Joseph Smith Jr.—in His Own Words, Part 2


A look at the personal writings of the Prophet and at the places—as they look today—where he was when he wrote.

1. Mission to Canada

In October 1833 Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon traveled to Canada on a proselyting mission. Accompanied by Freeman Nickerson, some of whose family had settled in the area of Brantford and Mt. Pleasant in southwestern Ontario, the Prophet spent several days visiting and preaching among the people. His record of the trip, during which he baptized fourteen people, is among the first entries recorded by the Prophet after he commenced keeping a diary:

Ohio: Ashtabula, Ashtabula County

1833 Oct 5. “this day started and Journy to the East came to Ashtibuly stayed [at] Lambs tavern”

Pennsylvania: Springfield, Erie County

1833 Oct 6. “arrived at Springfield on the Sabbath found the Brotheren in meeting Brother Sidney spoke to the people &c. and in the Evening held a meeting at Brother Ruds had a great congregation paid good attention Oh God Seal our te[s]timony-to their hearts Amen-”

Springfield, Pennsylvania
Elk Creek, Pennsylvania

While en route to Canada on a proselyting mission in October 1833, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon spent several days visiting and preaching in Springfield (top) and Elk Creek, Pennsylvania (bottom).

Pennsylvania: Elk Creek, Erie County

1833 Oct 8. “Continued at springfield untill tuesday the 8th Journeyed that day to br. Roundays at Elk creek taried there over night”

New York: Westfield, Chautaugua County

1833 Oct 10. “we ar[i]ved at Br Job Lewises at Westfield the breatheren by a previous appointment met there for meeting we spoke to them as the spirite gave utterence they were greatly gratifyed they appeared to be strong in the faith”

New York: Perrysburg, Cattaraugus County

1833 Oct 12. “came [to] the house of father Nicke[r]son I feel very well in my mind the Lord is with us but have much anxiety about my family &c;-

1833 Oct 13. “held a meeting at freeman Nickerson[’s] had a large congregation Brother Sidney preached & I bear record to the people the Lord gave his spirit in [a] marvilous maner for which I am thankful to the God of Ab[r]aham Lord bless my family and preserve them

1833 Oct 14. “at the same place this day expect to start for Canada Lord be with us on our Journy Amen &c-”

Perrysburg, New York
Lodi, New York

“The lord gave his spirit in [a] marvilous manner,” the Prophet wrote of a meeting in Perrysburg, New York (top). But a meeting at a church in Lodi (bottom) was cancelled when he and his companion, Sidney Rigdon, were refused entrance.

New York: Lodi, Cattaraugus County

1833 Oct 14. “Monday evening arived at Lodi had an appointment preached to a small congregation made an appointment for tuesday at 10 o clock

1833 Oct 15. “the meeting was appointed to be held in the Presbetarian meeting house but when the hour arived the man who kept the key of the house refused to open the door the meeting was thus prevented we came immedeately away and left the people in great confusion”

Mount Pleasant Brantford

Accompanied by Freeman Nickerson, Joseph and Sidney traveled to Freeman’s family home in the area of Mount Pleasant (left) and Brantford (right), southern Ontario, which the Prophet described as “a very fine Country and well cultivated.”

Upper Canada: Mount Pleasant, Brantford, Colborne, Waterford

1833 Oct 18. “Arived at Freeman Nickerson’s [at Mount Pleasant] in upper Canada having after we came into Canada passed through a very fine Country and well cultivated and had many peculiar feelings in relation to both the country and people we were kindly received at freeman Nickersons

1833 Oct 20. “held meeting at brantford on Sunday at 10 o clock to a very attentive congregation at candle lighting the same evening held meeting at mount plesent where freeman Nickerson lived to a very large congregation which gave good heed to the things which were spoken what may be the result we cannot tell but the p[r]ospect is flattering

1833 Oct 21. “this morning enjoy pretty good health with good prospects of doing good calculate to stay in Canada till the Monday of next week then the Lord willing will start for home.

