Joseph Smith is dead, propped up outside the Carthage Jail next to the well. Hyrum Smith is dead upstairs in the sitting room.
Almost immediately after the mob killed Joseph, they began to shout, “The Mormons are coming. The Mormons are coming.” For some reason this group of men were certain that the Nauvoo Legion had marched on the town and were going to avenge the death of their prophet. The mob scatters into the woods from where they came.
Willard Richards goes and finds John Taylor hidden underneath the bed. He drags John past the dead body of Hyrum and into the adjacent room where the jail cell is. He hides John’s body inside the cell underneath a mattress, in case the mob comes back to kill the rest of them.
Willard Richards, is preparing himself for a second wave of attacks.
I am Stephen Dethloff, and this is the Strangers & Pilgrim’s podcast telling of the Death of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Willard, standing at the head of the stairs is bracing himself for a second round of attacks from the mob. After a space of time he realizes that the mob has left. They’re all gone. So, he goes back into the jail cell where he had hidden John Taylor. He drags John out from underneath the mattresses. And out of the cell. And lays him at the head of the stairs – directly in front of the door to the room where Hyrum’s dead body lay.
John will lay there in the hallway for the next nine hours without having his wounds dressed, laying there – sometimes staring through the open door at the dead body of Hyrum. Of this time, John Taylor said, “There [Hyrum] lay as I had left him: he had not moved a limb; he laid placid and calm, a monument of greatness even in death; but his noble spirit had left its tenement, and was gone to dwell in regions more congenial to its exalted nature.”
Soon doctors and coroners come to the scene. They insist that John be taken to the Hamilton Hotel to have his wounds taken care of. He responds hesitantly, and probably angrily, “I don’t know you. Who am I among you? I am surrounded by assassins and murders. Don’t talk to me of kindness or comfort. Look at your murdered victims. Look at me! I want none of your counsel or comfort.”
Before their death, Joseph and Hyrum’s younger brother, Samuel, had heard his brothers were in jail and had left on his horse to Carthage to visit them. He lived 40 miles southwest of Nauvoo in a city called Plymouth. He was one of the Latter-day Saint refugees who built up other settlements in Illinois instead of Nauvoo.
On the way to Carthage, Samuel met a group of the mob who had just left from Joseph’s assassination. After relating their story to Samuel, they find out that he is the younger brother of the two dead men. And, so, they try to kill Samuel, too. Samuel, on horseback, ran off into the woods and was chased for two hours before he finally made it to Carthage.
When he gets to Carthage he helps Willard Richards move the bodies of the two dead brothers into the Hamilton Hotel while John Taylor stays on the top floor of the jail.
While all this was happening it was night time. Joseph Smith was killed a little after five in the evening. John Taylor lay at the top of the stairs until 2 in the morning. Back in Nauvoo, Porter Rockwell can’t sleep.
He gets on his horse and rides out to Carthage to check on his friend. On the road there two men stop him. They’ve just left Carthage and are carrying the news back that Joseph and Hyrum Smith are dead.
Porter immediately turns around and rides back into Nauvoo. He rides through the streets in the middle of the night shouting, “Joseph is dead. They have killed him! . . . They have killed him”
Just then one of those men that met Porter on the road to Carthage knocked on the door to Emma and Joseph’s house. He told Emma that Joseph had been killed.
Emma broke down. Her wailing is so loud it wakes up her sleeping children. As they wake up and go to see what is wrong with their mother she tells them their father has died, and they start to cry too.
Another man goes to tell Hyrum’s wife, Mary Fielding Smith, that her husband has died. Mary asked, “It cannot be possible, can it?” Mary’s daughter later recounted that, “the news flew like wildfire through the house. The crying and agony. . .the anguish and sorrow that were felt can be easier felt than described.”
By the time the news of Joseph and Hyrum’s death hit Nauvoo, Governor Ford had already left the city. When he heard the news, he rode to Carthage, warning everyone there to leave. Warning them that Latter-day Saints would come and destroy their city in a quick act of vengeance.
