Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Joseph Smith, Jr.
Joseph Smith, Jr. (December 23, 1805 – June 27, 1844) was the founder and leader of the Latter Day Saint movement. His followers revere him as “the first prophet of the Last Dispensation of the Fullness of Times”. Critics regarded him, his religion, and his politics with contempt and often violence: While jailed in Carthage, Illinois, Smith and his brother Hyrum were killed when a mob attacked the jail.
According to Latter Day Saint doctrine, when Smith was fourteen years old, God the Father and Jesus appeared to him and indicated that through him the Church of Jesus Christ would be restored to the Earth, after being lost in a Great Apostasy.
Following this, Smith produced several volumes of scripture, including The Book of Mormon and portions of The Pearl of Great Price, and dictated new revelation, some of which is contained in what is now known as The Doctrine and Covenants and Inspired Translation of the Bible. Smith and the Latter Day Saint movement he initiated are sometimes considered part of the early 19th century Restorationism movement.
Smith and his legacy continue to evoke strong emotion; his life and works are subject to considerable debate and research. Some Latter Day Saints regard negative criticism as verification of a prophecy Smith asserted he received at age seventeen, that his name and reputation "should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people." 
Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont, the fourth child of Joseph Smith, Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith. The Smiths suffered considerable financial problems and moved several times in and around New England. One of these moves was precipitated by the Year Without a Summer caused by the eruption of the Tambora volcano.
During the winter of 1812-1813, Smith's leg became seriously infected. Some doctors advised amputation, but Smith's family refused. Smith later recovered, though he used crutches for several years and was bothered with a limp for the rest of his life.
Court records show Smith was examined on March 20, 1826; regarding charges of "disorderly conduct" for money-digging activities using supposedly supernatural stones to dig for treasure. This action was probably brought by sons of Josiah Stowell, then Smith's employer. As his employer, Stowell had prevailed upon Smith to attempt to find buried treasure through supernatural means, though against Smith's desire or advice. Eventually, Smith was successful in terminating this fruitless "treasure digging”, but not before earning the enmity of some of Stowell's sons. (Josiah felt that Smith was a harder worker). At the examination (it was not a trial) seven witnesses were called and most of them affirmed that Smith had some sort of spiritual gift and the legal examination resulted in no action against Smith. Most scholars of the era acknowledge that "treasure digging" was a common form of folk magic (like water dowsing) and that Smith would have not been unique in its practice.
The First Vision
Over the years Smith described this experience in various detail, and in his last written account (1838) he stated that he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ sometime in the spring of 1820, when he was fourteen years old. This vision changed forever his relationships in his family and community. Within the Latter-day Saint movement today, this theophany is seen as vitally important. See First Vision.
Smith claimed that he was visited by an angel, Moroni, three times during the evening and night of September 21, 1823, and once more in the morning of September 22. Moroni told Smith about Golden Plates or tablets hidden in the ground near his home, on a hill called Cumorah. These plates were said to contain an account of ancient inhabitants of the Americas, inscribed in reformed Egyptian.
Smith returned to the hill, as directed by Moroni, on September 22, 1824, 1825, and 1826, and claimed Moroni returned each night, counseling him. On 22 September 1827, Smith said he was allowed to take the plates, as well as the Urim and Thummim and a breastplate to aid his translation.
Translation of the Book of Mormon
Smith translated portions of the plates from December 1827 to February 1828; Emma and her brother Reuben acted as scribes. The faithful believe that Smith translated the plates using divine guidance and the Urim and Thummim. In addition, Smith and his scribes gave additional accounts as to how Smith accomplished his translations with the use of direct revelation, study, and other media.
Martin Harris acted Smith's translation scribe from April to June of 1828. In early April, 1829, Smith began translating again, with Oliver Cowdery as scribe. Others also helped. When translation was complete, Smith said he returned the plates to Moroni.
During translation, the scribes never physically saw the plates. Later, three men and then eight other men were allowed to view the plates. Mary Whitmer, who boarded Smith and Emma during the translation’s final phase, said Moroni showed her the plates. Emma and others reported touching and moving the plates as they lay under a heavy cloth or in a bag.
According to Cowdery and Smith, on May 15, 1829, they both received the Aaronic Priesthood by from John the Baptist. Then using this priesthood's authority, they baptized each other. Peter, James, and John also came to them between May and June 1829 and ordained them to the Melchizedek Priesthood. Latter Day Saints believe that these events were necessary for the restoration of the Church.