1833 Oct 22. “left Mount plesent tuesday and arived at the village of Coulburn [Colborne] held meeting at candle lighting the evening was very bad snowing vehemently we were publickly opposed by a Wesleyen Methodist he was very tumultious but destitute of reason or knowledge he would not give us an oppertunity to reply this was on the 22nd we find that conviction is resting on the minds of some we hope that great good may yet be done in Canada which O Lord grant for thy names sake during our stay at mount plesent we [had] an interview with a Mr Wilkeson of the methodist order being a leader in that sect he could not stand against our words whether he will receive the truth the Lord only knows he seemed to [be] honest Written at Coulburn wednesday morning the 23 at the house of a Mr Bemer

1833 Oct 24. “left Mr Bemers on thursday came to watterford held meeting at 1 o clock spoke to a small congregation being a very wet day after meeting returned to mount plesent and held meeting at candle lighting to a large congregation one man [Eleazer] Freeman Nickerson declared his full belief in the truth of the work is with his wife who is also convinced to be baptised on sunday great excitement prevailes in every place where we have been the result we leave in the hand of God. written at the house of Freeman Nickerson in mount plesent on friday morning the 25th this afternoon at Mr Pattricks expect to hold a Meeting this Evening &c- People very superstitious Oh God esta[b]lish thy word among this people held a meeting this evening had an attentive congregation the spirit gave utterance

1833 Oct 26. “held a meeting at Mount Plasant the people very tender

1833 Oct 27. “held a meeting in Mount plesent to a large congregation twelve came forward and was baptized and many more were deeply impressed

1833 Oct 28. “appointed a meeting for this day … at the request of some who desires to be baptized at candle lighting held a meeting for confirmation we broke bread laid on hands for the gift of the holy spirit had a good meeting the spirit was given in great power to some and the rest had great peace may God carry on his work in this place till all shall know him Amen. Held meeting yesterday at 10 o clock after meeting two came forward and were baptized confirmed them at the watters edge held meeting last evening ordained br E F Nickerson to the office of Elder had a good meeting one of the sisters got the gift of toungues which made the saints rejoice may God increse the gifts among them for his sons sake this morning we bend our course for home may the Lord prosper our journey Amen

1833 Oct 29. “left Mountpleasant for home”

Waterford

From Mount Pleasant, Joseph and Sidney visited small villages like Waterford.

Kirtland, Ohio

On October 29, they “left Mountpleasant for home” in Kirtland, Ohio, where the first temple of this dispensation would be built three years later.

Ohio: Kirtland, Geauga County

1833 Nov 4. “arrived at home Monday, the 4th at 10, A.M. found my family all well according to the promise of the Lord, for which blessing I feel to thank his holy name; Amen.

1833 Nov 13. “nothing of note transpired from the 4th of Nove[m]ber u[n]til this day in the morning at 4 Oh clock I was awoke by Brother Davis knocking at my door saying Brother Joseph come git up and see the signs in the heavens and I arrose and beheld to my great Joy the stars fall from heaven yea they fell like hail stones a litteral fullfillment of the word of God as recorded in the holy scriptures and a sure sign that the coming of Christ is clost at hand Oh how marvellous are thy works Oh Lord and I thank thee for thy me[r]cy unto me thy servent Oh Lord save me in thy kingdom for Christ sake Amen” (Joseph Smith diary, Ms., LDS Church Archives. Handwriting of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon.)

2. Mission to Solicit Volunteers for Zion’s Camp

Following the expulsion of the Latter-day Saints from Jackson County, Missouri, in November 1833, an immediate question for Church leaders was how to regain the lost land and possessions of their people. At first, state authorities expressed a willingness to help restore to the Saints their lands, but argued that the Constitution provided them no power to protect the Saints if they returned. Church leaders met at Kirtland in February 1834 to consider “how and by what means Zion was to be redeemed,” and decided to create an armed force that could protect the Saints once they had returned to their Jackson County homes.

At this meeting four pairs of missionaries were called, including Joseph Smith and Parley P. Pratt, to visit eastern branches of the Church and solicit funds and volunteers for what came to be known as Zion’s Camp. Between February 26 and March 28, 1834, Joseph and Parley pursued their errand through eastern Pennsylvania and New York, as recorded in the Prophet’s diary:

1834 Feb 26. “started from home to obtain volenteers for Zion”

Pennsylvania: Elk Creek, Erie County

1834 Feb 27. “stayed at Br Roundays”

Pennsylvania: Wesleyville, Erie County

1834 Feb 28. “stayed at a strangers who entertained us very kindly in Westleville”

New York: Westfield, Chautaugua County

1834 Mar 1. “arived at Br Lewis and on the 2d the Sabath Brother Parly preached in this place and I preached in the evening had a good meeting there is a small church in this place tha[t] seem to be strong in th[e] faith Oh may God keep them in the faith and save them and lead them to Zion–

1834 Mar 3. “this morning intend[ed] to start on our Journy to the east But did not start O may God bless us with the gift of utterance to accomplish the Journy and the Errand on which we are sent and return soon to the land of Kirtland and find my Family all well O Lord bless my little children with health and long life to do good in th[is] generation for Christs sake Amen-”

New York: Villanova, Chautaugua County

1834 Mar 4. “took our Journy from Westfield accompanyed By Br gould rode 33 miles arrived in Vilanova staid all night with a Brother McBride”

New York: Perrysburg, Cattaraugus County

1834 Mar 5. “went 4 ms. to Br Nicisons [Nickerson’s] found him and his house hold full of faith and of the holy spirit we cald the church together and Related unto them what had hapened to our Brethren in Zion opened to them the prophesyes and revelations concerning the order of the gethering of Zion and the means of her Redemtion and Brother Joseph Prophesyed to them and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon them and with all redyness the yo[u]ng and midle aged volenteered for Zion same evening held 2 meetings 3 or 4 miles Apart.

