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Joseph Smith Jr. is born

Today in Masonic History Joseph Smith is born in 1805.

Joseph Smith was an American religious leader and the founder of the Latter-day Saints (Mormonism).

Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont his family soon after his birth moved to western New York. The area they moved to was the site of intense religious revivalism during the Second Great Awakening.

It was in this area that Smith claimed to have experienced visions. In one of these visions an angel directed to a set of golden plates inscribed with Judeo-Christian history of an ancient American civilization.

In 1830 Smith published, what he said, was the English translation of the plates, the Book of Mormon. That same year he established the Church of Christ whose members would later be called "Latter-day Saints" and "Mormons".

During the majority of the 1830's Smith lived in Kirtland, Ohio. One of his chief lieutenants and adversaries for leadership of the Church of Christ was Oliver Cowdery. Before moving to Kirtland Smith had sent Cowdery on a mission to find the New Jerusalem. Cowdery sent word in 1832 that he had found it in Jackson Country, Missouri. Non-Mormons in the area did not like the idea of outsiders, for both political and religious reasons, were moving into the county. Eventually the Mormons in Missouri were driven out.

Things were not going well in Kirtland either, in 1832 before a trip to Missouri to prevent the defection of several church leaders, Smith and another of his lieutenants Rigdon were tarred, feathered and nearly beaten to death by a mob.

By 1838 Smith's church found itself in steep financial problems. Smith and church leaders established a bank to help support the church and members were encouraged to invest in the bank, it quickly failed and Smith was blamed by many for the failure. In 1838 Smith left Kirtland and headed to Missouri.

In 1838 the Smith had abandoned any plans to reclaim Zion in Jackson County, Missouri. Instead the town of Far West, Missouri became the new Mormon Zion. The church also got a new name, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It also saw a number of influential Mormons expelled, including Cowdery, by a church council.

On July 4th, 1838 Rigdon gave a speech implicitly endorsed by Smith called for a "war of extermination" against mobs that would attack Mormons. Many non-Mormons saw this as a veiled threat and during the elections of 1838 prevented Mormons from voting in the state elections. This would lead to the 1838 Mormon War. When Mormons attacked the state militia at the Battle of Crooked River, the governor of Missouri ordered that the Mormons be "exterminated or driven out of the state". In November of 1838 the Mormons surrendered and Smith was put on trial for treason. Initially he was to be tried in a military court where the sentence would be death. Smith's attorney successfully argued that the trial should happen in a civilian court.

Smith spent several months in prison. While in prison Brigham Young led the church as a strong advocate of Smith. Under Young the church grew and under Young 14,000 Mormons made their way to Illinois who welcomed them as refuges. In the spring of 1839 Smith and his fellow Mormon prisoners escaped custody while bing moved, possibly with the assistance of the guards, and joined the church in Illinois.

In Illinois Smith purchased land and encouraged church members to join him there.

In 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois Smith inaugurated a revised endowment or "first anointing" which was a promised restoration of the "fullness of the priesthood". The endowment closely resembled rites of freemasonry, Smith having been initiated just a few months before declaring these new endowments.

In 1844 Smith came under attack by non-Mormons and members of the church that he had expelled. Those who opposed Smith went after at first through newspapers, attacking his political aspirations and polygamy. Two of his detractors claimed that Smith proposed marriage to their wives. In June of 1844 Smith and his brother Hyrum were arrested and held in the Carthage Jail. It was there that a mob came for the two men, Smith's brother was killed immediately while blocking the door he was shot in the face. When mob moved inside, Smith got off one shot. His last words were "Oh Lord, My God".

Smith was a member of Nauvoo Lodge in Illinois. Made up mostly of Mormons, the Grand Lodge of Illinois received many complaints about the lodge not being regular. The Grand Master of Illinois Abraham Jones, who had political ambitions of his own and saw the growing Mormon religion as a potential ally, declared the lodge to be regular. After Smith's death the lodge separated from the Grand Lodge of Illinois and Brigham Young encouraged members of the lodge to leave the fraternity.