How Joseph Smith Preserved the Plates

Joseph Smith didn’t write much about how he protected the gold plates, but some people close to him left records of what really happened. 

Many people are familiar with the account of the appearance of the angel Moroni in Joseph Smith’s bedroom  on the evening of September 21, 1823. It was then that Moroni told young Joseph about the existence of the Nephites’ record engraven upon golden plates that Moroni had hidden centuries earlier. Joseph later obtained the plates, and by the power of God he was able to translate them. That’s how the Book of Mormon came into existence. However, not everybody knows what Joseph and his family had to do to keep those golden plates safe from enemy hands.

Andrew H. Hedges reviews some of these harrowing experiences in “All My Endeavors to Preserve Them,” published in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, which is one of the periodicals published by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.

Joseph himself never provided a thorough account of this experience, but people close to him wrote about what happened from their point of view. One of these events occurred when young Joseph was trying to bring the plates home. Deciding on the best and safest route where he would be undetected, he went through the woods, but he soon realized that even there he wasn’t safe. A man appeared behind him, ready to strike him with a gun.

After Joseph was able to escape from him, he encountered a second and a third man, who both tried to assault him in the same way. By running with all his might and eluding all three men, Joseph was finally able to get the plates to the safety of his home.

This is just one of several accounts about Joseph or his family fighting to preserve the plates. The article also relates other similar experiences, such as Joseph hiding the plates in a log and having a special chest built for them.

“In his struggles to preserve [the gold plates],” writes Hedges, “Joseph no doubt . . . learned much about the ways of God and man that would serve him well in the time to come.”

Read “All My Endeavors to Preserve Them.”

Source: Journal of Book of Mormon Studies
—Annalisa Olivieri, Mormon Insights

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Read more about Joseph Smith’s life and mission.

Bronze statue in photo by Shari Lynn Acavedo

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4 Comments

  1. Cool experience. I really admire that Joseph learned about the ways of the Lord even while eluding such darkness. I guess that’s really symbolic of life and dealing with adversity IN GENERAl. So much of the time we focus on the darkness and getting out that we forget that the way we are actually able to survive and overcome the darkness is through Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ’s infinitely powerful help. That can teach us a lot about them both and their ways.

  2. Interesting that Joseph didn’t leave as many records as one might expect him to leave regarding the preservation of the plates, the translation process, etc. Reminds me that I should write in my journal on Sunday…

  3. This article was really interesting. It was a great reminder of the fact that when God asks us to do something, He doesn’t always tell us how to do it. Sometimes we will face great trials trying to do what He asks of us, but it’s always worth it in the end.

  4. The Lucy Mack Smith history is helpful with this. She explains several places where Joseph hid the plates. There’s an interesting story where Lucy told Joseph of a cabinet maker that would build a chest for the plates. She even explained how the cabinet maker would be paid via an act of God since they had no money. In the end Lucy says they must used an old chest and lock Josephs brother owned.

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