Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions/Golden Plates
And it pleased God, on the evening of the 21st of September, A.D. 1823, to again hear his prayers. For he had retired to rest, as usual, only that his mind was drawn out in fervent prayer, and his soul was filled with the most earnest desire "to commune with some kind messenger, who could communicate to him the desired information of his acceptance with God" and also unfold the principles of the doctrine of Christ, according to the promise which he had received in the former vision.
While he thus continued to pour out his desires before the Father of all good, endeavoring to exercise faith in his precious promises,
- "on a sudden a light like that of day, only of a purer and far more glorious appearance and brightness, burst into the room. Indeed, the first sight was as though the house was filled with consuming 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 not overwhelming rapture of joy, that surpassed understanding, and in a moment, a personage stood before him."
Notwithstanding the brightness of the light which previously illuminated the room,
- "yet there seemed to be an additional glory surrounding or accompanying this personage, which shone with an increased degree of brilliancy, of which he was in the midst; and though his continence was as lightning, yet it was of a pleasing, innocent, and glorious appearance; so much so that every fear was banished from the hear and nothing but calmness pervaded the soul".
- "The stature of this personage was a little above the common size of men in this age; his garment was perfectly white and had the appearance of being without seam."
This glorious being declared himself to be an Angel of God, sent forth by commandment, to communicate to him that his sins were forgiven and that his prayers were heard; and also to bring joyful tidings that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel, concerning their posterity, was at hand to be fulfilled; that the great preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the gospel, in its fullness, to be preached in power unto all nations; that a people might be prepared with faith and righteousness, for the Millennial reign of universal peace and joy.
He was informed that he was called and chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God, to bring about some of his marvelous purposes in this glorious dispensation. It was also made manifest to him that the "American Indians" were a remnant of Israel. That when they first emigrated to America they were an enlightened people, possessing a knowledge of the true God, enjoying his favor and peculiar blessings from his hand. That the prophets and inspired writers among them were required to keep a sacred history of the most important events transpiring among them. Which history was handed down for many generations, till at length they fell into great wickedness, the most part of them were destroyed, and the records (by commandment of God to one of the last prophets among them) were safely deposited, to preserve them from the hands of the wicked who sought to destroy them.
He was informed that the records contained many sacred revelations pertaining to the gospel of the kingdom as well as the prophecies relating to the great events of the last days, and that to fulfill his promises to the ancients, who wrote the records, and to accomplish his purposes in the restitution of their children, &c, they were to come forth to the knowledge of the people. If faithful, he was to be the instrument who should be thus highly favored in bringing these sacred things to light. At the same time, being expressly informed, that it must be done with an eye single to the glory of God, that no one could be entrusted with those sacred writings who should endeavor to aggrandize himself, by converting sacred things to unrighteous and speculative purposes.
After giving him many instructions concerning things past and to come, which would be foreign to our purpose to mention here, he disappeared. And the light and glory of God withdrew leaving his mind in perfect peace, while a calmness and serenity indescribable pervaded the soul. But, before morning, the vision was twice renewed, instructing him further and still further concerning the great work of God about to be performed on the earth.
In the morning he went out to his labor as usual, but soon the vision was renewed. The Angel appeared, and having been informed by the previous visions of the night concerning the place where those records were deposited, he was instructed to go immediately and view them.
Accordingly, he repaired to the place, a brief description of which shall be given, in the words of a gentleman by the name of Oliver Cowdery, who has visited the spot:
- "As you pass on the mail-road from Palmyra, Wayne County, to Canandaigua, Ontario County, New York, before arriving at the little village of Manchester, say from three to four, or about four miles from Palmyra, you pass a large hill on the east side of the road. Why I say large, is because it is as large perhaps as any in that country.
- "The north end rises quite suddenly until it assumes a level with the more southerly extremity, and I think I must say, an elevation higher than at the south, a short distance, say half or three-fourths of a mile. As you pass towards Canandaigua, it lessens gradually until the surface assumes its common level, or is broken by other smaller hills or ridges, water courses and ravines. I think I am justified in say that this is the highest hill for some distance around, and I am certain that its appearance, as it rises so suddenly from the plain on the north, must attract the notice of the traveler as he passes by.
- "The north end," which as been described as rising suddenly from the plain, forms "a promontory without timber, but covered with grass. As you pass to the south, you soon come to scattering timber, the surface having been cleared by art or wind; and a short distance further left you are surrounded with common forest of the country. It is necessary to observe that even the part cleared was only occupied for pasturage: its steep ascent and narrow summit not admitting the plow of the husbandman with any degree of ease or profit. It was at the second mentioned place where the record was found to be deposited, on the west side of the hill, not far from the top down its side; and when myself visited the place in the year 1830, there were several trees standing -- enough to cause a shade in summer but not so much as to prevent the surface being covered with grass -- which was also the case when the record was first found.
