This excerpt originally ran on LDS Living in December 2019 and is being shared again in honor of Joseph Smith's birthday.
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. . . .
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In early Church records, there are references to several dreams attributed to Joseph Smith Jr.1 They were recorded by Joseph himself, his clerks, or others who interacted with him. For the most part, Joseph’s dreams include no explanation, by either him or the recorder, concerning their purpose or interpretation. Yet, we know that Joseph viewed dreams as a legitimate channel of revelation, as evidenced in the fact that he recorded his dreams and used them in his public sermons.
Learn more about receiving revelation through dreams in the podcast below:
“Two Snakes Locked Fast Together”
Joseph Smith Jr. (Related by Miles Romney)2
<June 13, 1844>
Joseph Smith the Prophet and Seer gave out An Appointment to preach in the Seventy Hall. About A Week before he was Martyred At Carthage Jail
And When the Meeting Was Convened He Arose and said he did not feel A Disposition to preach being very much oppressed in Spirit So he Appointed George J. Adams to speak in his place . . . After he had done the P[reaching?]/ Prophet Arose and Stated the Reason why he did not speak he felt much oppressed
But he would Relate a Dream that he had the night before Which was in Substance as follows
I He was Riding out by the temple in his Carriage. He had not gone far Whith my g[u]ardian Angel along with him me Which was Always the Case they we had not gone far before they we espeyed [spied] Two Large Snakes So fast Locked together that either of them had no power
I then enquired of my guide what they meant
He said, He Answered Them Snakes, that you see Represents Doctor Foster and C[h]auncey Higbee they are your enemies and Desire to Destroy you But you see they are so fast locked together that they have no power and Can do you no harm
Source: Miles Romney Report.
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“Riding Up Mulholland Street”
Joseph Smith Jr. (Related by Miles Romney)
[William Law, called by the Lord in 1841 (Doctrine and Covenants 124:91) to serve as Joseph Smith’s second counselor in the First Presidency, later turned against the Prophet and published the Nauvoo Expositor with his brother Wilson and others. Miles Romney reported hearing Joseph Smith relate the following dream, and it is written in Joseph’s voice.]
<June 13, 1844>3
He I then Dreamt again that he I was Riding Up Mulholland Street [in Nauvoo, Illinois] But he I had not hismy Conducter along with him me As Always was the case before this time. When he I Came to the edge of the Priare [prairie] Who Should he I see Approaching him me But Wm and Wilson Law Saying . . Ah . . Ah . . Ah . . now we have got you at Last We will secure you and put you in a Safe place. And Without any Ceremony, Dragged Me out of my Carriage. And Let me to the Edge of the Wood W[h]ere they had prepared a Deep Pit for the Purpose They put <me> Down into it Then Turned and went Away.
They had not been gone long . . When I heard them Calling out with all their Might . . Joseph . . Joseph . . Joseph . . Come to our help I repl[i]ed . . You have put me into this Deep pit And I can not get out
I then made a spring And I Caught hold of the grass which was growing at the edge of the pit with my fingers and pulled myself up saw has I could see on the priare And at Little Distance I there beheld that A large snake had twisted itself around Wilson Law and grabbed him by the arm A little above the elbow and was fast strangling him, A little further, I, saw That a great Bear had Laid hold a <William Law> him and was tearing him to pieces At this time I heard my name Called Joseph, Joseph, What in goodness are you Doing here
I Looked up and Saw my g[u]ardian Angel coming <bounding> over the fence, I said my enemies hath put me here
He Said take hold of my hand I did so He jerked me out of the pid And said follow me And he Led me of[f] in an oppisite Direction
I then Awoke
This is the Dream
And the interpretation you can give for yourselves
Miles Romney A hearer
Source: Miles Romney Report.
“I Saw Myself Driven from Carthage”
Joseph Smith Jr. (Related by Dan Jones)
[The following incident occurred in Carthage Jail. The actual dreamer is unknown.]
