Sister Katherine Smith Salisbury (1813-1900)
-- photograph from Saints' Herald of Feb. 11, 1936 --


Introduction   |   1894 Davidson Interview   |   1895 RLDS Conference Testimony


Katherine's 1894-95 Public Communications

After having remained mostly silent on the subject of Latter Day Saint history for decades, Katherine Smith Salisbury -- the only living sibling of Joseph Smith, Jr. -- suddenly became more vocal during 1893. Perhaps the passing of her brother William that year reminded the elderly lady that her own opportunities for public testimony were quickly drawing to a close. Another possibility is that William had exerted some subtle but effective influence upon his sister's willingness to offer public communications on the subject of Mormonism. At the 1883 RLDS General Conference, held in the Kirtland Temple, William had falsely testified: "We would as well cut off our right hand as to have taught that there was any legitimacy in polygamy, in the early days of the church." He reaffirmed this lie in 1893, when he declared: "There was no polygamy doctrine taught among Mormons until years after the prophet's death. These Brighamite Mormons are alone responsible for this fulsome doctrine of polygamy." Katherine certainly knew of William's numerous seductions and clandestine "spiritual" marriages, and her brother thus had good reason to place severe limitations on her published reminiscences. The one time, prior to William's death, that Katherine did compose an historical sketch for publication, was in 1886, when she penned a letter to the "Sisters of the Home Columns," in the Reorganized LDS Saints' Herald. It is probably no coincidence that her brother William was at that time visiting with members of the Salisbury family in western Illinois. Whether or not William Smith pre-approved the "Sisters of the Home Columns" text, he was then close enough to his sister to have exerted some judicious control over her correspondence to the Herald.

Paralleling William's final physical decline (and eventual death) death in 1893, Katherine decided in that year to make her initial appearance at a Reorganized LDS General Conference, and to refute allegations that her brother Joseph ever advocated the doctrine of "spiritual wives." A year later, in May of 1894 she granted an interview to a reporter from the Carthage Republican. This tentative personal communication was followed by a much more dramatic personal appearance before the RLDS General Conference, at Independence, Missouri in April of 1895. At that time Sister Salisbury delivered four different addresses before the gathered Saints, including a lengthy testimony focusing upon her brother Joseph's earliest spiritual experiences. The latter account shows signs of previous preparation and Mrs. Salisbury probably rehearsed the address prior to her seemingly spontaneous decision to bear her testimony before so large an audience.

At least the presence of "something in the air" was detected by two attending reporters from rival Kansas City newspapers. After spending much of the day fruitlessly anticipating the reading of a non-existant "revelation" from RLDS President Joseph Smith III, the journalists from the Kansas City Times and the Kansas City Journal took special notice, when they realized that President Smith's Aunt Katherine was about to speak before the Saints' prayer meeting in the Stone Church. For their nearly identical reporting they evidently relied upon a shorthand transcript taken down by an RLDS recorder. One of the journalists subsequently stated: "she is one of the most devout of the adherents of the church founded by her brother, who gave his life for the organization. When she speaks, all listen, and every word is placed in the minutes of the conference and recorded in the annals of the church." -- However, in the case of Katherine's 1895 Conference statements, there are grounds for concluding that leaders within the Reorganized Church chose not to advertise the contents. The only substantial publication of those interesting utterances occurred in the non-RLDS Kansas City newspapers. Only when those sundry bits and pieces of "Gentile" reporting from the Conference are pieced together, does a coherent picture of Mrs. Salisbury's words and actions begin to emerge.

Sister Katherine's 1894 interview with Isham Gaylord Davidson also suffered from disjointed reporting. It was variously published by that journalist in at least three different articles. "Gay" Davidson, when writing for audiences other than the readers of his father's Carthage Republican, was wont to re-cycle whole paragraphs of copy from one article to the next. So, in this case, it is possible to consult multiple instances where he communicated essentially the same information, redacted to match the interests of different readerships. Comparing three versions of his 1894 consultation with Mrs. Salisbury, it seems likely that Mr. Davidson preserved detailed interview notes and subsequently edited out remarks which he decided were superfluous to his current journalistic aims.

Combining the Testimony Accounts

It is always problematic when a writer from many years later attempts to reconcile differing transcriptions of the same oral address to a crowd of yesteryear's onlookers. A similar difficulty arises when modern scholars attempt to reconstruct the public addresses transcribed by reporters attending the 1844 LDS Spring Conference at Nauvoo -- but that has not stopped writers from trying to compile coherent composite texts. The conflations offered below might possibly compound the original reporting and publication errors from 1894 and 1895, but they are cautiously offered as a beginning point for students of the subject. Please do not quote from them directly -- always consult the linked source articles for the original published newspaper texts.

