A Period of Preparation, 1823-29

Church History in the Fulness of Times Teacher Manual, (2001), 6–8


  1. 1.

    The years 1823 to 1829 were a significant period of personal preparation for Joseph Smith.

  2. 2.

    Moroni played an important role in tutoring and disciplining Joseph Smith in spiritual matters during these years.

  3. 3.

    After four years of preparation, Joseph Smith received the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated.

    Suggested Approaches

  • Help students understand how the Lord prepared Joseph Smith to bring forth the Book of Mormon. You could use the following examples:

    • Moroni insisted that Joseph tell his father about the angelic visits (see Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, ed. Preston Nibley [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958], pp. 79–80).

    • Moroni’s initial counsel in 1823 included the warning that Joseph’s personal objectives and motives would determine whether or not he obtained the plates (see Joseph Smith—History 1:46). This counsel was reinforced when he was unable to obtain the plates on his first visit to Cumorah (see Readings in LDS Church History, 1:35).

    • Lucy Mack Smith wrote about Joseph’s first visit with Moroni at Cumorah: “The angel told him … that the time had not yet come for the plates to be brought forth to the world; that he could not take them from the place wherein they were deposited until he had learned to keep the commandments of God—not only till he was willing but able to do it” (History of Joseph Smith, p. 81).

    • At the hill Joseph was given a vision contrasting the glory of God and the benighted state of Satan that Moroni said was to enable Joseph to distinguish between good and evil so he would not be tempted to follow Satan (see Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:78–80).

    • Concerning this time of preparation, Lucy Mack Smith said:

      “Joseph continued to receive instructions from the Lord, and we continued to get the children together every evening for the purpose of listening while he gave us a relation of the same. I presume our family presented an aspect as singular as any that ever lived upon the face of the earth—all seated in a circle, father, mother, sons and daughters, and giving the most profound attention to a boy, eighteen years of age. …

      “… He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of traveling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them” (History of Joseph Smith, pp. 82–83).

    • When the 116 pages were lost, the Lord disciplined Joseph Smith, and for a period he lost the Urim and Thummim, the plates, and his gift to translate (see History of the Church, 1:20–28; D&C 3; 10).

  • Using the scriptures, recount the story of the lost manuscript. Point out that God’s foreknowledge made it possible for him to prepare for that event over two thousand years before it occurred. Help students understand that the works of God will never be frustrated, and that they can have complete trust in him and his plan of salvation. All things, including the past, present, and future, are before the Lord (see D&C 130:7). He knows all things and all things are present before his eyes (see D&C 38:2). Using the following chart, teach students how God foresaw (but did not cause or prevent) Martin Harris’s loss of the manuscript and how he was prepared to deal with the problem.



Instructions from the Lord

1 Nephi 9:3, 5–6

Between 600–592 B.C.

Nephi instructed to make a second record similar to his father’s.

Words of Mormon 1:3–7

About A.D. 385

Mormon inspired to place Nephi’s duplicate record next to Lehi’s account.

Doctrine and Covenants 3:1–14


Joseph called on to repent for permitting the 116-page manuscript to leave his possession.

Doctrine and Covenants 10:10–25


The Lord revealed what evil men had done to the manuscript, how Satan had conceived the plan, and how God would not suffer the evil one to accomplish his designs.

    Theme Sources

  • History of the Church, 1:9–38.

  • Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:69–115.

  • Readings in LDS Church History, 1:19–51.

    In addition to Joseph Smith’s account of Moroni’s appearance, this is a convenient source for some of the letters of Oliver Cowdery, originally published in the Messenger and Advocate, detailing the Prophet’s first visit to the Hill Cumorah.

  • Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, pp. 74–85, 94–101.

    Mother Smith’s narrative portrays Moroni as a tutor and disciplinarian who insisted that Joseph learn to be diligent in keeping God’s commandments before he could receive the plates.

  • Robert J. Woodford, “Book of Mormon Personalities Known by Joseph Smith,” Ensign, Aug. 1978, pp. 12–15.

    Especially between the years 1823–30, Joseph Smith was visited and instructed by various Book of Mormon personalities as well as other Old and New Testament prophets.

  • Kent P. Jackson, “Moroni’s Message to Joseph Smith,” Ensign, Aug. 1990, pp. 12–16.

    The author emphasizes that Moroni did not randomly cite verses but selected passages that systematically outlined the future of the Lord’s kingdom.

    Additional Sources

  • Larry C. Porter, “Alvin Smith, Reminder of the Fairness of God,” Ensign, Sept. 1978, pp. 65–67.

    A summary of historical and family-record accounts that attest to Alvin’s goodness and positive influence on the Prophet and his family.

  • Richard Lloyd Anderson, “The Alvin Smith Story: Fact and Fiction,” Ensign, Aug. 1987, pp. 58–72.

    Refutes the myths that Alvin found the Book of Mormon plates through magical practices and concludes that his major role in the Restoration was one of exerting a positive influence on his younger brother Joseph through his wholesomeness and moral excellence.

  • William G. Hartley, “The Knight Family: Ever Faithful to the Prophet,” Ensign, Jan. 1989, pp. 43–49.

    One of the great families of the Restoration, the Knights from Colesville became acquainted with Joseph Smith in 1826. They accepted the gospel and remained loyal and steadfast during times of crisis.

  • David F. Boone, “Prepared for the Restoration,” Ensign, Dec. 1984, pp. 17–21.

    Demonstrates that some individuals received spiritual promptings or manifestations concerning a restoration of truth prior to the actual Restoration.

  • Larry C. Porter, “The Joseph Knight Family,” Ensign, Oct. 1978, pp. 39–45.

    A summary of the many faithful exploits and acts of faith and devotion of the Knight family from 1826 until the present.

  • Stanley B. Kimball, “The Anthon Transcript: People, Primary Sources, and Problems,” Brigham Young University Studies, Spring 1970, pp. 325–52.

    The author gives biographical sketches of the main participants, identifies the elusive Dr. Mitchell, and gives three possible interpretations of Martin Harris’s statement regarding his visit with Dr. Anthon and Dr. Mitchell.

  • Milton V. Backman, Jr., Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986).

    Primarily a compilation of eyewitness accounts of events having to do with the publication of the Book of Mormon and the Restoration of the gospel.

  • H. Donl Peterson, Moroni: Ancient Prophet, Modern Messenger (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon Publishers, 1983).

    Reviews the mission of the prophet Moroni.

  • Gordon A. Madsen, “Joseph Smith’s 1826 Trial: The Legal Setting,” Brigham Young University Studies, Spring 1990, pp. 91–108.

    The author refutes the conclusions of earlier authors and suggests that Oliver Cowdery correctly described what happened when he wrote in 1835 that “some very officious person complained of him [Joseph] as a disorderly person, and brought him before the authorities of the country; but there being no cause of action he was honorably acquitted.”