A Brief Chronology of Joseph Smith — 1805-1844

Compiled by Sandra Tanner


Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the organization now called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also referred to as the Mormon Church), was born on December 23rd in Sharon, Vermont, the fifth child of Lucy Mack and Joseph Smith, Sr. (Some list him as the fourth child, not listing the Smith's first child who died at birth, or shortly after.)


The Smith family moved to Lebanon, New Hampshire.


Joseph Smith contracted typhus fever. Infection settled in leg, which required surgery. Left him with a slight limp the rest of his life.


The Smiths moved to the Palmyra, New York area (40 miles east of Rochester, NY)

1820 Spring

Years after the event, Joseph claimed that after attending a revival in the area he had a vision of the Father and Son. He was told not to join any church as they were all wrong, their creeds were an abomination to God and the professors of those creeds were all corrupt (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith—History 1:19). However, there is no evidence of a revival that year, and Smith didn't record the vision until years later.


Joseph Smith found a seer stone while digging a well for a neighbor. He used this stone for a number of years to search for buried treasure. Later he would use it to translate the Book of Mormon, and to receive his early revelations. According to David Whitmer, Smith's revelations up to June 1829 came through his stone. (An Address to all Believers in Christ, p. 53)

1823 Sept. 23rd

The Angel Moroni allegedly visited Joseph in his bedroom three times, announcing that Smith was called to translate the ancient record of God's dealings with the former inhabitants of the Americas. This record was hidden in a hill a few miles from Smith's home, now referred to as the Hill Cumorah. Smith was to meet with the angel on the same date each year until God deemed him ready to translate.

1823 Nov. 19

Joseph Smith's brother Alvin died due to a bowel obstruction. Minister at funeral implied Alvin went to hell as he was not a baptized Christian.


Starting in the Fall there was a revival in the neighborhood involving the Methodists, Presbyterians and Baptists. This continued into Spring 1825. Joseph's mother, sister and two brothers joined the Presbyterians. (Rise of Mormonism, pp. 13-32)

1825 Oct.–Nov.

Josiah Stowell hired Joseph and his father to help him search for buried treasure near Harmony, Pennsylvania. Joseph boarded with Isaac Hale, where he met his future bride, Emma Hale.

1826 March 20th

Joseph Smith was brought before Judge Albert Neeley on charges of money digging, using a "peep stone" to locate buried treasures for hire, according to Court records of Chenango County, State of New York, People vs Joseph Smith, "The Glass Looker." (Mormonism—Shadow or Reality?, pp. 32-35)

1827 Jan.

Joseph eloped with Emma Hale. Her father opposed the wedding on grounds that Smith had no visible means of support and his involvement with magic and treasure hunting. Mr. Stowell helped Joseph and Emma move back to Manchester, NY.

1827 Sept. 22

Joseph went to the hill and received from the Angel Moroni the gold plates, Written in "Reformed Egyptian," it claimed to be the history of migrations from the old world to the new. One group came at the time of the Tower of Babel, the others about 600 BC. The descendants of these people became the American Indian.

1827 Nov./Dec.

Joseph and Emma moved back to her father's farm in Harmony, Pa. They took the plates with them, hid in a barrel of beans. Started to translate.

1828 Feb.

Martin Harris, who would later act as a scribe for Smith, took a document containing some of the characters copied from the plates to Samuel L. Mitchell and Charles Anthon to see if they were authentic. Prof. Anthon told him they were not authentic.

1828 April

Harris remained convinced that Smith was telling the truth and became his scribe.

1828 June

Harris took 116 pages of manuscript back to Palmyra to convince his wife the translation was true. Lucy Harris either destroyed the pages or hid them.

1828 June 15

Smith's first child died shortly after birth, leaving Emma near death. Sometime after this, Joseph traveled to his parents' home to retrieve the manuscript from Harris, only to learn that Harris had lost it.

1828 Spring/Summer

Joseph Smith signed up for the Methodist Church membership class. [See: The Mormon Prophet Attempts to Join the Methodists]

1828 Fall

In the fall Smith returned to his translation, using his brother Samuel, wife Emma, and her brother Reuben as scribes.

1829 April

Oliver Cowdery took over as scribe.

1829 May 15th

John the Baptist allegedly appeared and bestowed the Aaronic Priesthood on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery as part of the restoration of God's Church on earth — authority that Smith claimed had been lost shortly after Jesus died.

Smith later claimed that sometime after receiving the Aaronic Priesthood, Peter, James and John bestowed upon Joseph and Oliver the Melchizedek Priesthood.

1829 June

Secured copyright for Book of Mormon. Moved to Fayette, NY to complete his translation.

1830 (early in year)

In order to raise funds for the printing of the Book of Mormon, Joseph gave a revelation for several men to travel to Canada to sell the copyright. The revelation failed and was not included in his 1833 printing of his revelations. (Photo and typescript in The Joseph Smith Papers: Revelations and Translation, LDS Church Historian's Press, pp. 32-33; Mormonism—Shadow or Reality?, p. 186)

1830 March

5,000 copies of Book of Mormon were printed by the Grandin Print Shop in Palmyra, NY. Martin Harris pledged his farm to cover the printing costs. In April of 1831 one hundred and fifty-one acres of Harris' farm were auctioned off to pay the bill.

