The family of Joseph Smith, Jr., the prophet, who founded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes referred to as the Mormon Church, moved to Palmyra, New York, with his family in 1818. They built a log home two miles south of the village so that they could be close to a 100-acre tract of land that they were in the process of purchasing. The owner of the property allowed them to begin clearing the land before they had signed the contract. By 1825 they had cleared sixty acres of the land. This sixty acres became fields, meadows, a garden, an orchard, a place for a home, and other building lots.
During the time, it was suggested that about 1/3 of a family's property be left with timber on it. About 25 acres were left on the eastern part of the property. Many of the trees were red and white oak. Another 15 acres on the west side of the farm was left as a forest. Most of the trees in this forest were maple trees that the family used to make sugar. Each year they were able to make an average of 1,000 pounds of sugar.
The family used the timber for heat and cooking, they also gathered fruits and nuts from the trees on the land. This was not the only service the forests on the Smith’s land provided.There was one specific spot in the woods where the family often went to hold prayer or where individuals went to pray in secret.
As a young boy Joseph was concerned about religion, but all of his studying and attending meetings did not satisfy him. On a Sunday morning in 1820, he went to a quiet place in the forest to inquire of the Lord which church he should join. While he was engaged in prayer, he beheld Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, who answered that he should join none of them, that a great work was about to come forth. The exact place where he went is not known. Joseph Smith did not give exact locations of his holy experiences out of respect for deity. According to those in the area who had been associated with the Smith family, the First Vision occurred in the woods on the western part of the farm.
In 1860, Seth T. Chapman purchased the Smith farm and said that he would never cut down the trees on the west end of the farm, because Joseph had said this was the area where the first vision had occurred.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now owns ten acres of this wooded land. Many of the trees in the area are over 250 years old. The Church has been cleaning and trying to preserve the area. It was once nearly gone because of disease and pollution. It is now healthy and well cared for. The Church maintains it as a quiet place for contemplation. It is near the historical home of the Smith family and not far from the hill where the plates were buried, which ihas been the site of the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant.
Robert Parrott, a naturalist and forestry manager, worked to preserve and maintain the Church’s Sacred Grove for over 25 years.
- Parrott explained in a 2020 rare on-camera interview why the wooded area not far from the Smith family farm is one of the most sacred places on earth.
- “It’s my belief that it’s a sacred forest and that the Lord had some good reasons for preserving it,” he told KSL TV. “It is my belief that it was already a sacred forest when the Smiths arrived here. That may have been what drew Father Smith to choose this property out of thousands of acres of frontier property that he could have selected. Joseph, perhaps just exploring the property, went into that forest and felt that sacredness. And that’s why he chose that forest to pray in.
- “What really makes it special is the Spirit that is always there,” he continued. “And that Spirit is always there, if you are receptive to it.”
Parrott was not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ.
For information about visiting the Sacred Grove see the official Church Website.
To see a video of late President Gordon B. Hinckley testifying of the restoration of the gospel in the Sacred Grove, click here.
- Religious Studies Center, "Return to the Sacred Grove," by Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, Donald L. Enders, Larry C. Porter, and Robert F. Parrott
- Joseph Smith - Home
- Wikipedia - Joseph Smith, Jr. - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Joseph Smith - American Prophet
- Joseph Smith Daguerreotype
- JS-H 1
- Fufilled Prophecies of Joseph Smith
- Joseph Smith - Lightplanet
- BBC - Religion & Ethics - The Story of Joseph Smith
- Joseph Smith: Biography and Much More From Answers.com
- Joseph Smith Jr. - Wikiquote
- The Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith
- Joseph Smith - Grampa's General Authority Pages
- Joseph Smith: Prophet, Revelator, Human; Interview with Richard Lyman
- "‘Forestry genius’ and longtime caretaker of the Church’s Sacred Grove dies at 75"