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Get to Know a Church Leader: Joseph Smith


Through Joseph Smith, God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, founded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 6, 1830. Just 14 years later, Smith was martyred at the hands of a violent mob while awaiting trial for accusations of inciting a riot. Hyrum Smith, Joseph’s brother, died as well.

In the short span of 14 years from when the Church was established to his martyrdom, the work the Lord did through the prophet Joseph Smith and the Church’s teachings have attracted millions of followers. Today, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has now spread across the globe with over 15 million members.

While a lot of focus is placed on Smith’s role in helping establish the Church, translating the Book of Mormon, receiving subsequent revelations, and overseeing the building of temples in the American Midwest, less is known or discussed about other aspects of his life.

Facts you might not know about Joseph Smith:

Joseph Smith Was About 14 When He Received the First Vision

Joseph grew up during a time known as the Second Great Awakening, when the subject of religion was hotly contested in America—especially in New England. Living in rural New York put Joseph at the center of a religious revival that occurred in the early 19th century.

As a young teenager, Joseph became aware of the importance of religion: “my mind was called up to serious reflection. . . . I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right[?] . . . If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?”(Joseph Smith—History 1:8, 10).

While he was thinking about which group was right, Joseph read a verse in James (James 1:5) encouraging those who have questions to ask of God to gain wisdom, so Joseph retreated to a grove in the woods near his home in New York and prayed to know which church he should join.

During that prayer, Joseph saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

“I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling my name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”(Joseph Smith—History 1:17).

Joseph was instructed to not join any of the existing churches. This “First Vision” of Joseph Smith took place when he was about 14 years old. Over time, the Lord restored the fullness of the gospel and the Church of Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith.

Joseph Smith Translated the Book of Mormon with Only a Third-Grade Education

One of the most important things Joseph did in is life was translating the Book of Mormon. According to his own personal testimony and history, Joseph was visited by an angel named Moroni in September 1823. The angel told Joseph that, “there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fullness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants” (Joseph Smith—History 1:34).

Eventually, Joseph received and translated the record inscribed on those plates. Almost the entire Book of Mormon, as we have it today, was translated within a three-month period. It’s been estimated that it took around 65 working days within this period to complete the translation.

Joseph Smith, like any other man, had his faults and shortcomings. Yet he was called of God to perform a great work, and he did so to the best of his abilities. Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon is evidence of the divine calling of Joseph Smith. Within its pages, there is a promise made to readers of the book. If one reads with a sincere heart, real intent, and faith in Jesus Christ, the truth of the words within the book would be confirmed by the power of the Holy Ghost (Moroni 10:3-5). Millions of people across the world have tested this promise and now testify that the book came from God, and thus Joseph Smith was indeed called of God to do His work.