Mormonism, the principal branch of the Latter Day Saint religious and cultural movement, emerged in the 1800s in upstate New York.
Summarize the early history of the Mormon Church
Mormonism is the principal branch of the Latter Day Saint religious and cultural movement. The movement began with the visions of Joseph Smith, Jr., in the "Burned-Over District" of upstate New York. Smith presented himself as a prophet and aimed to recapture what he viewed as the purity of the primitive Christian church that had been lost over the centuries. To Smith, this meant restoring male leadership.
In 1830, Smith published The Book of Mormonand organized the Church of Christ in upstate New York.
Due to persecution, the Mormons first moved to Ohio and then to Missouri. They were later expelled from Missouri, and so they built the city of Nauvoo, Illinois.
After Smith was assassinated in 1844, Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve took leadership of the church and led followers to a city near the Great Salt Lake in Utah.
One of the governing bodies in the hierarchy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) made up of apostles with the calling to be prophets, seers, revelators, evangelical ambassadors, and special witnesses of Jesus Christ.
The marriage of a man to more than one wife, or the practice of having several wives at the same time.
The Development of Mormonism
Mormonism is the principal branch of the Latter Day Saint religious and cultural movement. The movement began with the visions of Joseph Smith, Jr., in the "Burned-Over District" of upstate New York, which was so called for the intense flames of religious revival that swept across the region.
Smith came from a large Vermont family that had not prospered in the new market economy and moved to the town of Palmyra, New York. In 1823, Smith claimed to have to been visited by the angel Moroni, who told him the location of a trove of golden plates or tablets. During the late 1820s, Smith translated the writing on the golden plates, and in 1830, he published his finding as The Book of Mormon. With a small following, he organized the Church of Christ later that year, the progenitor of the Church of Latter-day Saints popularly known as "Mormons." He presented himself as a prophet and aimed to recapture what he viewed as the purity of the primitive Christian church—purity he believed had been lost over the centuries. To Smith, this meant restoring male leadership.
Smith emphasized the importance of families being ruled by fathers. His vision of a reinvigorated patriarchy resonated with men and women who had not thrived during the market revolution, and his claims attracted those who hoped for a better future. Smith’s new church placed great emphasis on work and discipline. He aimed to create a New Jerusalem where the church would exercise oversight of its members.
After the founding of the Church of Latter-day Saints (LDS) in 1830, members were often harshly treated by their neighbors, partially due to their religious beliefs and sometimes as a reaction against the actions and the words of the LDS Church and its members and leaders. This harsh treatment caused the body of the Church to move—first from New York to Ohio, then to Missouri, and then to Illinois, where church members built the city of Nauvoo.
Smith’s claims of translating the golden plates antagonized his neighbors in New York. Difficulties with anti-Mormons led him and his followers to move to Kirtland, Ohio, in 1831. By 1838, as the United States experienced continued economic turbulence following the Panic of 1837, Smith and his followers were facing financial collapse after a series of efforts in banking and moneymaking ended in disaster. They moved to Missouri, but trouble soon developed there as well, as citizens reacted against the Mormons’ beliefs. The 1838 Mormon War with other Missouri settlers ensued, culminating in the expulsion of adherents from the state. After leaving Missouri, Smith built the city of Nauvoo, Illinois, near which he was assassinated in 1844.
After Smith's death, a succession crisis ensued, and a majority voted to accept the Quorum of the Twelve, led by Brigham Young, as the church's leading body. The assassination of Smith made it clear the faith could not remain in Nauvoo—which the church had purchased, improved, renamed, and developed. The Mormon exodus began in 1846 when, in the face of these conflicts, Young decided to abandon Nauvoo and establish a new home for the church in the Great Basin. According to church belief, God inspired Young to call for the Saints (as church members call themselves) to organize and head west, beyond the western frontier of the United States (into what was then Mexico, though the U.S. Army had already captured New Mexico and California in late 1846).
Young led his followers along the Mormon Trail, a 1,300-mile route that Mormon pioneers traveled from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Salt Lake City, Utah. The journey, taken by about 70,000 people, began with church fathers sending out advanced parties in March of 1846. In the spring of 1847, Young led the vanguard company to the Salt Lake Valley, which was then outside the boundaries of the United States and which later became Utah. The period (including the flight from Missouri in 1838 to Nauvoo) known as the "Mormon Exodus" is, by convention among social scientists, traditionally assumed to have ended with the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869. Wagon train migrations to the far west continued sporadically until the twentieth century, but not everyone could afford to uproot and transport a family by railroad, and the transcontinental railroad network only serviced limited main routes.
Today a vast majority of Mormons are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), while a minority are members of other churches. Some Mormons are also either independent or non-practicing. Utah is the center of Mormon cultural influence, and North America has more Mormons than any other continent.
Mormons have developed a strong sense of community that stems from their doctrine and history. During the 1800s, Mormon converts tended to gather to a central geographic location. Between 1852 and 1890, many Mormons openly practiced plural marriage, a form of religious polygamy. Mormons dedicate large amounts of time and resources to serving in their church, and many young Mormons choose to serve a full-time proselytizing mission. Mormons have a health code that eschews alcoholic beverages, tobacco, coffee, tea, and other addictive substances. They tend to be very family-oriented and have strong connections across generations and with extended family. Mormons also follow strict laws of chastity, requiring abstention from sexual relations outside of marriage and strict fidelity within marriage.
Mormons self-identify as Christian, though some of their beliefs differ from mainstream Christianity. Mormons believe in the Bible, as well as other books of scripture, such as the Book of Mormon. They have a unique view of cosmology and believe that all people are spirit children of God. Mormons believe that returning to God requires following the example of Jesus Christ and accepting his atonement through ordinances such as baptism. They believe that Christ's church was restored through Joseph Smith and is guided by living prophets and apostles. The belief that God speaks to his children and answers their prayers is central to Mormon faith.