Joseph SMITH

Family tree of Joseph SMITH


AmericanBorn Joseph SMITH

American religious leader and the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement

Born on December 23, 1805 in Sharon, Vermont, USA , United States

Died on June 27, 1844 in Carthage, Illinois, USA

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Joseph Smith, Jr. was born in Sharon, Vermont to Lucy Mack Smith and her husband Joseph, a merchant and farmer. After a crippling bone infection at age eight, the younger Smith hobbled on crutches as a child. In 1816–17, after an ill-fated business venture and three years of crop failures, the Smith family moved to the western New York villiage of Palmyra and eventually took a mortgage on a 100-acre (40 ha) farm in nearby Manchester town.

During the Second Great Awakening, the region was a hotbed of religious enthusiasm. Between 1817 and 1825 there were several camp meetings and revivals in the Palmyra area. Although the Smith family was caught up in this excitement, they disagreed about religion. Joseph Smith may not have joined a church in his youth, but he participated in church classes, read the Bible, and reportedly showed an interest in Methodism. With his family, he took part in religious folk magic, a common practice at the time. Like many people of that era, both his parents and his maternal grandfather had visions or dreams that they believed communicated messages from God.


Smith became concerned with religion at about the age of twelve. Probably around 1820 he decided to pray for a forgiveness of his sins and to ask which church was right. Smith later said that in response to his prayer he had a theophany or first vision, in which God appeared, told him his sins were forgiven, and that all contemporary churches had "turned aside from the gospel." Smith may have told a few people about his vision, but the event passed unnoticed in his home town.

Meanwhile, the Smith family supplemented its meager farm income by treasure-digging, a practice relatively common in contemporary New England Joseph claimed an ability to use seer stones for locating lost items and buried treasure. To do so, Smith would put a stone in a white stovepipe hat and would then see the required information in reflections given off by the stone.

In 1823, while praying for forgiveness from his sins, Smith said he was visited at night by an angel named Moroni, who revealed the location of a buried book of golden plates as well as other artifacts, including a breastplate and a set of silver spectacles with lenses composed of seer stones, which had been hidden in a hill near his home. Smith said he attempted to remove the plates the next morning but was unsuccessful because the angel prevented him.

During the next four years, Smith made annual visits to the hill, but each time returned without the plates. Meanwhile, Smith continued traveling to western New York and Pennsylvania as a treasure seeker and a farmhand. In 1826, he was tried in Chenango County, New York, for "glass-looking," or pretending to find lost treasure.

While boarding at the Hale house in Harmony, Pennsylvania, Smith met Emma Hale and began courting her. When Smith asked for Emma's hand, her father, Isaac Hale, objected because Smith was "a stranger" and had no means of supporting his daughter other than money digging. On January 18, 1827, Smith and Emma "eloped to marry" and the couple began boarding with Smith's parents in Manchester.

On September 22, 1827, Smith made his last annual visit to the hill, taking Emma with him. This time, he said, he retrieved the plates and placed them in a locked chest. He said the angel commanded him not to show the plates to anyone else but to publish their translation, reputed to be the religious record of indigenous Americans. Joseph later told Emma's parents that his treasure-seeking days were behind him. Although Smith had left his treasure hunting company, his former associates believed he had double-crossed them by taking for himself what they considered joint property. They ransacked places where a competing treasure-seer said the plates were hidden, and Smith soon realized that he could not accomplish the translation in Palmyra.

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Geographical origins

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