Mormons faced early persecution

Chicago Tribune/October 13, 2007

Mormons have grown from a small band of believers traveling across America to avoid persecution in the 19th Century to one of the world's fastest growing religions.

Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon

1823 Near Palmyra, N.Y., Joseph Smith Jr. has a vision in which an angel called Moroni tells him of engraved golden plates.

1829 Smith finishes translating the plates into the Book of Mormon.

1830 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are called Mormons, is organized in Fayette Township, N.Y.

1831 Smith and the bulk of the church's members moves to Ohio and then Missouri, where Independence was to become the location of the church's Zion.

1839 Following tensions between the Mormon community and locals in Jackson County, Mo., Smith and his followers relocate to Nauvoo, Ill.

1844 Jan. 29: The Mormons nominate Smith to become president of the United States. June 27: Smith and his brother Hyrum are killed by a mob while in jail in Carthage, Ill.

Brigham Young and the westward migration

1846 To avoid further persecution, the Mormons, now led by Brigham Young, head west to Utah to establish a commonwealth. It is one of the largest forced migrations in U.S. history.

1850s Tensions between the Mormons and the U.S. government increase as a petition for statehood is denied due in part to the group's practice of polygamy.

1852 Young bans blacks from the priesthood and promotes a statute legalizing slavery in the Utah Territory.

1857 In southern Utah, Mormon militiamen kill 120 men, women and children who were on a wagon train heading West to California in what becomes known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. U.S. President James Buchanan dispatches federal troops and imposes a non-Mormon governor on the territory. Young calls on the Mormon militia to defend their land. A settlement is reached the following year.

Changes in the church

1890 The church bans polygamy, paving the way for Utah to become a state in 1896.

1903 The U.S. Senate refuses to seat newly elected Utah Sen. Reed Smoot due to his status as a high official in the Mormon Church. After a four-year trial, Smoot is seated and serves for 30 years.

1978 Church leadership announces a revelation from God eliminating the ban on black priests.

1995 Gordon B. Hinckley is ordained 15th president of the Church. His tenure is marked by rapid growth and efforts to educate the public about Mormonism.

Sources: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Encyclopedia Britannica, "The Politics of Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle" by Kathleen Flake

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