On this day in 1844, American Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon religion, is murdered by an anti-Mormon mob while being held in an Illinois jail cell. In his Book of Mormon, Smith claimed that he was the prophet of the last true church, that Native Americans were descended from the lost tribes of Israel and that Jesus preached in America after his resurrection.
Smith and his followers, criticised for unorthodox practices such as polygamy, were persecuted all across the eastern United States. In 1846, Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, led an exodus of Mormons along the western wagon trails in search of religious freedom. In July 1847, the Mormon pioneers settled near Utah’s Great Salt Lake and founded Salt Lake City.