Growing Conflict in Illinois

Time Line



Significant Event

June 1841

Anti-Mormon political party organized in Hancock County

June 1841

First Missouri extradition order against Joseph Smith dismissed by Illinois court

May 1842

John C. Bennett exposed for his wickedness

May 1842

Murder attempt on former Governor Boggs of Missouri

Aug. 1842

Joseph Smith went into hiding to elude enemies in second Missouri extradition attempt

Dec. 1842

Joseph Smith went to Springfield, Illinois, where Missouri charges were dropped against him

June 1843

Joseph Smith was arrested in Dixon, Illinois, in third Missouri extradition attempt and then freed

Fall 1843

Prominent members of the Church, including William Law, apostatized

Jan. 1844

Joseph Smith became candidate for president of United States

Spring 1844

Warsaw Signal launched anti-Mormon diatribe

For three years Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints lived in relative peace in Illinois. Then, as had occurred in Ohio and Missouri, dissenters within and opponents without combined to create conflict for the Church. Again the Prophet Joseph Smith was harassed, persecuted, and threatened. As problems began to escalate in 1842, he wrote to the Saints. He assured his brothers and sisters in the gospel that “the envy and wrath of man have been my common lot all the days of my life; and for what cause it seems mysterious, unless I was ordained from before the foundation of the world for some good end. . . . I feel, like Paul, to glory in tribulation; for to this day has the God of my fathers delivered me out of them all” (D&C 127:2). The Prophet had tremendous confidence that despite all the emerging conflicts the Lord would help him triumph over all his enemies.

Apostasy of John C. Bennett

John C. Bennett arrived in Nauvoo in August 1840 and quickly rose to prominence. Only a year and a half older than the Prophet, Bennett had varied experience as a physician, Methodist preacher, founder of a college, university president, military leader, and, most recently, as the quartermaster general of Illinois. In April 1841 general conference he was presented before the Church “as Assistant President until President [Sidney] Rigdon’s health should be restored.”1 For a time he was the Prophet’s companion, confidant, and adviser.

John C. Bennett

John C. Bennett (1804–67) joined the Church in Illinois in 1840. Being flamboyant and energetic, he lobbied for the passage of the Nauvoo Charter in Springfield, was an officer in the Nauvoo Legion, was elected Nauvoo’s first mayor, and counseled Joseph Smith as a temporary member of the First Presidency while Sidney Rigdon was ill. It soon came to the attention of the Prophet, however, that Bennett was seducing women under the guise of “spiritual wifery,” and he was excommunicated in the spring of 1842. Embittered, he lectured against the Church throughout the United States, encouraged Missouri’s attempts to extradite Joseph Smith, and wrote one of the first anti-Mormon books.

On 15 June 1841, just two and a half months after Bennett had been sustained as Assistant President, Joseph Smith received a letter from Hyrum Smith and William Law, then in Pittsburgh, confirming a rumor that Bennett had an estranged wife and child in Ohio. When he first went to Nauvoo, Bennett had claimed that he was not married. The Prophet confronted him with these facts, and in feigned remorse, Bennett took poison in an apparent suicide attempt.

About this same time Bennett, by perverting the doctrine of plural marriage and misusing the prestige of his high Church position, was able to lure some women into immoral conduct. His “spiritual wifery,” as he termed it, was adultery.

Before the true character of John C. Bennett was made apparent, he also engineered a clever plot to assassinate the Prophet and take over the Church. On Saturday, 7 May 1842, a mock battle between the two cohorts, or brigades, of the Nauvoo Legion was arranged. Major General Bennett asked Lieutenant General Joseph Smith to take charge of the first cohort during the contest. When the Prophet declined, Bennett urged him then to take up a station in the rear of the cavalry without his staff during the engagement. This Joseph also declined to do. Instead he chose his own position with his lifeguard, Albert P. Rockwood, by his side. Joseph noted that he sensed through “the gentle breathings of that Spirit” that there was a plot afoot to have him exposed to being slain and that no one would know who the perpetrator was.2

Albert P. Rockwood

Albert P. Rockwood (1805–79) held several positions of trust in the Nauvoo Legion, was called to be a General Authority serving as one of the Presidents of the Seventy in 1845, and was a member of the original Pioneer Company in 1847.

When Bennett’s personal immorality and sinister designs were discovered, he was excommunicated from the Church. He was also cashiered from the Legion, forced to resign as mayor, and expelled from the Masonic fraternity. With his reputation in Nauvoo ruined, he bitterly left the city and took up lecturing against the Prophet and the other leaders of the Church. His serialized expose, appearing in the Sangamo Journal newspaper in Springfield, Illinois, during the summer of 1842, was collected and published a few months later as part of The History of the Saints; or, an Expose of Joe Smith and Mormonism. Bennett claimed that he only became a Mormon to bring to light the alleged illicit conduct of the Prophet.

Bennett also stimulated anti-Mormon feelings among the Masons in Illinois. As early as October 1841 some Masons who were members of the Church obtained permission to initiate a Masonic lodge in Nauvoo. Joseph Smith could see advantages in belonging to this fraternal order. Presumably it was felt that other Masons in the state and nation, many of whom held prominent positions, would look more kindly upon the Church. Joseph Smith and many others in Nauvoo were formally introduced into the order in March 1842. Unaware that John C. Bennett had been expelled from an Ohio Masonic order for misconduct, Masons in Nauvoo elected him secretary of their lodge.

When he left Nauvoo, Bennett visited Masons in Hannibal, Missouri, who were also unaware that he had been expelled from the fraternity. He accused the leadership of the predominantly Mormon lodges in and around Nauvoo of violating Masonic procedure, keeping a false set of books, and doing other improper things. These accusations were passed on to the Illinois grand lodge, which launched a two-year investigation. Consequently many Illinois Masons believed Bennett’s false charges.

Political Complications

During John C. Bennett’s mercurial rise and fall in Nauvoo, political rivalries were developing between the Latter-day Saints and their neighbors in western Illinois. These difficulties stemmed from volatile frontier politics, where inter-party opposition was intense and feelings were easily enflamed. The problem was intensified because Democrats and Whigs were nearly equal in Illinois. The Democrats took control of the state government in 1838, but the Whigs had retained a narrow edge in western Illinois when the Saints began to arrive in 1839. Both political parties hoped that the new citizens might help their cause.3

In Hancock County, however, feelings soon polarized over the rapid growth of Nauvoo and other Mormon communities. The citizens of Warsaw, seventeen miles south of Nauvoo, became anxious and jealous over the growing economic, political, and religious dominance of the Mormon city. It was in Warsaw and in Carthage, the Hancock County seat seventeen miles east of Nauvoo, that the anti-Mormon feelings first began to coalesce in Illinois.

Thomas Sharp

Thomas Sharp became one of the chief opponents of the Church in Illinois and rallied the opposition through the columns of his newspaper, the Warsaw Signal.
Courtesy of Illinois State Historical Society

In an attempt to promote goodwill, Church leaders invited Thomas Sharp, a former lawyer, and the editor of the Warsaw Signal to the celebration at the laying of the temple cornerstone on 6 April 1841. As Thomas Sharp witnessed the day’s events, including a parade and sumptuous banquet, and listened to Joseph Smith and other Church leaders speak about the prospects for the growth of Nauvoo and the kingdom of God, he became convinced that Mormonism was more than a religion. To him it appeared to be a dangerous, un-American political movement aimed at domination of a vast empire. Returning to Warsaw he launched a vigorous campaign against the Church in the columns of his newspaper, claiming that it was Joseph Smith’s intent to unite church and state; he insisted that the Saints possessed too much power and autonomy in their Nauvoo Charter.

In June 1841, Sharp helped form an anti-Mormon political party in Hancock County which held conventions in Warsaw and Carthage and public meetings in other smaller communities. Thus, individuals from both national political parties united against the Church. In the county elections in July, an anti-Mormon slate was elected, which thwarted the political influence of the Saints, even when they voted as a bloc. But as Latter-day Saints continued to stream into Hancock County, including many British members who quickly became United States citizens, the political power of the Saints grew and further alienated their new enemies in Hancock County.

Stephen A. Douglas

Stephen A. Douglas (1813–61) held many political offices during his illustrious career. He was judge of the Illinois Supreme Court from 1841–43, was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1843, and was elected to the Senate in 1847. In 1860 he was defeated for the presidency by Abraham Lincoln. He died in Chicago while campaigning for the preservation of the union.
Courtesy of Illinois State Historical Society

Meanwhile, the Saints found a friend in a leader of the Democratic party in Illinois—Judge Stephen A. Douglas of the state supreme court. While serving as secretary of state, Douglas had helped assure the passage of the Nauvoo Charter by the Illinois legislature.

When Joseph visited Church members in Adams County early in June 1841, he was arrested as a fugitive from the state of Missouri. In Quincy, however, Joseph obtained a writ of habeas corpus, which enabled him to appeal to Judge Douglas, who consented to give the matter a hearing a few days later at the circuit court in Monmouth, seventy-five miles northeast of Nauvoo.

When the trial opened on 9 June, the courtroom overflowed with spectators excited about a possible lynching of Joseph Smith. Judge Douglas fined the sheriff twice for failing to keep the crowd under control. The defense arguments concerning atrocities against the Saints in Missouri moved many people in the courtroom, including Judge Douglas, to tears. The next day he dismissed the case on procedural grounds.

Judge Douglas’s decision won him the gratitude of the Church, but it aroused strong suspicion in western Illinois that he had a political agreement with Joseph Smith. Whig newspapers statewide accused him of openly courting the Mormon vote by dismissing the case. The Whigs, therefore, stopped wooing the Latter-day Saints and stepped up their attacks on them as the gubernatorial election year of 1842 approached. Stephen A. Douglas became the target of many partisan blasts as he continued to befriend the Church. His appointment of several Church members to court positions in Hancock County aroused intense anti-Mormon feelings in Warsaw and Carthage.

The full measure of Mormon gratitude toward Judge Douglas appeared in a letter by Joseph Smith in the Times and Seasons: “We care not a fig for Whig or Democrat: they are both alike to us; but we shall go for our friends, our TRIED FRIENDS. . . . DOUGLAS is a Master Spirit, and his friends are our friends—we are willing to cast our banners on the air, and fight by his side in the cause of humanity, and equal rights—the cause of liberty and the law.”4 Later in 1842, with the undeniable aid of the Mormon vote, the Democratic candidate for governor, Thomas L. Ford, won the election over Joseph Duncan, the Whig candidate and an avowed opponent of the Saints.

In the same election campaign, William Smith, the Prophet’s brother and one of the Twelve Apostles, ran on the Democratic ticket for the state house of representatives against Whig candidate Thomas Sharp. To counter Sharp’s anti-Mormon comments, the Wasp was established under the editorship of William Smith. Later the Nauvoo Neighbor, under the editorship of John Taylor, replaced the Wasp and continued to proclaim the Latter-day Saint cause. With the support of the growing numbers of Latter-day Saints, the Apostle easily won the election and went to Springfield to fight for the continuation of the Nauvoo Charter. Sharp’s defeat intensified his antagonism, and he broadened his attack over a ten-county area and cried for extermination or expulsion of the Mormons.5

Renewed Threats from Missouri

In May 1842,6 Lilburn W. Boggs, former governor of Missouri, was wounded by a would-be assassin. Missouri authorities accused Joseph Smith of the attempted murder and again tried to extradite him back to Missouri.

John C. Bennett, filled with hatred and revenge after leaving Nauvoo, claimed that Joseph Smith had sent Porter Rockwell to Missouri for the express purpose of killing the ex-governor. Rockwell angrily confronted Bennett at Carthage and accused him of lying. Bennett then contacted the rapidly recovering Boggs in Missouri and persuaded him to swear to an affidavit that Porter Rockwell, acting on orders of Joseph Smith, had tried to murder him. In July, Boggs appeared before a justice of the peace in Independence, Missouri, to charge Orrin Porter Rockwell, one of Joseph Smith’s bodyguards, with attempted murder. Governor Thomas Reynolds of Missouri then convinced Governor Thomas Carlin of Illinois to send officers to arrest Porter Rockwell and Joseph Smith. The Prophet, using the power of habeas corpus granted in the Nauvoo Charter, was temporarily freed. Knowing that if he returned to Missouri he would be killed, the Prophet sought seclusion on a Mississippi River island. Rockwell fled to Pennsylvania under a fictitious name.

Letters from Emma Smith, the Nauvoo Female Relief Society, and prominent Nauvoo citizens failed to persuade Governor Carlin of the impropriety of the extradition order. Carlin continued to offer a reward for the arrest of the Prophet and Porter Rockwell. At this time Church leaders prepared documents answering John C. Bennett’s accusations and sent 380 elders to distribute the documents to public officials and Church members in various states. Meanwhile, United States district attorney Justin Butterfield offered the opinion that Joseph could obtain dismissal of the charges from the circuit court of the United States of the district of Illinois. With protection provided by newly elected Governor Thomas Ford, Joseph Smith went to Springfield in December 1842 and was eventually released because the charges went beyond the evidence in Boggs’s original affidavit and therefore lacked foundation. The Saints in Nauvoo rejoiced that their Prophet could come out of hiding and be with them once more. Unfortunately, Porter Rockwell was arrested in St. Louis in March on his way home to Nauvoo and languished in Missouri jails for ten months before being acquitted.

map of northwest Illinois

Dixon, Illinois, was the home of Emma’s sister Elizabeth Hale Wasson. While visiting here Joseph was arrested by Missouri officials. When the brethren in Nauvoo learned of his plight, they sent large groups of men in search of their leader. His subsequent release under the habeas corpus laws, generated considerable controversy over the powers of the Nauvoo municipal government.

[click for scalable version]

A third attempt by Missouri officials to return Joseph Smith to Independence for trial was made in June 1843 during the congressional race. John C. Bennett was in Daviess County, Missouri, and revived the old charge of treason against the Prophet. Governor Ford of Illinois agreed to a warrant of extradition. At this time Joseph and his family had left for a much-needed vacation at the home of Emma’s sister, Elizabeth Wasson, near Dixon, Illinois, two hundred miles north of Nauvoo. Stephen Markham and William Clayton were sent from Nauvoo to warn the Prophet. While they were in the house, Sheriff Joseph Reynolds of Jackson County, Missouri, and Constable Harmon Wilson of Hancock County, Illinois, arrived and rudely arrested the Prophet in the yard. Cyrus H. Walker, Whig candidate for Congress and also a leading attorney, happened to be in Dixon and promised Joseph that he would defend him if Joseph would vote for him in the upcoming election, to which the Prophet agreed.

Stephen Markham and William Clayton then arrested Sheriff Reynolds and Constable Wilson for false imprisonment and for threatening Joseph Smith’s life. En route, they were met by a mounted posse of the Nauvoo Legion and were ushered safely into Nauvoo before cheering citizens. The Nauvoo municipal court released Joseph Smith on a writ of habeas corpus.

Reynolds and Wilson were treated to a sumptuous dinner and released. They then dashed to Carthage and incited further anti-Mormon feelings among the people. They swore out new writs for Joseph Smith’s arrest, and a posse was organized to retake the Prophet. Governor Ford, however, honored the Nauvoo court’s decision. While the matter was in litigation, public opinion in the state became increasingly anti-Mormon.

Before the congressional election in August, Church leaders decided that Joseph P. Hoge, the Democratic candidate, would best represent the Saints’ interests. Joseph Smith kept his pledge to vote for Cyrus Walker. Hyrum Smith and John Taylor, however, urged other members of the Church to vote for Hoge. Both candidates, uncertain of Mormon leanings, spent four days campaigning in Nauvoo. The Nauvoo vote helped swing the election in favor of Hoge. The Whigs then charged the Mormons with misuse of corporate political power. Many Democrats joined the chorus of anti-Mormon feeling because they feared the power that had worked for them might one day be used against them. Thus Joseph Smith’s sincere attempts to keep the Church aloof from partisan politics were unsuccessful.

Dissension within the Church

While forces from without threatened the Prophet, dissension within Nauvoo aided their hostile aims. During the Bennett scandal in 1842, three other members of the Church—Robert Foster, Francis Higbee, and Chauncey Higbee—were also severely reproved by Joseph Smith for immorality. Following the scandal, Francis Higbee went to Cincinnati for a year, but he returned following the death of his faithful father, Elias Higbee. In September, Francis was offended again when the Prophet publicly accused him and others of collusion with the Missourians in their third attempt to extradite him. Francis Higbee became the Prophet’s bitter enemy.

The number of dissenters in Nauvoo grew with the addition of Church members who opposed plural marriage and other new doctrines taught by Joseph Smith. William Law, second counselor in the First Presidency, his brother Wilson Law, major general in the Nauvoo Legion, and high council members Austin Cowles and Leonard Soby all believed that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet.7

By late December 1843, Joseph Smith became aware of some of the evil designs of the dissidents. He told the Nauvoo police that he was much more worried about traitors within the Church than about any enemies in Missouri: “All the enemies upon the face of the earth may roar and exert all their power to bring about my death, but they can accomplish nothing, unless some who are among us and enjoy our society, have been with us in our councils, participated in our confidence, taken us by the hand, called us brother, saluted us with a kiss, join with our enemies, turn our virtues into faults, and, by falsehood and deceit, stir up their wrath and indignation against us, and bring their united vengeance upon our heads. . . . We have a Judas in our midst.”8

The apostates’ uneasiness grew as the police watched their activities carefully. Accusations were exchanged between the apostates and the Nauvoo city council. In April, Robert Foster and William and Wilson Law were excommunicated for un-Christian conduct. On 28 April these men and their sympathizers met and declared Joseph Smith a fallen prophet and inaugurated a reformed church with William Law as president. They appointed a committee to visit families and try to convert them to the new church. A printing press was ordered and plans were made to launch an opposition newspaper to be named the Nauvoo Expositor.

petition for redress

During the Nauvoo period the Saints formally petitioned the United States government on three occasions for redress of grievances related to the Missouri persecutions. The first effort was made in 1839–40 when Joseph Smith and others went to Washington, D.C., and petitioned the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Prophet said 491 individuals gave their claims; over two hundred of these documents have been located in the national archives.

A second petition was made to the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee in May 1842, and the third petition was a fifty-foot petition with 3,419 signatures dated 28 November 1843 and presented to the Senate Judiciary Committee on 5 April 1844. All three attempts failed to gain action from the government.

