SOUTH ROYALTON, VT. — Founded in America, Mormonism today is a global faith, with about 13 million members in 176 countries and territories, more than half of them outside the United States.

Just 4,236 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — as the church is formally known — were living in Vermont as of 2007.

But about a dozen of the first Mormon leaders were born in the Green Mountain State, including the two most influential. These were the founding prophet Joseph Smith Jr. and his successor as head of the church, Brigham Young.

Smith was born on Dec. 23, 1805, in a small house that straddles the boundary between Sharon and South Royalton, in east-central Vermont, about 40 miles south of Montpelier. Sharon is traditionally given as his birthplace.

The hillside site is memorialized today with a visitors center, picnic grounds and a large memorial monument made of granite from the Barre quarry.

Working on articles about Mormons in the Bennington area, I decided on Saturday to visit the birthplace of the man who started this global religious movement, now headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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