The Priesthood Restoration site of the LDS Church is located in Pennsylvania. This site is quite a bit south of most of the sites in New York, but it is worth the drive as it has been greatly expanded. The Priesthood Restoration site includes several things to see and do including two reconstructed homes, the site of the Aaronic Priesthood restoration, and the location of Joseph and Oliver’s baptism. All these things make the 2.5 hour drive from Palmyra worth it.
In 1827, Joseph and Emma moved south to be closer to her parents, and farther from persecution. While there, the Smith’s built a home on 13 acres. Joseph worked on the translation of the Book of Mormon, and Emma had their first child, Alvin, who died in infancy. During translation, Joseph and Oliver prayed to learn about baptism and were visited by John the Baptist with answers to their questions. Then they baptized each other in the Susquehanna River. All of those events are celebrated at the Priesthood Restoration Site.
Start your tour by pulling into the Visitor Center. LDS Missionaries will orient you and give you a brief tour of the area. The Visitor Center has some interactive exhibits that are great for kids. There is also a movie that talks about the history. And there are artifacts from this time period on display.
After finishing inside the Visitor Center, the missionaries will take you down the hill to tour the two reconstructed houses. The first is the Hale’s home where Emma grew up, and most of her family lived. This home is set up much like the early pioneer homes would have looked. We liked learning about the golden plates and trying to heft a box that was the same weight as the plates. It was not easy.
The second home was Joseph and Emma’s home. It was destroyed by fire, but the reconstruction is very nice. It was in this home that Joseph translated most of the Book of Mormon. The missionaries talked about the different ways the he received revelation as he was translating or receiving revelation. After this part of the tour, the rest of the property is for you to explore on your own.
From the house, you can choose to walk over to the cemetery. It is a small, ancient headstone, and most of the headstones need repair. This cemetery is also the final resting place for Emma’s parents, and Joseph and Emma’s firstborn infant son. We spent a few moments honoring these early pioneers who helped restore the church.
Sugar Bush Grove
As you head back to the Visitor Center, there is a path that heads up the hill to where Oliver and Joseph may have gone to pray. Somewhere in this area, they received the angelic visit of John the Baptist. A short walk to the top of the hill takes you through the area. There is a short loop trail that you can walk and enjoy the beautiful grove.
Your final stop at the Priesthood Restoration Site will be the Susquehanna River. You will have to drive to a different area that is just a few minutes away. There is a parking area just up the road, which includes restrooms and a short walk down to the river. The Susquehanna is very peaceful and beautiful. It is easy to imagine the two men entering the water and baptizing one another.
Plan on spending about 1 1/2 hours at the Priesthood Restoration Site. We definitely recommend visiting. There is so much to see and do, and it is all free. Use this website to check current hours and days of operation.