1830 April 6th

The Church of Christ was organized in New York with a handful of people, as God's one true church on earth. [D&C 1:30] Smith's church would change its name two more times.

1830 June

Began his revision of the Bible. Work on the revision continued into 1833. It has been estimated that half of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants are in some way connected to this translation effort. While the whole revision has been printed by the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), the LDS Church only prints extracts from the revision in the back of their bible.

1830 Nov.

Sidney Rigdon and other Campbellites joined Mormonism.

1831  Feb.

The Smiths and the church moved to Kirtland, Ohio, where Rigdon had been a pastor.  

1831 June

Smith traveled to Jackson County, Mo. where it was revealed that it was to be the site of the City of Zion and a temple. Mormons started settlements in Missouri. Members living in two main groups, in Ohio and Missouri.

1832 Feb. 16

Smith recorded his revelation on 3 degrees of glory in heaven. Also contained teaching that all humans are "begotten sons and daughters unto God" (D&C 76).

1832 March

Smith and Rigdon tarred and feathered in Ohio.

1832 Sept.

Revelation that the church was to build a temple in New Jerusalem (Independence, Mo.) in "this generation." (D&C 84:1-5)

1832 Fall

Joseph Smith wrote the earliest account of his first vision, attributing it to his "sixteenth year" (or 15 years old). In it he only mentioned "the Lord" as appearing, no mention of God the Father appearing as well. (An American Prophet's Record, p. 5)

1833 July

Joseph Smith's revelations were published as the Book of Commandments, at Independence, Missouri. The press was destroyed before the printing was completed, but a number of copies were salvaged.

1833 Fall

Mormons driven from Jackson County, Mo.


The name of the church was changed to The Church of the Latter Day Saints.

1834 May

Smith led group of Mormons, called Zion's Camp, to Missouri to reclaim their lands. Effort unsuccessful.

1834 Fall

E.D. Howe published first anti-Mormon expose, Mormonism Unvailed. Contained statements from Smith's NY neighbors about the Smiths involvement with magic and money digging.

1835 Feb.

Organized Council of Twelve Apostles, Quorum of Seventy.

1835 July

Church purchased Egyptian mummies and papyri. Smith began his "translating" of the papyri, which would eventually be published as the Book of Abraham, part of the Pearl of Great Price. Also composed an Egyptian alphabet and grammar.

About this time Joseph Smith had an affair with a young woman staying in his home, Fanny Alger. It was later claimed to be a plural marriage. Oliver Cowdery referred to it in 1838 as a "dirty, nasty, filthy affair." (Mormonism—Shadow or Reality?, p. 203)

1835 Sept.

A new edition of Joseph Smith's revelations was published under the title Doctrine and Covenants. However, numerous changes were made in the revelations from the 1833 printing. Section 101:4 denied the practice of polygamy. This section was maintained in every ed. of the D&C until replaced in 1876 with section 132 commanding polygamy. Also included in the 1835 ed. were the Lectures on Faith, which were deleted years later, in the 1921 ed. of the D&C.

1835 Nov.

Smith hired Prof. Seixas to teach the elders Hebrew.

1836 March

Dedicated the Kirtland temple. Financial problems brewing.

1836 July

Smith left for the east, went to Salem, Mass. in search of treasures. Nothing found. (D&C, section 111)

1836 Nov.

Smith established the Kirtland Safety Society Bank, but couldn't obtain a charter. Bank failed. Many members agitating against Smith. [See: Joseph Smith's Kirtland Bank Failure]


A new edition of the Book of Mormon was published, with thousands of corrections in spelling and grammar. While most changes did not affect the meaning, a number of them did. [See: Introduction to 3,913 Changes in the Book of Mormon]

1837 Dec.

Growing dissent among members over financial matters. Martin Harris excommunicated.

1838 Jan.

Joseph fled Kirtland, and went to Far West, Mo., fleeing the wrath of the law and disgruntled members.

1838 April

Oliver Cowdery excommunicated. David Whitmer withdrew his membership. The name of the church was changed to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

1838 June

Rigdon preached his famous "Salt Sermon," directed at those who had opposed Smith. Two days later, eighty Mormons signed a statement (the Danite Manifesto) warning the dissenters to "depart, or a more fatal calamity shall befall you." Mormons formed the Danites. Dissenters Whitmer, Cowdery, and others fled Far West. (The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power Vol. 1, p. 94)

1838 July 4th

Rigdon preached another sermon of a similar nature, stating "And that mob that comes on us to disturb us; it shall be between us and them a war of extermination; for we will follow them till the last drop of their blood is spilled, or else they will have to exterminate us." (Mormonism—Shadow or Reality?, p. 434)

1838 Aug.

"Danites skirmish with anti-Mormons who try to prevent Mormons from voting at Gallatin. A civil war breaks out in four Missouri counties" (The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power Vol. 1, p. 628)

1838 Oct. 25

"Apostle David W. Patten is killed while leading Danites against the Missouri militia in the 'Battle of Crooked River.' Apostle Parley P. Pratt kills a militiaman, and wounds another who (while unconscious on the ground) is mutilated by enraged Danites." (The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power Vol. 1, p. 629)

1838 Oct. 27

Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs issued the "extermination" order against the Mormons.

