During Family Home Evening this week Emily was giving a lesson about how Joseph Smith prepared to receive the gold plates. We have been using the primary manual at home for devotionals and family home evening as well, there is so much information in there that I get through so little of it during my class. We were amazed to learn that Joseph Smith had received visits from other Book of Mormon prophets such as Nephi and Alma as he was being spiritually prepared to receive and translate the gold plates.
Joseph Smith’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, wrote that after the first visits of Moroni, “Joseph continued to receive instructions from the Lord, and we continued to get the children together every evening for the purpose of listening while he gave us a relation of the same. … During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode [method] of traveling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them” (Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, pp. 82–83). Because he had always been honest, Joseph Smith’s parents and brothers and sisters believed all Joseph told them. “Lesson 4: Joseph Smith Prepares to Receive the Gold Plates,” Primary 5: Doctrine and Covenants: Church History, (1997),16I realized that Joseph went through a scholar phase at this time and was being taught be great mentors from history to prepare him for his mission in life. He had many trials, and had to be tested and to learn the things that he needed to know to perform his great work.
This led to a discussion of Angel Moroni, and how many times he visited Joseph Smith. I had previously read these next two quotes and was able to share what I remembered with my family.
David Whitmer Comes to Help Joseph Smith
By May 1829 the work of translating the Book of Mormon was almost complete. Although Joseph Smith had possessed the gold plates for about two years, he had only worked on the translation a total of about three months. Joseph had been careful to protect the plates and had not shown them to anyone, but he became concerned about their safety in Harmony. Oliver Cowdery, who was acting as Joseph’s scribe, wrote to his friend David Whitmer, who did not know Joseph Smith, and asked David to bring him and the Prophet to Fayette, New York, where they would be safe and could finish the translation.
Before he could take his wagon to pick up Joseph and Oliver, however, David had to prepare his fields for the spring planting. When he went out to start plowing the soil in the morning, David discovered that someone had plowed part of the fields already. This person had done a very good job and left the plow in a furrow, ready for the work to continue. At the end of a day of plowing, David found he had accomplished in one day what normally would have taken two days to do. David’s father, Peter Whitmer Sr., was impressed with this miracle and said, “There must be an overruling hand in this, and I think you would better go down to Pennsylvania as soon as your plaster of paris is sown” (quoted in Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, p. 148). Farmers in that area added plaster of paris to the soil to make it less acidic. The next day David went to the place he had left the plaster, near his sister’s house, but the plaster was gone. His sister told him that the day before, she and her children had seen three strangers spreading the plaster with great speed and skill. She had assumed they were men David had hired, but David knew they were helpers provided by the Lord.
David was grateful for this divine help, and he hurried off to Harmony. Joseph and Oliver came out to meet him as he neared the town, which surprised David because he had not told them when he was coming. Oliver told David that Joseph had seen David’s trip in a vision and thus knew when he would arrive. David had never met Joseph Smith before, but he soon became sure that Joseph was a true prophet, and they became good friends.
David Whitmer, in 1878, told Joseph F. Smith and Orson Pratt a story that includes three more visits, the fifteenth through seventeenth. He was traveling with Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith to Fayette, to finish the translation when “a very pleasant, nice-looking old man suddenly appeared by the side of our wagon and saluted us with, ‘good morning, it is very warm,’ at the same time wiping his face or forehead with his hand. We returned the salutation, and, by a sign from Joseph, I invited him to ride if he was going our way. But he said very pleasantly, ‘No, I am going to Cumorah.’ This name was something new to me, I did not know what Cumorah meant. We all gazed at him and at each other, and as I looked around enquiringly of Joseph, the old man instantly disappeared, so that I did not see him again.
“Joseph F. Smith: Did you notice his appearance?
“D. Whitmer: I should think I did. He was, I should think, about five feet eight or nine inches tall and heavy set, about such a man as James Vancleave there, but heavier; his face was as large; he was dressed in a suit of brown woolen clothes, his hair and beard were white, like Brother Pratt’s, but his beard was not so heavy. I also remember that he had on his back a sort of knapsack with something in, shaped like a book. It was the messenger who had the plates, who had taken them from Joseph just prior to our starting from Harmony. Soon after our arrival home, I saw something which led me to the belief that the plates were placed or concealed in my father’s barn. I frankly asked Joseph if my supposition was right, and he told me it was.”Robert J. Woodford, “Book of Mormon Personalities Known by Joseph Smith,” Ensign, Aug 1978, 12
My curiousity was now piqued and I did some more research on Joseph Smith and Angel Moroni and found this great article "Moroni - Joseph Smith's Tutor" that talks about many of the known visits of Moroni to Joseph Smith. I am just thrilled that the more that I learn about early church history, and Joseph Smith the more that my curiosity and testimony grows.