Courtesy of National Archive Records

Joseph Smith, Candidate for United States Presidency

While apostasy festered in Nauvoo in late 1843, the Prophet Joseph Smith was busy politically. Realizing that 1844 was a national election year, he wrote letters to John C. Calhoun, Lewis Cass, Richard M. Johnson, Henry Clay, and Martin Van Buren, the men most frequently mentioned as candidates for president of the United States. He asked each man what his course would be toward the Latter-day Saints if he were elected, especially in helping them obtain redress for property lost in Missouri. Of the five, Cass, Clay, and Calhoun responded by letter, but none proposed the kind of federal intervention that the Prophet and the Church members desired.

It seemed obvious that there was no one the Saints could endorse for the presidency. Therefore, Joseph Smith met with the Twelve on 29 January 1844 to consider their course for the coming elections. The brethren unanimously sustained a motion to propose their own ticket with Joseph Smith as their candidate for president. He told them that they would have to send every man in Nauvoo who could speak in public to campaign and preach the gospel and that he would be among them. “After the April Conference we will have General Conferences all over the nation, and I will attend as many as convenient. Tell the people we have had Whig and Democratic Presidents long enough: we want a President of the United States. If I ever get into the presidential chair, I will protect the people in their rights and liberties.”9

With the help of William W. Phelps, John M. Bernhisel, and Thomas Bullock, Joseph synthesized his ideas for a platform into a pamphlet entitled General Smith’s Views of the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States. It was published on 7 February and mailed to about two hundred leaders in the country. Joseph’s proposals were designed to appeal to voters in both major parties. He advocated revoking imprisonment for debt, turning prisons into seminaries of learning, abolishing slavery by 1850 and reimbursing slaveholders out of revenue from the sale of public lands, establishing a national bank with branches in each state, and annexing Texas and Oregon.10 Joseph Smith’s first choice as his vice-presidential running mate was the prominent New York journalist and friend of the Saints, James Arlington Bennet. Bennet declined, however, and Joseph finally settled on Sidney Rigdon.

On 11 March 1844 a council meeting was held in Nauvoo to organize the political kingdom of God in preparation for the second coming of Christ. Now that the Prophet was a candidate for high political office, the time seemed right to inaugurate this body which would also serve as a committee to direct his campaign. The council consisted of about fifty members, including most of the Church leaders. It therefore came to be known as the Council of Fifty.

By the end of April, a list of elders and their campaign assignments was published in the Nauvoo Neighbor. It was also decided, in an early May convention held in Nauvoo, to secure the appointment of delegates from several states to a national convention to be held in Baltimore, Maryland, in July to nominate Joseph Smith for president of the United States.

pamphlet on Joseph Smith’s views

When it was decided that Joseph Smith would be a candidate for the president of the United States, he issued a pamphlet expressing his views on some important issues. This is its title page. Among the pamphlet’s most important points were the following:

  1. Review of noble sentiments on the purpose of the United States government expressed by Benjamin Franklin and in the inaugural addresses of several United States presidents. This included the point that President Van Buren had begun to lead the country away from the basic concepts of the founding fathers and that William Henry Harrison would have returned to them had he lived.
  2. Reduce the size of Congress by two thirds, with one representative per million population. Also reduce congressional pay and power.
  3. Pardon many people then in prison, establish public service sentences for lesser crimes, and turn penitentiaries into “seminaries of learning” because “rigor and seclusion will never do as much to reform the propensities of man, as reason and friendship.”11
  4. Abolish slavery by 1850 by having the federal government purchase the slaves and set them free.
  5. Abolish military court martial for desertion and make honor the standard.
  6. Practice greater economy in national and state governments.
  7. Create a national bank with branches in each state and territory and circulate a standard medium of exchange.
  8. Repeal Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution, which required the governor of a state to request federal intervention to suppress domestic violence because governors may themselves be mobbers.
  9. Avoid “tangling alliances” with foreign powers.
  10. Accept Oregon, Texas, and others who might apply for membership in the union of states.
  11. Have a president who is not a party man, but president of the United States and responsive to the wishes of the majority of the people who hold the sovereign power of government.

Opposition Intensifies

In spite of the public relations efforts of the Church, opposition intensified in the early months of 1844. Thomas Sharp repeatedly attacked the Church and accused its leaders of every crime imaginable. He also promoted the anti-Mormon party’s day of fasting and prayer on Saturday, 9 March, in an effort to speedily bring down the “false prophet” Joseph Smith. The anti-Mormon party in Carthage appointed a grand “wolf hunt” in Hancock County for the same day. These hunts were a common sport in the area, but in this and future cases the wolf hunt was merely a pretext for a mob to gather to harass, pillage, and burn the farms of the Saints in outlying areas.

In contrast to the lawless actions of the anti-Mormon party and the Warsaw Signal, Joseph Smith joined with Governor Ford that spring in an effort to establish more cordial relations among the citizens of western Illinois. An editorial in the Nauvoo Neighbor called upon all honest men to join with the governor “in his laudable endeavors to cultivate peace and honor the laws.” The editorial urged the Saints to treat kindly those who did them wrong and reminded them of the wise man’s proverb, “A soft answer turneth away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). The Neighbor editorial declared that their motto was “Peace with all.”12 In spite of these overtures, Thomas Sharp continued his attack through the Warsaw Signal and hinted that trouble was brewing between Joseph Smith and some Church members and that a breach was imminent.13

By May 1844 the Latter-day Saints were once again embroiled in an apparently irreconcilable conflict with their neighbors. There were many reasons for this: politically the Saints were alienated from nearly everyone else in Illinois, other communities were jealous of Nauvoo’s economic growth and political autonomy, many people in Illinois feared the power of the Nauvoo Legion, the Masons were disturbed by alleged irregularities of the order in Nauvoo, and there was a general distaste among the people for peculiar Mormon doctrines and practices which had been misrepresented by John C. Bennett and others. Despite these factors, the Saints still might have been able to maintain peace if it had not been for the apostasy developing within the Church. Unhappily, all signs pointed toward eventual violence. On 29 May 1844, Thomas Sharp told his readers he “would not be surprised to hear of his [Joseph Smith’s] death by violent means in a short time.”14


1. History of the Church, 4:341.

2. History of the Church, 5:4; B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Century One, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1930), 2:140–41.

3. This paragraph is derived from James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976), pp. 173–74.

4. “State Gubernatorial Convention,” Times and Seasons, 1 Jan. 1842, p. 651.

5. Derived from Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, pp. 177.

6. Section derived from Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, pp. 178–82.

7. Derived from Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, p. 191.

8. History of the Church, 6:152.

9. History of the Church, 6:188.

10. Derived from Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, p. 189.

11. General Smith’s Views of the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States (Nauvoo, Ill.: John Taylor, 1844), LDS Historical Department, Salt Lake City, p. 6.

12. In Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 2:218.

13. See Warsaw Signal, 8 May 1844, p. 2.

14. Warsaw Signal, 29 May 1844, p. 2.

The Martyrdom

mob standing over body of Joseph Smith

Forces of Evil by Gary Smith

Time Line



Significant Event

24 Mar. 1844

Joseph Smith revealed to Saints a conspiracy against him

6 Apr. 1844

Joseph Smith thwarted designs of conspirators at general conference

7 June 1844

Conspirators published the first and only edition of Nauvoo Expositor

10 June 1844

Nauvoo city council ordered destruction of Expositor

18 June 1844

Joseph Smith placed Nauvoo under martial law

22 June 1844

Governor Ford insisted Joseph and Hyrum Smith go to Carthage to answer charges against them

24 June 1844

Joseph and Hyrum went to Carthage

27 June 1844

Joseph and Hyrum murdered in Carthage by a mob

Even when he began his ministry, the Prophet Joseph Smith knew he might have to die for his religion. While Joseph was translating the Book of Mormon the Lord promised him eternal life if he was “firm in keeping the commandments . . . even if you should be slain” (D&C 5:22). A month later the Lord again spoke of possible violent death. “And even if they do unto you even as they have done unto me, blessed are ye, for you shall dwell with me in glory” (D&C 6:30). The Prophet also received some important assurances, however, regarding his earthly mission. Several years later in Liberty Jail the Lord promised him: “Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever” (D&C 122:9).

In 1840 his father’s dying blessing promised him, “‘You shall even live to finish your work.’ At this Joseph cried out, weeping, ‘Oh! my father, shall I?’ ‘Yes,’ said his father, ‘you shall live to lay out the plan of all the work which God has given you to do.’”1 Joseph Smith, heeding the Spirit’s promptings, valiantly completed his mission, suffered martyrdom, and qualified for a glorious reward; thus these prophecies were fulfilled.

Forebodings of Death

As the Prophet continued his ministry during the Nauvoo period, he increasingly felt the forebodings of the Spirit that his ministry on earth was nearing its end. He expressed these feelings to those closest to him and occasionally spoke of them to the Saints in general. To a large congregation in the uncompleted Nauvoo Temple on 22 January 1843, Joseph spoke of the power of the priesthood being used to establish the kingdom of God in the latter days. He explained that the temple endowment would “prepare the disciples for their mission into the world.” Referring to his own role, Joseph declared, “I understand my mission and business. God Almighty is my shield, and what can man do if God is my friend. I shall not be sacrificed until my time comes. Then I shall be offered freely.”2

One of the most pointed and poignant of Joseph Smith’s martyrdom prophecies was made to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the spring of 1844. Orson Hyde remembered the account: “We were in council with Brother Joseph almost every day for weeks. Says Brother Joseph in one of those councils, there is something going to happen; I don’t know what it is, but the Lord bids me to hasten and give you your endowment before the temple is finished. He conducted us through every ordinance of the holy priesthood, and when he had gone through with all the ordinances he rejoiced very much, and said, now if they kill me you have got all the keys and all the ordinances and you can confer them upon others, and the hosts of Satan will not be able to tear down the kingdom as fast as you will be able to build it up.”3

Like everyone, the Prophet wanted to live. He wanted to enjoy the company of his wife, play with his children, speak to the Saints, and enjoy the fellowship of good people. Despite knowing that he would probably soon die, he was a man who loved life. He met often with the Saints, and some of his greatest sermons were delivered within weeks of his martyrdom.

Conspiracy against the Prophet

In stark contrast to the righteousness of most of the Saints who lived in prospering Nauvoo was the spreading apostasy in their midst. William Law, second counselor to Joseph Smith, and his brother Wilson led the conspiracy against the Prophet. Throughout the early months of 1844 their followers gradually grew to approximately two hundred people. Other leaders included the brothers Robert and Charles Foster, Chauncey and Francis Higbee, and two influential non-Mormons—Sylvester Emmons, a member of the Nauvoo city council, and Joseph H. Jackson, a notorious criminal.

On Sunday, 24 March 1844, Joseph Smith spoke at the temple about the conspiracy, having just learned of it from an informant. He revealed who some of his enemies were and added that, “The lies that Higbee has hatched up as a foundation to work upon is, he says that I had men’s heads cut off in Missouri and that I had a sword run through the hearts of the people that I wanted to kill and put out of the way. I won’t swear out a warrant against them for I don’t fear any of them. They would not scare off an old setting hen.”4

At the April general conference, the conspirators sought the downfall of the Prophet. Confident that the majority of the Saints would oppose the principle of plural marriage, they planned to bring up the subject at the business session of the conference. They were also prepared to argue that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet because few if any revelations had been published and circulated among Church members in the previous months. In an effort to thwart the conspirators, the Prophet testified at the beginning of the conference that he was not a fallen prophet, that he had never felt nearer to God than at that time, and that he would show the people before the conference closed that God was with him.5 The next day he addressed the conference for two hours in what became known as the King Follett Discourse. On that occasion, the faithful witnessed the majesty of their Prophet.

The Expositor Affair

Leaders of the conspiracy were exposed in the Times and Seasons and were excommunicated from the Church. Thwarted in their plans, the dissenters decided to publish an opposition newspaper. The first and only issue of their paper, which was called the Nauvoo Expositor, appeared on 7 June 1844. Throughout the paper they accused Joseph Smith of teaching vicious principles, practicing whoredoms, advocating so-called spiritual wifery, grasping for political power, preaching that there were many gods, speaking blasphemously of God, and promoting an inquisition.

Nauvoo Expositor

The Nauvoo Expositor, published on 7 June 1844, attempted to rally anti-Mormons against the Church in Nauvoo. The suppression of the paper, the destruction of the press, and the accidental razing of the building brought legal charges against Nauvoo mayor Joseph Smith, which resulted in his going to Carthage.

The city council met in long sessions on Saturday, 8 June and again the following Monday. They suspended one of their members, the non-Mormon Sylvester Emmons, who was the editor of the Expositor, and discussed the identity of the publishers and their intent. Using the famous English jurist William Blackstone as their legal authority and having examined various municipal codes, the council ruled that the newspaper was a public nuisance in that it slandered individuals in the city. Moreover, they reasoned that if nothing were done to stop the libelous paper, the anti-Mormons would be aroused to mob action.

Joseph Smith, as mayor, ordered the city marshal, John Greene, to destroy the press, scatter the type, and burn any remaining newspapers. The order was carried out within hours. The city council acted legally to abate a public nuisance, although the legal opinion of the time allowed only the destruction of the published issues of the offending paper. The demolition of the press was a violation of property rights.6

After the destruction of the press, the publishers rushed to Carthage and obtained a warrant against the Nauvoo city council on charge of riot for the action. On 13 and 14 June, however, Joseph Smith and the other council members were released following a habeas corpus hearing before the Nauvoo municipal court. This further aroused the public. Also, even though Illinois had experienced twenty similar destructions of printing presses over the previous two decades without such a reaction, the enemies of the Church proclaimed the Expositor incident a violation of freedom of the press.

These actions prompted citizens’ groups in Hancock County to call for the removal of the Saints from Illinois. Thomas Sharp vehemently expressed the feelings of many of the enemies of the Church when he editorialized in the Warsaw Signal: “War and extermination is inevitable! Citizens ARISE, ONE and ALL!!!—Can you stand by, and suffer such INFERNAL DEVILS! to ROB men of their property and RIGHTS, without avenging them. We have no time for comment, every man will make his own. LET IT BE MADE WITH POWDER AND BALL!!!”7

The situation was so dangerous that Joseph Smith wrote Governor Ford apprising him of the circumstances and including many affidavits to explain the threats against the Saints. Hyrum Smith wrote Brigham Young that the Twelve and all other elders on political missions should return at once to Nauvoo. Hyrum stated, “You know we are not frightened, but think it best to be well prepared and be ready for the onset.”8 Joseph mobilized his guards and the Nauvoo Legion, and on 18 June placed the city under martial law. Meanwhile Hancock County citizens asked Governor Ford to mobilize the state militia and bring the Nauvoo offenders to justice.

The excitement was so intense that Ford published an open letter urging calmness and then went to Carthage to neutralize a situation that threatened civil war.9 He also wrote to Joseph Smith insisting that only a trial of the city council members before a non-Mormon jury in Carthage would satisfy the people. He promised complete protection for the defendants if they would give themselves up. The Prophet did not believe that the governor could fulfill his pledge. He wrote back, “Writs, we are assured, are issued against us in various parts of the country. For what? To drag us from place to place, from court to court, across the creeks and prairies, till some bloodthirsty villain could find his opportunity to shoot us. We dare not come.”10

In counsel with his brethren, Joseph Smith read a letter from the governor that seemed to show no mercy toward them, and they considered what should be done next. In the course of the deliberations, Joseph’s face brightened, and he declared, “The way is open. It is clear to my mind what to do. All they want is Hyrum and myself; then tell everybody to go about their business, and not to collect in groups, but to scatter about. . . . We will cross the river tonight, and go away to the West.”11 Stephen Markham, a close friend of the Prophet Joseph Smith, was present in the all-night council and heard Joseph Smith say that “it was the voice of the Spirit for him to go to the West among the Natives and take Hyrum and several others along with him and look out a place for the Church.”12

Late in the evening of 22 June 1844, Joseph and Hyrum tearfully bade farewell to their families and, together with Willard Richards and Orrin Porter Rockwell, crossed the Mississippi River in a skiff. The boat was so leaky and the river so high that it took most of the night to get to the other side. Early in the morning a posse arrived in Nauvoo to arrest Joseph and Hyrum, but did not find them. The posse returned to Carthage after threatening the citizens with an invasion of troops if Joseph and Hyrum did not give themselves up. That same morning some of the brethren who had gone to see Joseph argued that mobs would drive the Saints from their homes despite his departure. Joseph replied, “If my life is of no value to my friends it is of none to myself.” Joseph and Hyrum then made plans to return to Nauvoo and to submit to arrest the next day.13

Joseph and Hyrum Go to Carthage

Upon returning to Nauvoo, Hyrum performed the marriage ceremony of his daughter Lovina to Lorin Walker. This small measure of joy preceded the sorrow that would soon come. Joseph wanted to speak to the Saints once more, but there was not enough time. He went home to his family, fully aware that it would probably be his last evening with them.

map of Carthage area

[click for scalable version]

map of Carthage

[click for scalable version]

Carthage was the county seat of Hancock County and the location of the county jail. Many of the mob were state militia who had been released from duty and came to Carthage on the road from Warsaw.

At 6:30 A.M. on Monday, 24 June, Joseph, Hyrum, John Taylor, and fifteen other members of the Nauvoo city council set out on horseback for Carthage, accompanied by Willard Richards and a number of other friends. It had rained for weeks, but this morning was sunny and beautiful. Pausing at the temple site, the Prophet looked on the sacred edifice, then on the city, and remarked, “This is the loveliest place and the best people under the heavens; little do they know the trials that await them.”14 To the assembled Saints, he said, “If I do not go there [to Carthage], the result will be the destruction of this city and its inhabitants; and I cannot think of my dear brothers and sisters and their children suffering the scenes of Missouri again in Nauvoo; no, it is better for your brother, Joseph, to die for his brothers and sisters, for I am willing to die for them. My work is finished.”15

At about ten o’clock the group arrived at a farm four miles west of Carthage, where they met a company of sixty mounted Illinois militia. Captain Dunn presented an order from Governor Ford for all the state arms in the possession of the Nauvoo Legion to be surrendered. At Dunn’s request, Joseph Smith agreed to return to Nauvoo to forestall any resistance. Joseph then sent a note explaining his delay to the governor in Carthage. Before returning to Nauvoo, Joseph prophesied, “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter, but I am calm as a summer’s morning. I have a conscience void of offense toward God and toward all men. If they take my life I shall die an innocent man, and my blood shall cry from the ground for vengeance, and it shall be said of me ‘He was murdered in cold blood!’”16

Upon returning to Nauvoo, Joseph directed that three small cannons and about two hundred firearms be turned over to the militia. This action revived agonizing memories of the Mormon disarmament that had preceded the Missouri massacre. The Prophet also had another opportunity to bid farewell to his family. He left for Carthage at 6:00 P.M.

