Nauvoo Period | BYU Studies

Nauvoo Period

The King Follett Discourse

Author Various Authors,
This compilation of groundbreaking articles about Joseph Smith's famous King Follett Discourse is selected from over fifty years of LDS scholarship published by BYU Studies. This volume features articles examining the King Follett Discourse and its doctrinal impact, including an amalgamated text of Joseph's greatest sermon. Contents: "The King Follett Discourse: Joseph Smith's Greatest Sermon in... Read more

The John Taylor Nauvoo Journal: January 1845-September 1845

Dean C. Jessee
The diary presented here is one of two known Taylor diaries written at Nauvoo. It covers a major segment of the period between 26 December 1844 and 17 September 1845, the time of transition between the death of Joseph Smith and the migration west. The diary begins in a setting of anticipation and hope amidst the dedication of the Seventies' Hall, progress in the building of the temple and the... Read more

Physical Evidence at Carthage Jail and What It Reveals about the Assassination of Joseph and Hyrum Smith

In 1844, Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was assassinated in Carthage, Illinois, along with his brother, Hyrum. Much has been written about the assassination of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, but little attention has been paid to the crime scene in Carthage Jail. This article examines eyewitness accounts of the assault, the layout of the crime scene, the... Read more

Habeas Corpus in Early Nineteenth-Century Mormonism: Joseph Smith's Legal Bulwark for Personal Freedom

*This article is being offered free as a courtesy to lds.org as it was footnoted in a Newsroom post on their site. After Joseph Smith's incarceration in Liberty Jail in Liberty, Missouri, in 1838-1839, Smith believed that he would not survive another imprisonment. It was in fact his jailing in Illinois that ended in his murder in 1844. This paper explores Smith's use of writs of habeas corpus to... Read more

I Roll the Burthen and Responsibility of Leading This Church Off from My Shoulders on to Yours: The 1844/1845 Declaration of the Quorum of the Twelve Regarding Apostolic Succession

The document presented and discussed in this paper is one of the most important early Latter-day Saint manuscripts associated with both the final months of Joseph Smith's life and the postmartyrdom (or apostolic) interregnum period. Written in late 1844 or early 1845, the document appears to have been drafted for possible use as an official statement by the Twelve concerning Joseph Smith's "last... Read more

Nauvoo's Temple Square

Most Nauvoo historians, both Latter-day Saints and others, have largely limited their research to the Mormon era of the 1840s. Even a survey of Nauvoo, conducted as part of the Federal Writers' Project in the 1930s, focused almost exclusively on the city's Mormon past. The one Latter-day Saint writer who looked at post-1840s events concentrated primarily on the Church's return and role in... Read more

The Boggs Shooting and Attempted Extradition: Joseph Smith's Most Famous Case

When Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs accused Joseph Smith (founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) of being the mastermind behind his attempted assassination in 1842, Joseph Smith's enemies tried to extradite him to Missouri for trial three times. Each time, Joseph successfully appealed to the laws of the land and exerted self-preserving political influence through the Nauvoo... Read more

Introduction to the 1845-1846 Journal of Thomas Bullock

Gregory R. Knight
Gregory R. Knight introduces the journal of Thomas Bullock, which follows in a separate article. Knight briefly describes Bullock's life and conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Knight shows that Bullock, who was devoted to the Church and its leaders, made a substantial contribution to Church history by recording events in Nauvoo, Illinois. Read more

Journal of Thomas Bullock

Gregory R. Knight
Here is presented a transcript of the journal of Thomas Bullock during the period of 31 August 1845 to 5 July 1846. Bullock (1816-1885) was a historian for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints much of his life. This journal records the persecutions the Mormons endured in Nauvoo, Illinois. He writes of the life and trials of the Saints as well as his associations with Brigham Young,... Read more

Nauvoo—Sunrise and Sunset on the Mississippi

Gordon B. Hinckley
Nauvoo did not grow in ragtail fashion as did so many cities in early America. It rose like the sunrise, planned from the beginning; then it faded like the sunset after a short day. The season of its glory lasted only from 1839 to 1846. In February 1839, while the Saints were refugees in Quincy and their prophet was a prisoner in Liberty Jail, they first received the friendly attention of Dr... Read more

