, 1829.
*Here, in the Susquehanna River, the first baptisms were performed in this dispensation.
*About 17 miles from this site, the Melchizedek Priesthood would be restored under the hands of Peter, James and John some days or perhaps two weeks after the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood.
*Here 15 revelations of the Doctrine and Covenants would be given.*Here the angel Moroni would visit a number of times.
*Here Joseph and Emma would have their first son, Alvin, who would only live a few hours and be buried not far to the east of the cabin.*In this home the sacred gold plates would be for a number of months.*Here was where the ancient Urim and Thummim that the brother of Jared received on the mount would be to aid in the translation of the record.[i][i] See D&C 17:1
*Here is the gravestone of a son (Alvin) born to Joseph and Emma June 15, 1828.*Here are the gravestones of Emma’s parents, Isaac and Elizabeth Hale.*Here is a spring (that still runs pure and clear to this day) where Emma and Joseph got their fresh water.*Here an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph Smith and explained the proper preparation of the Lord’s sacrament.[i]*Here a monument to the Aaronic Priesthood was placed in 1963 depicting John the Baptist giving the keys of the priesthood to Joseph and Oliver.[i] See D&C 27.
This indeed is sacred and holy ground. It is fitting and right for the Church to restore this site and to showcase the sacred events that took place here in the short time from December 1827 until the end of the summer of 1830. Smith, Joseph. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. V. 1. pp 15,16. See D&C 17:1 See D&C 27.