The prophet Joseph Smith would not have been the man God needed him to be without the help of others and without the events that shaped his life. Many historical events during or before the restoration of the Church influenced Joseph Smith and opened the way for new revelation. The Mormon Channel recently released a new podcast series discussing the Church’s groundbreaking new history, Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter-days. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about the restoration of the gospel from this new podcast and book:
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1. The eruption of a volcano in Indonesia was instrumental in Joseph Smith receiving the gold plates.
The most destructive explosion on earth in the past 10,000 years occurred in 1815 when the volcano Tambora erupted on the Indonesian island Sumbawa, according to Smithsonian Magazine. This eruption caused severe weather changes across the globe. It was a year without summer, and as a result, the Smith family’s crops failed and the family was forced to relocate to New York, where Joseph Smith later saw God the Father and His Son in a miraculous vision and received the gold plates by following the direction of the angel Moroni.
2. Lucy courageously defended her family from a man who attempted to steal their wagon and horses.
While traveling with her eight children to join her husband in Palmyra, Lucy Mack Smith hired a man named Mr. Howard to drive their wagon. Mr. Howard not only used the money they paid him to gamble and drink, he also attempted to steal from the Smiths. One day, Lucy heard from her older son, Alvin, that Mr. Howard threw their luggage in the street and left with their horses and wagon. Lucy decided to confront Mr. Howard. Here is an account from Saint: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter-days:
“Lucy found the man in a bar. ‘As there is a God in heaven’ she declared, ‘that wagon and those horses as well as the goods accompanying them are mine.’ She looked around the bar. It was filled with men and women, most of them were travelers like her. ‘This man,’ she said, meeting their gaze, ‘is determined to take away from me every means of proceeding on my journey, leaving me with eight little children utterly destitute.’ Mr. Howard said that he had already spent the money she paid him to drive the wagon, and he could go no farther. ‘I have no use for you,’ Lucy said. ‘I shall take charge of the team myself.’ She left Mr. Howard in the bar and vowed to reunite her children with their father, come what may.”
3. Joseph Smith first heard James 1:5 in a sermon.
When the Smith family settled in Palmyra, New England was seized by an “unusual excitement on the subject of religion” (Joseph Smith—History 1:5). Different churches were competing for converts. Joseph Smith Sr., who had several spiritual experiences in his early life, was influenced by his father–who did not believe in organized religion—and chose not attend a particular denomination. Lucy, on the other hand, attended the Presbyterian Church with some of her children. Seeing his family divided by religion, Joseph Smith Jr. was eager to know the truth. One day, he heard a minster share a scripture in a sermon, saying, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” He read this verse again at home and decided to act on the words of James.
“For him, seeking after the true church, and seeking after the truth was a matter of his own soul, and was a matter of his own salvation. It was also a matter of putting his family together; helping his family unite in something he knew was of eternal significance,” historian Lisa Olsen Tait said in the podcast.
4. Joseph Smith received a seer stone before the angel Moroni visited him.
In the 19th century, many people held a strong cultural belief that God would speak through objects, such as seer stones. Days before the angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith for the first time, Joseph and his brother Alvin were digging a well for a neighbor, and he found a small stone buried in the ground. Joseph wondered if this particular stone could be a seer stone, and later revelations he received through it confirmed this fact. Word quickly spread that Joseph was a seer.