Joseph Smith was born on December 23, 1805, in Sharon, Vermont, to Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith. The family moved from Vermont to New Hampshire to New York, each time looking for a better farming situation. Joseph received approximately a third-grade education and new how to read, write, and basic arithmetic.
As a young man Joseph was caught up in the great religious excitement in the area around his home in Manchester, New York. Young Joseph – then just fourteen years old – wanted to know which church he should join. While studying the scriptures, he came across James 1:5 and read: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
Joseph realized that he needed wisdom and decided to “ask of God” as James counseled. Early one morning in the spring of 1820, Joseph went to a secluded place in the woods and knelt down in prayer to ask God which church he should join. He had no sooner started his prayer than he saw a light descending from heaven and saw two Personages. One of them called him by name and said, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith – History 1:15-17).
As soon as Joseph recovered from his shock, he inquired which of all the sects were right and was told that he should “join none of them, for they were all wrong” (Joseph Smith – History 1:18-19).
In 1823 Joseph Smith again knelt in prayer to ask his standing before God. He was visited by an angel named Moroni sent from the presence of God. Moroni told Joseph of an ancient record containing God’s dealing with ancient Americans. Moroni instructed Joseph over a period of four years. Joseph retrieved the ancient record in 1827 and soon began translating the record into English by the “gift of God.” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Title Page). The translated manuscript was published as the Book of Mormon in March 1830. On April 6, 1830, Joseph organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and became the first president of the Church.
Joseph Smith married Emma Hale on January 18, 1827. They had a loving and devoted relationship and became the parents of eleven children (two by adoption), six of whom died in infancy.
During his thirty-nine years of life, “Joseph established thriving cities in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois; produced [several] volumes of scripture; sent missionaries throughout the world; orchestrated the building of temples; served as mayor of Nauvoo, one of the largest cities in Illinois, and as general of its militia, the Nauvoo Legion; and was a candidate for the presidency of the United States.”
Angel Moroni told Joseph Smith that his name would be known for good and evil. This was true during his mortal life and is still true today. Joseph Smith is hated by his detractors and loved by his followers. Joseph Smith was persecuted from 1820 until he and his brother were killed by a mob on June 27, 1844, in Carthage, Illinois.
In honor of Joseph Smith’s birthday on December 23, you might want to hold a family home evening about him and his life of service. You can find a wonderful family home evening at this site.
I know that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God. I encourage you to study the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ and ask God if it is true. If you ask God in the name of Jesus Christ with a sincere heart and real intent, the truthfulness of the book will be manifest to you by the power of the Holy Ghost. The manifestation may not come suddenly because you will have to prove to God that you truly desire to know if it is true. It did not come suddenly to me, but it did come. I know the Book of Mormon is truly the word of God!