Introduction to Historic Nauvoo

Loren C. Dunn
Commerce was a near-wilderness when Joseph Smith brought his followers there in 1839. They had been driven from their prosperous settlements in Missouri by violent frontier mobs suspicious of the Saints' religion and New England antislavery background and fearful of their sympathy for the Indians, their rapid growth, and their unified voting power. Appeals by the Saints to the Missouri governor... Read more

Theory and Practice of Church and State During the Brigham Young Era

J. Keith Melville
The early Latter--day Saints felt they were building the spiritual and political kingdom of God on Earth. The concept of the kingdom included political ideals as well as economic and social. Joseph Smith ran for US president on this premise. After his death, when the Nauvoo charter was repealed, a political vacuum was created, and Brigham Young was there to fill it. As the Saints went west,... Read more

The Development of the Joseph Smith Historic Center

Kenneth E. Stobaugh
In an 1893 letter, Alexander Hale Smith, a son of Joseph and Emma Smith, informed E. L. Kelley, the Presiding Bishop of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, that the Nauvoo House was to be auctioned at an administrator's sale. Alexander wrote, "I haven't for years felt a particle of interest in the old place until of late. I feel we ought to take advantage of every... Read more

Building the Kingdom of God: Mormon Architecture before 1847

W. Ray Luce
The first seventeen years of Mormonism—from its organization in 1830 until the entrance of the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847—have not received the attention they deserve in studies of Mormon architecture and planning. The period produced few "church" buildings, and the two major ecclesiastical buildings constructed during the period, the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples, were... Read more

Willard Richards as Historian

Howard C. Searle
From the very organization of the Church on 6 April 1830, the writing of the history of the Church was considered a "duty imperative." Although Joseph Smith was the prime motivator behind most of the Church's early record keeping and history writing, he lacked the necessary literary skills for much of the work and therefore relied heavily upon his clerks and the Church historians to accomplish... Read more

Doctrine and the Temple in Nauvoo

Larry C. PorterMilton V. Backman, Jr.
On January 8, 1841, Joseph Smith announced that a temple would be built in Nauvoo, "constructed as to enable all the functions of the Priesthood to be duly exercised, and where instructions from the Most High will be received, and from this place go forth to distant lands." Prophetically, he described the community of Nauvoo and its temple as the place where the Lord would reveal to his Church... Read more

William Law, Nauvoo Dissenter

Lyndon W. Cook
William Law, a member of the First Presidency of the LDS Church in Nauvoo, Illinois, became an apostate in 1844, shortly before Joseph Smith was murdered at Carthage. According to his own statements and actions, William Law had developed a genuine commitment to Mormonism before becoming a schismatic. However, by the spring of 1843 his commitment began to waver, and by early 1844 he had concluded... Read more

Artworks in the Celestial Room of the First Nauvoo Temple

Because of the scant time the first Nauvoo Temple was open for sacred ordinances, portraits of prominent Nauvoo citizens were borrowed to adorn the temple walls. Brigham Young and the temple committee also planned, commissioned, and paid for at least one other portrait for display in the temple. The presence of these images demonstrates how carefully Brigham Young and the temple committee... Read more

Nauvoo Stake, Priesthood Quorums, and the Church's First Wards

William G. Hartley
A restored Seventies Hall stands on the north side of Parley Street in Nauvoo, a memorial to one office and quorum of the priesthood. Today, Latter-day Saint guides use the building, originally built in 1844, as an appropriate site for telling about the Church's proselyting efforts, a labor assigned by revelation to ordained seventies. But the hall is also a fitting site for explaining stake and... Read more

Sweeping Everything before It: Early Mormonism in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey

In the summer of 1838, Elder Benjamin Winchester (fig. 1) ventured into Monmouth County, New Jersey, to preach the gospel. Winchester was the first Mormon missionary to make it into the Pine Barrens, an area so named because of its sandy, unproductive land. Soon "the news went abroad, that a Mormon preacher had made his appearance in the land." Winchester wrote, "As to [Mormon] principles, and... Read more

Transplanted to Zion: The Impact of British Latter-day Saint Immigration upon Nauvoo

