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In the 1800s, there were many reform movements in the United States. One of the major reform movements was the religious reform movement. One of the major parts of that movement was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon church. This church was started by Joseph Smith Jr., and is still around and is still a popular religion. This religion attracted many members and appealed to many people during the reform movements.
Joseph Smith Jr. was born on December 23, 1805, in Sharon, Vermont. Growing up, he was poor and lived on different tenant farms in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York with his parents Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith. Smith wasn’t formally educated, but he did learn how to read, write, and complete basic arithmetic. From a young age, Smith was interested in religion. This interest was likely due to religious excitement where he lived in Manchester, New York. When he was 14 years old, Smith went through a phase where he was trying to choose a religion that he thought he should join. During this process, he claimed he was visited by God and Jesus Christ in the woods and he claimed that they instructed him not to join any of the churches. According to Smith, he was visited by an angel named Moroni 3 years later. He said that this angel told him of an ancient record with God’s dealings. Joseph said he then received this record, which was inscribed on golden plates. He supposedly translated these plates using the “gift of God”, and this translation eventually turned into “the Book of Mormon”. The Book of Mormon was later published in March 1830. In April of the same year, Smith organized and became the first president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Shortly after organizing it, the Church attracted many members. Many of these members were converts from England. The Church also had an active campaign to convert people and frequently sent members out as missionaries to try to convert more people and eventually get more members. While the Church had many members, it also had many enemies. Many Christians were against Smith and he was imprisoned many times. Nevertheless, the first Mormon temple was dedicated at Kirtland in Ohio. One of Smith’s goals was to create little settlements with members in them called “cities of ZIoz” The persecution continued, as the governor of Missouri ordered that they be driven out of the state. As a result, Smith moved the Church and the members to Illinois. There, they built their own city on the banks of Mississippi. This city was called Nauvoo. In this city, they could live their lives and worship in peace. This city attracted new members from Europe and grew to be one of the biggest cities in the state, rivaling Chicago. Unfortunately for Smith and the Mormons, they did not find their peace there. Smith was arrested many more times here. Eventually, on June 27, 1844, Joseph Smith Jr. was killed in jail by an angry mob.
After his death, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did not end. After Smith’s death, the Church’s new leader moved them to Utah. In Utah, they constructed Salt Lake City. Brigham Young became the new leader and president of the Church. Brigham Young was committed to continuing the beliefs and teachings of Smith. One of these teachings was polygamy, which Smith tried to justify by referring to the precedent of Abraham. Smith himself was married to almost 30 women. Brigham Young was committed to continuing polygamy. Young became possibly the most famous polygamist, as he was married to 55 women.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of the most popular churches in America. It added another religion for people to chose from and was important in the religious reform movements. There was a “spiritual awakening that swept across the nation” which helped cause the need for new religions. People wanted a new religion that emphasized individual responsibility. This need was also created by the movements against alcohol and tobacco, which the Mormons were against. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is still around today and has many members. Many of the Mormons still live in Utah, although they live all around the country. There are even many Mormons that live outside of the United States, and many who live in different continents. BYU, short for Brigham Young University, is named after the famous leader of the Church. There are many celebrities and politicians who are Mormons. There is even a famous musical parodying the religion called “The Book of Mormon”. Even though Joseph Smith Jr. may have died, his Church and movement did not and they still are going strong today.
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