The reader should keep in mind that Sister Katherine was only sixteen years old when the Book of Mormon was being put through the press in Palmyra, New York. In her testimony she did not claim to be anything more than a passive onlooker in the Smith household of the 1820s, when so many of the events associated with Mormon origins transpired. As she said at one point in her 1895 narrative: "I was young and I didn't know what they were talking about..." Her view of the chronology and the relative importance of those early events was naturally shaped by her later life experiences. Katherine looked upon her mother's published account of the family's history as the truthful standard for relating Mormon origins; so it is more than likely that the daughter patterned her own testimony after what had been published by the mother.

Influence of the RLDS World View

It is useful to bear in mind that the typical Reorganized LDS member of the 1890s viewed Church history from a stance substantially different than those taken by members of the Mormon Church in Utah and by contemporary non-Mormon writers. For example, the same 1895 RLDS Conference that featured Katherine Salisbury's moving address also provided Elder James Whitehead with an opportunity to attack "The Twelve" of the late Nauvoo period and "the treachery of certain parties at the time Joseph Smith was assassinated." "I knew the traitors then, and I know them now, too..." the aged eye-witness proclaimed to his auditors. William B. Smith, late brother of Katherine and Joseph, made similar accusations in regard to the cause Samuel H. Smith's 1844 death at Nauvoo. This saintly paranoia was common among 19th century Reorganites and it frequently colored their historical recollections in ways heterodox to the consensus conclusions of then and now.

The 1895 RLDS Conference Minutes

Should any additional quotations from Mrs. Salisbury's April 1895 remarks at the RLDS Stone Church be located, they will be added to this introduction. Currently the Community of Christ officials are not making the 1895 "Minutes of the Conference" available for transcription.


(Fountain Green, Ill., May, 1894)

Reconstructed from Carthage Republican, Quincy Whig & Salt Lake Tribune articles.
(Katherine Smith Salisbury quotes highlighted with blue text)

A representative of the Republican recently paid a visit to the home of Fred Salisbury, residing some four miles northeast of Fountain Green, and was cordially received by that gentleman and his family, as well as by his venerable and noted mother, Mrs. Catherine Salisbury, who is a sister to the prophet, Joseph Smith. The silver-crowned matriarch who will be 83 years old in July, has a remarkable memory. She bears a striking resemblance to her nephew, the present Joseph Smith, son of the prophet and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, at Lamoni, Ia. Some resemblance to the martyred prophet, as shown in some of the photographs of him, may be noted in the features of this venerable lady, but very little.

She is above the usual height and weight, and her complexion is a delicate peachy color that indicates good blood and breeding. She exhibited a number of photographs of her illustrious relatives, among them one William Smith, her brother, who was sent to the Illinois legislature in the 40's by the Mormon vote. She has also a photograph of "Aunt Emma," Joseph Smith's first wife, later the wife of Maj. L. C. Bidamon, of Nauvoo and with whom she lived in "the New Mansion house," for many years, until after his death and to her own demise, which was only a few years ago.

During the recent [1893] conference of the Mormon church at Lamoni, Ia., she was present and received much respectful attention. Mrs. Salisbury, as well as her son, was ready to answer any questions relating to their noted relatives or the early reminiscences of Mormonism in Hancock county....

[Our] visit to this country home recently found the good lady at leisure, and as ever, in a kindly mood to welcome visitors. Mother Salisbury very kindly exhibited a number of photographs of her family to this visitor. Among her relics is a history of Joseph Smith by his mother, Lucy Smith, who lived at Nauvoo some years prior to her death. It gives a detailed account of the origin of the families on both sides, and the genealogy of the families is arranged in a methodical order. She loaned the writer [this] book, which she says is the most authentic account of the Smith family ever published. [The mother] pays a high tribute to Joseph, whom she gives a most excellent and Christian character. She refers to his fortitude in withstanding pain under the surgeon's knife. That she believed her son to be inspired of God, and that his religion and all his acts were authorized from on high, appears upon the very face of the book. She indulges in scathing criticism of the civil authorities of Illinois and Missouri in their alleged failure to hear the appeals of a persecuted and downtridden people. Her story of the murder of her two sons is pathetic in the extreme.

