This tiny gold bead is easy to overlook among all the larger artifacts in the museum, but it carries a story that gives us important insight into the faith and character of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s parents.
In 1830, Joseph Smith Jr. published the Book of Mormon and formally organized the Church in Fayette, New York. Many people, however, were not pleased with these events.
Later that year, a man came to the home of the Prophet’s parents, Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith, to collect a debt of $14. That amount back then would be worth about $300 to $350 today. Father Smith told the man that he could pay him only $6 at that moment but that he would pay the rest when he could.
Lucy recalled that the man refused that proposal, but he offered to forgive the entire debt if Joseph Sr. would burn all the copies of the Book of Mormon in the Smith home. Joseph replied, “No si[r] I shall not do that.”1
“Very well,” the man replied, “thee shall go to jail then.”
At this point, fearing for her husband, Lucy stepped in and took the gold beads from her neck, saying, “These beads are the full value of the remainder of the debt— . . . I beg of you to take these and be satisfied.”2
When he refused her offer, Lucy declared, “You think by this to compel us to deny the work of God and to destroy a book which we know has be[en] brought forth by the gift of the Holy Ghost but sir we shall not burn the book of Mormon nor deny the inspiration of the Almighty.”3
The creditor was unmoved, and he had the constable take Joseph Smith Sr. to a debtor’s prison, where he would remain for nearly a month. Joseph Sr. later told his son Samuel, “Immediately after I left your mother, the men by whom I was taken commenced using every possible argument to induce me to renounce the Book of Mormon; saying how much better it would be for [me] to deny that silly thing, than to be disgraced, and imprisoned.”4 Joseph Sr. ignored their taunts and was consoled that he “was not the first man, who had been imprisoned for the truth’s sake.”5
During his imprisonment, he worked as a cooper until he was able to earn enough money to satisfy the debt. Joseph Sr. preached to his fellow inmates and converted two of them to the gospel.6
This ordeal is one of many that the Smiths endured as they wholeheartedly supported their son Joseph Smith Jr. in his role as Prophet. This single gold bead, though of little monetary value, represents the great value of the Smiths’ unshakable faith.