He then rode off to Quincy, Illinois – about 40 miles south of Carthage, to set-up a temporary headquarters and oversee the war that would follow. However, there would be no war or retaliation after the death of Joseph Smith. The Nauvoo Legion would not march out against the mob. The entire city mourned the loss of their two leaders. And, did not actively seek out retribution.
Later on in the morning, as John Taylor’s wife was coming to Carthage to try and take care of her husband who had since been moved to the Hamilton Hotel, the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum were on a wagon going back to Nauvoo.
The owner of Hamilton Hotel had put Joseph and Hyrum in pine caskets covered with branches to shield them from the sun and prevent the bodies from warming up and stinking. Mr. Hamilton drove one Wagon with Joseph’s body, and the Samuel drove the other wagon with his brother Hyrum’s body. Willard Richards was with the two men.
In Nauvoo, about 8,000 people lined the streets to watch the procession bring in their dead leaders.
After driving his brother’s coffin back to Nauvoo, Samuel told his mother Lucy, “Mother, I have a dreadful distress in my side ever since I was chased by the mob, and I think I have received some injury which is going to make me sick.”
A few weeks later, this illness would kill him. Joseph Smith’s mother, Lucy, would have three of her sons die in the short span of a month.
After Joseph and Hyrum’s bodies were cleaned and dressed, and placed inside the Nauvoo Mansion, the families went in to see them.
Joseph and Hyrum’s mother, writing about the moment, said, “I had for a long time braced every nerve, roused every energy of my soul and called upon God to strengthen me, but when I entered the room and saw my murdered sons extended both at once before my eyes and heard the sobs and groans of my family and the cries of “Father! Husband! Brothers!” from the lips of their wives, children, brothers and sisters, it was too much; I sank back, crying to the Lord in the agony of my soul, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken this family!”
Lucy Smith, after telling of how she sank back, said she heard a voice reply, “I have taken them to myself, that they might have rest. . .”
The next morning, Saturday, the bodies are placed in coffins with glass lids covering their faces. Ten thousands mourners file through the house that day to pray respect to the fallen brothers.
At the time there was still a bounty on the head of Joseph Smith in Missouri. This made Emma scared that a grave robber might dig up her husband’s body, cut off his head, and bring it back across the river to Missouri to collect the bounty.
As a result, after the viewings are over, the bodies are removed from the coffins and the coffins are filled with sand. The empty coffins are taken and buried in the cemetery, and the real bodies are buried in the unfinished basement of Joseph’s house. That night, it rained, and the rain seeped into the basement and covered the signs of burial so that no one could tell the two men were actually hidden there.
A week after the burial, Sidney Rigdon learns of Joseph’s death.
I briefly mentioned in episode 2 that Sidney was one of the three men in the highest governing body of the church, which group was called the first presidency. Well, with William Law gone and Joseph Smith gone, the only living member of the church’s highest governing body is Sidney Rigdon.
When Sidney Rigdon joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 14 years earlier he was a preacher in the Campbellite Religion. When he converted and was baptized into the restored Church of Jesus Christ, after hearing of the church’s doctrines from one of the members of his own congregation, Sidney brought along most of the rest of his congregations with him.
So, not only was Sidney a member of the church’s first presidency, but he shepherded in a lot of the early Latter-day Saint converts into the church. And, not only that, but Sidney was also the Vice President on Joseph Smith’s ticket for the president of the United States. . . And, so, even though he hasn’t played a large part in our story, at the time, Sidney Rigdon was an extremely well known leader within the church – and he was probably at the forefront of a lot of Latter-day Saint minds.
Sidney learned of Joseph’s death from a newspaper that he read in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Sidney was in Pittsburgh because, a month earlier, he had been called to go there by Joseph. He left for Pittsburgh, with his family, actually four days after the Nauvoo Expositor press had been destroyed, and arrived there the day of Joseph Smith’s murder.
