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m. 24 JAN 1796
m. 18 JAN 1827
Facts and Events
Joseph Smith, Jr. (December 23, 1805 – June 27, 1844) was an American religious leader who founded the Latter Day Saint movement, the predominant branch of which is Mormonism. At age twenty-four, Smith published the Book of Mormon, and by the time of his death fourteen years later, he had attracted tens of thousands of followers, established cities and temples, and founded a religion and a religious culture that continues to the present day.
Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont, and by 1817 had moved with his family to western New York, then the site of intense religious revivalism as part of the Second Great Awakening. There, according to Smith, he saw and heard a series of visions beginning in the early 1820s; in the first of these visions "two personages" (implied to be God the Father and the Son) appeared to him, and in subsequent visions an angel directed Smith to a buried book of golden plates inscribed with a Judeo-Christian history of an ancient American civilization. In 1830, Smith published what he said was an English translation of these plates, titled the Book of Mormon. Also in 1830, he organized the Church of Christ, calling it a restoration of the early Christian church. Church members were later called "Latter Day Saints", or "Mormons".
In 1831, Smith and his followers moved west with plans to build a communalistic American Zion. They gathered in Kirtland, Ohio, and established an outpost in Independence, Missouri, which was intended to be Zion's "center place". During the 1830s, Smith sent out missionaries, published revelations, and supervised construction of an expensive temple. However, due to the collapse of a church-sponsored bank and violent skirmishes with angry non-Mormon Missourians, Smith's dreams of building Zion in Missouri and Ohio failed by the end of the decade. In the early 1840s, Smith established a new city called Nauvoo, Illinois, where he was a spiritual and political leader. In 1844, Smith and the Nauvoo city council angered non-Mormons by ordering a printing press destroyed after it was used to publish an exposé critical of Smith's power and practice of polygamy. During the ensuing controversy, Smith was imprisoned in Carthage, Illinois, and killed when a mob stormed the jailhouse.
During his lifetime, Smith published many revelations and other texts that his followers regard as scripture. His teachings include unique views about the nature of God, cosmology, family structures, political organization, and religious collectivism. His followers regard him as a prophet comparable to Moses and Elijah, while detractors view him as a false prophet or religious impostor. Smith's legacy includes many religious denominations, the largest of which are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Community of Christ.