‘Come, Follow Me’: Learn more and see photos of the Priesthood Restoration Site

In a town then known as Harmony, Pennsylvania, some 150 miles southeast of Palmrya, New York, Emma Hale Smith spent her childhood and later met Joseph Smith.

Harmony was where the young couple lived for several years, where Emma had their first baby and also where the bulk of the Book of Mormon was translated.

The Susquehanna River is shown in 2017 and is near the Priesthood Restoration Site in Oakland Township, Susquehanna, Pennsylvania.
The Susquehanna River is shown in 2017 and is near the Priesthood Restoration Site in Oakland Township, Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. Credit: Kenneth Mays

The maple grove where on May 15, 1829, Joseph and Oliver Cowdery prayed for guidance about baptism is also located in Harmony. John the Baptist appeared to them and restored the Aaronic Priesthood. Later that day, both men went to the nearby Susquehanna River and baptized each other (see “How the Aaronic Priesthood Was Restored” on ChurchofJesusChrist.org).

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At the Priesthood Restoration Site in Oakland Township, Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, from the back of the rebuilt home of Joseph and Emma Smith, right, the rebuilt home of Isaac and Elizabeth Hale, left, can be seen.
At the Priesthood Restoration Site in Oakland Township, Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, from the back of the rebuilt home of Joseph and Emma Smith, right, the rebuilt home of Isaac and Elizabeth Hale, left, can be seen. Credit: Kenneth Mays

The Church reconstructed the homes of Joseph and Emma, along with the home of her parents, Issac and Elizabeth Hale. With the surrounding area, they are part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Priesthood Restoration Site in what is now Oakland Township, Pennsylvania.

On Sept. 19, 2015, after three years of work, the site was dedicated by President Russell M. Nelson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

“Even though they lived at Harmony for only a brief time, the experiences they had were crucial to the restoration of the Lord’s gospel,” President Nelson said at the dedication. “Harmony provided Joseph with spiritual solitude and protection, allowing him to focus on the translation of the Book of Mormon. Through this period, the Lord tutored Joseph in his divine role as prophet, seer and revelator. Receiving the priesthood power empowered Joseph Smith to function fully as the Prophet of the last dispensation. Here he worked during a remarkable and formative season of translation, revelation and restoration.”

President Nelson dedicates newly developed Priesthood Restoration Site

Joseph and Emma moved to the area in December 1827, just a few months after Joseph had received the plates. The young couple, who were expecting a baby, initially lived in Emma’s parents’ home for a few months. In early 1828, they moved to a small home on 13 acres that they bought from Emma’s brother Jessie Hale (see “Joseph and Emma Smith’s Home,” by Mark L. Staker and Curtis Ashton, published Feb. 27, 2019, on history.churchofjesuschrist.org).

It was in that home where Joseph translated the Book of Mormon with the help of several scribes, including Emma, Martin Harris and, later, Oliver Cowdery.

It was also in that home where Emma had the couple’s first child, a boy named Alvin, who died shortly after birth. He is buried in the nearby McKune Cemetery, along with Emma’s parents. The cemetery is accessible from the Smith home, though it’s not part of the official site.

One of challenges with rebuilding the homes was a highway that ran in between the home sites, according to the Church News’ archives about the dedication (see “President Nelson dedicates newly developed Priesthood Restoration Site,” by R. Scott Lloyd, published Sept. 20, 2015, on thechurchnews.com). The stretch of the state highway was moved, and the grade was raised, allowing for a pedestrian tunnel. The tunnel connects the visitors’ center — which has interactive exhibits, statues depicting the restorations of the the Aaronic Priesthood and the Melchizedek Priesthood — and the maple grove to the path with the Hale and Smith homes.

The Hales’ two-story home, which was also restored at the site, was the family’s second home. As newlyweds, Isaac and Elizabeth Hale moved into a log home in the fall of 1790. In 1809, Isaac Hale and his sons and neighbors moved the log home, expanding the cellar. They then built the two-story home on the spot where they had lived for 20 years (see “Emma’s Susquehanna: Growing Up in the Isaac and Elizabeth Hale Home” on history.churchofjesuschrist.org).

In 1960, a monument commemorating the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood designed by Avard Fairbanks was placed at the site near the reconstructed home of Joseph and Emma. The locations of the Smith and Hale homes were marked with signs until the restored homes were built.

“This was a great time of spiritual outpouring,” said Elder Steven E. Snow, then Church Historian and Recorder, in his talk at the dedicatory service, “and a time when our Prophet Joseph was still in the process of restoring the gospel. Many members think he walked out of the sacred grove in Palmyra with a bushel basket of handbooks, but that’s really not the case. The Church continued to grow and mature, as did the Prophet, as revelations were received by him and subsequent prophets, even unto today.”

In January 1831, Joseph and Emma left Harmony for Ohio (see “Joseph Smith in Harmony,” by Elder Steven E. Snow, Ensign, September 2015). The home they lived in burned in 1919.

While the grounds are open, the Priesthood Restoration Site has temporarily discontinued in-person guided tours of the homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An interactive map is available online at https://history.churchofjesuschrist.org/collection/priesthood-restoration-site and to schedule a virtual tour, see nyandpahistoricsites.as.me/schedule.php.

Correction: A previous version of this article noted had early 1827, rather than early 1828, as when Joseph and Emma Smith moved into their home in what was known as Harmony, Pennsylvania.