Joseph Smith, Jr. (December 23, 1804, Sharon, Vermont - June 27, 1844, Carthage, Illinois) was the translator of the Book of Mormon and founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was also the first U.S. Presidential candidate to be assassinated during a campaign (1844).
Joseph Smith is an enigmatic character in American history. He was heralded by members of the LDS Church as the man chosen by God to be his "Prophet, Seer and Revelator" in the "latter days", and to restore Christ's church to a world that had fallen away in Apostacy. The leader of a bold new religious experience, but scorned by fellow citizens as a charlatan and imposter, he continues to evoke strong emotions to this day.
One branch of the religious movement he founded claimed 10 million adherents in the year 2001. By any measure, his life was truly remarkable. He was born into a life of rural farming in Sharon, Vermont and lived there the first several years of his life. His family sought more fertile ground in the Palmyra region of New York state. It was there that Joseph began to announce his visionary experiences, leading to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the founding of the restored Church of Christ. For the next twenty years of his life, until he was killed in a shootout with vigilantes while imprisoned at an Illinois jailhouse, he was a figure of adoration, scorn, and controversy.
After his death, Smith's successors led the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to refuge in Utah, and from there to world-wide significance as an enduring, newly founded religion in the 20th century.
Below, we will review Smith's early years. His initial revelatory experiences. The initial controversies regarding the presentation of the Book of Mormon.
Later topics will include his first marriage to his wife Emma Hale. His ability to lead and inspire. Fateful decisions that lead to his death, including the institution of the most controversial of early Mormon practices, polygamy.
Post-hoc analysis on Smith abounds. Twentieth century interpreters such as Fawn Brodie will be highlighted.