Joseph Smith

President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith, Jr. was an American religious leader, convicted con man, and the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, the predominant branch of which is Mormonism. At age twenty-four, Smith published the Book of Mormon, and in the next fourteen years he attracted thousands of followers, established cities and temples, and created a lasting religious culture.
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  • 1844
    Age 38
    Smith attracted thousands of devoted followers before his death in 1844 and millions in the century that followed.
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    While campaigning for President of the United States in 1844, Smith had opportunity to take political positions on issues of the day.
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    Believing the dissidents were plotting against his life, Smith excommunicated them on April 18, 1844.
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    By the spring of 1844, a rift developed between Smith and a half dozen of his closest associates.
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    In March 1844, following a dispute with a federal bureaucrat, Smith organized the secret Council of Fifty with authority to decide which national or state laws Mormons should obey.
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    In 1844, Smith and the Nauvoo city council angered non-Mormons by destroying a newspaper that had criticized Smith's power and practice of polygamy.
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  • 1843
    Age 37
    In 1843, Emma temporarily accepted Smith's marriage to four women boarded in the Smith household, but she soon regretted her decision and demanded that the other wives leave.
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    The endowment was extended to women in 1843, though Smith never clarified whether women could be ordained to priesthood offices.
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    Smith's last revelation on the "New and Everlasting Covenant" was recorded in 1843, and dealt with the theology of family, the doctrine of sealing, and plural marriage.
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    In December 1843, Smith petitioned Congress to make Nauvoo an independent territory with the right to call out federal troops in its defense.
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    Certain he would be killed if he ever returned to Missouri, Smith went into hiding twice during the next five months before the U.S. district attorney for Illinois argued that Smith's extradition to Missouri would be unconstitutional. (Rockwell was later tried and acquitted.) In June 1843, enemies of Smith convinced a reluctant Illinois Governor Thomas Ford to extradite Smith to Missouri on the old charge of treason.
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  • 1842
    Age 36
    This doctrine of endowment evolved through the 1830s, until in 1842, the Nauvoo endowment included an elaborate ceremony containing elements similar to Freemasonry and the Jewish tradition of Kabbalah.
    After an unknown assailant shot and wounded Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs in May 1842, anti-Mormons circulated rumors that Smith's bodyguard, Porter Rockwell, was the shooter.
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    In the summer of 1842, Smith revealed a plan to establish the millennial Kingdom of God, which would eventually establish theocratic rule over the whole earth.
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  • 1841
    Age 35
    An 1841 revelation promised the restoration of the "fulness of the priesthood"; and in May 1842, Smith inaugurated a revised endowment or "first anointing".
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    In April 1841, Smith wed Louisa Beaman; and during the next two-and-a-half years he married or was sealed to about 30 additional women, ten of whom were already married to other men (this was generally done with the knowledge and consent of their husbands, and the records and circumstances of several of these unions support that they may have been considered "eternity-only" sealings).
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    In 1841, Smith began revealing the doctrine of plural marriage to a few of his closest male associates, including Bennett, who used it as an excuse to seduce numerous women wed and unwed.
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  • 1840
    Age 34
    The early Nauvoo years were a period of doctrinal innovation. Smith introduced baptism for the dead in 1840, and in 1841, construction began on the Nauvoo Temple as a place for recovering lost ancient knowledge.
  • 1839
    Age 33
    During the summer of 1839, while Latter Day Saints in Nauvoo suffered from a malaria epidemic, Smith sent Brigham Young and other apostles to missions in Europe, where they made numerous converts, many of them poor factory workers.
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    On April 6, 1839, after a grand jury hearing in Davis County, Smith and his companions escaped custody, almost certainly with the connivance of the sheriff and guards.
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  • 1838
    Age 32
    By 1838, Smith had abandoned plans to redeem Zion in Jackson County.
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    After a warrant was issued for Smith's arrest on a charge of banking fraud, Smith and Rigdon fled Kirtland for Missouri on the night of January 12, 1838.
