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The death of Joseph Smith, Jr. on June 27, 1844 marked a turning point for the Latter Day Saint movement, of which Smith was the founder and leader. When he was attacked and killed by a mob, Smith was the mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois, and running for President of the United States. He was killed while jailed in Carthage, Illinois on charges relating to his ordering the destruction of facilities producing the Nauvoo Expositor, a newspaper whose first and only edition claimed Smith was practicing polygamy and that he intended to set himself up as a theocratic king. Smith had voluntarily surrendered to the authorities at the county seat at Carthage to face the charges that he was accused of. While he was in jail awaiting trial an armed mob of men with painted faces stormed the jail and shot him and his brother Hyrum to death. The Latter Day Saints view Joseph and Hyrum as martyrs.
Controversy and criticism
See also: Criticism of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The church has been subject to criticism and sometimes discrimination since its early years in New York and Pennsylvania. In the late 1820s, criticism centered around the claim by Joseph Smith, Jr. to have been led to a set of golden plates from which the Book of Mormon was reputedly translated.
In the 1830s, the greatest criticism was for Smith's handling of a banking failure in Kirtland, Ohio, and the LDS Church's political and military power in Missouri, culminating in the 1838 Mormon War. In the 1840s, criticism of the church centered on the church's theocratic aspirations in Nauvoo, Illinois. Criticism of the practice of plural marriage and other doctrines taught by Smith appeared in the Nauvoo Expositor, which led to a series of events culminating in Smith's murder in 1844.
As the church began openly practicing plural marriage under Brigham Young during the second half of the 19th century, the church became the target of nation-wide criticism for that practice (which was banned by the church in 1890), as well as for the church's theocratic aspirations in the Utah Territory. Beginning in 1857, the church also came under significant media criticism after the Mountain Meadows massacre in southern Utah.
Academic critics have questioned the legitimacy of Smith as a prophet as well as the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham. Criticism has expanded to include claims of historical revisionism, homophobia, racism, and sexist policies. Notable 20th-century critics include Jerald and Sandra Tanner and Fawn Brodie. Evangelical Christians continue to argue that Smith was either fraudulent or delusional. Mormon apologetics organizations, such as the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR) and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), have been founded to counter these criticisms. Most of the apologetic work focuses on providing and discussing evidence supporting the claims of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, and much of it features criticism of the perceived lack of honesty when it comes to the scholarship of non-Mormon critics. Scholars and authors such as Hugh Nibley, Daniel C. Peterson, Jeff Lindsay, Orson Scott Card, and James E. Talmage are well-known apologists both within and without the church.
In recent years, the Internet has provided a new forum for proponents and critics of Mormonism. The church's support in 2008 of California's Proposition 8 sparked heated debate and protest by gay-rights organizations and others. While the church remains opposed to same-sex marriage, it has come out in support of certain protections for members of the LGBT community in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Due to differences in doctrines, the LDS Church is generally considered to be distinct from historical Christianity by Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches, which express differences from one another as well. Many have accused the LDS Church of not being a Christian church at all as a result of disagreements with Apostolic succession and the "Great Apostasy," the Nicene Creed and more so, Mormon cosmology and its plan of salvation including the doctrines of pre-mortal life, baptism for the dead, three degrees of heaven, and exaltation, the last of which allows for the belief that humans may become gods and goddesses achieving the same status that Jesus achieved, which is also referred to as becoming a "joint-heir with Christ."
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