Joseph Didn’t Set Out to Start a Church (Let Alone a New Religion!)

When Oliver Cowdery showed up in Palmyra with “fire in his bones” and the idea to start a new church, Joseph Smith initially resisted the idea. Even after Cowdery persuaded him, Smith thought he would get it started and then give up his leadership and pass the baton to others. Gradually he changed his mind. David Whitmer apostatized partly in reaction to Smith’s growing sense of ownership of the movement. In addition to identifying how Mormonism became a church, this paper will identify the moment when it became in some meaningful sense an entirely new religion.

Christopher C. Smith