Joseph Smith was the founder and first president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He and five associates formally organized the Church at Fayette, New York, on 6 April 1830. He presided over the Church until 27 June 1844, when he was martyred. Under his leadership, Church membership grew from six to over 26,000.
Confused about religion during a time of revival in the state of New York where he lived in 1820, 14-year-old Joseph read a passage in the New Testament and went to the woods to pray. Joseph records that God and Jesus Christ appeared to him. "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head," he wrote, "above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me." Within that light, he saw two personages -- one of whom spoke Joseph's name, pointed to the other, and said, "This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!" Church members refer to this experience as the "First Vision." It forever changed Joseph Smith and has become a central tenet of Latter-day Saint belief. It began the work of restoring the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth.
Although born a farmer, Joseph worked as an editor, entrepreneur and businessman. In the years he led the fledgling Church, Joseph organized an international missionary program and founded what is today one of the largest women's organizations in the world. He oversaw the building of three cities and directed the construction of two temples -- all the while facing intense persecution from local mobs, who eventually drove Church members from all three cities Joseph settled.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today numbers more than 14 million. Latter-day Saints revere Joseph Smith as a prophet, just as they revere biblical prophets such as Moses and Isaiah.
Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling
Richard Lyman Bushman
March 13, 2007
The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother
Lucy Mack Smith