Joseph Smith, Jr. (1805-1844) was the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
. Members of the Church credit him with seeing God
and Jesus Christ
, translating the Book of Mormon
, laying the basis for Church Doctrine and missionary work strong enough to provide the basis for what is now one of the fastest growing religions in the world.
Joseph's life was unremarkable until he turned the age of 14. At that time in New England there was a religious Revival and Joseph was exposed to many different Christian denominations. One day in the woods he decided to follow the suggestion in James 1:5, "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." Joseph Smith claimed that when he prayed God and Jesus Christ both appeared to him as seperate personages. When he asked which sect to join he was told that none of them were correct. Though his family believed him, young Joseph was scorned by many of the people he told his story to. See Joseph Smith's First Vision.
Three years later Joseph was visited by the angel Moroni who told him about the Golden Plates and that he would play a role in reestablishing the true Gospel. Four years later he retrieved these plates and with the help of Martin Harris as a scribe, produced the Book of Mormon.
During the translation, Joseph and a follower, Oliver Cowdery, prayed about Baptism. In response they were visited by John the Baptist who conferred the Priesthood on them. They then baptised each other. It is through this experience that the Church claims a line of authority directly from Jesus Christ to use the Priesthood.
On April 6, 1830, after completing the translation of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith officially organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The members of the Church gathered togeth in Kirtland, Ohio and Jackson County, Missouri. While in Kirtland, Joseph continued to recieve revelations regarding the Church, built the first Temple and continued to expand the Church through missionary efforts.
Joseph and the early members of the Church faced persecution from the beginning. In 1832 Joseph and others were tarred and feathered. The members were attacked by mobs, mistreated by authorities and finally had to leave Ohio. In Missouri the attempts of the members to vote was threatened and several were killed in an a fight afterwards. Joseph was arrested on false charges and jailed for five months. Some of the persecution was unprovoked, some stemmed from misunderstandings and some can be somewhat blamed on the Church. Either way, it's hard to deny that Joseph and the Church had to deal with tremendous opposition. Several times the members were able to build an efficient city, only to be driven out and forced to live in disease ridden tent cities.
The Church was driven out of Missouri and once again quicly created a new city in Nauvoo, Illinois which grew as large as Chicago. While in Nauvoo Joseph continued to lay out the Gospel. It was during this time the Joseph introduced plural marriage and the basis for the God-Man Theory.
Polygamy would ignite outsiders and cause dissension among the Saints, leading to Joseph's arrest and detainment at Carthage Jail. Even though the Governor had promised Joseph would be protected, on June 27th, 1844 Joseph Smith, Jr. and his brother were shot to death by a mob. At the time of his death the Church had grown to nearly 10,000 members.
Many things can be said about Joseph Smith, but I think it's hard to deny that he truly believed what he preached. He endured countless trials and persecutions and never flinched in proclaiming his story and Gospel were true.
Even though many aspects of his story are quite fantastic there are millions who believe that Brother Joseph was a prophet. I don't consider myself to be the epitome of Mormonism, but it is my testimony that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, translated the Book of Mormon and restored the Gospel to this Earth.
Information taken from reled.byu.edu/leaders/Smithjr.html