Five minutes before midnight on 24 June, Captain Dunn and his company of sixty mounted men of the Augusta militia rode into Carthage with Joseph and Hyrum Smith and the members of the Nauvoo city council as voluntary captives. Joseph and Hyrum were weary from flight, hiding out, and the threat of assassination. Nevertheless the brothers were imposing figures as they rode into town—the Prophet, age thirty-eight, and Hyrum, forty-four—both tall men who towered over most of the others.

Carthage was in a riotous state. Mobs of irate townsmen and farmers from throughout western Illinois had been clamoring for the arrest of the Mormon prophet. They were now eager to see the captives. Among the mob were more than fourteen hundred unruly militia, including the local Carthage Greys. Crowds had been roaming the town all day, drinking and brawling. They wanted to get their hands on the Smith brothers. Through Captain Dunn’s efforts, the prisoners were safely placed in the Hamilton House hotel. The Greys still clamored to see Joseph Smith. Finally Governor Ford put his head out the window and calmed the crowd by announcing that Mr. Smith would be paraded before the troops the next day.

Hamilton House

The Hamilton House was an inn where Joseph and Hyrum stayed when they first went to Carthage and where their bodies were taken after the Martyrdom.

Early the next morning Joseph and his brethren surrendered to constable David Bettisworth on the original charge of riot. Almost immediately Joseph and Hyrum were charged with treason against the state of Illinois for declaring martial law in Nauvoo. At 8:30 that morning the governor ordered the troops to the public ground where he addressed them. He told them that the prisoners were dangerous men and perhaps guilty, but that they were now in the hands of the law, and the law must take its course. These remarks only incited the soldiers to greater rage. Joseph and Hyrum were then paraded before the troops where they endured many vulgar insults and death threats.

At four o’clock that afternoon a preliminary hearing was held before Robert F. Smith, a justice of the peace who was also captain of the Carthage Greys and active in the anti-Mormon party. Each member of the Nauvoo city council was released on five hundred dollar bonds and ordered to appear at the next term of the circuit court. Most of the accused men then left for Nauvoo, but Joseph and Hyrum remained for an interview with Governor Ford. That evening a constable appeared with a mittimus (a commitment to prison) signed by Judge Smith to hold Joseph and Hyrum in jail until they could be tried for treason, a capital offense. Joseph and his lawyers protested that the mittimus was illegal, since there had been no mention of that charge at their hearing. Their complaints were taken to the governor, but he said he could not interrupt a civil officer in the discharge of his duty.

Judge Smith, as captain of the Greys, sent his soldiers to carry out the mittimus he had issued as justice of the peace. Joseph and Hyrum were hustled to Carthage Jail amidst a great rabble in the streets. Eight of their friends went with them, including John Taylor and Willard Richards. Dan Jones with his walking stick and Stephen Markham with his hickory cane, which he called the “rascal beater,” walked on either side of the Prophet and his brother warding off the drunken crowd. As it turned out, the stone jail was the safest place in town. Several of Joseph and Hyrum’s friends were permitted to stay with them.

diagram of Carthage Jail

The jail was begun in 1839 and completed two years later at a cost of $4,105. It was used for about twenty-five years. Later it was used as a private residence and became one of the nicest homes in Carthage. Under the direction of President Joseph F. Smith, the Church purchased the building and property in 1903 for $4,000. In 1938 the Church restored the building.

  1. This is where Hyrum Smith lay after the bullet penetrating the door hit him in the face. This room was also the jailer’s bedroom.
  2. Willard Richards stood behind the door and tried to ward off the attackers with a cane.
  3. John Taylor crawled under the bed after being wounded.
  4. The Prophet fell from the second story window and landed by the well—having received four bullets, which took his life.
  5. There was a cell for prisoners located in this room; this area was called the dungeon, or criminal cell.
  6. This was a summer kitchen and porch used by the jailer and his family.
  7. The living room was located on the main floor.
  8. The dining room was located on the main floor.
  9. The debtor’s cell is located on the northwest side of the main floor. This room was used to hold prisoners accused of a less severe offense.

The next day, 26 June, a hearing was held on the charge of treason. The defendants had no witnesses present; since treason was a non-bailable charge, they were required to remain in custody until another hearing could be held on 29 June. Some of the brethren met with Governor Ford and told him that if he went to Nauvoo, Joseph and Hyrum would not be safe in Carthage. Ford promised that he would take Joseph and Hyrum with him. Joseph spent the afternoon dictating to his scribe, Willard Richards, while Dan Jones and Stephen Markham whittled at the warped door to their room in the jail with a penknife so it could be latched securely to prepare against possible attack.

Dan Jones

Dan Jones (1811–62) was born in Flintshire, Wales, and later emigrated to America, where he joined the Church. In fulfillment of a prophetic promise given him by the Prophet in the Carthage Jail, Dan served a mission in Wales from 1845 to 1849. He wrote and translated Church publications for the Welsh, and assisted in bringing over two thousand converts into the Church.

He was called a second time to Wales in 1852 and became mission president in 1854, where he again performed a great work among the people of his native land.

That night Willard Richards, John Taylor, and Dan Jones remained with Joseph and Hyrum in jail. They prayed together and read from the Book of Mormon. Joseph bore his testimony to the guards. Much later, Joseph was lying on the floor next to riverboat captain Dan Jones. “Joseph whispered to Dan Jones, ‘are you afraid to die?’ Dan said, ‘Has that time come, think you? Engaged in such a cause I do not think that death would have many terrors.’ Joseph replied, ‘You will yet see Wales [Jones’s native land], and fulfill the mission appointed you before you die.’”17 Elder Jones later fulfilled the prophecy, serving a great mission in Wales.

About midnight several men surrounded the jail and started up the stairs to the prisoners’ room. One of the brethren grabbed a weapon that had been smuggled into their room during the day. Members of the mob, standing near the door, heard them moving and hesitated. “The Prophet with a ‘Prophet’s voice’ called out ‘Come on ye assassins we are ready for you, and would as willingly die now as at daylight.’”18 The mob retreated.

The Tragedy at Carthage

The next morning, Thursday, 27 June, “Joseph requested Dan Jones to descend and inquire of the guard the cause of the disturbance in the night. Frank Worrell, the officer of the guard, who was one of the Carthage Greys, in a very bitter spirit said, ‘We have had too much trouble to bring Old Joe here to let him ever escape alive, and unless you want to die with him you had better leave before sundown; . . . and you’ll see that I can prophesy better than Old Joe. . . .’

“Joseph directed Jones to go to Governor Ford and inform him what he had been told by the officer of the guard. While Jones was going to Governor Ford’s quarters, he saw an assemblage of men, and heard one of them, who was apparently a leader, making a speech, saying that, ‘Our troops will be discharged this morning in obedience to orders, and for a sham we will leave the town; but when the Governor and the McDonough troops have left for Nauvoo this afternoon, we will return and kill those men, if we have to tear the jail down.’ This sentiment was applauded by three cheers from the crowd.

“Captain Jones went to the Governor, told him what had occurred in the night, what the officer of the guard had said, and what he had heard while coming to see him, and earnestly solicited him to avert the danger.

“His Excellency replied, ‘You are unnecessarily alarmed for the safety of your friends, sir, the people are not that cruel.’

“Irritated by such a remark, Jones urged the necessity of placing better men to guard them than professed assassins. . . .

“. . . Jones remarked, ‘If you do not do this, I have but one more desire, . . .

“. . . ‘that the Almighty will preserve my life to a proper time and place, that I may testify that you have been timely warned of their danger.’ . . .

“. . . Jones’ life was threatened, and Chauncey L. Higbee said to him in the street, ‘We are determined to kill Joe and Hyrum, and you had better go away to save yourself.’”19

That morning Joseph wrote to Emma, “I am very much resigned to my lot, knowing I am justified, and have done the best that could be done. Give my love to the children and all my friends. . . . May God bless you all.”20 The Prophet also sent a letter to the well-known lawyer Orville H. Browning asking him to come and defend him. Soon afterward, Joseph’s friends, with the exception of Willard Richards and John Taylor, were forced to leave the jail.

Contrary to his promise, Governor Ford left that morning for Nauvoo without Joseph and Hyrum, taking instead Captain Dunn’s Dragoons from McDonough County, the only troops that had demonstrated neutrality in the affair. En route, he sent an order to all other troops at Carthage and Warsaw to disband, except for a company of the Carthage Greys to guard the jail. The Greys were Joseph’s most hostile enemies and could not be depended upon to protect him. They were part of a conspiracy to feign defense of the prisoners when enemies of the Prophet would later storm the jail.

In Nauvoo, Ford delivered an insulting speech. He said, “A great crime has been done by destroying the Expositor press and placing the city under martial law, and a severe atonement must be made, so prepare your minds for the emergency. Another cause of excitement is the fact of your having so many firearms. The public are afraid that you are going to use them against government. I know there is a great prejudice against you on account of your peculiar religion, but you ought to be praying Saints, not military Saints.”21

Meanwhile, Colonel Levi Williams of the Warsaw militia read to his men the governor’s orders to disband. Thomas Sharp then addressed the men and called for them to march east to Carthage. Shouts followed for volunteers to kill the Smiths. Some of the men disguised themselves by smearing their faces with mud mixed with gunpowder and started for Carthage.

two pistols

The Prophet used this six-shooter, called a “pepper-box,” to defend himself and his fellow prisoners.

John S. Fullmer took this single-barrel pistol into the jail, but it was never used by the prisoners.

At the jail, the four brethren sweltered in the sultry afternoon heat. Joseph gave Hyrum a single-shot pistol and prepared to defend himself with the six-shooter smuggled in that morning by Cyrus Wheelock. Gravely depressed, the brethren asked John Taylor to sing a popular song entitled “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” about a suffering stranger who revealed himself at last as the Savior. Joseph asked John to sing it again, which he did. In view of their circumstances, one of the verses seems especially poignant:

In pris’n I saw him next—condemned
To meet a traitor’s doom at morn;
The tide of lying tongues I stemmed,
And honored him ’mid shame and scorn.

My friendship’s utmost zeal to try,
He asked, if I for him would die;
The flesh was weak, my blood ran chill,
But my free spirit cried, “I will!”22

At 4:00 P.M. the guard at the jail was changed. Frank Worrell, who had threatened Joseph Smith earlier that morning, was then in charge. A few minutes after five, a mob of about one hundred men with blackened faces arrived in town and headed for the jail. The prisoners heard a scuffle downstairs followed by a shout for surrender and three or four shots. The Prophet and the others rushed to the door to fight off the assailants who had ascended the stairs and poked their guns through the half-closed door. John Taylor and Willard Richards attempted to deflect the muskets with their canes. A bullet fired through the panel of the door struck Hyrum in the left side of his face, and he fell, saying, “I am a dead man!” Joseph, leaning over Hyrum exclaimed, “Oh dear, brother Hyrum!” John Taylor said the look of sorrow he saw on Joseph’s face was forever imprinted on his mind. Joseph then stepped to the door, reached around the door casing, and discharged his six-shooter into the crowded hall. Only three of the six chambers fired, wounding three assailants.

painting of Joseph being shot

The Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum by Gary Smith

The shots delayed the assassins only a moment. John Taylor attempted to jump out of the window, but was hit by gunfire. A shot through the window from below hit the watch in his vest pocket, stopping it at 5:16 and knocking him back into the room. He fell to the floor and was shot again in his left wrist and below his left knee. Rolling to get under the bed, he was hit again from the stairway, the bullet tearing away his flesh at the left hip. His blood was splattered on the floor and the wall. “Joseph, seeing there was no safety in the room,” tried the same escape. Instantly the mob fired on him, and he fell mortally wounded through the open window exclaiming, “Oh Lord, my God!” The mob on the stairs rushed outside to assure themselves that Joseph Smith was dead.23

painting of men carrying Joseph’s body

Death of the Prophet by Gary Smith

Willard Richards alone remained unscathed, having only had a bullet graze his ear. Earlier Joseph had prophesied in Willard’s presence that one day he would stand while bullets whizzed around him and would escape unharmed. Only then did Willard fully understand what Joseph had meant. He dragged the terribly wounded John Taylor into the next room, deposited him on straw, and covered him with an old filthy mattress. The straw, Elder Taylor believed, saved his life by helping stop his bleeding. Meanwhile Willard, expecting to be killed at any moment, was surprised when the mob fled and left him alone with his dead and wounded comrades.

watch and cane

John Taylor’s watch and cane

Samuel Smith, brother to the Prophet, heard about death threats to his brothers and hurried to Carthage. He arrived in Carthage that evening physically exhausted, having been chased by the mobbers. Through the exertion and fatigue of a life and death chase, Samuel contracted a fever that led to his death on 30 July. At Carthage, Samuel helped Elder Richards move the bodies of his martyred brothers to the Hamilton House. After a coroner’s inquiry, Willard Richards wrote to the Saints at Nauvoo, “Joseph and Hyrum are dead.”24

Willard Richards

Willard Richards (1804–54) was ordained an Apostle in 1840 and served as one of the personal secretaries to Joseph Smith. He was also appointed as historian in 1842 and general Church recorder in 1845. From his experiences in Carthage he wrote the moving account “Two Minutes in Jail.” He became second counselor to President Brigham Young in 1847 and served in that position until his death.

Mobbers fled to Warsaw, their hometown, and then, fearing retaliation from the Mormons, continued across the river into Missouri. Governor Ford heard about the assassinations shortly after he left Nauvoo to return to Carthage. When he arrived he urged the few remaining citizens to evacuate the town and had county records moved to Quincy for safety. None of this was necessary. When the Saints heard of the deaths of their beloved leaders, they were overwhelmed with grief rather than desire for revenge.

John Taylor

John Taylor (1808–87), a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since 19 December 1838, was severely wounded at Carthage. He and Willard Richards became the apostolic witnesses to the shedding of the innocent blood of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. John Taylor presided over the Church from the death of Brigham Young on 29 August 1877 until his own death on 25 July 1887.

On the morning of 28 June 1844 the bodies of the slain leaders were gently placed on two different wagons, covered with branches to shade them from the hot summer sun, and driven to Nauvoo by Willard Richards, Samuel Smith, and Artois Hamilton. The wagons left Carthage about 8 A.M. and arrived in Nauvoo about 3 P.M. and were met by a great assemblage. The bodies lay in state the following day in the Mansion House while thousands of people silently filed past the coffins. The shock of the deaths was devastating to the families of the martyrs. Joseph and Hyrum were buried in secret in the basement of the Nauvoo House so that those who wanted to collect a reward offered for Joseph’s head could not find the remains. A public funeral was held and caskets filled with sand were buried in the Nauvoo Cemetery. For weeks the Saints sorrowed deeply over the tragedy at Carthage.

Mansion House

Joseph Smith and his family moved into the Mansion House in August 1843. Later a wing was added to the east side of the main structure, making it L-shaped in appearance with a total of twenty-two rooms. Beginning in January 1844, Ebenezer Robinson managed the Mansion House as a hotel. The Prophet maintained six rooms for himself and his family.

Greatness of Joseph Smith

Elder John Taylor, who miraculously survived Carthage, wrote an account of the event and a eulogy to the Prophet, which are found in Doctrine and Covenants 135. “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it” (v. 3). He added that the names of Joseph and Hyrum Smith “will be classed among the martyrs of religion; and the reader in every nation will be reminded that the Book of Mormon, and this book of Doctrine and Covenants of the church, cost the best blood of the nineteenth century to bring them forth for the salvation of a ruined world” (v. 6). The martyrdom, he said, fulfilled an important spiritual purpose: Joseph “lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!” (v. 3).

Joseph Smith death mask   Hyrum Smith death mask

Death masks of Joseph and Hyrum Smith

While Joseph Smith lived only thirty-eight and a half years, his accomplishments in the service of mankind are incalculable. In addition to translating the Book of Mormon, he received hundreds of revelations, many of which are published in the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. He unfolded eternal principles in a legacy of letters, sermons, poetry, and other inspired writings that fills volumes. He established the restored Church of Jesus Christ on the earth, founded a city, and superintended the building of two temples. He introduced vicarious ordinance work for the dead and restored temple ordinances by which worthy families could be sealed by the priesthood for eternity. He ran for the presidency of the United States, served as a judge, mayor of Nauvoo, and lieutenant general of the Nauvoo Legion.

Josiah Quincy, a prominent New England citizen who later became the mayor of Boston, visited Joseph Smith two months before the Martyrdom. Many years later he wrote about the people who had most impressed him during his life. Regarding Joseph Smith, he wrote, “It is by no means improbable that some future text-book, for the use of generations yet unborn, will contain a question something like this: What historical American of the nineteenth century has exerted the most powerful influence upon the destinies of his countrymen? And it is by no means impossible that the answer to that interrogatory may be thus written: Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet.25


1. Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, ed. Preston Nibley (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958), pp. 309–10.

2. Wilford Woodruff Journals, 22 Jan. 1843, LDS Historical Department, Salt Lake City; spelling, punctuation, and capitalization standardized; see also Richard Lloyd Anderson, “Joseph Smith’s Prophecies of Martyrdom,” in Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, 1980 (Provo: Brigham Young University, 1980), pp. 1–14.

3. In “Trial of Elder Rigdon,” Times and Seasons, 15 Sept. 1844, p. 651; spelling, punctuation, and capitalization standardized.

4. Wilford Woodruff Journals, 24 Mar. 1844; spelling, punctuation, and capitalization standardized.

5. See Wilford Woodruff Journals, 6 Apr. 1844.

6. See Dallin H. Oaks, “The Suppression of the Nauvoo Expositor,” Utah Law Review, Winter 1965, pp. 890–91.

7. Warsaw Signal, 12 June 1844, p. 2.

8. History of the Church, 6:487.

9. The previous six paragraphs are derived from James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976), pp. 191–93.

