The dissertation explores the early social and political thought of Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of the Mormon religious tradition. The research is based on a close study of Smith's scriptural and personal writings, augmented by historical sources produced by his early followers and others. Smith's thought is also set in the broader context of early American cultural and political history. In his youth, Joseph Smith experienced the revivals of the Second Great Awakening and the denominational competition for converts that followed in their wake. Confused and upset by doctrinal disputes, Smith sought for religious truth directly from God. In addition to answering his questions, his early visions and revelations foretold that the contention in American society would escalate into violence, war, and destruction. But Smith also proclaimed that a new nation, called Zion, would arise. Further revelations established Zion's laws and government and conceived a new balance between individual freedom and social harmony. Joseph Smith directed his followers to migrate to Jackson County, Missouri, where they attempted to stake out Zion's territory. He prophesied that Zion would grow in size and power as America and the nations of the world fell to ruin. In the short term, Smith's plan was to fill the county with his followers and take the reins of local government through ordinary democratic channels. Once in power, the Mormons could make a political space for themselves in which to live by divine law. The early settlers of Jackson County resented the Mormon community's solidarity, its growing numbers, and the swagger of its overzealous nationalists. When the Mormons became a real political threat, the early settlers forcibly drove them from the county. The magnitude of their losses in land and improvements required the Mormons to seek aid from the state of Missouri in returning to the county. Joseph Smith had to accommodate the Zion project to the broader political landscape. The effort to reoccupy their land, which never succeeded, led to a tenuous reengagement with American political culture.