Smith, Joseph (1805-1844), American religious leader, who was
the founding prophet of Mormonism. Smith was born of poor parents in Sharon,
Vermont, on December 23, 1805. The family moved near the town of Palmyra,
in upstate New York, where between the ages of 14 and 25 Smith experienced
visions calling him to restore the true Christian religion. According to
his account, an angel guided him to a set of golden plates buried in a
hill near the Smith farm; these contained a narrative written in a hieroglyphic
script, which he translated, "by the gift and power of God." The result
was published in 1830 as the Book of Mormon, which he believed to be a
religious record of the ancient inhabitants of North America.
The church Smith founded on April 6, 1830,
soon known officially as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
quickly attracted followers, many of whom served as lay missionaries. It
also aroused opposition, with Smith as its focus. He suffered a violent
tarring and feathering in Ohio and a jail term of several months in Missouri.
After establishing a new headquarters at Commerce (which they renamed Nauvoo),
Illinois, in 1839, Smith continued to provide charismatic leadership. Soon,
however, rumors, later confirmed, that the Mormons had begun to practice
polygamy provoked a schism in the Mormon community and intensified the
opposition outside the church. Smith himself is believed to have had more
than 27 wives, although he publicly acknowledged only one.
In February 1844, Smith announced his candidacy
for the U.S. presidency. He was by now one of the most famous men of the
American West. His base of appeal, however, was too narrow for him to have
won election, and his political ambitions increased the hostility of non-Mormons.
When a group of dissenting Mormons started to publish a newspaper attacking
polygamy and his leadership, Smith ordered the press destroyed. This led
to new threats of violence, and finally Smith was charged with treason
and conspiracy and placed under arrest in the Carthage, Illinois, jail.
There, despite the Illinois governor's promise of safety, he and his brother
Hyrum were assassinated by a mob on the night of June 27, 1844.
During the 14 years between the organization
of the Mormon church and his death, Smith accomplished a great deal. In
addition to the Book of Mormon, he produced a series of revelations containing
doctrinal pronouncements and instructions regarding everything from organization
to finances to a code of health. These revelations are collected in the
Doctrine and Covenants (1835). He also published narratives of Abraham
and of Moses, adding many details to the biblical books, and a revision
of the Bible itself, by "inspiration," with numerous clarifications. He
delivered hundreds of sermons, many of which were preserved in summaries
by his followers. As early as 1838 he initiated a collective project to
write a history of the church from its beginning.
Smith did not conceive of religion narrowly.
His teachings place a high value on physical health and on communal organization.
A criticism of capitalism was implicit in his early efforts to establish
the law of consecration, a communal economy that had to be modified later
under the stress of circumstance. His social idealism was an important
force in the newly established Mormon communities, especially the one in
the area around Independence, Missouri, which he believed would soon be
the site of Christ's second coming.
Smith clearly had a strong, determined character
and a charismatic personality, inspiring either intense loyalty or implacable
hostility. Biographical treatments have from the beginning seen him as
either an impostor or a genuine prophet, each interpretation resting upon
a priori assumptions. Recently some historians have shown a willingness
to find a middle ground, conceding sincerity to Smith's religious impulses
while recognizing, however, that his vision of Christianity and his plans
for a utopian social order led to excesses. At the very least Smith's significance
lies in demonstrating how a major religion comes into being and how, even
in a country of supposed individualism and religious pluralism, the appeal
of corporative religion and forceful leadership remains strong.
Smith married Emma Hale in 1827. Five sons
survived to manhood, but none of them joined the main body of Mormons,
who under Brigham Young settled in and around Utah. One of these sons,
Joseph Smith III, rejected Utah Mormonism and in 1860 accepted leadership
of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the headquarters
of which is now at Independence, Missouri. From its inception, the Reorganized
church has been presided over by direct descendants of Joseph Smith.
History of Mormonism
Mormonism came into existence during the early 19th-century American
movement of religious revivalism called the Second Great Awakening. About
1820, according to his own account, when Joseph Smith was 14 years old
and living with his family near Palmyra, New York, he had a vision of God
the Father and Jesus Christ, informing him that the true church was not
on the face of the earth.
Founding of the Church
During the 1820s, Smith worked as a farm laborer and developed his
religious ideas, inspired by other supernatural encounters. After 1827,
by his own account, he yearly visited a book written in a hieroglyphic
script on golden plates buried in a nearby hill; the book's location, he
said, had been disclosed to him by an angel. In 1830 he completed the translation
of these plates, "by the gift and power of God," and published the Book
of Mormon, which he believed to be a religious record of the ancient inhabitants
of North America. On April 6, 1830, he organized the Church of Christ,
soon known by its present title, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
The organization of the church is traditionally
said to have been established in Fayette, New York. Within a year, by early
1831, the center had moved to Kirtland (now Kirtland Hills), Ohio, where
the ex-Campbellite Sidney Rigdon and much of his congregation had heard
the message of Mormon missionaries and been baptized. At almost the same
time, another Mormon settlement was made in Missouri, primarily in the
area around Independence, which was designated by Smith as the place to
which Jesus Christ would return. Converts flocked into both northeastern
Ohio and western Missouri.
