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Mormon History, New York

New York: 1820-1831

The birth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began in a small grove of trees near Palmyra, New York. When fourteen-year-old Joseph Smith prayed to know which church he should join God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him. Joseph Smith wrote, "I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other – 'This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!'"1 Joseph Smith was then told that none of the churches currently on earth contained the fullness of Christ's gospel and that it would be made known to him at a later date.

Persecution began immediately a practice that would continue through early Mormon history. But Joseph Smith knew he had seen a vision and would not deny it.

A few years later the angel Moroni visited Joseph Smith and revealed the location of gold plates. These gold plates contained a record of Christ's dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the American continent and were translated into the Book of Mormon.

Prior to the organization of the church John the Baptist gave the Aaronic Priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. He said, "Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins." 2

Later, Peter, James, and John appeared to Joseph and Oliver and conferred upon them the Melchizedek Priesthood and the keys of the kingdom of God.

With the power of the Priesthood Joseph Smith had the authority to organize The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 6 April 1830, with about 60 people present. Sidney Rigdon, described the humble beginnings of the Mormon Church, “I met the whole church of Christ in a little old log house about 20 feet square, near Waterloo, N.Y. and we began to talk about the kingdom of God as if we had the world at our command; we talked with great confidence, … although we were not many people; … we saw by vision, the church of God, a thousand times larger.”3

Mormon missionaries were sent out with copies of the Book of Mormon and soon congregations sprang up in New York and Ohio. Because of rising persecutions in New York the Saints were commanded to gather to Kirtland Ohio. About two hundred Saints followed the prophet's call even though required to "make great sacrifices of [their] property." 4

With the migration of the Saints west members left the birthplace of the Mormon Church and a new chapter in Mormon history began.

(1) Joseph Smith History 1:17

(2) Doctrine and Covenants 13:1

(3) “Conference Minutes,” Times and Seasons, 1 May 1844, 522–23.

(4) Newel Knight, quoted in Larry Porter, “A Study of the Origins of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the States of New York and Pennsylvania, 1816–1831" (Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1971), 296.

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