In November 1832, after the birth of Joseph Smith III, Joseph Smith, Jr., commenced to dictate an account of his early life to his scribe Frederick G. Williams in Kirtland, Ohio. John Whitmer, official church historian, was residing in the Independence, Missouri, area. This account was written in Smith's ledger book now known as "Joseph Smith Letterbook 1," the first of two letterbooks. At some unknown time, these pages (3 leaves, 6 pages) were cut out but are located in archives, historical department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. This short history of six pages was rediscovered in the 1960s. The account is currently available in Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith: Autobiographical and Historical Writings (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989).
The account that follows is from the opening three pages. This account is in the handwriting of Joseph Smith. The transcript has been divided into shorter paragraphs for easier reading. Words added above the line are indicated by angled brackets<>.
I was born in the town of Charon [Sharon] in the
of Vermont North America on the twenty third day of December AD 1805 of goodly Parents who spared no pains to instructing me in christian religion at the age of about ten years my Father Joseph Smith Siegnior moved to Palmyra Ontario County in the State of New York and being in indigent circumstances were obliged to labour hard for the support of a large Family having nine chilldren and as it required the exertions of all that were able to render any assistance for the support of the Family therefore we were deprived of the bennifit of an education suffice it to say I was mearly instructid in reading writing and the ground of Arithmatic which const[it]uted my whole literary acquirements.
At about the age of twelve years my mind become seriously imprest with regard to the all importent concerns for the wellfare of my immortal Soul which led me to searching the scriptures believeing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God thus applying myself to them and my intimate acquaintance with those different denominations led me to marvel exce[e]dingly for I discovered that
of adorn their profession by a holy walk and Godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository this was a grief to my Soul
thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning the sittuation of the world of mankind the contentions and divi[si]ons the wicke[d]ness and abominations and the darkness which pervaded the minds of mankind my mind become exce[e]dingly distressed for I become convicted of my sins and by searching the scriptures I found that
did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatised from the true and liveing faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the new testament and I felt to mourn for my own sins and for the sins of the world
for I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday to day and forever that he was no respector to persons for he was God for I looked upon the sun the glorious luminary of the earth and also the moon rolling in their magesty through the heavens and also the stars shining in their courses and the earth also upon which I stood and the beast of the field and the fowls of heaven and the fish of the waters and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth in magesty and in the strength of beauty whose power and intiligence in governing the things which are so exceding great and marvilous even in the likeness of him who created
and when I considered upon these things my heart exclaimed well hath the wise man said fool saith in his heart there is no God
my heart exclaimed all all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotant and omnipreasant power a being who makith Laws and decreeth and bindeth all things in their bounds who filleth Eternity who was and is and will be from all Eternity to Eternity and when I considered all these things and that
being seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth
therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in
attitude of calling upon the Lord a piller of light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life the world lieth in sin at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned asside from the gospel and keep not commandments they draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them ac[c]ording to th[e]ir ungodliness and to bring to pass that which been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Ap[o]stles behold and lo I come quickly as it [is] written of me in the cloud in the glory of my Father
and my soul was filled with love and for many days I could rejoice with great Joy and the Lord was with me but [I] could find none that would believe the he[a]v[e]nly vision nevertheless I pondered these things in my heart