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VIPs in San Francisco during the 1800sJoseph Smith

Born: December 23, 1805, Sharon, Vermont
Died June 27, 1844, Carthage, Illinois

Joseph Smith founded and organized the Latter Day Saint movement, also known as Mormonism, on April 6, 1830 while in New York.

Joseph Smith.

During the 1830s, his attempted as establishng an outpost in Jackson County, Missouri, were thwarted by Missouri settlers who expelled the Latter Day Saints.

In 1839, the Saints established headquarters at Nauvoo, Illinois on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Smith's followers declared him to be the first and true latter-day prophet, whose mission was to restore the original Christian church, said to have been lost soon after the death of the Apostles which caused an apostasy. This restoration included the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the publication of the Book of Mormon and other new scriptures. As a leader of large settlement communities, Smith also became a political and military leader in the American Midwest.

After purportedly receiving a revelation commanding him to practice plural marriage, Joseph Smith married multiple wives and introduced the practice to close associates. This principle was among the most challenging aspects of the Restoration for Joseph personally and for other Church members. Plural marriage tested faith and provoked controversy and opposition. Few Latter-day Saints initially welcomed the restoration of a biblical practice entirely foreign to their sensibilities. But many later testified of powerful spiritual experiences that helped them overcome their hesitation and gave them courage to accept this practice.

Joseph and Hiram Smith.

The revelation on plural marriage was not written down until 1843, but its early verses suggest that part of it emerged from Joseph Smith s study of the Old Testament in 1831. People who knew Joseph well later stated he received the revelation about that time. The revelation, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132, states that Joseph prayed to know why God justified Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon in having many wives. The Lord responded that He had commanded them to enter into the practice.

Polygamy had been permitted for millennia in many cultures and religions, but, with few exceptions, was rejected in Western cultures. In Joseph Smith s time, monogamy was the only legal form of marriage in the United States. Joseph knew the practice of plural marriage would stir up public ire. After receiving the commandment, he taught a few associates about it, but he did not spread this teaching widely in the 1830s.

Moroni: Divine Revelation

A personage appeared in Joseph’s bedroom, surrounded by brilliant light: “His whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning.”

The Angel Moroni delivering the plates of
the Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith. C. C. Christensen.

Angel Moroni delivering plates of the Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith.

This glorious being introduced himself as Moroni, stating that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God. He said that God had a work for Joseph to perform, and then he prophesied that Joseph’s name would be “had for good and evil” among all peoples of the earth. The heavenly visitor then spoke of the book that Isaiah had seen in a vision, explaining that it contained an account of this continent’s former inhabitants, and it also contained “the fulness of the everlasting Gospel” as delivered by the Savior to those ancient peoples. He told Joseph of the Urim and Thummim, which had been prepared to help in translating the record. Moroni also quoted many passages of scripture relative to the establishment of this dispensation and the great changes it would bring on the earth.

Oliver Cowdery recorded that while Moroni was speaking, a vision was also opened to Joseph’s mind, so that he was permitted to see marvelous manifestations relative to what was being taught.

The Angel Moroni. Concluding his presentation, Moroni warned Joseph that when the time came to obtain the plates, if he showed them to anyone not approved of the Lord, he would be destroyed. The light gathered around the heavenly messenger, a conduit opened up into heaven, and Moroni ascended.

Moroni’s visit to Joseph Smith was repeated twice more that night, and Moroni gave the same message and added warnings, including one that Joseph must resist the temptation to use the plates to make himself and his family rich.

The following day, Joseph, too weak to work in the fields as usual, started home. “In attempting to cross the fence out of the field … ,” he later wrote, “my strength entirely failed me, and I fell helpless on the ground, and for a time was quite unconscious of anything.” When he came to himself, Moroni was there again with another repetition of his message. This time, Joseph was instructed to tell his father of the visions and the commandments he had received. Joseph Smith, Sr., ratified the divine nature of the experiences and told his son to do as he had been commanded. Joseph then left the field to go to the hill where the plates were buried.

The same revelation that taught of plural marriage was part of a larger revelation given to Joseph Smith that marriage could last beyond death and that eternal marriage was essential to inheriting the fulness that God desires for His children.

Mormon Wagon Train from Nauvoo Illinois to Utah.

On June 27, 1844, Smith and his brother Myrum were murdered by a mob in Carthage, Illinois, while being held on charges of treason. Brigham Young asumed the leadership over the majority of the saints and lead them to Utah.