In 1830, on April 6, Smith and five others formally established "The Church of Christ" under New York State Laws (the church was later called “Church of Latter Day Saints” (1834), “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” (1838) then “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”.) Smith and others quickly began proselytizing and baptizing new members.
To avoid conflict and persecution encountered in New York and Pennsylvania, Smith and Emma, eventually moved to Kirtland, Ohio early in 1831. They lived with Isaac Morley’s family while a house was built for them on the Morley farm. Many of Smith's followers and associates settled in Kirtland, Ohio, and also in Jackson County, Missouri, where Smith said he was instructed by revelation to build Zion.
In Kirtland, the church’s frst temple was built, and many exraordinary events were reported: Appearances by Jesus Christ, Moses, Elijah, Elias, and numerous angels; speaking and singing in tongues, often with translations; prophesying; and other spiritual experiences. Some Mormons believed that Jesus' Millennial reign had come. Even those of other faiths reported a heavenly light "resting" upon the temple.
The early Church grew rapidly, but there was often conflict between saints and various neighbors. These conflicts were sometimes violent: On the evening of March 24, 1832 in Hiram, Ohio, a group of men beat and tarred and feathered Smith and his counselor Sidney Rigdon. They threatened Smith with castration and with death, and one of his teeth was chipped when they attempted to force him to drink poison. The mob action led to the exposure and eventual death of Smith's adopted newborn twins. Sidney Rigdon suffered a severe concussion after being dragged on the ground. According to some accounts, Rigdon was delirious for several days, threatening most of those who were near him, including the life of his wife and Smith. The reasons for this attack are uncertain, but likely were tied to a sermon given by Rigdon.
After tending to his wounds all night and into the early morning, Smith preached a sermon the following day. Though some reports state that members of the mob that had attacked him were present at this sermon, Smith did not mention the attack directly.
On January 12, 1838 Smith and Rigdon left Kirtland for Far West in Caldwell County, Missouri, in Smith's words, "to escape mob violence, which was about to burst upon us under the color of legal process to cover the hellish designs of our enemies." Just prior to their departure, many Saints, (including prominent leaders), became disaffected in the wake of the Kirtland Safety Society debacle, in which Smith and several associates were accused of various illegal or unethical banking actions.
Most remaining church members left Kirtland for Missouri.
Smith began practicing a form of polygyny he called plural marriage perhaps as early as 1833 . Plural marriage was the source of much tension in early Mormon history, from both non-Mormons who regarded the practice as immoral, illegal, and dangerous, to church members who felt Smith was misguided, deluded, or evil for advocating such doctrine.
There is some disagreement as to the precise figure, but Joseph Smith had at least thirty-three well-documented marriages during his lifetime. These wives were Emma Hale, Fanny Alger , Lucinda Pendleton, Louisa Beaman, Zina Diantha Huntington, Presendia Lathrop Huntington, Agnes Moulton Coolbrith, Sylvia Porter Sessions, Mary Elizabeth Rollins, Patty Bartlett, Marinda Nancy Johnson, Elizabeth Davis, Sarah Maryetta Kingsley, Delcena Johnson, Eliza Roxcy Snow, Sarah Ann Whitney, Martha McBride, Ruth Vose, Flora Ann Woodworth, Emily Dow Partridge, Eliza Maria Partridge, Almera Woodward Johnson, Lucy Walker, Sarah Lawrence, Maria Lawrence, Helen Mar Kimball, Hannah Ells, Elvira Annie Cowles, Rhoda Richards, Desdemona Fullmer, Olive Grey Frost, Melissa Lott, Nancy Maria Winchester, Fanny Young.
While Smith publicly denied plural marriage throughout his life, he practiced it secretly, and introduced a small number of followers into the practice. In the early Church era, followers who practiced plural marriage said they were often uncomfortable with it when it was first introduced to them, but believed it was commissioned by God, who had allowed the practice in the Old Testament.
(After the practice was publicly announced in Utah in 1852, the doctrine was generally accepted in Mormon culture, but not widely practiced. Plural Marriage was later formally discontinued, and Mormons who currently practice it are excommunicated)
By most accounts, Emma was troubled by plural marriage, though she remained faithful to Smith, and generally supported him.
