This article examines how Mormons reinterpreted the figure of Joseph Smith (1805–1844) in the wake of their prophet’s death. As a number of Mormon sects emerged in the years immediately following 1844, rival prophets claimed continued access to Smith as a means of legitimating themselves against opposing bodies. The article argues that these re-conceptualizations of Joseph Smith served to draw boundaries between movements, with particular attention to the processes of sacralization common to many new religious movements facing their founder’s death. Specific emphasis is on the Latter-Day Saints’ efforts to regulate such practices originating from their sectarian competitors but also from LDS adherents.
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