10. History of the Church, 6:540.

11. History of the Church, 6:545–46.

12. Letter from Stephen Markham to Wilford Woodruff at Fort Supply, Wyoming, 20 June 1856, LDS Historical Department, Salt Lake City, p. 1; spelling standardized.

13. History of the Church, 6:547–49.

14. History of the Church, 6:554.

15. Dan Jones, in “The Martyrdom of Joseph Smith and His Brother, Hyrum,” Ronald D. Dennis, trans., in Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1984, p. 85.

16. History of the Church, 6:555; see also Doctrine and Covenants 135:4.

17. History of the Church, 6:601.

18. Letter from Dan Jones to Thomas Bullock, 20 Jan. 1855, in “The Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith,” cited in Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1984, p. 101.

19. History of the Church, 6:602–4.

20. History of the Church, 6:605.

21. In History of the Church, 6:623.

22. History of the Church, 6:615; or Hymns, no. 29.

23. History of the Church, 6:617–18.

24. In History of the Church, 6:621–22; see also Dean Jarman, “The Life and Contributions of Samuel Harrison Smith,” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1961, pp. 103–5.

25. Josiah Quincy, Figures of the Past from the Leaves of Old Journals, 5th ed. (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1883), p. 376.

The Twelve to Bear Off the Kingdom

Time Line



Significant Event

8 July 1844

Parley P. Pratt was the first of the Twelve to arrive in Nauvoo

16 July 1844

Brigham Young received confirmation of the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum, but knew the keys of the kingdom were still on the earth

3 Aug. 1844

Sidney Rigdon arrived in Nauvoo from Pittsburgh claiming to be “guardian” of the Church

6 Aug. 1844

Most of the remaining members of the Twelve arrived in Nauvoo from the East

8 Aug. 1844

Brigham Young was transfigured before the people, and the Twelve were sustained as the presiding quorum in the Church

With the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the First Presidency of the Church was dissolved. Mourning their slain leader, the Saints wondered who would now lead the Church. Sidney Rigdon, who had left Nauvoo earlier in 1844, reappeared in the city on 3 August and asserted that he should be appointed “guardian” of the Church. In the absence of most of the Twelve, who were still en route back to Nauvoo from their Eastern missions, Sidney made some inroads with his claim. A meeting was called for 8 August to consider his guardianship.

Thomas Ford

Thomas Ford (1800–50) was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Illinois, where he studied law. He served as Illinois state attorney, then as a circuit judge, and as a justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. He was governor of Illinois from 1842 to 1846.

A Month of Gloom

When Joseph Smith was murdered, a deep gloom fell over the city of Nauvoo. As Saints in other branches of the Church learned of the Martyrdom, they grieved also. Only the arrival of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the firm direction they gave the Church gradually turned away this depressive spirit. The Twelve, except for John Taylor and Willard Richards, were in the East serving missions at the time of the Martyrdom. Although Joseph wrote them in June calling them home during the Expositor crisis, they did not receive these instructions until after the Martyrdom. Within three weeks, however, everyone had learned the tragic news and hurried back to Nauvoo.

The greatest achievement in Nauvoo between the Martyrdom and the return of the Apostles was the maintenance of peace. Although citizens in western Illinois feared reprisals, the Saints obeyed John Taylor and Willard Richards who instructed them to stay calm and allow government officials to find the murderers. Three days after the Carthage tragedy, Elder Richards wrote to Brigham Young, “The saints have borne this trial with great fortitude and forbearance. They must keep cool at present. We have pledged our faith not to prosecute the murderers at present, but leave it to Governor Ford; . . . vengeance is in the heavens.”1 The city council also instructed the residents: “Be peaceable, quiet citizens, doing the works of righteousness, and as soon as the Twelve and other authorities can assemble, or a majority of them, the onward course to the great gathering of Israel, and the final consummation of the dispensation of the fulness of times will be pointed out.”2

Elder John Taylor, seriously wounded in the Carthage Jail, returned to Nauvoo on 2 July. Throughout the month he improved steadily, but remained bedfast. Notwithstanding his disability, he helped Elder Richards direct the Church until the rest of the Twelve returned. Together Elder Richards and Elder Taylor wrote to the many Saints in Great Britain and explained:

“The action of the saints has been of the most pacific kind, remembering that God has said, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay.’ . . .

“These servants of God have gone to heaven by fire—the fire of an ungodly mob. Like the Prophets of ancient days they lived as long as the world would receive them; and this is one furnace in which the saints were to be tried, to have their leaders cut off from their midst, and not be permitted to avenge their blood.”3

William W. Phelps—Church publisher, city councilman, and scribe to the Prophet—helped immeasurably in keeping order in the city. Since his return to the Church in 1842, Elder Phelps had indefatigably sought to build up the kingdom and had helped the Prophet with a number of important projects, such as the publishing of the book of Abraham and the campaign for the presidency. He was the principal speaker at the funeral services of Joseph and Hyrum. Now he helped Elders Taylor and Richards during this critical interim period. As a poet, he memorialized the Prophet in lines which later became a favorite Church hymn:

Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!
Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation,
Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.
Hail to the Prophet, ascended to heaven!
Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain.
Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren;
Death cannot conquer the hero again.4

Within a month the Saints suffered another tragedy: the death of Samuel H. Smith, brother to Joseph and Hyrum. Samuel was one of the first Saints on the scene at Carthage following the Martyrdom. He had fled from the enemies of the Church to reach his brothers in Carthage only to find them slain. The stress weakened him physically. He contracted a serious fever; his health gradually failed, and he died on 30 July 1844. He was lauded in the Times and Seasons as one of the great men of this dispensation. His grief-stricken mother, Lucy Mack Smith, had seen within four years the death of her husband and of four sons: Don Carlos, Hyrum, Joseph, and Samuel.

The Twelve Return

On the day of the Martyrdom, members of the Twelve were depressed and melancholic without knowing why. Elders Heber C. Kimball and Lyman Wight were traveling between Philadelphia and New York City when Elder Kimball felt mournful, as if he had just lost a friend. In Boston, Orson Hyde was examining maps in the hall rented by the Church when he felt a heavy and sorrowful spirit come upon him. Tears ran down his cheeks as he turned from the maps and paced the floor. In Michigan, George A. Smith was plagued with a depressed spirit and foreboding thoughts all day long. When he retired to bed he could not sleep. He said that “Once it seemed to him that some fiend whispered in his ear, ‘Joseph and Hyrum are dead; ain’t you glad of it?’”5

At the time of the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, the Apostles were located in various parts of the country.

Brigham Young, Orson Hyde, and Wilford Woodruff were in Boston.

Heber C. Kimball and Lyman Wight had left Philadelphia and were traveling to New York. William Smith at some point joined them, and they continued to Boston for an appointed conference that was held on 29 June. Seven members of the Twelve were present at the conference—Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, William Smith, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, and Lyman Wight.

Parley P. Pratt was returning to Nauvoo and was on a canal boat between Utica and Buffalo, New York.

George A. Smith was staying with members of the Church near Jacksonburg, Michigan.

Amasa Lyman was in Cincinnati.

The location of Orson Pratt on 27 June is not known, but on 29 June he attended the conference in Boston, so he must have been fairly close to Boston on the day of the Martyrdom.

John E. Page had been in Pittsburgh, where he edited and published the Gospel Light from June 1843 to May 1844. His exact location is not known, but in all probability he was in Pittsburgh or the surrounding area.

John Taylor and Willard Richards were in Carthage.

Two days before the Martyrdom, Parley P. Pratt was moved upon by the Spirit to start home from New York State and coincidentally met his brother William on a canal boat on the day of the tragedy. Parley wrote that as they talked, “a strange and solemn awe came over me, as if the powers of hell were let loose. I was so overwhelmed with sorrow I could hardly speak. . . . ‘Let us observe an entire and solemn silence, for this is a dark day, and the hour of triumph for the powers of darkness. O, how sensible I am of the spirit of murder which seems to prevade the whole land.’”6

Parley P. Pratt was the first Apostle outside of Nauvoo to learn of the Martyrdom. He was on a steamboat headed across the Great Lakes toward Chicago. At a landing in Wisconsin, boarding passengers brought news of the Carthage murders. There was great excitement on board, and many passengers taunted him, asking what the Mormons would do now. He replied that “they would continue their mission and spread the work he [Joseph Smith] had restored, in all the world. Observing that nearly all the prophets and Apostles who were before him had been killed, and also the Saviour of the world, and yet their death did not alter the truth nor hinder its final triumph.”7

In sorrow Elder Pratt walked 105 miles across the plains of Illinois, hardly able to eat or sleep, wondering how he should “meet the entire community bowed down with grief and unutterable sorrow.” He prayed for assistance. “On a sudden the Spirit of God came upon me, and filled my heart with joy and gladness indescribable; and while the spirit of revelation glowed in my bosom with as visible a warmth and gladness as if it were fire. The Spirit said unto me: . . . ‘Go and say unto my people in Nauvoo, that they shall continue to pursue their daily duties and take care of themselves, and make no movement in Church government to reorganize or alter anything until the return of the remainder of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. But exhort them that they continue to build the House of the Lord which I have commanded them to build in Nauvoo.’”8 Arriving in Nauvoo on 8 July, Parley helped Elders Richards and Taylor keep order in the stricken community.

George A. Smith learned of the Martyrdom from a newspaper account in Michigan on 13 July. At first he thought it a hoax, but when the report was confirmed, he hastened home with his three missionary companions. Overcome by worry and fatigue, he broke out in hives over his entire body. He could not even eat, but he traveled on, arriving in Nauvoo on 27 July. Soon he was meeting in council with the three Apostles already there.9

In Boston rumors of Joseph Smith’s death began on 9 July.10 During the week before confirmation came from family letters and more complete newspaper accounts, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, and Orson Pratt struggled within themselves about what the terrible news meant. Brigham recorded in his journal, “The first thing which I thought of was, whether Joseph had taken the keys of the kingdom with him from the earth; brother Orson Pratt sat on my left; we were both leaning back on our chairs. Bringing my hand down on my knee, I said the keys of the kingdom are right here with the Church.”11

Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, and Lyman Wight contacted each other, joined together, and hastened home by railway, stagecoach, boat, and buggy. Subsequent events proved the wisdom of their haste. They arrived in Nauvoo the evening of 6 August. Wilford Woodruff recorded his feelings:

“When we landed in the city there was a deep gloom seemed to rest over the City of Nauvoo which we never experienced before.

“. . . We were received with gladness by the Saints throughout the city. They felt like sheep without a shepherd, as being without a father, as their head had been taken away.”12

The Succession Crisis

The arrival of most of the Apostles on 6 August was none too soon. A crisis had arisen as to who should lead the Church, and Willard Richards had nearly worn himself out trying to keep the Saints united. On Saturday, 3 August, Sidney Rigdon had returned from his self-imposed exile in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he had moved contrary to revelation (see D&C 124:108–9). Sidney returned with the expectation of taking over the Church. Not all of the Saints in Nauvoo realized that the Prophet had lost confidence in his first counselor quite a while before the Martyrdom.

Sidney Rigdon

Sidney Rigdon (1793–1876) was called to serve as a counselor to Joseph Smith in the First Presidency. He was a gifted orator and a spokesman for the Prophet on many occasions. Several of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants deal with Sidney Rigdon.

Sidney avoided meeting with the four Apostles who were already in Nauvoo, choosing instead to speak to the assembled Saints at the grove on Sunday, 4 August. He asserted that he had received a vision:

“He related a vision which he said the Lord had shown him concerning the situation of the church, and said there must be a guardian appointed to build the church up to Joseph, as he had begun it.

“He said he was the identical man that the ancient prophets had sung about, wrote and rejoiced over, and that he was sent to do the identical work that had been the theme of all the prophets in every preceding generation.”13 Elder Parley P. Pratt later remarked that Sidney Rigdon was “the identical man the prophets never sang nor wrote a word about.”14 At the meeting, Sidney asked William Marks, Nauvoo stake president, who sympathized with Sidney’s claims, to call a meeting of the Church on 6 August to sustain a new leader. President Marks changed the meeting to Thursday, 8 August, which proved providential since the remainder of the Twelve did not arrive until the evening of 6 August.

Sidney also met with William Marks and Emma Smith in Joseph Smith’s home in order to appoint a trustee-in-trust for the Church. Emma wanted this done quickly to prevent loss of personal and Church property that was in Joseph Smith’s name. Parley P. Pratt came into the meeting and immediately protested the move. He explained “that the appointment of a trustee in trust was the business of the whole Church, through its general authorities, and not the business of the local authorities of any one stake.” Parley insisted that “dollars and cents were no consideration with me, when principle was at stake, and if thousands or even millions were lost, let them go. We could not and would not suffer the authorities and principles of the Church to be trampled under foot, for the sake of pecuniary interest.”15 The meeting broke up without any decision being made.

On Monday, 5 August, Sidney Rigdon finally met with the Apostles who were in Nauvoo. He declared, “‘Gentlemen, you’re used up; gentlemen, you are all divided; the anti-Mormons have got you; the brethren are voting every way . . . everything is in confusion, you can do nothing, you lack a great leader, you want a head, and unless you unite upon that head you are blown to the four winds, the anti-Mormons will carry the election—a guardian must be appointed.’

“Elder George A. Smith said, ‘Brethren, Elder Rigdon is entirely mistaken, there is no division; the brethren are united; the election will be unanimous, and the friends of law and order will be elected by a thousand majority. There is no occasion to be alarmed. President Rigdon is inspiring fears there are no grounds for.’”16

Under such circumstances the arrival of the Twelve from the East on the evening of 6 August was timely. They met the next morning in the home of John Taylor and rejoiced to be together again “and to be welcomed by the saints who considered it very providential for the Twelve to arrive at this particular juncture, when their minds were agitated, their hearts sorrowful, and darkness seemed to cloud their path.”17 Brigham Young took firm control of the meeting. After a discussion of all that had transpired, he announced there would be another meeting at 4:00 P.M., to be attended by the Apostles, the Nauvoo high council, and high priests, to discuss Sidney’s claims made to the Saints the previous Sunday.

At the meeting Sidney Rigdon was invited to make a statement about his vision and revelations. He said, “The object of my mission is to visit the saints and offer myself to them as a guardian. I had a vision at Pittsburgh, June 27th [the day of the Martyrdom]. This was presented to my mind not as an open vision, but rather a continuation of the vision mentioned in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants [referring to the vision he and Joseph Smith had experienced that is recorded in D&C 76].”18 He went on to say that no one could take the place of Joseph as the head of the Church and that he, as the designated spokesman for the Prophet, should assume the role of guardian of the Church. Wilford Woodruff recorded in his journal that Sidney’s statement was a “long story. It was a kind of second class vision.”19

Following Sidney’s remarks, Brigham Young spoke:

“I do not care who leads the church . . . but one thing I must know, and that is what God says about it. I have the keys and the means of obtaining the mind of God on the subject. . . .

“Joseph conferred upon our heads all the keys and powers belonging to the Apostleship which he himself held before he was taken away, and no man or set of men can get between Joseph and the Twelve in this world or in the world to come.

“How often has Joseph said to the Twelve, ‘I have laid the foundation and you must build thereon, for upon your shoulders the kingdom rests.’”20

President Young then designated Tuesday, 13 August as a special conference in which the people would be organized in a solemn assembly to vote on the matter. The next morning, however, the Apostles met privately and, “in consequence of some excitement among the People and a dispositions by some spirits to try to divide the Church,” decided to hold the solemn assembly that afternoon rather than wait until the following Tuesday.21

The Mantle Falls on Brigham Young

Thursday, 8 August 1844,22 stands as one of the most important days in the history of the Restoration. On that day a miracle occurred before the body of the Church—Brigham Young was transfigured before the people, and the succession crisis of the Church was resolved. A special meeting to choose a guardian was held that morning at ten o’clock in the grove, according to the arrangements of William Marks. Sidney Rigdon spoke for an hour and a half about his desires to be the guardian of the Church, but he awakened no emotion and said nothing that marked him as the true leader. Brigham Young told the audience that he would rather have spent a month mourning the dead Prophet than so quickly attend to the business of appointing a new shepherd.23 While he was speaking, he was miraculously transfigured before the people.

Benjamin F. Johnson

Benjamin F. Johnson (1818–69) was a close friend of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He served for a time as the Prophet’s private secretary. He was one of the original pioneers who entered the Salt Lake Valley on 22 October 1848.25 He later served as a patriarch.

People of all ages were present, and they later recorded their experiences. Benjamin F. Johnson, twenty-six at that time, remembered, “As soon as he [Brigham Young] spoke I jumped upon my feet, for in every possible degree it was Joseph’s voice, and his person, in look, attitude, dress and appearance was Joseph himself, personified; and I knew in a moment the spirit and mantle of Joseph was upon him.”24 Zina Huntington, who was a young woman twenty-one years old at that time, said “President Young was speaking. It was the voice of Joseph Smith—not that of Brigham Young. His very person was changed. . . . I closed my eyes. I could have exclaimed, I know that is Joseph Smith’s voice! Yet I knew he had gone. But the same spirit was with the people.”26

Zina D. Huntington

Zina Diantha Huntington Young (1821–1901) was General President of the Relief Society from 1888 to 1901. Zina, a plural wife of Brigham Young, became known in Utah for her medical skills.

George Q. Cannon, then a boy of fifteen, declared that “it was the voice of Joseph himself; and not only was it the voice of Joseph which was heard; but it seemed in the eyes of the people as though it was the very person of Joseph which stood before them. . . . They both saw and heard with their natural eyes and ears, and then the words which were uttered came, accompanied by the convincing power of God, to their hearts, and they were filled with the Spirit and with great joy.”27 Wilford Woodruff testified, “If I had not seen him with my own eyes, there is no one that could have convinced me that it was not Joseph Smith speaking.”28

In view of these statements, Brigham Young’s own record of the events that day is especially meaningful: “My heart was swollen with compassion towards them and by the power of the Holy Ghost, even the spirit of the Prophets, I was enabled to comfort the hearts of the Saints.”29 The meeting was then dismissed until 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

At 2 P.M. thousands of Saints gathered for what they knew would be a significant meeting. With the quorums of the priesthood seated in order, Brigham Young spoke frankly about the proposed guardianship of Sidney Rigdon and his alienation from Joseph Smith during the previous two years. He boldly prophesied, “All that want to draw away a party from the church after them, let them do it if they can, but they will not prosper.”30

President Young continued, and then turning to his main point declared,

“If the people want President Rigdon to lead them they may have him; but I say unto you that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have the keys of the kingdom of God in all the world.

