Questions: Are there contemporary witnesses that confirm that Joseph Smith didn't join any church after the First Vision?

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Questions: Are there contemporary witnesses that confirm that Joseph Smith didn't join any church after the First Vision?

Eyewitness sources indicated that Joseph Smith was not formally attached to any church, and had rejected all of them

The eyewitness sources that follow below indicate that up until the time that Joseph Smith announced the existence of the golden plates of the Book of Mormon to his family (23 September 1823) he was not formally attached to any church, but had instead publicly rejected all of them and manifested his desire NOT to join their ranks. Some are contemporaneous, others are later remembrances, but the hostile and friendly voices are clear that he had no denominational affiliation.

Reminiscence Around 1820

Pomeroy Tucker (a non-Mormon critic who knew Joseph Smith in Palmyra, New York) said that Joseph joined the Methodist probationary class in Palmyra but soon "withdrew from the class" without being converted; announcing that "all the churches [were] on a false foundation."[1] This information corresponds with historical details dated by Joseph Smith at around 1820.

Reminiscence of Fall 1823

Lucy Mack Smith:

Joseph Smith's mother recalled in her autobiography that shortly after her son Alvin died on 19 November 1823 Joseph "utterly refused" to attend church services with the intent to convert, and he made the specific request: "do not ask me to join them. I can take my Bible, and go into the woods, and learn more in two hours, than you can learn at meeting in two years, if you should go all the time."[2]

As can be seen by the continuing chronological sources which follow, Joseph Smith and his associates were teaching from 1825 to 1832 that the Prophet did not belong to any church between the years 1825 and 1827.

Reminiscence Concerning 1825

Josiah Stowell, Jr. (a non-Mormon):

I will give you a short history of what I know about Joseph Smith, Jr. I have been intimately acquainted with him about 2 years. He then was about 20 years old or thereabout. I also went to school with him one winter. He was a fine, likely young man and at that time did not profess religion.”[3]

Reminiscence Concerning 1827

Peter Bauder:

In 1827 David Marks (a non-Mormon minister) went to Palmyra and Manchester, New York where he “made considerable inquiry respecting . . . [Joseph] Smith” and learned from “several persons in different places” that Joseph was “about 21 years [old]; that previous to his declaration of having found the plates he made no pretensions to religion.”[4]

Reminiscence Concerning 1830

In October 1830 Peter Bauder (a non-Mormon minister) spoke directly to the Prophet. Bauder commented: “he could give me no Christian experience,” meaning that he did not belong to any church before his experience with the angel and plates in September 1823.[5]

Contemporary Document - 1830

Observer and Telegraph (newspaper):

Four LDS men from New York state taught that at the time the angel appeared to Joseph Smith (22 September 1823) he “made no pretensions to religion of any kind.”[6]

Contemporary Document - 1831

Palmyra Reflector (newspaper):

The editor of a Palmyra, New York newspaper claimed that he has been “credibly informed,” and was “quite certain,” that “the prophet . . . never made any serious pretensions to religion until his late pretended revelation” -- meaning the Book of Mormon, which was made known among Palmyra's residents in the Fall of 1827.[7]

Contemporary Document - 1832

Orson Pratt:

Orson Pratt and Lyman Johnson taught on 8 April 1832 that “in 1827 a young man called Joseph Smith of the state of New York, of no denomination [i.e., not belonging to a church], but under conviction, inquired of the Lord . . . [and] an angel [appeared to him] . . . who gave information where the plates were deposited.”[8] Pratt clarified in a much later statement that between 1820 and 1823 Joseph Smith "was not a member of any church."[9]

Thus, a great deal of contemporary evidence disproves the late, second hand claims.


  1. Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1867), 17–18.
  2. Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother (Salt Lake City: Stevens and Wallis, 1945), 90.
  3. Letter, Josiah Stowell Jr. to John S. Fullmer, 17 February 1843.
  4. Morning Star, 7 March 1833 [Limerick, Maine].
  5. Peter Bauder, The Kingdom and Gospel of Jesus Christ (Canajoharie, New York: A. H. Calhoun, 1834), 36.
  6. Observer and Telegraph, 18 November 1830 [Hudson, Ohio].
  7. “Gold Bible, No. 3,” The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) 2, no. 12 (1 February 1831): {{{pages}}}. off-site
  8. The Catholic Telegraph, 14 April 1832 [Cincinnati, Ohio].
  9. Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 14:140-141.