Joseph Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont, on December 23, 1805—only two days before Christmas! He lived on a farm with his father, Joseph Smith Sr.; his mother, Lucy Mack Smith; and his brothers and sisters.
Joseph’s family moved to Palmyra in 1816, when Joseph was 10 years old. As Joseph grew he became very concerned about religion. At the age of 14 he decided to ask God which church he should join. God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared and told him not to join any of the churches. In 1823, when Joseph was 17, the angel Moroni came to him and said that an ancient record was hidden near his home.
In 1825 Josiah Stowell hired Joseph to work for him in Harmony, Pennsylvania. There he met Emma Hale, and they were married on January 18, 1827. After moving back to Palmyra and receiving the gold plates, Joseph and Emma returned to Harmony and Joseph translated the Book of Mormon. On May 15, 1829, on the banks of the nearby Susquehanna River, Joseph and Oliver Cowdery were baptized and received the Aaronic Priesthood through John the Baptist. Later, in another location on the Susquehanna River, they were given the Melchizedek Priesthood through Peter, James, and John.
On April 6, 1830, about 50 people met at the home of Peter Whitmer Sr. in Fayette, New York, to organize The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were sustained as elders in the Church.
In February 1831 Joseph and his family moved with the Saints to Kirtland, Ohio. The Saints built the first temple in the latter days there and dedicated it in March 1836. For a time Joseph and Emma lived with Newel K. Whitney and his family in the Whitneys’ store. In Kirtland, the Saints witnessed many miracles, but they eventually had to leave because of persecution.
Joseph moved to Missouri in the spring of 1838. Far West served as Church headquarters. The cornerstones for a temple were laid, but the Saints were driven out by mobs before the temple was built.
The Church bought swampland next to the Mississippi River in the spring of 1839. There, they built a city and named it Nauvoo. They also built a temple. Joseph led the Nauvoo militia, and he and Emma ran a store where many important events took place.
Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were arrested on false charges and put in jail in Carthage, Illinois. On June 27, 1844, while Joseph and Hyrum waited for their trial, a mob attacked the jail where they were imprisoned. After Hyrum was killed, Joseph ran to the window. He cried, “O Lord, my God!” as he was martyred and fell. Joseph was 38 years old. He and his brother were buried in Nauvoo.