Frequently Asked Questions

© 1999 by H. Michael Marquardt. All rights reserved.

1. Did Joseph Smith, Jr. attend school? If so, where at?

Yes, Joseph Smith went to school in the Palmyra/Manchester, NY area and Bainbridge NY, area.

Additional information: Young Joseph most likely received schooling from his father, Joseph Sr., who had been a school teacher.

2. How old was Joseph Smith when he last attended school?

Joseph Smith was 20 years old. Josiah Stowell, Jr. wrote in February 1843, "I also went to school with him one winter" (See Mark Ashurst-McGee, "The Josiah Stowell Jr.-John S. Fullmer Correspondence," Brigham Young University Studies 38:3 [1999]:113, 117n33).

3. Could Joseph Smith read?

Yes, he was reading the Bible since 1817 (Joseph Smith's 1832 account). He owned the following small book:

Smiley, Thomas T. Sacred Geography or a Description of the Places Mentioned in the Old and New Testament, intended to Promote a Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, accompanied by three maps . . . adapted to the use of schools and Private Families. Philadelphia, Printed for the author by W.P. Bason. Charleston, South Carolina, 1824. 12pp. [Maps: Map of the East as mentioned by Moses; Canaan, Palestine or the Holy Land; Countries mentioned in the New Testament]
Location: RLDS archives

4. Could Joseph Smith sign his name?


Date: 6 April 1829

5. Is there any document that shows Joseph Smith was familiar with the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)?

Yes, a revelation given in February 1829 at Harmony [now Oakland], Pennsylvania contains wording from the Old and New Testament. Words the same are underlined with scriptural reference in brackets.

A Revelation given to Joseph [Smith, Sr.], the father of Joseph [Smith, Jr.], in Harmony, Pennsylvania, February, 1829, saying:

Now, behold, a marvelous work [Isaiah 29:14] is about to come forth among the children of men [Psalms 12:1; 21:10], therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God [Ezra 6:18; Romans 9:4; Hebrews 9:6], see that ye serve him with all your heart [Deuteronomy 11:13; Joshua 22:5], might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day: Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God, ye are called to the work, for behold, the field is white already to harvest [John 4:35], and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle [Revelation 14:16, 19] with his might, the same layeth up in store [1 Timothy 6:19] that he perish not [Jonah 1:6; 3:9], but bringeth salvation to his soul, and faith, hope, charity [1 Corinthians 13:13], and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualifies him for the work.

Remember temperance, patience, humility, diligence, &c., ask and ye shall receive [John 16:24], knock and it shall be opened unto you [Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9]: Amen.

(Book of Commandments, chapter 3; see LDS and RLDS D&C 4)

6. Could Joseph Smith compose a letter by himself? If so, how good was his handwriting?

Yes, Joseph Smith's handwriting was readable. See his three page 6 June 1832 letter to his wife Emma:

(Courtesy Chicago Historical Society, Chicago, IL)

7. Is there a major source used for the Book of Mormon? What is the best educated evaluation?

Yes, the King James Version of the Bible.

8. About how old was Joseph Smith when he began studying the Bible and religion?

Joseph Smith wrote, "At about the age of twelve years my mind become [became] seriously imprest [impressed] with regard to the all importent [important] concerns for the wellfare [welfare] of my immortal Soul which led me to searching the scriptures" (1832 Account in Dean C. Jessee, ed. The Papers of Joseph Smith: Autobiographical and Historical Writings [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989], 15,). Joseph Smith's study would have started about 1817 when the Smith family removed to Palmyra, New York. Young Joseph was eleven years old. This was ten years before Joseph Smith reported obtaining the golden plates. Smith said the plates were found in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County.

9. What was to be the final requirement that Joseph Smith had to do in order to obtain the plates from the hill?

Joseph Smith had to be married. Smith's 1832 account says that he sought diligently "to obtain the plates and obtained them not untill I was twenty one years of age and in this year I was married to Emma Hale Daughter of Isaach [Isaac] Hale who lived in Harmony Susquehan[n]a County Pen[n]sylvania on the 18th January AD. 1827" (handwriting of scribe Frederick G. Williams).

10. In September 1827 when Joseph Smith said he obtained the book of plates was the family poor?

Yes, Lucy Mack Smith (Joseph's mother) said seventeen years later, "there was not a shilling in the [frame] house." A shelling was 12 1/2 cents.

11. Is it possible that Joseph Smith presented his own religious beliefs in this new Native American book (the Book of Mormon)?

Joseph's gift was to incorporate his theological understanding into the material he was writing. Smith's higher purpose was to teach others about Jesus in this new way. He did not need the plates of gold to produce the Book of Mormon. Nor did he need Hebrew or Greek texts to make corrections to the Bible. He considered his religious writings inspired of God throughout his life.

12. Explain how Joseph Smith wrote the two major projects of the Restoration -- the Book of Mormon and the new translation of the Bible?

Joseph Smith dictated the majority of the Book of Mormon text to his scribes. While dictating Smith incorporated his understanding on religious matters. The work reflects the perceptions of Joseph Smith. He supplied biblical texts in the composition of the Book of Mormon. He used Isaiah and Matthew to supplement the teachings in the book.

Smith continued including his ideas in the revision of Genesis. This revision is now designated the Joseph Smith Translation (JST). That Joseph Smith could produce religious texts can be observed in a revelation received in the presence of six elders, in Fayette, New York in September 1830 (see LDS D&C 29; RLDS D&C 28).

It was natural for Joseph Smith to use the Bible as a standard source document. The Bible was an influential book in American life when Joseph Smith commenced his work. Like other ministers Smith wanted to restore the New Testament church. The Book of Mormon was a new unchangeable book (preserved on plates of gold). The book contained a topic of unusual interest -- the origin of the Native Americans.

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