About the same time that Sidney learned of Joseph’s death, Brigham Young, in Salem Massachussets, sent a letter back west to Willard Richards. He was still trying to get Joseph Elected as president, and was sending in an update. In the letter, he said, “The prevailing opinion is that Joseph Smith is the smartest man in the Union, and the people are afraid of his smartness. Some will vote for him for the novelty of the thing, and some to see what a Prophet will do at the head of government. . . You might ask what we think about Brother Joseph getting the election this year? You know all about it. We shall do all we can and leave the event with God –the God of heaven will do just as he pleases about it.”
Brigham would learn of Joseph’s death a week after he sends this letter Brigham Young is the president of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles. The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, again, is the 2nd highest governing body of the church, and Brigham was its president, so Brigham and the Twelve Apostles start to travel back west to Nauvoo. But, by the time they’re starting to head back West, Sidney has already reached out to Brigham.
Sidney wants Brigham to come through Pittsburgh, so they can all meet together – Sidney and 10 of the 12 apostles. Sidney had started to tell people in Pittsburgh that it was his time to “take his place at the head of the church, in spite of men or devils, at the risk of his life.” He starts to tell people that he has had a revelation, in which God has told him he would be the new head of the church. So, Sidney wants to get Brigham and the other apostles on board with his plan there in Pittsburgh. He wants them to approve of Sidney taking over leadership of the church before they even get back to Nauvoo.
But, Brigham Young tells Sidney, no. He tells Sidney they’re not going to go through Pittsburgh and visit him, they’re going to go around the long way back to Nauvoo as they believe it will be safer. Through Buffalo, New York and onto Chicago. And, Brigham, and everyone else really, doesn’t want to decide the new leadership of the church as quickly as Sidney does. Sidney wants to get elected and get it over with. Brigham wants to wait. Get back to Nauvoo. See what is going on.
So, about a month after Sidney and Brigham both learn of Joseph’s death, the two men are back in Nauvoo to settle the question of the church’s leadership. The church’s leader, prophet, and founder is dead. The Prophet’s brother, Hyrum is dead. Joseph and Hyrum’s other brother Samuel, has been dead for a week as a result of an injury sustained during his fleeing from the mob on the way to Carthage. Joseph’s last brother, William, is in New York City – he is still publishing that political newspaper we talked about, the Prophet.
Sidney gets back to Nauvoo and starts going around telling people that he should be the man to lead the church – but not as a prophet, as a guardian instead. He tells people that Joseph Smith is irreplaceable. That no one can do what he did. And, that Joseph will always be the prophet of the church, and so the only thing to do is to place himself, Sidney, as a guardian. He tells the people that he has had a revelation, that God has spoken to him, and that he should be the church’s guardian.
He tells the people that he came to Nauvoo to see if they would accept him as their leader, but if not there were tens of thousands of other people out there who were ready for him to step up and lead them. Other Latter-day Saints who are all across America. He is pushing hard this timeline that he has to leave Nauvoo, to go see his other followers, and go back to his family in Pittsburgh, and so he must have this guardianship voted on by the people before he leaves in a few days.
Now Sidney Rigdon isn’t the only person making the claim to be the new leader. There are over 15 people claiming to be the new leader of the religion – or if not claiming to be the new leader, at least trying to let their views be heard and followed.
One of those people is a man named James Strang. He is claiming that Joseph Smith had written him a letter two weeks before he died, telling him that he was to be the new leader of the restored Church of Jesus Christ and take the people to settle in Wisconsin.
Lyman Wight is also starting to establish his independence now that Joseph Smith is dead. Lyman is a member of the Quorum of the twelve apostles. Back in Missouri, Lyman had been in Liberty Jail along with Joseph, and Hyrum, and Sidney Rigdon. He was one of the leaders of the group of men charged with treason for attempting to fight against the militia that had appeared to massacre them in Far West.
Lyman is claiming – not claiming, more reminding people really – Lyman is reminding people that Joseph Smith had told him to settle in Texas before he died. And that Joseph had told him that settling Texas would be his life-long mission. And Joseph had already sent Lyman on one trip to Texas to scout out places to colonize.
