Joseph Smith, Jr. Biography

Joseph Smith was an American religious leader, who created a lasting religious cult in the country. Explore this biography to learn more about his profile, childhood, life and timeline.

Joseph Smith, Jr.

Quick Facts

Gender: Male
Birthday: 23 December 1805
Died: 27 June 1844
Nationality: American
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Spouse/Ex-: Emma Smith, Eliza Maria Partridge Lyman, Eliza Roxcy Snow
Father: Joseph Smith, Sr.
Mother: Lucy Mack Smith
Siblings: Hyrum Smith, Samuel H. Smith, Alvin Smith, Don Carlos Smith, William Smith, Katharine Smith Salisbury
Children: Julia Murdock Smith, Joseph Smith III, Alexander Hale Smith, David Hyrum Smith, Children of Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith, Jr., grew up in a series of tenant farms around Vermont, largely deprived of a formal education and grew up with a number of ‘visions’ he experienced when he was a teenager. A religious leader of the early 19th century, he grew to become one of the most influential religious leaders and the founder of the ‘Latter Day Saint Movement’. His religious undertakings are seen through the number of cities, citadels and temples he established around America, which created a long and lasting religious cult. It is believed that a single article directed him towards honing his religious principles, following which; he created the branch, ‘Mormonism’. Throughout his life, he published a series of revelations and his teachings made unique studies for many who wanted to learn more about cosmology, political/religious organizations, collectivism and the nature of God. Typical of the era he lived in, Smith indulged in a number of folk/religious practices, believed in divinations and acted upon prophecies. He gathered a large following and decided to spread his vision and message to a greater part of America and also dreamt of building an American ‘Zion’, which never materialized. Though he was opposed by a number of angry, non-Mormon folks, he went on to become one of America’s controversial yet influential religious leaders and died a martyr to his faith.

Childhood & Early Life

Joseph Smith, Jr., was born on December 23, 1805 in Vermont to Lucy Mack Smith and Joseph, a merchant.
He became interested in the subject of religion at the age of 12 and enrolled for church classes, regularly read the Bible and even indulged in ancient folk practices.
In the 1820’s he received a vision from God, which apparently helped him resolve all his personal issues and religious tension. He had tried to narrate his story to many preachers, who dismissed him with contempt. However, the same ‘First Vision’, would become one of the defining factors of his career and the foundation for ‘Mormonism’.
In 1823, he believed that he was visited by an angel, who revealed the location of a buried book of golden plates and other artifacts. This induced him to set out on a number of visits to the location, which he continued for the next 4 years.
On September 22, 1827, he claimed that he retrieved the plates when he took his wife with him.

Later Life

In 1827, Smith transcribed some of the characters on the plate and translated the characters with the help of a couple of prominent scholars.
Throughout 1829, the translation took place and was finally published as the ‘Book of Mormon’ on March 26, 1830. The book brought with it, regional notoriety from some and strong opposition from the others.
On April 6, 1830, Smith, and his newly-found followers formed the Church of Christ.
In 1833, he led a mission to Missouri, to find the true location of the New Jerusalem, prophesized by the Book of Mormon. It was during this time, he established himself as the sole prophet.
In 1833, a number of mob attacks ensued against the Mormons and he asked his people to ‘patiently bear them’ until a fourth attack, after which they were permitted to fight.
In 1834, over 1500-2000 Mormons expected Smith to lead them to the Millennial Kingdom and Smith sent out word that he had finally discovered the pronounced, ‘New Jerusalem’.
Throughout the 1830’s the center place of the ‘Zion’ in the New Jerusalem was divided between the states of Ohio and Missouri and finally, failed to materialize, because the Mormon’s were outnumbered and the men suffered from a cholera outbreak.
Just after the failure of the Zion Camp, Smith changed the name of his church to ‘Church of Latter Day Saints’, once they returned. During this time, the Mormon Saints build the ‘Kirtland Temple’ and the period from 1834-1837, was one of relative peace.
Towards the end of his life, he faced a number of internal conflicts with the church and was ostracized for having a relationship with a girl. He was constantly hounded by creditors and there were widespread contentions from the church.
After an arrest warrant was issued for his fraudulent dealings, Smith escaped with his aide, Rigdon, on January 12, 1838.
Once Smith reached the far west, he changed the name of his church to ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ and the construction for a new temple began.
In 1838, the Mormon War began and on November 1, 1838, the Mormons surrendered to 2,500 state troops. Smith was immediately court-martialed. However, on April 6, 1839, Smith and his friends, escaped custody.
After he escaped from prison, he bought land in a swampy place and encouraged his followers to shift there and soon enough, he resumed ‘Mormonism’ and named his new city ‘Nauvoo’, for which he was granted ‘habeas corpus power’. He began an autonomous militia and called himself ‘Lieutenant General’ Smith. It was here he introduced the doctrine of ‘plural marriage’.
By 1843, Nauvoo became an independent territory with the right to call out federal troops in its defense and took his first step towards, ‘Theodemocracy’, where he would be appointed as both, prophet and king.
By 1844, a rift was created with his close associates and soon, indictments against Smith for polygamy were being released. He was captured and sent to jail.

Major Works

The ‘Book of Mormon’ became the fundamental base for the new religious cult that Smith created, ‘Mormonism’. He believed that it was an extended version of the Bible and is considered one of the longest and one of the most complex revelations of the religious leader.
The ‘Book of Commandments’ is said to be the earliest publications of the religious leader and is now considered a standard doctrine by Latter-day Saints.

Awards & Achievements

Among his many accomplishments, his greatest achievement is his contribution to the scriptures of the church.
He also organized the leadership of the militia, the city of ‘Nauvoo’ and the dispatching of missionaries to advocate his ideals around the world.

Personal Life & Legacy

On January 18, 1827, he eloped with Emma Hale and boarded with Smith’s parents for a short while. She is believed to have supported him through all his visions and his endeavors to get his visions known and heard.
The couple had 9 children together and adopted 2 children. Only 5 children survived past infancy.
In April 1841, he married Louisa Beaman and it is said that in the next 2 and a half years, he would have been married to or at least had affairs with 30 more women. This was because; he advocated the concept of ‘Polygamy’.
Following his capture, he was shot when he tried to escape by an armed mob on June 27, 1844. His last words were, ‘Oh Lord, My God’.
Smith attracted thousands of devotees before his death and millions within half a century. Among the Mormons, he is regarded just as powerful as Moses or Elijah.
A great number of his scholarly work was published by Mormons after his death and many agreed that he was the most influential religious figures in American history.
Today, memorials dedicated to him include the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Utah, the Joseph Smith Building in Brigham Young University and his largest religious denominations which still exist today; the ‘Community of Christ’ and ‘The Church of Jesus Christ’.

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Joseph Smith, Jr. Biography

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Last Updated

May 31, 2019

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