The established residents of these areas,
however, became hostile to the Mormons, who were soon confronted with threats
and then violent persecution. By 1839 the Mormons were fleeing from Kirtland
and their Missouri settlements and settling on the banks of the Mississippi
River at Commerce, Illinois, which they renamed Nauvoo. The faith continued
to attract new converts, many of them from England. To help assure that
mobs would be unable to drive them out again, Smith and his associates
gained permission from the Illinois legislature to form a local militia,
the Nauvoo Legion, which was in reality a virtual private army. The Nauvoo
settlement grew steadily, reaching a population of perhaps 11,000 in 1844-45.
The early opposition to Mormonism seems to have been triggered largely
by fears of economic competition and a dislike of Mormon bloc voting. By
the early 1840s, however, the hostility was intensified by Smith's apparent
assumption of monarchical powers and by the rumors, officially denied but
subsequently confirmed, that Mormons were beginning to practice polygamy.
In 1844 Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were put in prison in Carthage,
Illinois, on charges of treason and conspiracy. Then, despite the Illinois
governor's promises of safety, the two brothers were assassinated by a
The prophet's oldest son, Joseph Smith III,
was only 11 years old at the time of his father's death. Other potential
heirs to the leadership backed down and some led splinter groups into schism,
among them Lyman Wight, James J. Strang, William Bickerton, and Alpheus
Cutler. (see below) Eventually, more than 20 different splinter
groups appeared, most of them small. In 1860, when Joseph Smith III decided
to accept the leadership of the largest number of dissident Mormons, mostly
still in the Midwest, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day
Saints came into existence. Rejecting polygamy and some of the doctrinal
and theological innovations of the Nauvoo period, the Reorganized Church
slowly grew, and in the early 1980s it had a worldwide membership of about
350,000. Its headquarters is at Independence, Missouri.
The Move to Utah
the meantime, the leadership of the majority of the Mormons had been exercised
by the Twelve Apostles. Brigham Young (left>), head of the Twelve,
became president and prophet of the church in 1847 after successfully leading
an exodus from Illinois to the Great Basin in the Rocky Mountains in the
area now known as Utah, where Salt Lake City was established as the new
center. Eventually, more than 300 other settlements were established, in
an area stretching from California to Colorado and from Mexico to Canada.
Most of the Mormons, however, were concentrated in Utah, with some living
in immediately surrounding states.
Conflict was not over for the Mormons. Their
experiments in economic communitarianism and cooperatives were regarded
as a restraint of trade, and their practice of bloc voting through a single,
church-approved political party still aroused resentment. Polygamy, openly
acknowledged in 1852, was promulgated and practiced by a minority of Mormons
(between 10 and 20 percent) for the next 38 years. Incited by reports of
disloyalty, the federal government sent an army to Utah in 1857-58, resulting
in the so-called Utah War, which, despite many blunders and few casualties,
came close to being a major catastrophe. This was followed by a series
of legislative and judicial efforts to force Mormon compliance with the
national norm of monogamous marriage. After a series of delaying actions,
church president Wilford Woodruff issued a manifesto in 1890 that has traditionally
been seen as the end of polygamy. Although some plural relationships continued,
and a small group of Mormon fundamentalists later defied the threat of
excommunication by the church and punishment by the state in order to continue
a form of polygamy, the church gave up its public espousal and encouragement
of the practice. Within a few years the Mormons had entered, or tried to
enter, the American mainstream.
The Contemporary Church
Mormons are commonly perceived as a conservative Christian church and
are often identified with Protestant fundamentalists (see Fundamentalism).
In theology, however, conservative Protestants and Mormons differ on such
fundamental questions as the nature of God, the concept of the church,
and the definition of salvation. With respect to social issues, on the
other hand, the two groups have much in common. The Mormons are lukewarm,
if not hostile, to ecumenism, basically opposed to abortion and birth control,
and unreceptive to such "unbiblical" practices as women in the priesthood;
like many Protestant fundamentalists, they see themselves as resisting
the forces of secularism and liberal compromise. The present conservative
stance of the Mormons is somewhat ironical, given their earlier history
of bold social and economic innovation. In practice, however, Mormons are
often more pragmatic than their reputation suggests. Birth rates, although
higher than the national average, have declined considerably, and members
are allowed individual discretion in the practice of birth control. Divorce,
although discouraged, is not prohibited, and the divorce rate essentially
follows the national trends.