- "How far below the surface these records were (anciently) placed, I am unable to say. But from the fact that they had been some fourteen hundred years buried, and that too on the side of a hill so steep, one is ready to conclude that they were some feet below, as the earth would naturally wear more or less in that length of time. But they, being placed toward the top of the hill, the ground would not remove as much as two-thirds, perhaps.
- "Another circumstance would prevent a wearing of the earth: in all probability as soon as timber had time to grow, the hill was covered and the roots of the same would hold the surface. However, on this point, I shall leave every man to draw his own conclusion and form is own speculation."
- But suffice to say "a hole of sufficient depth was dug. At the bottom of this was laid a stone of suitable size, the upper surface being smooth. At each edge was placed a large quantity of cement, and into this cement, at the four edges of this stone, were placed erect four others: their bottom edges resting in the cement, at the outer edges of the first stone.
- "The four last named, when placed erect, formed a box. The corners, or where the edges of the four came in contact, were also cemented so firmly that the moisture from without was prevented from entering. It is to be observed also that the inner surfaces of the four erect, or side stones, were smooth. This box was sufficiently large to admit a breastplate, such as was used by the ancients, to defend the chest, &c., from the arrows and weapons of their enemy. From the bottom of the box, or from the breastplate, arose three small pillars, composed of the same description of cement used on the edges, an upon these three pillars were placed the records.
- "This box, containing the records, was covered with another stone, the bottom surface being flat, and the upper crowning." When it was first visited by Mr. Smith, on the morning of the 22nd of September 1823, "a part of the crowning stone was visible above the surface while the edges were concealed by the soil and grass." From which circumstance, it may be seen "that however deep this box might have been placed at first, the time had been sufficient to wear the earth, so that it was easily discovered when once directed and yet not enough to make a perceivable difference to the passer-by.
- "After arriving at the repository, a little exertion in removing the soil from the edges of the top of the box, and a light pry, brought to his natural vision its contents." While viewing and contemplating this sacred treasure with wonder and astonishment, behold! The Angel of the Lord, who had previously visited him, again stood in his presence. And his soul was again enlightened as it was the evening before, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. And the heavens were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about and rested upon him. While he thus stood gazing and admiring, the Angel said Look! And as he thus spake, he beheld the Prince of Darkness, surrounded by his innumerable train of associates. All this passed before him, and the heavenly messenger said "All this is shown, the good and the evil, the holy and impure, the glory of God, and the power of darkness, that you may now hereafter the two powers, and never be influenced or overcome by that wicked one.
- "Behold, whatsoever enticeth and leadeth to good and do good, is of God. And whatsoever doth not, is of the wicked one. It is he that filleth the hearts of men with evil, to walk in darkness and blaspheme God; and you may learn from henceforth that his ways are to destruction, but the way of holiness is peace and rest. You cannot at this time obtain this record, for the commandment of God is strict, and if ever these sacred things are obtained, they must be by prayer and faithfulness in obeying the Lord.
- "They are not deposited here for the sake of accumulating gain and wealth for the glory of this world; they were sealed by the prayer of faith, and because of the knowledge which they contain. They are of no worth among the children of men, only for their knowledge.
- "On them is contained the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as it was given to his people on this land, and when it shall be brought forth by the power of God, it shall be carried to the Gentiles, of whom many will receive it, and after will the seed of Israel be brought into the fold of their Redeemer by obeying it also.
- "Those who kept the commandments of the Lord on this land, desired this at his hand and through the prayer of faith obtained the promise, that if their descendants should transgress and fall away, that a record should be kept, and in the last days come ot their children.
- "These things are sacred and must be kept so, for the promise of the Lord concerning them must be fulfilled. No man can obtain them if his heart is impure, because they contain that which is sacred." * * * "By them will the Lord work a great and marvelous work, the wisdom of the wise shall become as naught, and the understanding of the prudent shall be hid, and because of the power of God shall be displayed, those who profess to know the truth, but walk in deceit, shall tremble with anger; but with signs and with wonders, with gifts and with healings, with the manifestations of the power of God, and with the Holy Ghost, shall the hearts of the faithful be comforted.
- "You have now beheld the power of God manifested, and the power of Satan. You see that there is nothing desirable in the works of darkness, that they cannot bring happiness, and those who are overcome therewith are miserable. While on the other hand, the righteous are blessed with a place in the kingdom of God, where joy unspeakable surrounds them. There they rest beyond the power of the enemy of truth, where no evil can disturb them. The glory of God crowns them and they continually feast upon his goodness, and enjoy his smiles.
