The Prophet Joseph Smith described several significant events that he experienced between the ages of 17 and 22. These events included his labors to help sustain his family, his brother Alvin’s death, and his marriage to Emma Hale. Joseph also wrote that after years of instruction from the angel Moroni, he was given charge of the plates and began to translate the Book of Mormon. Martin Harris showed a copy of some of the characters from the plates and their translation to scholars in New York. These scholars certified the authenticity of the characters and the correctness of their translation. However, one scholar rejected the account of how Joseph Smith obtained the plates, fulfilling a prophecy from the book of Isaiah (see Isaiah 29:11–12 and 2 Nephi 27:15–20).
Note: In Joseph Smith—History, the Prophet refers to Josiah Stoal. In some historical records, Stoal also appears as Stowell or other variants.
Invite a few students to name a significant event that has happened in their lives during the past few years. Ask them to explain how this event has influenced their character and their future. Then ask the class to name some significant events they expect to occur in their lives during the next five years. Explain that in today’s lesson they will learn about significant events in a five-year span of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s life. Point out that in the account recorded in Joseph Smith—History 1:55–65, Joseph Smith was between the ages of 17 and 22—close to the age of many seminary students.
Invite students to read Joseph Smith—History 1:55–58 silently, looking for important events in Joseph Smith’s life.
What significant events occurred during this time period in Joseph Smith’s life? (Students’ answers may include the following: Joseph’s brother Alvin died; Joseph went to work for Josiah Stoal; Joseph married Emma Hale.)
Bring an object from home (or identify an object in your classroom) that you feel has great value and that you treat with care. Explain the significance of the object and why you treat it so carefully.
Have you ever seen someone who has neglected or failed to take care of something of value? Why do some people do this?
Explain that Joseph Smith was entrusted with something very significant. Encourage students to consider what they can learn from his example as they study Joseph Smith—History 1:59–62.
Invite a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:59 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify the significant items the angel Moroni gave to Joseph Smith.
What items did Moroni entrust to Joseph Smith? (The gold plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate. Explain that the Urim and Thummim is a divinely prepared instrument that aids a seer in the work of translation and in receiving revelation.)
What charge did Moroni give to Joseph Smith concerning the plates? (You may want to suggest that students mark the phrase “use all my endeavors to preserve them.”)
Write the following statement on the board: As we take responsibility for and preserve that which the Lord has given us, He will .
What did the Lord promise Joseph if he would be responsible in his care of the plates?
Invite students to suggest ways to complete the statement on the board. The following is one way they might respond: As we take responsibility for and preserve that which the Lord has given us, He will extend His protection and help.
To help students liken Joseph’s experience to their own circumstances, ask the following question:
What are some examples of sacred trusts the Lord has given us? (Responses might include treating our bodies with reverence, baptismal and temple covenants, priesthood authority and duties, Church callings, our responsibility to nourish our minds and spirits, our family responsibilities and relationships, and our testimonies.)
Invite a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:60 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify a sentence that illustrates that the Lord fulfilled His promise as Joseph was faithful to the trust given him. (“But by the wisdom of God, they remained safe in my hands, until I had accomplished by them what was required at my hand.”)
To illustrate how the Lord extended His protection and help as Joseph Smith diligently sought to preserve the plates, invite a student to read aloud the following account. Before the student reads, explain that it is an excerpt from an account by Joseph Smith’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, about what happened shortly after Joseph Smith obtained the plates from Moroni at the Hill Cumorah. Also explain that when Joseph Smith received the plates from Moroni, he initially hid them in a decayed birch log about 3 miles from his home. Joseph Smith’s mother recorded what occurred as he later retrieved the plates from his hiding place and brought them home:
“Joseph, on coming to them, took them from their secret place, and, wrapping them in his linen frock, placed them under his arm and started for home.
“After proceeding a short distance, he thought it would be more safe to leave the road and go through the woods. Traveling some distance after he left the road, he came to a large windfall, and as he was jumping over a log, a man sprang up from behind it and gave him a heavy blow with a gun. Joseph turned around and knocked him down, then ran at the top of his speed. About half a mile farther he was attacked again in the same manner as before; he knocked this man down in like manner as the former and ran on again; and before he reached home he was assaulted the third time. In striking the last one, he dislocated his thumb, which, however, he did not notice until he came within sight of the house, when he threw himself down in the corner of the fence in order to recover his breath. As soon as he was able, he arose and came to the house. He was still altogether speechless from fright and the fatigue of running” (in Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, ed. Preston Nibley , 108).
When have you (or someone you know) received the Lord’s protection and help as you diligently sought to be true to a sacred trust from the Lord?
To help students reflect on their desire to preserve the sacred trusts the Lord has given them, ask a student to read the following statement by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Be wise with what the Lord gives you. It is a trust. …
“Rather than drifting into carelessness, may your life be one of increasing exactness in obedience. I hope you will think and feel and dress and act in ways that show reverence and respect for sacred things, sacred places, sacred occasions” (“A Sense of the Sacred” [Church Educational System fireside for young adults, Nov. 7, 2004], 9, 10; speeches.byu.edu).
Invite a student to read Joseph Smith—History 1:61–62 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for examples of how the Lord blessed Joseph and Emma Smith for their faithfulness in being responsible for sacred things.
How did the Lord bless the Prophet and his wife at this time? (Help students see that the Lord helped Joseph accomplish His will through the help of Martin Harris.)
If possible, show students the accompanying picture, which shows examples of characters that were written on the gold plates. In 1828, Joseph Smith copied some of the characters onto a piece of paper. Martin Harris asked if he could present a copy of some of the characters from the plates to scholars in New York who had knowledge of ancient languages and civilizations. (As you show the picture, you may want to mention that several copies of the characters were made. It is unknown whether this was the actual copy that Martin Harris presented to the scholars.)
Write Joseph Smith—History 1:63–65 and Isaiah 29:10–12 on the board. Explain that the reference from Joseph Smith—History describes Martin Harris’s meeting with the scholars. The Isaiah reference contains a prophecy about the latter days. Invite students to work in pairs and take turns reading these passages aloud to each other. Instruct them to read the Joseph Smith—History passage first. You may want to suggest that they read the chapter heading to Isaiah 29 before they read the Isaiah passage. As they read the verses in Isaiah 29, have them look for similarities to Martin Harris’s account. After students have finished reading and discussing both passages, ask the following question:
What truth do these passages teach us about the Lord’s foreknowledge and the prophecies of His servants? (You may want to mention that when Martin showed the characters from the plates to the scholars in New York, he helped fulfill the prophecy recorded in Isaiah 29:11–12).
Although students may use different words, they should identify the following truth: The prophecies of the Lord’s servants will come to pass. You may want to write this truth on the board. You might also suggest that students write it in their scriptures next to Joseph Smith—History 1:65. Ask students if they can think of scripture mastery passages that teach this same truth (for example, see D&C 1:37–38 and Amos 3:7). You may want to suggest that they write these references next to Joseph Smith—History 1:65.
How does the fulfillment of divine promises or prophetic statements strengthen your faith?
Invite students to write a few sentences in their class notebooks or scripture study journals that summarize what they learned in today’s lesson and why it is important to them. To allow students a chance to explain and testify of the truths they have learned, invite a few of them to share what they wrote with the class.