The Church of Christ (or the Mormon Church) was formally organized with six members (the minimum required by the state of New York) on April 6, 1830, at the home of Peter Whitmer in Fayette, New York. Immediately after the organization of the Church, missionary work began. The first missionary was Joseph Smith’s brother, Samuel.
The Church won many converts in the nearby areas of Colesville and Manchester, as well as in Fayette. This, in spite of continuous persecution and mistrust from the general population. In 1830 a group of four elders went west to preach to the Indians. Along the way, they taught and converted many in Kirtland, Ohio. Due to severe persecution in New York, the Lord counseled Joseph to gather the membership to Kirtland in late 1830.
Kirtland became the headquarters of the Church from January 1831 to December 1837. Saints gathered to Kirtland as they were converted by travelling missionaries. Charity was extended to those who arrived without resources. Joseph Smith received many revelations in Kirtland regarding the organization of the Church and the doctrines of the Kingdom of God on earth.
On April 30, 1831, Emma Smith gave birth to twins, who died after only three hours. The wife of a man in the neighborhood, John Murdock, gave birth to twins on the same date, but died shortly thereafter. Joseph and Emma decided to adopt the Murdock twins into their Mormon family, hoping they would comfort Emma after the loss of her two children. They took the twins in when they were nine days old, and Joseph and Emma cared for the children.
In July 1831, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that the center of Zion would be in Jackson County, Missouri. From this point on, a number of the Saints began to gather there. The Church was run from two centers, one in Ohio and one in Missouri. In November the Mormons in Ohio began to collect and assemble revelations which Joseph Smith had received for the Church, into one volume, which would later be called the Doctrine and Covenants. The original name for the compilation was the Book of Commandments. The book was divided into “sections.” Joseph Smith received the revelations that would become section 1 and section 133. Section one is the preface to the collection of revelations and was dictated directly by the Savior, the only known writing solely in the words of Christ. Section 133 is a revelation concerning the Second Coming of Christ.
In Kirtland, Joseph Smith began a new translation of the Bible. His translation of Matthew is now contained in the Pearl of Great Price. Translations of other verses show up as footnotes in the standard King James Version of the Bible used by English-speaking members of the Church.
As commanded by God, the Latter-day Saints in Kirtland began to build the first Mormon temple. The construction progressed in fits and starts according to the wealth and faithfulness of the members. The Lord chastised them in 1833 for their slowness in keeping this commandment. Finally, the Kirtland Temple was completed and then dedicated on March 27, 1836. The dedication was accompanied by spiritual manifestations similar to those recorded in the New Testament at Pentacost, when the Holy Ghost was poured out upon the Church. It appeared as if there were fire on the roof. Many heard the rushing of angels and many saw them. Many prophesied and saw visions.
As recorded in Doctrine and Covenants Section 110, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were visited in the temple by several resurrected beings, including Elijah and Moses, who restored the keys to the sealing power and the gathering of Israel, among other powers.
In March of 1832, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were violently attacked by a mob led by disaffected Mormons. They were tarred and feathered. The exposure to the cold was the final blow for one of Joseph’s twin babies, who was then suffering from measles. The baby died of exposure.
In April Joseph and others traveled to Missouri to help the Saints there. He warned them that they were not faithful enough to deserve the help of the Lord, and that if they did not repent, they would be driven from Missouri. Although revelations received by Joseph Smith indicated that Zion would soon be established, the Saints were unworthy to do so. Eventually, the Lord withdrew His promise and His protection from the Saints and sent them into diaspora. The situation was similar to that of the Israelites during the Exodus. They made a straight trek from Egypt to the Promised Land and then were not allowed to enter. They were forced to abide in the wilderness for forty years before being found worthy enough to enter Canaan.
Mormons were against slavery, and in 1833, the LDS newspaper, The Evening and Morning Star, published an article on free blacks. Mobs destroyed the newspaper press on July 20, 1833, along with the building it was housed in (which was the home of the printer). They also tarred and feathered several Mormons who refused to leave or deny their faith. Saints in Jackson County, Missouri, were ultimately expelled from their homes and from the county in November 1833. In February 1834, after numerous ineffectual appeals to local and state governments, Joseph Smith was commanded by the Lord to organize Zion’s Camp to aid the beleaguered Mormons in Missouri, which the Mormons called Zion.
Zion’s Camp was an interesting venture that shows us something of how the Lord works. The Lord commanded Joseph to combine as many men as possible to gather and travel to Missouri to help the Saints there. Whereas the call was for at least 500, it was planting season, and only around 200 men were willing to leave Kirtland with the prophet. The journey was extremely difficult, and God sent several plagues among the men when they were unfaithful. They marched at a terrific pace, which was taxing on their health, but they learned from the prophet as they went. The future leaders of the Church were volunteers at Zion’s Camp. In the end, the Lord absolved them of their final goal. It seems the goal never was to liberate the Saints in Missouri. It was a test and a trial to prove the mettle of the volunteers and to prepare future leaders.