- "Behold, notwithstanding you have seen this great display of power by which you may ever be able to detect the evil one, yet I give unto you another sign, and when it comes to pass then know that the Lord is God, and that he will fulfill his purposes, and that the knowledge which this record contains will go to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people under the whole heaven.
- "This is the sign: when these things begin to be known, that is, when it is known that the Lord has shown you these things, the workers of iniquity will seek to overthrow. They will circulate falsehoods to destroy your reputation and also will seek to take your life. But remember this: if you are faithful and shall hereafter continue to keep the commandments of the Lord, you shall be preserved to bring these things forth, for in due time he will give you a commandment to come and take them.
- "When they are interpreted, the Lord will give the hold priesthood to some, and they shall begin to proclaim this gospel and baptize by water. And after that they shall have power to give the Holy Ghost by the laying on of their hands. Then will persecution rage more and more; for the iniquities of men shall be revealed. And those who are not built upon the Rock will seek to overthrow the church. But it will increase the more opposed and spread farther and farther, increasing in knowledge till they shall be sanctified and receive an inheritance where the glory of God will rest upon them. And when this takes place, and all things are prepared, the ten tribes of Israel will be revealed in the north country, whither they have been for a long season, and when this is fulfilled will be brought to pass that saying of the prophet 'And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord.' But notwithstanding the workers of iniquity shall seek your destruction, the arm of the Lord will be extended and you will be borne off conqueror if you keep all his commandments.
- "Your name shall be known among the nations, for the work which the Lord will perform by your hands shall cause the righteous to rejoice and the wicked to rage; with the one it shall be had in honor, and with the other in reproach; yet with these it shall be a terror, because of the great and marvelous work which shall follow the coming forth of this fullness of the gospel. Now, go they way, remembering what the Lord has done for thee, and be diligent in keeping his commandments, and he will deliver thee from temptations and all the arts and devices of the wicked one. Forget not to pray, that thy mind may become strong, that when he shall manifest unto thee, thou mayest have power to escape the evil and obtain these precious things."
We here remark that the above quotation is an extract from a letter written by Elder Oliver Cowdery, which was published in one of the numbers of the "Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate".
Although many more instructions were given by the mouth of the angel to Mr. Smith, which we do not write in this book, yet most of the important items are contained in the foregoing relation. During the period of the four following years, he frequently received instruction from the mouth of the heavenly messenger. And on the morning of the 22nd of September, A.D. 1827, the angel of the Lord delivered the records into his hands.
These records were engraved on plates, which had the appearance of gold. Each plate was not far from seven by eight inches in width and length, being not quite as thick as common tin. They were filled on both sides with engravings, in Egyptian characters, and bound together in a volume, as the leaves of a book, and fastened at one edge with three rings running through the whole. This volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed. The characters or letters upon the unsealed part were small and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction, as well as much skill in the art of engraving.
With the records was found "a curious instrument, called by the ancients the Urim and Thummim, which consisted of two transparent stones, clear as crystal, set in the two rimes of a bow. This was in use, in ancient times, by persons called seers. It was an instrument by the use of which they received revelation of things distant or of things past or future."
In the mean time, the inhabitants of that vicinity, have been informed that Mr. Smith had seen heavenly visions, and that he had discovered sacred records, began to ridicule and mock at those things. And after having obtained those sacred things, while proceeding home through the wilderness and fields, he was waylaid by two ruffians who had secreted themselves for the purpose of robbing him of the records.
One of them struck him with a club before he perceived them, but the other being a strong man and large in stature, with great exertion he cleared himself from them and ran towards home, being closely pursued until he came near his father's house, when his pursuers, for fear of being detected, turned and fled the other way.
Soon the news of is discoveries spread abroad throughout all of those parts. False reports, misrepresentations, and base slanders flew as if upon the wings of the wind in every direction. The house was frequently beset by mobs and evil designing persons. Several times he was shot at, and very narrowly escaped. Every device was used to get the plates away from him. And being continually in danger of his life, from a gang of abandoned wretches, he at length concluded to leave the place and go to Pennsylvania, and accordingly packed up his goods, putting the plates into a barrel of beans, and proceeded upon his jour-ney.
He had not gone far, before he was overtaken by an officer with a search warrant, who flattered himself with the idea that he should surely obtain the plates. After searching very diligently, he was sadly disappointed at not finding them. Mr. Smith then drove on, but before he got to his journey's end he was again overtaken by an officer on the same business, and after ransacking the wagon very carefully, he went his way as much chagrined as the first, at not being able to discover the object of his research. Without any further molestation, he pursued his journey until he came into the northern part of Pennsylvania, near the Susquehannah river, in which part his father-in-law resided.
Having provided himself with a home, he commenced translating the record, by the gift and power of God, through the means of the Urim and Thummim. And being a poor writer, he was under the necessity of employing a scribe, to write the translation as it came from his mouth.