  • 1837
    Age 31
    In January 1837, Smith and other church leaders created a joint stock company, called the Kirtland Safety Society, to act as a quasi-bank.
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  • 1836
    Age 30
    Smith gave a revelation saying that to redeem Zion, his followers would have to receive an endowment in the Kirtland Temple, and in March 1836, at the temple's dedication, many participants in the promised endowment saw visions of angels, spoke in tongues, and prophesied.
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  • 1832
    Age 26
    When the twins died, the Smiths adopted another set of twins, Julia and Joseph, whose mother had recently died in childbirth; Joseph died of measles in 1832. In 1841, Don Carlos, who had been born a year earlier, died of malaria. In 1842, Emma gave birth to a stillborn son.
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    Smith continued to live in Ohio, but visited Missouri again in early 1832 in order to prevent a rebellion of prominent church members, including Cowdery, who believed the church in Missouri was being neglected.
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  • 1831
    Age 25
    Smith had assumed a role as prophet, seer, and apostle of Jesus Christ, and by early 1831, he was introducing himself as "Joseph the Prophet".
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    After Smith visited in July 1831, he agreed, pronouncing the frontier hamlet of Independence the "center place" of Zion.
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    Smith had promised church elders that in Kirtland they would receive an endowment of heavenly power, and at the June 1831 general conference, he introduced the greater authority of a High ("Melchizedek") Priesthood to the church hierarchy.
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    When Smith moved to Kirtland, Ohio, in January 1831, he encountered a religious culture that included enthusiastic demonstrations of spiritual gifts, including fits and trances, rolling on the ground, and speaking in tongues.
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  • 1830
    Age 24
    Soon after, on April 6, 1830, Smith and his followers formally organized the Church of Christ, and small branches were established in Palmyra, Fayette, and Colesville, New York.
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    The completed work, the Book of Mormon, was published in Palmyra on March 26, 1830, by printer E. B. Grandin, Martin Harris having mortgaged his farm to finance it.
  • 1828
    Age 22
    Smith said that the angel returned the plates to him on September 22, 1828, and he resumed dictation in April 1829, after he met Oliver Cowdery, who replaced Harris as his scribe.
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    Smith continued to dictate to Harris until mid-June 1828, when Harris began having doubts about the project, fueled in part by his wife's skepticism.
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    Nevertheless, Harris returned to Harmony in April 1828, encouraged to continue as Smith's scribe.
    In February 1828, Martin Harris arrived to assist Smith by transcribing his dictation.
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  • 1827
    Age 21
    In October 1827, Smith and his pregnant wife moved from Palmyra to Harmony (now Oakland), Pennsylvania, aided by money from a relatively prosperous neighbor, Martin Harris.
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    Smith said that he made his last annual visit to the hill on September 22, 1827, taking Emma with him.
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    Smith and Emma eloped and were married on January 18, 1827, after which the couple began boarding with Smith's parents in Manchester.
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  • 1826
    Age 20
    In 1826, Smith was brought before a Chenango County court for "glass-looking", or pretending to find lost treasure.
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  • 1823
    Age 17
    Meanwhile, the Smith family faced financial hardship due in part to the November 1823 death of Smith's oldest brother Alvin, who had assumed a leadership role in the family.
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    Smith said that in 1823 while praying one night for forgiveness from his sins, he was visited by an angel named Moroni, who revealed the location of a buried book made of golden plates, as well as other artifacts, including a breastplate and a set of interpreters composed of two seer stones set in a frame, which had been hidden in a hill in Manchester near his home.
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  • 1820
    Age 14
    Years later Smith said that in 1820 he had received a vision that resolved his religious confusion.
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  • 1816
    Age 10
    In 1816–17, after an ill-fated business venture and three years of crop failures, the Smith family moved to the western New York village of Palmyra, and eventually took a mortgage on a farm in the nearby town of Manchester.
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  • 1805
    Joseph Smith, Jr. was born on December 23, 1805, in Sharon, Vermont, to Lucy Mack Smith and her husband Joseph Sr., a merchant and farmer.
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