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Isaac and Lucy Morley Farm: The Restoration Comes to Kirtland, Ohio

When Joseph and Emma Smith moved to Kirtland, they lived for a while on the Isaac Morley farm. Isaac Morley already had as many as eleven different homes on his farm, with families living there who were part of the Reformed Baptist movement and who wanted to have “all things in common” like the New Testament church in Acts. It was here that Emma gave birth to twins, who died shortly after. The Lord gave several revelations to Joseph here. Also, the the fourth conference of the Church was held here, in which the first ordinations to the office of high priest occurred and Joseph’s countenance was miraculously changed.

Craig James Ostler: Many early saints in Kirtland lived on the Isaac Morley farm. They banded together when those involved in the Reformed Baptist movement studied together and as they read in the book of Acts, they found that they early saints of the New Testament church “had all things in common” (Acts 4:32). And so they determined they wanted to do similar things. Father Morley, as Isaac Morley was known then, invited them to move onto his farm, with as many as eleven different homes here, with different families living in them.1 Now none of those buildings exist today and those that are found on the property were not here when Isaac Morley and others lived here.

Kenneth L. Alford: In the fall of 1830, four latter day Saint missionaries found themselves traveling west from New York, heading towards Missouri to fulfill the Lord’s command to preach to the Native Americans there on the banks of the Missouri River. Those four missionaries were led by Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer Jr, Parley Parker Pratt, and Ziba Peterson. They stopped in the Kirtland area because they wanted to visit with friends and families there, and they met a young lady by the name of Lucy Diantha Morley. She was working as a servant assistant in a farmhouse, about a mile north of her family farm. She met with the missionaries and told them that they could probably receive a good meal and some conversation at the home of her family.2 So the four missionaries traveled to the Morley farm, met with the Morleys, found a receptive audience, shared stories and scriptures from the Book of Mormon, began proselytizing in the Kirtland area.3

Brooke LeFevre: One of the people who interacted with Isaac Morley was a young girl named Mary Elizabeth Rollins. When Mary was very young, her father died, which left her, her younger sister, and her older brother, and her mother fatherless, without someone to take care of them.4 They ended up moving to Kirtland to live with their uncle, Sidney Gilbert. Sidney was married to Elizabeth, who was Mary’s mother’s sister. In Kirtland is when they interacted with the Mormon missionaries and in 1830, they were baptized. At that time, Isaac Morley was the only one who owned a copy of the Book of Mormon in that area. And when Mary first saw the Book of Mormon, when she first laid her eyes on it, she said, “As I looked at it, I felt such a desire to read it that I could not refrain from asking him to let me take it home and read it.” So she basically begs Isaac Morley to let her borrow this Book of Mormon. She takes it home, and at first her aunt and uncle are kind of mad at her, and they reprimand her saying, “you shouldn’t have asked for that, that’s too big of a favor.” They end up all reading it late into the night. And the next morning, Mary wakes up very early to memorize part of it. And she goes to return it to Isaac Morley because that was the condition, he said you have to bring it back tomorrow morning. She goes to return it to him and he says, You must’ve not been able to read very much. And she quotes to him the part that she memorized. And he tells her, “Child, take this book home and finish it, I can wait.” Joseph Smith moves to Kirtland and happens to visit Sidney Gilbert’s home. And when he’s there he sees the Book of Mormon on the mantelpiece, and he says, “How did this get here? I gave that to Isaac Morley.” And Sidney Gilbert then explains the story about Mary, and how she borrowed it, and she had been reading, and loved the book, and Joseph then says, I need to meet this girl, this 12 year old girl who has been reading the Book of Mormon. So they called for her, and she comes in and she walks in to meet the prophet, and she says that, “he looked at me so earnestly, I felt almost afraid. After a moment or two, he came and put his hands on my hand and gave me a great blessing, the first I had ever received, and made me a present of the book.”5

Craig J. Ostler: In later years, Isaac Morley’s daughter Lucy Diantha indicated that, “The first time [the Prophet] and his family came to Kirtland they lived with Isaac Morley, Lucy’s father. Later “Father Morley” built a small house for them on his farm.” Now it was at this home that Emma gave birth to twins, both whom died shortly after birth. Lucy continued and said that she “and her elder sister kept house for Emma Smith while she was ill” and recovering from the physical and emotional drain of losing the twins.6

This modern forested area on the hillside of the Isaac Morley farm might be referred to as the sacred grove of Kirtland, Ohio. The Lord gave several revelations to the Prophet Joseph Smith while he lived here. However, that’s not the only reason for this ground being hallowed. Three experiences in particular occurred here. One is the prophecy that the Prophet Joseph Smith gave while in the schoolhouse that was on this hill.

