On the night of September 21, 1823, while praying for forgiveness of sins and for guidance as to his future course, he was blessed with another heavenly manifestation. There appeared in his room a brilliant light, in the midst of which stood a personage clothed in white, and with a countenance of radiant purity. The heavenly visitant announced himself as Moroni, a messenger sent from the presence of God; and he proceeded to instruct the youth as to some of the divine purposes in which his instrumentality would be of great import. The angel said that God had a work for Joseph to do, and that his name “should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.” He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants; Also, that there were two stones in silver bows-and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim-deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted ‘seers’ in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book.”
The visiting angel, Moroni, then repeated several prophecies which are recorded in the ancient scriptures; some of the quotations were given with variations from the readings in the Bible. Of the words of Malachi the following were given, presenting small but significant variations from the Biblical version: “For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” Further: “Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” He also quoted the next verse differently: “And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.” Among other scriptures, Moroni cited the prophecies of Isaiah relating to the restoration of scattered Israel, and the promised reign of righteousness on earth, saying that the predictions were about to be fulfilled; also the words of Peter to the Jews, concerning the prophet who Moses said would be raised up, explaining that the prophet referred to was Jesus Christ, and that the day was near at hand when all who rejected the words of the Savior would be cut off from among the people.
Having delivered his message the angel departed, the light in the room seeming to condense about his person and disappearing with him. But during the night he returned twice, and at each visit repeated what he had said at the first, with admonitions to which were added warnings as to the temptations that would assail the youth in the fulfillment of his mission. On the following day Moroni appeared to Joseph again, reciting anew the instructions and cautions of the preceding night, and telling him to acquaint his father with all he had heard and seen. This the boy did, and the father promptly testified that the communications were from God.
Joseph then went to the hill described to him in the vision. He recognized the spot indicated by the angel, and with some labor laid bare a stone box containing the plates and other things spoken of by Moroni. The messenger again stood beside him, and forbade the removal of the contents at that time, saying that four years were to elapse before the plates would be committed to his care, and that it would be his duty to visit the spot at yearly intervals. On the occasion of each of these visits the angel instructed the young man more fully regarding the great work awaiting him.
It is not our present purpose to review in detail the life and ministry of Joseph Smith; what has been said herein respecting the opening scenes of his divinely appointed mission is justified by the great importance associated with the ushering in of the latter-day or new dispensation of divine providence through his instrumentality. The bringing forth of the plates from their resting-place of centuries, their translation by divine power, and the publication of the record as the Book of Mormon, will receive later attention. It is sufficient to say here that the ancient record has been translated; that the Book of Mormon has been given to the world; and that the volume is accepted as scripture by the Latter-day Saints.