1838 Oct. 30

17 Mormons were massacred at Haun's Mill, Missouri, by non-Mormon militia, headed up by Sheriff Jennings of Caldwell County. Historians generally agree that the militia was unlikely to have known about Gov. Boggs edict.

1838 Oct. 31

Smith surrendered to Missouri militia at Far West and was imprisoned. Spends months in Liberty Jail while awaiting trial.


Mormons are driven out of Missouri due to conflicts between them and the non- Mormons.

1839 April

Smith escaped while being transferred to another county, fled to Illinois. Settlement of what was to become Nauvoo, Illinois started.


Mormon Church had about 17,000 members. Gov. of Illinois signed the Nauvoo charter, giving the city of Nauvoo extensive legal rights.

1841 Feb.

Smith organized the Nauvoo Legion, which became the largest militia in the U.S.

1841 April

Joseph Smith was secretly sealed to Louisa Beaman, usually listed as his first plural wife. Over the next 3 years he would marry at least 33 women in secret marriages.

John C. Bennett joined Mormonism, was appointed an Assistant President of the Church, and mayor of Nauvoo. In the coming months various charges of immorality were raised against him. His defense was he was following the teachings of Joseph Smith regarding polygamy.


Joseph Smith, John Taylor and other members of the Mormon Church printed denials of polygamy in the newspaper, even when they were practicing it.


Smith published his "Book of Abraham" in the LDS newspaper, Times and Seasons. Also, an account of Smith's 1820 vision was published for the first time.

1842 March 15

Smith became a Free Mason (History of the Church, v. 4, pp. 551-552)

1842 May 4

Smith privately introduced the temple endowment. Women were not included until September 1843.

1842 May 6

"An assassination attempt is made on Missouri's ex-governor Lilburn W. Boggs, allegedly by former Danite and later member of the Council of Fifty Orrin Porter Rockwell." (The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power Vol. 1, p. 634)

1842 May 19

Joseph Smith becomes Mayor of Nauvoo.

1842 Summer

John C. Bennett published his expose of Mormon polygamy, The History of the Saints, and was excommunicated.

1843 April

Joseph Smith prophesied "There are those of the rising generation who shall not taste death till Christ comes. . . . I prophesy in the name of the Lord God, and let it be written—the Son of Man will not come in the clouds of heaven till I am eight-five years old." (The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power Vol. 1, p. 638; History of the Church 5:336)

1843 May

Smith "translated" a portion of the Kinderhook Plates, which were later shown to be forgeries, invented by non-Mormons to expose Smith's fraud. [See: The Kinderhook Plates]

1843 July

Smith privately dictated a revelation authorizing the practice of polygamy, but it was not formally announced until 1852, and was not included in LDS scripture until 1876 (present day D&C 132.) The 1876 D&C no longer contained the 1835 section denouncing polygamy.

1843 Aug. 12

Meeting in Hyrum Smith's office, Joseph Smith's revelation on plural marriage was read to the High Council. At least two members objected to the revelation.


Smith announced his candidacy for U.S. President.

1844 March

He secretly established the theocratic Council of Fifty.

1844 April

Smith was secretly anointed and ordained by the Council of Fifty as King, Priest, and Ruler over Israel on Earth.

1844 April 7

Smith delivered his "King Follett" sermon on plurality of gods (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 342-357; also p. 312, 369-373)

1844 May 12

Smith preached, "I calculate to be one of the instruments of setting up the kingdom of Daniel by the word of the Lord, and I intend lay a foundation that will revolutionize the whole world." (The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power Vol. 1, p. 644)

1844 June 7

The first and only issue of the Nauvoo Expositor was published. In it former church leaders, now dissenters, condemned Smith's secret polygamy, doctrine of plural gods, his political aspirations, and his ordination as king.

1844 June 10

As mayor of Nauvoo, Smith condemned the Expositor as a public nuisance, printing libelous statements against him, and ordered its destruction. This caused a great uproar in the community.

1844 June 18

Nauvoo placed under martial law.

1844 June 24

Joseph and Hyrum Smith surrendered to civil authorities to stand trial for "riot and treason" (The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power Vol. 1, p. 646). The next day he was taken to Carthage.

1844 June 27

While incarcerated at Carthage Jail, Joseph and Hyrum were allowed to have several visitors. Two men smuggled guns into them. At approximately 5 p.m. a mob stormed the jail. Joseph and Hyrum shot back, and Joseph wounded a couple of men, one of whom was later said to have died. The mob killed Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and wounded John Taylor. (History of the Church, vol. 6, pp. 617-618; vol. 7, pp. 100-103; Mormonism—Shadow or Reality?, pp. 258-259)

In the ensuing struggle to determine the rightful successor to Joseph Smith, Brigham Young gained the support of the majority of the apostles and became the next president of the church.