Lyman didn’t claim that he was a new prophet of a church. He didn’t claim that he was to be a leader. He simply claimed that Joseph had told him to do something and that he was going to do it. And, that anyone who would take over as leader of the Latter-day Saints now that Joseph was gone did not have the authority to change Joseph Smith’s original directives to him.
These men, and others, are getting some traction with a few of the Latter-day Saints – here and there, but they’re not getting a lot of traction with the church as a whole.
One of these 15 people claiming to be the new leader of the religion is not William Law. Now, William had a church. And, he had been claiming to be the new Prophet for the last few months. But, everyone knows, now, that William and his associates are Joseph’s enemies. Even though, in their newspaper, and elsewhere, they repeatedly claim allegiance to Joseph’s earlier teachings.
William’s associates were in the meeting with Governor Ford, telling him that the Latter-day Saint affidavits were lies. They were in the group of men that killed the prophet Joseph.
So, William Law no longer has a valid claim amongst the remaining Latter-day Saints as a new leader, but these other men have claims that are interesting to some people.
Anyway, a month and a half after Joseph had died, Brigham Young, most of the Twelve Apostles, and Sidney Rigdon have made it back to Nauvoo. And, Sidney calls a meeting on Thursday, August 8th, the About 5,000 people showed up to the meeting. It was outside. Sidney called the meeting as “a prayer meeting, and interchange of thought and feelings [to] warm up each other’s hearts.”
And, even though he says that the meeting isn’t about choosing Joseph’s successor, that it’s more of a time to get together and comfort one another, as he speaks, Sidney starts to talk about how he should be Joseph’s successor. He tells people about the vision he had in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He reminds everyone that that while Joseph was alive, he, Sidney, was a spokesperson for him. He says, “No man can be successor of Joseph. . . The martyred Prophet is still the head of this church. . . I propose to be a guardian to the people.”
And, in fact, Sidney starts to push himself – really sell himself – as the new leader of the church. To the point that he is about to ask for a vote, that the people will have them as their leader, when suddenly, Brigham Young stands up, and takes over control from Sidney. He takes over the meeting. He tells everyone that there will be no vote. And, that the meeting will be over, but that there will be a new meeting later that afternoon.
At the new meeting, Brigham Young speaks. He talks about the difference between the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles leading the church, and Sidney Rigdon leading the church. He said, “Do you want a spokesman?” He says, “If [Sidney Rigdon] wants to be a spokesman to the prophet he must go to the other side of the vail for the Prophet is there, but Eldger Rigdon is here.”
Brigham Young tells the people there that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will lead the church in the same way that Joseph did – with Keys, and authority, and revelations.
After Brigham, other members of the Quroum of the Twelve Apostle stand up and speak. Other leaders of the church stand up and speak, too. And, they start picking sides – do they support Sidney, or Brigham. And Sidney expects some of these men to stand up and support him. To stand up and say, “I am with Sidney. Let’s have him as a guardian of the church.” But, each one stands up and supports Brigham Young. They support the idea that The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles should lead the church now that Joseph is dead. And, as each speaker gets up and supports Brigham Young’s view of the church’s leadership, Sidney is getting anxious. He is getting worried. He can feel the audience start to turn. They showed up for Sidney’s meeting earlier in the morning, and now they are all agreeing with Brigham Young.
Brigham then asks for another vote. He asks if they want Sidney Rigdon to be church guardian, or if they want the Twelve Apostles to lead the church. Of the 5,000 people in attendance, it was unanimous that they wanted the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
After the vote, Brigham Young tries to get Sidney Rigdon on board with him and the other leaders. He tells everyone that they want Sidney with them. That they need him in the church.
Well, as soon as Sidney saw that the church was not following him, but was following Brigham Young instead, he is out. He has been in the First Presidency of the church for 14 years. He received and experienced numerous revelations with Joseph Smith. He was in the governing body that was above the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
So, Sidney goes around claiming that the church is not led by men of God anymore – not only that, but that it had not been led by God for a long time. For 3-4 years, in fact. Sidney starts to go around teaching that the restored Church of Jesus Christ had not been led by men inspired of God for 3-4 years, and that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet.
