For the most part, the Smiths enjoyed a reputation much like that of most of their neighbors--hard-working, struggling to make ends meet, trusted by those who knew them--until young Joseph, at age fourteen, reported his first intense religious experience, a vision. Among people for whom the Bible was sufficient, his insistence that he had received such a vision brought ridicule and scorn. Strange stories and opposition against the family multiplied in 1823 when young Joseph Smith began speaking of an angel and gold plates. In 1825, working in Harmony, Pennsylvania, he met Emma Hale, whom he married on 18 January 1827, several months before he said that he finally obtained the plates. These he then claimed to translate "by the gift and power of God," and in 1830 he published them as The Book of Mormon, referred to derisively by his neighbors as "the gold bible." A month later, in April 1830, Joseph Smith organized the Church of Christ at Fayette, New York; this launched the unsophisticated farm boy on a new and public career as a religious leader.
Opposition and persecution followed Joseph Smith throughout his adult life, placing tremendous pressure on Emma and his family and forcing them to relocate several times. In 1832, a year after they joined a body of converts in Kirtland, Ohio, he was tarred and feathered in a brutal attack that resulted in the death of one of the couple's twins. Altogether Joseph and Emma were the parents of eleven children, including adopted twins, six of whom died in infancy. A devoted family man whose letters reveal deep feelings for wife and children, Smith's public duties and frequent absences nonetheless left Emma with the principal challenge of maintaining the home.