Dreams given to members of Joseph Smith’s family helped prepare them for the challenges and trials that they would face in coming years. An anticipation of the gospel was planted in their hearts by inspired dreams which made the Restoration that much more precious to them. When young Joseph shared his visions and revelations, his family members were ready to believe and sustain him.
The Prophet Joseph was raised in an extended family who believed in divinely inspired visions and dreams. Latter-day Saint scholar Richard Lloyd Anderson argues that Joseph Smith “was immersed in genuine spirituality central in the lives of his grandparents, parents, and many of their brothers and sisters.”1 Their spiritual experiences served to bind the family in a common purpose. One night, for example, Solomon Mack, Joseph’s maternal grandfather, saw a light and heard a voice calling his name. This experience was instrumental in Mack’s conversion to Christ.2
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Prior to Joseph’s birth, his aunt Lovisa (one of Solomon Mack’s daughters) was bedridden with a terrible sickness during which she was blessed with a vision or a dream.3 Her subsequent words of exhortation had a deep effect on the faith of her younger sister Lucy who attended to her throughout her illness. Lucy, who later married and became the prophet’s mother,4 also received dreams that prepared her to support her son in his work.5 Lucy’s dreams greatly comforted her and prepared her mind and heart to receive the restored gospel.6
Lucy’s husband, Joseph Smith Sr., also received a series of inspired dreams that prepared him to embrace the restored gospel and his son’s prophetic calling. His dreams (which were received before the spring of 1820) were recorded by his wife, and at least two of them appear to relate to his son’s future mission.7 Dreams helped prepare Joseph Smith Sr. to accept what his son learned directly from the Savior—that the religions of the world were in a general state of apostasy. Scholar Richard L. Bushman explains that Joseph Senior’s dreams show both “a profound skepticism about the authenticity of the churches” and “a visionary yearning to find God and salvation.” Thus, he was “open to forms of religion that the educated Protestant clergy considered outlandish or heretical”—which is perhaps a fitting description of the religious truths restored through his son.8
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The Prophet Joseph did not record what effect his family’s dreams had on his beliefs. Certainly, his confidence in dreams as divine manifestations was initially rooted in the experience and faith of his mother and father.9 In the words of historian Mark L. McConkie, “What better place to raise a prophet than in the home of a prophet [and a prophetess]?”10 Indeed, the dreams of the Prophet’s immediate and extended family turned their hearts to each other and to the Lord, preparing them to accept and support Joseph Smith Jr. as the Lord’s ordained prophet.
“Traveling in an Open, Barren Field”
Joseph Smith Sr. (Related by Lucy Mack Smith)
[This dream was received prior to Joseph Smith’s First Vision.]
One night my husband retired to his bed, in a very thoughtful state of mind, contemplating the situation of the Christian religion, or the confusion and discord that were extant. He soon fell into a sleep, and before waking had the following vision, which I shall relate in his own words just as he told it to me the next morning:
“I seemed to be traveling in an open, barren field, and as I was traveling, I turned my eyes towards the east, the west, the north, and the south, but could see nothing save dead, fallen timber. Not a vestige of life, either animal or vegetable, could be seen; besides, to render the scene still more dreary, the most deathlike silence prevailed; no sound of anything animate could be heard in all the field.
“I was alone in this gloomy desert, with the exception of an attendant spirit, who kept constantly by my side. Of him I inquired the meaning of what I saw, and why I was thus travelling in such a dismal place. He answered thus: ‘This field is the world which now lieth inanimate and dumb, in regard to the true religion, or plan of salvation; but travel on, and by the wayside you will find on a certain log a box, the contents of which, if you eat thereof, will make you wise, and give unto you wisdom and understanding.’
“I carefully observed what was told me by my guide, and proceeding a short distance, I came to the box. I immediately took it up, and placed it under my left arm. Then with eagerness I raised the lid, and began to taste of its contents; upon which all manner of beasts, horned cattle, and roaring animals, rose up on every side in the most threatening manner possible, tearing the earth, tossing their horns, and bellowing most terrifically all around me, and they finally came so close upon me, that I was compelled to drop the box, and fly for my life. Yet, in the midst of all this I was perfectly happy, though I awoke trembling.”
From this forward my husband seemed more confirmed than ever in the opinion that there was no order or class of religionists that knew any more concerning the kingdom of God, than those of the world, or such as made no profession of religion whatever.
Source: Lucy Mack Smith, Lucy’s Book, 294–96.
