SHARON, Vermont — Underneath a blanket of bright fall leaves, the ruts left by wagon wheels two centuries ago remain on a rock bridge.
Not too far away, foundation stones mark the dimensions of what was once Joseph Smith’s grandfather’s modest log home.
Up the hill, the original hearthstone from the fireplace of the house where the Prophet Joseph was born remains.
This quiet, rustic location in rural Vermont is unknown, unheralded by much of the world.
But for President M. Russell Ballard and Elder D. Todd Christofferson it means everything.
“Here on Dec. 23, 1805, a baby with the responsibility of restoring to the earth the fullness of the everlasting gospel, was born,” said President Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Walking along a tree-lined road amid the bright colors of autumn on Saturday, Oct. 19, the leaders talked with “deep reverence and appreciation” for this place and the prophet it honors.
“I can’t get anywhere near this birthplace without having deep affection and love for the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr.,” said President Ballard. “I feel obligated to do everything I can to declare and to teach that the gospel is once again on the earth.”
Elder Christofferson, also of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, called the site sacred.
“Tucked back in these trees came to the earth the Prophet Joseph Smith,” he said, speaking of the baby born in “humble circumstances” who would “change the course” of history.
‘Joseph Smith is everything we say he is’: President Ballard, Elder Christofferson testify of the Prophet at his birthplace
Up the hill a 50-foot granite monument — including an obelisk with a 38 ½-foot shaft, one foot for every year of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s life — memorializes his birth, his accomplishments and his mission. Just feet away from the obelisk is the site of the roughly 800-square-foot farmhouse where Joseph Smith Jr. spent his formative years with his parents, Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith. The monument was raised for the 100th anniversary of Joseph Smith’s birth.
“It is a sacred spot. One feels that here,” said Elder Christofferson. “I think all of us can feel the spirit that is here in our lives wherever we are,” he added thinking of an international Church membership now 16 million strong.
The Smith family moved to the farm in rural Vermont — owned by Lucy’s father, Solomon Mack — just before Joseph’s birth. President Ballard and Elder Christofferson spoke of what life might have been like for Joseph and his older brother, Hyrum — who would have worked these fields and found refuge playing among the trees.
“Anyone that would be here when [Joseph Smith] was born,” said President Ballard, “would have had a sense of deep reverence and appreciation and love for our Heavenly Father … that He raised up again — for the last time, according to His own words — a prophet to give us the fullness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ with the priesthood and the authority and the power to act in the name of God.”
Hyrum’s son, Church President Joseph F. Smith, returned to this site 100 years after Joseph Smith’s birth — accompanied by several other Church leaders — to dedicate the monument and the surrounding grounds on Dec. 23, 1905. “May it be hallowed by Thy people,” prayed President Smith. “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.”
In his service as an apostle President Ballard said he feels the influence of his ancestors Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith and Joseph F. Smith; he has statues of all three in his office. “I think I hear them say, ‘get going boy, do something worthwhile. Tell the world what’s happened,’ ” said President Ballard.
Then looking to the monument that memorializes this sacred place, he added, “I hope when that day comes, if I get a chance to meet [Joseph Smith] on the other side, that I can tell him that even sitting [near the original hearthstone of his first home] was a very important spiritual time in my life.”