By 1836 Joseph Smith and the church were heavily in debt. William Burgess and Don Carlos Smith conveyed a story to the leadership of the church of a building in Salem that had hidden treasure buried in its cellar. The church leaders saw an opportunity to ease the financial pressure the church was under at the time.
In August 1836 Joseph Smith Jr., Hyrum Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and Sidney Rigdon traveled to New York city to talk to their creditors, assuring them they could pay their debts. On their way back they stopped in Salem Massachusetts where they met up with Brother Burgess. Unfortunately he was unable to locate the correct house and went home. Joseph and the others remained in Salem until they felt they had found the right house. Joseph wrote to Emma:
“We have found the house since Bro. Burgess left us, very luckily and providentially, as we had one spell been most discouraged. The house is occupied, and it will require much care and patience to rent or buy it.”
Attempts at renting the house were apparently unfruitful and sadly no treasure was discovered. Joseph’s debts remained unpaid. Joseph received a revelation regarding this adventure recorded as Doctrine and Covenants, Section 111.
- FairMormon – Question: Was Joseph Smith Commanded by the Lord to go to Salem, Massachusetts to hunt for treasure in the cellar of a house?
- BYU Religious Studies Center – Treasures, Witches, and Ancient Inhabitants (D&C 111)
- Doctrine and Covenants, Section 111 – Revelation received August 6, 1836.
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