Mrs. Salisbury stated that her brother's life and acts had been most cruelly misrepresented:
"We have been interviewed by authors and newspaper writers, but we have not always received justice in histories or published stories.... there have been historians who have misquoted facts, whether by accident or design I know not, but the facts were sadly at variance.

We are ashamed of nothing connected with our church, its teachings, or its history [nor] of Joseph Smith and his church. We have nothing to conceal, and only ask for justice -- a fair representation."
Mother Salisbury says she came to Illinois in 1838, a short time prior to the general hegira of Mormons from Missouri into Illinois. Joseph was in bondage in Missouri, and the Mormons first came to Quincy. As soon as Joseph was liberated the people settled at Nauvoo. Mrs. Salisbury says their family, however, located near the present site of Macomb. She was married to Wilkins J. Salisbury June 8, 1831, and moved with him to this State, afterwards locating at Plymouth, in this county.

She with her parents and brothers and sisters (save Joseph and Hyrum)), first located near the present site of Bardolph, McDonough county, at the time the Mormons were driven out of Missouri. The major portion of the Mormons remained in Quincy two or three weeks after leaving Missouri until Joseph and Hyrum were liberated from jail. They then followed their leaders to Nauvoo, where the "New Zion" was built upon those beautiful hills. She frequently visited Nauvoo during the Mormon ascendency.

She was in Nauvoo a few days previous to the arrest; Joseph preached what proved to be his farewell sermon. Mother Salisbury says:
"I then lived with my husband at Plymouth, in this county. [My brothers] were both very kind to me -- were always good to me, and whenever they had any extra religious services, a church celebration, or any big doings at Nauvoo they would always send for me."

"I was in Nauvoo a few days before my brothers were brought to Carthage, where they met their death. I shall never forget that Saturday, June 23, 1844, when I last saw my brothers alive. I heard Brother Joseph's last sermon, delivered to a great audience in Nauvoo -- the largest crowd I have ever seen -- in the open air, for no house would hold the people. I might say that it was more in the nature of a prophecy than a sermon, or rather its conclusion was, for as he finished he turned [and] stood facing some of the high priests and Elders sitting there -- church dignitaries who were seated on the platform behind him and told them that there was seated on the speaker's stand beside him those who were conspiring to deliver him up to the enemy... to take his life, and who would be responsible for his death."

"[He said] ''There are those among you who will betray me soon; in fact, you have plotted to deliver me up to the enemy to be slain.' The truth of this prophecy is of history. He was betrayed, and by his own alleged best friends. These same fellows attempted to assume the reigns of the church at his death. They not only attempted this, but they attempted to introduce obnoxious teachings into the church. My nephew, the present Joseph Smith, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at Lamoni, Ia., is the true and only successor of Joseph Smith, the martyr."

"That picture which you have in your hand represents Joseph and Hyrum as they appeared the day they bade me good-bye. They stood facing each other a portion of the time, and were dressed in the peculiar costume worn by them as prophets of the church, which the picture shows. That is the position they assumed the last time I ever saw my brothers... I left them that Saturday evening, June 23d, 1844, before the Thursday that they were murdered at Carthage."

"Joseph took both my hands in his very tenderly and said, 'Good-bye, Sister Catherine, as soon as this trouble blows over, I will come down to Plymouth to visit you. Good bye and God bless you.' Hyrum shook my hand and simply said 'Good-bye' very pathetically, with a deeper feeling than I had ever known him to entertain. It was my farewell to them on this earth. I never saw them again in life."

"There was a heavy price set on Brother Joseph's head by the Missourians, so that they did not bury the bodies publicly. It was thought best at the time to have the burial private, and both bodies were placed in a brick vault to prevent their being stolen... the story that their bodies were never buried at Nauvoo but were sent to Salt Lake is only an idle fallacy. The bodies were buried in the family lot near the old Mansion house."

At this juncture Mother Salisbury's son Fred spoke up, saying:
"When Aunt Emma Smith died at Nauvoo several years ago I think five of we boys, Fred, Solomon, Don and Alvin Salisbury and Don Milikin, all her nephews, acted as pall bearers at her funeral, and we buried her by the side of the dust of her first husband, the prophet Joseph, the martyr. There can be no sort of doubt that the bodies of both Joseph and Hyrum were buried in the brick vault soon after the massacre and were never removed.... they lie in the exact spot where they were then buried, viz: in the family burying ground a short distance in the rear of the old mansion house... Of course there can be nothing left of the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum but dust. I am satisfied that the prophets were buried there, and that their bodies have never been disturbed."
No fair-minded person could receive any other impression from conversation with Mrs. Salisbury than one of sincerity. There can be little doubt that the Mormons have received very much unjust criticism, and it is hoped that in some future time a history of the coming, the sojourn and the passing of these people to and from Hancock county may be truthfully and impartially written. There are few if any Mormons of the old school in this county. The representatives of the Lamoni Church, however, are very numerous, and they have several meeting-houses. These people are among the best citizens of the county.


