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This time, he said he retrieved the plates and put them in a locked chest.
He said the angel commanded him not to show the plates to anyone else but to publish their translation, reputed to be the religious record of indigenous Americans.
In 1831, Smith and his followers moved west, planning to build a communalistic American Zion.
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His followers regard him as a prophet comparable to Moses and Elijah, and several religious denominations consider themselves the continuation of the church he organized, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Community of Christ.
In 1816–17, after an ill-fated business venture and three years of crop failures, the Smith family moved to the western New York village of Palmyra, and eventually took a mortgage on a 100-acre (40 ha) farm in the nearby town of Manchester.
By the time of his death fourteen years later, he had attracted tens of thousands of followers and founded a religious culture that continues to the present.
Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont, but by 1817, he had moved with his family to what became known as the burned-over district of western New York, an area of intense religious revivalism during the Second Great Awakening.
According to Smith, he experienced a series of visions, including one in which he saw "two personages" (presumably God the Father and Jesus Christ) and others in which an angel directed him to a buried book of golden plates inscribed with a Judeo-Christian history of an ancient American civilization.