Life for the adolescent Joseph Smith would likely have been quite different if his parents had not been swindled out of thousands of dollars shortly before his birth.
The young Smith family held the prospects of becoming very wealthy in the early 1800s after amassing a significant amount of high quality Vermont ginseng to sell to China — a forward-thinking enterprise on the part of the parents.
But the ship captain transporting the crop, persuaded by a conspiring businessman named Stevens, invented some "plausible tale" and returned to the Smiths with only a small chest of tea from China claiming the entire business adventure was a perfect failure.
Forced to repay about $2,000 in debt, the Smith parents sold their store and farm and rented a humble log home on the property of Solomon Mack, who would become the Prophet's grandfather.
Here, on a cold day, in destitute circumstances, the Prophet of this dispensation was born on Dec. 23, 1805.
During this year of the 200th anniversary of his birth, and in commemoration of the life and work of Joseph Smith, the Deseret Morning News 2006 Church Almanac adds two seldom considered perspectives that will help readers understand the significance of the Prophet, how a divine hand carefully orchestrated the creation of the Smith family in which the Prophet was fostered in a home of faith.
John C. Lund, a former Church Educational System instructor, tells how the Mack and Smith families wound their way across New England over the decades to finally arrive in Sharon, Vt., where Joseph Smith Jr. was born.
In this humble setting Lucy Mack and Joseph Smith Sr., gave the young prophet-to-be three precious gifts needed to fulfill his divine appointment; namely, a belief in God, a belief in the Bible, and a firm testimony of the power of prayer. These gifts he would use to open the climatic dispensation.
Brother Lund tells of hardships, struggles and injustices and how the young Joseph faced his trials with faith.
In the second perspective, Richard Lloyd Anderson details how the work of the Prophet can be understood by the width and breadth of his travels. Joseph was not a provincial prophet, stated Brother Anderson, but one willing to go anywhere for the kingdom of God.
It is during these travels that Joseph accomplished much of his work as missionary, teacher and leader. Among the details of the journeys of the Prophet, Brother Anderson enlivens the history with insight and anecdotes, such as the occasion when Joseph went to Washington, D.C., to seek redress for the injustices the Latter-day Saints suffered in Missouri.
One account tells of congressmen riding in Joseph's stage as the Prophet made a dramatic entrance to the Washington area, states Brother Anderson. On the road from Wheeling, W. Va., the driver evidently left his four-horse team unsecured.
"The horses ran away with the stage; they ran about three miles; Brother Joseph climbed out of the stage, got the lines, and stopped the horses and also saved the life of a lady and child. He was highly commended by the whole company for his great exertions and presence of mind through the whole affair," said Brother Anderson, quoting Elias Higbee, who had accompanied the Prophet to Washington.
For more than 30 years, the Church Almanac has chronicled the growth and work of the Church. Early volumes were thinner, but still full of details and dates.
The 2006 Deseret Morning News Church Almanac is 672 pages of history, biographies, membership data and pictures.
It is a ready reference for almost any detail of the Church; how many missionaries were set apart each year, specific information about each of the 122 temples in operation as of the publication date, membership statistics by state in the U.S., and by country throughout the world.
The News in Review section provides a synopsis of the news by each month of the past year, while the Chronology section provides key bits of news for each year since the Church was organized.
The year 2005 will be remembered for President Gordon B. Hinckley's circling the globe, with visits in many countries, particularly in Asia, then Africa, where he dedicated the Aba Nigeria Temple, and to the South Pacific for dedication of the rebuilt Apia Samoa Temple.
Having commemorated his 95th birthday with a grand celebration in the Conference Center in July, President Hinckley, as did Joseph Smith, has traveled wherever he's been needed to move the gospel forward. His travels tally hundreds of thousands of miles. Photos, many available only in the Church News, recount his worldwide travels.
In the October 2005 general conference, President Hinckley concisely summarized the progress that has been made and the opportunities ahead when he said: "The growth of the Church from its infancy to its present stature is phenomenal, and we have only scratched the surface."
How to order
The Deseret Morning News 2006 Church Almanac is available for $11.95, plus shipping, through Deseret Book. Orders can be placed online at: Deseretbook.com, or by calling toll-free: (800) 453-4532.
Test your Church history knowledge. Answers found in 2006 Church Almanac.
1. How many stakes were organized as of October 2005? (p. 6.)
2. How many temples has President Hinckley dedicated, or rededicated? (p. 23, or 513-14.)
3. How many Quorums of the Seventy have been organized? (p. 50.)
4. How many apostles have been called in this dispensation? (p. 68.)
5. How many years has President Hinckley served as a General Authority? (p. 97.)
6. How old was Joseph Smith when he was forced to walk about 200 miles on crutches by an "unprincipled scoundrel named Caleb Howard" over snow and ice when his family moved from Vermont to Palmyra in 1817? (p. 128.)
7. How many miles did Joseph Smith travel in his major journeys to establish the Church? (p. 157.)
8. How many wards were organized in Utah as of 2004? (p. 257.)
9. How many members resided in Utah in 2004?(p. 257.)
10. What was Church membership in Asia in 2004? (p. 648.)
Answers: 1. 2,690 2. 92 3. Eight 4. 94 5. 47 years, 6 months 6. 11 years old 7. 18,000 miles 8. 4,018 wards 9. 1.72 million 10. 865,987
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