As a Thief in the Night
by Dan Erickson
Mormon Nauvoo: Separatism Defines a City
[p.123]Driven from its promised land, the LDS church maintained the gathering “must take place before the Lord comes to ‘take vengeance upon the ungodly.’”1 In July 1839 Joseph Smith was still warning the faithful that they may be called to prepare for the Second Coming “before some of us leave this stage of action.”2 But in reality expulsion from Missouri dampened their immediate chiliastic hope.3 Attempting to understand previous disappointments in achieving a millennial deliverance, Smith blamed the loss of their “promised land,” Zion’s Camp, and other failures on a lack of righteousness and unity. They “must needs be chastened, and tried” in all things, they were told, that they may [p.124]become more righteous before the Savior’s return.4 Greater efforts would need to be made.5
A cloud of despair hung over the new religion. With their prophet behind bars and thousands of members scattered across eastern Missouri then driven across a frozen Mississippi River, the Saints’ thoughts moved to heaven, believing only divine intervention could save them.6
From his Liberty, Missouri, jail cell, Joseph Smith pled with the Lord to shorten the time until the Son of Man would liberate the Saints.7 Smith would later travel to Washington, D.C., in a futile attempt to secure federal assistance in obtaining compensation for the loss of Mormon property in Missouri. The government’s failure to redress the Saints’ plight in Missouri now made the nation complicit in crimes against the Mormons, and the judgements of God would soon go forth against the corrupt officials.8 If the [p.125]United States did not return to righteousness, God would destroy his once-favored nation.9
Illinois was initially seen as a temporary place of refuge and, for a while, Joseph Smith may even have doubted the policy of “gathering” which had led to much of the Saints’ troubles.10 A year later Smith broadened the Mormon kingdom’s concept of gathering to include “all N[orth] & S[outh] America,” and in fact “anyplace where the Saints gather is Zion.”11 But in April 1839 separatist worries were [p.126]absent when the Saints purchased the swamp-land village of Commerce, re-named Nauvoo, on a bend of the Mississippi River.12
In Kirtland Smith’s desire to command in all things, temporal and spiritual, led to the apostasy of many including Oliver Cowdery. In Missouri the independent, capitalistic, competitive values of the established citizens ran counter to the Mormon ideal of a cohesive unit. In Nauvoo Smith realized that to establish a separate kingdom of God on earth political independence would be necessary. The Saints’ Missouri experience colored their subsequent emotions and decisions, and it was at this point that Mormonism crossed a pivotal point. Treating all obstacles as further examples of the devil’s resourcefulness, and seeing the world as marshalling Satan’s forces to fight the people of God, they became in Illinois more separatist, more hostile to outsiders, solidifying their identity as a peculiar people, the chosen new Israel.13
In Nauvoo Smith attempted to isolate his movement based on self-preservation instincts and the Mormon Missouri experience.14 Latter-day Saint beliefs, ideals, activities, and ambitions had led to [p.127]suspicion and hostility wherever Mormons called home. Disillusioned with their treatment at the hands of Washington politicians, the Saints stiffened their determination to become self-reliant.15 With the Missouri episode hanging over their consciousness, Joseph Smith realized that a peculiar group like the Mormons could not rely on tolerance for their safety. As Thomas O’Dea stated, “Power meant politics and armed force, and now the Saints went after both.”16
Resolving to deal with their “enemies” from a position of strength, Smith obtained the Nauvoo city charter which they considered their “Magna Carte,” interpreting it as a device to make Nauvoo an independent city-state.17 “I concocted it for the salvation of the church,” Smith said, “on principles so broad, that every honest man might dwell secure under its protective influence.”18 The city’s municipal court then proceeded to issue writs of habeas corpus to protect Smith and other church leaders from arrest from neighboring jurisdictions.19
The unique aspect of the charter authorized an armed militia, the Nauvoo Legion. This fed anti-Mormons’ fear of Mormon militarism.20 A standing army was seen as a particular anti-republican evil, [p.128]and although city officials rhetorically downplayed the Mormon military threat, control of their own militia certainly elicited confidence.21 By 1844 the legion numbered 4,000 men, second only to the U.S. army, under the control of Lieutenant General Joseph Smith who flaunted his military title and breached the notion of a separation of power by also functioning as mayor and municipal court justice.22
At the same time social and theological structures first developed in Missouri and Ohio led to a solid organization of apostles, seventies, and a priesthood of ecclesiastic rulers called by God. Following the Book of Mormon’s example of visionary men as prophets, priests, and law-givers, early Latter-day Saints understood Mormonism’s theocratic goal.23 The suffering in Missouri and Illinois provided the unity necessary for the creation of a distinctive Mormon psyche. This self-identification made them more than just a church but in fact a “peculiar people.”24
[p.129]In Nauvoo Mormonism’s authoritative structure was reinforced by merging public office, priesthood positions, and the military organization of the Nauvoo Legion. By interlocking political, social, economic, and religious hierarchies, every member of God’s kingdom could achieve rank and position. A man whose attempt at success in Jacksonian America had failed could find it in the Mormon kingdom where an oligarchy of church leaders commanded the city’s legal apparatus.25 By combining civic, political, and church offices, Mormons in Nauvoo hoped to create a true theocracy in preparation for the Millennium.
