Joseph Smith's Pre-1830 Education

74 Primary Sources

Apr 12, 1819

GH describes the basics of 19th century school as "reading, writing, and arithmetic."

Jan 1829 - Dec 1829

In 1829, JS describes the translation of the Record of Nephi.

Oct 22, 1829

A letter from JS to OC, scribed by FGW.

Jan 15, 1831

Phelps comments on limited education of Joseph, Harris, et al.

Feb 1, 1831

PR describes translation of BOM, highlights JS's lack of education.

Mar 3, 1831

Letter from JS to HS, with spelling mistakes.

Mar 9, 1832

AL describes how he will run as a representative and uses his legal knowledge to bolster his campaign.

Jun 1, 1832

JS educated in reading/writing basic math.

Jun 1832

JS obtained the plates in 1827 and commenced translating them then.

Aug 4, 1832

William McLellin: Joseph published the BOM in 1830.

Dec 31, 1832

Joseph states that he was deprived of a benefit of an education and was instructed only in the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic.


Commentary on public schools during JS's time.


J. Orville Taylor provides commentary on public schools during Joseph's time.

May 1, 1834

Susquehanna Register reprints Isaac Hales's recollection that Joseph didn't go to school often.


Mulholland records the account of the BOM translation; Joseph used instruments he called U&T.

Dec 31, 1840

Orson Pratt records that schooling was available to Joseph.

Jun 15, 1842

CH rebuts TPA, calls JS "without education or genius" with "a little low cunning."

Dec 31, 1842

Orson Hyde writes in a German tract that Joseph did not receive an education.

1844 - 1845

Lucy Mack Smith reports that Smith family read revolutionary literature.

Jun 8, 1844

JS could not write well

Dec 31, 1844

Luc Mack Smith reports that Joseph didn't like books in her memoirs.

Dec 31, 1844

Lucy Mack Smith describes Hyrum Smith's education.


Lydia Gates Mack, mother of Lucy Mack Smith, taught school and was an accomplished woman.


Lucy Mack Smith records how Smith family educated their children.


LS describes how her husband taught school during the winter-time.


LMS recalls that JS Sr. taught school.


LS describes how Hyrum went to an academy in Hanover.


LMS highlights JS's farm labors.


JS worked as a day laborer.


Lucy Mack says that Oliver Cowdery taught school at the district school when the Smith family arrived in Harmony.


WA says JS could barely read and could only really write his name


OT writes that JS was "possessed of less than ordinary intellect."

Aug 14, 1859

OP describes JS's limited education.

Feb 11, 1861

Abraham Lincoln records that he wrote his own farewell speech from Springfield, demonstrating his literacy.

Dec 31, 1867

Pomeroy Tucker asserts that Joseph was unlearned and spent more time outside.

Dec 31, 1867

Pomeroy Tucker reports that Joseph knew a lot of stories.


Pomeroy Tucker highlights how LDS have used Joseph's lack of education to defend the Book of Mormon.


According to TP, JS was illiterate c. ~1830.


MT's first book for comparison to the age of JS translating the BOM.

Dec 31, 1869

Gazetteer and Business Directory prints reports that Joseph attended a little bit of school.

Aug 31, 1878

In a letter to James T. Cobb, William S. Sayre claims that Joseph Smith, Sr. was educated.

Oct 1, 1879

ES on JS as being a poor at dictation and writing.

Dec 29, 1880

Joseph Smith had a limited education

Feb 11, 1881

SS tells MF that JS's education was "very limited."

Dec 31, 1883

Smith family knew Joseph did not have proper education.

Dec 31, 1883

William Smith reports that although Joseph did not have a common education, he had a high regard for truth.

Feb 27, 1884

CB says he went to school with JS.

Sep 1, 1884

Benjamin Saunders reports to William H. Kelley that that Joseph had little education.


SP says that JS had a poor reputation as a student in school.

Jan 1, 1887

HS was much more educated than JS.

Jun 27, 1887

S.F. Anderick, in a statement, reports that Hyrum Smith was able to teach school, Joseph was not.

Jan 1888

Isaac Butts, in a statement, states that Joseph went to school.

Sep 8, 1892

JHG notes that the original manuscript of the BOM didn't have punctuation.


AJ describes how OC taught school in the district school in Manchester, Ontario county, N.Y..

Dec 31, 1901

Lyman Stowell reports that Joseph went to school.


Asael Smith gives address to Joseph Smith Sr. to give his children a good education, if possible.


JWR says SR had high-quality education.


Biography of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain).


Evelyn M. Wood says Joseph might have been taught his letters in around 1810.


Junius F. Wells reports that Joseph went to a school on Dewey Hill.

Jul 1, 1922

Joseph Smith went to school and was not as ignorant as some portrayed him.

Dec 31, 1956

JS went to school in East Palmyra with the Terry family.


Bruce A. Van Orden reports that Hyrum Smith went to school much earlier than Joseph.


Historian DHD says that Abraham Lincoln had less than one year of schooling by age fifteen.


David Herbert Donald describes 19th-century education for Abraham Lincoln.


AL had an urgency to become a lawyer in 1834 and self-studied to become one.


AL was sought after to write letters for his neighbors as few could write well at that time.

Dec 2001

Kyle Walker, in a PhD thesis, discusses Joseph Smith Sr. working as a school teacher.

Dec 31, 2006

HS had access to Dartmouth educational ideas.

Aug 14, 2010

TMTH&M says MT(SC) was educated until the fifth grade.

Aug 14, 2010

TMTH&M summarizes the publication of MT's first book.

Dec 2, 2013 - Feb 28, 2014

An exhibit summarized by DCL recounts the history of Moor's Charity school.


The RDOCS gives biographical and academic details of John S.


Charles Dudley Warner's notes from autobiography of Samuel Clemens concerning his education.