Joseph Smith, Jr. (December 23, 1805 – June 27, 1844) was an American religious leader 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.
Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont, and by 1817 had moved with his family to the burned-over district of western New York, an area repeatedly swept by religious revivals during the Second Great Awakening. The Smiths believed in visions and prophecies, and participated in folk religious practices typical of the era. According to Smith, beginning in the early 1820s he had visions, in one of which an angel directed him to a buried book of golden plates inscribed with a Judeo-Christian history of ancient American civilizations. In 1830, he published what he said was an English translation of these plates as the Book of Mormon and organized the Church of Christ as a restoration of the early Christian church. Church members were later called Latter Day Saints, 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, 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 served as mayor and militia commander. In 1844, Smith and the Nauvoo City Council angered non-Mormons by destroying a printing press after it was used to publish an exposé critical of Smith's power and practice of polygamy. During the ensuing turmoil, 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 are regarded as scripture by his followers. 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 of at least the stature of Moses and Elijah. Smith's legacy includes a number of religious denominations, the largest of which are the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Community of Christ.
Read more about Joseph Smith: Revelations
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