Joseph Smith And The Mormon Church

In the spring of 1820, in answer to a
Joseph Smith had a vision where he saw God the Father and
His Son Jesus Christ. In response to his question, which church should
he join, Jesus Christ told him none of them were true and that he would
be instrumental in organizing Christ's church on the earth again.

Later Joseph Smith translated the Book
of Mormon from ancient gold plates. The
Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ, contained
the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

After the publication of the Book of
Mormon, Joseph Smith was instructed to organize The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints. About sixty people attended the organization
meeting on 6 April 1830. Joseph Smith was ordained as president and
prophet of the Church, and six members were listed, according to the
rules of the state of New York. All of the first members were men who
had seen the gold plates and had testimonies that Joseph Smith was a
prophet of God.

Sidney Rigdon, described the humble beginnings
of the
, “I met the whole
church of Christ in a little old log house about 20 feet square, near
Waterloo, N.Y. and we began to talk about the kingdom of God as if we
had the world at our command; we talked with great confidence, … although
we were not many people; … we saw by vision, the church of God, a
thousand times larger.”1

Missionaries were sent out with copies
of the Book of Mormon and soon congregations sprang up in New York and
Ohio. Because of persecution in New York the Lord instructed Joseph
Smith to have the Saints move to Ohio and a group to Missouri. About
two hundred Saints followed the prophet's call even though required
to "make great sacrifices of [their] property." 2

When Joseph Smith arrived in Kirtland
"many essential elements of the Church were set in place. The basic
organization of Church government was revealed,
were sent abroad,
the first temple was built, and many important revelations were received.
The Saints were severely persecuted and tested to see whether they would
demonstrate faith, courage, and willingness to follow the Lord’s anointed
prophet"3 Joseph Smith.

While the Prophet Joseph was living in
the Kirtland area, he received numerous revelations describing many
of the basic beliefs and daily workings of the church, sixty-five of
which are included in the Doctrine and Covenants. Topics addressed were:
"welfare, sign seeking, moral conduct, dietary principles, tithing,
priesthood authority, the role of a prophet, the three degrees of glory,
missionary work, the Second Coming, the law of consecration, and many
other subjects." 4

After seven years the Saints were driven
out of Ohio and Missouri. The Lord instructed the prophet Joseph Smith
to take his people and establish Nauvoo, Illinois. Within four years
Nauvoo's population had grown to about 20,000 people.

Members flocked to the city as missionaries
proclaimed the gospel in Europe and the United States. Nauvoo flourished
as Saints were secure in the knowledge that they were following God's
chosen prophet, Joseph Smith.

While living in Nauvoo the Prophet
Joseph Smith
oversaw the
construction of a temple, "the temple endowment was received, wards
were created for the first time, stakes were established, the Relief
Society was organized, the book of Abraham was published, and significant
revelations were received." 5

Soon persecution of the Saints increased
and Governor Ford wrote to the prophet Joseph Smith "insisting
that the city council members stand trial before a non-Mormon jury on
a charge of causing a civil disturbance." 6

Joseph Smith realizing that he had little
choice submitted to the trial, knowing that it would result in his death.
He prophesied, “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter, but I am
calm as a summer’s morning.” 7

The afternoon of 27 June 1844 a mob of
about 200 men stormed the Carthage Jail and Joseph Smith and his brother
Hyrum were both killed. The next day over 10,000 grief-stricken Mormons
gathered to pay tribute to their fallen prophet. Then Joseph and Hyrum
were secretly buried to prevent desecration of their graves.

Illinois Governor Thomas Ford wrote of
the martyrdom: “The murder of the Smiths, instead of putting an end
to … the Mormons and dispersing them, as many believed it would, only
bound them together closer than ever, gave them new confidence in their
faith.” 8

President John Taylor who was injured
in the mob attack that took the lives of Joseph Smith and Hyrum wrote:
“Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save
Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man
that ever lived in it. … He lived great, and he died great in the
eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in
ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood;
and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in
death they were not separated! … They lived for glory; they died for
glory; and glory is their eternal reward.”

(1) “Conference Minutes,” Times
and Seasons,
1 May 1844, 522–23.

(2) Newel Knight, quoted in Larry Porter,
“A Study of the Origins of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints in the States of New York and Pennsylvania, 1816–1831"

(Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1971), 296.

(3) Our Heritage, 3: Building the Kingdom
in Kirtland, Ohio, The Prophet’s Arrival in Ohio, 21

(4) Our Heritage, 3: Building the Kingdom
in Kirtland, Ohio, The Prophet’s Arrival in Ohio, 21

(5) Our Heritage, 5: Sacrifice and Blessings
in Nauvoo, 55

(6) Our Heritage, 5: Sacrifice and Blessings
in Nauvoo, 55

(7) History of the Church, 6:555.

(8) Thomas Ford, A History of Illinois,

ed. Milo Milton Quaife, 2 vols. (1946), 2:217.

(9) D&C 135:3,6

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