For many years the Mormon church refused to
ordain blacks to the priesthood; this was an important issue, because all
worthy Mormon males above the age of 12 receive such ordination. That policy
was reversed in 1978, when the First Presidency stated that ordination
would henceforth be granted "without regard for race or color." The question
of the role of women in the church is perhaps more problematic. Although
Mormon women have numerous opportunities to serve on the congregational
level and are encouraged to develop their talents and pursue higher education,
they are not ordained to the priesthood and do not serve in the hierarchy.
Alpheus Cutler was instrumental in the forming of the Mormon religion.
Alpheus was one of Joseph Smith's earliest converts. Alpheus was ordained
Elder in 1833. He was an architect and designed one of the early
churches. He was in the Circle of Twelve and the Council of Fifty. When
Joseph Smith was asassinated, Alpheus was one of the pall bearers. Alpheus
broke away from the church when Brigham Young took over because Alpheus
felt that Joseph Smith had promised the leadership of the people should
go to him if anything happened to him. Alpheus felt he couldn't follow
Brigham Young. Alpheus then started his own church, called the Cutlerite
Church, following the same doctrines as the Mormon religion. Alpheus
died in Manti, Iowa in 1864. The Cutlerite Church is still in existence
today in Minnesota.
Parents of Alpheus Cutler:
Knight and Betsy (Boyd) Cutler
Knight Cutler, born 10 Sep 1755 in Plainfield, Sullivan Co., NH.
He was baptized in 1758. He died circa 1830 in Upper Lisle, Broome
Co., NY. Knight served in the Revolutionary War. He was a farmer.
He married Elizabeth (Betsy) Boyd 10 Sep 1779 in Upper Lisle, Broome Co.,
NY. They were parents of eleven children.
Parents of Knight Cutler:
Beach and Lydia (Knight) Cutler:
1573 Beach Cutler, b 04 July
1716 in Colchester, New London co, CT and was baptized 20 Oct 1717 in Lexington,
Middlesex co, MA; d 15 Apr 1805 in Plainfield, Sullivan co., NH and is
buried in the Coreyville Cemetery in Plainfield, age 88; m (1) 14 May 1746
Abigail HODGES; (2) ., and (3) Abigail HALL. 7 children. Beach Cutler lived
in Pomfret, Killingly and Plainfield, CT, then in Cumberland, RI and then
again in Plainfield, CT. Beach & 50 others, most of whom were from
CT, were granted the township of Plainfield, NH on 14 Aug 1761. Beach was
a farmer. He was named Surveyor of Highways in Plainfield, NH 08 Mar 1774.
There is a land deed dated 19 July 1796 for land in Plainfield. Beach and
his family lived in the north part of town. Beach was married three times:
14 May 1746 in Pomfret to Abigail Hodges. They were parents of 4 children
(Corp. Benjamin Cutler b. 06 Aug 1747, William Cutler b. 13 Nov 1748, Abigail
Cutler b. 06 Aug 1750 and Hodges.
Parents of Beach Cutler:
Jonathan Cutler and #157 Abigail
3 BIGELOW, (see link for more info) this info
Terri Mulliken Allen email
2920 Branch Hollow Drive
Mesquite, Texas 75150-4919
Beach and Lydia (Knight) Cutler were the parents of Knight Cutler,
born 10 Sep 1755 in Plainfield, Sullivan Co., NH. He was baptized
in 1758. He died circa 1830 in Upper Lisle, Broome Co., NY.
Knight served in the Revolutionary War. He was a farmer. He married
Elizabeth (Betsy) Boyd 10 Sep 1779 in Upper Lisle, Broome Co., NY.
They were parents of eleven children. Abigail Cutler was born 10 Nov 1787
in Plainfield, Sullivan co., NH and died 12 Dec 1873 in Dover Twp., Lenawee
Co., MI. She is buried in Cadmus Cemetery,
Dover Twp., MI. Abigail married John Mulliken 15 Jan 1811 in
Plainfield, Sullivan co., NH. They were parents of seven children.
It is interesting to note that Abigail's older brother (and eldest son)
of Knight and Betsy (Boyd) Cutler, Alpheus Cutler was instrumental in
the forming of the Mormon religion. Alpheus was one of Joseph
Smith's earliest converts. Alpheus was ordained Elder in 1833. He
was an architect and designed one of the early churches. He was in the
Circle of Twelve and the Council of Fifty. When Joseph Smith was asassinated,
Alpheus was one of the pall bearers. Alpheus broke away from the church
when Brigham Young took over because Alpheus felt that Joseph Smith had
promised the leadership of the people should go to him if anything happened
to him. Alpheus felt he couldn't follow Brigham Young. Alpheus
then started his own church, called the Cutlerite Church, following the
same doctrines as the Mormon religion. Alpheus died in Manti, Iowa
in 1864. The Cutlerite Church is still in existence today in Minnesota.
I would be interested in sharing more information with you."
Nahum Cutler, Cutler Memorial and Genealogical History, 1889.
Microsoft(R) Encarta(R) 96 Encyclopedia. (c) 1993-1995 Microsoft Corporation.
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