180 years ago today - Apr 18, 1841

[William Smith interview]

... About the year 1823, there was a revival of religion in that region, and Joseph was one of several hopeful converts. The others were joining, some one church, and some another in that vicinity, but Joseph hesitated between the different denominations. While his mind was perplexed with this subject, he prayed for divine direction; and afterwards was awaked one night by an extraordinary vision. The glory of the Lord filled the chamber with a dazzling light, and a glorious angel appeared to him, conversed with him, and told him that he was a chosen vessel unto the Lord to make known true religion. The next day he went into the field; but he was unable to work, his mind being oppressed by the remembrance of the vision. He returned to the house, and soon after sent for his father and brothers from the field; and then, in presence of the family, (my informant one of them,) he related all that had occurred. They were astounded, but not altogether incredulous. After this, he had other similar visions, in one of which the existence of certain metallic plates was revealed to him and their location described--about three miles off, in a pasture ground. The next day he went alone to the spot, and by digging discovered the plates in a sort of rude stone box. They were eight or ten inches long, less in width, about the thickness of panes of glass; and together, made a pile about five or six inches high. They were in a good state of preservation, had the appearance of gold, and bore inscriptions in strange characters on both sides. He brought them home, but was unable to read them. He afterwards made a facsimile of some parts of the inscription, and sent it to professor Anthon of New York city. The professor pronounced the characters to be ancient Hebrew corrupted, and the language to be degenerate Hebrew with a mixture of Egyptian. He could decypher only one entire word. After this Joseph Smith was supernaturally assisted to read and to understand the inscription; and he was directed to translate a great part of it. The pages which he was not to translate were found to be sealed together, so that he did not even read them and learn their contents. With an assistant to correct his English, he translated so much of the inscription as now makes the book of Mormon. He kept the plates a long time in his chamber, and after translating from them, he repeatedly showed them to his parents and to other friends. But my informant said, he had never seen them. At length he was directed by a vision to bury the plates again in the same manner; which he accordingly did. ...

[James Murdock to Congregational Observer, 19 June 1841, "The Mormons and Their Prophet," Congregational Observer (Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut) 2 (3 July 1841): 1. Reprinted in Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer (Peoria, Illinois), 3 September 1841., as cited in Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents: William Smith Interview With James Murdock]

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