A fifty-foot monument rises up in the Vermont countryside today, just a few steps from the original site of the roughly 800-square-foot farmhouse where Joseph Smith Jr. was born.1 On December 23, 1805, Lucy Mack Smith delivered a son named after his father, Joseph Smith. The baby born to the Smiths that day would become a prophet who devoted his life to building the kingdom of God on the earth. Raised for the 100th anniversary of the Prophet’s birth, the monument is a witness to the world of the life and mission of Joseph Smith.
The Mack Farm
At the time of Joseph’s birth, the Smith family lived on a farm owned by Lucy’s father, Solomon Mack. The family moved onto the farm only a short time before Joseph’s birth. Having recently suffered a crippling financial setback, the Smiths found refuge on Solomon Mack’s farm.2 Joseph Smith Sr. cultivated land rented from Solomon Mack. Located on the farm, the home Joseph Smith knew as a toddler was a small New England–style frame home with a central chimney.3
Though the Smiths only stayed on the Mack farm for three years, the site has remained a spot of significance to Latter-day Saints. As the 100th anniversary of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s birth approached, Junius F. Wells, a longtime admirer of the Prophet, visited the old farm. The landscape had changed since 1805. Fields once cleared and cultivated gave way to new tree growth and pasture lands. Over time clapboards, chimney, and other materials from the home once occupied by the Smiths were removed from the site. Still, landmarks from the former farm remained. Cellar walls, a hearthstone, and a front doorstep showed the location of the humble home where Joseph Smith was born.
Joseph Smith Birthplace Monument
Wells suggested to Church leaders that a monument be built in honor of Joseph Smith, near the location of his birthplace. Working as an agent for the Church, Wells purchased 68 acres of the original Solomon Mack farm and arranged for the construction of a monument. Wells suggested that an obelisk, widely used to commemorate heroes of the past, would honor the memory of Joseph Smith and convey the significance of the Prophet’s life and accomplishments.4 Befitting the Prophet’s Vermont roots, the monument was composed of polished granite cut from a nearby quarry. Sitting atop a series of bases, an inscription stone, and a molded cap, the obelisk stone rises 38½ feet, one foot for every year of the Prophet’s life.5
Inscriptions on the monument teach about Joseph Smith’s life and the singular role he played in restoring the gospel of Jesus Christ. The testimony inscription on the monument’s north face proclaims what millions of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints know to be true: that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ in the spring of 1820, that through the gift and power of God he translated the Book of Mormon from plates, that angelic messengers visited him and others to restore God’s authority to minister His gospel and organize His Church on the earth, and that when Joseph Smith was assassinated in June 1844, he “sealed his testimony with his blood.”
For the 100th anniversary of Joseph Smith’s birthday, President Joseph F. Smith, a nephew of the Prophet, returned to the state his uncle and his father had left so long before. Accompanied by several other Church leaders, he dedicated the monument and the surrounding grounds on December 23, 1905. “May it be hallowed by Thy people,” prayed President Smith. “May Thy blessing abide upon it, that it may be a blessed place, where Thy people may visit from time to time and rejoice in contemplating Thy goodness in that Thou hast restored to the earth the fullness of the Gospel of Thy Son, with all the power and authority necessary to administer it and all its ordinances unto the inhabitants of the earth, for their salvation and for the redemption of their dead.”6
The Monument and Memorial Grounds Today
Since its dedication, the birthplace site has welcomed visitors, inviting them to connect with their religious heritage and gain a greater appreciation for the Prophet Joseph Smith. Visitors to the site can explore the landscape, see the monument, and go through a visitors’ center, which offers exhibits and information about the Prophet’s life, his family, and their New England heritage.
Several features on the grounds also help visitors connect to the site’s past. The original stone doorstep and stone garden mark the approximate location of the birthplace home. In the visitors’ center, the home’s original hearthstone is also on display. Visitors can also see the nearby foundations of the homes once owned by Solomon Mack and Lucy’s brother Daniel G. Mack.
Nestled within a rotunda of dense forest, the Joseph Smith Birthplace Monument and Memorial grounds offer visitors a quiet spot to contemplate the life and prophetic mission of Joseph Smith.