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Church responds to possible photo of Joseph Smith discovered by one of his descendants

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An 1842 oil painting of Joseph Smith by David Rogers is compared to a daguerreotype discovered inside the Smith/Larsen watch locket by Dan Larsen.

Portrait, Community of Christ/daguerreotype, Dan Larsen via the Deseret News


The John Whitmer Historical Association announced Thursday, July 21, the discovery of a photograph of Joseph Smith by one of his descendants.

According to the Deseret News, Daniel Larsen, Smith’s great-great grandson and a Latter-day Saint, inherited some family heirlooms from his mother, Lois Smith Larsen, prior to her death in 1992. Among the collection were two pocket watches, one of which he was unable to open due to the release mechanism being bent. Larsen didn’t look at it again until 2020 when he managed to get it open. Inside he found a daguerreotype of a man with a likeness to his ancestor, Joseph Smith.

Larsen’s nephew Lachlan Mackay — a member of Community of Christ’s Council of Twelve Apostles who oversees the Joseph Smith Historic Site in Nauvoo, Illinois — has spent the last two years working with an expert of Smith family visual materials to study the image, the artifact and its authenticity.

“I have become convinced that it is, in fact, Joseph,” Mackay told the Deseret News. “It feels like it fits. It’s consistent with the portrait. At first glance, the overall impression is some ways different, but the individual features are really quite similar. And it is consistent with the death mask. It would be helpful if we had lots of other photos to compare it with. Of course, we don’t.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responded to media inquiries regarding the daguerreotype with the following statement.

“Every few years, potential donors bring artifacts to the Church History Library for review, including alleged photographs of the prophet Joseph Smith. Such artifacts are, of course, of great interest to the Church. Though it was not mentioned specifically in the article, Church historians, archivists and artifact experts were provided — by the item’s owner and the article’s authors — the opportunity to analyze the locket and photo and to review their findings prior to publication.

"We concur that the daguerreotype and locket were created of the materials and methods appropriate to the 1840s. However, as nothing is definitively known about the locket’s history before 1992, we cannot draw a conclusion about who is pictured in the daguerreotype. We welcome the recent publication of the image and hope it will prompt the discovery of additional information helpful to determining its authenticity.”

Read more about the discovery of the possible daguerreotype of Joseph Smith at Deseret.com.

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