Joseph Smith

Smith, Joseph

Joseph Smith, 1805–44, American Mormon leader, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, b. Sharon, Vt. When he was a boy his family moved to Palmyra, N.Y., where he experienced the poverty and hardships of life on a rough frontier. He had visions when he was still young and later recorded that he was first told in a vision in 1823 of the existence of secret records, but it was not until 1827 that the hiding place of the records was revealed to him. According to his account, in 1827 he unearthed golden tablets inscribed with sacred writings that he translated. Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and others transcribed these records from his dictation, and the Book of Mormon was published in 1830. Further revelations led him to found a new religion after priesthood had been conferred upon him and Cowdery by an "angel." As prophet and seer he founded (1830) his church in Fayette, N.Y. (see Latter-day Saints, Church of Jesus Christ of).

The hostility of his neighbors forced him to move his headquarters to Kirtland, Ohio, where with the help of Sidney Rigdon and others he embarked on extensive business affairs. The Panic of 1837 was one of the reasons for removal farther west to Missouri. There the industrious and self-contained members of his faith again ran into difficulties with their neighbors. Smith and others were arrested but escaped, and his faithful followers were driven from Missouri.

Having obtained a favorable charter from Illinois, Smith founded the settlement of Nauvoo, which soon flourished, thanks to the concerted efforts of the members of his church. Disaffection grew, however, and some of the dissident members founded a newspaper, the Expositor, in which they bitterly criticized him. He put down the opposition, thereby giving the hostile non-Mormons a pretext for attacking him. When in 1844 he announced himself as candidate for the presidency of the United States, his enemies moved against him. He and his brother Hyrum were arrested on charges of treason and conspiracy. They were lodged in the jail at Carthage, Ill., and there on June 27, 1844, they were murdered by a mob.

The revelations experienced by Smith—including one enjoining plural marriage, which later caused the Mormons much trouble—were the foundation stones of a faith that after his death grew to be one of the great religions of the United States. Because he was a highly controversial figure, the literature on him is also controversial, and the Mormon church itself did not issue an official acknowledgment of Smith's multiple marriages until 2014.

See biographies by L. Smith (1908, repr. 1969), F. M. Brodie (1954, repr. 1995), R. V. Remini (2002), and R. L. Bushman (2005); studies by R. L. Anderson (1971), R. L. Bushman (1984), and A. Beam (2014).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Joseph Smith: Selected full-text books and articles

Joseph Smith: Selected Sermons & Writings By Joseph Smith; Robert L. Millet Paulist Press, 1989
PRIMARY SOURCE
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
Joseph Smith, Jr: Reappraisals after Two Centuries By Reid L. Neilson; Terryl L. Givens Oxford University Press, 2009
Was Joseph Smith for Real? By Thomas, Mark D Free Inquiry, Vol. 20, No. 1, Winter 1999
The Book of Mormon: A Biography By Paul C. Gutjahr Princeton University Press, 2012
The Prophet and the Presidency: Mormonism and Politics in Joseph Smith's 1844 Presidential Campaign By Wood, Timothy L Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Vol. 93, No. 2, Summer 2000
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
"Dictated by Christ": Joseph Smith and the Politics of Revelation By Harper, Steven C Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 26, No. 2, July 1, 2006
Another Look at Joseph Smith's First Vision By Larson, Stan Dialogue : A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 47, No. 2, Summer 2014
Cultures in Conflict: A Documentary History of the Mormon War in Illinois By John E. Hallwas; Roger D. Launius Utah State University Press, 1995
Librarian's tip: Includes many primary sources about and by Joseph Smith
PRIMARY SOURCE
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Containing Revelations Given to Joseph Smith, the Prophet: With Some Additions by His Successors in the Presidency of the Church By Joseph Smith Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1952
PRIMARY SOURCE
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
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