(Independence, Missouri, April, 1895)

Katherine Smith Salisbury:   April 10th  |  April 11th  |  April 13th      

Karherine at the 1895 Conference

The initial newspaper reporting of Katherine Smith Salisbury's remarks at the 1895 RLDS General Conference was perfunctory and did not contain any hints of the devastating condemnation that would forthcoming from her on April the 12th. One Kansas City newspaper that took an early interest in this elderly sister of Joseph Smith, Jr. was the Journal, which ran this item in its columns on April 7th:

The sessions are presided over by the venerable and respected president of the church, Joseph Smith of Lamoni, Ia. He is the eldest son of the founder of the church... With him is his younger brother, Alexander Smith, who is also one of the exalted members and officers of the church. With them is Mrs. Salisbury, of Burnside, Ill, sister of the founder of the church, Joseph Smith. She is the sole survivor of the family and is quite as earnest and zealous in her love for the church founded by her brother as are the sons of the founder. She is quite aged, but it is her custom to attend the sessions of her church and take part in the exercises each year.

The Kansas City Times first made mention of Katherine in its Conference coverage of April 8th, as published the following day:

Mrs. Caroline [sic] Salisbury, 83 years of age and a sister of the original Joseph Smith, the founder of the church, occupied a seat next to the rostrum. She arose and addressed a few remarks to the younger members of the church.

"I stand alone of my father's family," she said in an impressive manner, "and am here for the purpose of helping build this cause and give my testimony in their behalf. I have always found that to be faithful was to be loved by the Lord Jesus Christ, and I say unto you: Be faithful and true and you shall be rewarded in heaven. I beseech you to lead true and pure lives, for then you will find eternal salvation. My heart is full to overflowing and I cannot speak further."

Joseph Smith and the Golden Plates

Katherine received some special attention from reporters on April 10th, when she voiced a unique testimony of her brother Joseph's role in the founding of Mormonism. The morning papers published the full text of her account the next day, but the evening edition of the Kansas City Star managed to squeeze in a brief mention of the address on the day it was given:

To-day at the testimony meeting, Mrs. Caroline [sic] S. Salisbury, sister to the first Joseph Smith and only surviving member of the original six people who founded the Church of Mormon in 1830, told the historic story of how Joseph Smith the prophet found the gold plates of the book of Mormon buried in the Hill of Cumorah in New York state. Mrs. Salisbury is a woman 83 years old, but she related graphically and with force and vigor the oft-told story. It required fully half an hour.

Mrs. Salisbury made two or three departures from Mormon history in her story, which the Saints explain by saying that age has impaired her memory somewhat.

The Kansas City papers telegraphed word of Mrs. Salisbury's remarks across the country and many newspapers picked up the story. As the only surviving member of the Joseph Smith, Sr. household, she was able to provide an insider's view of events that proved interesting to non-Mormons and Mormons alike. As late as 2002 the LDS Historian Kyle Walker was still being favorably impressed, upon his looking over Katherine's hundred-year-old words:

At an annual conference of the RLDS Church held at Independence, Missouri, April 10, 1895 Katharine shared the recollections of early Mormon history... Katharine's account appears to have significant historical value this conclusion is supported by several statements that are entirely unique to her account: she notes that Moroni wore a girdle about his waist; she recounts that following the loss of the 116 pages, Joseph fasted for several days in order to have the plates and Urim and Thummim returned to him; and she states that her father and two of her brothers were the first to hear Joseph's recital of Moroni's visitations. These unique remembrances verify that Katharine was not just regurgitating what was available in print. In fact Mrs. Salisbury's recollections add significant details to existing accounts regarding early events in Latter-day Saint history.

Contained within the narrative there is also evidence regarding the accuracy of Katharine s remembrances. Most noteworthy is the fact that she rehearses details that parallel other early converts written accounts to which she had no access during her lifetime. For example her identification of Alvin and then Emma Hale Smith as the individuals who were to accompany Joseph to the Hill Cumorah to obtain the Book of Mormon plates... The narrative is also important because it verifies Joseph Smith, Jr.'s early recital of the first vision...