But the Mormon centralized power structure was pragmatic as well, and increased members’ hope for this world as well as for the world to come. What Smith’s religion offered was opportunity for those previously left out of the larger society. Priesthood hierarchy provided a ladder for those on the bottom rung to ascend, and God’s kingdom furnished sanctuary and security from the uncertainty of the outside world.26 In their religious domain they attempted to create a power structure in which a community, an empire, could be built. By combining religious and secular goals, Mormons hoped both to realize the ante-bellum American Dream and prepare for Christ’s coming reign.27 As one scholar has concluded, “[N]o nineteenth century American movement had a more total view of the new world, and none was more disciplined.”28
Early Mormonism’s total theology accentuated Smith’s prophetic role which reigned supreme. No longer bound by precedent, as a seer he was to break from the past, to stand apart from society and bring [p.130]about change, with his theology evolving in accordance to divine will.29 Among his followers, the highest esteem was held for those with proven loyalty to religious superiors. It was “the duty of all men to obey the leaders of the church, and … no man could commit sin so long as he acted in the way that he was directed by his Church superiors,” the Saints were taught.30
Because restored religion was not confined to mere scripture, sacred precepts expanded through the heavenly power behind religious creed. In his revelatory calling, Smith enlarged the sacred canon, and the literalism of the early Saints, and their connection to the Old Testament and Ancient Israel, came to fruition in Illinois.31 Already their unique interpretation of Isaiah 2:3, which held that Zion and Jerusalem were two places, and the gathering was to separate them physically from traditional Protestantism.32 By exalting the Old Testament to equality with the New, Mormonism’s biblical literalism led to doctrinal innovations. In Nauvoo Smith introduced and expanded unique theological tenets such as the temple ceremony, priesthood offices, patriarchal blessings, baptism for the dead, and plural marriage, all principles the Saints believed were to be restored in the last days.33 As a recent work has concluded, Mormon theology exalted “the particular rites and ordinances that would bring heaven to earth, collapse both primordium and millennium into their own time and space, and tie the Saints to God’s work in all time past. This [p.131]perspective ultimately provided the theological basis for the political rule of the Saints.”34
It was polygamy, in Nauvoo, which some have held “more than any other Mormon doctrine, set the saints apart from the world and made them a peculiar people.” Its attempted abandonment of certain social inhibitions became possible only in the Saints’ separate political kingdom in lllinois.35 But polygamy did more than differentiate the Saints from mainstream America. It strengthened Mormon cultural bonds by uniting members, particularly the church hierarchy, through familial ties. The prophet’s scribe William Clayton amplified the importance of the new doctrine to Smith and his associates:
During the last year of his life we were scarcely ever together, alone, but he [Smith] was talking on the subject, and explaining that doctrine and principles connected with it. … From him I learned that the doctrine of plural and celestial marriage is the most holy and important doctrine ever revealed to man on the earth, and that without obedience to that principle no man can ever attain to the fullness of exaltation in celestial glory.36
Polygamy’s sexual experimentation also allowed women, on the low rung of society, to obtain status and security by being connected to the upper echelons of church leadership.37 As women became more closely associated with the prophet as a wife or the wife of an [p.132]associate, they increased their own personal security. Kenelm Burridge contends, “[O]n the whole … the sexual attractiveness of male prophets is to be accounted for less in the amatory skills of the prophet, and more in the conditions of being a woman.”38
The Saints’ religious separatism found physical expression in the Nauvoo temple which symbolized Mormon solidarity. Here the ceremonies introduced in Kirtland were expanded, and the semi-secret rites further isolated the Saints both religiously and psychologically from the outside community. The temple’s clandestine nature also increased member loyalty by making one a “privileged holder of holy mysteries” and reinforced adherence to priesthood authority and dictum.39 When the principle of plurality was tied, in the temple, to eternal celestial glory, Mormon theology came full circle. From this Nauvoo temple doctrine emerged the associated principles of eternal expansion of familial ties, first by expanding families backward through time and saving kindred dead, then forward to the Millennium where polygamy would yield its eternal increase.40
Although he believed in isolationism, in preparing for Christ’s return, Joseph Smith still planned to use, when possible, American political institutions.41 Even if prophecies predicted destruction prior to the Second Coming, Smith maintained that some good could occur through the ballot box. As Edward Pessen suggests, perhaps “sin,” at least partially, “was to be defeated by majority [p.133]vote.”42 Consequently, convinced that government entities would not protect his people from outside aggression, Smith sought to maximize Mormon politic influence.43
Whether good or bad, both Mormons and non-Mormons viewed Nauvoo as kingdom building, and anti-Mormon animosities grew when Mormon solidarity was seen as holding the balance of power between the two political parties.44 Understanding the hostility that his followers created outside Nauvoo, Smith publicly announced that “he did not wish to have any political influence.”45 But he continued to urge the Saints “to use their political franchise to the best of their knowledge.”46 Almost immediately the Mormons displayed their ability to unite politically and their willingness to vote as a block. In response both Illinois Democrats and Whigs solicited Mormon political support.47
The benefits of the Saints’ political opportunism was short-lived. Although philosophically aligned with the Democrats, Smith initially rejected the party following Martin Van Buren’s cool reception to Mormon appeals for redress. Subsequently finding a powerful political ally in Judge Stephen A. Douglas, a Democrat, the Saints attempted to woo favors from all sides.48 But soon, due to Mormon vacillation and shifting loyalties, both Whigs and Democrats concluded the Saints were politically unreliable. The Saints’ alienation of both parties led to the demise of influence in each, further escalating Mormon isolation.49 As Marvin Hill has concluded, “In selling the [p.134]Mormon vote for favors and attempted security to two different parties, Smith caused both parties to distrust him. The consequence was a still greater feeling of alienation between Mormons and their neighbors.”50 By 1841 an anti-Mormon party had developed in Hancock County with a slate of candidates determined to counter Mormon block voting.
