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Sacred Grove

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In such a grove of towering beeches, maples, and other trees, about one-fourth mile west of the Smith family home near Palmyra, New York, fourteen-year-old Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ in the spring of 1820. Photographer: George E. Anderson, 1926.

by Donald L. Enders

A grove of trees on the Joseph Smith, Sr., farm near Palmyra, New York, is revered by Latter-day Saints as the vicinity where Joseph Smith experienced his first vision, the divine manifestation of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ that began the restoration of the gospel in this dispensation. For that reason, Latter-day Saints honor the place as sacred. The grove is part of the forest that once covered the Smiths' 100-acre farm in Manchester Township as well as much of western New York.

The forest was some 400 years old when the family of Joseph Smith, Sr., moved to the site in 1818 or 1819. The large trees of the forest—maple, beech, elm, oak, and hickory—reached heights of up to 125 feet and diameters of 6 feet or more. Beneath this natural canopy grew hop hornbeam, wild cherry, and ash. The woodland floor was carpeted with leaves, ferns, grasses, wildflowers, and clumps of chokecherry and dogwood.

The Smiths cleared the trees from sixty acres of their property. The Sacred Grove was part of a fifteen-acre wooded tract at the farm's west end, reserved as a sugarbush, where trees were tapped for making maple syrup and sugar.

Subsequent owners of the farm maintained the grove, associating it with Joseph Smith's vision, although the exact location of the vision is unknown. In 1907 the Church purchased the farm and grove from William A. Chapman, and these sites formed the nucleus of the Church historical sites program, which at present includes properties from Vermont to Utah.

Through an ongoing professional maintenance program, the Church has retained much of the primeval beauty of the Sacred Grove. Trees that were mature at the time of Joseph Smith's boyhood still grace this forest. People from many lands visit the Sacred Grove each year. In 1989 the number of visitors exceeded 36,000.

(See Basic Beliefs home page; The Gospel of Jesus Christ home page; The Restoration of the Gospel home page)

Bibliography

Backman, Milton V., Jr. Joseph Smith's First Vision, 2nd ed. Salt Lake City, 1980.

Enders, Donald L. "A Snug Log House." Ensign 15 (Aug. 1985):14-23.

Jessee, Dean C. "The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision." BYU Studies 9 (Spring 1969):275-96.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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