This Day in History – March 24th, 1832


Joseph Smith, Jr. (December 23rd, 1805 – June 27th, 1844)

Joseph Smith, Jr. was an American religious leader and founder of Mormonism. When he was twenty-four, Smith published the Book of Mormon; by the time of his death fourteen years later, he had attracted tens of thousands of followers and founded a religion and religious culture that continues to the present.

When Smith moved to Kirtland, Ohio, in January 1831, he encountered a religious culture that included enthusiastic demonstrations of spiritual gifts, including fits and trances, rolling on the ground, and speaking in tongues. Smith tamed these outbursts by producing two revelations that brought the Kirtland congregation under his own authority. Rigdon’s followers had also been practicing a form of communalism, and this Smith adopted, calling it the United Order. Smith had promised church elders that in Kirtland they would receive an endowment of heavenly power, and at the June 1831 general conference, he introduced the greater authority of a High (“Melchizedek”) Priesthood to the church hierarchy.

JosephsmithtarandfeatherharpersConverts poured into Kirtland. By the summer of 1835, there were fifteen hundred to two thousand Mormons in the vicinity, many expecting Smith to lead them shortly to the Millennial kingdom. Though the mission to the Indians had been a failure, the missionaries sent on their way by a government Indian agent, Cowdery reported that he had found the site of the New Jerusalem in Jackson County, Missouri. After Smith visited in July 1831, he agreed, pronouncing the frontier hamlet of Independence the “center place” of Zion. Nevertheless, Rigdon disapproved, and for most of the 1830s the church remained divided between Ohio and Missouri. Smith continued to live in Ohio, but visited Missouri again in early 1832 in order to prevent a rebellion of prominent church members, including Cowdery, who believed the church in Missouri was being neglected. Smith’s trip was hastened by a mob of Ohio residents who were incensed over the United Order and Smith’s political power. On March 24th, 1832 in Hiram, Ohio, the mob beat Smith and Rigdon unconscious, tarred and feathered them, and left them for dead.

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