Amusing conversation on various interesting topics engaged us till late; after prayer, which made Carthage prison into the gate of heaven for awhile, we lay promiscuously on the floor the last words spoken were, by the Prophet,— “For the most intelligent dream tonight bretheren;” and the first words spoken next morning were by him also enquiring for the same. None, save one, were told which was listened to by all as follows— “Portrayed before my mind was Gov. Ford and troops on their way across the prairie to Nauvoo, the prisoners had plead in vain to return with him, although promised by him to go; with a letter of importance I saw myself driven from Carthage, galloping through the masses of medley soldiers, half Indians and semi barbarians, I hurried across the prairie, had gone down on a boat from Nauvoo towards Quincy, but while landed at Warsaw awoke, in the midst of powder, smoke, death, and carnage.” The Prophet reply’d it was ominous of future events, nor did he believe the Governor would ever take him to Nauvoo alive.
Source: Dan Jones, “The Martrydom of Joseph Smith
and His Brother Hyrum,” 98.
“One of Joseph Smith's Last Dreams”
Joseph Smith Jr. (Related by W. W. Phelps)
In June 1844, when Joseph Smith went to Carthage and delivered himself up to Governor Ford, I accompanied him, and while on the way thither, he related to me and his Brother Hyrum the following dream.
He said: “While I was at Jordan’s in Iowa the other night, I dreamed that myself and my brother Hyrum went on board a large steamboat lying in a small bay, near the great ocean. Shortly after we went on board there was an alarm of fire, and I discovered that the boat had been anchored some distance from the shore out in the bay, and that an escape from the fire, in the confusion, appeared hazardous: but, as delay was folly, Hyrum and I jumped overboard, and tried our faith at walking upon the water.
“At first we sank in the water nearly to our knees, but as we proceeded we increased in faith, and were soon able to walk upon the water. On looking towards the burning boat in the east, we saw that it was drifting towards the wharf and the town with a great flame and clouds of smoke; and, as if by whirlwind, the town was taking fire, too, so that the scene of destruction and horror of the frightened inhabitants were terrible.
“We proceeded on the bosom of the mighty deep and were soon out of sight of land. The ocean was still; the rays of the sun were bright and we forgot all the troubles of our mother earth. Just at that moment I heard the sound of a human voice, and turning around, saw my brother Samuel H. approaching towards us from the east. We stopped and he came up. After a moment’s conversation he informed me that he had been lonesome back there, and had made up his mind to go with me across the mighty deep.
“We all started again, and in a short time were blest with the first sight of a city, whose gold and silver steeples and towers were more beautiful than any that I had ever seen or heard of on earth. It stood, as it were upon the western shore of the mighty deep we walking on, and its order and glory seemed far beyond the wisdom of man. While we were gazing upon the perfection of the city a small boat launched off from the port, and, almost as quick as thought, came to us. In an instant they took us on board and saluted with welcome, and with music such as is not of earth. The next scene, on landing, was more than I can describe; the greeting of old friends, the music from a thousand towers, and the light of God Himself at the return of three of His sons, soothed my soul into quiet and a joy that I felt as if I were truly in heaven. I gazed upon the splendor; I greeted my friends. I awoke, and lo, it was a dream!
“While I meditated upon such a marvelous scene, I fell asleep again, and behold I stood near the shore of the burning boat, and there was great consternation among the officers, crew and passengers of the flaming craft, as there seemed to be much ammunition or powder on board. The alarm was given that the fire was near the magazine, and in a moment, suddenly, it blew up with a great noise, and sank in the deep water with all on board. I then turned to the country east, among the bushy openings, and saw William and Wilson Law, endeavoring to escape from the wild beasts of the forest, but two lions rushed out of a thicket and devoured them. I awoke again.” I will say that Joseph never told this dream again, as he was martyred about two days after. I relate from recollection as nearly as I can.
Source: W. W. Phelps, Joseph Smith’s Last Dream, 1–9.
“My Old Farm in Kirtland”
Joseph Smith Jr.
<June 27, 1844> [Carthage Jail] . . .
