Highlights in the Prophet’s Life
Joseph Smith’s thirty-eight and one-half years were marked by the highest of spiritual peaks and the depths of tribulation, sorrow, and betrayal such as few mortals have experienced. It was in the hearts of some who knew him to be his brothers and sisters for eternity, and in the hearts of others to shed his blood. In the end, the latter group celebrated a short season of seeming triumph, while the former received the assurance of heaven that their desire would be granted.
The following timeline puts some of Joseph Smith’s work, joys, and sorrows into their time and setting. Dates of events of particular interest are highlighted in the following colors:
Significant Personal Events
Significant Church History/Doctrinal Events
December 23: Born, Sharon Township, Windsor County, Vermont. (The Smith family lived in seven locations by the time Joseph turned 14: Sharon, Tunbridge, and South Royalton, Vermont; West Lebanon, New Hampshire; Norwich, Vermont; the village of Palmyra, and Palmyra Township, New York.)
Ca. 1813 Age 7
Exact Date Unknown West Lebanon, Grafton County, New Hampshire: The Smith children contract typhoid fever during an epidemic. Joseph’s leg becomes infected and he undergoes an operation to remove the infected bone rather than having an amputation. The miraculous surgery saves his life, though Joseph has to use crutches for many years.
1816 Age 11
Ontario County, New York: The Smith family moves to the village of Palmyra.
1820 Age 14
Early Spring Manchester Township, Ontario County, New York: Joseph receives the First Vision, of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, in the Sacred Grove in answer to a prayer about which church to join.
1823 Age 17
September 21–22 Joseph is instructed by the angel Moroni for the first time, who reveals to Joseph information about an ancient record that will need to be translated and the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
November 19 Palmyra Township: Joseph’s brother Alvin dies.
1824 Age 18
September 22 Joseph is instructed by the angel Moroni at the Hill Cumorah on this date until 1827.
1826 Age 20
March 20 South Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York: Joseph is tried and acquitted on the fanciful charge of being a “disorderly person.” Josiah Stowell, Joseph’s employer, testified on Joseph’s behalf.
1827 Age 21
January 18 South Bainbridge, New York: Joseph marries Emma Hale.
September 22 After years of instruction, Joseph obtains the brass plates from the angel Moroni at Hill Cumorah. Emma accompanies him on the trip.
December Because of persecution, Joseph and Emma decide to leave Manchester and move to Harmony, Pennsylvania to live with Emma’s parents.
1828 Age 22
February New York City: Martin Harris obtains certificate of authenticity from Professor Charles Anthon stating Joseph’s translation of a set of ancient characters is correct. Anthon asks where the characters were found. Upon hearing Joseph’s story, Anthon withdraws certification and offers to translate the gold plates himself. Learning that part of the plates are sealed, he says, in fulfillment of prophecy (Isaiah 29:11), “I cannot read a sealed book.”
April 12 Harmony, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania: Joseph Smith commences translation of the Book of Mormon with Martin Harris as scribe.
June 14 Palmyra Township: Martin Harris leaves Harmony with 116 translated pages of the Book of Mormon, against the Lord’s counsel, to show them to others and convince them of the truth of the translation. The pages are lost between June and July.
June 15 Harmony, Pennsylvania: Joseph and Emma’s first son, Alvin, is born. He dies within hours.
July Joseph’s first known recording of a revelation immediately after receiving it (Doctrine and Covenants 3).
July The interpreters and plates are taken from the Prophet by the angel Moroni.
September 22 The interpreters and plates are returned to the Prophet by angel Moroni.
1829 Age 23
February Joseph Smith Sr. visits Joseph. Joseph Smith Jr. receives revelation about his father, now found in Doctrine and Covenants Section 4.
April 5 Harmony, Pennsylvania: Oliver Cowdery arrives from New York and work on the translation recommences on Apr 7.
May 15 Harmony, Pennsylvania: Joseph and Oliver receive the Aaronic Priesthood from John the Baptist and are baptized.
June 1 Fayette, New York: Joseph moves and stays with the Peter Whitmer family, continuing the translation of the Book of Mormon.
June Fayette, Seneca County, New York: Joseph finishes Book of Mormon translation; three witnesses view the plates, see angel Moroni, and hear the voice of God; Manchester Township eight witnesses see and handle the plates.
June–July Harmony: Joseph returns home with Emma.
1830 Age 24
March 26 Palmyra, New York: The Book of Mormon is made available to the public at E. B. Grandin’s Bookstore.