“The Twelve are appointed by the finger of God. Here is Brigham, have his knees ever faltered? Have his lips ever quivered? Here is Heber and the rest of the Twelve, an independent body who have the keys of the priesthood—the keys of the kingdom of God to deliver to all the world: this is true, so help me God. They stand next to Joseph, and are as the First Presidency of the Church.”31

Amasa Lyman

Amasa Lyman (1813–77) was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1842 to 1867. He was replaced in the Quorum on 20 January 1843 due to the reinstatement of Orson Pratt. He was appointed a counselor in the First Presidency about 4 February 1843 and at the death of Joseph Smith was returned to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on 12 August 1844.

He pointed out that Sidney could not be above the Twelve because they would have to ordain him to be President of the Church. Brigham urged everybody to see Brother Rigdon as a friend and stated that if he were to sit in cooperation and counsel with the Twelve, they would be able to act as one. Following President Young’s two-hour speech, talks were delivered by Amasa Lyman, William W. Phelps, and Parley P. Pratt; each eloquently contended for the authority of the Twelve.

Brigham Young then arose and asked the basic question: “Do you want Brother Rigdon to stand forward as your leader, your guide, your spokesman. President Rigdon wants me to bring up the other question first, and that is, Does the church want, and is it their only desire to sustain the Twelve as the First Presidency of this people?” The vote was then taken, and all hands went up. Brigham then asked, “If there are any of the contrary mind, every man and every woman who does not want the Twelve to preside, lift up your hands in like manner.” No hands went up.32

Before concluding the conference, President Young called for the members’ approval on the following issues: tithing the members to complete the temple, allowing the Twelve to preach to all the world, financing of the Church, teaching bishops in handling the business affairs of the Church, appointing a patriarch to the Church to replace Hyrum Smith, and sustaining Sidney Rigdon with faith and prayers. The conference was then adjourned. Once more the Church had a presidency—the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—with Brigham Young as their president.

Preparation of the Twelve for Their Responsibilities

For several years the Lord had carefully prepared the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to assume the leadership of the Church. When the Twelve were first called in 1835, their duties were restricted to areas outside the organized stakes, but in time their responsibilities were broadened to include authority over all the members of the Church. Thomas B. Marsh, David W. Patten, and Brigham Young were called to lead the stake in Far West in 1838. And while Joseph and Hyrum were in Liberty Jail in Missouri, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and John Taylor of the Twelve directed the exodus of the Saints from Missouri to Illinois.

The mission of the Twelve to Great Britain welded them into a united quorum under the direction of Brigham Young. When they returned to America, the Prophet Joseph increased their responsibilities in both temporal and ecclesiastical affairs. They were involved in raising funds for the Nauvoo House and the temple as well as constructing them, helping the poor, managing land, and directing the settlement of new immigrants into Illinois. They participated in decisions affecting Nauvoo business and economic development. The Twelve were among the first to receive instruction from Joseph Smith on plural marriage and the temple ordinances. Members of the Twelve were given responsibility over Church publishing, they directed the calling, assigning, and instructing of missionaries, they presided over conferences both in the field and in Nauvoo, and they regulated the branches abroad.

Most importantly, Joseph Smith, feeling that he might soon die, took great care during the last seven months of his life to carefully prepare the Twelve. He met with the quorum almost every day to instruct them and give them additional responsibilities. In an extraordinary council meeting in late March 1844, he solemnly told the Twelve that he could now leave them because his work was done and the foundation was laid so the kingdom of God could be reared.

Wilford Woodruff later recalled those days of 1844:

“I am a living witness to the testimony that he [Joseph Smith] gave to the Twelve Apostles when all of us received our endowments from under his hands. I remember the last speech that he ever gave us before his death. It was before we started upon our mission to the East. He stood upon his feet some three hours. The room was filled as with consuming fire, his face was as clear as amber, and he was clothed upon by the power of God. He laid before us our duty. He laid before us the fullness of this great work of God; and in his remarks to us he said: ‘I have had sealed upon my head every key, every power, every principle of life and salvation that God has ever given to any man who ever lived upon the face of the earth. And these principles and this Priesthood and power belong to this great and last dispensation which the God of Heaven has set His hand to establish in the earth. ‘Now,’ said he addressing the Twelve, ‘I have sealed upon your heads every key, every power, and every principle which the Lord has sealed upon my head.’ . . .

“After addressing us in this manner he said: ‘I tell you, the burden of this kingdom now rests upon your shoulders; you have got to bear it off in all the world, and if you don’t do it you will be damned.’”33

On this same occasion, Joseph conferred the keys of the sealing power on Brigham Young, President of the Twelve. Brigham later explained that “this last key of the priesthood is the most sacred of all, and pertains exclusively to the first presidency of the Church.”34

Formation of Splinter Groups

Even as the Twelve began to firmly exercise their authority, Sidney Rigdon and James J. Strang, a new convert to the Church, worked behind the scenes to try and wrest the leadership away. Rigdon claimed his authority was superior to that of the Twelve and, being unwilling to submit to their counsel, was excommunicated on 8 September 1844. He returned to Pittsburgh and the following spring organized a “Church of Christ” with Apostles, prophets, priests, and kings. This attracted a few people—those who opposed the Twelve and felt that Joseph Smith had been a fallen prophet. Rigdon published the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate to promulgate his views. By 1847 this small organization disintegrated. Rigdon, however, hung on to a handful of followers for another thirty years as the self-appointed “President of the Kingdom and the Church.” He finally died in obscurity in the state of New York in 1876.35

James J. Strang

James J. Strang (1813–56)

James J. Strang was a more imaginative and charismatic leader. Following his baptism by Joseph Smith, four months before the Martyrdom, he returned to his home in Wisconsin. In August 1844 he presented a letter that he claimed had been written by Joseph Smith, appointing himself as the Prophet’s successor and designating Voree, Wisconsin, as the new gathering place. Brigham Young and the Twelve correctly branded the letter a forgery and excommunicated Strang. He nevertheless convinced some to follow him to Voree, eventually winning over three former members of the Twelve who had lost their standing in the Church—William E. McLellin, John E. Page, and William Smith. For a time he also had the support of William Marks and Martin Harris. His church had some missionary success in the East. In 1849 he located his colony on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan and had himself crowned “king of the kingdom.” The group eventually ran into numerous economic difficulties, and in 1856 Strang was murdered by disaffected followers and the movement virtually collapsed.

William Smith

William Smith (1811–93), younger brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith, was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1835 to 1845.

Some of Joseph Smith’s own family did not follow the Twelve. The Prophet’s widow, Emma, could not be reconciled with the Twelve on economic and theological matters. She became embittered and influenced her children against following the direction of the Twelve. When the Saints made their exodus to the West, Emma and her family stayed in Nauvoo. When William Smith belatedly returned to Nauvoo from the East, he was ordained Church Patriarch to replace Hyrum. After a few months, he advanced his own claims to be Church leader. He was consequently excommunicated. Following a short association with Strang, William taught that Joseph Smith’s eldest son should, by right of lineage, inherit the presidency and that he, William, was to be guardian and president pro tem until Joseph III was of age.

There were others who refused to follow the leadership of Brigham Young and the Twelve. A few members were disaffected over plural marriage; some isolated branches did not go west and became confused as to what course they should take. During the 1850s a “new organization” gradually emerged. In 1860 leaders of the new organization (among them William Marks) formed the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and succeeded in naming Joseph Smith III to be its president. Eventually it established its headquarters in Independence, Missouri.

The Twelve and the Process of Succession

The apostolic succession in 1844 established the principles and set the pattern for future reorganizations of the Presidency of the Church. Following the death of each President, the keys of the kingdom, which have been conferred upon each Apostle at his ordination, reside with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as a body (see D&C 107:23–24; 112:15).

Elder Spencer W. Kimball, in a general conference address in 1970, explained the process: “The moment life passes from a President of the Church, a body of men become the composite leader—these men already seasoned with experience and training. The appointments have long been made, the authority given, the keys delivered. . . . the kingdom moves forward under this already authorized council. No ‘running’ for position, no electioneering, no stump speeches. What a divine plan! How wise our Lord, to organize so perfectly beyond the weakness of frail, grasping humans.”36

The Lord controls succession in his church. President Ezra Taft Benson explained, “God knows all things, the end from the beginning, and no man becomes President of the church of Jesus Christ by accident, nor remains there by chance, nor is called home by happenstance.”37


1. In History of the Church, 7:148.

2. W. W. Phelps, Willard Richards, and John Taylor, in History of the Church, 7:152.

3. In History of the Church, 7:173.

4. “Praise to the Man,” Hymns, no. 27.

5. History of the Church, 7:133; see also pp. 132–33.

6. Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Classics in Mormon Literature series (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985), p. 292.

7. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 292.

8. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, pp. 293–94.

9. See Merlo J. Pusey, Builders of the Kingdom (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1981), p. 52.

10. See Leonard J. Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985) p. 111.

11. Elden Jay Watson, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1801–1844 (Salt Lake City: Elden Jay Watson, 1968), p. 171.

12. Wilford Woodruff Journals, 6–7 Aug. 1844, LDS Historical Department, Salt Lake City; spelling, punctuation, and capitalization standardized.

13. History of the Church, 7:224.

14. In History of the Church, 7:225.

15. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 295.

16. History of the Church, 7:226.

17. History of the Church, 7:229.

18. In History of the Church, 7:229.

19. Wilford Woodruff Journals, 7 Aug. 1844; punctuation and capitalization standardized.

20. In History of the Church, 7:230.

21. Wilford Woodruff Journals, 8 Aug. 1844.

22. This section is derived from Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, pp. 114–16.

23. Brigham Young’s Journal 1837–45, 8 Aug. 1844, LDS Historical Department, Salt Lake City, pp. 47–49.

24. Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life’s Review (Independence, Mo.: Zion’s Printing and Publishing Co., 1947), p. 104.

25. Johnson, My Life’s Review, p. 123.

26. In Edward W. Tullidge, The Women of Mormondom (New York: Tullidge and Crandall, 1877), pp. 326–27.

27. “Joseph Smith, the Prophet,” Juvenile Instructor, 29 Oct. 1870, pp. 174–75.

28. Deseret Weekly News, 15 Mar. 1892, p. 3; see also Truman G. Madsen, “Notes on the Succession of Brigham Young,” in Seminar on Brigham Young, 12 May 1962, Brigham Young University Department of Extension Publications Adult Education and Extension Services, Provo, 1963, p. 9.

29. Brigham Young’s Journal 1837–45, 8 Aug. 1844, p. 48; spelling and punctuation standardized.

30. In History of the Church, 7:232.

31. In History of the Church, 7:233.

32. In History of the Church, 7:240.

33. Deseret Weekly News, 15 Mar. 1892, p. 406.

34. “P. P. Pratt’s Proclamation,” Millennial Star, Mar. 1845, p. 151; previous three paragraphs derived from Ronald K. Esplin, “Joseph, Brigham and the Twelve: A Succession of Continuity,” Brigham Young University Studies, Summer 1981, pp. 311, 319–20.

35. Derived from James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976), p. 202; Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, pp. 116–17, 119.

36. In Conference Report, Apr. 1970, p. 118.

37. Ezra Taft Benson, in Korea Area Conference 1975, p. 52.

Nauvoo under Apostolic Leadership

Time Line



Significant Event

Jan. 1845

Nauvoo Charter revoked

Spring/summer 1845

Nauvoo experienced new growth and development

Sept. 1845

Antagonism against Saints renewed in Hancock County

Oct. 1845

Church leaders announced intention to move to the West

Dec. 1845

Endowment ordinance work began in Nauvoo Temple

Winter 1845–46

Saints prepared for exodus to the West

4 Feb. 1846

First group crossed the Mississippi River

Mid-Feb. 1846

Brigham Young and others of the Twelve left Nauvoo

With the issue of succession settled, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles began immediately to exercise its authority in leading the Church. In the Times and Seasons of 15 August 1844, they assured the Saints that as a body they were prepared to preside over the Church and promote its growth. They also reaffirmed the importance of gathering to Nauvoo and finishing the temple. They were equally eager to continue in the footsteps of the Prophet Joseph Smith in sending the gospel “forth through every neighborhood of this wide-spread country, and to all the world.”1 Despite their optimism, new challenges and difficulties lay ahead which would threaten the existence of Nauvoo and test their ability as religious leaders.

Setting the Church in Order

The Twelve met in council the day after they were sustained as the presiding authority of the Church. In that meeting and in several others in succeeding weeks, they began to set in order the organization and affairs of the Church. They first freed themselves from many financial duties by appointing Bishops Newel K. Whitney and George Miller to the office of trustee-in-trust. Amasa Lyman was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and William Smith, as the oldest living son of Joseph Smith, Sr., was appointed Church Patriarch. Wilford Woodruff was sent to England to preside over the Church in Europe, and Parley P. Pratt was called to New York as president, publisher, and immigration agent in the Eastern states and provinces. Lyman Wight went to Texas, in accordance with a previous assignment from Joseph Smith, to locate potential sites for settlements. John Taylor was reassigned to edit the Times and Seasons, while Willard Richards continued as Church historian and recorder.

Church organization in the United States and Canada was expanded. Both countries were organized into districts, each presided over by a high priest. This provided needed administration for hundreds of scattered branches. Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Willard Richards supervised this organization, and by October eighty-five presiding high priests had been called and charged to build up stakes as large as Nauvoo.2 In Nauvoo and surrounding settlements, teachers in the Aaronic Priesthood were urged to visit the homes of the Saints regularly, and deacons were assigned to assist the bishops in the care of the poor. (Until the 1850s these Aaronic Priesthood offices were held primarily by adults.)

One additional far-reaching change involved the expansion of the seventies quorums in the Church. On 18 August, President Young declared, “a presidency of seven men will be chosen out of the first quorum to preside over the first ten quorums.”3 At the following October general conference, the number of quorums increased to twelve, and 430 seventies were ordained and assigned to their ranks. Speaking at the conference, Brigham Young said that if a person desired to preach the gospel, he would be called to be a seventy. By January 1846 there were more than thirty quorums of seventy functioning. The Seventies Hall, an elegant two-story brick meetinghouse, was pushed to completion and used as a preparatory school for the many new missionaries.4

Seventies Hall

An important building during the late Nauvoo period was the Seventies Hall. Intended primarily as a meeting place for various quorums of the seventy, it was constructed by cooperative effort and was completed and dedicated in December 1844.

The Seventies Hall housed a training school for missionaries, a small library, and a museum of artifacts that missionaries had brought back from various parts of the world. It was also used for a variety of important Church meetings. It was completely razed before 1900, but archaeological excavations located the original foundations, and it was reconstructed in 1971–72.

The Twelve also continued to weed apostate elements out of the Church. Brigham Young recounted a dream where he saw a fruit tree with dead branches at the top, which had to be pruned away so the tree could flourish. He urged, “Let us cut off the dead branches of the church that good fruit may grow and a voice will soon be heard, go and build up Zion and the Temple of the Lord.”5

The City of Joseph

In 1844 Nauvoo was one of the most flourishing cities in Illinois. By perseverance, industry, and unity, the Saints had replaced the swamps with a thriving community in only five years. Advantageously situated on the Mississippi River, it promised to become a great commercial center. Many citizens in the surrounding communities, however, feared the Latter-day Saints and their religion and were determined to thwart the growth and development of Nauvoo.

old photo of Nauvoo

In this 1846 daguerreotype of Nauvoo, frame and brick buildings dominate. Nauvoo grew and changed rapidly in the few years the Saints were there. When they first arrived they lived in tents, wagons, dugouts, lean-tos, or simple log structures. As they struggled to improve their economic, social, and cultural conditions, these were gradually replaced by traditional frame homes. In the late Nauvoo period, brick homes became popular. Meanwhile, many public buildings and businesses were also constructed.

They were particularly unhappy with what they considered to be special privileges given Nauvoo by its charter, and they called for its repeal and for the disbandment of the Nauvoo Legion. When the legislature convened in January 1845, these demands were accepted, and the Nauvoo Charter was revoked. This action seemed justified in part because many people believed that Nauvoo harbored renegades, rogues, counterfeiters, and other fugitives. At this time some areas of frontier Illinois were infested with gangsters powerful enough to control the courts and avoid punishment. Some lawless people claimed Church membership and said that crimes committed against Gentiles were sanctioned by the Church. In reality the Church consistently excommunicated those who were guilty of serious crimes.6

In the wake of numerous newspaper reports in western Illinois concerning the presence of lawless Mormons, Nauvoo citizens held a public meeting. They noted:

“Thieves and counterfeiters have in some instances fled to our city, either under the mistaken apprehension that we would screen them, or from a malignant design to palm upon us their own crimes, and thereby draw us under the lash of persecution; and whereas it can be proved that individuals, in order to swell the list of Mormon depredations, have reported property to be stolen, which at another time they have acknowledged, they sold the same property and received pay. . . .

Therefore, be it resolved, unanimously, that we will use all lawful means in our power to assist the public to prevent stealing and bogusmaking [counterfeiting], and bring the offenders to justice.”7

The damage to the reputation of the Mormons, however, was already done, and with the repeal of the Nauvoo Charter, the Saints were without a legal government or the protection of their own militia. The brethren decided to continue the legion “on an extralegal basis as an instrument of internal control and as a means of defense. Guards were posted to prevent people [from] going into or out of the city without permission of the authorities.”8 Brigham Young renamed Nauvoo “The City of Joseph,” a name approved by the Saints at the April general conference. Although part of Nauvoo was reincorporated as an official town by the legislature, there was still a need for additional protective measures. The city was kept relatively free of unwanted characters by an organized group of young men and boys known as the “whistling and whittling brigade.” They followed unwanted visitors whistling and whittling until the irritated and frightened persons left town.9

Heber C. Kimball home in Nauvoo

The example of Heber C. Kimball was probably typical of the way Latter-day Saints changed and improved their dwellings. In 1839 he built a lean-to out of stable logs on the back of another house for his family’s first home. Two months later he erected a larger log house, and after his return from England in 1841 he built another log house. In 1843 he added a brick addition.

It was not until the fall of 1845 that this two story brick home was finished. It is a modified Federalist style with a picturesque stepped fire gable on each end, which was typical of English architecture in this period. The Kimballs lived in this home less than five months before leaving with the vanguard pioneers in February 1846 to face six more years of tents, wagon boxes, and log cabins.

