Church of Latter-day Saints Day
Also known as
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Day
annually on April 6th
It was on today's date in 1830, in Fayette, New York, that a small group led by Joseph Smith organized the "Church of Christ," the first church of what would become the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). The anniversary date of April 6 has become known as Church of Latter-day Saints Day.
Joseph Smith claimed that an angel named Moroni visited him in a vision in 1823 and told him about a Hebrew text that had been lost for 1,500 years. The text recounted the story of Israelites who had lived in the Americas during the time before Christ and had prophets similar to those in the Old Testament. Smith said he was told the text had been engraved on gold plates in the fourth century by a Native American historian, and that the plates were buried in a nearby hill. He said he excavated them four years later after Moroni told him where they were. Smith translated the text into English and it was published as The Book of Mormon in 1830, the same year he organized the church. On account of this book, members of the church are often called Mormons, although the church discourages the use of the term.
The church taught there would be a Second Coming of Christ which would be followed by a "1,000-year reign of peace." Because of this, Smith wanted to establish a "Zion," or kingdom of God, in the western United States. Mormon communities were set up in Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri, with the latter being chosen as the location for Zion. In 1839, Smith founded the city of Nauvoo in Illinois. The group there faced hostility from non-Mormons, and after Smith pushed back against dissidents within the church, the hostility and resentment from non-Mormons heightened even more, and Smith was arrested. Smith and his brother were murdered in a jail cell by an anti-Mormon mob in nearby Carthage, Illinois, on June 27, 1844.
Smith's successor as church president, Brigham Young, set out from Nauvoo and headed west with a group of 148 Mormons in 1846. They arrived in Salt Lake Valley in present-day Utah in July 1847. Young said, "this is the place," and the group settled. Young sent missionaries across North America and Europe, and new members were encouraged to move to Utah.
The settlement applied for statehood in 1849 and was denied, but Young was made governor of the new Territory of Utah. Further efforts to gain statehood in the 1850s went nowhere once it became publicly known that Mormons practiced polygamy and that they wished to form a theocratic government. Then, the Mountain Meadows Massacre took place, during which Mormons killed members of a wagon train. In response, the military arrived and a non-Mormon governor was put in charge of the territory.
Young died in 1877 and church leadership was taken over by John Taylor, and then by Wilford Woodruff. In 1890, during Woodruff's presidency, the church announced it was banning polygamy in the United States, in order to follow the country's law. (Polygamy was still allowed outside of the United States and it continued in locations like Mexico.) Utah was admitted as a state in 1896.
Today there are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all around the world. In the early twenty-first century, church membership was at about 16 million. The church is still headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, and more members reside in the United States than in any other country. Over 150 groups have sprouted off of the LDS for various doctrinal and political reasons. The biggest is the Community of Christ, which was known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints until 2001. It is headquartered in Independence, Missouri, the location that Smith had designated as Zion.
The Book of Mormon and the King James Version of the Bible are the two most important texts in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Other important texts are Pearl of Great Price and Doctrines and Covenants. The church teaches of a "Godhead" of three beings: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. But unlike Christians, who see them as part of the Trinity, they teach that they are separate entities.
Like Christianity, they teach that Jesus Christ came to Earth to die for everyone's sins and that he rose from the dead, but they also teach that people's own actions have an effect on their future. They teach that faithful members will become gods themselves and that Christ will return and rule on Earth for 1,000 years. After this, the Earth will become a celestial sphere and the highest kingdom of heaven, where the righteous will live. Others will live in lesser kingdoms known as "terrestrial" and "telestial."
How to Observe Church of Latter-day Saints Day
Some ways you could celebrate the day include:
- Become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- Talk to any members of LDS you know about their faith.
- Visit Salt Lake City and stop at the Salt Lake Tabernacle and the LDS Conference Center.
- Visit other historic LDS sites.
- Listen to recordings of The Tabernacle Choir.
- Watch a documentary such as The Mormons.
- Read an LDS text such as The Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, or Doctrines and Covenants.
- Read a book about the history of LDS.