December 23d has been an important day to me for many years because it is the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He was born on December 5, 1805, to Lucy Mack and Joseph Smith, Sr., in an 800-square-foot farmhouse in Sharon, Vermont. The house was located on a farm owned by his grandfather, Solomon Mack.
On the 100th anniversary of the Prophet’s birth, a fifty-foot monument was erected in the Vermont countryside “as a witness to the world of the life and mission of Joseph Smith.”
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 approach, 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.
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 of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints], Wells purchased 68 acres of the original Solomon Mack farm and arranged for the construction of a monument. Wels 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. 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.
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.”
The monument was dedicated on the 100th anniversary of the Prophet’s birth by his nephew, President Joseph F. Smith. President Smith returned to Vermont many years after his father and uncle from it. He dedicated the monument and the surrounding grounds on December 23, 1905. The dedicatory prayer included these words, “May it be hallowed by Thy people…. 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.”
December 23rd will always be important to me because it is the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith. However, I now have an additional reason to remember the date. On this date in 2019, I had a heart procedure done that has blessed my life. Although I have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease – which has slowed me down, I am blessed with good enough health to continue doing most of the things that I was doing before the diagnosis. I count December 23rd as the beginning of my new life, and I count every single day as a blessing. I thank God for blessing us with the Prophet Joseph Smith, and I thank Him for saving my life and my health.