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Joseph Smith


Joseph Smith is the founder of Mormonism.

1805, December 23 Joseph was born in Sharon, Vermont. He was the fifth of eleven children born to parents Lucy Mack Smith and Joseph Smith Sr.
1812 Joseph suffers a severe bone infection from a typhoid complication. An experimental surgery saves his leg from amputation. For several years he would need crutches and would walk with a slight limp the rest of his life.
1816 The Smith family moves to a farm in the township of Palmyra, New York. The farm is near the hill (Cumorah) where Joseph later claims to find and translate an ancient book engraved on gold plates. He would publish it as the Book of Mormon.
1826, March 20 Joseph is arrested by Constable Philip De Zang and brought to court in Bainbridge, New York. Justice Albert Neeley finds him guilty for falsely claiming he could find hidden treasure by using a seer stone.
1827, January 18 Joseph Smith elopes and marries Emma Hale.
1827, December Joseph and Emma move to Harmony, Pennsylvania, to be near her father.

By looking at a seer stone in a hat, Joseph begins dictating the Book of Mormon to his scribe Martin Harris.
1828, February Joseph copies characters from the gold plates and gives them to Martin, who intends to have them inspected by Professor Charles Anthon, a respected classical scholar at Columbia College in New York. Afterward, Martin claims that the professor authenticated both the characters and the translation. Anthon disputes this.
1828, June Martin’s wife has doubts about the Book of Mormon, so Martin convinces Joseph to let him take the manuscript home (116 pages at this time) to show to his skeptical family members. The manuscript goes missing in Martin’s home.
1829, April 7 Oliver Cowdery replaces Martin as Joseph’s chief scribe. Together they make rapid progress and nearly complete the remainder of the Book of Mormon in just a couple months.
1829, Summer

Joseph gives a stern revelation to Martin to finance the Book of Mormon. Martin obeys and mortgages his farm to pay for the printing.

Thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to the printing of the Book of Mormon.... And misery thou shalt receive if thou wilt slight these counsels, yea, even the destruction of thyself and property.

Joseph Smith

— Joseph Smith

Mormonism founder
Doctrine and Covenants 19:26, 33

1830, March 26 Book of Mormon published—a narrative of Jesus Christ visiting the New World and ministering to the descendants of Jews (Indian Americans).

It presents the Godhead as monotheistic and God the Father as a Spirit. It prohibits polygamy, and makes no mention of the Aaronic priesthood. It describes those with white or fair skin as ‘delightsome’ and black or dark skin as being ‘cursed’.

In it, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris lend their name to ‘The Testimony of Three Witnesses’ statement, in which they declare they saw ‘by the power of God’ the engravings that Joseph translated.
1830, April 6 Joseph and his followers organize the Church of Christ.
1830, November Sidney Rigdon, a Baptist minister, joins the church after meeting with Mormon missionaries who stop in Kirtland, Ohio, en route to Missouri.
1831, February After Joseph has a vision to move, he, his family, and about 75 followers arrive in Kirtland and merge with Sidney’s 100-member congregation. Sidney becomes a counselor in the initial First Presidency.
1831, February Sidney becomes chief scribe for Joseph Smith’s revision of the King James Bible—the Inspired Version—which Joseph corrects to emphasize monotheism and the prohibition of polygamy.
1831, June 3 Joseph introduces the high priesthood, later retooled as the ‘Melchizedek priesthood’.

David Whitmer condemns this move as originating in the mind of Sidney Rigdon. The historical record substantiates David’s allegations that the revelations were altered to make it appear as though the church had the priesthoods from its beginning.

B. H. Roberts, a Mormon Seventy and Church Historian admits, “there is no definite account of the event in the history of the Prophet Joseph, or, for matter of that, in any of our annals,” regarding Joseph or Oliver Cowdery receiving the Melchizedek priesthood.
1832, March 24 A mob breaks into Joseph’s home to tar and feather him. Historians disagree on the motive. Some argue it was a brother’s revenge for Joseph being intimate with his sister (Brodie), or revenge for Joseph plotting to take property from community members (Bushman).
1832, Summer Joseph writes by hand the earliest history of his church.
In it, we begin to see the formulation of a First Vision account (absent both God the Father and Jesus Christ)—an unnamed angel informs him of the plates, and there is a scant mention about priesthood. However, there is no mention of John the Baptist, Peter, James and John.
1833 Joseph collects his revelations and publishes them as the Book of Commandments.
1833, July 2 Joseph completes his initial work on his translation of the Bible.
1833, July 16

That our intention was not only to stop free people of color from emigrating to this state, but to prevent them from being admitted as members of the Church.

Joseph Smith

— Joseph Smith

Mormonism founder
History of the Church, Vol. 1, pp. 378-379

1835, circa Polygamy
Joseph marries his second wife, Fanny Alger, a teen working and living in the Smith home. Over the next nine years (until his death) he would have as many as 49 wives.
1835, Summer Joseph begins translating Egyptian papyrus, which he claims contains Abraham’s handwriting. He would publish it as the Book of Abraham.
1835, September Changes in the Revelations
The second collection of revelations is renamed Doctrine and Covenants. The doctrine portion, called the Lectures on Faith, teaches monotheism and that God the Father is a personage of spirit. The covenant portion consists of the revelations.
  • Section 5:2 is altered to expand Joseph’s gifts beyond translating the Book of Mormon.
  • Section 27 is altered to insert the angel Moroni. (This is Joseph’s earliest record of Moroni visiting him).
  • Section 47 is altered to include ‘the presidency’—an office not mentioned in either the Bible or Book of Mormon.
  • Section 101 is introduced prohibiting polygamy. It includes a conspicuous denial of rumors about polygamy, most likely from Joseph’s tryst with Fanny Alger.
1835, November 9, 14 Joseph develops his First Vision story in his diary. He refers to it here as “a visitation of angels” and says “I saw many angels in this vision”.
1836, March 27 The Kirtland temple is dedicated by Joseph Smith.
1837, August

