I sometimes forget how real the faith of the early Latter-day Saints was. But as I visited Joseph and Emma Smith’s small home at the Priesthood Restoration Site, I was reminded of their sacrifices—and my testimony was strengthened.
My parents wanted to go see the Priesthood Restoration Site near the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania last winter. Being the Church history site junkie I am, I was determined to learn something new. What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming testimony builder that visiting this holy ground would be.
The location’s official website gives information on the historical site near what was then known as Harmony, Pennsylvania. Scrolling through the photos on the website, I smiled at the sight of the buildings and exhibits as I prepared for our visit. My favorite building is Joseph and Emma Smith‘s little home—their first house as husband and wife. When I walked into the home during our visit on that cold January morning, the first thing I realized was that this little space was essentially the same size as the first apartment my husband and I had lived in—and in which we were living again at the time of this visit.
I pictured Joseph and Emma living here and felt how attached they must have felt to this home,
near the home where Emma had grown up. It was here that much of the Book of Mormon was translated. Not far away, the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods were restored. Just a five-minute walk up the hill was their first child’s gravesite, in a graveyard that still stands today. The reality of how hard the decision to leave must have been for Joseph and Emma struck me as never before. I realized how firmly they had to have believed in God and revelation in order for them to leave this home behind in search of safety to practice their religion. How very real their testimonies of the truth of the work must have been to push them to walk away, never to see Emma’s family again.
I had previously found it hard to picture these early Saints and to really internalize their trials. But visiting Joseph and Emma’s small home near the Susquehanna River put their sacrifices in real terms for me. I could picture their excitement for their new life together and their eagerness to begin a family. I could feel the love they had for each other and for this newly restored gospel. For the first time, I felt what it must have been like to be in their shoes when they loved,
cried, and walked away with broken hearts. It was my first glimpse into the reality of their faith.
Being a member of the Church requires sacrifice today. I’ve always heard that our trials are different from those of the Saints in Joseph Smith’s time. Maybe the challenges and struggles I face in my own life are harder, maybe they’re not—but they are just as real as those endured by the early Saints. But regardless of the trials, visiting the Priesthood Restoration Site reminded me that I don’t have
to feel alone in my own faith if I just look backwards.
—Liz Blodgett, Mormon Insights
feature image of joseph and emma smith’s home by liz blodgett
Find more insights
Read about “The Foundation of Joseph’s Powerful Community,” a Mormon Insights article by Kaleigh Niemela.