The Early Mormons1823-1896
The Visions of Joseph SmithOn September 21, 1823, the Angel Moroni is said to have appeared in the latest of several visions to Joseph Smith, a 17-year-old resident of Palmyra, New York. Moroni told young Smith of gold plates that were buried in a hillside, on which were engravings that told the history of an ancient civilization in America. From the plates, which Smith took from their hiding place near Manchester, New York, he translated the Book of Mormon "by miraculous means." And on April 6, 1830, he founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, whose members became known as Mormons. Smith, whom the Mormons regarded as God's prophet, experienced other visions throughout his life, and these became part of church doctrine as well. Each succeeding head of the church is believed to have this same visionary power. The basis of the Mormons' belief is that their church was founded because other religions had wandered from the original church of Jesus Christ. They also believe in the Bible and baptism by water, and they look upon people who are married in a Mormon temple as "bound together for time and eternity." They believe further that the founding of their church restored the Priesthood of God on earth. Male Mormons usually become part of this priesthood at about the age of 12. The practice of polygamy-sanctioning more than one marriage partner at the same· time-probably caused the early Mormons the most trouble. Actually, only a small number of church members practiced polygamy. It was regarded by them as a practical necessity, because of the rigors and demands of frontier life, and was not considered part of the original church doctrine. But those outside the church viewed polygamy with hostility and suspicion, even after it was officially forbidden by the Mormons in 1890. In 1831, Smith and his small band of followers moved to Ohio, then to Missouri, and later to Illinois, where they founded a city named Nauvoo. There the Mormons began to prosper, due in large measure to their dedication to hard work and thrift. But their ways seemed strange to some, while others grew jealous of their prosperity and growing political power. Resentment turned into violence, until finally, on June 27, 1844, Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, were killed by a mob at Carthage, lllinois. Today, with church members spread throughout the country and the world, most Mormons still live in Utah and other western states.
Illustration: Joseph Smith, founder of Mormon Church, visited by Angel Moroni
© 1979, Panarizon Publishing Corp. USA
Printed in Italv 03.012.01.08