In the face of political animosity, the Mormon millennial world view remained intact. “There seems to be Power or Influence exerted against every thing the Saints take in hand to do,” Joseph Fielding commiserated, and once again a siege mentality developed where all “gentiles” became the enemy.51 At Nauvoo Mormon dualism reached new heights with both leaders and laymen pleading for divine liberation: “The brethren united in solemn prayer that God … would deliver His anointed, His people, from all the vile designs of Governor Boggs, and the powers of the State of Missouri, and of Governor Carlin and the authorities of Illinois, and of all Presidents, Governors, Judges, Legislators and all in authority.”52 Although Satan had fought the people of God throughout history, in the latter days all persecution would converge on the Saints; opposition merely underscored the restored gospel’s distinctiveness.53
Some writers maintain that Mormon millenarian theology evolved, viewing the migration from Ohio to Missouri to Illinois as evidence that Mormons concentrated more on a place than a time.54 [p.135]In Nauvoo Joseph Smith may have prolonged his predicted apocalyptic end of the world. Due to the intensity of millennial anticipation, in April 1843 Smith publicly warned followers to resist falling prey to the emotion of Parousia expectation epitomized by William Miller whose initial ominous day of judgement had recently failed to occur.55 At this point Smith prophesied “in the name of the Lord God, and let it be written—the son of man will not come in the clouds of heaven till 1 am eighty-five years old.”56 Smith’s 1843 prophecy [p.136]merely substantiated a previous 1835 prophecy in which Smith proclaimed, “Even fifty-six years shall wind up the scene.”57
Although Smith’s statements appeared to push the Millennium to the end of the century, the Saints’ thirst for a divine deliverance refused to be quenched, and from the pulpit church leaders continued to proclaim that there were still “those of the rising generation who shall not taste death till Christ comes.”58 “I prophesy, in the name of the Lord God of Israel,” Smith declared, “anguish and wrath and tribulation and the withdrawing of the Spirit of God from the earth await this generation, until they are visited with utter desolation.”59 The extended timetable would simply provide time for the Mormon kingdom to reach its apex prior to Christ’s return.60
As tensions grew in 1843-44, Mormon millenarian hope intensified to where “every mob, riot, and national division echoed the hoof beats of the four horsemen.”61 The powers exercised by Nauvoo officials under the auspices of their city charter became a political liability with a significant amount of pressure bearing on politicians to rescind the legal barriers encircling Nauvoo. In early 1843 a repeal of the city charter was narrowly defeated in the state legislature and [p.137]Nauvoo’s legal independence became a rallying cry for both sides.62 In June Smith declared,
If our enemies are determined to oppress us & deprive us of our rights & privileges as they have done & if the Authorities that be on earth will not assist us in our rights nor give us that protection which the Laws & Constitution of the United States & of this State arrentees unto us: then we will claim them from higher power from heaven & from God Almighty.63
Responding to anti-Mormon sentiments, by mid-1843 Smith’s rhetoric became more belligerent, more militaristic. Insinuating an appeal to arms, he proclaimed, “If I [am] under the necessity of giving up our chart[er]ed rights, privileges & freedom … I will do it at the point of the Bayonet & Sword.”64
Earlier the apostolic missionary force had been called to return “immediately home for our personal Safety, as great Judgements are nigh in this land even at the Door.65 And speaking to Stephen A. Douglas, Joseph Smith had chided the United States for refusing to redress the Saints’ Missouri injustices and predicted that “in a few years the government will be utterly overthrown and wasted.”66 In the same vein, on 16 December 1843 Smith declared to the Nauvoo City Council, “I prophecy by virtue of the Holy Priesthood vested in me [and] in the name of Jesus Christ that if Congress will not hear our petition and grant us protection they shall be broken up as a government and God shall damn them. There shall nothing be left of them, not even a grease spot.”67
