Joseph Smith

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Joseph Smith, Jr.

For other Joseph Smiths, see Joseph F. Smith or Joseph Fielding Smith.

Joseph Smith, Jr. (1805 - 1844) was the founder and 1st President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joseph Smith was the first prophet, seer and revelator of the church. Joseph was born on December 23, 1805 in Sharon, Vermont.


Joseph Smith's First Vision

After hearing the conflicting claims of different Protestant preachers, Smith studied the Bible for himself. He decided to ask God which church he should join. In the Spring of 1820, Joseph said that he saw two beings, God (meaning the Father) and Jesus, in a vision.[1] Smith claimed to have been repeatedly visited by an angel named Moroni, from 1823 to 1827. According to Smith's account, Moroni showed him where to find buried gold plates. The plates were said to contain the full gospel of Jesus Christ in "reformed Egyptian." Smith claimed to have translated these gold plates by the inspiration of God, using what he called "Urim and Thummim" (referring to the ancient sacred stones embedded on the breastplate of the high priest of Aaron, that gave information from God) that were also furnished to him for the purpose. He published the translation in 1830 as the Book of Mormon.[2] The plates are not available for examination because, according to Smith, the angel took them after the translation was completed.

It was claimed that, on May 15, 1829, the resurrected John the Baptist appeared to Joseph and Oliver Cowdery and gave them the authority to baptize.[3] In 1829 the apostles Peter, James, and John gave them the authority to restore Christ's Church.[4]

Joseph Smith also worked on a revision of the King James Bible known as the Inspired Version of the Bible. It was not published until after his death.


Smith married Emma Hale (daughter of Isaac Hale) in 1827 against her father's wishes. A judge in South Bainbridge, New York married them. This angered her father, who said to Smith “You have stolen my daughter and married her. I had much rather have followed her to the grave.” [5] However, Emma was twenty-one at the time, so her father did not legally have to give consent.

Later, in Nauvoo, Joseph Smith founded an impressive militia, announced his intention to run for President of the United States, and tried to establish polygamy. Between 1841 and 1843, Joseph married more than thirty wives although he kept the practice hidden from the public. Joseph claimed to receive a revelation regarding this “new and everlasting covenant” of plural marriage, partly directed at Emma - Doctrine and Covenants 132:

D&C 132:1 Verily, thus saith the Lord...

D&C 132:4 one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.

D&C 132:52 And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those [wives] that have been given unto my servant Joseph...

D&C 132:55 But if she will not abide this commandment, then...I will...give unto him an hundred fold in this world”

D&C 132:62 And if he have ten virgins given unto him...he cannot commit adultery...

D&C 132:64 ...if any man have a wife...and he teaches unto her [this] law...then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed...

Despite the document's stipulation that the multiple wives be "virgins", Smith was "sealed" to eleven women who had current marriages to other men (who were still alive at the time of each woman's marriage to Smith). Defenders of the church argue that, according to their theology, a sealing is not the same as a marriage (though marriage often accompanies a sealing), and that Joseph never had relations with any of these still-married women, so therefore Joseph wasn't committing polyandry.

Smith's wives (and their husbands) were: Emma Hale, Fanny Alger (16 years old), Lucinda Morgan Harris (married to George W Harris), Louisa Beaman, Zina Huntington Jacobs (married to Henry Jacobs), Presendia Huntington Buell (married to Norman Buell), Agnes Coolbrith, Sylvia Sessions Lyon (married to Windsor Lyon), Mary Rollins Lightner (married to Adam Lightner), Patty Bartlett Sessions (married to David Sessions), Marinda Johnson Hyde (married to Orson Hyde), Elizabeth Davis Durfee (married to Jabez Durfee), Sarah Kingsley Cleveland (married to John Cleveland), Delcena Johnson, Eliza R. Snow, Sarah Ann Whitney (17 years old), Martha McBride Knight, Ruth Vose Sayers (married to Edward Sayers), Flora Ann Woodworth, Emily Dow Partridge, Eliza Maria Partridge, Almera Johnson, Lucy Walker (17 years old), Sarah Lawrence (17 years old), Maria Lawrence, Helen Mar Kimball (14 years old), Hanna Ells, Elvira Cowles Holmes (married to Jonathan Holmes), Rhoda Richards, Desdemona Fullmer, Olive Frost, Melissa Lott, Nancy Winchester (14 years old) and Fanny Young.[6][7]

Although there is some historic indication that Smith married more women than those listed here (such as Clarissa Reed Hancock, the mother of John Reed Hancock), the evidence is not conclusive.

Imprisonment and Death

Smith had been imprisoned in Carthage, Illinois for destroying the printing press of the Nauvoo Expositor, however, he was charged with treason not long after so that he could not post bail. The Expositor had denounced (in its only printed edition) "false doctrines" (for instance the "doctrines of many gods") as well as leveled accusations of immorality and criminal activity. It also called for the repeal of the city charter, which would have removed all legal authority and protection from the city. Smith, the mayor at the time, saw this as libel, as well as dangerous to the city, so he had the printing press burned in the street. Due to outcry from many of their neighboring cities, he was imprisoned. On June 27th 1844, an angry mob stormed the prison. In an attempt to defend himself (with a pistol which had been smuggled in to him), Smith shot and wounded three men. He was apparently preparing to jump from the unbarred second floor window where he had been incarcerated, but was shot, causing him to fall injured to the ground below. Four men shot him to death on the ground. None of the assailants were convicted. His brother Hyrum (who was also armed with a pistol) was shot in the face and killed as well. Martyr for God]</ref>


  1. The First Vision
  2. Translation of the Book of Mormon
  3. Authority to baptize
  4. Authority of Apostles
  5. MORMON ENIGMA: EMMA HALE SMITH (Newell & Avery, University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, 1994)
  6. Family Search
  7. Wives of Joseph Smith

External links