Joseph SmithReligious Figure
Born: 23 December 1805
Died: 27 June 1844 (murder)
Birthplace: Sharon, Vermont
Best known as: Founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Name at birth: Joseph Smith, Jr.
Raised a Christian in Vermont and New York, Joseph Smith was the founding prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon church. According to Smith's own account, he had a vision from God when he was fourteen years old. A few years later he was visited by an angel, Moroni, who told him of the Book of Mormon and how to revive the gospel of Jesus. At the age of 21, Moroni directed Smith to a hillside in rural New York, where he uncovered metal plates ("Gold Plates") and two "seer stones," divination tools sometimes referred to as the Urim and Thummim (terms used infrequently in the Old Testament and whose precise meaning is clouded in mystery). Smith said the Urim and Thummim were from a prophet, Mormon, and revealed the record of ancient Israelites who had escaped to the Americas around 600 B.C. Smith, using the stones, translated the word of Mormon to form the new canon of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which was founded in 1830. With his followers, Smith settled in Ohio, Missouri and Illinois in search of the New Zion. A prophet to his followers and a fraud to his detractors, Smith was killed along with his brother by a mob in Carthage, Illinois in 1844. After his death, the Church was led by Brigham Young.
Extra credit: The name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is often shortened to simply LDS... The church's official website notes that while Mormon is an unofficial term for members of the faith, "members prefer to be referred to as Latter-day Saints."
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