The home belonged to John and Elsa Johnson, converts to the Church in the spring of 1831. They bought the 100 acres in 1818 and lived in a log cabin until they built the colonial style house in 1828. They had ten children that also lived in the home.
The Johnsons had become acquainted with Joseph Smith in Kirtland. The Johnsons invited the Prophet and his family to move to their home in September 1831.
While Joseph stayed with the Johnsons, the home served as the headquarters of the Church. Several conferences of the Church were held here. In November of 1831, the conference voted to publish a Book of Commandments, which later became known as the Doctrine and Covenants. At the home, Joseph and Sidney Rigdon continued their work of translation on the Bible.
Joseph also received sixteen revelations while staying in the home. Those include:
D&C 1 — Nov. 1, 1831. A committee was to draft a preface for a collection of revelations to be published as the Book of Commandments. When they made their report, they requested that the Prophet Joseph Smith inquire of the Lord about their work.
D&C 65 — Oct. 1831. This section—designated by Joseph Smith as a prayer—was given during the period the Prophet was preparing to recommence translation of the Bible.
D&C 66 — Oct. 25, 1831. William E. McLellin, a recent convert, asked the Lord to reveal His will for him.
D&C 67 — Nov. 1831. At the conferences regarding the publication of the revelations that had been given through the Prophet Joseph Smith, some of the brethren felt that the language in the revelations was inferior. The Lord’s response was given through the Prophet.
D&C 68 — Nov. 1831. Orson Hyde, Luke S. Johnson, Lyman E. Johnson, and William E. McLellin desired to know the mind of the Lord concerning them.
D&C 69 — Nov. 1831. Oliver Cowdery had been appointed to carry the manuscripts for the Book of Commandments and some Church funds to Independence, Missouri. Because the wilderness was often hazardous, John Whitmer was called as a traveling companion.
D&C 71 — Dec. 1, 1831. Ezra Booth had apostatized and wrote nine slanderous letters printed in the Ohio Star. The Prophet Joseph and Sidney Rigdon were commanded to go forth and preach to allay resulting unfriendly feelings against the Church.
D&C 73 — Jan. 10, 1832. The elders of the Church desired to know what they should do while waiting for the next conference, to be held in Amherst, Ohio, on January 25, 1832. D&C 74 — Jan. 1832. This revelation was received during the translation of the Bible as an explanation of 1 Corinthians 7:14.
D&C 76 — Feb. 16, 1832. The Prophet Joseph and Sidney Rigdon were translating the Bible. When they came to John 5:29, the heavens were opened and they received this revelation known as "the Vision."
D&C 77 — Mar. 1832. During the translation of the book of Revelation, the brethren had many questions about the writings of John.
D&C 78 — Mar. 1832. The Prophet Joseph instructed priesthood leaders concerning the law of consecration and establishing a storehouse for the poor.
D&C 79 — Mar. 1832. Jared Carter had come to Hiram, Ohio, to inquire of the Lord’s will through the Prophet. He was called to serve a mission to the eastern countries.
During March of the year the Smith family stayed at the Johnson Home, Joseph was attacked by a mob during the middle of the night. He was dragged from this home and tarred and feathered. Rigdon was also tarred and feathered. Luke Johnson recalled the incident:
- [W]hile Joseph was yet at my father's [John Johnson home], a mob of forty or fifty came to his house, a few entered his room in the middle of the night, and . . . dragged Joseph out of bed by the hair of his head; he was then seized by as many as could get hold of him, and taken about forty rods from the house, stretched on a board, and tantalized in the most insulting and brutal manner. . . . The mob then scratched his body all over . . . and in attempting to force open his jaws, they broke one of his front teeth, to pour a vial of some obnoxious drug into his mouth.
- The mob . . . poured tar over him, and then stuck feathers in it and left him, and went to an old brickyard to wash themselves and bury their filthy clothes. At this place a vial was dropped, the contents of which ran out and killed the grass. ("History of Luke Johnson," Deseret News, May 19, 1858, 53–54.)
The next day, Smith preached a sermon to a crowd which included some of the mobbers and he baptized three people. He and Emma had been caring for their adopted twins, both of whom were sick with the measles. Due to the exposure to the cold that night, the eleven-month-old boy named Joseph Murdock Smith, died four days later.
The Johnson family sold the home in 1833 when they moved to Kirtland, Ohio. Two of the Johnson’s sons, Luke and Lyman, served as members of the original Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Their daughter Marinda married Orson Hyde. In 1837, many of the Johnson family fell away from the Church.
As the Church has done with many of the important Church history sites, the Johnson home and farm was purchased in 1956 and completely restored the home to its original condition in 2001. President Gordon B. Hinckley rededicated the home that year. From 1971 to 2002, the farm was used to grow and process apples and strawberries as part of the Church Welfare Program. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Hiram Township and continues to operate as a tourist attraction that is staffed by missionaries.