Joseph Smith

About Joseph Smith

An Interview with Joseph Smith

More About Joseph Smith

Born on December 23, 1805, in Sharon, Vermont, Joseph Smith, Jr., grew up in western New York State, which was then experiencing a period of widespread religious awakening and enthusiasm. As an adult, Smith claimed that, when he was fourteen, God appeared to him, telling him that all the established churches of the time had departed from the true path of religion, and that Smith should join none of them. Seven years later, in 1827, Smith claimed to have discovered a collection of golden plates, buried in the ground, whose existence had been revealed to him by the angel Moroni. Smith averred that, with the aid of special stone and divine assistance, he translated the writings on the plates from a language he identified as “reformed Egyptian.” According to Smith, the writings on the plates comprised the original text of The Book of Mormon, which told of how a band of ancient Hebrews, at divine behest, fled the Middle East and sailed to North America, where they established a true prophetic Christian faith.

Smith published his translation of The Book of Mormon in 1830, claiming that it contained a pure gospel, untainted by the contaminations of the mainstream Christian churches, which The Book of Mormon describes as “the mother of abominations, whose foundation is the devil.” The same year, Smith organized a church in Fayette, New York, which he hoped to use to restore Christianity to its original footing. Community intolerance and financial difficulties compelled Smith and his growing body of followers to relocate repeatedly westward, with sojourns in Kirtland, Ohio, and Independence, Missouri. In 1839, Smith led his people to Commerce, Illinois, which he renamed Nauvoo. Converts to his teachings soon swelled the town’s population to twenty thousand, making it briefly the largest city in the state.

The Nauvoo community prospered until February 1844, when Smith, now mayor of Nauvoo, announced his candidacy for president of the United States. Disaffected by his ambitions and his acts of polygamy, a minority group in Smith’s flock denounced him in a newly created newspaper, the Nauvoo Expositor. Smith declared the paper a public nuisance, ordered the paper’s press destroyed, and declared a state of martial law. Illinois governor Thomas Ford charged Smith with treason against the state of Illinois and had Smith imprisoned in nearby Carthage. On June 27, 1844, a mob of about two hundred men stormed the jail and shot Smith multiple times, killing him. After Smith’s death, his followers divided. The larger portion, led by Brigham Young, migrated to the Great Salt Lake in the Utah Territory and founded the modern Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which now claims more than 13 million adherents worldwide.

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