New York Period | BYU Studies

New York Period

"Securing" the Prophet's Copyright in the Book of Mormon: Historical and Legal Context for the So-called Canadian Copyright Revelation

To read the extended version of this article click here . The 2009 publication of the Manuscript Revelation Books as part of the Joseph Smith Papers makes available, for the first time, the text of a revelation received in 1829 or 1830 by the Prophet Joseph Smith on securing the copyright of the Book of Mormon in all the world and selling a copyright for its publication in the four then-existing... Read more

Joseph Knight's Recollection of Early Mormon History

Joseph Knight, Sr., was born 3 November 1772 at Oakham, Worcester, Massachusetts. In 1809 he moved to Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York and two years later to Colesville, Broome County, New York where he remained for nineteen years. He owned a farm, a gristmill and carding machine, and according to his son, Newel, "was not rich, yet possessed enough of this world's goods to secure to himself... Read more

The Second American Revolution: Era of Preparation

The origins of Mormonism can be better understood by looking at its historical context. The period between 1820 and 1845 was a time of political, social, economic, and religious revolution in America and has been termed "The Second Revolution." The author examines the general, religious, and socio-economic preparations the Second Revolution made for the spread of early Mormonism. Read more

Seer Stones, Salamanders, and Early Mormon "Folk Magic" in the Light of Folklore Studies and Bible Scholarship

The 2015 publication of an Ensign article on, and especially photos of, one of Joseph Smith’s seer stones still owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints caused quite a sensation in the blogosphere. Mormon studies as a discipline has struggled to make sense of seer stones too. These responses are understandable, considering how often communities tend to presume little change in... Read more

David Hale's Store Ledger: New Details about Joseph and Emma Smith, the Hale Family, and the Book of Mormon

In December 1827, Joseph and Emma Smith arrived in Harmony, Pennsylvania, to live while Joseph translated the gold plates. Harmony was the home of Emma's family, and Emma's brother David Hale had a small store that was used for trading goods and work among the neighbors. David kept a ledger that records Joseph's purchases of leatherwork, a shovel, a pocketbook, a pocketknife, and a comb. Joseph... Read more

Almanacs in the New England Heritage of Mormonism

The products of early Mormon writers can be classified into twelve main categories: proclamations and warnings, doctrinal treatises, petitions for redress, histories, accounts of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, scriptural guides and helps, replies to anti-Mormon attacks, almanacs, newspapers, hymns and poetry, exposes by former members, and special publications. These constitute a large... Read more

Joseph Smith's 1826 Trial: The Legal Setting

A newer edition of this article was published as a chapter in Sustaining the Law. Follow this link to view the chapter. Since the subject of the 1826 trial of Joseph Smith has been extensively reported and commented upon, one quite rightly wonders what else is new or old to be said about that blip in Mormon history. However, none of the reports and few of the commentaries have tried to put the... Read more

A Shaker View of a Mormon Mission

"You're not the first Mormon missionaries to visit the Shakers," declared the crusty old curator of the Shaker Museum in Old Chatham, N. Y. The two elders were laboring in the Albany district of the Eastern States Mission, where I was serving as their supervising elder in the fall of 1961. I listened with great interest as they enthusiastically related how the old man had gone into another room... Read more

Oliver Cowdery's Vermont Years and the Origins of Mormonism

Cowdery biographers have generally repeated a few brief facts before darting to Oliver's initial meeting with Joseph Smith in April 1829. A close look at the record, however, reveals a rich family history—a history that includes the death of Oliver's mother, the blending of three families, four moves between two states, and a plague that took a dear aunt and uncle. All of these details in turn... Read more

Legal Insights into the Organization of the Church in 1830

While much has been written about the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in upstate New York, questions remain regarding the events of April 6, 1830. This article examines the organizational events of the Church from a legal perspective. In the nineteenth century, individuals desiring to form a church had two legal alternatives: forming a religious corporation or... Read more

Archaeology at the Peter Whitmer Farm, Seneca County, New York

A number of important historical events took place on the Peter Whitmer farm which pertain to the growth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was here that a substantial part of the Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith, Jr., where some of the first baptisms of the Church were performed, and in particular, where the Church was organized on 6 April 1830. Read more