April 6 Fayette, New York: Joseph Smith officially organizes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The priesthood offices of deacon, teacher, priest, and elder are announced (See Doctrine and Covenants 20.)
June 28 Joseph Smith is arrested on false charges of disorderly conduct and is acquitted.
June 30–March 1831 Joseph continues translating the writings of Moses (chapters 2–8).
Last week of August Harmony: Joseph and Emma move to Fayette.
September and October Under God’s direction, Joseph calls the first Mormon missionaries.
1831 Age 25
January 2 Joseph receives revelation detailing why the Church must move to Ohio (Doctrine and Covenants 38); the Lord promises his law and an endowment.
On or about February 1 Kirtland, Geauga County, Ohio: Joseph arrives in Kirtland, which will be the seat of Church government for the next seven years.
February 4 Edward Partridge is called as the first bishop (Doctrine and Covenants 41).
April 30 Joseph and Emma’s twins, Louisa and Thaddeus, are born premature; they live only three hours.
Spring Joseph miraculously heals two women.
May 9 Joseph and Emma adopt newborn twins Joseph and Julia Murdock whose mother died in childbirth.
June 3 The office of high priest is announced at the fourth general conference of the Church.
June 19 Joseph starts for Missouri to designate the “land of Zion.”
July 20 Independence, Jackson County, Missouri: Jackson County is designated the center place for Zion and its temple (Doctrine and Covenants 57).
August 3 Joseph dedicates the site for a temple in Missouri.
September 12 Ohio: Joseph moves to Hiram, Portage County.
November 1 Joseph compiles all of the revelations he has received so far and the members of the Church decide to print them under the name Book of Commandments. This book is now known as the Doctrine and Covenants.
December 3 Joseph receives a revelation calling him and Sidney Rigdon on missions. They leave Kirtland to start their mission in Southern Ohio.
1832 Age 26
January 10 Joseph and Sidney return to Kirtland.
January 25 Joseph is officially sustained as president and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He serves in this position until his death.
February 16 Joseph receives, with Sidney Rigdon, a vision of the three degrees of glory, which reveals doctrine about the life after death (Doctrine and Covenants 76).
March 24 Hiram, Ohio: Joseph and Sidney Rigdon are taken by a mob in the middle of the night and tarred and feathered.
March 29 Joseph and Emma’s adopted son, Joseph Murdock, dies in consequence of exposure the night Joseph was tarred and feathered. Joseph had been caring for the sick infant when he was taken, and the baby was left alone with the door letting the cold in.
October–November Albany, New York and Boston, Massachusetts: Joseph serves a mission with Newel K. Whitney (see Doctrine and Covenants 84:114).
November 6 Kirtland: Joseph Smith III is born a few hours before Joseph’s return home from his mission to the East.
1833 Age 27
January 22–23 Kirtland: Joseph organizes the School of the Prophets (see Doctrine and Covenants 88:70–80, 117–141).
February 27 Joseph receives the revelation on the Word of Wisdom (Doctrine and Covenants 89), the Mormon health code.
March 18 Kirtland: Joseph organizes the First Presidency of the Church from the presidency of the High Priesthood, with Joseph Smith as the President, and Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams as counselors.
June 1 Work begins on the temple in Kirtland.
July 23 Kirtland: The temple cornerstones are laid.
October 5–November 4 Joseph serves another mission to Pennsylvania, New York, and parts of Canada.
November 22 Joseph learns of the expulsion of the Saints from Zion (Jackson County, Missouri) and the tragic consequences of mob action in Missouri.
December 18 The priesthood office of evangelist, or patriarch, is announced. The first patriarchal blessings of this dispensation are given to Joseph’s parents, three brothers, and Oliver Cowdery.
1834 Age 28
February 17 Kirtland: The first stake of the Church is organized with Joseph as stake president.
February 26 In accordance with revelation, Joseph begins recruitment for Zion’s Camp, a group of men who travelled to help the Saints expelled from Jackson County in Missouri (see Doctrine and Covenants 101, Doctrine and Covenants 103).
May 8 Joseph leaves for Missouri, heading one of two branches of Zion’s Camp.
June 22 The “Fishing River” revelation (Doctrine and Covenants 105) disbands Zion’s Camp.
July Joseph returns to Kirtland after Zion’s Camp is disbanded.
September 1 Joseph personally works on the temple in Kirtland.
October Pontiac, Michigan: Joseph visits Saints.
1835 Age 29
February 14 Joseph organizes the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
February 28 Joseph organizes the Quorum of the Seventy.
