RACE, RELIGION + SOCIAL JUSTICE

First photo of Joseph Smith may have been found in family heirloom

Jul 21, 2022, 7:09 PM | Updated: Aug 2, 2022, 10:24 am
Multiple Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints buildings are featured in the photo. The churc...
The John Witmer Historical Association claims to have released the first photo of, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith. Photo: Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY — John Whitmer Historical Association took to its Facebook Thursday afternoon claiming the first photo of Joseph Smith has been found.

According to the post, the picture can be viewed within a spring/summer 2022 issue of the John Witmer Historical Association Journal. The post was promoting said journal.

“Smith family members and historians have long believed that a daguerreotype, or photograph, of Joseph Smith, Jr., was made before his June 27, 1844, assassination,” the post reads, “That daguerreotype has now been found.”

According to the John Whitmer Historical Association website, the photograph was found in a family heirloom, a watch locket. The locket had been passed through the Smith Family.

Response from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Following this post, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement regarding the claimed photo.

“Every few years, potential donors bring artifacts to the Church History Library for review, including alleged photographs of the prophet Joseph Smith. Such artifacts are, of course, of great interest to the Church,” the statement says.  “Though it was not mentioned specifically in the article, Church Historians, archivists and artifact experts were provided—by the item’s owner and the article’s authors—the opportunity to analyze the locket and photo and to review their findings prior to publication.”

Though it could not confirm the legitimacy of the photo, the church did say “the daguerreotype and locket were created of the materials and methods appropriate to the 1840s.”

The statement goes on to say “nothing is definitively known about the locket’s history before 1992.”

“We cannot draw a conclusion about who is pictured in the daguerreotype. We welcome the recent publication of the image and hope it will prompt the discovery of additional information helpful to determining its authenticity,” the statement concludes.

Bonneville International Corporation, the company that owns KSL NewsRadio, is a subsidiary of Deseret Management Corporation, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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