He tells everyone that he, Sidney, had been called by God to fix the church’s incorrect course. And, then, just as William Law had done a few months earlier, Sidney starts his own church – four days after the church rejected his leadership for the leadership of Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve apostles, Sidney started gathering together a group of followers and starting his own religion.
And, so, since he is going around starting his own religion, just like William Law, and going around saying Joseph was a fallen prophet, he is excommunicated from the Church. He and some followers return to his family in Pittsburgh where he begins to publish a newspaper in which he attacks the Church, and the Twelve Apostles’ claim to be its leaders, all while claiming that Joseph Smith was a fallen transgressor – again just like William Law had done.
At its largest, Sidney Rigdon’s reformation religion never reached more than 400 members. He was visited by Missionaries, however, of the more successful reformation movement led by James Strang. Strang’s argument, that Joseph Smith had written him a letter that he was to lead the church to Michigan, was compelling to a lot of Latter-day Saints. He attracted 2,000 members of Joseph’s religion – which would’ve been a little less than 10% of the total religion at the time. Strang was ordained a King by his followers and set-up an Island Kingdom in the American Midwest – on one of the great lakes. 6 years later, like Joseph Smith, Strang was also assassinated.
After Strang’s assassination, most of the members of his church would leave and join a church that was led by Joseph Smith’s son – Joseph Smith III. The name of his organization was The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – in contrast to Brigham Young’s church which retained the name of “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”. The Reorganized church wouldn’t really organize itself until 14 years after the death of Joseph Smith, when it kind of collected and gathered up a lot of the other Churches that had been created with Joseph’s death. The church led by Joseph Smith’s son is now called The Community of Christ.
Lyman Wight’s group of Latter-day Saints ended up moving down to Texas near San Antonio. They set up a few colonies, all of which are now buried underneath a man made lake. After Lyman Wight died, his followers left, too. Some went to join Joseph Smith III’s church, others went out west to present day Utah and joined up with the restored Church of Jesus Christ led by Brigham Young
And, that is who most of the Latter-day Saints supported as their leader. The main body of Latter-day Saints – or the largest majority of them, followed Brigham Young and the other leaders of the Quorum of the twelve apostles and remained in Nauvoo.
Now that Joseph Smith was dead, the mob waited. They waited for the Church in Nauvoo to collapse, and for the city to empty as disinterested Latter-day Saints left back to their old homes and places. They believed that Joseph Smith was the entirety of his new religion, and that as soon as he died, the organization would quickly disappear.
But, the Church didn’t collapse. Now, yes, it had competing factions and leaders. And, some of these splinter groups left. Lyman Wight went to Texas. Strang went to Wisconsin. Sidney Rigdon back to Pittsburgh. But, again, the majority of the Latter-day Saints – and the converts from England that kept pouring in, remained in Nauvoo under the leadership of Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
And, Brigham Young and the Apostles, as leaders of the church didn’t stop. They kept sending out missionaries. Kept bringing in converts. Kept bringing in immigrants from Great Britain.
They kept building the partially completed Nauvoo temple. Brigham Young told the Latter-day Saints to, “Stay here. . . plow, sow, and build,” and that, “one plowshare will do more to drive off the mob than two guns.”
After a few months, the locals, like Thomas Sharp, realized that the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as a whole, weren’t leaving. And, they were still practicing their religion. And they were still a powerful voting bloc. And they were still probably planning to kill everyone in Hancock County and establish a Latter-day Saint Caliphate. And, so, they started up their persecutions again.
Three months after the death of the Prophet the mob started advertising in the local papers that they were going to start attacking Latter-day Saints again. And, so, 3 months after the death of Joseph Smith, Governor Ford comes back to Carthage to prevent a civil war – again.