In spite of the challenges, Nauvoo continued to grow. The building industry particularly flourished and outdistanced all other trades in Nauvoo. New frame and brick homes, gardens, and farms were established. Many earlier settlers to Nauvoo built new homes, since their original shelter was often a hastily constructed log or frame hut. Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards replaced their log homes with handsome two-story brick houses in 1845. The Church also constructed a home for Lucy Mack Smith during this period. Public construction projects, such as the Seventies Hall and Concert Hall, complemented the residential building boom. A stone dike, or wing dam, in the Mississippi River, intended as a source of water power for workshops and machinery, was also begun. The largest project, however, continued to be the completion of the Nauvoo Temple.10

In June of 1845, Brigham Young sent a letter to Wilford Woodruff, then serving as president of the British Mission, about the growth of Nauvoo. He wrote that the city “looks like a paradise. All the lots and land, which have heretofore been vacant and unoccupied, were enclosed in the spring, and planted with grain and vegetables, which makes it look more like a garden of gardens than a city. . . . Hundreds of acres of prairie land have also been enclosed, and are now under good cultivation, blooming with corn, wheat, potatoes, and other necessaries of life. Many strangers are pouring in to view the Temple and the city. They express their astonishment and surprise to see the rapid progress.”11 Indeed it was prospering, for by the end of 1845 Nauvoo had about eleven thousand residents. It was a showcase, and numerous visitors from the East and England wrote complimentary articles about the Mormon metropolis.12

Antagonism in Hancock County

Nauvoo’s spectacular growth only increased the antagonism of the Church’s enemies. It was evident that the death of Joseph Smith had not diminished the strength and vigor of the Saints. The enemies of the Church supposed that it would not endure without its charismatic leader, and when they saw that the Church was not only surviving but was flourishing, their attempts to drive the Saints from the state were renewed and intensified.

As early as September 1844, Colonel Levi Williams of Warsaw, who had been involved in the murders at Carthage, organized a major military campaign to drive the Latter-day Saints from Illinois. It was advertised as “a great wolf hunt in Hancock County.” When word of it reached Governor Ford, he ordered General John Hardin of the state militia to Hancock County to thwart the effort. General Hardin remained in Hancock County throughout the winter to keep the peace.13

There was heightened tension in Hancock County in May 1845 when nine men were finally brought to trial in Carthage for the murder of Joseph Smith. Five of them were prominent citizens: Mark Aldrich, land promoter; Jacob C. Davis, state senator; William A. Grover, captain of the Warsaw militia; Thomas C. Sharp, newspaper editor; and Levi Williams, colonel in the fifty-ninth regiment of the state militia. The trial lasted for two weeks, an unusually long time for that era. Prosecution witnesses gave contradictory evidence, while defense attorneys argued persuasively before a non-Mormon jury that Joseph Smith was killed in response to the popular will of the people. Therefore, they asserted that no specific person or group could be held responsible. The defendants were acquitted. A separate trial scheduled for 24 June for the murder of Hyrum Smith was not held because the prosecutors did not appear.

Apparently free from any legal reprisals, Thomas Sharp unleashed a new anti-Mormon volley in the Warsaw Signal in the summer of 1845. He opposed Latter-day Saint officeholders in the county and reopened the debate over Mormon political activity. These actions provided a smoke screen for a barrage of vandalism against the Saints. Early in September, a mob of three hundred men led by Levi Williams systematically burned outlying Mormon farms and homes. They first raided Morley’s settlement and torched many unprotected homes, farm buildings, mills, and grain stacks. In mid-September Brigham Young asked for volunteers to rescue the besieged Saints. One hundred thirty-four teams were secured and immediately sent to bring the families of the outlying settlements in south Hancock County and north Adams County safely to Nauvoo.

handwritten document

Jacob Backenstos was a friendly non-Mormon. He was the clerk of the circuit court in Hancock County, and in 1844 he was elected to the state legislature. In 1845 he was elected sheriff and became embroiled in controversy over the accused assassins of Joseph and Hyrum. The above text shows his counsel to the Saints to defend their lives and property against mob action. Backenstos became an army officer in 1846 and served with distinction in the war with Mexico.

The sheriff of Hancock County, Jacob Backenstos, a friend of the Latter-day Saints, endeavored to preserve order, but citizens in Warsaw refused to join a posse he tried to organize. After he drove off the mob with a posse made up of ex-members of the Nauvoo Legion, his life was threatened by the non-Mormons of Hancock County, and he fled. Frank Worrell, who had supervised the guard at Carthage the day of the Martyrdom, led the chase after Backenstos. Near the railroad shanties north of Warsaw, Backenstos overtook several members of the Church and immediately deputized them. When Worrell raised his gun to fire at the sheriff, deputy Porter Rockwell took aim with his rifle and mortally wounded Worrell. This intensified hostilities in Hancock County, and with civil war imminent, citizens in Quincy, Illinois, and Lee County, Iowa, asked Church members to move from Illinois. On 24 September 1845 the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles promised that the Church would leave the following spring.

Governor Ford dispatched four hundred militia troops under the direction of General Hardin and three other prominent citizens, including Congressman Stephen A. Douglas, to act as an independent police force during this period of civil unrest. The depredations ended, and peace was restored temporarily. Acting as the governor’s on-the-spot advisory committee, the four leaders investigated the circumstances and learned that the anti-Mormons had initiated the conflict with their raids. They also recognized that there would be no peace in Hancock County until the Mormons left Illinois.14

Congressman Douglas was an advocate of manifest destiny—a philosophy advocating the growth of the United States completely across the continent. He counseled Church leaders to find a place to settle in the West and promised to use his influence in assisting their move. For some time Church leaders had planned a move to the Rocky Mountains, so these negotiations proceeded smoothly. Finally the Saints agreed to leave Nauvoo the following spring as soon as there was enough grass on the prairies to sustain their cattle and horses. Trustees of the Church would stay in Nauvoo to sell any remaining property.

Completing the Nauvoo Temple

Throughout this period, Brigham Young and members of the Twelve kept work on the temple moving. They met frequently with the architect and temple committee and repeatedly invited the members to “gather to Nauvoo with their means” to help build the house of the Lord.15 In the October 1844 general conference, Brigham Young said, “I believe this people is the best people of their age that ever lived on the earth, the church of Enoch not excepted. We want you to come on with your tithes and offerings to build this Temple.”16 In response the “Relief Society sisters recommitted themselves to contribute a penny a week per member for glass and nails,”17 while those of means contributed large sums without which the project would not have progressed. Joseph Toronto handed Brigham Young twenty-five hundred dollars in gold, saying “he wanted to give himself and all he had” to build the kingdom of God.18 Numerous craftsmen were called to help with the project. By the spring of 1845 the capstone was in position. The workers then assembled the roof and finished the interior. Plans were set for a formal dedication in April 1846.

Rooms in the temple were dedicated as they were completed so that ordinance work could begin as early as possible. General conference convened in the partially finished edifice in October 1845. Brigham Young “opened the services of the day by a dedicatory prayer, presenting the Temple, thus far completed, as a monument of the saints’ liberality, fidelity, and faith, concluding: ‘Lord, we dedicate this house and ourselves, to thee.’ The day was occupied most agreeably in hearing instructions and teachings, and offering up the gratitude of honest hearts, for so great a privilege, as worshiping God within instead of without an edifice, whose beauty and workmanship will compare with any house of worship in America, and whose motto is: ‘HOLINESS TO THE LORD.’”19

The attic story of the temple was dedicated for ordinance work 30 November 1845. President Young prayed that the Lord would sustain and deliver his servants until they accomplished his will in the temple. The rooms were soon prepared for ordinances, and Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball began giving endowments to faithful Latter-day Saints on the evening of 10 December. On 11 December endowment sessions were continued until 3 A.M.

William Miller

William Miller (1814–75) was baptized in 1834 in Kirtland and moved there with his family for a short time before going on to Missouri. In 1839 they moved to Illinois with the rest of the Church. Following the “bogus Brigham” incident the Millers left Nauvoo with the Saints. Because of sickness William was unable to build a log house at Winter Quarters, and the family lived in a dugout during the winter of 1846–47.

In Utah he played an important role in the settlement of Provo and Springville. In 1856 he served a mission to England and was later called to preside over the Utah Stake and at the same time serve as a bishop in Provo.

When enemies of the Church observed this increased temple activity, they renewed their oppression. A new threat against the Church leadership soon came in the form of an indictment issued by the United States District Court in Springfield against Brigham Young and eight other Apostles on charges of instigating and harboring a counterfeiting operation in Nauvoo. On 23 December, government officials approached the temple, hoping to find and arrest Brigham Young. Knowing they were there, Brigham Young knelt down and asked for guidance and protection so that he could “live to prove advantageous to the Saints.20 He noticed William Miller in the hall, who agreed to act as a decoy. Brother Miller, who was the same height as Brigham, left the temple dressed as Brigham Young and stepped into the president’s carriage. Waiting marshals arrested him and took him to the Mansion House where friends and relatives of Brigham joined in on the charade. Miller was then taken to Carthage. Only after someone there identified him did his captors learn that they had a “bogus Brigham.” Meanwhile Brigham Young and his brethren had gone into safe hiding.

The Brethren redoubled their efforts to endow as many Saints as possible before the evacuation of Nauvoo began. By the end of 1845, over a thousand members had received these ordinances. In January, Brigham Young recorded, “Such has been the anxiety manifested by the saints to receive the ordinances [of the Temple], and such the anxiety on our part to administer to them, that I have given myself up entirely to the work of the Lord in the Temple night and day, not taking more than four hours sleep, upon an average, per day, and going home but once a week.”21 There were many others among the brethren and sisters who gave freely of their time by washing the temple clothing each night so the work could continue unimpeded the next morning.22

On 3 February the Brethren planned to stop the ordinance work, and Brigham Young left the temple to make final preparation to leave the next day for the West. But seeing a large crowd gathered to receive their endowments, he compassionately returned to serve them. This delayed his departure for another two weeks. According to temple records, 5,615 Saints were endowed before going west, thus fulfilling one of Joseph Smith’s fondest desires.

The Church in Other Areas

Following the Martyrdom, many important events occurred in other areas of the Church, particularly in Britain and the eastern United States. Arriving in England early in 1845, Wilford Woodruff traveled throughout Britain holding conferences, transacting mission affairs, and opening new areas for missionary activities. In Manchester, at a large manufacturing center, he met a crowded conference of eager Latter-day Saints. He recorded the incident in his journal: “The spirit of the Lord was with us. Love and union pervaded the congregation. I was made glad with the scene of beholding so many saints united in the New and Everlasting Covenant. I often thought I would like to see President Joseph Smith meet with a conference of Saints in England but he has gone. We can go to him but it is not expected he will come to us.”23

At the end of 1845, Elder Woodruff was released from his short but effective mission. Even though there was some emigration from England to Nauvoo in 1845, the Church continued to prosper and grow rapidly in England, reaching a membership of over eleven thousand. By the end of 1845, the faithful Saints there had contributed over three hundred pounds worth of sterling for the Nauvoo Temple. As he again left this land where he performed so many great works during his two missions, Elder Woodruff noted how peaceful and happy the British Saints were.

Elder Parley P. Pratt’s mission to the eastern states was not unlike Wilford Woodruff’s to Britain. He was to put in order the affairs of the Church in the East before the Saints began their long-awaited exodus to the West. But Elder Pratt found more serious problems there than Wilford Woodruff did in England.

The Prophet newspaper

The newspaper Prophet, in which the important “proclamation” to heads of government appeared, was edited by Samuel Brannan, William Smith, and Parley P. Pratt in New York. It ran a little less than two years, beginning on 18 May 1844 and ending on 15 December 1845.

As he surveyed the situation, Parley and his two companions discovered that William Smith, George Adams, Samuel Brannan, and others were teaching “all manner of false doctrine and immoral practices, by which many of them had stumbled and been seduced from virtue and truth. While many others, seeing their iniquity, had turned away from the Church and joined various dissenting parties.”24 In accordance with instructions previously received from Brigham Young, the Brethren sent the guilty parties to Nauvoo for discipline by the Twelve. Parley also assumed editorship of the Prophet, the Church’s newspaper in New York. His writings instructed and inspired many. One important item he published was a proclamation to the heads of government worldwide, thus fulfilling an assignment given by revelation to the Church in 1841 (see D&C 124:2–7).

Elder Jedediah M. Grant was one of those who ably assisted Elder Pratt “in setting in order the churches and reestablishing pure gospel principles.”25 For several years Elder Grant had made significant contributions as a missionary, and in December 1845 he was called as one of the seven presidents of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

Elder Pratt returned to Nauvoo in August 1845. There he stood with his brethren as the Church faced the anti-Mormon outrages in Hancock County. He also contributed to the building of the temple and labored in it night and day during December and January administering the endowment to faithful Latter-day Saints.

Preparing for the Move West

Long before he died, the Prophet Joseph had discussed moving the Church to the West. In 1842 he had prophesied that the Saints would continue to suffer much affliction and “some of you will live to go and assist in making settlements and build cities and see the Saints become a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains.”26 In the spring of 1844 plans for colonizing in the West were initiated. An exploring party was organized to “investigate the locations of California and Oregon, and hunt out a good location, where we can remove to after the temple is completed, and where we can build a city in a day, and have a government of our own, get up into the mountains, where the devil cannot dig us out, and live in a healthful climate, where we can live as old as we have a mind to.”27 After the Prophet’s death, further preparations for such an exodus were made.

Lyman Wight

Lyman Wight (1796–1858) was baptized in November 1830 and was one of the first to be ordained a high priest. He completed several assignments of trust in Ohio and Missouri and shared the Liberty Jail cell with Joseph Smith in Missouri. After moving to Illinois he was ordained an Apostle on 8 April 1841.

In the summer of 1843 he went to cut lumber in the forests of the Black River, Wisconsin country, and while there conceived of the idea of going to Texas to establish a gathering place. After the death of Joseph Smith he was determined to carry out his Texas proposal, which at first had the approval of Church leaders. He later rejected the leadership of the Twelve and was excommunicated 3 December 1848.

The planned move west gave some people an excuse to lead away groups from the Church. Joseph Smith had authorized Lyman Wight and Bishop George Miller to establish a colony in Texas; President Young encouraged this effort until it became obvious that Wight and Miller wanted the whole Church to settle there. In late August 1844, Elder Wight was counseled to limit his company to those working with him at the Wisconsin pineries. These he led to Texas. Rather than exploring for a colony, however, he established a permanent settlement. In November 1845 the Saints in Texas were asked to return to Nauvoo, but the independent-minded leader and his followers refused. In 1848, after several more reconciliation attempts, Elder Wight was excommunicated from the Church.

George Miller

George Miller (1794–1856) was baptized into the Church in 1839 by John Taylor in Illinois. In 1841 he was called to serve as a bishop (see D&C 124:20–21). In 1842–44 he took several loads of wood down the Mississippi River from the Wisconsin pineries. Following the Martyrdom he was appointed trustee-in-trust for the Church.

In 1847, however, Miller refused to be governed by Brigham Young, so he joined Lyman Wight in Texas. In 1850 he joined the Strangites at Beaver Island in Michigan. After James J. Strang’s death in 1856, Miller started for California but died in Illinois.

Brigham Young and his colleagues wanted to stay in Illinois until the temple was completed and adequate preparations were made for the departure. During the winter of 1844–45 they read the journals of fur trappers, the reports of government exploring parties, and newspaper articles by western travelers to accumulate as much information about the region as possible. Resettlement committees considered three great western territories as potential sites: Texas, an independent nation; Upper California, a large ill-defined and loosely governed Mexican province (of which the later state of Utah was a part); and Oregon, encompassing the entire Northwest and jointly claimed and administered by the United States and England. Gradually their attention centered on the eastern rim of the Great Basin because this area provided the desired isolation and thousands of acres of fertile land.28

Leaders of the Church assured the Saints, some of whom were surprised at the announcement, that the exodus was a well-planned transplanting necessary to give the Church the room it needed to grow. October general conference was largely devoted to preparing for an orderly and unified withdrawal.29 After the conference the Twelve issued a general epistle explaining that “a crisis of extraordinary and thrilling interests has arrived. The exodus . . . to a far distant region of the west, where bigotry, intolerance and insatiable oppression lose their power over them—forms a new epoch.” It went on to counsel the Saints everywhere to sell their property and prepare for the gathering.30 Despite the onset of winter, Nauvoo was a hive of activity as the Saints began to prepare for the exodus.

The evacuation from western Illinois was originally planned for April 1846, but two new threats prompted an early, hasty exit. The first was the indictment against Brigham Young and eight other Apostles, accusing them of counterfeiting. The second was a warning by Governor Thomas Ford and others that federal troops in St. Louis planned to intercept the Mormons and destroy them. Years later it was learned that this was only a rumor started to induce the Saints to leave sooner than they had planned.31

In January 1846 the Brethren decided to prepare several companies to leave at a moment’s notice. A committee was appointed to dispose of all property and effects left behind, including the temple and the Nauvoo House. The decision to leave was made on 2 February, and the first group, led by Charles Shumway, crossed the Mississippi River on 4 February. Soon there were several hundred Saints assembled in temporary camps in Iowa. Brigham Young and others who remained behind to administer endowments to the Saints did not leave Nauvoo until mid-February. Unfortunately too many left who were inadequately outfitted and chose to depart earlier than was wise.

Covered wagons crossing Mississippi River from Nauvoo

Exodus from Nauvoo by Lynn Faucett.

The first Saints left Nauvoo on 4 February 1846. The first challenge they encountered was transporting themselves and their possessions across the Mississippi River. The river froze over for a brief period allowing some to cross on the ice, but most people went by ferry or small skiff; both methods were hazardous.

Although they did not realize it at the time, the hardest part of the journey west would be the three hundred miles across Iowa in the wet spring of 1846. It was sufficiently difficult to forestall plans to get to the Rocky Mountains that season and force the Saints to set up winter quarters.

Used by permission of Mrs. Lynn Faucett

If the Saints had left Nauvoo beginning in April, as originally planned, undoubtedly there would have been a more orderly exodus. The original blueprint called for twenty-five companies of one hundred families each with adequate provisions and presided over by a company captain. The companies were to have left at prearranged intervals to ensure order. But these plans were shattered by the Saints who panicked and did not want to be left behind after the Twelve had left. Many of the previously appointed captains abandoned their assignments to align themselves with the vanguard companies and be with the Twelve. But in spite of the confusion, there was optimism among the Saints in eastern Iowa. One of the most remarkable migrations in the history of Western civilization had begun.


