History of the Church Series
The first volume of Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days has recently been published! Titled The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846, this volume features several stories that draw on research and articles published by BYU Studies. One such article is cited in chapter 4 of Saints, in which Joseph Smith goes to Harmony to work for Josiah Stowell. You can learn more about Joseph’s relationship with the Stowells and their opinion of his character in “The Josiah Stowell Jr.–John S. Fullmer Correspondence,” by Mark Ashurst-McGee. Below is an excerpt of the full article, which was published in issue 10:3. To read the full text of this article, click here.
In 1843, Mormon missionary John S. Fullmer encountered difficulties proselyting in Pennsylvania due to widespread rumors regarding Joseph Smith’s youthful activities in that state and in New York. In an effort to overcome local opinion, Fullmer wrote to Josiah Stowell Jr. asking for a statement regarding Joseph Smith’s character. Josiah and Joseph had been schoolmates and friends from 1825 to 1827, when Joseph worked for Josiah Stowell Sr. The following letter of response from Josiah Stowell Jr., including a postscript by Josiah Stowell Sr., conveys their firsthand knowledge of Joseph Smith’s character. . . .
When Stowell met Joseph Smith in October 1825, he hired Joseph and his father to help him locate a legendary Spanish mine and to work on his farm. While searching for the mine, Joseph boarded at the home of Isaac Hale and there met Isaac’s daughter Emma, whom he would later marry. . . .
Perhaps because of Stowell’s confidence in him, Joseph told him about the visits of the angel Moroni. When Joseph went to recover the golden plates on September 22, 1827, Stowell was at the Smith home. Stowell later became a member of the Colesville branch of the Church. Although he never gathered with the Saints after their departure from New York, he remained firm in the faith throughout his life.
Josiah Stowell Jr., youngest of the eight Stowell children, was sixteen when he met Joseph Smith, who was then nineteen. The two attended school together while Joseph was in Chenango County. Josiah probably also worked with Joseph on the Stowell farm. . . .
Mr J S Fullmer
. . . I will give you a shrot history of what I know about Joseph Smith Jr I have binn Intemetely acquainted with him about 2 years he then was about 20 years old or there about I also went to school with him one winter[.] he was a fine likely young man & at that time did not Profess religion he was not a Profain man although I did onc[e] in a while hear him swair he never gambled to my knowledge I do not believe he ever did I well know he was no Hoars Jocky for he was no Judge of Hoarses I sold him one[.] that is all I ever knowd he dealt in the kind[.] I never new him to git drunk I believe he would now and then take a glass he never Pretend=ed to Play the Slight of hand nor Black leg, it was fashionable at that time to drink Liquor . . . I believe I do right myself I State this for facts that any thing from what I have said about Joseph Smith that is wors than I say is fals & untru . . .
I am yours truly Josiah Stowell
I now write you for my father he says what I have wrote you is true & he has been acquainted with him 6 years & he never knew anything of him but that was right als[o] know him to be a Seeer & a Phrophet & Believe the Book of mormon to be true & all these Stories is fals & untue that is told about Joseph Smith[.] Im yours truly & Reply[,] you Brother in the Churgh of Latter day Saints Josiah Stowell
By J Stowell 2