Joseph was named after his father, whose name was Joseph. His mother’s maiden name was Lucy Mack. Joseph had five brothers and three sisters whose names were Alvin, Hyrum, (then Joseph), Samuel, William, Don Carlos, Sophronia, Catherine and Lucy; so you see that there was a large family for the father and mother to take care of. Joseph’s parents were poor and had to work hard for a living, so when the boys were old enough they had to help on the farm; this they willingly, did. For this reason Joseph did not go to school much, but he learned to read, to write fairly well, and to work some examples in arithmetic. Though Joseph did not get much of an education at school, yet he was a great student; and then God became his teacher, so that before he died, as you will see, he became one of the most learned men in the world.
When Joseph was ten years old they all moved from Vermont to Palmyra, in the western part of the state of New York. Four years later they moved again to the small town of Manchester, in Ontario, now Wayne County, New York.
While the family was living at Manchester there arose a great religious excitement all through the country. The different religious sects held many meetings and tried to get people to join them. Joseph was now in his fifteenth year and he also became interested, as his parents had always taught him to believe in God and the Bible. Joseph thought he would like to join the true church of Christ, but what troubled him was to know which of all these sects was the true church. He could see that all of them could not be true, as God surely would not have a great many churches, one striving against the other; also, no doubt, he had read in the Bible that there was but “one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” etc., which the Lord accepted. Joseph went first to one meeting, then to another. His mother and some of his brothers and sisters had joined the Presbyterians, but Joseph could not make up his mind what to do.
But there is a way by which anyone may find out which is the true church and therefore which to join, and every boy and girl that reads this book should remember it. It is this: Ask God. Joseph did not know this until one day while reading in his Testament he came to the fifth verse in the first chapter of James, which reads as follows:
“If any of you lack
wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all
men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
This was just the thing. God had surely led him to read that verse. Joseph certainly lacked wisdom, and here was a way to find out what he wanted to know about the sects. The Lord would tell him. All he had to do was to ask. How simple it was!
On a beautiful morning in the spring of the year 1820, Joseph decided to ask the Lord for wisdom. He went out into a grove near his father’s house, and after looking around to make sure that he was alone, he kneeled down on the grass under the trees and began to pray. No sooner had he begun than some awful power which he could not see took hold of him and made it nearly impossible for him to speak. It soon became dark around the boy, and Joseph thought the unseen power would kill him; but he struggled hard and tried to pray to God for help.