1. “An Epistle of the Twelve,” Times and Seasons, 15 Aug. 1844, p. 619.

2. See History of the Church, 7:305–7.

3. History of the Church, 7:260.

4. The previous three paragraphs are derived from James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976), pp. 202–4.

5. History of the Church, 7:260.

6. See David E. Miller and Della S. Miller, Nauvoo: The City of Joseph (Salt Lake City: Peregrine Smith, 1974), pp. 132–33.

7. In History of the Church, 7:355–56.

8. Leonard J. Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985), p. 123.

9. See Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, p. 208.

10. In History of the Church, 7:431.

11. Derived from Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, p. 119; Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, p. 205.

12. Derived from Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, p. 120.

13. Paragraph derived from Miller and Miller, Nauvoo: The City of Joseph, pp. 185–86.

14. Previous four paragraphs derived from Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, pp. 198, 208, 211–12.

15. In History of the Church, 7:267.

16. History of the Church, 7:302.

17. Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, p. 206.

18. In History of the Church, 7:433.

19. In History of the Church, 7:456–57.

20. In Journal of Discourses, 14:218.

21. History of the Church, 7:567.

22. See History of the Church, 7:547–48.

23. Wilford Woodruff Journals, 16 Feb. 1845, LDS Historical Department, Salt Lake City; spelling, punctuation, and capitalization standardized.

24. Parley P. Pratt, ed., Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Classics in Mormon Literature series (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985), p. 299.

25. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 300.

26. History of the Church, 5:85.

27. History of the Church, 6:222.

28. Derived from Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, pp. 123–24; Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, p. 209.

29. Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, p. 211.

30. Brigham Young and Willard Richards, in History of the Church, 7:478; see also pp. 479–80.

31. Derived from Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, pp. 126–27; Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, p. 220.

The Trek across Iowa

pioneer parents burying a child

The Winter Quarters monument, located in Omaha, Nebraska, was dedicated 20 September 1936. The monument depicts the agony of pioneer parents burying a child. On the monument is the following inscription:

“That the struggles, the sacrifices and the sufferings of the faithful pioneers and the cause they represented shall never be forgotten. This monument is gratefully erected and dedicated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“First Presidency: Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., David O. McKay.

“Sculptor, Avard Fairbanks, a descendant of pioneers buried here.”

Time Line



Significant Event

4 Feb. 1846

Saints began crossing Mississippi River

1 Mar. 1846

Camp of Israel left Sugar Creek

26 Mar. 1846

Reorganization of Camp of Israel at Chariton River

15 Apr. 1846

Song “All Is Well” composed at Locust Creek

24 Apr. 1846

Garden Grove founded

16 May 1846

Mount Pisgah founded

14 June 1846

Original Pioneer Company reached Missouri River

1–20 July 1846

Mormon Battalion recruited

Sept. 1846

Winter Quarters established

Sept. 1846

Battle of Nauvoo and evacuation of poor Saints

When the Saints crossed the Mississippi River into Iowa, they began a new quest for a home where they could build the kingdom of God without oppression. The way to this new refuge was not easy; it exacted toil, sacrifice, and death, and the first leg of the journey—the trek across Iowa territory—proved to be the hardest. The main “Camp of Israel” took 131 days to cover the 300 miles they traveled across Iowa. The Pioneer Company a year later took only 111 days to cover 1,050 miles from Winter Quarters to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Inadequate preparation, lack of knowledgeable guides, delays, miserable weather, and difficult terrain made the Iowa journey one of the most trying in the Church’s history. Nevertheless, these hardy folk knew no such word as fail. The Iowa journey simply hardened their resolve and provided valuable experience for the future.

The Trek Began in Sorrow

The first wagons rolled out of Nauvoo to the ferry on 4 February 1846. Once across the Mississippi they broke a nine-mile trail to Sugar Creek, set up camp, and awaited the arrival of Brigham Young. During February over three thousand people crossed the river under the direction of Hosea Stout, captain of the Nauvoo police, and gathered at Sugar Creek.

Leaving Nauvoo was an act of faith for the Saints. They departed without knowing exactly where they were going or when they would arrive at a place to settle. They only knew that they were on the verge of being driven out of Illinois by their enemies and that their leaders had received revelation to locate a refuge somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.

Although springlike weather facilitated an early departure from Nauvoo, severe weather arose soon thereafter, which both hampered and blessed the already harried exodus. On 14 February it snowed and on 19 February a northwest wind brought eight inches of snow, a very cold night, and “much suffering in the camp, for there were many who had no tents or any comfortable place to lodge: many tents were blown down, some of them were unfinished and had no ends.”1 After Brigham Young had left Nauvoo and crossed the river to the Iowa side, the mud became so deep his teams had to be yoked double to pull the wagons up the hill to Sugar Creek camp.2 A week later the temperatures plummeted and the Mississippi froze over, hastening the abandonment of Nauvoo by allowing numerous Saints to cross on the ice. Because of the extreme cold, however, many people, including Brigham Young and Willard Richards, fell ill at Sugar Creek. Also several women gave birth in the cold, makeshift camp; they and their new babies suffered most from exposure to the cold, wind, and snow.

Lack of food also plagued the departing Saints. Wishing to be with their leaders, many of them had failed to follow the counsel to be prepared before leaving. Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and a few others had begun the journey from Nauvoo with a year’s supply of provisions, but most others left with hardly any food. Their unpreparedness caused some, who had brought provisions and were willing to share, to deplete their supply within a few weeks. President Young had the overwhelming responsibility of being a father to all. One journal entry manifests his discouragement: “Unless this people are more united in spirit and cease to pray against Counsel, It will bring me down to my grave. I am reduced in flesh so that my coat that would scarcely meet around me last Winter now laps over twelve inches. It is with much ado that I can keep from lying down and sleeping to wait the resurrection.”3

The Nauvoo brass band (also known as William Pitt’s brass band) was organized in 1842 to accompany the drills of the Nauvoo Legion. The band frequently played for social and religious gatherings, at patriotic and other celebrations, at arrivals and departures of important people, and as background to steamboat excursions. They even raised funds and built the Nauvoo Concert Hall in 1843.

During the first half of the Iowa trek the band not only provided entertainment for the weary Saints after a long day’s march, but they also obtained money, provisions, and equipment through concerts for the settlers in towns and villages along the route.

After arriving in Garden Grove, the band dispersed as some of its members returned to Nauvoo, some went on to Winter Quarters, and others stayed in Garden Grove. In Utah the band was revived for a time and performed functions similar to those it had provided in Nauvoo.

William Pitt

William Pitt, a British convert and all-around musician, was the leader of the Nauvoo brass band, both because he was well versed in music and because when he left England he took with him a large collection of music arranged for brass instruments. Pitt had a reputation as an excellent flutist, but he preferred the violin and other instruments. He was one of three members of the band to travel to the Salt Lake Valley with the original Pioneer Company.

In spite of the harsh conditions, there was some merriment in camp. Almost every night William Pitt’s brass band played the popular grand marches, quick-steps, and gallops of the time. Around the campfires the people danced to fiddle music and sang favorite songs as well as new ones that they composed for the occasion. One such was “The Upper California”:

The Upper California—Oh that’s the land for me!
It lies between the mountains and the great Pacific sea;
The Saints can be supported there,
And taste the sweets of liberty.
In Upper California—Oh that’s the land for me!4

Upper California referred to a largely undefined area administered by Mexico comprising most of the present states of Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and California.

Brigham Young noted that the Saints “were patient, and endured all their privations without murmuring.” A month later he added, “I did not think there had ever been a body of people since the days of Enoch, placed under the same unpleasant circumstances that this people have been, where there was so little grumbling, and I was satisfied that the Lord was pleased with the majority of the Camp of Israel.”5

The Camp of Israel Moves West

The Saints did not begin leaving the encampment at Sugar Creek until 1 March 1846. The last week to ten days were largely dominated by discussion of travel plans and organization of the line of march. From the start the main body of Saints was known as the “Camp of Israel,” with Brigham Young as its president. As with ancient Israel, there were companies and captains of hundreds, fifties, and tens. In the next two years more Old Testament parallels were made, as illustrated by terms such as, Zion being in the tops of the mountains, chosen people, exodus, Mount Pisgah, Jordan River, Dead Sea, making the desert blossom as a rose, and a modern Moses in the person of Brigham Young.

Part of the Saints’ delay in leaving resulted from concern for the best route across Iowa. Eastern Iowa had been open to settlement since the Black Hawk Indian War of 1830–32, but beyond a hundred miles west of the Mississippi River the population was sparse, the roads few and bad. Furthermore there were numerous rivers and streams to traverse. The camp also faced the decision of where to cross the Missouri River. The Saints wanted to avoid crossings in the state of Missouri where there was still anti-Mormon sentiment.

When the Saints renewed their march, they planned to reach the Missouri by mid-April, plant small acreages along the way for those following, establish a portion of the camp somewhere west of the Missouri as a farm or way station for future travelers, and dispatch a swift company to the mountains with seeds to plant a spring crop. A Pioneer Company headed by Stephen Markham was sent ahead to scout the best routes, find trading settlements, build bridges, and make other preparations.

Stephen Markham (1800–78) accepted the gospel in Ohio in 1837. A prosperous farmer and faithful Saint, he sold his possessions at the counsel of Joseph Smith to help sixty people move from Kirtland to Far West, Missouri. During the Nauvoo era he served as a bodyguard for Joseph Smith and again sacrificed a new home (moving into a tent) to help the Prophet pay legal fees.

He was with the Brethren in Carthage, but was refused entrance to the jail a few hours before the Martyrdom. In addition to his pioneering role in Iowa, he was also a member of the first Pioneer Company to the Salt Lake Valley and subsequently was active in the colonization efforts in Utah.

Three fundamental problems, however, inhibited the progress of the Saints across Iowa. The first was the lack of adequate food supplies. Each company had two commissary agents assigned to contact settlers and negotiate for food and provender. Because of the lack of provisions in general, many men found work in eastern Iowa towns to pay for needed supplies. William Pitt’s brass band presented formal concerts in many Iowa communities to raise more funds. With large numbers of men on the job instead of in the wagons, progress was painfully slow. This explains why most of the camp tarried almost three weeks at Richardson’s Point, only fifty-six miles from Nauvoo. Brigham Young was only halfway across Iowa when, because of his generosity, his family’s own provisions were depleted. The other Apostles were in the same situation.6 On 24 March, Hosea Stout reported that half of his men were out of provisions. And the problem grew worse before they arrived at the Missouri River.

The second problem was the disorganization of the camp, which was spread for miles across eastern Iowa. Several riders were kept busy just carrying dispatches between the leaders of the separated companies. Driven to exasperation by the disorder and by the adventurous, independent, and competitive spirit of Bishop George Miller and others, Brigham Young saw the necessity of establishing firmer control over the camp. He demanded stricter obedience and cooperation and dispatched a letter of rebuke to those who were far ahead of the rest of the camp, telling them to return for a council.

map of Iowa

[click for enlarged version]
[Bitmap] [PDF]

Two important Mormon trails crossed Iowa. The northern trail was the route of the handcart companies in 1856. The pioneers of 1846 traversed the southern route. Most of the camp remained at Richardson’s Point for nearly two weeks to improve their organization during a spell of bad weather. Nevertheless, by the time they reached Chariton River, about one hundred miles west of Nauvoo, they had only averaged two to three miles per day, many people were widely scattered, and some had even returned to Nauvoo. A major reorganization was required.

The 1846 route hugged the Missouri border because of the proximity to civilization. Church leaders intended to cross northwestern Missouri to Banks Ferry, an important staging place for points west on the Missouri River. Hostile reaction from the Missourians led them to turn north again.

Further west, at Locust Creek, William Clayton composed the hymn “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” Garden Grove, one of two “permanent” settlements, was just about halfway across Iowa, being 144 miles west of Nauvoo and 120 miles east of the Missouri River. The Saints reached Garden Grove on 24 April, and on 18 May, Mount Pisgah was designated by Parley P. Pratt as the second permanent camp. Brigham Young celebrated his forty-fifth birthday there on 1 June 1846.

Parley P. Pratt, who was with Miller, was severely reproved along with the others. What followed demonstrated that the Spirit was prompting Brigham Young. Parley P. Pratt said, “For Bishop Miller, who was a leading and active member of our camp, has since left us and gone his own way, having refused to be led by the counsels of the Presidency; and removed to Texas. And here I would observe that, although my own motives were pure, so far as I could know my own heart, yet I thank God for this timely chastisement; I profited by it, and it caused me to be more watchful and careful ever after.”7

On 26 March on the banks of the Chariton River, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball regrouped the camp into three companies of one hundred families each. Although travel thereafter was more orderly, improved organization could not overcome the third and perhaps most challenging problem of all—wet spring weather. Sudden melting snows, almost constant rain, swollen creeks, interminable mud, and violent wind retarded progress. Brigham Young’s comment late in March, that they had passed through only one mud hole that day “which was about six miles in length,” illustrates the effects of spring thaws and rains that left the roads and campsites a bog.8 Diaries and journals show that it rained or snowed for at least eleven days in March, beginning on the tenth. The weather continued to deteriorate in April, and it rained or snowed half of the month, including every day of the last week. So many wagons mired in the mud that travel was reduced to less than half a mile per day.

They had a particularly bad day on 6 April. Hosea Stout said it “was of all mornings the most dismal dark and rainy after such a fine day as yesterday was. . . . This day capped the climax of all days for travelling. The road was the worst that I had yet witnessed up hill and down through sloughs on spouty oak ridges and deep marshes, raining hard, the creek rising. The horses would sometimes sink to their bellies on the ridges, teams stall going down hill. We worked and toiled more than half the day and had at last to leave some of our wagons and double teams before we could get through.” That evening after most in the camp had retired, the wind began to blow. Hosea had not secured his tent with stay ropes and “had to get out of my bed and hold it a long time in the wind and rain which beat upon me until I was wet thoroughly nor could I leave to secure it because it would blow down.” He stood there until some of the brethren came to his assistance.9

Eliza R. Snow recorded that the wind was a “perfect gale attended with a heavy shower of rain—and several of our habitations were leveled and the roofs of our wagons barely escaped the wreck of elements.”10 The weary travelers awoke the next morning to a little snow, a slight freeze, and a rising creek. With clothes and bedding often drenched and with the cold temperatures, frequent illnesses and occasional deaths further hindered travel.

William Clayton

William Clayton (1814–79) was born in England and was among the first to accept the gospel there in 1837. He emigrated to Nauvoo in 1840, and his skills in writing and accounting were quickly recognized. In 1842 he became Joseph’s clerk and private secretary, and he served in similar capacities throughout his life.

He was the Nauvoo Temple recorder. In Utah he was treasurer of ZCMI, territorial recorder of marks and brands, and territorial auditor of public accounts. He is perhaps most noted for recording the revelation on plural marriage on 12 July 1843 and for writing “Come, Come, Ye Saints” near Corydon, Iowa.

By 15 April the camp found itself on Locust Creek near the present-day Iowa-Missouri state line. William Clayton, frustrated with the slow progress of the camp and the burdens of caring for a large family, gratefully received news that his plural wife, Diantha, left behind for care and safety in Nauvoo, had given birth to a healthy boy. He thereupon composed a new song of praise to the Lord entitled “All Is Well” (today called “Come, Come, Ye Saints”), which became an anthem for many Mormon pioneers who subsequently crossed the plains to the Great Basin.

Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
’Tis better far for us to strive
Our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell—
All is well! All is well!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We’ll find the place which God for us prepared,
Far away in the West,
Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid;
There the Saints will be blessed.
We’ll make the air with music ring,
Shout praises to our God and King;
Above the rest these words we’ll tell—
All is well! All is well

As rain continued to pour into the swollen Locust Creek, Church leaders began to revise their plans. The agonizing delays, the sufferings of the travelers, the weakened condition of their draft animals, the unaffordable high prices for feed grain, the disrepair of the wagons and equipment, their rapidly depleting food supplies, and no prospects for better weather all contributed to a reevaluation of the Saints’ course. The dream of reaching the Rocky Mountains later that season was fading.

Establishment of Way Stations and Moving on to the Missouri

At Locust Creek the Brethren prayerfully forged a new plan to establish farms or way stations along the route west. By 24 April the pioneers reached a place they named Garden Grove, sixty miles northwest of Locust Creek and about halfway across Iowa. Within three weeks they had broken 715 acres of tough prairie sod, built cabins, and established a small community. A high council was called to regulate both Church and civic affairs, and two hundred people were assigned to improve this first way station.

map of Iowa settlements

[click for scalable version]

The first permanent camp established for the benefit of those to follow was Garden Grove. Samuel Bent, Aaron Johnson, and David Fullmer were called to preside over the settlement at Garden Grove.

John R. Young remembered, “They were instructed to divide the lands among the poor without charge; but to give to no man more than he could thoroughly cultivate. There must be no waste and no speculation.”14

Samuel Bent died in Garden Grove on 16 August 1846.

Garden Grove did not have enough timber to accommodate all the companies soon to arrive from Nauvoo, so the brethren sent scouts to explore the region. Parley P. Pratt located some grassy hills crowned with beautiful groves twenty-five miles northwest of Garden Grove. He was overjoyed. Referring to the mountain Moses saw the promised land from, Parley cried out, “This is Mount Pisgah.”12

A few days later Brigham Young arrived and immediately organized a second way station at Mount Pisgah. Another high council was appointed, and several thousand acres were cooperatively enclosed, planted, and farmed. One of the new leaders, Ezra T. Benson (great-grandfather of the thirteenth President of the Church), declared, “This was the first place where I felt willing in my heart to stay at, since I left Nauvoo.”13 Soon Mount Pisgah outstripped Garden Grove in size and significance. Both, however, were important pioneer way stations from 1846 to 1852.

During the first of June 1846 an advance company, including members of the Twelve, left Mount Pisgah and headed for the Missouri River. Although they were two months behind the original schedule, the Brethren still hoped that an express company would be able to make it to the Rocky Mountains by fall. It took only fourteen days to cover the final one hundred miles to the Council Bluffs area on the Missouri River, partly because they enjoyed the unfamiliar luxury of dry trails and abundant grass. Temporary headquarters were established at Mosquito Creek on Pottawattomie Indian land. They found that their first task was to prepare landings and a boat to ferry the emigrant wagons across the Missouri. This was accomplished in just two weeks.