Smith then began a candidacy for the presidency of the United [p.138]States. He justified this as a last-ditch hope to save the union.68 “If I ever get into the Presidential chair,” he said, “I will protect the people in their rights and liberties.”69 “The plans of the greatest politicians, the wisest senators, and the most profound statesmen” would all come to naught. “It has been the design of Jehovah, from the commencement of the world, and is his purpose now, to regulate the affairs of the world in his own time; to stand as the head of the universe, and take the reigns of government into his own hands.”70
After years of persecution the Saints had lost hope that America would repent. Anarchy was expected soon to engulf the nation with only the Saints able to offer a solution based on true principles of virtue and freedom. When the world headed into chaos prior to the Millennium, the righteous would flock to the Mormon theocracy. Mormons would not redeem the promised land of America by sword but merely be there to pick up the pieces as the Almighty slew the unrighteous.71
If elected, Smith intended to combine state and religion and give certainty to the nation much as he had done for the church and as God had done in the Old Testament.72 The “Church must not triumph over [the] State,” he declared, “but actually swallow it up like Moses’ rod swallowed up the rods of the Egyptians.”73 Smith counted [p.139]on the Lord to turn the hearts of the people as his means of winning the presidency.74 He then petitioned Congress to portion off Nauvoo as a separate federal district with Smith commanding the Nauvoo Legion, converted to federal troops, to defend the city.75
In the spring of 1844 Smith formally organized a theocratic assembly termed the “Council of Fifty” to govern the Saints until the resurrection. Its stated purpose was “to organize the political kingdom of God in preparation for the second coming of Christ.”76 The council was the beginning of the hoped-for world government headquartered in Nauvoo which would “become the greatest city in the whole world.”77 With political separation from mainstream America complete, Joseph Smith was anointed, ordained, and crowned “King on earth.”78
Outside Illinois Mormons taught the new religion’s elementary [p.140]tenets. Only in the safety of refuge at Nauvoo could the fullness of Mormonism, including polygamy, theocracy, and the political kingdom of God, be revealed.79 Here, in their pursuit of a new social order, the early Saints challenged economics (capitalism), politics (democracy), and religious (new scripture and priesthood) norms of society, directly assaulting the basic American belief system. As such, overt empire building was not necessary for violent conflict.80 The St. Louis New Era identified the Saints’ clannishness and theocratic isolationalism as the root cause of Mormon conflict in general. When they moved to Illinois, “instead of trying to form a component part of the community, … [the Mormons] set themselves up as a separate people, peculiar for holiness and the favor of heaven, and … branded all others as Gentiles. This array and separation on their part, soon caused a counter array on the part of all other citizens.”81
As knowledge of the church hierarchy’s secret polygamous unions became more difficult to hide, internal dissent and external anti-Mormon forces converged.82 Prominent members, including First Presidency counselor William Law, rejected Smith’s rule and established an independent press in Nauvoo which advocated repealing the Nauvoo charter. When these dissidents laid before the public Smith’s polygamy doctrine, alluded to his coronation, and pronounced their refusal to “acknowledge any man as king or law-[p.141]giver to the church,” internal and outside factions, with no appetite for retreat, intersected.83