Richard L. Jensen
Thousands of converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints migrated to Nauvoo in the years 1840 to 1846. They brought skills to Nauvoo which helped establish the city, while other skills such as textile work were not useful on the American frontier. Relatively few British converts were thoroughly involved in the political or religious affairs of the city; that would change as the... Read more

William W. Phelps's Service in Nauvoo as Joseph Smith's Political Clerk

Bruce A. Van Orden
William W. Phelps, one of Joseph Smith's most intimate associates, worked very closely with Joseph Smith during the Nauvoo period. He labored in several Church positions but served primarily as the Prophet's political clerk during the apex of Joseph's career. In this position, he was the Prophet's second most important clerk. Read more

A Question on My Mind: Robert McCorkle's 1844 Letter to Joseph Smith

Robert McCorkle (1807–1873) was one of many Americans curious about Mormonism. In 1844 he visited Nauvoo, Illinois, then headquarters of the Latter-day Saints. He hoped to obtain an audience with Joseph Smith but was able only to hear Smith speak at public meetings. When he returned to his home in Tennessee, he wrote to Smith, asking questions and describing his willingness to relocate to Nauvoo... Read more

The Significance of "O My Father" in the Personal Journey of Eliza R. Snow

Jill Mulvay Derr
*This article is being offered free as a courtesy to lds.org as it was footnoted in an expanded Gospel Topic on their site. 'O My Father' is primarily a hymn of orientation. It speaks of place, habitation, sphere, wandering, residing, and dwelling. Eliza R. Snow's first-person declaration of her relationship to God through primeval past, earthly present, and eternal future becomes the personal... Read more

Emma and Eliza and the Stairs

Linda K. NewellValeen T. AveryMaureen U. Beecher
Several elements in various combinations comprise one of the most oft-told tales of Mormon biography history. The characters involved are Joseph Smith, his wife Emma Hale Smith, and a plural wife, usually Eliza Roxcy Snow. The place is invariably Nauvoo, the scene either the Homestead residence of the Smiths or the later roomier Mansion House. The time, if specified, is either very early morning... Read more

Letters Home: The Immigrant View From Nauvoo

Glen M. LeonardRonald W. Walker
The thousands of immigrants drawn to Nauvoo arrived with expectations and concerns. For many, settling there would afford the first opportunity to meet the Prophet and hear his discourses—a spiritual highlight of their lives. The Saints also looked forward to the promised temple blessings. They gathered to help build the temple and to receive their endowments and sealings. But sacrifices for... Read more

How Large Was the Population of Nauvoo?

Susan E. Black
Various estimates have been given by many historians for the population of Nauvoo from 1839 to 1846. Admittedly, demographic descriptions of that era are riddled with statistical inadequacies, yet while these difficulties have been recognized by historians, they have not been resolved to the extent possible through research. While historians all agree that the population of Nauvoo rapidly... Read more

A Note on Nauvoo Theater

Noel A. Carmack
Though Brigham Young was credited with cultivating theatrical affairs in territorial Utah, the inception of such entertainments took place much earlier, with Joseph Smith's endorsement. A little known letter from Joseph Smith reflects his openness to professional drama in Nauvoo and his reluctance to interfere with the Saints' individual choices. Read more

Picturing the Nauvoo Legion

Glen M. Leonard
When artists sought to visually depict the history of Nauvoo, they not surprisingly included images of the Nauvoo Legion and its officers. Most of the Legion artwork centered on Joseph Smith himself or on his involvement with the militia as it prepared for self-defense. These images ensured a place for the twenty-five hundred Legion members in the visual history of Nauvoo, but also they raise... Read more

Nauvoo Observed

William Mulder
In the 1840s, Mormons and non-Mormons were attracted to Nauvoo by its buildings, notably the Nauvoo Temple and the Nauvoo House, twin symbols of the city's sacred and secular nature; by its Mormon people, who were usually less peculiar than expected; and by the famed Prophet Joseph Smith. In this article, Mulder draws on the descriptions of Nauvoo preserved in letters and diaries to tell the... Read more