This time, however, Governor Ford comes with a militia of 500 men to arrest leaders of the mob. He is no longer just coming to collect affidavits and hear stories. With the arrival of Governor Ford and his militia, most of the leaders of this new mob escape into Missouri and eluded the Governor.
In January of 1845 – seven months after the death of Joseph – one of the goals of William Law and the Anti-Mormon party was finally realized – the Nauvoo Charter was finally repealed by Illinois’ Senate and House of Representatives. Nauvoo’s police force was dismantled. So, the citizens of Nauvoo were forced to police themselves. So, the church organized its own police force through existing congregations.
Three months after that, in March of 1845, the trial against nine of the men charged in Joseph Smith’s death was over. One of the men on trial was Thomas Sharp – leader of the “Anti-Mormon” party. Of the hundreds of men involved in Joseph’s death, these 9 men who went to trial were all found not guilty and acquitted of all charges. The trial regarding men charged with the Death of Hyrum Smith never happened – the state prosecutors never showed up, and no one was interested in pursuing the case anyway, because the county was, once again, a powder keg and everyone was just trying to keep the peace.
Everyone felt that if Hyrum’s murders were charged in his death, that the mob would lash out and start killing again.
By the time September of 1845 came around, mobs began to attack Latter-day Saint settlements that were outside of Nauvoo City – just like they had done right before Joseph Smith declared martial law. Over 100 buildings and homes were burned down by arsons. One of the Latter-day Saint homeowners, a man named Durfee, ran out in the night to put out a fire on his property and was shot by the mob. His wife and children were then marched outside and given an hour to leave.
Brigham Young sent out rescue teams to bring refugees into Nauvoo. He prepared the city and army to survive a siege from the mobs.
This time, however, the government began fighting the mobs. The Sheriff of Hancock County led his posse to attack the men burning settlements. They killed a couple, and wounded others. All these events eventually rolled together until a small war broke out. It was quickly ended when the Sheriff rode an army of a few hundred Latter-day Saints into Carthage and chased the leaders of the mob into Missouri.
Later in the month, a mob gathered together again in Illinois and decided that the only people that could prevent bloodshed were the Latter-day Saints. And, that the only way the Latter-day Saints could prevent bloodshed was by leaving Nauvoo. The Latter-day Saints, the victims of mob persecution, were the only people that could placate the will of the people and that was by leaving.
So, Brigham Young wrote a letter to the people of Hancock County. He said the Latter-day Saints would leave. That they just needed time to get everything together. They asked that their attackers would please buy up their land and property, or trade them for goods, food, clothing, oxen – anything they would need to take on their trek west.
Brigham Young promised the mob that they would be gone in the Spring of the following year – the Spring of 1846. It didn’t take that long. By the end of February 1846 most of the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo had left.
Brigham Young himself and most of the leaders of the church left in February. By the end of may, over 12,000 Latter-day Saints had fled Nauvoo, across the Mississippi River into Iowa. All the houses in Nauvoo had turned into workshops for building wagons, over 1,000 wagons carried people out of the city. Eventually there were more wagons than there were Oxen to pull them. Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo were traveling hundreds of miles to find oxen to buy to pull their wagons to head west as refugees.
Refugee camps had been set up all across Iowa as the Latter-day Saints started their journey west.
One of the people who remained in Nauvoo was Daniel H. Wells, the non-Latter-day Saint Justice of the Peace. Daniel H. Wells, you might remember, was the judge who oversaw Joseph Smith’s 2nd trial regarding the city’s destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor that we talked about in Episode 4.
And, in Episode 6 we also talked about how Daniel Wells, who everyone called Squire Wells, was the last person that Joseph stopped to visit on his way to Carthage Jail before being turned around to go back to Nauvoo and oversee the Nauvoo Legion turn in their weapons.
