In the fall of 1825, the Smith family were desperately in need of money. The family had made the financial error of not paying their family mortgage when the rent collector failed to show months earlier, but now payment was due, and foreclosure inevitable lest payment was secured. Providentially, a man named Josiah Stowell, then 55-years-old, hired both Joseph Sr. and Joseph Jr.—all of 19-years-old at the time—to come 150 miles down to his property near Harmony PA to search for a purported lost Spanish silver mine. Josiah wanted Joseph Jr. to come help not only with the manual labor, but also because he heard Joseph Jr. was a seer, and “was in possession of certain means” to be able to find things “that could not be seen by the natural eye” in the words of Joseph’s mother.
After about a month of searching without any success, the party gave up. The search for treasure in Harmony, PA, was not without its finds. Joseph recalled, “During the time that I was thus employed I was put to board with a Mr Isaac Hale of that place, ’Twas there that I first saw my wife, (his daughter) Emma Hale.” Joseph and Emma would fall in love, and the next year Joseph would return to work and court Emma. Emma’s parents not approving of the marriage, Joseph and Emma eloped and were married on January 18, 1827. Nearly a year later, gold plates in tow, Joseph and Emma would come back to Harmony and move in across the road from Emma’s parents, their first home. Harmony, PA, did not yield earthly treasures, but it brought forth heavenly ones. Not only did Joseph meet and marry Emma, but in Harmony, PA, Joseph Smith will translate the majority of the Book of Mormon, be visited by John the Baptist, Peter, James, John to receive the priesthood, and also by Adam (see D&C 128:20), and receive fifteen sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. The 1825 treasure hunting expedition will forever alter the life of Joseph Smith, and also the history of the Church he founded.
In this image Josiah Stowell stands on the left of the viewer, and young nineteen-year-old Joseph Smith, Jr. across the plane on the right. They are engaged in a conversation, and the composition causes the viewer to bounce back and forth between the two. In his left hand Joseph holds his brown seer stone, offering it up at the ready for the continued search for the lost Spanish treasure.
This original painting was created for my Repicturing the Restoration project published in 2020 by BYU’s Religious Studies Center & Deseret Book.
“The Harmony Treasure Searcher” 9×15 watercolor and ink on 16×20 illustration board, 2019 (Unframed)
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