Lucy cut into a large, round cheese that had been rubbed with cream and salt. She layered the yellow wedges onto a wooden trencher, alongside thick slices of crusty wheat bread.
“Supper’s ready,” she announced.
Family members came from every direction, pulling up benches of half-logs around the sawbuck “eating table.” This was their usual Sunday supper, along with mugs of milk and apple cider. Alvin watched his younger brother all during the meal. A corner of cheese was all Joseph ate.
When Lucy and Sophronia had cleared away the food, Alvin leaned across the table on suntanned arms. “You ailing, Joseph?”
“I’m well enough.”
“You haven’t eaten.”
Trust Alvin to notice and be concerned, Joseph thought. No wonder I love him so much.
Alvin continued to study Joseph. “And you haven’t said more than ten words during supper,” he added.
“My thoughts have been too busy running round in my head to break loose, I expect. I’ve been trying to put answers to some questions.”
Alvin smiled knowingly, sympathetically. “Like why you haven’t heard from the Lord?”
“Yes. And is it because of something I’ve done or haven’t done?”
Alvin sat upright on the bench. “We all have weaknesses, Joseph. Your strong conscience is apt to exaggerate and turn boyish errors into sinful offenses.”
“I’ve tried to be true—really tried! But I’ve not always been able to weight the virtues and failings of others. Sometimes I’ve been led into foolish errors.” Joseph leaned toward Alvin. Even in the dim flickering light, Joseph’s eyes had never seemed so clear and blue. “For days I’ve turned those questions over in my mind. Finally, I’ve determined what I must do. I’m going to take them to the Lord.”
After chores, Joseph climbed the ladder steps to his bedroom in the low garret under the roof. As he placed the candleholder on a trunk by his bed, a little gray spider scrambled up her silken thread. He watched until she merged into the black bulk of a slanting overhead beam. But his thoughts went beyond, toward heaven, as if they, too, were drawn on a silver thread.
In the soft circle of candlelight, Joseph undressed and put on his nightshirt. Then he blew the light into darkness. As he knelt by his bed, Joseph’s thoughts swept over the past three years since his vision. He had tried to remain true to his trust. But shunned by his old friends and longing for companionship, he had sometimes associated with fun-loving boys who were not inclined toward religion. Joseph remembered the joking, loud laughter, and thoughtless remarks. Maybe that foolishness was offensive and not in keeping with God’s expectations of me, he thought. Tears wet Joseph’s cheeks as he imagined the Lord’s disappointment and displeasure. He began to pray from the depths of his soul for forgiveness and to beg for strength to overcome his weaknesses. Then he pleaded with all the power of his spirit that the Lord would let him know what his standing was before Him.
Suddenly the darkness thinned. A growing, glorious light filled the room until it shone brighter than at noonday. In the midst of this lightning-bright glory stood a personage, wearing a loose robe of exquisite whiteness. A whiteness beyond anything earthly Joseph had ever seen. And not only his robe, but his whole person was brilliant beyond description. His hands and arms were bare a little above the wrists as were his feet and legs a little above the ankles.
Joseph raised himself onto the bed, then watched wide-eyed, frightened, and puzzled as the personage moved toward him without touching the floor. This was not the Father nor the Son as before. He was like Them in an exquisite glory, yet different. Then he spoke, calling Joseph by name and announcing that he was Moroni, a messenger sent from God.
Because his voice was full of tenderness and comfort, the fear left Joseph. Then the angel went on to say that God had a work for him to do. Joseph’s whole being burned with the desire to do whatever was asked of him, for the angel was proof that the Lord still found him worthy.
Moroni went on to say that Joseph’s name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, for he was to bring forth a book buried in a hill close by, an ancient record engraved upon plates of gold. The plates contained a history of the nations that had previously lived on the American continent and from whence they had come.
Joseph was spellbound. The angel explained that the fullness of the everlasting gospel, given by the Savior to these ancient peoples, was also written on the golden plates. Then the heavenly messenger described two stones, set in silver bows, that were hidden in the ground with the plates. These stones, fastened to a breastplate, were called the Urim and Thummim.
Fascinated, Joseph heard Moroni explain that men in ancient times had become seers through the use and possession of the Urim and Thummim. Joseph was amazed to learn that he also would become a seer and able to foretell events. And with the two stones he could understand and translate the ancient writings engraved on the plates of gold.
Suddenly, Joseph saw so clearly the particular spot on a hillside where these treasures were buried that he knew he would be able to go directly to the place without difficulty. But Moroni cautioned Joseph that it was not yet time for the record to be translated. He would have to prepare himself for the work. Joseph was also warned against showing the hidden treasures to anyone unless commanded to do so by his Heavenly Father.
Before Moroni left, he quoted ancient prophecy and revealed that God’s power and kingdom would be restored to the earth through Joseph. He learned about the second coming of the Savior and His ministry on the earth. Moroni told of wickedness and troubled times and explained many things to Joseph. When the angel ceased speaking, the light in the room seemed to gather immediately around him. Instantly, Joseph saw a tunnel of light, extended into heaven, through which the heavenly messenger disappeared.
The light diminished and the darkness fell around him once again. Joseph marveled at what he had seen and heard. While he was still trying to comprehend, Moroni suddenly appeared by Joseph’s bed a second time. In blazing glory he solemnly repeated the same things he had revealed during his first visit. Joseph thought his heart would stop beating as the angel described the judgments in the form of famine, sword, and pestilence that would soon come upon the earth.
When Moroni ascended the second time, all thought of sleep was gone from Joseph’s mind. He lay on his bed completely overwhelmed at what he had heard.
Suddenly Joseph was astonished to see the visitor yet a third time. Moroni repeated the message as before, then warned that Satan would try to tempt Joseph to sell the plates so that his family could have the riches of the world. He reminded Joseph that the golden plates would be withheld if they were used for anything except to glorify God and build His kingdom.
Immediately after Moroni left for the third time, Joseph heard a cock crow in the yard. It was dawn and the angelic visits had lasted the whole of the night.
The message from Moroni was deeply impressed on Joseph’s mind. And it was suddenly clear that the past three years of waiting had been a period of testing. The Lord had been preparing him to be a prophet! (To be continued.)