Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record is a study of Mormon origins. For more than 150 years the story surrounding the beginnings of this new religious tradition has been rewritten to the point where only fragments remain of the original. Using historical documents of the period, the authors place Joseph Smith in his family and community.

Moving from village to village, the Joseph Smith, Sr., family lived in poverty. The family resided in the village of Palmyra, lived in several small cabins, then resettled in a frame house started by their eldest son Alvin. His death had an impact on the family.

Joseph Smith, Sr., a cooper, with his nineteen-year-old son Joseph Jr. traveled 100 miles south to Pennsylvania to join a band of money diggers on a desperate hunt for buried Spanish treasure. Following this ill-fated quest, Joseph Sr. defaulted on the family's final mortgage payment and the family faced eviction. During this turbulent time Joseph Jr. was brought to court for crystal-gazing, had revealed to him a buried treasure and married a former landlord's daughter.

In 1830 young Joseph had his translation of the hieroglyph-inscribed sheets of gold published, his mother and siblings were excommunicated from the Presbyterian church, founded the Church of Christ, was aware of a potential convert being abducted by her minister, and eventually sought refuge in Ohio where he changed the name of his church and its place of origin.

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