The “spiritual wife” issue created both internal solidarity among Mormons and served as a rallying point for anti-Mormons declaring their moral indignation at such lawlessness. Mormonism’s hidden polygamy became a symbol of the Mormon-gentile struggle and solidified anti-Mormon cohesiveness behind a shield of ethical wrath.84 Some members involved in the secret practice of polygamy were subsequently initiated into a newly established “Holy Order” that expanded the temple ritual. This only further isolated Smith and other church leaders from non-Mormons and the general membership of their own church who knew nothing of Smith’s polygamy and elite temple rites.85
[p.142]As the “Prophet,” Smith had always been at the center of Mormon controversy. At Nauvoo, in his multiple roles of mayor, lieutenant-general of the Nauvoo Legion, municipal court justice, and president of the church, he was seen by his enemies as a theocratic dictator.86 First from non-Mormons outside Nauvoo, then from fellow Mormons who focused on his plural wife doctrine, Smith’s detractors labeled him a fallen if not false prophet, and demanded that he “acknowledge publicly that he had taught and practiced the doctrine of plurality of wives … and that he should own the whole system (revelation and all) to be from Hell.”87 Less than two months after his murder, Smith’s widow, an admitted foe of polygamy, confided to William Clayton that she believed it was these “secret things which had cost Joseph and Hyrum [Smith] their lives.”88 When Smith repeatedly called out the Nauvoo Legion in response to armed aggression against the city, any hope of a Mormon-non-Mormon middle ground disintegrated.89
Vigilantism was not a novel approach to justice on the American frontier.90 Previous calls to arms had been rhetorically justified by both sides, but particularly by an anti-Mormon sense of legal impotence. “When a Government ceases to afford protection,” they held, “the citizens of course fall back upon their original inherent right to self-defense.”91 Although destroying a newspaper was not a unique [p.143]event, when enacted by Mormons in Nauvoo and viewed as an ecclesiastical rather than a civil act, it played into the hands of their enemies.92 Smith’s order as mayor to destroy the Nauvoo Expositor led to his arrest, and once in the custody of bitter anti-Mormons who became judge, jury, and executioners, his murder, if not predictable, was not inconceivable.93
The death of their beloved prophet amounted to the ultimate sacrifice required of God’s people and created a leadership vacuum and an eschatological crisis.94 With the Millennium’s imminence, the Saints had not contemplated the need for a successor.95 In the language of an 1837 revelation, Christ had vested in Smith “keys which … shall not be taken from him till I come.”96 As Apos-[p.144]tle Erastus Snow related, most early Mormons “supposed that our Prophet was going to continue with us, to lead us on until the coming of the Savior.”97 Brigham Young’s “Epistle of the Twelve,” published in the Mormon press, attempted to placate the church. “You are now without a prophet present with you in the flesh to guide you,” said Young, “but you are not without apostles, who hold the keys of power to seal on earth that which shall be sealed in heaven, and to preside over all the affairs of the church in all the world.”98
The reality of a delayed parousia forced the former apocalyptics to focus on an extended timetable.99 Yet even with Smith’s death, the issues which created Mormon society’s incompatibility with their neighbors persisted, and the prospect of a peaceful “Zion” within the borders of Babylon remained an impossibility. 100 Those who united under Brigham Young’s leadership were forced to turn inward as a defense mechanism.101 Climaxing with Smith’s murder, persecution created a tightly woven, cohesive sect with a group consciousness that reaffirmed its own system and identity. As such, church leaders hurried completion of the Nauvoo temple so that large numbers of members could receive their sacred ordinances.102 Whereas separatist doctrines and practices had created Mormon-gentile boundaries leading to violence, in leaving Nauvoo Mormons became a more distinct people possibly evolving into a novel culture.103
