Joseph Smith, Jr. was an American religious leader and the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, the predominant branch of which is Mormonism. At age twenty-four, Smith published the Book of Mormon, and in the next fourteen years he attracted thousands of followers, established cities and temples, and created a lasting religious culture.
Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont, and by 1817 had moved with his family to an area in western New York later called the burned-over district in honor of the way it was repeatedly swept by religious revivals during the Second Great Awakening. The Smith family was not united in their religious views, but they believed in visions and prophecies, and participated in folk religious practices typical of the era. According to Smith, beginning in the early 1820s he had visions, in one of which an angel directed him to a buried book of golden plates inscribed with a Judeo-Christian history of an ancient American civilization. In 1830, he published what he said was an English translation of these plates as the Book of Mormon and organized the Church of Christ as a restoration of the early Christian church. Church members were later called Latter Day Saints, Saints, or Mormons.