The Kirtland Safety Society Bank, founded by Joseph Smith and church leaders, fails, resulting in significant losses for many. They are blamed and accused of enriching themselves, causing many to leave the church. Half of the Quorum of Twelve accuse Joseph of improprieties. Conditions in Kirtland become increasingly hostile towards Joseph and his church.

  • Kimball, reflecting on the sentiment in Kirtland at that time:

There were not twenty persons on the earth that would declare that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God

Heber C. Kimball

— Heber C. Kimball

First Presidency Counselor
"Emigration, etc"
Salt Lake City
Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, p. 108

1838, January 12 A warrant is issued for Joseph’s arrest. He is charged for illegal banking. He flees Kirtland for Missouri.
1838, March 14 Joseph and family arrive in Far West, Missouri, and are soon followed by Ohio Mormons. Despite the locals being unhappy with the influx of Mormons, Joseph makes plans for a new temple.
1838, April 12 Oliver Cowdery is excommunicated from the church after accusing Joseph of adultery with Fannie Alger.
1838, April 26 The church changes its name to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. D&C 115:3
1838, April 27 Joseph Smith begins dictating “a history of this Church from the earliest period of its existence up to this date”.
  • First Vision account fully developed—both God the Father and Jesus. This account would become the basis for the authorized version.
  • Identifies the angel who informs him of the gold plates as Nephi.
  • Mentions John the Baptist.
  • The source of D&C 2, backdated to Sept 21, 1823
  • The source of D&C 13, backdated to May 15, 1829
  • Source: “History, 1838-1856, volume A-1”,
1838, July 4 Sidney Rigdon gives a discourse warning of a “war of extermination” with those hostile to the LDS church.
1838, August 6 – November 1 1838 Mormon War begins. Escalating tensions in Missouri between the locals and Mormon settlers erupts into violence.
1838, October 27 After Mormons attack a duly authorized militia, the Governor of Missouri—who likely heard of Sidney’s threat—orders all Mormons to be expelled from the state or face ‘extermination’.
1838, November 1 Joseph surrenders at Far West, ending the war. He is imprisoned with other church leaders.
1839, mid-April While in custody, guards allow Joseph to escape.
1839, May 10 Joseph arrives with his family in Commerce, Illinois, a small town bought by the church. He changes its name to Nauvoo and becomes its mayor and militia leader. Over the next seven years the city grows rapidly to a population of 11,000, rivaling that of Chicago at that time.
1841, January 19 Joseph gives a revelation on baptizing the dead (D&C 124).
1841, April 6 Nauvoo temple cornerstone laid.
1841, November 21 First baptisms for the dead performed while the temple is under construction.
1842, March 1 First Vision account is published in the Times and Seasons–22 years after-the-fact. This version becomes the authorized version.
1842, March-May Book of Abraham published in Times and Seasons. It introduces new doctrines on the cosmos (Kolob), exaltation, premortal life, and polytheism. It also becomes a prooftext for the church’s policy of denying blacks the priesthood. Abraham 1:21-27
1842, August 1 Times and Seasons publishes Joseph Smith receiving the Aaronic Priesthood, some 13 years after-the-fact. This event is backdated to May 15, 1829, and canonized in the 1876 Doctrine and Covenants.
1843, July 12 Joseph gives a revelation authorizing polygamy. It warns his wife Emma that “she shall be destroyed” if she rejects it. D&C 132:54
1844, January 29 Joseph announces his candidacy for President of the United States.
1844, April 7

Joseph Smith delivers his King Follett Sermon.

First, God himself, who sits enthroned in yonder heavens, is a man like unto one of yourselves... you would see him in all the person, image and very form as a man....

For I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined that God was God from all eternity.... You have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves.... The head God called together the Gods, and set in grand council. The grand counsellors sat in yonder heavens, and contemplated the creation of the worlds that were created at that time....

Their spirits existed coequal with God.... God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all....

The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us, is to seek after our dead.... it is necessary that those who are gone before, and those who come after us should have salvation in common with us.... Hence God hath made a provision, that every spirit in the eternal world can be ferreted out and saved.

Joseph Smith

— Joseph Smith

Mormonism founder
King Follett Sermon
General Conference, Nauvoo
"Conference Minutes", Times and Seasons, Vol. 5, No. 15, pp. 613-616

1844, April After Jane Law rebuffs Joseph’s proposal to marry him, her husband William Law (Second Counselor) is excommunicated, and Austin Cowles (First Counselor) quits the church in protest.
1844, June 7 Former Counselors William Law and Austin Cowles publish the Nauvoo Expositor newspaper. Its first issue condemns Joseph’s polygamy.
1844, June 10 Joseph Smith orders the Nauvoo Expositor press and office destroyed. The Governor of Illinois has Joseph put in jail.
1844, June 27 An angry mob storms the jail and kills Joseph and his brother Hyrum. Joseph’s unexpected death creates a succession crisis, as to who would lead his church.

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