Joseph Knight arose early the morning of September 22, 1827. As he went outside to check on his animals, he noticed that his horse and wagon were gone. He was a guest in the home of the Joseph Smith family in Manchester, New York, and Joseph and Emma had borrowed his horse and wagon in the predawn to go to the Hill Cumorah.
Brother Knight was a dear friend of the Prophet and was among the first to hear Joseph describe the sacred experience of being visited by the angel Moroni. The angel had appeared to Joseph Smith once a year for the three previous years, and this morning was to be the fourth and last visitation. During this visit the angel Moroni had promised to let the Prophet take the gold plates if Joseph had been faithful.
When Joseph and Emma returned from the Hill Cumorah, the Prophet told Brother Knight something of his glorious experience. He told him of the size of the plates and described the glasses, or Urim and Thummim, which he (Joseph) had been given to help translate the Book of Mormon.
Brother Knight and his wife, Polly, had faith in the young Prophet from the beginning. They helped Joseph while he was translating the plates by giving him shoes, money, writing paper, mackerel, grain, and potatoes. Brother Knight became a good friend of the Smith family, and in June 1830 the Knights were baptized.
Once, when Joseph was arrested while conducting a confirmation service, Brother Knight hired two farmer neighbors versed in the law, who successfully defended the Prophet and gained his release from jail. As a result of Joseph Knight’s kindness to the Prophet, Knight’s anti-Mormon neighbors vandalized his property while he was away. One account states that they sank some of his wagons in water, overturned others, and threw chains into the millstream. Brother Knight’s response was that, even so, the house was filled with the Holy Ghost upon their return, and they were grateful to have the Prophet with them.
The Knights moved their family many times to stay with the Prophet, each time sacrificing home, farm, and belongings that they had worked hard to obtain. They moved to Ohio and then to Missouri. Joseph Knight’s wife, Polly, died just a few days after their arrival in Jackson County, Missouri. It has been reported that Knight and his son Newel slept in a chicken coop there while their home was being built. The Knights later moved to Illinois where they helped build the city of Nauvoo. A few years later they were forced to move again as the Saints began the trek across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley.
Joseph Knight died during that trek at Mt. Pisgah, Iowa, on February 3, 1847, at the age of seventy-four.
Joseph Knight made many sacrifices in his effort to help the Prophet. Joseph Smith wrote that “my aged and beloved brother, Joseph Knight, Sen., … was among the … first to administer to my necessities, while I was laboring in the commencement of the bringing forth of the work of the Lord. … For fifteen years he has been faithful and true, and even-handed and exemplary, and virtuous and kind … Behold he is a righteous man, … [and] his name shall never be forgotten.” (History of the Church 5:124–125.)