The Missouri period was marked by often violent conflict and legal difficulties for Smith and his followers. Many of the initial settlers saw the LDS settlers as a religious and political threat, especially because unlike most Missourians, Mormons were anti-slavery. Mormons also tended to vote in blocs, giving them a degree of political influence. Additionally, Mormons purchased vast amounts of land in which to establish settlements. Some saints felt they had been promised control of the area by Smith’s revelations, and this view only fueled the growing tension.
A small group of Mormons organized themselves into a vigilante group called the Danites in response to the ongoing conflict. Organized by Sampson Avard, Smith disapproved of the group, and Avard was excommunicated for his activities.
Soon the "old Missourians" and Mormon settlers were engaged in a conflict sometimes referred to as the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri. One key skirmishes was the Battle of Crooked River, which involved Missouri state troops and a Mormon group. There is some debate as to whether the Mormons knew their opponents were government officials, but the battle's aftermath was pivotal in Church history. One popular Mormon leader, David W. Patten, was killed in the skirmish.
This battle led to reports of a "Mormon insurrection". Due to these reports (and the political influence of pro-slavery politicians), Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs issued an executive order known as the "Extermination Order" on 27 October 1838. The order stated that the Mormon community was in "open and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made war upon the people of this State ... the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace—their outrages are beyond all description."  (In 1976 Missouri Governor Christopher S. Bond formally apologized for the treatment of Mormons in Missouri and officially rescinded the "Extermination Order".)
Soon after this "Extermination Order" was issued, vigilantes attacked an outlying Mormon settlement and killed 17 Mormons in the so-called Haun's Mill Massacre. Soon afterward, the 2,500 troops from the state militia converged on the Mormon headquarters at Far West. Smith and several other Church leaders surrendered to state authorities on treason charges. Although they were civilians, the militia leader threatened to try Smith and others in a military tribunal and have them immediately executed. Were it not for the actions of General Alexander William Doniphan in defence of due process and Smith, the plans of the militia leaders likely would have been carried out.
The legality of Boggs' “Extermination Order” was debated in the legislature, but most of the Mormon community in Missouri either left or were forced out by the spring of 1839.
Instead of facing execution, Smith and three others spent several months in Liberty Jail awaiting a trial that never came. With shaky legal grounds for imprisonment, authorities eventually allowed and encouraged them to escape. They joined the rest of the Church in Illinois.
After leaving Missouri in 1839, Smith and his followers made headquarters in a town called Commerce, Illinois on the banks of the Mississippi River, which they renamed Nauvoo (meaning "to be beautiful"; Latter Day Saints often refered to Nauvoo as "the city beautiful", "the city of Joseph"—which was actually the name of the city for a short time after the city charter was revoked—or other similar nicknames) after being granted a charter by the state of Illinois. Nauvoo was quickly built up by the faithful, including many new arrivals.
In March 1842, Smith was initiated as a Freemason (as an Entered Apprentice Mason on March 15, and Master Mason the next day—the usual month wait between degrees was waived by the Illinois Lodge Grandmaster, Abraham Jonas) at the Nauvoo Lodge, one of less than a half-dozen Masonic meetings he attended. He was introduced by John C. Bennett , a mason from the northeast.
Work on a temple in Nauvoo began in the autumn of 1840. The cornerstones were laid during a conference on 6 April 1841. Construction took five years and it was dedicated on May 1, 1846; about four months after Nauvoo was abandoned by the majority of the citizens. The temple was burned in 1848 and the remnants of the structure were destroyed by a tornado later that year.
Controversy in the City Beautiful
On the evening of May 6, 1842, a gunman shot through a window in Governor Boggs' home, hitting him four times. Sheriff J.H. Reynolds discovered a revolver at the scene, still loaded with buckshot and surmised that the suspect lost his firearm in the dark rainy night.
Some Saints saw the assassination attempt positively: An anonymous contributor to The Wasp, a Mormon newspaper in Nauvoo, wrote on May 28 that, "Boggs is undoubtedly killed according to report; but who did the noble deed remains to be found out."
Several doctors—including Boggs' brother—pronounced Boggs all but dead; at least one newspaper ran an obituary. To everyone's great surprise, Boggs not only survived, but gradually improved. The popular press—and popular rumor—was quick to blame Smith's friend and sometime bodyguard Porter Rockwell for the assassination attempt. By some reports, Smith had prophesied that Boggs would die violently, leading to specuation that Smith was involved. Rockwell denied involvement, stating that he would not have left the governor alive if he had indeed tried to kill him.
