Book Research, Western Life

The Mormons – Beginnings

The religious group known as the Mormons are a part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They can be differentiated by their belief in The Book of Mormon, and often refer to themselves as Latter-day Saints, or Saints. Joseph Smith founded the religion, in the early 1820s,  after a vision he received, in which an angel led him to a buried account of an ancient religion. This document had been written on golden plates, by a prophet/historian called Mormon. By March 1830, Smith had translated these into The Book of Mormon and its teachings became the basis of the new religion.

On April 6,1830 Smith founded The Church of Christ, and moved with his followers to Kirkland, Ohio. Here he planned to build the city of Zion, or the New Jerusalem, a paradise in which the religion’s followers would reside. The other residents were unwelcoming, however, and on October 27, 1838, Missouri’s governor proclaimed that Mormons ‘must be treated as enemies’ and driven from the state, or exterminated. Eight thousand Mormons moved into Illinois where they purchased a small town, then called Commerce. They renamed it Nauvoo, and began building the Nauvoo Temple, which became the church’s new headquarters.

The city grew rapidly, mainly because of European migrants that had converted to the religion. Smith introduced various practices including: plural marriage, which was practiced secretly by some leaders until 1852, the doctrines of exaltation, and temple ceremonies aimed at sealing families together for eternity. He also published the story of his first vision, which the majority of Mormons believe is the most important event in the history of humanity; after the birth, life, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Smith received this vision at 14, in which the Father and the Son appeared to him, and it would determine the events of the rest of his life.

The peculiar practices of the Mormons caused tensions with the locals once again, and on June 27th, 1844, Smith and his brother were killed by a mob. Brigham Young, a close associate of Smith’s and senior apostle of The Quorum of the Twelve, assumed leadership of the majority of the Latter Day Saints. To avoid the continuation of the conflict, Young led his followers to a winter quarters in Nebraska. In 1847, he and his group moved to what has become known as the Utah Territory.

The difficulties that had faced the followers in building Zion, while integrated in the American society, caused Young to create an isolated community. Working together the members branched out into a large desert region, known as the Mormon Corridor, to create an extended farming community. The Mormons began to expand their recruiting efforts, and converts were expected to gather in their new Zion. Before Young’s death in 1877, over 80,000 had arrived in the desert, not only from their North American homeland, but also from Europe, Latin and South America.

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