In the early 1820’s, a young man in Palmyra, New York, had visions that led him to believe himself a prophet of the Lord. The young man was Joseph Smith and his visions were the basis upon which he built the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormon Church. In those days, his followers were few, being only his family and a handful of friends.
In March of 1830, the BOOK OF MORMON was published. Shortly after it appeared, Joseph Smith ordained his brothers and the men of the Whitmer family as Latter-day Saints. After Joseph was reported to have cast out the personal devil of a man called Newel Knight, word of the miracle spread about the country near Palmyra and many people were converted.
With success came trouble, however, as on one occasion a mob of men almost lynched the new prophet. On another, he was taken to court for trial. He realized that his life was no longer safe in the state of New York.
Joseph’s three hundred followers left New York State for Ohio. Meanwhile, Joseph sent two men, one of them Oliver Cowdery, his first convert, to travel beyond the Mississippi River for the purpose of converting the Indians and locating the place where the Saints were to build their Zion. In Ohio, Joseph Smith was again persecuted. One winter night, a mob abducted him from his house and tarred and feathered him. Shortly afterward, Joseph decided to take his flock to Missouri, and he went with a few of his followers to survey the country.
More trouble awaited him when he returned to Ohio. Several of his converts had set themselves up as prophets during his absence. Reports reached him that the people he had left in Missouri were being mobbed. Then one day, two men came to offer their services to Joseph Smith. One was Brigham Young, the other Heber Kimball. Brigham Young was a great help to the Saints’ community because he could make men do what he wished, something that Joseph Smith, the mystic, was never able to learn.
While the Saints in Ohio were facing internal strife, the people of the new faith in Missouri were being horsewhipped, murdered, and driven from their homes by mobs. Eventually, Brigham Young was authorized to organize an army to march upon Missouri and rescue the Mormons there. At the last minute, Joseph Smith went with the army as its leader. The expedition was doomed to failure. Cholera and Indians took their toll among the men. They never fought the Missouri mobs.
For the next few years, the Latter-day Saints prospered in Ohio. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young opened a Mormon-operated bank, which failed, along with many others, in the panic of 1837. The loss of their money turned the Latter-day Saints against their leaders as nothing else had done, and Brigham Young and Joseph Smith fled to Missouri for their lives. They were soon joined by three hundred families from Ohio, who remained true to Joseph’s...
(The entire section is 1199 words.)