[p.145]Following the death of the Mormon prophet, a lull in anti-Mormon persecution proved temporary. By the fall of 1844 a renewed effort to drive the church from the state ensued. In January 1845 the state legislature revoked Nauvoo’s charter, thus removing the last remnant of Mormon independence.104 Finally, when it became obvious that Mormonism’s fundamental differences would never allow the church to co-exist side-by-side with mainstream America, Governor Thomas Ford and Brigham Young agreed on a planned Mormon departure.105
Due to the Saints’ fierce millennialism, the new outbreak of anti-Mormonism in 1845 was seen as further persecution. Although denouncing violence, the Saints took it as another “sign of the times.” With the loss of the Nauvoo charter and continued violence due to impotent protection from the state, the last year and a half at Nauvoo witnessed a new round of Mormon-anti-American rhetorical conflict. Predicting the demise of the American constitutional system, church leaders’ rebukes fell “upon their enemies, upon the country, upon government, [and] upon all public officers.”106 Apostle Orson Pratt proclaimed,
It is with the greatest joy that I forsake this Republic; and all the Saints have abundant reasons to rejoice that they are counted worthy to be cast out as exiles from this wicked nation … If our heavenly father will preserve us, and deliver us out of the hands of the blood thirsty christians of these United States, and not suffer any more of us to [be] martyred to gratify holy piety, I for one shall be very thankful.107
But for Mormons the prophesied end of the United States heralded [p.146]a new world, and this millennial hope gave them the strength to endure their current hardship. The abandonment of Nauvoo, the once great Mormon bastion and site of their majestic temple, further isolated an already alienated people.108 “The State of Illinois And the whole United States have filled up their Cup of Iniquity,” wrote Apostle Wilford Woodruff,
And well may the Saints go out of her midst As did Lot out of Sodom for her Judgement and destruction is equally sure. The Saints having built the Temple of the Lord & the City of Joseph Are now about to be drove out of it by the American Nation…. The Bible & Book of Mormon Doctrine & Covenants are fast fulfilling upon the heads of this generation.109
Explaining the forced exodus as part of God’s plan, Brigham Young declared “a new epoch, not only in the history of the church but of this nation” had arrived.110 As the last days approached, turmoil and persecution meant God’s words were about to be fulfilled, deliverance of the Saints was nigh.111 “There is nothing but Mormonism that will save this generation from wickedness and ruin. Now mark it; [if] fifty years find this nation prosperous without Mormonism, Joseph Smith was a false prophet, and there is no God.”112
Although Young steadily re-channeled apocalyptic energies toward the new religion’s literal survival, the hope of a millennial deliverance persisted.113 In January 1846 Apostle Heber C. Kimball prayed in the Nauvoo temple that the twelve apostles, their wives, and all of the Saints might live to “see three score years and ten, and behold the kingdom of God established in the earth.”114 God [p.114]still promised, even as the Saints left the United States for the desert, that “my arm is stretched out in the last days, to save my people Israel.”115
Fleeing Babylon, Young led his people out of captivity and away from violence, fulfilling the Lord’s promise to remove “the fullness of the gospel” from the midst of they who rejected him (3 Ne. 16:10). By driving the church into the wilderness, the gentiles “turned the last key which seals their Condemnation,” said Apostle Wilford Woodruff. “Wo, Wo, Wo is their DOOM.”116 But the struggle with American society not only compelled the Saints to leave the United States, it created a “peculiar people” who now became a nation, like Israel of old, identified as God’s chosen in the latter-days, part of his divine plan and sacred history.117 The forced exodus now pointed them to the West where they would be led to a new promised land, a place prepared for their safety and refuge. Here, separated from a corrupt gentile society, they would patiently await Christ’s call to usher in his millennial reign.