An Epistle of the Twelve, March 1842

On March 20, 1842, ten members of the Twelve Apostles composed a long epistle to the Saints in Europe providing directives for immigration. The document reveals the way the Twelve planned to move converts from Europe to the Nauvoo area and the way resources would be provided for the Nauvoo Temple and Nauvoo House. The document also provides a window into the broader contours of Church governance... Read more

The Mormon Experience in the Wisconsin Pineries, 1841–1845

Dennis Rowley
The genesis and rapid growth of Nauvoo, Illinois, between 1839 and 1846 is a vital and intriguing part of early Mormon history. When Joseph Smith first visited the future site of Nauvoo in the spring of 1839, he saw only a few poorly built log cabins and shanties and only one stone house. By the time of the exodus west seven years later, Nauvoo was a city with an estimated population of about 12,... Read more

Sidney Rigdon's Plea to the Saints: Transcription of Thomas Bullock's Shorthand Notes from the August 8, 1844, Morning Meeting

At meetings held in Nauvoo, Illinois, on August 8, 1844, Sidney Rigdon and Brigham Young each asserted their claims to succeed Joseph Smith as leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Thomas Bullock, the clerk for the Church Historian's Office, recorded notes of the morning meeting, including speeches by Rigdon and Young, in Taylor shorthand. Until recently, Bullock's notes have... Read more

Transforming Swampland into Nauvoo, the City Beautiful: A Civil Engineering Perspective

Mormons began settling in Nauvoo, Illinois, on the banks of the Mississippi River, in 1839. They found the area uninhabitable due to standing water, dense underbrush, and mosquitoes. The Saints successfully drained lowlands and diverted runoff from higher ground, allowing buildings and gardens to be installed. A team of engineering faculty of Brigham Young University studied soil, topography,... Read more

Revelations in Context: Joseph Smith's Letter from Liberty Jail, March 20, 1839

While Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail, he wrote or dictated eight surviving letters. Four were addressed to Emma, his wife, and all of them display the sterling character of the Prophet Joseph under trials of the most extreme conditions imaginable. His letter of March 20, 1839, directed to the Saints and to Bishop Partridge in particular, is one of the most revealing and most significant letters... Read more

The Mantle of the Prophet Joseph Passes to Brother Brigham: A Collective Spiritual Witness

Lynne W. JorgensenBYU Studies Staff
On August 8, 1844, six weeks after the Prophet Joseph Smith's martyrdom, a meeting of the Saints was held in Nauvoo, Illinois. Brigham Young, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, and several other Apostles had just returned from missions. The purpose of the meeting was to determine by vote who had the right and responsibility to lead the Church--Sidney Rigdon, First Counselor in the First... Read more

Nauvoo West: The Mormons of the Iowa Shore

Stanley B. Kimball
To date, interest in the Illinois period of Church history has focused largely on events within the corporate limits of the city of Nauvoo, but many Saints lived elsewhere in that general area. Eight short-lived stakes were organized in other Illinois communities: in Ramus (now Webster), Hancock County; at Lima, Quincy, Mount Hope (now Columbus), and Freedom (near Payson), Adams County; in Geneva... Read more

"They Might Have Known That He Was Not a Fallen Prophet"—The Nauvoo Journal of Joseph Fielding

Andrew F. Ehat
Joseph Fielding's journal clarifies Joseph Smith's calling as a prophet and also offers a specific yet sweeping survey of key moments in the Nauvoo era in their context. It affords us first-hand glimpses of the struggle for survival in Nauvoo; of the unlawful seizure of Joseph Smith near Dixon; of the growth of opposition to the Prophet's leadership by the Fosters, the Higbees, and the Laws and... Read more

The Little Gardner Hymnal, 1844: A Study of Its Origin and Contribution to the LDS Musical Canon

The purpose of this study is to research the hymnal A Collection of Sacred Hymns for the Use of the Latter-day Saints , the first LDS hymnal that included musical notation along with the text. Published in 1844 by Blake and Bailey of Bellows Falls, Vermont (now part of Rockingham, Vermont), it was compiled by Jesse Carter Little and Geroge Bryant Gardner, both of whom were living in Peterborough... Read more

Officers and Arms: The 1843 General Return of the Nauvoo Legion's Second Cohort

Richard L. Saunders
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