March 28 Joseph receives revelation on priesthood (Doctrine and Covenants 107), outlining the responsibilities of the offices of the priesthood.
July 9 Egyptian mummies and papyri are purchased from Michael Chandler with funds from some of the Saints donated for that purpose.
July 19 Joseph begins translating the papyri from Michael Chandler. The translation will be known as the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price.
September The first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants is completed.
1836 Age 30
January 21 Joseph receives a revelation about celestial glory and sees his deceased brother (Doctrine and Covenants 137), Alvin, in heaven. He learns that God will save those who were righteous but did not have the gospel.
March 27 Joseph dedicates the Kirtland Temple (see Doctrine and Covenants 109).
April 3 Joseph and Oliver Cowdery receive a series of visions in the Kirtland Temple. The Lord appears and accepts the temple; Moses restores the keys of the gathering of Israel; Elias restores the keys of the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham (the eternal family order); Elijah restores the keys of fullness of the priesthood sealing power (Doctrine and Covenants 110).
June 20 Kirtland: Frederick Granger Williams Smith is born to Joseph and Emma.
July 25–September Salem, Massachusetts: Joseph serves a mission.
November 2 Joseph helps organize the Kirtland Safety Society Bank.
1837 Age 31
May Kirtland: A major internal Church dissension begins with the economic Panic of 1837, which causes many banks (including the Kirtland Safety Society) to fail. Many call Joseph a fallen prophet.
June Joseph sends the first missionaries to England; they arrive July 19.
1838 Age 32
January 12 Joseph leaves Kirtland to escape mob violence associated with apostasy of Saints there. He waits in Norton for his family to join him. He is followed for nearly two hundred miles by those who threatened him.
March 14 Joseph arrives with family in Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri.
June 2 Far West, Missouri:Alexander Hale Smith born to Joseph and Emma.
July 4 Far West: Cornerstones are laid for a temple.
July 8Joseph receives a revelation concerning tithing and institutes it as a part of the Church.
August 6 Gallatin, Daviess County, Missouri: Some Latter-day Saints suffer in election-day violence when they go to vote because they are anti-slavery.
October 9 The Prophet records that in answer to Latter-day Saint pleas to government for protection from increasing mob violence, Missouri Governor Lilburn W. Boggs replied that “the quarrel was between the Mormons and the mob.”
October 25 The Battle of Crooked River results in the deaths of Elder David W. Patten of the Twelve and of a Missouri state militiaman.
October 27 Jefferson City, Missouri: Responding to false and inflammatory reports that the Saints are committing aggressive actions, Governor Boggs issues his “extermination order” allowing citizens to torment and drive out the Saints from Missouri under threat of death.
October 30 Daviess County, Missouri: Murderous attack on Latter-day Saints at Haun’s Mill.
October 31 The Prophet and other Church leaders are taken prisoners during what they were told would be a peace talk with leaders of the Missouri state militia besieging Far West.
November 1 Arbitrarily and without any foundation, the Prophet is sentenced to death “as a warning to the Mormons” after an irregular court martial; the Prophet’s life is spared through the courage of General Alexander W. Doniphan. Members of the state militia plunder Far West.
December 1 Clay County, Missouri: After an irregular court of inquiry in Richmond, the Prophet and several others are imprisoned in Liberty Jail, to await later trial on false charges of treason and murder. The charge of treason had to do with the Saints’ resisting the mob-militia, and the charge of murder was due to the death the militiaman at the Battle of Crooked River. Joseph Smith was accused of being an accessory though he was not present.
1839 Age 33
April 16 Columbia, Boone County, Missouri: On the way to trial (after winning a change of venue), Joseph is allowed by his guards to escape.
April 22 Quincy, Adams County, Illinois: Joseph joins his family.
May 1 Commerce (later Nauvoo), Illinois: Joseph purchases land for the Saints to live on.
June 27–approx. August 8 Joseph teaches members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles before their second major mission to England.
July 21–22 Nauvoo, Illinois, and Montrose, Iowa: Great days of healing among the Saints stricken with malaria.
October 29, 1839 Washington, D.C.: Joseph travels to present to Congress the redress petitions for the grievances of the Missouri Saints. His visits with both President Martin Van Buren (November 29) and members of Congress prove fruitless.
1840 Age 34
June 13 Emma gives birth to Don Carlos Smith.
August 15The first baptism for a deceased person is performed. Joseph pronounces that the ceremony is valid.
September 14 Nauvoo: Joseph Smith, Sr. passes away.
