Joseph Smith was an American religious leader and founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, also known as Mormonism. Born in Vermont in 1805, Smith claimed to have received a series of visions from God as a young man, which led him to search for and eventually discover a set of golden plates containing the history of an ancient Hebrew civilization in North America.
In 1830, Smith published the Book of Mormon, a religious text based on the writings on the golden plates, and formally established the Church of Christ, later known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Smith became the church’s first prophet and president, and began to attract a following of believers who were drawn to his message of personal revelation and religious renewal.
Smith and his followers faced significant opposition and persecution, and were forced to move several times before settling in Nauvoo, Illinois in 1839. Here, Smith and the church grew rapidly, establishing a theocratic government and attracting thousands of converts.
However, tensions with non-Mormon residents of Nauvoo led to Smith’s eventual murder by a mob in 1844. Smith’s death sparked a succession crisis within the church, and several factions emerged, each claiming to be the true continuation of Smith’s teachings. The largest of these factions, led by Brigham Young, eventually migrated to the Great Basin region, where they established the city of Salt Lake City and the territory of Utah.
Today, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with its headquarters in Salt Lake City, is one of the largest and most well-known religious organizations in the world, with millions of members worldwide. Joseph Smith remains a highly significant figure in American religious history.