This is my own analysis – and reaches conclusions most Mormons will disagree with.
I might as well state how I view Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism – that should be called JosephSmithism. He was, in my opinion, a religious scoundrel.
As a young man, he was a diviner of buried treasure. People believed treasure was buried in their property. How widely this belief extended, I do not know, but it was common in parts of lower New York State.
They knew this buried treasure existed – but didn’t know where it was. They employed the services of young Joseph to find this treasure. He used a Seer Stone, to see where the treasure was buried. He put the Stone in his hat, and placed the hat over his head and eyes, With his eyes in the dark, his Stone revealed the location of the treasure. That was never found.
He had special abilities. These special abilities would occur again and again, in different contexts – in the story that follows.
However, his skills became illegal in some counties, and an inquest was held to see if he should be tried in a legal Court. It was determined that he was a Juggler, and should be tried. He quickly moved to other counties. I got this information from the book The Making of a Prophet – although I may have gotten some of the details wrong.
Young Joseph had to find new sources of income. And he decided to write a book, similar to another book, about how some of the tribes of Israel came to the New World. He acquired some Golden Plates, on which this history had been inscribed. His wife, Emma, kept them, covered with a cloth, so no one actually saw them, on the their living room table.
The room was divided with a blanket, into two parts – with Joseph, interpreting the writing on the Plates, and dictating what he saw – and a person on the other side, writing down what he said. This person was his wife, at first, but other people were also employed at this task went along. What eventually happened to the Golden Plates is not known.
Eventually, after some mishaps that will not be described here – a manuscript was taken to a printer – and the Book of Mormon resulted. Joseph considered this a business venture, and tried to sell it. He had attracted followers (he always did) and he received a revelation that a buyer would be found in Canada – and he sent his followers off to find him. But they returned empty-handed.
Meanwhile, missionaries had gone to England, carrying the Book with them. People there were very impressed with it, and thought it had a divine origin. How anyone could be impressed by it, I cannot imagine – but they were. They thought Joseph was a Prophet of God!
This was a new idea to Joseph, but he soon felt it fit him very well. And he organized his own church – the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – LDS, for short – in 1830.
The LDS Church moved frequently. First to Kirtland, Ohio, then to Independence, Missouri. Where Joseph led a military uprising against some Missouri forces, failed, and was jailed.
He was allowed to escape from jail, and formed a new town in Nauvoo, Illinois – that quickly grew to be the largest city in Illinois. Many converts were coming all the way from England, and then up the Mississippi River.
He was a contemporary of Abraham Lincoln, also from Illinois – but the two never met.
In 1844, he was killed by a mob.