Joseph Smith sought to restore primitive Christianity through divine revelation. At the age of 14, he had a divine experience in the woods, similar to Moses and Paul. He claimed that God and angels appeared to him, guiding him to translate an ancient book, the Book of Mormon, by divine power. Smith founded a church, translated new scriptures, and organized communities, all with the goal of restoring what he believed was lost Christianity due to apostasy.
Unlike Protestant reformers or the Campbells, Smith produced new scriptures and revelations, often attributed to Jesus Christ Himself. He asserted that he received authority to restore lost truths and administer ordinances. He taught that his religion contained all truth and that Christianity’s complete restoration was possible through modern revelation. Smith’s followers, called Mormons, believed in his divine mission.
Joseph Smith’s movement grew, with followers gathering to establish a last days’ Zion. However, his followers and beliefs faced persecution. Smith’s death, orchestrated by former followers and outsiders, delayed the realization of his prophesied vision of a last days’ Zion.
After Smith’s death, Mormons divided into various groups, each claiming to be the rightful successor of his restored gospel. The largest faction, led by Brigham Young, settled in Utah and established the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the LDS Church.
While not a Protestant reformer, Joseph Smith positioned himself as a restorer of original Christianity. His claims were centered on direct divine communication, and he produced more scriptures and prophecies than any biblical prophet. Mormons accept the Book of Mormon as a scripture, detailing Christ’s appearance to people in the Americas after His resurrection. Joseph Smith’s role was to restore Christianity, not reform it, based on his testimony of direct divine guidance.