Joseph Smith Obtains the Plates

This is another section from “The Prophet and His Progenitors for Many Generations” written by Lucy Mack Smith, the mother of Joseph Smith. The book was published in 1853 in Liverpool. The original ghost writer of this book is Martha Jane Knowlton Coray. Edits were later made to this book and republished as the History of Joseph Smith by His Mother. This below shall be transcribed from the original publication.



On the twentieth of September, Mr. Knight and his friend Stoal, came to see how we were managing matters with Stoddard and Co.; and they tarried with us until the twenty-second. On the night of the twenty-first, I sat up very late, as my work rather pressed upon my hands. I did not retire until after twelve o’clock at night. About twelve o’clock, Joseph came to me, and asked me if I had a chest with a lock and key. I knew in an instant what he wanted it for, and not having one, I was greatly alarmed, as I thought it might be a matter of considerable moment. But Joseph, discovering my anxiety, said, “Never mind, I can do very well for the present without it–be calm–all is right.”

Shortly after this, Joseph’s wife passed through the room with her bonnet and riding dress; and in a few minutes they left together, taking Mr. Knight’s horse and waggon. I spent the night in prayer and supplication to God, for the anxiety of my mind would not permit me to sleep. At the usual hour, I commenced preparing breakfast. My heart fluttered at every footstep, as I now expected Joseph and Emma momentarily, and feared lest Joseph might meet with a second disappointment.

When the male portion of the family were seated at the breakfast table, Mr. Smith enquired for Joseph, for he was not aware that he had left home. I requested my husband not to call him, for I would like to have him take breakfast with his wife that morning.

“No, no;” said my husband, “I must have Joseph sit down here and eat with me,”

“Well, now, Mr. Smith,” continued I, “do let him eat with his wife this morning; he almost always takes breakfast with you.”

His father finally consented, and eat without him, and no further inquiries were made concerning his absence, but in a few minutes Mr. Knight came in quite disturbed.

“Why, Mr. Smith,” exclaimed he, “my horse is gone, and I can’t find him on the premises, and I wish to start for home in half an hour.”

“Never mind the horse,” said I. “Mr. Knight does not know all the nooks and corners in the pastures; I will call William, he will bring the horse immediately.”

This satisfied him for the time being; but he soon made another discovery. His waggon also was gone. He then concluded, that a rogue had stolen them both.

“Mr. Knight,” said I, “do be quite; I would be ashamed to have you go about, waiting upon yourself–just go out and talk with Mr. Smith until William comes, and if you really must go home, your horse shall be brought, and you shall be waited upon like a gentleman. He accordingly went out, and while he was absent Joseph returned.

I trembled so with fear, lest all might be lost in consequence of some failure in keeping the commandments of God, that I was under the necessity of leaving the room in order to conceal my feelings. Joseph saw this, and said, “Do not be uneasy mother, all is right–see here, I have got a key.”

I knew not what he meant, but took the article of which he spoke into my hands, and, upon examination, found that it consisted of two smooth three cornered diamonds set in glass, and the glasses were set in silver bows, which were connected with each other in much the same way as old fashioned spectacles. He took them again and left me, but said nothing respecting the Record.

In a short time he returned, and inquired of me in regard to getting a chest made. I told him to go to a certain cabinent-maker, who had made some furniture for my oldest daughter, and tell him that we would pay him for making a chest, as we did for the other work which he had done for us, namely, one half in cash and the other in produce.

Joseph remarked that he would do so, but that he did not know where the money would come from, for there was not a shilling in the house.

The following day one Mr. Warner came to him, and told him that a widow by the name of Wells, who was living in Macedon, wanted some labour done in a well, for which she would pay the money, and that she was anxious to have him (Joseph) do this labour for her. As this afforded us an opportunity to pay the cabinet maker for the chest, Joseph went immediately to the house of Mrs. Wells, and commenced work.

The next day after he left home, one of the neighbours asked Mr. Smith many questions concerning the plates. I will here observe, that no one ever heard anything from us respecting them, except a confidential friend, whom my husband had spoken to about them some two or three years previous. It appeared that Satan had now stirred up the hearts of those who had gotten a hint of the matter from our friend, to search into it, an make every possible move towards thwarting the purposes of the Almighty.

My husband soon learned that ten or twelve men were clubbed together, with one Willard Chase, a Methodist class leader, at their head; and what was still more ridiculous, they had sent sixty or seventy miles for a certain conjuror, to come and divine the place where the plates where secreted.

We supposed that Joseph had taken the plates, and hid them somewhere, and we were apprehensive that our enemies might discover their place of deposit. Accordingly, the next morning, after hearing of their plans, my husband concluded to go among the neighbours to see what he could learn with regard to the plans of the adverse party. The first house he came to, he found the conjuror and Willard Chase, together with the rest of the clan. Making an errand, he went in and sat down near the door, leaving it a little ajar, in order to overhear their conversation. They stood in the yard near the door, and were devising plans to find “Joe Smith’s gold bible,” as they expressed themselves. The conjuror seemed much animated, although he had travelled sixty miles the day and night previous.

Presently, the woman of the house, becoming uneasy at the exposures they were making, stepped through a back door into the yard, and called to her husband, in a suppressed tone, but loud enough to be heard distinctly by Mr. Smith, “Sam, Sam, you are cutting your own throat.” At this the conjuror bawled out of the top of his voice, “I am not afraid of any body — we will have them plates in spite of Joe Smith or all the devils in hell.”

When the woman came in again, Mr. Smith laid aside a newspaper which he had been holding in his hand, and remarked, “I believe I have not the time to finish reading the paper now.” He then left the house and returned home.