Also at about this time, Bennett had become disaffected from Smith and began publicizing what he said was Smith's practice of "Spiritual Wifery" (Bennett, earlier a pro-polygamy activist, knew of Smith's revelation on plural marriage and encouraged Smith to advocate the practice publicly. When this was rejected by Smith, Bennett began seducing women on his own and was subsequently excommunicated for practicing "Spiritual Wifery",). He stepped down as Nauvoo mayor--ostensibly in protest of Smith's abuses--and also reported that Smith had offered a cash reward to anyone who would assassinate Boggs. He also reported that Smith had admitted to him that Rockwell had done the deed and that Rockwell had made a veiled threat on Bennet's life if he publicised the story. Smith vehemently denied Bennett's account, speculating that Boggs—no longer governor, but campaigning for state senate—was attacked by an election opponent.
Critics suggested that Nauvoo's charter should be revoked, and the Illinois legislature considered the notion. In response, Smith petitioned the U.S. Congress to make Nauvoo a territory. His petition was declined.
King Follett Discourse
Two months before his death, Smith delivered a discourse on the nature of God at the funeral of Elder King Follett. Although the address was not properly recorded or approved by Smith as official doctrine, it remains one of his most famous speeches. See King Follett Discourse.
Eventually, several of Smith's disaffected associates—some of whom asserted that Smith had tried to seduce their wives in the name of plural marriage—joined together to publish a newspaper called the Nauvoo Expositor. Its only issue was published June 7, 1844.
The bulk of the paper was devoted to three main Criticisms of Smith: The opinion that Smith had once been a true prophet, but had fallen by advocating polygamy, Exaltation, and other controversial doctrines; The opinion that Smith, as both Mayor of Nauvoo and Church president held too much power, which was further consolidated by the overwhelmingly Mormon make-up of the Nauvoo courts and city council, who intended establishing a theocracy via the Council of Fifty; and the belief that Smith had corrupted women by forcing, coercing or introducing them into plural marriage.
The Nauvoo City Council passed an ordinance declaring the newspaper a public nuisance designed to promote violence against Smith and his followers. They reached this decision after lengthy discussion, including citation of William Blackstone's legal canon, which included a libellous press as a public nuisance. Under the council's new ordinance, Smith, as Nauvoo's mayor, in conjunction with the city council, ordered the city marshall to destroy the paper and the press on June 10, 1844. By the city marshall's account, the destruction of the press type was carried out orderly and peaceably. However, Charles A. Foster, a co-publisher of the Expositor, reported on June 12 that additionally to the printing press being destroyed, the group which he dubbed "several hundred minions ... injured the building very materially" as well , though the building was in use for at least another decade.
Smith’s critics were outraged, charging him with violating freedom of the press. Some sought legal charges against Smith for the destruction of the press, including charges of inciting riot and treason. Violent threats were made against Smith and the Mormon community. Warrants from outside Nauvoo were brought in against Smith, and dismissed in Nauvoo courts on a writ of habeas corpus. Smith declared martial law on June 18 and called out the Nauvoo Legion, a private militia of about 5,000 men, to protect Nauvoo from outside violence.
Smith soon submitted to arrest. Illinois Governor Ford proposed a trial in Carthage, the county seat, and guaranteed Smith's safety. Smith agreed and stayed in the Carthage Jail, under the Governor's promised protection. Ford agreed to stay in Carthage, but left not long after Smith went to stay at the jail. The unsympathetic "Carthage Greys", a local militia, were assigned to protect Smith at his second-floor room. Smith was joined there with his brother, Hyrum, Dr. Willard Richards, and John Taylor.
On June 26, 1844, Smith sent message to Major-General Johnathan Dunham of the Nauvoo Legion that he should lead the militia to the jail in order to protect and accompany Smith and his associates back to Nauvoo. Dunham decided to ignore Smith's order, fearing such an action would instigate a major conflict that could erupt into civil war. Dunham informed no one of Smith's order, or of his own decision regarding it.
Before a trial could be held, a mob of about 200 armed men (some painted as Indians) stormed Carthage Jail in the late afternoon of June 27, 1844. As the mob was approaching, the jailer became nervous, and informed Smith of the group. In a letter dated July 10, 1844, one of the jailers wrote that Smith, expecting the Nauvoo Legion, said "Don't trouble yourself ... they've come to rescue me."
The Carthage Greys reportedly feigned defense of the jail by firing shots or blanks over the attackers’ heads, and some of the Greys reportedly joined the mob, who rushed up the stairs.
