Stockholm, Potsdam have connection to origins of Mormonism, now receiving extra attention with Romney presidential campaign
Sunday, July 29, 2012 - 8:40 am


The Mormon religion is receiving extra attention these days as the campaign of Republican presidential candidate and Mormon Mitt Romney continues.

And St. Lawrence County’s Potsdam and Stockholm have a historic link with Joseph Smith Jr., founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, which gave rise to Mormonism. Smith published the Book of Mormon, and gathered thousands of followers, built cities and temples, and created a religious culture that survived his death.

His grandparents, Asael Smith and Mary Duty Smith settled in Stockholm with Asael Jr. in the early 1800s. Asael Sr. appears in the 1810 and 1820 census as do other members of the Smith family in the early 1800s.

Asael Sr. was born in Topsfield Mass. The family moved through New Hampshire and Vermont before settling in Stockholm. Here, Asael Sr. died in 1830. According to Rootsweb, a number of Asael's children lived in Stockholm and Potsdam and a number of grandchildren were born here.

Joseph Smith Jr., the prophet, moved from Vermont to Palmyra/Manchester near Rochester during his mid-teens, with his parents. This would have been around 1816-1817.

He was the son of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith and grandson of Stockholm's Asael Smith.

One of Joseph Jr.'s uncles was John Smith (a son of Asael). He was referred to by the founders of the Mormon religion as "Uncle John" and he lived in Potsdam according to the 1810, 1820 and 1830 Census reports.

Uncle John married Clarissa Lyman in Potsdam in 1815. Clarissa was the first of his eight wives. His second wife was his brother Silas's widow.

In 1832 he was expelled from the Congregational Church of Potsdam after 17 years of membership for believing in the Book of Mormon, according to

He moved west with the Mormon Church through Nauvoo, Ill. where his nephews, prophet Joseph Jr. and Hyrum, were killed by a mob in jail in Carthage, Ill. in 1844. It is interesting that at that time Joseph Jr. was mayor of Nauvoo and running for president of the United States. (read more about this at

Eventually Uncle John moved on to Utah where he rose to be the Presiding Patriarch under Brigham Young. More on the topic is available from the Potsdam Museum at

Origins of Mormonism

One day, Joseph Smith Jr., the prophet, was led to a site (the Sacred Grove) by the angel Moroni where the famous golden plates or tablets were. Joseph was instructed not to remove the items until he was given permission.

He visited the location each year for four years, until he was told that the time had come for these scriptures to be translated.

Joseph Smith said of his visitation: "He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang." (Joseph Smith History, verses 33-34)

This is how the Book of Mormon came into being, translated by Joseph Jr. from "Reformed" Egyptian-like characters. According to David Wittmer one of the three witnesses of the book of Mormon...." Joseph Smith placed the 'seer stone' into a hat to translate the Book of Mormon:"

Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat. Drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine a piece of something resembling parchment would appear and on that appeared the writing one character a time would and under was an interpretation in English."

Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man." (An Address To All Believers In Christ, by David Whitmer, Richmond, Missouri, 1887, p. 12).

Connie Molnar Sterner maintains the website containing many historical photos, documents and articles about St. Lawrence County.