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Palmyra, Wayne County, New York, is an important city in the history of Mormonism. It was here that Joseph Smith had his First Vision, saw the angel Moroni, found the gold plates which contained the Book of Mormon, and began work on its translation, though persecution forced him to move several times during the process. Finally, in 1829, the Book of Mormon was published in Palmyra by E.B. Grandin. Today, the Mormon Church maintains historical sites, a visitors center, and a temple. It is also the site of the yearly Hill Cumorah Pageant. Today, Palmyra is a small town of some 7,000 people.
Some of the important events in Mormon history which occurred here include:
- 1816---Joseph Smith’s family moves to Palmyra, New York. They buy 100 acres of land.
- Spring 1820---Joseph Smith is concerned about what church to join. He reads in the Bible that if you need help in making a grove near his home and there sees Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. He is told to join none of the churches. Joseph Smith returns home and tells his family of his experience. Joseph is persecuted for telling what he saw.
- September 21, 1823---Joseph Smith prays to learn the condition of his soul and to ask for forgiveness. The angel Moroni appears to him. Joseph later recounted the experience, “He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people. He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fullness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants; also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted “seers” in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book. After telling me these things, he commenced quoting the prophecies of the Old Testament” (see Joseph Smith History). Moroni appears to him three times during the same night and delivers the same message.
- September 22, 1823---The same messenger delivers the same message again and tells Joseph to tell his father about the vision. Joseph relates his experience to his father then goes to the place where Moroni had told him the gold plates were deposited. In a hill (known as Cumorah) near his home Joseph found the place he had been shown in the vision. In a buried stone box, Joseph finds the items Moroni had told him would be there. As Joseph reaches to take the things out of the box, Moroni returns and stops him. He is told that the time is not yet right to bring the plates out. He then tells Joseph to return to the same place on the same day for the next four years. Joseph obeys goes back every year. Moroni appears to him and teaches him.
- September 22, 1827---Moroni gives the gold plates to Joseph Smith who begins translation. Joseph is instructed to keep them safe until Moroni asked for the plates to be returned. Persecution and attempts to get the gold plates were so numerous that Joseph moved to Pennsylvania.
- 1829---The Book of Mormon is published at the E.B. Grandin building. There are 5,000 copies printed.
- April 6, 1830---The Church of Christ, as the Mormon Church was originally known, is officially organized in the Whitmer family home in Fayette, New York.
- January, 1831---Joseph and the Mormons move to Ohio.
LDS Sites in the Palmyra Area
Hill Cumorah Visitor's Center
This is probably the best place to start your tour of Mormon history sites in Palmyra. Free guided tours are given daily. The tours explain much of the history of the LDS sites. There are also movies that you can watch and numerous exhibits and art.
This pageant tells the story of the ancient peoples of the Americas and a record that they kept known as the gold plates. The pageant, which has been running since 1937, is spectacularly done on seven soundstages with over 650 volunteers and can accommodate 9000 people. The pageant is free and can be heard in Spanish as well. Accommodations are also made for the deaf. The pageant is usually in July and each performance starts at 9:15 pm.
Martin Harris met Joseph Smith soon after the Smith family moved to Palmyra. He was strong supporter of the Prophet and helped him translate the Book of Mormon. He even mortgaged his home to print the Book of Mormon. The building that is now at this site is not the original home, and there are not tours given at this time, but the site can be visited and a plaque has been put up that explains more about the farm.
It was in the home of Peter Whitmer, on April 6, 1830, that the Church was officially organized. It was also here that Joseph Smith received a number of revelations now recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants. The home is open for free tours.
Book of Mormon Publication Site: Grandin Building
This building is the place where the first edition of the Book of Mormon was printed. There were 5,000 copies made, most of which were bought by the Church and given to their missionaries to distribute to people interested in learning more about the gospel. There are free tours daily where visitors can see the old presses, learn about the printing process of the 1830's and see the store where the Book of Mormon was first sold.
Smith Family Farm
Near the Smith Family Farm is a wooded area. In these woods is the place known by the Mormons as the Sacred Grove, because it is where Joseph Smith, who was troubled about which religion he should join, went to pray out loud for the first time, and asked Heavenly Father what he should do. Joseph then saw a vision of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and was instructed not to join any church.
The Palmyra Temple is located near the original 100 acres owned by the Smith Family. Visitors can walk the grounds of the temple and missionaries are available to give information and answer questions about the temple.