In addition to our annual celebration of the nativity of Jesus the Christ, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are recognizing the 200th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Smith this year. He was born 200 years ago today in the town of Sharon, Vermont.
In 1820 he had his first vision, a response to his prayer to God concerning which of all of the churches was true. In 1823 he received a visit from an angel messenger that informed him of the existence of a buried set of sheets of metal, made of gold, engraved with the writings of an ancient people descended from the house of Israel.
Joseph retreived the golden plates in 1827 and translated them through the power of God. The plates contained a religious history of an ancient people who had existed somewhere in the American continent that were descended from ancient Israelites who had been guided by the Lord to the Americas around six-hundred years before the birth of Christ. The history had been compiled and edited by an ancient american prophet named Mormon.
Most importantly, this book by Mormon related that, after His resurrection, Jesus Christ visited that branch of the house of Israel in America (the “other sheep” that were not of the Jewish fold in Israel that Jesus mentions in the New Testament) and taught them His Gospel and organized His church, just as he had done in the Old World.
Members of the church accept this religious history compiled by Mormon and translated by Joseph Smith as a book of scripture complementary to the Holy Bible.
Through Joseph Smith, Jesus restored his ancient church and his original doctrine.
In his controversial life before his murder in 1844, this relatively uneducated farm boy made major contributions to the history of religious thought and founded a church that has endured well beyond his death; a church believed by millions of Christians to be a restoration of the authentic church of Jesus Christ, with the authority to perform binding baptisms and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost.
My life has been blessed and my faith in Jesus Christ stengthened by the fruits of Joseph Smith. He was an imperfect human being, but I know he was also a true prophet of God.
You can learn more about Joseph Smith at JosephSmith.net .
You can also read the Book of Mormon online at scriptures.lds.org or order a completely free bound copy from mormon.org
For an in-depth, scholarly biography of Joseph Smith, check out Rough Stone Rolling which was published earlier this year by Professor Richard Bushman.