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... Read more

The "Prognostication" of Asa Wild

Upstate New York newspapers in October 1823 carried a statement by a visionary soul who believed that God would soon open the way for a restoration of primitive Christianity. Asa Wild was almost a dozen years older than Joseph Smith, and it is probable the two never met. Like Joseph, Wild was born in Vermont--in 1794 at West Fairlee, about twenty miles northeast of Joseph's birthplace of Sharon... Read more

Joseph Smith and the 1826 Trial: New Evidence and New Difficulties

In the late winter of 1826, according to an early account, Peter Bridgeman, a nephew of the wife of Josiah Stowell, presented a written complaint against Joseph Smith at South Bainbridge, New York, which led to his arrest and trial as a "disorderly person." Since the time that Fawn Brodie in her biography of Joseph Smith accepted as authentic the account of the trial published in the Schaaf-... Read more

Light on the "Mission to the Lamanites"

In September 1830, the Lord called Oliver Cowdery by revelation to "go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them" (D&C 28:8). The call came a few months after the United States Congress had passed the Indian Removal Bill, an act providing for the relocation of all tribes within United States borders to points beyond. Peter Whitmer Jr., Parley P. Pratt, Ziba Peterson, and Frederick... Read more

Mormon Origins in New York: An Introductory Analysis

In the fall of 1967 a small group of Mormon historians met in Salt Lake City to discuss the problems involved in writing the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They were concerned with the history of the Church and its background in New York from 1820 to 1830, the decade which may be called the period of Mormon origins. Well aware that most books and articles on Mormonism... Read more

Where Were the Moroni Visits?

This article deals with defining the exact date of Alvin Smith's death which helps the author to pinpoint the visits of Moroni. Read more

Awakenings in the Burned-over District: New Light on the Historical Setting of the First Vision

The six decades preceding the Civil War were years of intense religious activity in many sections of the United States. During this second great awakening, sporadic spiritual quickenings erupted throughout the new nation; and many Americans living in the rugged frontier communities, in the rapidly growing urban areas, and in the villages and towns of northern and southern United States turned... Read more

The Dogberry Papers and the Book of Mormon

On September 2, 1829, a new paper was born in Palmyra, New York, called The Reflector and published by O. Dogberry, Jun. The object of the papers was to "correct the morals and improve the mind." O. Dogberry was the pseudonym for a certain Esquire Cole, an ex-justice of the peace, who had obtained access on Sundays and evenings to the use of the idle E. B. Grandin & Co. press, the same press... Read more

Reverend George Lane—Good "Gifts," Much "Grace," and Marked "Usefulness"

The Methodist Minister, Reverend George Lane, (1784–1859) is one of many of the personalities who touched early Mormonism and whose initial role has drifted into comparative obscurity. Rev. Lane was, according to certain accounts, instrumental in moving Joseph Smith to make his epic inquiry of the Lord with the attendant vision of the Father and Son. The renewed research on Mormon origins has... Read more

The Anthon Transcript: People, Primary Sources, and Problems

Of the many important and little understood events of early Church history, certainly the consultation of Martin Harris with Professor Charles Anthon in New York City in February 1828 regarding the Book of Mormon is one of the most important and intriguing. It is also one of the earliest events of the Restoration which can be assessed rationally and tested. By late 1827 the story of Joseph Smith... Read more

How Authentic Are Mormon Historic Sites in Vermont and New York?

Commencing in 1903 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having firmly established itself in the Far West, was bold enough to turn its face eastward to look back at its places of origin. Under the direction of President Joseph F. Smith, Carthage Jail was the first site acquired in this movement, because of the nostalgic feelings of the Mormon people for their beloved prophet who had... Read more

The Shaping of the Mormon Mind in New England and New York

Recent students of Mormonism have tended to discount or dismiss the influence of the Church's sojourn in New England and western New York on the development of Mormon thought. Within the last decade two scholars have placed major emphasis on what occurred in Kirtland or afterward as determinative in molding the Mormon mind. It is my contention that during its "eastern" phase Mormonism assumed its... Read more

The Colesville Branch and the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon

With the many branch, ward, and stake organizations which currently bedeck the international scene of Mormonism, it is understandable that the activities of a small branch of Saints at Colesville, Broome County, New York, could have been virtually forgotten with the passage of time. Yet, at the close of 1830, it was one of some five principal branches serving as focal points for the gathering of... Read more