The Sacred Grove
Three hundred miles from New York City, there’s a ten-acre patch of forest that more than 100,000 people visit every year.
Why do they choose to come here?
To remember a prayer that was offered 200 years ago. A prayer that has changed their lives.
More than 15 million people trace their faith’s roots to events that took place in this forest, to the questions a young Joseph Smith asked and the answers God gave.
Journey to the Palmyra
Joseph Smith’s journey toward the Sacred Grove began in 1816 with a devastating economic crisis. Frosts every month of the year and snowstorms in June killed crop after crop in Vermont, driving food prices up and thousands of poor, broken farmers—including the Smith family—from the state.Read Saints Volume 1
Early Struggles of the Smith Family
By the time 11-year-old Joseph Smith arrived in New York, he had experienced both the cruelty and compassion those desperate times drew out of people.
Over the next few years, as he worked with his parents and older siblings to carve out a living for their family of 10, he often reflected on “the situation of the world of mankind.”
Why were humans often so thoughtless in spite of their best religious ideals? And why did he, as a youth, often fail to live up to what he knew was good and right?
In addition to attendance at different churches and personal meditation, Joseph searched for God by studying the Bible. And one day, while reading James 1:5, he felt that God was speaking directly to him through that ancient text.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
“I retired to the silent grove...”
He chose a place first: a quiet spot in the woods where he could feel at once alone and surrounded by God’s creation. And then, early one morning, he knelt there to “offer up the desires of [his] heart to God.”
We do not and cannot know all that was in Joseph’s heart that morning. We know he felt the weight of a broken world and of his own shortcomings. We know he longed for a faith and community led by Jesus Christ. And we know that God knew his heart and saw that it was open.
After an initial struggle to pray, Joseph was “surrounded by a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noon-day” and felt a “joy unspeakable.” In the light, he saw two figures “whose brightness and glory defy all description”—God the Father and Jesus Christ.
The time would soon come when the Lord would have a work for Joseph Smith to do.
As magnificent as the vision was, even more important was its message. Jesus told Joseph that people had turned away from Him; though they still spoke of Christ, they had lost the full power of His truth.
The church Joseph was looking for no longer existed on the earth—but the time would soon come when it would be restored, when old prophecies and covenants would begin to be fulfilled.