Brief History of Mormonism

The history of the Mormon Church is varied and scholars have spent years researching and learning about the numerous things that have occurred since the day in 1820 when Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ. Following is a brief outline of some of the major events in the history of Mormonism.


  • This was the beginning of Christ’s establishment of His Church in this dispensation. Christ’s Church along with the priesthood was taken from the earth. This was known as the Great Apostasy. Then in 1820, Joseph Smith was concerned about religion and prayed to God to know what to do. He saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.


  • This was the time from the vision of Joseph Smith to the official organization of the Church. During this time Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, and received numerous revelations on how to establish and run the Church according to God’s direction. During this time the priesthood was restored to man through heavenly messengers and the firs missionaries were sent out to preach.


  • In 1831, Joseph Smith moved to Kirtland, Ohio. Kirtland became the official headquarters of the Church. The members began building a Temple. While here Joseph Smith translated the Bible and prepared more than 70 revelations for printing. The law of consecration was also introduced.


  • During the same time that many saints were in Ohio, a few were sent to Missouri to establish a settlement. The area of Jackson County, Missouri was revealed as the place of the New Jerusalem or Zion. Starting in 1833 the saints were heavily persecuted by their neighbors. Mobs pushed them from their homes and businesses. The Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders were put in jail, and there were numerous confrontations between the saints and their neighbors including the Battle of Crooked River and Haun’s Mill.


  • In 1839, the saints left Missouri and the mobs and sought shelter in Illinois. They drained the swampy land they had bought and built a city. Within four years the city of Nauvoo rivaled Chicago in size. Joseph Smith received revelations on temple work especially the endowment, and the saints began work on the temple. Joseph Smith also received the revelations now found in the Pearl of Great Price. On June 27, 1844 the women’s Relief Society was formed. While the saints were in Nauvoo Joseph and his brother Hyrum were killed by a mob on June 27, 1844.


  • After the death of Joseph Smith, the saints were again persecuted, and leaders set up plans to move west. In February of 1846 many of the saints were forced from their homes, and began the journey to Utah. While in Iowa, the U.S. government requested the Church provide 500 men for the Mexican War. Over this time nearly 62,000 saints crossed the plains to Utah.


  • In the late summer of 1847, the first group of saints arrived in the Salt Lake valley. The group had nearly two thousand people. A late crop was planted and settlements were immediately started. The first year was hard, but by 1849, many small settlements were established and Salt Lake City was growing. Brigham Young asked members to colonize different parts of the west including Utah, Southern Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, Nevada and California.


  • After Brigham Young died persecution again plagued the saints. Much of the persecution was focused on the Church’s practice of polygamy and was based on false rumors that the saints were planning to try and take over the U.S.. Many missionaries of the Church were persecuted as they preached in other parts of the U.S. At least three missionaries were killed by mobs and many were beaten or ridiculed. This time was also a time of growth in temple work and missionary work. In 1890, polygamy was officially stopped as a practice in the Church. During the following years persecution slowed, and the Church experienced a time of peace.


  • This period was a time of great expansion. There were four presidents of the Church; Joseph F. Smith, Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith, and David O. McKay. During this time nine temples were built, and membership grew from 300,000 members and 50 stakes in 1901 to 2,800,000 members and 500 stakes in 1970.


  • During this time the Church grew quickly outside of the U.S. The first stakes were established in Asia and Africa. More missionaries were sent out to preach and Missionary Training Centers were set up in Brazil, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, and Japan. The priesthood was extended to all worthy males of the Church in 1978.

1985-Present Day

  • The Church was able to preach and build temples in many countries that had previously been closed such as the German Democratic Republic, Russia, Albania, Romania, Estonia, Hungary, the Ukraine, Latvia and many others. Members living outside of the U.S. finally outnumber members living in the U.S. Temples are being built in as many places as possible to make the ordinances available to all members, and membership continues to grow. There are now more than 12 million members of the Mormon Church throughout the world.

Other Links:

LDS Church History

History of Mormonism

Saints Without Halos: A Mormon History Website

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