“A Fruit so Delicious”
Joseph Smith Sr. (Related by Lucy Mack Smith)
In 1811, we moved from Royalton, Vermont, to the town of Lebanon, New Hampshire. Soon after arriving here, my husband received another very singular vision, which I will relate:—
“I thought,” said he, “I was travelling in an open, desolate field, which appeared to be very barren. As I was thus travelling, the thought suddenly came into my mind that I had better stop and reflect upon what I was doing, before I went any further. So I asked myself, ‘What motive can I have in travelling here, and what place can this be?’ My guide, who was by my side, as before, said, ‘This is the desolate world; but travel on.’ The road was so broad and barren that I wondered why I should travel in it; for, said I to myself, ‘Broad is the road, and wide is the gate that leads to death, and many there be that walk therein; but narrow is the way, and straight is the gate that leads to everlasting life, and few there be that go in thereat.’ Travelling a short distance further, I came to a narrow path. This path I entered, and, when I had travelled a little way in it, I beheld a beautiful stream of water which ran from the east to the west. Of this stream I could see neither the source nor yet the termination; but as far as my eyes could extend I could see a rope, running along the bank of it, about as high as a man could reach, and beyond me was a low, but very pleasant valley, in which stood a tree such as I, had never seen before. It was exceedingly handsome, insomuch that I looked upon it with wonder and admiration. Its beautiful branches spread themselves somewhat like an umbrella, and it bore a kind of fruit, in shape much like a chestnut bur, and as white as snow, or, if possible, whiter. I gazed upon the same with considerable interest, and as I was doing so, the burs or shells commenced opening and shedding their particles, or the fruit which they contained, which was of dazzling whiteness. I drew near, and began to eat of it, and I found it delicious beyond description. As I was eating, I said in my heart, ‘I cannot eat this alone, I must bring my wife and children, that they may partake with me.’ Accordingly, I went and brought my family, which consisted of a wife and seven children, and we all commenced eating and praising God for this blessing. We were exceedingly happy, insomuch that our joy could not easily be expressed. While thus engaged, I beheld a spacious building standing opposite the valley which we were in, and it appeared to reach to the very heavens. It was full of doors and windows, and they were all filled with people, who were very finely dressed. When these people observed us in the low valley, under the tree, they pointed the finger of scorn at us, and treated us with all manner of disrespect and contempt. But their contumely we utterly disregarded. I presently turned to my guide, and inquired of him the meaning of the fruit that was so delicious. He told me it was the pure love of God, shed abroad in the hearts of all those who love him, and keep his commandments. He then commanded me to go and bring the rest of my children. I told him that we were all there. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘look yonder, you have two more, and you must bring them also.’ Upon raising my eyes, I saw two small children standing some distance off. I immediately went to them, and brought them to the tree; upon which they commenced eating with the rest, and we all rejoiced together. The more we [ate], the more we seemed to desire, until we even got down upon our knees, and scooped it up, eating it by double handfulls. After feasting in this manner a short time, I asked my guide what was the meaning of the spacious building which I saw. He replied, ‘It is Babylon, it is Babylon, and it must fall. The people in the doors and windows are the inhabitants thereof, who scorn and despise the Saints of God, because of their humility.’ I soon awoke, clapping my hands together for joy.”
Source: Lucy Mack Smith, Lucy’s Book, 296–98.
“I Was Now Made Quite Whole”
Joseph Smith Sr. (Related by Lucy Mack Smith)
“I thought I was walking alone; I was much fatigued, nevertheless, I continued traveling. It seemed to me that I was going to meeting, that it was the Day of Judgment, and that I was going to be judged.
“When I came in sight of the meetinghouse, I saw multitudes of people coming from every direction, and pressing with great anxiety towards the door of this great building; but I thought I should get there in time, hence there was no need of being in a hurry. But, on arriving at the door, I found it shut. I knocked for admission and was informed by the porter that I had come too late. I felt exceedingly troubled and prayed earnestly for admittance.
“Presently I found that my flesh was perishing. I continued to pray, still my flesh withered upon my bones. I was in a state of almost total despair, when the porter asked me if I had done all that was necessary in order to receive admission. I replied that I had done all that was in my power to do. ‘Then,’ observed the porter, ‘justice must be satisfied; after this, mercy hath her claims.’
“It then occurred to me to call upon God, in the name of his Son Jesus; and I cried out, in the agony of my soul, ‘Oh, Lord God, I beseech thee, in the name of Jesus Christ, to forgive my sins.’ After which I felt considerably strengthened and I began to mend. The porter or angel then remarked that it was necessary to plead the merits of Jesus, for he was the advocate with the Father, and a Mediator between God and man.
“I was now made quite whole and the door was opened, but on entering, I awoke.”
Source: Lucy Mack Smith, Revised and Enhanced History, 89–90.
