The Josiah Stowell Jr.-John S. Fullmer Correspondence

In 1843, Mormon missionary John S. Fullmer encountered difficulties proselyting in Pennsylvania due to widespread rumors regarding Joseph Smith’s youthful activities in that state and in New York. In an effort to overcome local opinion, Fullmer wrote to Josiah Stowell Jr. asking for a statement regarding Joseph Smith’s character. Josiah and Joseph had been schoolmates and friends from 1825 to 1827, when Joseph worked for Josiah Stowell Sr. The following letter of response from Josiah Stowell Jr., including a postscript by Josiah Stowell Sr., conveys their firsthand knowledge of Joseph Smith’s character. Most people who wrote about Joseph Smith during his lifetime were either faithful Latter-day Saints or carping critics. As one would expect, their respective viewpoints tended to influence that which they wrote. Unlike his father, however, Josiah Stowell Jr. never converted to the new faith. In fact, he kept aloof from all denominations. His letter of reply to John S. Fullmer thus provides a rare report by one who was both impartial in his religious convictions and well acquainted with Joseph during the time the Prophet was preparing to receive the golden plates. In addition, the elder Stowell’s postscript provides us with the testimony of one of the earliest believers in the divinity of Joseph Smith’s prophetic mission. The interchange between Fullmer and the Stowells offers two distinct and significant perceptions of the young Joseph Smith.

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