Mr. Smith, on returning home, asked Emma, if she knew whether Joseph had taken the plates from their place of deposit, or if she was able to tell him where they were. She said, she could not tell where they were, or whether they were removed from their place. My husband then related what he had both seen and heard.

Upon this Emma said, that she did not know what to do, but she supposed if Joseph was to get the Record, he would get it, and, that they would not be able to prevent him.

“Yes,” replied Mr. Smith, “he will, if he is watchful and obedient; but remember, that for a small thing, Esau lost his birthright and his blessing. It may be so with Joseph.”

“Well,” said Emma, “if I had a horse I would go and see him.”

Mr. Smith then said, “you shall have one in fifteen minutes, for although my team is gone, there is a stray on the place, and I will send William to bring him immediately.”

In a few minutes William brought up the horse with a large hickory withe round his neck (for it was according to law, to put a withe round the neck of a stray before turning it into an enclosure;) and Emma was soon under way for Macedon.

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. Just before Emma rode up to Mrs. Wells, Joseph, from an impression that he had had, came up out of the well in which he was labouring, and met her not far from the house. Emma immediately informed him of what had transpired, whereupon he looked in the Urim and Thummim, and saw that the Record was as yet safe; nevertheless, he concluded to return with his wife, as something might take place that would render it necessary for him to be at home where he could take care of it.

He then told Mrs. Wells that business at home rendered it necessary for him to return. To this she did not agree at first, but finally consented. She then sent a boy for a horse, which Joseph mounted in his linen frock, and with his wife by his side on her horse decorated as before with a hickory withe round his neck, he rode through the village of Palmyra, which was on the way home.

On arriving at home, he found, his father pacing the ground near his door in great anxiety of mind. Joseph spoke to him, saying, “Father, there is no danger–all is perfectly safe–there is no cause of alarm.”

When he had taken a little refreshement, he sent Carlos, my youngest son, to his brother Hyrum’s, to have him come up immediately, as he desired to see him. When he came, Joseph requested him to get a chest, have a good lock and key, and to have it there by the time he (Joseph) should return. And, after giving these instructions, Joseph started for the plates.

The plates were secreted about three miles from home, in the following manner. Finding an old burch log much decayed, excepting the bark, which was in measure sound, he took his pocket knife and cut the bark with some care, then turned it back, and made a hole of sufficient size to receive the plates, and laying them in the cavity thus formed, he replaced the bark; after which he laid across the log, in several places, some old stuff that happened to lay near, in order to conceal, as much as possible, the place in which they were deposited.

Joseph, on coming to them, took them from their secret place, and, wrapping them in his linen frock, placed them under his arm and started for home.

After proceeding a short distance, he thought it would be more safe to leave the road and go through the woods. Travelling 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 it, and gave him a heavy blow with a gun. Joseph turned around and knocked him down, then ran at the top of his speed. About half a mile further he was attacked again in the same manner as before; he knocked this man down in a like manner as the former, and ran on again; and before he reached home he was assaulted the third time. In striking the last one he dislocated his thumb, which, however, he did not notice until he came within sight of the house, when he threw himself down in the corner of the fence in order to recover his breath. As soon as he was able, he arose and came to the house. He was still altogether speechless from fright and the fatigue of running.

After resting a few moments, he desired me to send Carlos for my husband, Mr. Knight, and his friend Stoal, and have them go immediately and see if they could find the men who had been pursuing him. And after Carlos had done this, he wished to have him sent to Hyrum’s, to tell him to bring the chest.

I did as I was requested, and when Carlos arrived at Hyrum’s, he found him at tea, with two of his wife’s sisters. Just as Hyrum was raising a cup to his mouth, Carlos touched his shoulder. Without waiting to hear one word from the child, he dropped the cup, sprang from the table, caught the chest, turned it upside down, and emptying its contents on the floor, left the house instantly with the chest on his shoulder.

The young ladies were greatly astonished at his singular behaviour, and declared to his wife–who was then confined to her bed, her oldest daughter, Lovina, being but four days old–that he was certainly crazy.

His wife laughed heartily, and replied, “Oh, not in the least, he has just thought of something which he has neglected, and it is just like him to fly off in a tangent when he thinks of anything in that way.”

When the chest came, Joseph locked up the Record, then threw himself upon the bed, and after resting a little, so that he could converse freely, he arose and went into the kitchen, where he related his recent adventure to his father, Mr. Knight, and Mr. Stoal, besides many others, who had by this time collected, with the view of hearing something in regard to the strange circumstance which had taken place. He showed them his thumb, saying, “I must stop talking, father, and get you to put my thumb in place, for it is very painful.”

I will here mention that my husband, Mr. Knight, and Mr. Stoal, went in pursuit of those villains who had attempted Joseph’s life, but were not able to find them.

When Joseph first got the plates, the angel of the Lord stood by, and said: —

“Now you have got the Record into your own hands, and you are but a man, therefore you will have to be watchful and faithful to your trust, or you will be overpowered by wicked men, for they will lay every plan and scheme that is possible to get it away from you, and if you do not take heed continually, they will succeed. While it was in my hands, I could keep it, and no man had power to take it away; but now I give it up to you. Beware, and look well to your ways, and you shall have power to retain it, until the time for it to be translated.”

That of which I spoke, which Joseph termed a key, was indeed, nothing more nor less than the Urim and Thummin, and it was by this that the angel showed him many things which he saw in vision; by which he could also ascertain, at any time, the approach of danger, either to himself or the Record, and on account of which he always kept the Urim and Thummim about his person.