Question: What was Joseph Smith referring to when he said that "I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit"?

Table of Contents

Question: What was Joseph Smith referring to when he said that "I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit"?

Religious events which could have influenced Joseph prior to the First Vision

Joseph Smith said,

During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was bright and who was wrong.

On December 1, 1819, the Palmyra Register noted the dedication of the Presbyterian Church in Palmyra. One Presbyterian historian, Dr. John A. Matzko, speculates:

If Joseph Smith was present that day, one month shy of his fourteenth birthday, this sermon had much to engage his imagination, tuned as it was to sonorous religious language. And he might well have attended, because the dedication of the Presbyterian Church was as much community event as religious service. If so, it would have been the only dedication of a religious structure that Joseph witnessed before the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in 1836.[1]

Notes

  1. John Matzko, "The Encounter of Young Joseph Smith with Presbyterianism", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought vol. 40, no. 3, p. 76. Dr. Matzko presents in a footnote an argument against the possibility that Joseph might have attended this meeting, noting, "As an argument against Smith's presence at the Palmyra dedication, Townsend's later denunciation of Joseph as a man of "questionable character" and "low cunning" implies that the preacher knew the prophet only by reputation. Townsend, Letter to Phineas Stiles, December 24, 1833, in Early Mormon Documents, 3:20. In 1833, Townsend says that he has known of Smith for "ten years." If not a rounded figure, 1823 would put Townsend's knowledge later than his Palmyra pastorate." In response, we assert that the attendance of a 14-year-old boy at a public dedication would have been unlikely to gain Townsend's notice. Townsend's statements regarding Joseph Smith were made well after Joseph had gained a reputation for having published the Book of Mormon and establishing the Church.