Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage

Church History in the Fulness of Times Teacher Manual, (2001), 2–3


  1. 1.

    Most of Joseph Smith’s ancestors were upright and God-fearing people.

  2. 2.

    Before the First Vison, the most noted event in Joseph’s otherwise little-known boyhood was his severe leg infection and subsequent operation.

  3. 3.

    Joseph gleaned much from his family and New England background as he grew up and assumed his prophetic stature.

    Suggested Approaches

  • Show students a pedigree chart of Joseph Smith’s ancestry (a partial pedigree can be found on page 15 of the student manual pg. 15). Share something about each one of his ancestors and help students see how Joseph Smith’s heritage became a blessing and a strength to him. Encourage students to find out more about their own heritage and ancestors. Ask if anyone can share a story from the lives of their own ancestors that has proven to be a source of inspiration to them.

  • Name the children of Joseph Smith, Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith. List them on the board, or have students look at the list on page 21 of the student manualpg. 21. Ask how many older brothers Joseph Smith had. Why is it significant that Joseph, who was not the oldest son, got his father’s name? Point out that this was a fulfillment of a prophecy uttered by Joseph who was sold into Egypt thousands of years ago (see 2 Nephi 3:15).

  • Have a student read aloud the account of Joseph’s leg operation as found on page 23 of the student manual pg. 23. Ask students to share their feelings about his courage and character. How might this suffering have prepared Joseph for future trials?

  • Using map 1 from the back of the triple combination, briefly recount the moves of the Smith family during the years 1805–16. Share some of the experiences the Smiths had during these years. Help students see the hand of the Lord in moving the Smiths near Dartmouth College when young Joseph Smith, Jr. needed a serious leg operation, and eventually moving to Palmyra just three miles from the Hill Cumorah where the Book of Mormon plates were buried.

  • Point out that Joseph Smith’s mission in the latter days had been previously revealed to many prophets. Discuss some of these prophecies about the mission of Joseph Smith:

    Theme Sources

  • Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:1–38.

  • Readings in LDS Church History, 1:11–13.

  • Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, ed. Preston Nibley (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958), pp. 1–78.

    In the first seventeen chapters, Mother Smith discusses Joseph’s ancestry, significant family challenges and experiences in New England, Father Smith’s dreams, and Joseph’s boyhood.

  • Reed C. Durham, Jr., “Joseph Smith’s Own Story of a Serious Childhood Illness,” Brigham Young University Studies, Summer 1970, pp. 480–82.

    Reproduces Joseph’s own account of his leg operation and the move to New York while still on crutches.

  • LeRoy S. Wirthlin, “Nathan Smith (1762–1828): Surgical Consultant to Joseph Smith,” Brigham Young University Studies, Spring 1977, pp. 319–37; “Joseph Smith’s Boyhood Operation: An 1813 Surgical Success,” Brigham Young University Studies, Spring 1981, pp. 131–54.

    Provides a biographical sketch of Dr. Nathan Smith and concludes that Dr. Smith was years ahead of contemporaries in treating osteomyelitis, the disease that threatened the life of seven-year-old Joseph Smith.

  • Richard Lloyd Anderson, “Of Goodly Parents,” New Era, Dec. 1973, pp. 34–39.

    Highlights the outstanding character traits and religious inclinations of Joseph Smith’s parents and grandparents.

    Additional Sources

  • Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1984), pp. 9–42.

    A thoughtful analysis of the misfortunes, accomplishments, and tenacity of spirit that characterized Joseph Smith’s ancestors.

  • Richard Lloyd Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1971).

    A comprehensive study of Joseph Smith’s ancestry.