Today is the birthday of Joseph Smith, a man members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons”) honor as a prophet of God.
Mormons do not worship Joseph Smith. As President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
We worship God our Eternal Father and the risen Lord Jesus Christ. But we acknowledge the Prophet [Joseph Smith]; we proclaim him; we respect him; we reverence him as an instrument in the hands of the Almighty in restoring to the earth the ancient truths of the divine gospel, together with the priesthood through which the authority of God is exercised in the affairs of His Church and for the blessing of His people.
Born in 1805, Joseph Smith was raised in a Christian home. When he had questions about religion, he looked to the Bible for insights. Two verses in James inspired him to pray earnestly at age 14 about which church to join in the spring of 1820. At this time, he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ, and that began his mission as the prophet of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Through Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, an ancient record of God’s dealings with people on the American continent, was translated. This book of scripture is another testament, along with the Old and New Testaments, of Jesus Christ.
The priesthood authority to perform saving ordinances was restored to Joseph Smith. John the Baptist came and conferred authority (Aaronic Priesthood) to baptize, and Peter, James, and John who led the ancient church of Jesus Christ conferred the higher priesthood (Melchizedek Priesthood). Having this authority, he was then able to organize The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 6, 1830. Many revelations were received through the prophet and recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, also a considered a book of scripture by Mormons. Truths about the plan of salvation were taught. Joseph Smith organized missionary work to help spread the gospel message to people in various parts of the world. He helped direct the people in building temples in Kirtland, Ohio and Nauvoo, Illinois. [Read more about Mormon temples.]
Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, were murdered at Carthage Jail in June of 1844.
Joseph Smith’s mission was as the prophets’ missions of old — to bring people to Christ. Joseph Smith himself said that everything “which pertain to our religion are only appendages” to the Atonement of Jesus Christ. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 121.)
Read more about Joseph Smith:
Mormons share more about Joseph Smith
Articles on lds.org about Joseph Smith
Video Testimony of Joseph Smith by Professor Susan Easton Black
“The Prophet Joseph Smith as the Founding Prophet of the Last Dispensation”