Nevertheless, two issues remained unresolved. Where would the Saints winter on the Missouri, since they were still on Indian lands? And was there still time for some of the Apostles and others to press on to the West before the onset of winter storms? The latter issue was decided after consultations with Captain James Allen of the United States army, who arrived on 1 July to raise a battalion of Mormon soldiers. With the loss of so many men to the battalion, the westward migration was delayed for a season.

monument at Mt. Pisgah

Mount Pisgah, the second permanent camp in Iowa, was established 18 May 1846 and presided over by William Huntington, Ezra T. Benson, and Charles C. Rich. Many of the Saints who left Nauvoo after Brigham Young caught up with the camp here, and part of the Mormon Battalion was recruited here.

Pisgah was maintained as a camp until at least 1852 and at its height had a population of over three thousand Saints. Noah Rogers, who had recently returned from a mission to the South Sea Islands, was the first to die and be buried here. Many others also died and were buried here. In 1886 the Church purchased the one-acre plot where the cemetery lay and in 1888 erected a monument to mark the site.

Call of the Mormon Battalion

In 1845 the United States annexed Texas, thereby angering Mexico, which still claimed much of Texas territory. Mexican troops and United States dragoons had a skirmish on 24 April 1846, but Congress did not declare war until 12 May 1846. American expansionists were excited about the war because it offered an opportunity to acquire territory extending to the Pacific Ocean. President James K. Polk, himself an expansionist, included in his war aims the acquisition of New Mexico and Upper California. The U.S. army of the West was charged with conquering this vast territory.15

Jesse C. Little

Jesse C. Little (1815–93) was serving in 1846 as president of the mission in the New England middle states. He left his family temporarily in the East and traveled to Nebraska, where he joined Brigham Young and the original Pioneer Company seventy miles west of Winter Quarters.

After entering the Salt Lake Valley, he returned to the East where he continued serving as a mission president until 1852, when he and his family went to Utah. In 1856 he was called to serve as second counselor to Edward Hunter in the Presiding Bishopric, a position he held until 1874.

The war with Mexico came precisely when the Latter-day Saints were petitioning in Washington, D.C., for assistance in their move west. Before leaving Nauvoo, Brigham Young called Elder Jesse C. Little to preside over the Church in the East and to go to the nation’s capital with a request for help. Elder Little was assisted by his friend, twenty-four-year-old Thomas L. Kane, son of John Kane, a prominent federal judge and political associate of President Polk. Thomas had worked with his father as a law clerk and was therefore well-known in Washington, D.C. Together Little and Kane negotiated with officials for government contracts to build blockhouses and forts along the Oregon Trail, but the war with Mexico provided a better opportunity for the Saints and the government to help each other.16

With Kane’s urging, Elder Little suggested in a letter to President Polk that although the Saints were loyal Americans, the government’s refusal to assist them could “compel us to be foreigners.”17 Polk did not want the Saints to join the British interests in the Oregon territory nor to antagonize the Missouri volunteers in the army of the West, so, following conversations with Elder Little, he authorized the recruiting of five hundred Mormon volunteers after they reached California. This way he could retain the loyalty of the Saints without antagonizing any anti-Mormons. But when Secretary of War William Marcy wrote to Colonel Stephen W. Kearny at Fort Leavenworth, Polk had apparently changed his mind because Kearny was authorized to immediately enlist a Mormon battalion. In late June, Kearny sent Captain James Allen to Mormon encampments in southern Iowa to recruit the volunteers.

Captain Allen went first to the new Mormon settlement of Mount Pisgah. There he encountered stiff opposition to the plan. Elder Wilford Woodruff, en route to join his fellow Apostles at the Missouri River, was suspicious. He recorded, “I had some reasons to believe them to be spies and that the President had no hand in it. We however treated them with civility and directed them on to Council Bluffs to lay the case before the President.”18

Messengers dispatched by Elder Woodruff warned Brigham Young of Captain Allen’s mission two days before he arrived in Council Bluffs. Before greeting him, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Willard Richards hurriedly met in Orson Pratt’s tent, where they “decided it was best to meet Captain Allen in the morning and raise the men wanted.”19 President Young realized that Allen’s request was probably the result of Elder Little’s negotiations. The Brethren also recognized that the request for Mormon men provided an opportunity to earn desperately needed capital for the exodus and provided a rationale for establishing temporary settlements on Indian lands. During negotiations Captain Allen assured the Church that they could remain on Indian lands during the winter.

After Allen recruited the men at Council Bluffs, President Young spoke to the Saints and tried to clear their minds of prejudice against the federal government. He said, “Suppose we were admitted into the Union as a State and the government did not call on us, we would feel ourselves neglected. Let the Mormons be the first men to set their feet on the soil of California. . . . This is the first offer we have ever had from the government to benefit us.”20 On 3 July, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Willard Richards went east to recruit more men. Before they arrived in Mount Pisgah, every Latter-day Saint had opposed the venture, but after their several recruiting speeches, many able-bodied men signed up.

Recruiting continued until 20 July, the day before the battalion’s departure to Fort Leavenworth. Within three weeks five companies of one hundred men were organized. Both Thomas L. Kane and Jesse C. Little had arrived at the Missouri River and assured the Saints that there was no adverse plot behind the government’s request. Church leaders promised that the families of the volunteers would be carefully provided for. Brigham Young selected the officers over each company and counseled them to be fathers to the rest of the men. He also counseled the volunteers to be faithful soldiers, keep the commandments, and abide by the counsel of their leaders. He promised that if they conducted themselves properly, they would not have to fight. A farewell ball was held in honor of the battalion on a cleared square along the Missouri River on the evening of Saturday, 18 July. At noon on Tuesday, 21 July, they began their historic march.

Establishing Winter Quarters

With the battalion gone, energies were directed toward finding a suitable winter way station. Even prior to the call of the battalion, Brigham Young had concluded that most Saints would settle at Grand Island on the Platte River. It was the longest fresh water river island in America, with rich soil and abundant timber. One drawback, however, was the existence of unfriendly Pawnee Indians in the area. The arrival in camp of Thomas L. Kane and Wilford Woodruff in mid-July modified the Grand Island plan. Kane suggested that the federal Office of Indian Affairs would interfere less with Mormon settlements on the Missouri than at locations further west.

map of Missouri River settlements

This map shows the main Mormon settlements along the Missouri River in 1846–47. Grand Island was west along the Platte River. There were about twelve thousand Church members scattered throughout the country in 1846; approximately four thousand were in Winter Quarters.

[click for scalable version]

Elder Woodruff came with sad news that Reuben Hedlock, temporary presiding authority of the Church in England, was channeling money originally earmarked for emigration purposes into schemes for his own enrichment. Furthermore, apostate James J. Strang had deployed Martin Harris to England to work with Latter-day Saint congregations. Unless something was done immediately, the Church stood to lose a great deal in the British Isles. Elder Woodruff also reported on the condition of the Saints in Nauvoo who were too poor to leave for the West. By late July 1846 the Brethren concluded that a main encampment would be established on the west bank of the Missouri River and other camps scattered throughout western Iowa. Also, Orson Hyde, Parley P. Pratt, and John Taylor were dispatched to England to solve the problems of the Church there.

In August, explorers located a temporary site, known as Cutler’s Park, three miles west of the river. But after negotiations with both Otoe and Omaha Indian tribal leaders, Church leaders decided to establish the camp closer to the river itself. A good area near a proposed ferry site was selected in early September and surveying was begun. By the end of the month a town of 820 lots had been laid out and some lots spoken for. Winter Quarters, as the Brethren called the community, came into being.

Rescuing the Nauvoo “Poor Saints”

Over two thousand Saints left Nauvoo by mid-March 1846, and additional hundreds left in both April and May. But many still remained in the city. Before leaving, President Young had appointed three men—Joseph L. Heywood, John S. Fullmer, and Almon W. Babbitt—to act as legal trustees to sell Church and private properties, pay the most pressing debts and obligations, and provide for the safe departure of those unavoidably left behind. He also assigned Orson Hyde to supervise the completion and dedication of the Nauvoo Temple.

Temple workmen completed their assignment by the end of April, and the sacred edifice was prepared for dedication. Wilford Woodruff arrived from his mission to Great Britain in time for the ceremonies. On 30 April, at a private dedication, Joseph Young offered the dedicatory prayer. Orson Hyde, Wilford Woodruff, and about twenty others dressed in their temple robes dedicated the house of the Lord.

Wilford Woodruff recorded, “Notwithstanding the many false prophesies of Sidney Rigdon and others that the roof should not go on nor the house be finished and the threats of the mob that we should not dedicate it, yet we have done both.”21

The next day, 1 May 1846, Orson Hyde offered the prayer at the public dedication. Elders Hyde and Woodruff then left for Iowa to join the rest of the Twelve.

When opponents of the Church realized that not all the Saints were going to leave Nauvoo by summer, persecution began anew. Men and women harvesting grain were attacked and some were severely beaten. This type of harassment lasted all summer and into the fall of 1846.

Meanwhile the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles decided to sell the Nauvoo Temple to raise funds for outfitting the remaining Nauvoo Saints. All attempts to sell the edifice failed. By mid-August less than fifteen hundred Saints remained in Nauvoo, some of them new converts from the East who had arrived too late to join the earlier companies. Most of them had exhausted their savings just to reach Nauvoo and now looked to Church leaders as their only hope to proceed West.

By the second week in September the anti-Mormons were determined to drive the Saints out of Nauvoo. Approximately eight hundred men equipped with six cannons prepared to lay siege to the city. The Saints and some new citizens, numbering only about 150 fighting men, prepared to defend the city. The Battle of Nauvoo began on 10 September, with sporadic firing. During the following two days there were minor skirmishes. On 13 September an anti-Mormon column advanced in an attempt to rout the defenders. A spirited counterattack led by Daniel H. Wells saved the day, but there were casualties on both sides. The battle continued the next day, which was the Sabbath.

On 16 September, the “Quincy committee,” which had helped keep the peace in previous months, interceded once again. The Saints were forced to surrender unconditionally in order to save their lives and gain a chance of escaping across the river. Only five men and their families were allowed to stay in Nauvoo to dispose of property. Those who could quickly crossed the river without provisions or additional clothing. Finally, the mob entered the city, looted homes, and desecrated the temple. Some Saints who were not able to escape fast enough were beaten or thrown into the river by the mob.

Refugee camps of five to six hundred dispossessed men, women, and children, including those who had been left as too sick to travel, were scattered along two miles of riverbank above Montrose, Iowa. Most people had only blankets or bowers made of brush for shelter and little more than boiled or parched corn to eat. Some died. Bishop Newel K. Whitney purchased some flour and distributed it among the poor camps. The Church trustees went to river towns, including St. Louis, pleading for money and supplies for the refugees, but because of religious prejudices they only raised one hundred dollars.

On 9 October, when food was in especially short supply, several large flocks of quail flew into camp and landed on the ground and even on tables. Many of them were caught, cooked, and eaten by the hungry Saints. To the faithful it was a sign of God’s mercy to modern Israel as a similar incident had been to ancient Israel (see Exodus 16:13).

Even before they realized the terrible plight of the Nauvoo Saints, Church leaders in Iowa had sent a rescue mission, and when word of the Battle of Nauvoo reached Winter Quarters, a second mission was mobilized. Brigham Young declared:

“Let the fire of the covenant which you made in the House of the Lord, burn in your hearts, like flame unquenchable, till you, by yourselves or delegates . . . [can] rise up with his team and go straightway, and bring a load of the poor from Nauvoo. . . .

“. . . This is a day of action and not of argument.”22 Rescue teams arrived in time to save the Saints from starvation and winter exposure. The poor Saints were dispersed throughout various camps in western Iowa. A handful made it all the way to Winter Quarters.

Israel in the Wilderness

Throughout the fall of 1846, the nearly twelve thousand Latter-day Saints in various parts of the Midwest prepared for winter the best ways they could. The headquarters of the Church was at Winter Quarters in Indian territory, where almost four thousand Saints resided by the end of the year. Another twenty-five hundred were camped on Pottawattomie Indian lands on the east side of the Missouri River. An estimated seven hundred people were at Mount Pisgah, six hundred at Garden Grove, at least a thousand were spread throughout other parts of Iowa, and five hundred were in the Mormon Battalion on their way to California. Many Saints gathered for the winter in Mississippi River towns; the Mormon population in St. Louis swelled to fifteen hundred.23 Never had the Church’s membership been so scattered and so poorly housed. The phrase “Zion in the wilderness” aptly depicts the Church’s difficult situation during the winter of 1846–47.

Even in these conditions, the presiding Brethren tried to provide adequate church and civil government for the Saints. High councils were organized in the main camps to superintend ecclesiastical and municipal affairs. At Winter Quarters this council was called the “municipal high council.” In early October, Brigham Young divided Winter Quarters into thirteen wards, but he soon increased the number to twenty-two to facilitate the care of the members of the Church. In November the high council voted that even smaller wards be created and “that every laboring man be tithed each tenth day to be applied for the benefit of the poor, or pay an equivalent to his Bishop.”24 Although under this arrangement bishops cared primarily for the temporal needs of the people, it was another step in the development toward the ward organization that exists in the Church today.

To enhance their economic well-being, many wintering Saints traded with settlements in northern Missouri and in Iowa for hogs, grain, vegetables, and emigrant supplies. Some young men sought employment to earn money to pay for these goods. The Saints were expected to pool their resources for the good of all.25

Jane Richards

Jane Richards (1823–1913) made the trek across Iowa late in 1846 without her husband, Franklin D. Richards, who was on his way to England. Franklin D. Richards was a high priest who would be called into the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles three years later. Jane’s little daughter, Wealthy, was ill and died at Cutler Park after weeks of incredible suffering. Sister Richards recounted the incident:

“A few days previously she had asked for some potato soup, the first thing she had shown any desire for for weeks, and as we were then travelling, we came in sight of a potato-field. One of the sisters eagerly asked for a single potato. A rough woman impatiently heard her story through, and putting her hands on her shoulders, marched her out of the house, saying, ‘I won’t give or sell a thing to one of you damned Mormons.’ I turned on my bed and wept, as I heard them trying to comfort my little one in her disappointment. When she was taken from me I only lived because I could not die.”26

Courtesy of Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Ogden, Utah

Sickness and death stalked the camps of the Saints. The hasty, wintry exodus from Nauvoo earlier in the year, the exhausting trek across Iowa, the endless spring storms, insufficient provisions, inadequate and improvised shelter, the forced exodus of the poor from Nauvoo, and unhealthy riverbank environments all took their toll. During the summer many travelers suffered from the exposure-related diseases of malaria, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. Lack of fresh vegetables brought on a plague of scurvy, which the Saints called “black canker.” Serious sickness was no respecter of persons or position, and many of the leaders, including Brigham Young and Willard Richards, became seriously ill. Wilford Woodruff wrote, “I have never seen the Latter Day Saints in any situation where they seemed to be passing through greater tribulations or wearing out faster than at the present time.”27 Over seven hundred people died in the camps by the end of the first winter.28

Winter Quarters plat

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Once the location for “winter quarters” was decided upon, the first necessity was to survey the site. The plat was laid out in forty-one blocks with 820 lots. Streets and spacing of buildings were properly supervised.

But all was not sorrow, especially in Winter Quarters. Life there could still be generally pleasant, rewarding, and meaningful. Church meetings were held twice a week, and the sermons from the leaders raised the morale of the entire settlement. Many family meetings were held as well. After much of the hard labor of establishing the community was complete, Brigham Young encouraged the wards to celebrate with feasts and dancing. Women often came together in neighborhood groups to gather food, quilt, braid straw, comb each other’s hair, knit, wash clothes, and read letters.

Throughout the winter of 1846–47, additional preparations were made for continuing the westward exodus. Though the Church and its members had suffered almost beyond measure during the previous year, the Saints still harbored fond hopes for the future. Much was learned in 1846 that would pay tremendous dividends in the future.


1. Willard Richards, in History of the Church, 7:593.

2. See Juanita Brooks, ed., On the Mormon Frontier: The Diary of Hosea Stout, 1844–1861 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1964), p. 123.

3. Elden J. Watson, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1846–1847 (Salt Lake City: Elden Jay Watson, 1971), pp. 150–51.

4. Thomas E. Cheney, ed., Mormon Songs from the Rocky Mountains, reprint ed. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1981), p. 68.

5. Watson, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, pp. 44, 131.

6. See “History of the Church,” Juvenile Instructor, 1 Oct. 1882, p. 293.

7. Parley P. Pratt, ed., Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Classics in Mormon Literature series (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985), p. 307.

8. Watson, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, p. 106.

9. Brooks, On the Mormon Frontier, p. 149; spelling and punctuation standardized.

10. Eliza R. Snow, “Pioneer Diary of Eliza R. Snow,” Improvement Era, Apr. 1943, p. 208; spelling standardized.

11. “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” Hymns, no. 30.

12. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 308.

13. Journal History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 16 July 1846, Historical Department, Salt Lake City, p. 21.

14. John R. Young, Memoirs of John R. Young, Utah Pioneer, 1847 (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1920), p. 19.

15. This paragraph is derived from James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976), pp. 225–26.

16. See Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, p. 227.

17. In Watson, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, p. 217; see also B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Century One, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1930), 3:72.

18. Wilford Woodruff Journals, 26 June 1846, LDS Historical Department, Salt Lake City; punctuation and capitalization standardized.

19. Watson, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, p. 202.

20. Watson, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, p. 205.

21. Wilford Woodruff Journals, 30 Apr. 1846; spelling, punctuation, and capitalization standardized.

22. Journal History of the Church, 28 Sept. 1846, pp. 5–6.

23. See Richard Edmond Bennett, “Mormons at the Missouri: A History of the Latter-day Saints at Winter Quarters and at Kanesville, 1846–52—A Study in American Overland Trail Migration,” Ph.D. diss., Wayne State University, 1984, pp. 173–75.

24. Watson, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, p. 464.

25. Derived from Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, p. 236.

26. In Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Utah (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1964), p. 246.

27. Wilford Woodruff Journals, 17–21 Nov. 1846.

28. Bennett, “Mormons at the Missouri,” pp. 280–92.