Besides verifying other accounts written by early members of the church Katharine s testimonial is important because she was one of a very small group of believers before 1830 which makes any of her reminiscences valuable in understanding Mormon origins.  BYU Studies 41:3 (2002).

The 1831 Harbor Opening Miracle

Having established herself as an RLDS human treasure of sorts, Mrs. Salisbury continued her unique early Mormon history reminiscing the next day in Independence, with another account from the Smith family experiences. This testimony skipped forward in time a few months, from where she had left off with the telling of her famous brother's angelic visitations, to relate the story of the New York Saint's miraculous departure from Buffalo harbor in 1831. It was an episode already told of by her mother, many years before -- and Katherine herself had previously touched upon the subject in a letter she had written in 1886.

At a juncture in the Conference proceedings where the Church authorities were warning the attendees to refrain from injecting too many pretensions of prophecy and miraculous events into their prayer meeting testimony, Katherine appears to have limited her narration somewhat, so as to avoid any mentions of overt supernatural manifestations. The Kansas City Star noticed her remarks in its issue for April 11th:

Sister Caroline [sic] Salisbury, who on Saturday told the story of the Book of Mormon and the finding of the gold plates upon which were transcribed the mysterious characters which, when translated, made up the book which the church regards as divine, told to-day how her mother moved her family and seventy faithful adherents of the Church of Latter Day Saints from New York to Kirtland, O. She told of the miraculous opening of a channel through the ice on Lake Erie just wide enough to admit the passage of their boat after a prayer service in which the saints called on the Lord to open the way for them. She had seen the sick raised from beds after the hand of death was upon them.

The Angelic Appearance and Warning

If Katherine's April 11th talk about the ice breaking up at Buffalo was precisely in line with the RLDS standards for public prayer and testimony, her final address to her fellow Saints, given on Saturday, April 13th, was a radical departure from what might have been expected of a prim and proper Mother in Israel. At that point the business of the Conference was winding down and it had become evident to all that there would be no release of any new revelations from the Church's First Presidency. It was also obvious that in the business session of April 12th, President Joseph Smith III had been taken down a few pegs in his standing relative to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Their debated disagreements appear to have been over relatively minor points of religious doctrine and practice, but the major news then coming out of Conference reporting was that fact that any such debate was even occurring.

During the 1895 Conference's morning prayer meetings a number of "Thus Saith the Lord..." manifestations of personal revelation had been delivered from the attendees in the Stone Church benches. They were the sort of spontaneous, uncontrolled outbursts which could easily disrupt any authoritarian religious body's ceremonies, but the purported Divine messages were even more troublesome, given their announcements in the context of an ongoing public struggle between the Church's two topmost quorums. These all too often discomforting private member revelations were generally directed at the entire assembled congregation, or, worse yet, at the entire RLDS membership. There was reliable no mechanism in place by which the validity of such spontaneous oracles could be immediately confirmed or denied, and so their effect was often divisive.

Then, at the very moment that the restive delegates and members were most in need of some comforting, unifying manifestations, Sister Katherine Smith Salisbury delivered the ultimate disruptive latter day oracle -- a purported commandment from The Almighty, delivered specially to the Saints by a heavenly messenger. Katherine's revelation stood apart from the pentecostal outpourings typical in an RLDS prayer meeting of those days. Her voicing of that startling purported revelation probably helps explain why the Church's leaders chose not to advertise any of the lady's Conference remarks in their Saints' Herald and other official publications.

Only one newspaper reported the April 13th Salisbury oracle -- the Kansas City Journal of the following day. And even that paper (which had previously published Katherine's words at length) provided readers with only the briefest of paraphrases, of what may have been a detailed and extensive communication. There is thus reason to assume that the "Gentile" reporters in attendance were inclined to suppress the woman's address. Whether that implicit censorship was self-imposed, or came from the Conference managers, it is impossible to determine at this late date.

Given the wide positive publicity afforded Katherine's telling of the Joseph Smith, Jr. story (in the public press, at least) there is good reason to conclude that many pious readers would have taken her April 13th revelation seriously, had its contents been published to the world. After all, it bore more than a superficial resemblance to the angelic appearance bestowed upon her illustrious brother so many years before. Quite possibly Katherine even fixed the same identity upon both shining seraphs: Moroni the celestialized son of the great Prophet Mormon.

