Mormon Church purchases historic Susquehanna property in northern Pennsylvania

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 11 2011 9:15 a.m. MST

OAKLAND TOWNSHIP, Pa. — The LDS Church has acquired 10 acres in northern Pennsylvania's Susquehanna County, adding to property it already owns in an area steeped in Mormon history, including the translation of the Book of Mormon.

Scott Trotter, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, acknowledged the 10-acre purchase "near a site of historical significance to the founding of the faith."

Formerly known as Harmony, the Oakland Township area is where LDS Church prophet Joseph Smith first met, courted and then married his wife, Emma Hale Smith.

It is also the site where much of the church's Book of Mormon was translated, where revelations comprising 15 sections of the church's Doctrine and Covenants volume of scripture were received, and where John the Baptist appeared as an angel to bestow the Aaronic Priesthood.

"The church is committed to preserving the beauty of the site and in conducting ongoing archeological and environmental research in the vicinity," Trotter said. "No decision has been made concerning future development of the site."

Located on Route 171, the parcel contains Boughton's Auto Salvage, a garage, junkyard and used-parts facility, owned by the Boughton family since 1965. The purchase agreement allows the Boughtons to reserve gas and oil rights on the property should the LDS Church decide to lease it.

The Scranton, Pa., Times-Tribune reported the property purchase to be for $2.1 million.

The 10-acre parcel is adjacent to 147 acres owned by the church, with its most-recent addition coming in 2005.

The 19-year-old Joseph Smith came to the area with his father, members of a digging crew hired by Josiah Stowell, who claimed to have a map for a reported silver mine in the region. After digging for a short time in November 1825, the Smiths helped convince Stowell of the futility of further digging.

While in Harmony, the Smiths boarded with Isaac Hale, Emma's father. Joseph and Emma continued to see each other after the former left to work on Stowell's farm in New York and were later married in January 1827.

After receiving the golden plates from which the Book of Mormon was to be translated, Joseph and Emma Smith moved back to Harmony in 1828, settling on 13 acres near the Hale home and moving into a relocated home that had been on the property of her brother. That home — eventually called the Smith home — burned down in a 1919 fire.

Besides the ties to the Book of Mormon translation and the early Doctrine and Covenants sections, Joseph Smith and scribe Oliver Cowdery visited the banks of the nearby Susquehanna River, where the two baptized each other and received the Aaronic Priesthood from the angel John the Baptist.

Erected five decades ago, a large bronze historic marker located between Route 171 and the river acknowledges the historic events, the location of the former Smith home and the proximity of the Susquehanna River.

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