Kenneth L. Alford: Wilford Woodruff reported in April of 1898 during General Conference that the Priesthood of the entire Church basically gathered in this little schoolhouse and there they shared their testimonies, shared their feelings of the gospel, and after listening to them, the Prophet Joseph Smith spoke to the group, and according to Wilford Woodruff, he said the following: “Brethren, I’ve been much edified and instructed in your testimonies here tonight. But I want to say to you before the Lord that you know no more concerning the destiny of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon it’s mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it. It’s only a little handful of priesthood you see here tonight. But this church will fill North and South America. It will fill the world. This people will go in the Rocky Mountains. They will there build temples to the most high. They will raise up a posterity there.”7 How thrilling that must’ve been to be in that little schoolhouse on the Morley farm and hear the prophet bear testimony of the destiny of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Craig J. Ostler: A second hallowing experience is that of the fourth conference of the Church and the first one held in Ohio. At that conference the first ordinations of the office of high priest of the Melchizedek priesthood took place. It was also at that conference that Satan attempted to thwart spiritual outpouring and revelations on that day.8

However, similar to the Sacred Grove near the Smith’s farm in Palmyra, New York, his efforts were overcome. The power of the Holy Ghost settled on the Prophet Joseph Smith when he spoke.

The last experience was related by Mary Elizabeth Rollins, who was present in 1831. Not long after the Prophet arrived in that area while in the schoolhouse on the hill, he met with the saints. Mary related that Joseph said, “There are enough here to hold a meeting.”9 She explained that Joseph looked around very solemnly. It was the first time some of them had ever seen him. They got a board and put it across two chairs to make seats. Martin Harris sat on a little box at Joseph’s feet. They sang and prayed.

Joseph got up and began to speak to us she said. As he began to speak, very solemnly and earnestly, all at once his countenance changed and he stood mute. Those who looked at him that day said there was a search light within him, over every part of his body.

Brooke LeFevre: Mary related, “I never saw anything like it on earth. I could not take my eyes off of him. He got so white that anyone who saw him would have thought he was transparent. I remember I thought I could almost see the bones through the flesh.” Mary continued, “He stood some minutes. He looked over the congregation as if to pierce every heart. Said he, ‘Do you know who has been is your midst?’ One of the Smith’s said, an angel of the Lord. Martin Harris said, ‘It was our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.’ Joseph put his hand down on Martin and said, ‘God revealed that to you. Brothers and sisters the Spirit of God has been in your midst. The Savior has been here this night and I want to tell you to remember it. There was a veil over your eyes, for you could not endure to look upon Him.’ Then he knelt down and prayed.” Mary continued, “I have never heard anything like it before or since. I felt that he was talking to the Lord. And that power rested down on us in every fiber of our bodies. And we received a sermon from the lips of the representative of God”10


1Milton V. Backman, Jr., The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio 1830-1838 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company 1983), 15, 36.

2Lucy Dinatha Morley Allen, “Autobiographical Sketch,” n.p.; cited in Mark Lyman Staker, Hearken, O Ye People: The Historical Setting of Joseph Smith’s Ohio Revelations, (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2009), 53.

3Staker, Hearken, O Ye People, 57.

4James Henry Rollins, Autobiography, From the BYU Special Collections in the Harold B. Lee Library.

5“Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner,” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 17 (July
1926), 193-205, 250.

6“Joseph Smith, The Prophet”, Young Woman’s Journal, Vol. 17 1906, No. 12, 537.

7Wilford Woodruff, in Conference Report, Apr. 1898, p. 57; punctuation and capitalization modernized.

8The Joseph Smith Papers: Documents, Vol. 1: July 1828-June 1831, eds., Michael Hubbard MacKay, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, Grant Underwood, Robert J. Woodford, and William G. Hartley, (Salt Lake City: The Church Historian’s Press, 2013), 317-326.

9Mary Elizabeth Lightner, Address at Brigham Young University, April 14, 1905, typescript, BYU. TESTIMONY OF MARY ELIZABETH LIGHTNER.