For more details about his life, go to Joseph Smith Timeline
Joseph Smith was a man whose name has been “had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues” (Joseph Smith—History 1:33) since the year 1820. Born in 1805, in Sharon, Vermont, Joseph Smith became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator of the Lord, Jesus Christ; he is a man who “has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God…gathered many thousands of Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people” (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3).
His parents, Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith, taught him about prayer, about the Bible, and about faith and humility. At the age of fourteen, Joseph Smith witnessed great religious fervor in the town where he lived. Manchester, New York was a confusing place to be searching for true doctrine. There was much competition for converts among the various sects of Christianity found there. Young Joseph took it upon himself to find the correct church.Because of his lack of understanding, Joseph often wanted to know “who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” (Joseph Smith-History 1:10) As he sought out answers, he opened his Bible to James 1:5, which read, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”Still confused, but filled with an overwhelming desire to know which church he should join, Joseph Smith ventured out to the woods near his house and knelt down to pray. Joseph Smith related his experience in Joseph Smith History 1:17. He said, “When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other – ‘This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!’” (Joseph Smith—History 1:17).
Upon seeing the two Personages, Joseph Smith ventured to ask which church he should join. Jesus Christ answered, saying “that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19). The existing churches were proven wrong, in fact, by the vision itself. Joseph saw two separate personages, and they were glorious, resurrected men, whereas all Christian churches preached a trinity in one God, a god of spirit. As soon as Joseph told his minister about his vision, Joseph’s life changed forever. Joseph thought his minister would be thrilled, but instead, he was extremely angry, claiming no such visions occurred today–that revelation had ended with the apostles, and of course, that Joseph could not have seen two separate beings.
Persecution, discrimination, and opposition towards Joseph Smith arose very quickly and others reviled him “with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days” (JS—H 1:21).
But Joseph Smith stated with firm conviction, “I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation” (JS—H 1:25).
On the twenty-first of September in 1823, Joseph Smith knelt to pray in his bedroom. He had received no revelation since his first vision, and he desired to know where he stood with God. Suddenly, an angel appeared to him. This event is recorded in Joseph Smith History 1:33–34. It reads, “[The angel] called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do… He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants.”
The angel Moroni, as he called himself, informed the boy Joseph that when he did receive the gold plates that he could not in any way show them to any person; otherwise, Moroni said, he would be destroyed. The “Hill Cumorah” is where the angel Moroni showed him where the plates were located. The following four years were spent conversing with angel Moroni, who instructed and taught Joseph Smith. During this time, Joseph also met and married Emma Hale.
On September 22, 1827, Joseph Smith went to the place on Hill Cumorah where the gold plates were deposited and, as commanded by Moroni, retrieved them. Later, in the year 1829, a convert named Oliver Cowdery sought out Joseph Smith. He and Joseph Smith began the process of translating the gold plates, which was done through the gift and power of God.
Shortly into the process of translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery pondered on the idea of baptism. They decided to retreat to woods to pray for an answer. John the Baptist (cousin to Jesus Christ) appeared to them. He then laid his hands upon the heads of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and ordained upon them to the Aaronic Priesthood; “which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins” (JS—H 1:69). Following the ordinations, John the Baptist commanded Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to baptize each other.
Weeks later, the resurrected Peter, James, and John conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Now the fullness of the gospel could be restored, the Church of Jesus Christ could be organized to ‘roll forth,’ and all the ordinances necessary for the salvation of God’s children could be performed—including bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The translated plates became known as the Book of Mormon. A select few witnesses were given the opportunity to view the gold plates and testified of their existence. The testimonies of the three and eight witnesses can be found in the opening of the Book of Mormon.
Printing of the Book of Mormon took place on April 6, 1830. Subsequently, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized under the direction of Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith was sustained as a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and President of the church, also known as the Mormon Church.
During the next fourteen years, the members of the Mormon Church spread the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of this message, those belonging to the church suffered extreme persecution, being driven from New York, to Ohio, Missouri, and then to Illinois.
In Illinois, the city of Nauvoo was established by the Prophet Joseph Smith. In a few years the city grew to a substantial size. Thousands of Mormons from Europe and the United States journeyed to join the Saints.
The maltreatment of and discrimination toward the Mormons grew unceasingly, and Joseph Smith, along with his brother Hyrum and a number of other men, were imprisoned in the Carthage Jail. “Leaving Nauvoo for Carthage”, Joseph said, “I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men.’ The Prophet humbly acknowledged, ‘I am a lover of the cause of Christ.”
Eventually, on June 27, 1844, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were martyred by a murderous mob. The band of rogues incessantly sought to destroy the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “John Taylor, severely wounded at the same time, later called the Smith brothers ‘martyrs of religion’ and declared that the Restoration of the gospel had ‘cost the best blood of the nineteenth century.’ These faithful souls personified the Savior’s teaching: ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’”
Joseph Smith lived for and died for Jesus Christ, representing his statement, “After the many testimonies which have been given of Him [Christ], this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:22).
Joseph Smith Timeline (more detailed information about his life)
Joseph’s Last Dream