The Visionary World of Joseph Smith

In the fall of 1829, when the first proofs of the Book of Mormon were coming off E. B. Grandin’s press in Palmyra, Solomon Chamberlin, a restless religious spirit who lived twenty miles to the east, broke a journey to Upper Canada, stopping not far from the residence of Joseph Smith Sr. Born in Canaan, Connecticut, in 1788, Chamberlin had joined the Methodists at age nineteen, moved on to the Methodist Reformed Church about seven years later, and then tried life on a communal farm where property was held in common, following the New Testament pattern.

Dissatisfied with the religions he had tried, Chamberlin prayed for further guidance, and in 1816, according to his account, “the Lord revealed to me in a vision of the night an angel,” whom Chamberlin asked about the right way. The angel told him that the churches were corrupt and that God would soon raise up an apostolic church. Chamberlin printed up an account of his visions and was still distributing them and looking for the apostolic church when he stopped in Palmyra.

In “A Short Sketch of the Life of Solomon Chamberlain,” written at Beaver, Utah, when Chamberlin was nearly seventy, he said, “When the boat came to Palmyra, I felt as if some genii or good Spirit told me to leave the boat.” Guided by his inspiration, Chamberlin walked south from the town center, heard about the “gold bible” at the house where he spent the night, and the next day made his way to the place where Joseph Smith Sr. was living.

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