In his published memoirs President Joseph Smith III had nothing to say about the 1895 Conference in Stone Church. The official fifth volume of the Reorganized History of the Church ignored his aunt's oracle altogether -- although it did find space enough to rehash President Smith's rebuke of a contemporary Deseret News article guessing that the RLDS Apostles and First Presidency were on the verge of an open split. In the end Sister Salisbury's "Thus saith the Lord..." was conveniently suppressed and forgotten. And perhaps that was for the best.


(Stone Church, Independence, Apr. 10th)

Reconstructed from April 11, 1895  Kansas City Times and  Kansas City Journal

Saints Herald  |  Zion's Ensign  |  Independent Patriot  |  RLDS Conference Minutes

I stand before you a remnant of the family that brought forth the sacred record, to bear my testimony.

I can remember the time that this work commenced, that my brother had the vision, that he saw the angel and talked with him. After he had his first vision he lay on his bed one night studying what he had seen. And his room became light, and it grew lighter and lighter until an angel descended and stood by [the side of] his bed. He did not touch the floor, but he stood in the air. He was dressed in white raiment, of whiteness beyond anything Joseph had ever seen in his life, and had a girdle about his waist. He saw his hands and wrists, and they were pure and white, and he talked with him. He said that he was Moroni, and that he was sent as a messenger to tell him concerning the record that was hidden in the hill Cumorah, which was a history of the people that once inhabited this continent, and also that it was the pure gospel of Christ. That the gospel that we had had been adulterated, and this was the pure gospel of Jesus Christ, and would be preached in these last days.

He also talked with him and told him concerning the prophecies of Isaiah, and told him what was coming upon the earth. And he also opened the vision and showed him the hill Cumorah, where the records laid, and talked with him a while and then ascended. And while Joseph was still thinking over what he had seen and what the angel had told him, he descended again and stood by his side, and repeated the same things. He told him the prophecies of Isaiah were being fulfilled and would come true, and that this record must be brought forth to the church established in the last days, for there was no true church on earth. He ascended again, and then he descended the third time; and then my brother said that the chickens crowed for day, showing that he had conversed with the angel all the blessed night.

The next morning when my brother got up he went to the field to work, but he could not; the spirit of God was upon him and the angel was with him. Father told him he was not well, and he had better go to the house. Joseph started to the house, but fell by the way, and the angel Moroni appeared to him and said:

"Joseph, tell your father what you have seen and what you are commanded to do."

He said: "I am afraid my father won't believe me."

But the angel told him his father would believe him. So he went to the house and sent for father and my two brothers, and they came to the house and sat and talked quite a spell. I wondered at it. I was young and I didn't know what they were talking about, because I knew they were so busy with their harvesting.

Father said: "Joseph, go and do just as you are bid."

So he went to the hill Cumorah (this was, I think, the 22d day of September, 1827,) and found it exactly as he had seen it in the vision. The earth was rounding on top, and he got a stick and pried the dirt away from the edges, and got a lever and raised the lid, and there beheld the records that were to be translated, and the Urim and Thummim, and the sword and breastplate of Laben, and the brass plates Lehi brought from Jerusalem.

Moroni told him that the time had not yet come for them to be brought forth, but that in due time he should bring them forth and translate them.

Joseph said: "I am not learned," and the angel said: "There is the Urim and Thummim, and they will show you how to interpret them."

The next year, at the same time, Joseph visited the place again, and the third year he went, expecting to get the records. So he raised up the lid and took them out. And he thought that somebody might come along and see these things (not thinking that the Lord had watched them 1,400 years), and laid the record down and covered up the box. When he turned to take his record it was gone. The angel told him he must persevere and must not give up.

He raised the lid again, and there was the record, just as it lay before. He reached forth his hands to take it, and he felt a pressure pushing him away. He tried the second time, and the third time he fell to the earth with the pressure, and he cried in the bitterness of his soul:

"Lord, what have I done, that I cannot get these records?"

Moroni said: "You have not obeyed the commandments as you were commanded to. You must obey His commandments in every particular. You were not to lay them out of your hands until you had them in safe keeping."

Joseph said; "What shall I do?"

He said: "Come here next year at this time and bring your oldest brother with you, and you can receive the records."

In November my brother took sick, and through the ministering of medicine by the doctors he passed away. Joseph went to the place and inquired of the angel what he should do now.

The angel said, "You must bring some person with you."

And Joseph said, "Who shall I bring? My oldest brother is gone."