By gathering in separate communities, the Saints not only symbolized but actuated their withdrawal from the secular world 118 Mormons saw their trail of persecution—Missouri, Ohio, and Illinois—as following an ancient pattern of the wicked persecuting the Saints [p.148]of God. Their temporary achievements in Kirtland, Jackson County, Far West, and Nauvoo were preludes to the building of God’s kingdom on earth.119
Mormonism’s aspirations, founded on millenarian literalism and cultivated by expansionist intent, were based on a vision of theocratic bliss. Although the Mormon ideal of social, economic, religious, and political spheres under one leader ran counter to American ideals, it was the political/military aspect of their anti-pluralism which led to the greatest non-Mormon concerns. The idea of an exclusive body of religious zealots, trained and armed, with apocalyptic conviction and its own beliefs and ethics, brought fear to the hearts of outsiders.120
The desire for unity arose from early Mormonism’s millennial expectations. The increased need for protection and autonomy under their own sovereign rule was reinforced by ongoing persecutions which became self-fulfilling prophecies.121 In Nauvoo Smith’s demand for independence and control propelled him to the position of prophet, judge, mayor, and military commander. As the peril increased, he tightened the reins of command. Mormon-intimidating rhetoric, backed by political solidarity, fed both internal dissent and external threat.122 When anti-Mormon forces murdered Joseph Smith and drove the church from Illinois, the Saints’ millennial expectations were confirmed. Rejected by the nation, they were now content to leave Babylon to God’s judgement.
2. Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols., 2nd ed. rev., introduction and notes by B.H. Roberts (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974-76), 3:387; see also ibid., 3:390, for “signs” of the Second Coming.
3. John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (Liverpool, Eng.: F.D. Richards, 1855•86), 23:12, 9 Nov. 1881; Louis G. Reinwand, “An Interpretive Study of Mormon Millennialism During the Nineteenth Century ‘With Emphasis on Millennial Developments in Utah,” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1971, 64; Keith E. Norman, “How Long, 0 Lord? The Delay of the Parousia in Mormonism,” Sunstone (Jan.-Apr. 1983): 51.
5. Although in 1838 members had been castigated and some even excommunicated for selling their Missouri property, in 1839 Smith began advising Mormons to dispose of their Missouri land holdings. In 1841 the previous command to build a city and temple in Missouri was rescinded by revelation. See Dean C. Jessee, comp. and ed., The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1984), 310; Smith, History of the Church, 3:3-5, 274. For Smith’s comments on the feasibility of the Lord revoking a command, see Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal 1833•1898, 9 vols. (Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1983-85), 2:143, 19 Dec. 1841; Times and Seasons 2 (1 June 1841): 427; Dan Vogel, Religious Seekers and the Advent of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988), 201.
