History and Analysis of Mormonism in America
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was officially organized by Joseph Smith in
Western New York on April 6, 1830, and by 1978, spread to more than seventy nations. One
uniqueness of the Mormon religion is that it was the first church to have begun in the United
Following the revivals of the 1800's, religion entered a temporary decline in Western New York,
reawakened in 1807-1808, then declined again because of the military excitement The Chnts of
After this time, a new wave of revivalism began, in liberal churches such as the Unitarians and to
conservative churches such as the Congregationalists. Not surprisingly, as all of these churches
participated in revivals, there was plenty of squabbling to go around.
Joseph Smith Jr. was born in Sharon, Vermont, on December 23, 1805, and as a boy moved with
his family to New York. His family by no means had it easy, in their first two years in New York
they ran a small shop in town and hired themselves out as laborers to more prosperous citizens.
Joseph Smith Jr. was taught at home, and he was literate.
Joseph Smith had his first "vision" when he was between fourteen and sixteen years of age. He
reported this to his parents and of course the claim that God and Jesus Christ actually appeared to
a modern man was somewhat doubted. "Faced with Joseph Smith's account of a subjective
religious experience in a literal historical setting, writers of the past have either accepted it as fact,
or more commonly, rejected it as falsehood or delusion." (Arrington p.5) There seemed to be no
middle ground on the issue.
The account of the first "vision" describes Joseph Smith's confusion as a boy over the many
different religious expressions going on. Inspired by the words of James he was asking God for
wisdom. He went into the woods to pray and in the words of Joseph Smith, "I saw a pillar of light
over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me . . .
when the light rested upon me I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all
description, standing above me in the air. One of them spoke unto me, calling me by name and
said, pointing to the other, This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him." To Joseph this meant that he was
forgiven of his sins and was not to join any of the organized churches.
For the Mormons the visit of an angel to Joseph Smith during the night of September 21, 1823,
signaled the documentary foundation of Mormonism. A statue representing the angel stands atop
the Salt Lake Temple. In one hand the figure holds a trumpet: in the other are clasped plates
symbolic of the Book of Mormon, the ancient religious record whose existence Smith claimed
was revealed to him in 1823.
Shortly after his first vision Joseph Smith was concerned with his lack of spirituality. He was
praying on Sept. 21 when he was rewarded with the appearance of an angelic being...