Wells, left behind in Nauvoo, saw all this persecution his neighbors were enduring once again, and felt that the Latter-day Saints were just misunderstood. He saw the murder of the prophet. The increased persecutions after his death. The civil war. Kind of like Dan Jones, reading all Thomas Sharp’s anti-Mormon party newspaper, and becoming convinced the Latter-day Saint’s enemies were wrong, Daniel Wells saw all this persecution that was raging on against the Latter-day Saints, almost 2 years after its prophet’s death, and that August, Daniel Wells is baptized into the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Before his baptism, Daniel had a long history with the Church. He settled Nauvoo five years before the Latter-day Saints arrived. He actually owned 80 acres of which he broke it into lots and sold all the lots to the Latter-day Saints when they arrived from the Missouri. Some of that 80 acres was the land on which the Nauvoo temple was built.
A month after his baptism there was another Battle in Nauvoo. Daniel H. Wells, left behind, led the militia. A battle of 1000 citizens of Nauvoo verse a mob of 800.
After Daniel Wells led the Latter-day Saints in a battle and defeated the 800 men they decided it was best to, instead of keep fighting, to flee.
Wells told those members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints left behind in Nauvoo, the ones who had not yet escaped into Nauvoo, “I have been in the councils of Joseph and Hyrum and the twelve. . . I know they were desirous that the saints should leave the states and go westward.”
He continued, “Brethren, reflect. We have nothing to gain in defending Nauvoo, but everything to lose. But life also is hourly in peril.”
Many of the men and women remaining in Nauvoo then left. They crossed the Mississippi River into Iowa. As they left the city, the mob came in and took over their temple – the Nauvoo temple. The building they had been working on for years. The one temple they were finally going to get to keep. It wasn’t even finished. And, it had only been in use, as an unfinished building, for 3 months.
The mob came in and took over the temple. They used it as their base of operations. They put a cannon up on the roof where they would shoot cannonballs across the Mississippi River into the refugee camps.
Daniel Wells collected one of the cannonballs and sent it to the Governor of Iowa, attempting to convince him that Missouri was violating his territory through war.
Daniel Wells, when he escaped across the Mississippi River into Iowa with the other refugees, left behind a wife and child in Nauvoo. Neither had converted and been baptized into the Church along with him. For two years, living Iowa, Daniel tried to get his family to come with him to Utah, to join Brigham Young and the other Latter-day Saints. They refused.
And, so Daniel, as a religious convert, would travel to Utah by himself. He would later get remarried. He eventually became the third mayor of Salt Lake City, and also becomes one of the three members of the church’s First Presidency.
Another family that is left behind in Nauvoo is Joseph Smith’s family.
Hyrum Smith’s family left Nauvoo as refugees. They follow Brigham Young and his main branch of the Church. One of wagons that left Nauvoo was driven by Hyrum Smith’s son – Joseph F. Smith, who two years after his father’s death who was then only 7 years old. Joseph F. Smith and his widowed mother would stay in Nebraska for a year and a half before crossing the planes west as they saved up money for an oxen team.
But, the widow Emma Smith and her children stay in Nauvoo. Brigham and other leaders of the church try to persuade Emma to go west with them, but she refuses. She also ignored all the other men who had led religious factions out of the state after Joseph died.
During the last battle of Nauvoo in September, Emma moved her family out of the city. A year and a half later – in December of 1847, Emma remarried to a man named Lewis Bidamon.
Five months before her marriage, on July 24, 1847 the first pioneers, led by Brigham Young, reached the valley of present day Salt Lake City, Utah.
The story of these Latter-day Saint pioneers crossing the plains, and the Rocky Mountains, into the Salt Lake City Valley is another story of great struggle and heartache and faith.
One of the most recent prophets of the Church said that the church’s history is “one of being driven, of being winnowed and peeled, or being persecuted and hounded.”
He then quoted the words of the apostle Paul in his second epistle to the Corinthians:
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.
ON THE NEXT EPISODE
This episode will be our last in Season 1 of the Strangers and Pilgrims podcast.
23 years after the death of his Father, Hyrum, and the death of his uncle, Joseph, Joseph F. Smith – travels back east from Utah to visit the sites surrounding his Father and uncle’s Murder, and the sites of the Church’s persecutions.