Joseph Smith, Jr.

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1805 to 1827 - 1827 to 1830
1831 to 1834 - 1834 to 1837
1838 to 1839 - 1839 to 1844
Death - Polygamy - Teachings
Prophecies - Criticism
Bibliography - Chronology

Joseph Smith, Jr. (December 23, 1805 – June 27, 1844) was the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, a group of churches whose adherents regard him as a prophet. During the late 1820s he became the leader of a small group of followers who believed that an angel had given him a book of golden plates containing a religious history of ancient American peoples. Smith said he had translated the writing on the plates from an unknown language into English; and in 1830, he published the translation as the Book of Mormon and organized what he said was a restoration of the early Christian church.

Moving the church in 1831 from western New York to Kirtland, Ohio, Smith attracted hundreds of converts, who came to be called Latter Day Saints. Some of these he sent to establish a holy city of "Zion" in Jackson County, Missouri. In 1833, Missouri settlers expelled the Saints from Zion, and Smith led an unsuccessful paramilitary expedition to recover the land. Fleeing an arrest warrant in the aftermath of a Kirtland financial crisis, Smith joined the remaining Saints in Far West, Missouri, in 1838. However, tensions escalated into a war with hostile Missourians. Believing the Saints to be in insurrection, the governor ordered their expulsion from Missouri, and Smith was imprisoned on capital charges.

After escaping state custody in 1839, Smith led the Saints to build Nauvoo, Illinois, on Mississippi River swampland, where he became mayor and commanded the large Nauvoo militia. In early 1844, he announced his candidacy for President of the United States. That summer, after the Nauvoo Expositor criticized Smith's teachings, the Nauvoo city council, headed by Smith, ordered the paper's destruction. In a futile attempt to check public outrage, Smith first declared martial law, then surrendered to the governor of Illinois. He was killed by a mob while awaiting trial in Carthage, Illinois.

Smith's followers revere him, regarding his revelations as scripture. His teachings include unique views about the nature of godhood, cosmology, family structures, political organization, and religious collectivism. His legacy includes a number of religious denominations, which collectively claim a growing membership of nearly 14 million worldwide.[1]


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