During the Second Great Awakening , the region was a hotbed of religious enthusiasm. Between and , there were several camp meetings and revivals in the Palmyra area. As a teenager, he may have been sympathetic to Methodism. The event would later grow in importance to Smith's followers, who now regard it as the first event in the gradual restoration of Christ's church to earth. Until the s, however, the experience was largely unknown, even to most Mormons.
According to his later accounts, Smith was visited by an angel named Moroni , while praying one night in Smith said that this angel revealed the location of a buried book made of golden plates , as well as other artifacts, including a breastplate and a set of interpreters composed of two seer stones set in a frame, which had been hidden in a hill near his home. When Smith proposed marriage, Emma's father, Isaac Hale objected, primarily because he believed Smith had no means to support Emma.
Later that year, when Smith promised to abandon treasure seeking, Hale offered to let the couple live on his property in Harmony and help Smith get started in business. He said the angel commanded him not to show the plates to anyone else, but to translate them and publish their translation.
Smith said the translation was a religious record of indigenous Americans. He also told associates that he was capable of reading and translating them. Harris also took a sample of the characters to a few prominent scholars, including Charles Anthon. Harris said Anthon initially authenticated the characters and their translation, but then retracted his opinion after learning that Smith claimed to have received the plates from an angel. In any event, Harris returned to Harmony in April , and continued as Smith's scribe.
Harris convinced Smith to let him take the existing pages of manuscript to Palmyra to show a few family members, including his wife. As punishment for losing the manuscript, Smith said that the angel returned and took away the plates, and revoked his ability to translate.
During this period, Smith briefly attended Methodist meetings with his wife, until a cousin of hers objected to inclusion of a "practicing necromancer" on the Methodist class roll. Later, a group of Eight Witnesses — composed of male members of the Whitmer and Smith families — issued a statement that they had been shown the golden plates by Smith.
The completed work, titled the Book of Mormon , was published in Palmyra on March 26, , by printer E. Soon after, on April 6, , Smith and his followers formally organized the Church of Christ , and small branches were established in Palmyra, Fayette, and Colesville, New York.
In probable reference to this period of flight, Smith said that Peter , James , and John had appeared to him and had ordained him and Cowdery to a higher priesthood. Life of Joseph Smith from to and Life of Joseph Smith from to When Smith moved to Kirtland, Ohio in January , he encountered a religious culture that included enthusiastic demonstrations of spiritual gifts , including fits and trances, rolling on the ground, and speaking in tongues. Rigdon's followers had also been practicing a form of communalism , which Smith adopted, calling it the United Order.
Converts poured into Kirtland. By the summer of , there were fifteen hundred to two thousand Mormons in the vicinity, many expecting Smith to lead them shortly to the Millennial kingdom.
Smith advised them to bear the violence patiently until after they were attacked multiple times, after which they could fight back. Among these five groups was a quorum of twelve apostles. In late , a series of internal disputes led to the collapse of the Kirtland Mormon community.
He was also accused of engaging in a sexual relationship with his serving girl, Fanny Alger. Smith was held responsible for the failure, and there were widespread defections from the church, including many of Smith's closest advisers.
During this time, a church council expelled many of the oldest and most prominent leaders of the church, including John Whitmer, David Whitmer, W. Phelps , and Oliver Cowdery. By this time, Smith's experiences with mob violence led him to believe that his faith's survival required greater militancy against anti-Mormons. They unleashed a flood of anti-Mormon rhetoric in newspapers and in stump speeches given during the election campaign.
Non-Mormon vigilantes raided and burned Mormon farms, while Danites and other Mormons pillaged non-Mormon towns. Governor Lilburn Boggs then ordered that the Mormons be "exterminated or driven from the state". The following day, the Latter Day Saints surrendered to 2, state troops and agreed to forfeit their property and leave the state. Meanwhile Brigham Young , the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, rose to prominence when he organized the move of about 14, Mormon refugees to Illinois and eastern Iowa.
Understanding that he was effectively on trial before his own people, many of whom considered him a fallen prophet, he wrote a personal defense and an apology for the activities of the Danites. Illinois accepted Mormon refugees who gathered along the banks of the Mississippi River,  where Smith purchased high-priced, swampy woodland in the hamlet of Commerce. Bennett , the Illinois quartermaster general. The early Nauvoo years were a period of doctrinal innovation. Smith introduced baptism for the dead in , and in , construction began on the Nauvoo Temple as a place for recovering lost ancient knowledge.
For women, Smith introduced the Relief Society , a service club and sorority within which Smith predicted women would receive "the keys of the kingdom ". No longer envisioning the building of Zion in Nauvoo, Smith viewed Zion as encompassing all of North and South America, with Mormon settlements being " stakes " of Zion's metaphorical tent. After an unknown assailant shot and wounded Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs in May , anti-Mormons circulated rumors that Smith's bodyguard, Porter Rockwell , was the shooter.
Certain he would be killed if he ever returned to Missouri, Smith went into hiding twice during the next five months, before the U. Two law officers arrested Smith, but were intercepted by a party of Mormons before they could reach Missouri.
Smith was then released on a writ of habeas corpus from the Nauvoo municipal court. After receiving noncommittal or negative responses, Smith announced his own independent candidacy for President of the United States, suspended regular proselytizing , and sent out the Quorum of the Twelve and hundreds of other political missionaries.
Smith said the Council had authority to decide which national or state laws Mormons should obey. Death of Joseph Smith A 19th-century painting depicting the mob attack inside Carthage Jail By early , a rift developed between Smith and a half dozen of his closest associates.
Sharp , editor of the Warsaw Signal and longtime critic of Smith. Officials in Carthage responded by mobilizing their small detachment of the state militia, and Governor Thomas Ford appeared, threatening to raise a larger militia unless Smith and the Nauvoo city council surrendered themselves. Hyrum, who was trying to secure the door, was killed instantly with a shot to the face. Smith fired three shots from a pepper-box pistol his friend, Cyrus Wheelock , had lent him, wounding three men,   before he sprang for the window.
After his death, non-Mormon newspapers were almost unanimous in portraying Smith as a religious fanatic. During the first half of the 20th century, some writers suggested that Smith might have suffered from epileptic seizures or from psychological disorders such as paranoid delusions or manic-depressive illness that might explain his visions and revelations.