As early as 1840, Joseph Smith privately taught Apostle Parley P. Pratt that the heavenly order allowed Pratt and his wife to be together for time and all eternity. Joseph also taught that men like Pratt who had remarried following the death of his first wife could be married (or sealed) to their wives for eternity, under the proper conditions.

Parley Parker Pratt

From the Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt:

President Joseph Smith was in person tall and well built, strong and active, of a light complexion, light hair, blue eyes, very little beard, and of an expression peculiar to himself, on which the eye naturally rested with interest, and was never weary of beholding. His countenance was ever mild, affable, beaming with intelligence and benevolence; mingled with a look of interest and an unconscious smile, or cheerfulness, and entirely free from all restraint or affectation of gravity; and there was something connected with the serene and steady penetrating glance of his eye, as if he would penetrate the deepest abyss of the human heart, gaze into eternity, penetrate the heavens, and comprehend all worlds.

He possessed a noble boldness and independence of character; his manner was easy and familiar; his rebuke terrible as the lion; his benevolence unbounded as the ocean; his intelligence universal, and his language abounding in original eloquence peculiar to himself -- not polished -- not studied -- not smoothed and softened by education and refined by art; but flowing forth in its own native simplicity, and profusely abounding in variety of subject and manner. He interested and edified, while, at the same time, he amused and entertained his audience; and none listened to him that were ever weary with his discourse. I have even known him to retain a congregation of willing and anxious listeners for many hours together, in the midst of cold or sunshine, rain or wind, while they were laughing at one moment and weeping the next. Even his most bitter enemies were generally overcome, if he could once get their ears.

Mormon Ten Commandments.

I have known him when chained and surrounded with armed murderers and assassins who were heaping upon him every possible insult and abuse, rise up in the majesty of a son of God and rebuke them, in the name of Jesus Christ, till they quailed before him, dropped their weapons, and, on their knees, begged his pardon, and ceased their abuse.

In short, in him the characters of a Daniel and a Cyrus were wonderfully blended. The gifts, wisdom and devotion of a Daniel were united with the boldness, courage, temperance, perseverance and generosity of a Cyrus. And had he been spared a martyr's fate till mature manhood and age, he was certainly endued with powers and ability to have revolutionized the world in many respects, and to have transmitted to posterity a name associated with more brilliant and glorious acts than has yet fallen to the lot of mortal. As it is, his works will live to endless ages, and unnumbered millions yet unborn will mention his name with honor, as a noble instrument in the hands of God, who, during his short and youthful career, laid the foundation of that kingdom spoken of by Daniel, the prophet, which should break in pieces all other kingdoms and stand forever.

July 1887, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California, U.S.A.

Ignorant Dupes

Three Hundred Mormon Converts About to Sail from Europe.

New York, July 19th (Special) -- The Castle Garden officials have received information that some 400 converts to Mormonism are making arrangements to sail from Liverpool for New York, and it is expected that the Latter Day Saints will arrive in this port at an early day. Some of them will settle in New Mexico, but the majority will go to Utah. Mormon missionaries have been making renewed exertions to secure converts in Europe of late, but they met with much less success than in former years.


Recollections of a Handcart Pioneer of 1860: A Woman's Life on the Mormon Frontier

Second Edition
Mary Ann Hafen, Donna Toland Smart (Introduction)

Recollections of a Handcart Pioneer. Mormon Frontier.

In the summer of 1860 the author of these recollections, Mary Ann Stucki, then six years old, walked beside her parents’ handcart from Florence (Omaha), Nebraska, to Salt Lake City, Utah. The family, converts to Mormonism, had left their comfortable home near Bern, Switzerland, to make the long journey to the Mormon Zion. Nearly eighty years later, Mary Ann Hafen published this account of her life, giving us an unparalleled, candid, inside view of the Mormon woman’s world. Called to go with the Swiss company to settle the “Dixieland” region of southern Utah —a hot, dry, inhospitable land—Mary Ann’s family lived in thatch, dugout, and adobe houses they built themselves. While still hardly more than a child, Mary Ann cut wheat with a sickle, gleaned cotton fields, made braided straw hats for barter, and spun and dyed cloth for her dresses. Always sustained by her faith in the church, she took part in a millenarian scheme that failed—a communal order—and entered a polygamous marriage, raising almost single-handedly a large family. Mary Ann Hafen has left an authentic, matter-of-fact record of poverty, incredibly hard work, and loss of loved ones, but also of pleasures great and small. It is a unique document of a little-known way of life.

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; Maritime Library, San Francisco, California, various Maritime Museums around the world.

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