1834 Mar 6. “held another Meeting at Bro Nicisons the few un Believeers that atended were outragious and the meeting ended in compleet confusion”

New York: Ellicottville, Cattaraugus County

1834 Mar 7. “We arrived after dark to the county seat of Cataraugus cald Elicutville tryed every tavern in the place But Being Court time we found no room But were compeled to ride on in a dark muddy rainy night we found shelter in rideing 1 mile Paid higher for our fare than tavern price”

Farmersville, New York

At Farmersville, New York, Joseph and Parley found the members “firm in the faith.” They also found some prospective members “verry friendly and somewhat Believeing.” Others were so interested in their message that they could hardly get away.

New York: Farmersville, Cattaraugus County

1834 Mar 8. “came to Palmersville [Farmersville] to the house of Elder Mcgown were Invited to go to Esq walkers-to spend the evening we found them verry friendly and somewhat Believeing tarryed allnight

1834 Mar 9. “held meeting in a school house had great attentian found a few desyples who were firm in faith and after meeting found many Believeing and could hardly get away from them”

Ellicottville, New York
Freedom, New York

Court time at Ellicottville, New York (top), forced missionaries Joseph Smith and Parley P. Pratt to ride in a “muddy rainy night” before finding lodging. Four days later they baptized a young man at Freedom, New York (bottom).

New York: Freedom, Cattaraugus County

1834 Mar 10. “we apointed A meeting in freedom … and are now at Mr Cowderyes in the full Enjoyment of all the Blessings Both temporal and spiritual of which we stand in need or are found worthy to receive held meting on Monday Preachd to crowd[ed] congregat[ion] at eve preacht again to a hous crowded full to overflowing after meting I proposed if any wished to obey if they would make it manifest we would stay to administer at another meeting a young man of the methodist order arose and testified his faith in the fulness of the gospel and desired to Be Baptised we Appointed another meting

1834 Mar 11. “held a meeting and Baptised Heman hide after which we rode 9 ms.”

New York: Livonia, Livingston County

1834 Mar 12. “rode 36 ms. to fauther Bosleys.

1834 Mar 13. “held meting I Preachd friday 14th in F[ather] Beamans.

1834 Mar 15. “at Father Beamans and Brother Sidny and Lyman arived at his house to the Joy of our Souls in Lyvona.”

New York: Geneseo, Livingston County

1834 Mar 16. “Brother Sidney preached to a very large congregation in Geneseo.

1834 Mar 17. “Brother Parly preached in the afternoon”

Livonia, New York

While in Livonia, New York, Joseph and Parley were joined by another pair of missionaries, “Sidney [Rigdon] and Lyman [Wight], … to the Joy of our Souls.”

New York: Livonia, Livingston County

1834 Mar 18. “Stayed at Father Boslys all day”

New York: Bennington, Genesee County

1834 Mar 19. “Started for home arrived at Brother Whitheys tarried all night &c”

China, New York

Proselyting in China, New York, Joseph and Parley “tryed three times to git keept in the name of Deciples.” They finally found a man “who would keep us for mony.”

New York: China, Genesee County

1834 Mar 20. “Started on our Journy at noon took dinner at Brother Joseph Holbrooks, and at night tryed three times to git keept in the name of Deciples, and could not be keept, after night we found a man who would keep us for mony thus we see that there is more place for mony than for Jesus Deciples or the Lamb of God, the name of the man is Reuben Wilson that would not keep us without mony he lived in China &c.”