Joseph related the following dream which he had last night:
“I was back in Kirtland, Ohio, and thought I would take a walk out by myself, and view my old farm, which I found grown up with weeds and brambles, and altogether bearing evidence of neglect and want of culture. I went into the barn which I found without floor or doors, with the weather boarding off, and was altogether in keeping with the farm. While I viewed the desolation around me, and was contemplating how it might be recovered from the curse upon it, there came rushing into the barn a company of furious men, who commenced to pick a quarrel with me. The leader of the party ordered me to leave the barn and <the> farm, stating it was none of mine, and that I must give up all hope of ever possessing it. I told him the farm was given me by the Church, and although I had not had any use of it for some time back, still I had not sold it, and according to righteous principles it belonged to me or the Church. He then grew furious, and began to rail upon me and threaten me, and said it never did belong to me nor the Church. I then told him that I did not think it worth contending about; that I had no desire to live upon it in its present state, and if he thought he had a better right I would not quarrel with him about it, but leave; but my assurance that I would not trouble him at present did not seem to satisfy him, as he seemed determined to quarrel with me, and threatened me with the destruction of my body. While he was thus engaged, pouring out his bitter words upon me, a rabble rushed in and nearly filled the barn, drew out their knives, and began to quarrel among themselves for the premises; and for a moment forgot me, at which time I took the opportunity to walk out of the barn about up to my ankles in mud. When I was a little distance from the barn I heard them screeching and screaming in a very distressed manner, as it appeared they had engaged in a general fight with their knives. While they were thus engaged the dream or vision ended.”
Source: “History, 1838–1856, volume F-1,” 177–78.
1. Several of Joseph Smith Jr.’s dreams are included in this chapter. Spelling and punctuation match transcriptions on the Joseph Smith Papers website (https://josephsmithpapers.org). Additional references to Joseph Smith Jr.’s dreams can be found on the Joseph Smith Papers website: (1) “Letter to Emma Smith, 16 August 1842,” 173–74; (2) “Journal, December 1842–June 1844; Book 1, 21 December 1842–10 March 1843,” 7; (3) “Journal, December 1842–June 1844; Book 1, 21 December 1842–10 March 1843,” [136–37]; (4) “Journal, December 1842–June 1844; Book 1, 21 December 1842–10 March 1843,” [141–43]; (5) “Journal, December 1842–June 1844; Book 2, 10 March 1843–14 July 1843,” 3–4; (6) “Journal, December 1842–June 1844; Book 2, 10 March 1843–14 July 1843,” 10; (7) “Instruction, 2 April 1843, as Reported by William Clayton,” 71–72; (8) “Journal, December 1842–June 1844; Book 2, 10 March 1843–14 July 1843,” ; (9) “History, 1838–1856, volume E-1 [1 July 1843–30 April 1844],” 1725; (10) “Journal, December 1842–June 1844; Book 3, 15 July 1843–29 February 1844,” ; and (11) “Appendix 4: William Clayton, Daily Account of Joseph Smith’s Activities, 14–22 June 1844,” . An additional reference to Joseph Smith Jr.’s dreams is available at the Church History Library (Phebe Carter Woodruff to Wilford Woodruff, June 16, 1844, in “Letters from Bathsheba W. Smith [wife], 1842–1844,” MS 1322); https://churchhistorycatalog.lds.org.
2. Joseph Smith’s journal entry for Thursday, June 13, 1844, recorded by Willard Richard, states: “P. M. attended meeting in 70’s Hall J. G. [George J.] Adams preached— after which I made some observations—” (“Journal, December 1842–June 1844; Book 4, 1 March–22 June 1844,” ; spelling and grammar modernized; available at https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/journal-december-1842-june-1844-book-4-1-march-22-june-1844/157; accessed 6 February 2019). Concerning the public recitation of this and the following dream, a note (n459 in the previous citation) states: “Miles Romney later reported that JS related two dreams he had the night before. In the first, JS saw two snakes ‘so fast locked together that either of them had no power.’ In his dream, JS learned that the snakes represented Robert D. Foster and Chauncey L. Higbee, who wanted to ‘destroy’ JS but had no power to do so. In the second, JS dreamed that William and Wilson Law placed him in a deep pit and then later called for his help. JS was able to pull himself up enough to see a snake strangling Wilson Law and a bear tearing William Law to pieces. At that moment, JS’s guardian angel appeared, pulled him out of the pit and led him away from the Laws. (Miles Romney Report, –; see also Jones, ‘Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith,’ 6–7.)” This is a transcribed copy of Miles Romney’s report.
3. The account of this dream immediately follows the previous dream in Miles Romney’s report.
Lead image from Church Newsroom
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.
InDreams 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.