Today, in our new teaching series called: “Jesus is…” we taught on the belief system of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The following is the historical time line to help you process the development of Mormonism.
Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the organization now called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church), is born on December 23rd in Sharon, Vermont, the fourth child of Lucy Mack and Joseph Smith.
The Smiths move to the Palmyra, New York, area (about forty miles east of Rochester).
In the spring Joseph Smith, Jr., at the age of 14, allegedly receives a visit from God the Father and Jesus Christ, who tell him that all churches are wrong, their creeds are an abomination, and the professors of those creeds are corrupt.
My [Joseph Smith’s] object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” … I then said to my mother, “I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.”
(Joseph Smith—History 1:18–20, in Pearl of Great Price, a work viewed by Mormons as scripture)
The angel Moroni allegedly visits Joseph in his bedroom three times one September night. These visits are the start of a series of lessons that results in Joseph’s getting gold plates that were allegedly buried in Hill Cumorah, just a few miles south of Palmyra, in Manchester, New York.
“He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was *Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.” (Joseph Smith—History 1:33)
*Note: His name was also Nephi according to the first edition of the Pearl of Great Price  and the April 15, 1842, Times and Seasons 3:753, under “History of Joseph Smith.” This official version was not written until 1838, eighteen years after the alleged event. Also, there is some discrepancy regarding the age of Joseph Smith at this time. The official position of the LDS (Latter-Day Saints) is that he was 17, but some records indicate he was 15.
Court records of Chenango County, State of New York, People v. Joseph Smith The Glass Looker, March 20, 1826, reveal that Joseph Smith was brought to trial on charges of money digging, using a “peep stone” to locate buried treasure.
Joseph allegedly receives from the angel Moroni the gold plates that were buried in Hill Cumorah. Written on them in “Reformed Egyptian” is the history of a previously unknown New World people. With the help of God Joseph translates the writing into what is now the Book of Mormon.
On May 15 John the Baptist allegedly gives the Aaronic Priesthood to Joseph Smith and his scribe Oliver Cowdery as part of the restoration of God’s Church on Earth—authority that had been lost after the death of the last Apostle.
Probably in the summer, as a continuation of the restoration of God’s Church, the Apostles Peter, James, and John allegedly give Joseph and Oliver the Melchizedek Priesthood.
The Book of Mormon is printed by the Grandin Print Shop in Palmyra, New York.
On April 6, the Mormon Church is organized with a handful of people as God’s one true Church on Earth. At this time it is named the Church of Christ.
The Mormon Church moves to Kirtland, Ohio. At its peak in the 1830s Kirtland reaches a population of around 3,200—about equal to nearby Cleveland.
Mormons start settlements in Missouri.
A collection of sixty-five alleged revelations from God to Joseph Smith is published as the Book of Commandments.
The name of the Church is changed to the Church of the Latter Day Saints.
Joseph leaves Kirtland and goes to Far West, Missouri, fleeing the wrath of the law and disgruntled members.
The name of the Church is changed to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
About nineteen Mormon men, women, and children are massacred by non-Mormons at Hauns Mill, Missouri.
Mormons are driven out of Missouri due to conflicts between them and non-Mormons.
Settlement of what is to become Nauvoo, Illinois, starts.
The Mormon Church has swelled to about 17,000 members.
Joseph Smith, John Taylor, and other members of the community, in the Mormon Church newspaper, deny that polygamy is practiced, even though it is.
The alleged revelation from God that allows the practice of polygamy is received, but is not formally announced until 1852, is not included in Mormon scripture until 1876, and is not voted on until 1880. (This is the present-day D&C 132, which says in its heading that Joseph had known the doctrine and principles since 1831.)
The city of Nauvoo, Illinois, has a population of about 12,000; it is the second largest city in the state, after Chicago. Joseph Smith is the mayor and lieutenant-general of the Nauvoo legion.
On April 7, 1844 Joseph Smith delivers the “King Follett Discourse” in which various heretical doctrines are taught. See the full text of the-king-follett-discourse. This message has been called, “the the greatest talk ever given in this dispensation.”
(LDS teacher Karl T. Haglund in Theological Questions, Sept. 1971, p.24)
On June 7, William Law publishes The Nauvoo Expositor, which exposes the practice of polygamy in Nauvoo and the teaching by Joseph Smith that there is more than one God.
On June 10, under the authority of Mayor Smith and the Nauvoo City Council, police led by Smith destroy the press, office, and papers of The Nauvoo Expositor.
On June 25 Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith are arrested for their part in the illegal destruction of The Nauvoo Expositor press and office. Joseph Smith and three others are held in the jail in Carthage, Illinois when, on June 27, a mob attacks the jail, killing Joseph in spite of his efforts at self-defense with a six-shooter.
Brigham Young, the second President of the LDS Church, leads the Mormon trek to what is then a portion of Mexico and will become Salt Lake City, Utah. They arrive there in 1847.
Mormon Church membership numbers about 52,000.
The first edition of the Pearl of Great Price is published. It is added to the Mormon scriptures in 1880.
In August, polygamy is announced for the first time at a public Mormon meeting.
On September 11 a combined force of Indians and Mormon militia led by Mormon Bishop John D. Lee attacks and annihilates a wagon train of 120 non-Mormon men, women, and children in the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre.
The Morrill Act prohibiting polygamy is passed by the U.S. Congress.
Doctrine and Covenants 132, which allows polygamy, is first printed in a volume of Mormon scripture.
In October D&C 132, on polygamy, is first voted on by the Mormon membership.
Congress passes the Edmunds Act, providing heavy penalties for practicing polygamy. The practice continues by many in hiding.
The Edmunds-Tucker Act dissolves the Mormon Church corporation and seizes its property. The Idaho test oath law disenfranchises Mormon voters. A short time later the Supreme Court finds the Idaho test oath constitutional. Legislation is drafted to disenfranchise Mormons in Utah.
On September 25 Mormon Church President Wilford Woodruff issues his Manifesto asking Mormons to stop the practice of polygamy. At a Mormon Church General Conference on October 6 this Manifesto, now called Official Declaration—1, is accepted by the general membership as “authoritative and binding.” This does not reject the revelation allowing polygamy (D&C 132); it just puts the practice aside.
Mormon Church membership is about 188,000.
Mormon Church membership is about 1,111,000.
Mormon Church membership is about 2,931,000.
Mormon Church has about 4,640,000 members.
Mormon Church swells to about 8,100,000 members, about 267 mission centers, and about 43,000 missionaries in the field.
The Mormon Church has about 8,700,000 members.
Today, there are an estimated 12,868,606 members of the Mormon Church world-wide.