Joseph Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont, in 1805. He stated that he had his first vision at the age of 14. By the age of 24, he had published the Book of Mormon, and later dictated and wrote the Pearl of Great Price, and most of the Doctrine and Covenants. He founded the LDS Church on 6 April 1830, which was first called the Church of Christ. Announcing that new converts were to be gathered into one place, the first site was Kirtland, Ohio, then Jackson, Missouri, and then Nauvoo, Illinois, as Mormons were persecuted and forcibly removed from each settlement. Jackson was announced by Smith to be the location of their New Jerusalem. In each place the Church attempted to found a city-state of their own construction, isolated from the surrounding communities, with new converts coming in from the Eastern US and Great Britain. The doctrine of Smith was considered blasphemous by many and the isolationist and anti-slavery (especially in Missouri) tendencies of the Church seemed threatening to surrounding communities. The resultant persecution and violence, including the governor of Missouri executing an ‘extermination order’ against the Mormon people drove them from place to place.The first presidency (made up of the prophet and two counsellors) and the 12 apostles were appointed by Smith in 1835, which was the beginning of the Church organisation. Smith instituted polygamy in 1838, allowing men to marry multiple women, stating it was commanded of God. It was practised by few, but was a controversial practice and accounted for some of the persecution.

Having failed through conventional legal and political means to redress the injuries of persecution and viewing political power as useful in the Church’s mission of restoration of the Gospel, Smith began a campaign for the American Presidency in 1844. This increased hostility to the LDS Church in Illinois, where Smith was already viewed as wielding too much power. There was a riot in Nauvoo after Smith, as mayor, declared a newspaper that opposed the Church a public nuisance and had it destroyed by city marshals. Acquitted for inciting a riot in Nauvoo, Smith gave himself up on the same charge in Carthage, Illinois. The next day he and his brother, while under the governor’s protection, were killed in prison by a mob of Carthage militia. He was martyred in the eyes of members of the LDS Church, who refer to him as ‘the prophet’ and see the most significant doctrines and practices of the Church as having been instituted in his lifetime. Followers believe he and a few of the early faithful had face-to-face encounters with God and angelic beings, which took a dialogic form in which he asked questions and received specific answers. Smith taught that spiritual gifts were available to human beings, if they sought them, and claimed himself to have the gift of ‘seership’ which, among other things, he used in a few cases to recover ancient texts extraneous of physical manuscripts, which contained teachings by and about biblical figures including Adam, Abraham, Moses, Enoch, and John. He inspired great devotion in those who followed him, and it was a reciprocal loyalty, because he was perceived as willing to suffer on behalf of his followers in return. However, his charismatic appeal was ascribed by contemporaneous detractors of the Church to mesmerism, an early form of hypnosis.

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