October 3–4 A conference is held. Joseph speaks on building a temple in Nauvoo, baptism for the dead, and the restoration of all ordinances.
1841 Age 35
January 19 Joseph receives instruction for the Saints to build the Nauvoo Temple and Nauvoo House; key priesthood officers are specified; the ordinance of baptism for dead is officially introduced (Doctrine and Covenants 124).
February 1, 4 Joseph is elected to the Nauvoo City Council and as lieutenant general of the Nauvoo Legion (city militia).
Spring Joseph performs the first eternal marriage sealing with the keys restored by Elijah.
June 5 Joseph is again arrested on false charges of treason and murder dating from his arrest and imprisonment in Liberty Jail, the intent being to return him to Missouri for trial. The writ for arrest was dismissed on June 10, 1841. The Prophet said his defense relied in part on the fact “that the indictment, in Missouri, was obtained by fraud, bribery and duress, all of which I was prepared to prove.” Joseph was let go.
August 7 Nauvoo: Joseph’s brother Don Carlos dies.
August 15 Joseph’s son Don Carlos dies at fourteen months old.
November 8 Joseph dedicates the baptismal font in the basement of the Nauvoo Temple.
1842 Age 36
January 5 Joseph begins operating a general store in Nauvoo known as the Red Brick Store.
February 6 Joseph and Emma’s son dies at birth (no name given).
February 15Joseph becomes the editor of the Nauvoo paper The Times and Seasons.
March 1 Joseph begins publishing the Book of Abraham; The Articles of Faith are printed in The Times and Seasons.
May 4 In an upper room of the Red Brick Store at Nauvoo, the Prophet administers the first extended endowment ordinances; nine men receive them, including Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Willard Richards.
May 19 Joseph is elected mayor of Nauvoo.
August 6 Joseph prophecies the Saints will continue to suffer persecution and will be driven to the Rocky Mountains, where they will become a mighty people.
August 8 Joseph goes into hiding after arrest warrants without any foundation are issued, falsely charging him with complicity in an attempt to assassinate Missouri Governor Lilburn W. Boggs; the charges signal that the Church’s Missouri enemies will go to any length to capture the Prophet.
September 1, 6 By letter, Joseph announces new guidelines for the administration of baptisms for the dead (Doctrine and Covenants 127, 128).
December 21 Joseph goes on trial to determine if he can be legally required to return to Missouri to face false charges. It is found illegal to send Joseph to Missouri and Joseph is released.
December 26 Joseph voluntarily surrenders to arrest in Nauvoo on the far-fetched Missouri charge of attempted assassination of Lilburn W. Boggs.
1843 Age 37
January 5 Joseph is released by a federal judge in Springfield on a ruling that he is protected from arrest because of his Illinois citizenship.
May 28 Joseph is sealed to Emma Smith for time and eternity.
July 12 The revelation on celestial marriage is recorded (Doctrine and Covenants 132).
1844 Age 38
January 29 The Prophet announces his candidacy for President of the United States.
February 20 Joseph instructs the Twelve Apostles to oversee the organization and outfitting of exploring parties to search out a new location for the Saints in the West.
March The Prophet delivers his last charge to the Twelve Apostles, putting responsibility for the work of the kingdom on their shoulders.
April 7 Delivers what is now known as the King Follett Discourse (so named for King Follett, at whose funeral Joseph delivered the speech), a doctrinal landmark.
June 7 The Nauvoo Expositor is published, inciting anger and fear in Nauvoo: anger for its vilification of the Prophet and its accusations against other Church leaders; fear from its call for a repeal of the Nauvoo charter so that local government would be taken out of the hands of the Saints.
June 10 Concluding that they are operating within the prerogatives granted by the Nauvoo charter granted to the city by the state of Illinois, the Nauvoo city council passes an ordinance and directs the Prophet as mayor to “abate” the Nauvoo Expositor as a “nuisance”; the press is destroyed.
June 24 Joseph voluntarily surrenders with Hyrum to the constable at Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois, on charges of “inciting a riot” (language used to describe Joseph’s action in the then-legal destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor); the Prophet then is charged with treason for having declared martial law in Nauvoo.
June 27 Joseph is martyred at Carthage Jail with his brother Hyrum in Hancock County, Illinois, killed by a mob who charged the jail.
June 28 The funeral of Joseph and Hyrum takes place.
June 29 Joseph and Hyrum are buried in Nauvoo.
November 17 David Hyrum Smith is born to Emma after Joseph’s death.