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“Yielding to the Gospel”
Lucy Mack Smith
While we were yet living in the town of Tunbridge [Vermont], my mind became deeply impressed with the subject of religion, which probably was occasioned by my singular experience during my sickness at Randolph. I commenced attending Methodist meetings and endeavored to persuade my husband to attend with me. . . .
As soon as his father and Brother Jesse heard that we were attending Methodist meetings, they were much displeased. . . . Accordingly, my husband requested me not to go, as he considered it hardly worth our while to attend any longer, and it would prove of but little advantage to us, and it gave our friends such disagreeable feelings.
I was very much hurt by this, but did not reply to him then. I retired to a grove of handsome wild cherry trees not far distant and prayed to the Lord that he would influence the heart of my husband that it might be softened so as to receive the true gospel whenever it was preached, or that he might become more religiously inclined. After praying some time in this manner, I returned to the house much depressed in spirit, which state of feeling continued until I retired to my bed. That night I had the following dream:
I thought that I stood in a large and beautiful meadow, which lay a short distance from the house in which we lived, and that everything around me wore an aspect of peculiar pleasantness. The first thing that attracted my special attention in this magnificent meadow was a very pure and clear stream of water which ran through the midst of it; and as I traced this stream, I discovered two trees standing upon its margin, both of which were on the same side of the stream. These trees were very beautiful. They were well proportioned, and towered with majestic beauty to a great height. Their branches, which added to their symmetry and glory, commenced near the top and spread themselves in luxurious grandeur around. I gazed upon them with wonder and admiration, and after beholding them a short time, I saw one of them was surrounded with a bright belt that shone like burnished gold, but far more brilliantly. Presently, a gentle breeze passed by, and the tree encircled with this golden zone bent gracefully before the wind and waved its beautiful branches in the light air. As the wind increased, this tree assumed the most lively and animated appearance and seemed to express in its motions the utmost joy and happiness. If it had been an intelligent creature, it could not have conveyed by the power of language the idea of joy and gratitude so perfectly as it did; and even the stream that rolled beneath it shared, apparently, every sensation felt by the tree, for, as the branches danced over the stream, it would swell gently, then recede again with a motion as soft as the breathing of an infant, but as lively as the dancing of a sunbeam. The belt also partook of the same influence, and, as it moved in unison with the motion of the stream and of the tree, it increased continually in refulgence and magnitude until it became exceedingly glorious.
I turned my eyes upon its fellow, which stood opposite; but it was not surrounded with the belt of light as the former, and it stood erect and fixed as a pillar of marble. No matter how strong the wind blew over it, not a leaf was stirred, not a bough was bent, but obstinately stiff it stood, scorning alike the zephyr’s breath, or the power of the mighty storm.
I wondered at what I saw, and said in my heart, What can be the meaning of all this? And the interpretation given me was that these personated my husband and his oldest brother, Jesse Smith; that the stubborn and unyielding tree was like Jesse; that the other, more pliant and flexible, was like Joseph, my husband; that the breath of heaven, which passed over them, was the pure and undefiled gospel of the Son of God, which gospel Jesse would always resist, but which Joseph, when he was more advanced in life, would hear and receive with his whole heart and rejoice therein; and unto him would be added intelligence, happiness, glory, and everlasting life.
Source: Lucy Mack Smith, Revised and Enhanced History, 58–60.
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1. Richard Lloyd Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, 88.
2. See Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, 23–24; Solomon Mack died in August of 1820, so he did not live to see the Book of Mormon published or the LDS Church organized. There is no record indicating that he heard of Joseph Smith Jr.’s “First Vision.”
3. See Lucy Mack Smith, Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, 17–18.
4. See Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, 17.
5. See Lucy Mack Smith, Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, 58–60.
6. Lucy Mack Smith, Lucy’s Book, 277–80.
7. Lucy Mack Smith, Lucy’s Book, 296–97.
8. Larry C. Porter and Susan Easton Black, The Prophet Joseph, 12.
9. See Richard Lloyd Anderson, “Heritage of a Prophet,” 15–19.
10. Mark L. McConkie, The Father of the Prophet, 4.
Read more remarkable accounts of revelatory dreams and learn how God speaks to us through dreams in Dreams as Revelation.
Many times, the Lord's involvement with His children takes the form of significant dreams and visions.
In Dreams as Revelation, BYU Church history professors Mary Jane Woodger, Ken Alford, and Craig Manscill share prophetic guidance and other counsel to help readers recognize when a dream is revelatory in nature.
With a foreword by Robert L. Millet, this book includes chapters about scriptural dreams, dreams in Joseph Smith's family, as well as original accounts of carefully selected dreams received throughout our dispensation, including dreams of the Savior, temple work, comfort, and more. In addition to being personally applicable for how to better understand your own revelatory dreams, this interesting and informative book is a valuable resource for talks, lessons, and family home evenings.