Portal:History of the Latter Day Saint movement

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History of the Latter Day Saint movement

An 1893 engraving depicting Joseph Smith's description of receiving artifacts from the angel Moroni.

The Latter Day Saint movement is a religious movement within Christianity that arose during the Second Great Awakening in the early 19th century and that led to the set of doctrines, practices, and cultures called Mormonism, and to the existence of numerous Latter Day Saint churches. Its history is characterized by intense controversy and persecution in reaction to some of the movement's doctrines and practices and their relationship to mainstream Christianity (see Mormonism and Christianity). The purpose of this article is to give an overview of the different groups, beliefs, and denominations that began with the influence of Joseph Smith.

The founder of the Latter Day Saint movement was Joseph Smith, who was raised in the burned-over district of Upstate New York, and claimed that, in response to prayer, he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ, as well as angels and other visions. This eventually led him to a restoration of Christian doctrine that, he said, was lost after the early Christian apostles were killed. In addition, several early leaders made marked doctrinal and leadership contributions to the movement, including Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Brigham Young. Modern-day revelation from God continues to be a principal belief of the Mormon faith.

Mormon history as an academic field is called Mormon studies.

Selected article

The history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is typically divided into three broad time periods:

  1. the early history during the lifetime of Joseph Smith which is in common with all Latter Day Saint movement churches,
  2. a "pioneer era" under the leadership of Brigham Young and his 19th-century successors, and
  3. a modern era beginning around the turn of the 20th century as the practice of polygamy was discontinued.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints traces its origins to western New York, where Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, was raised. Joseph Smith gained a small following in the late 1820s as he was dictating the Book of Mormon, which he said was a translation of words found on a set of "golden plates" that had been buried near his home in western New York by an indigenous American prophet. On April 6, 1830, in western New York, Smith organized the religion's first legal church entity, the Church of Christ. The church rapidly gained a following, who viewed Smith as their prophet. The main body of the church moved first to Kirtland, Ohio in the early 1830s, then to Missouri in 1838, where the 1838 Mormon War with other Missouri settlers ensued, culminating in adherents being expelled from the state under Missouri Executive Order 44 signed by the governor of Missouri. After Missouri, Smith built the city of Nauvoo, Illinois, near which Smith was killed. After Smith's death, a succession crisis ensued, and the majority voted to accept the Quorum of the Twelve, led by Brigham Young, as the church's leading body.

After continued difficulties and persecution in Illinois, Young left Nauvoo in 1846 and led his followers, the Mormon pioneers, to the Great Salt Lake Valley. The group branched out in an effort to pioneer a large state to be called Deseret, eventually establishing colonies from Canada to present-day Mexico. Young incorporated The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a legal entity, and governed his followers as a theocratic leader serving in both political and religious positions. He also publicized the previously secret practice of plural marriage, a form of polygamy. By 1857, tensions had again escalated between Mormons and other Americans, largely as a result of church teachings on polygamy and theocracy. The Utah Mormon War ensued from 1857 to 1858, which resulted in the relatively peaceful invasion of Utah by the United States Army, after which Young agreed to step down from power and be replaced by a non-Mormon territorial governor, Alfred Cumming. Nevertheless, the LDS Church still wielded significant political power in the Utah Territory as part of a shadow government. At Young's death in 1877, he was followed by other powerful members, who continued the practice of polygamy despite opposition by the United States Congress. After tensions with the U.S. government came to a head in 1890, the church officially abandoned the public practice of polygamy in the United States, and eventually stopped performing official polygamous marriages altogether after a Second Manifesto in 1904. Eventually, the church adopted a policy of excommunicating its members found practicing polygamy and today seeks to actively distance itself from “fundamentalist” groups still practicing polygamy.

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Selected biography

Church Historian and Recorder (usually shortened to Church Historian) is a priesthood calling in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The role of the Church Historian and Recorder is to keep an accurate and comprehensive record of the church and its activities. His office gathers history sources and preserves records, ordinances, minutes, revelations, procedures, and other documents. The Church Historian and Recorder also chairs the Historic Sites Committee and Records Management Committee, and may act as an authoritative voice of the church in historical matters. Read more...

Selected Location

Black-and-white photograph of slender, tall birch trees
Photograph of the grove by George Edward Anderson, circa 1907

The foundational event of the Latter Day Saint movement took place in what is commonly referred to as the Sacred Grove. This Grove is a forested area of western New York near the home of Joseph Smith. It is the location where Smith said he had his First Vision, an important theophany in the movement's theology, occurring in the spring of 1820.

The exact location of the Sacred Grove is not known, but it would likely have been west of Smith's adolescent home on the border of the towns of Palmyra and Manchester. This area was being cleared at the time for farming by the Smith family, who were also using the trees to harvest maple syrup. The area has been purchased by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), which cares for the area and allows tourists to visit. Latter Day Saints view the place as a sacred site. Read more...

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