The next evening, Joseph told his whole family about the visits from Moroni and the records contained on the gold plates. Tragedy struck just weeks later, however, when Joseph's oldest brother Alvin—whom he idolized—fell ill and was given a medicine that only increased his suffering. "I want you to be a good boy," Alvin told Joseph on his deathbed, "and do everything that lies in your power to obtain those records."
A local Presbyterian minister was asked to officiate at Alvin's funeral. In his sermon, the clergyman noted that Alvin had not been a member of his congregation, and he implied very strongly that he was now in hell. This was very upsetting to Joseph and his father who knew that Alvin had been a good boy.
Alvin's death made the family's financial situation even more precarious, and it was during this time that Joseph and his father got involved in the practice of treasure hunting, or "money digging" as it was then known. A man named Josiah Stowell had heard that Joseph Jr. was able to discern invisible things, and he hired him to help use a seer stone to locate a fabled lost Spanish silver mine in western Pennsylvania.
The search was unproductive, but while boarding at the house of Isaac Hale in Harmony, Pennsylvania, a romance developed between Joseph and Hale's daughter, a beautiful and cultured schoolteacher named Emma. Her father disapproved of Joseph's lack of education and his taking part in money digging, so the young couple eloped and were married by a justice of the peace in South Bainbridge, New York, on January 18, 1827.
Joseph and Emma moved in with Joseph's parents. Each year Joseph returned to the Hill Cumorah to receive further knowledge and instruction from Moroni and other angels who had lived as Nephite prophets, including Alma, and Jesus's twelve apostles in America. He received a remarkable schooling on the necessity of obedience and self-discipline, and he was carefully prepared to receive the power to translate a divinely inspired record.
• "Emma Hale, the Prophet’s Wife" Friend Magazine of the LDS Church, April 2008.
• Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2011), xxii–25
• Church History In The Fulness Of Times Student Manual, (2003), 67–78
• Church History In The Fulness Of Times Student Manual, (2003), 37–51
During this time his mother Lucy recalled that "Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of traveling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them."