The Mormon church likes to perpetuate the idea that Joseph Smith was not well educated and that he had only three years of formal schooling. This, however, is not true.
An excellent Dialogue article exists by William Davis concerning Joseph Smith education. I reached out to him in the past seeking permission to read his amazing article on my podcast, however, he declined as his research (and now further research) has since been published in Colby Townsend's book "Envisioning Scripture."
For now, I am going to summarize Joseph Smith's eduction to the best of my ability.
Joseph Smith's father was a schoolteacher.
Joseph grandmother Lydia Mack was also a schoolteacher.
Joseph's grandfather Asael Smith urged his family to educate their children. "Make it your chiefest work to bring them up in the ways of virtue, that they may be useful in their generations. Give them, if possible, a good education."
Hyrum Smith attended Moor's Charity School and he would have been expected to share in the education of his younger siblings. Hyrum even became a school trustee and a schoolteacher in Palmyra.
Lucy recalled that she and her husband acted "together in the education and instruction of our children."
A neighbor of the Smith's, John Stafford, recalled that the Smiths "had school in their house, and studied the Bible."
In her 1879 interview, Emma Smith asserted that Joseph could not write a well worded letter. But we know, because we have his letters, that this was indeed not true.
In Joseph Smith's own 1832 First Vision account, he claims that he frequently studied the Bible from age twelve to fifteen and that in his personal studies he had come to learn that there was no church on earth that was true. He says that he was "instructed in reading, writing, and the ground rules or arithmetic." While Joseph seeks to downplay his education, this "invokes a common, formulaic phrase in early nineteenth-century America ...which operate as a shorthanbd depiction of the most basic, fundamental level of edcation that early Americans hoped to achieve in an education system" (Davis p. 9).
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