The mob fired shots through the door and attempted to push the door open to fire into the room. Smith attempted to defend himself and his associates with a small pepper-box pistol that Cyrus Wheelock gave to Smith when he came to visit him at the jail. Smith's gun misfired several times, but he possibly hit as many as three men.
Ultimately, Hyrum was shot four times and killed. John Taylor was shot and severely injured, but survived the attack with Richards' aid. Smith was also hit several times as he made his way towards the window.
Most accounts report that before or as Smith fell from the window, he called "Oh Lord, my God!" or some similar phrase , which some have noted is similar to "Oh, Lord, My God, is there no help for the widow's son?" a traditional masonic call for aid. These last recorded words have led to speculation that his statement was a call for aid from any Masons in the mob, although injecure is perhaps just as likely an explanation.
There are varying accounts of what happened next. Some claim Smith was dead when he landed after his fall; other accounts suggest Smith was alive when mob members propped his body against a nearby well and shot him before they fled. Another account claims one man tried to decapitate Smith for a bounty, and died in the act; there were reports that thunder and lightning frightened the mob off. Mob members fled, shouting, "The Mormons are coming," although there was no such force nearby.
After Smith's death
Smith's death left his church in what has repeatedly been called a crisis. The church's charismatic founder was dead, and the church's hierarchy was scattered on missionary efforts and in support of Smith's presidential campaign. Quinn writes that "many shared Brigham Young's terror" after hearing and contemplating Smith's death, especially the possibility that the church lacked a divinely-sanctioned leader.
Because of ongoing tensions, the state legislature revoked Nauvoo's city charter and it was disincorporated. All protection, public services, self-government and other public benefits were revoked. Those who lived in the former City of Nauvoo referred to it as the City of Joseph after this time, until the city was again granted a charter. Without official defenses, city residents had many skirmishes with opponents, leading Young to consider other areas for settlement, including Texas, California, Iowa and the Intermountain West.
Smith left ambiguous or contradictory succession instructions that led to arguments and disagreements among the church's members and leadership, several of whom claimed rights to leadership.
An 8 August 1844 conference which established Young's leadership is the source of an oft-repeated legend. Multiple journal and eyewitness accounts from those who followed Young state that when Young spoke regarding the claims of succession by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he appeared to look or sound like the late Smith. Young during this time also maneuvered many people out of the Nauvoo Stake, where he and the rest of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, had no authority to weaken the power of the Standing High Council of Nauvoo and increase the power of the Traveling High Council. In 1847, when Young claimed the right to the office of president, several refused to continue to follow him, and either formed their own churches, stopped following anyone, or joined one of the other portions of the movement.
Most saints followed Young, but some aligned with various others people claiming to be Smith's successor. Many of these smaller groups were spread out throughout the midwestern United States, especially in Independence, Missouri. Reverberations of the succession crisis continue to the present.
About two years after Smith's death mob violence and conflict continued to grow and threaten the Mormon establishment at Nauvoo. Brigham Young led many Latter Day Saints out of the United States and into Utah, which was then Mexican Territory.
- Thomas Milton Tinney, (Sr.); The Royal Family of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Junior, First President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Library of Congress Call Number: CS71.S643 1973 Copy 1
- Hugh Nibley; see No, Ma'am, That's Not History, reprinted in Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass: The Art of Telling Tales about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young; Deseret Books; ISBN 0875795161 (Hardcover, 1991) only available at Deseretbook.com (http://deseretbook.com/store/product?product_id=100010365).
- Richard Lyman Bushman; Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism; University of Illinois Press; ISBN 0252060121 (1984; Paperback, 1988)
- Larry E. Dahl and Donald Q. Cannon, editors; Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith's Teachings; Deseret Book; ISBN 1570086729 (Hardcover, 2000)
- D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Signature Books, Salt Lake City, 1994)
- LDS Church's basic historical facts about Joseph Smith
- The Pearl of Great Price Joseph Smith--History
- LDS analysis of Smith's 1826 trial
- A Walk Through the Sacred Grove in the Fall
- Remembering the Wives of Joseph Smith
|Joseph Smith, Jr.|
Founding president of
the Church of Christ (1830–1838)
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (1838–1844)
|Successor (as claimed by several competing Latter Day Saint movement churches):|
|President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints|
|President of the Community of Christ (née "RLDS Church")|
Joseph Smith III
|President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite)|
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details