The angel said, "You will know her when you see her."

That fall he went down to Pennsylvania and became acquainted with his wife, Miss Hale, and he knew when he saw her that she was the one to go with him to get the records.

In March they were married, and he brought her home, and on the 22d day of September she went with him to the place. She didn't see the records, but she went with him. He took them up and brought them part way home and hid them in a hollow log. My father, in a few days, heard that they had got a conjuror, who they said would come and find the plates, and he came home. Emma was weaving and he said to her"

"You will have to go after Joseph (Joseph was away at work), for they are determined to find them records."

She said, "If I had a horse I could go."

A few days before that a stray horse (we had nothing but oxen then) had come to our place, and father said, 'I will get you a saddle and bridle and you can ride that horse."

She went where Joseph was at work and told him that the records were in danger and that father was anxious for him to come and take care of them. He came right home and went to the place where the records were, and wrapped them up in his frock and started home. He stepped on a log and a man raised up and struck at him. Joseph knocked him down. He stepped on the second and third logs, and three different men struck at him, but he made his escape and came home. When he got to the door he said:

"Father, I have been followed, look and see if you can see anyone."

He then threw himself on the bed and fainted, and when he came to he told us the circumstances; he had his thumb out of joint and his [arm] was very lame. We got a chest and locked the records up in the house.

From that time on our house was searched all around, and our field and our wheat stacks were searched. The mob was around our house nearly every night, and one night they went into father's cooper shop and tore up his floor and dug the earth up. And from that time until we went to Pennsylvania we had to keep watch for the enemy.

And when he went to Pennsylvania he commenced translating the Book of Mormon and translated some 116 pages that Martin Harris took home and lost: and when my brother found they were lost he was very much troubled and said:

"I am afraid I have broken the commandments and will not be allowed to translate the record."

The angel came and took the Urim and Thummim from him. He fasted and prayed several days, and the angel returned them again and told him that his sins were forgiven, and for him to go ahead and translate, but not to translate that that was lost, but to begin where he had left off. He commenced, and when he got the record partly translated, persecution rose there, and he wrote for David Whitmer to come and take him to his house. David came, and he asked how he should carry the plates, and he was told they would be there when he got there, in the garden.

When he got to Father Whitmer's he found the records, as he had been told he would, and there he finished translating the Book of Mormon, and there is where the three witnesses were showed the plates by the angel, that turned the leaves over one by one. And the angel told them that when the church became pure, the rest of the record (some of the plates were sealed) would be translated and brought to the church. After that the eight witnesses saw the book, and turned it over leaf by leaf and saw the characters that were on them. From that time on they commenced printing the Book of Mormon, and soon after the book was printed there were six that met together and organized the Church of Jesus Christ as it now exists in these last days.

I was with the church in the beginning, and have been with it all the way through. I have seen the Saints driven like animals from place to place, but to-day at over four score years of age, I am with you, happy and as firm in the faith as at any time in my life. I am glad God gave me strength to attend the conference. I was told to tell you this message, and I have fulfilled the command. And now, may God bless and keep you faithful.


(Stone Church, Independence, Thursday, April 11th)

Reconstructed from April 12, 1895  Kansas City Times and  Kansas City Journal

Saints Herald  |  Zion's Ensign  |  Independent Patriot  |  RLDS Conference Minutes

Note: The blue text was taken from the Saints' Herald of July 3, 1886.

... I feel as though I must relate a circumstance of my youth in which a demonstration was made to my mother.

As spring [of 1831] approached [the New York Saints] were commanded to go to Kirtland, Ohio, and the rest of the church were to go in the spring.

When we, from persecution, emigrated to Kirtland we believed that the religion of the Latter Day Saints was the religion of God.

When the members of the church had all assembled, ready for the journey, my mother took charge of the company, and with the aid of Bro. Humphry and my brother William, we accomplished the journey as far as Buffalo.

[We] made the journey during the middle of one of the most severe winters ever known in New York, but suffered none from the cold, although others were complaining bitterly, and evidently with good cause. When [my] mother arrived, with the members of her family, at Buffalo, N. Y., to engage passage across Lake Erie, they found the vessel tied up at the landing. -- A Captain Blake was in charge of the boat upon which we were to take passage.

Mother then sent brethren to the wharf to inquire for a Capt. Blake. When they found him, and mother had spoken for our passage across the lake he told her that the lake was so blocked with ice he did not think it would be possible for us to sail for two weeks. She tried to rent a room, but could not get one.