New York: Perrysburg, Cattaraugus County

1834 Mar 22. “came and tarrid with vincen nights in Perrysburg Co- of Cattaraugus-

1834 Mar 23. “came to Father Nickersons Perrysburg the same Co. NY held a meeting &c.

1834 Mar 24. “this day am not able to start for home but feel determined to go on the morrow morning-”

New York: Westfield, Chautaugua County

1834 Mar 25. “came from Father Nickerson to Father Leweses in Westfield Father Nickerson came with me”

Pennsylvania: Elk Creek, Erie County

1834 Mar 26. “Came from Westfield to Elk kreek stayed with Elder Hunt on free cost”

Ohio: Kirtland, Geauga County

1834 Mar 28. “Came home found my Family all well and the Lord be praised for this blessing

1834 Mar 29. “at home had much Joy with my Family” (Joseph Smith diary, Ms., LDS Church Archives. Handwriting of Joseph Smith and Parley P. Pratt.)

3. March of Zion’s Camp from Ohio to Missouri

Zion’s Camp left Kirtland, Ohio, at the beginning of May 1834 with Joseph Smith at its head, and arrived in Clay County, Missouri, six weeks later amidst threats of impending violence. Representatives of the Church informed the governor of their readiness to take advantage of his offer to reinstate their lost Jackson County lands. But fearing bloodshed, the governor was unwilling to initiate the action. To many who experienced it, a sudden, devastating storm on June 19 preserved the Camp providentially from mob violence. A few days later Zion’s Camp was disbanded.

During the march of the Camp, the Prophet wrote two known letters to his wife, Emma—one as the Camp reached Richmond, Indiana, and the other as they crossed the Mississippi River near Atlas, Illinois:

Indiana: Richmond, Wayne County

1834 May 18. “meeting being over I sit down in my tent to write a few lines to you to let you know that you are on my mind and that I am sensible of the dutes of a Husband and Father and that I am well and I pray God to let his blessings rest upon you and the children and all that are a round you untill I return to your society the few lines you wrote and sent by the ha[n]d of Brother Lyman gave me satisfaction and comfort and I hope you will continue to communicate to me by your own hand for this is a consolation to me to convirse with you in this way in my lonely moments which is not easily discribed I will indeavour to write every Su[n]day if I can and let you know how I am. … I must close for I cannot write on my knees sitting on the ground to edification O may the blessings of God rest upon you is the prayre of your Husband until death” (Joseph to Emma Smith, 5.18.18, RLDS Church Archives.)

Atlas, Illinois

The march of Zion’s Camp was delayed from crossing the Mississippi River near Atlas, Illinois, while waiting for a boat. Joseph wrote to Emma from there that he had been able to endure “the fatigue of the journey far beyond my most sanguine expectations.”

Illinois: On the banks of the Mississippi River near Atlas, Pike County

1834 June 4. “I now embrace a few moments to dictate a few words that you may know how it is with us up to this date. We arrived this morning on the banks of the Mississippi, and were detained from crossing the river, as there was no boat that we could cross in, but expect a new one to be put into the river this evening, so that we are in hopes, to be able to cross to morrow, and proceed on our journey. A tolerable degree of union has prevailed among the brethren or camp up to the present moment, and we are all in better circumstances of health apparently than when we started from Kirtland. … I have been able to endur[e] the fatigue of the journey far beyond my most sanguine expectations, except have been troubled some with lameness, have had my feet blistered, but are now well, and have also had a little touch of my side complaint. … It is our prayer day and night that God will open the heart of the Churches to pour in men and means to assist us, for the redemption and upbuilding of Zion. We want the Elders in Kirtland to use every exertion to influence the Church to come speedily to our relief. Let them come pitching their tents by the way, remembering to keep the sabbath day according to the articles and covenants the same as at home, buying flour and cooking their own provision which they can do, with little trouble, and the expence will be trifling. … The whole of our journey, in the midst of so large a company of social honest and sincere men, wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting occasionaly the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls & their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity, and gazing upon a country the fertility, the splendour and the goodness so indescribable, all serves to pass away time unnoticed, and in short were it not at every now and then our thoughts linger with inexpressible anxiety for our wives and our children our kindred according to the flesh who are entwined around our hearts; and also our brethren and friends; our whole journey would be as a dream, and this would be the happiest period of all our lives.” (Joseph to Emma, 6.4.1834. Retained copy in handwriting of James Mulholland, Joseph Smith Letterbook 2, pp. 56–58, LDS Church Archives.)

(To be continued.)

Author’s original spelling has been retained, following standard historical practice. See reasons for spelling variations in “Nineteenth-Century Spelling: The Rules and the Writers,” Ensign, Aug. 1975, pp. 74–80—including uncertain spelling conventions and spelling as an expression of personality.

Painting by Gary Smith

Photography by Eldon K. Linschoten, Michael M. McConkie, and Jed A. Clark

Dean C. Jessee is a research historian for the Smith Institute at Brigham Young University. He is the father of eight children and currently serves as a counselor in the high priest group of his Salt Lake City ward.