There were seventy in our party, and we tried to get accommodations in the town, but when we told our religion we were refused shelter, [so] -- after walking the streets until almost disheartened -- we returned to the boat.

Captain Blake arranged for us the best he could.

The captain then gave us permission to go on the boat and stay until we could sail. The ice, he said, was four miles out in the lake, and four feet thick.

You see, he had sent out and had the ice measured, and it was eight feet thick, and he said we would not be able to get away for more than two weeks.

The outlook was anything but pleasant. Children were crying, sisters complaining, wishing they had stayed at home where they could enjoy their comfortable rocking chairs, much as the children of Israel longed for the flesh pots of Egypt. Mother bore all their complainings patiently, and had great charity for and sympathy with them. Her faith was strong in the Lord, for she believed that he had commanded us to go and would carry us safely through.

Our funds were low and would not last that long, and Mother Smith was worried. We got settled on the boat during the afternoon and that night our party gathered together for prayer services. And they all offered prayer to heaven that the ice might be removed immediately

We held a prayer meeting and prayed that the Lord would open the way for us to pass out and reach our destination. We also sung our praises to our God for the blessings he had bestowed upon us in restoring the gospel in these last days.

Mother was on her knees during the greater part of the night [asking] for some deliverance from her pitiable surroundings.

The captain came to mother and begged her to have her company quit singing, for his men were so attracted by the music that it was impossible to get them to obey orders, and the ice was liable to break now at any time and then sail must be hoisted.

toward morning a great crushing noise was heard. At daybreak Captain Blake came to us and told Mother Smith that a channel was broken through the ice large enough for the boat to pass through and he marveled greatly, because he knew nothing about our prayers. He had great faith in Mother Smith, though, and believed when she told him of the prayers.

Shortly afterwards we heard a great noise and cracking in the ice. The captain called all hands and set them to work, for the crack had widened and a channel had opened in the ice wide enough for our boat to pass out. The ice then closed up behind us, and not another boat passed out for two weeks.

Well, Captain Blake ordered the boat under way, and we passed through this channel in safety, though after many severe trials and tribulations.

The first night we laid over on the Canadian side and made some repairs on the wheels. The captain said he had been on the lake for thirty years, and that it was the roughest time he had ever had, and he believed nothing had saved us but Mother Smith's faith and prayers.

I do not remember how long the trip took, but longer than usual in crossing Lake Erie. Another boat attempted to follow through after us, but the passage became stopped up with ice and they had to turn about.

When we sailed into Fairport we found my brothers waiting for us.

My three brothers, Joseph, the martyr; Hiram and Samuel met us at Fairport.

They had come to get news of us, as the word had reached them that we were all drowned. Our joy was great in seeing them again after passing through such trials.

After we had safely landed Captain Blake came up and stated that in his thirty years' service on Lake Erie he had never before encountered such a storm, and that it was the prayers of our party that had brought the ship through.

We took breakfast at Bro. Partridge's, the first regular meal we had eaten since we started on our journey. I do not remember how many there were in our company, but of our own company there were eight. Mother, my oldest sister, her husband and one child, brother William and Don Carlos, myself and sister Lucy. My brothers took us to Kirtland where we met father. I can tell you it was a day of rejoicing, and when memory brings these things afresh to my mind I can not help weeping.

I could tell many other wonderful things, but I will not consume any more of your time. Let us be faithful. I thank the Lord that I have been faithful, and pray that I may so remain to the end.


(Stone Church, Independence, Saturday, April 13th)

Reproduced from April 14, 1895  Kansas City Journal

Saints Herald  |  Zion's Ensign  |  Independent Patriot  |  RLDS Conference Minutes

In the testimony meeting yesterday the position of President Smith in Friday's controversy was supported by his aged aunt, Mrs. Caroline [sic] Salisbury, who, trembling with age and infirmity, leaned on her chair and with tremulous voice pleaded with touching appeal to the Saints...

" the president, for he [is] truly the messenger of God. [I] was a witness of the Gospel in the first [place], and of the truth of the claim of Joseph [III] to the presidency and the rightful prerogatives of the position. Friday night an angel [came] to [me], [saying] the church had done wrong, and that unless the church shall follow the prophet in all things the Lord would certainly send His avenging angel and punish His undutiful and disobedient people."

Official 1895 RLDS Conference Minutes

Harold B. Lee Library: BX 8691.5.G46x

(this document is currently unavailable for transcription)

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