6. Grant Underwood, “Millenarianism and the Early Mormon Mind,” Journal of Mormon History 9 (1982): 46; Dean C. Jessee, “‘Walls, Grates and Screeking Iron Doors’: The Prison Experience of Mormon Leaders in Missouri, 1838-1839,” in New Views of Mormon History, eds. Davis Bitton and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1987), 19-42. See also Times and Seasons 2 (1 Apr. 1841): 373-74.
7. Smith, History of the Church, 3:291-92. See Times and Seasons 2 (15 June 1841): 445, where William Smith pleads to the Lord to hasten his return. See also Joseph Smith, in Journal of Discourses, 6:239, 2 June 1839.
9. Smith, History of the Church, 4:145. See also ibid., 6:116; Kenneth H. Winn, Exiles in a Land of Liberty: Mormons in America, 1830-1846 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 155-56.
10. Joseph Smith to the Church at Quincy, Illinois, 20 Mar. 1839, in Smith, History of the Church, 3:301. See also ibid., 3:260-61; Dean C. Jessee and David J. Whittaker, “The Last Months of Mormonism in Missouri: The Albert Perry Rockwood Journal,” Brigham Young University Studies 28 (Winter 1988): 34; Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 11:17, 11 Dec. 1864; Kenneth W. Godfrey, “Causes of Mormon Non-Mormon Conflict in Hancock County, Illinois, 1839-1846,” Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1967, 112; Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994), 262.
11. Dean C. Jessee, ‘Joseph Smith’s 19 July 1840 Discourse,” Brigham Young University Studies 19 (Spring 1979): 392. As early as 1839 a shifting concept of gathering to the stakes of Zion was preached by Smith. See Willard Richards Pocket Companion, Aug. 1839, in Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith (1980; reprint, Orem, UT: Grandin Book Co., 1991), 11; Smith, History of the Church, 3:390; ibid., 6:318-19, 321. To emphasize the new definition’s significance, Parley Pratt dramatically announced the change in a letter to his brother with seven exclamation points. See James B. Allen, Ronald K. Esplin, and David J. Whittaker, Men with a Mission: 1837-1841, The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the British 1sles (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1992), 87; Grant Underwood, The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993), 34. Pratt’s disappointment with unfulfilled prophesies regarding Missouri is seen in his query to Joseph Smith, “When Will the ‘purchased possession’ be Redeemed and the temple and city commence in Jackson Co. Mo.” P[arley]. P. Pratt to Brother Smith, 4 Dec. 1841, in David H. Pratt, “Oh! Brother Joseph,” Brigham Young University Studies 27 (Winter 1987): 130, emphasis in original. As early as 1832 William W. Phelps had indicated Zion may include the area from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. See “The Far West,” Evening and Morning Star 1 (Oct. 1832).
12. Smith, History of the Church, 3:265-76, 3:298, 3:341-42; 3:391; B[righam]. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (1930; reprint, Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 2:9-10. Smith later disbanded all stakes except Nauvoo and on the opposite shore of the Mississippi in Lee County, Iowa. See Smith, History of the Church, 4:362.
13. Thomas Ford, A History of Illinois, 2 vols. (1854; reprint, Chicago: Lakeside Press, 1945-46), 2:42; Michael Walzer, The Revolution of the Saints: A Study in the Origins of Radical Politics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1965), 3; Winn, Exiles in a Land of Liberty, 153-56; Grant Underwood, “Early Mormon Millennialism: Another Look,” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1981, 87; Robert Flanders, “Dream and Nightmare: Nauvoo Revisited,” in The Restoration Movement: Essays in Mormon History, rev. ed., eds. F. Mark McKiernan, Alma R. Blair, and Paul M. Edwards (Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1992), 142.
17. Mark F. McKiernan and Roger D. Launius, eds., An Early Latter Day Saint History: The Book of John Whitmer, Kept by Commandment (Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1980), 172; Thomas Barnes to Miranda Barnes Haskett, 6 Nov. 1897, in William Mulder and A. Russell Mortensen, eds., Among the Mormons: Historic Accounts by Contemporary Observers (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1967), 147; James L. Kimball, Jr., “The Nauvoo Charter: A Reinterpretation,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 64 (Spring 1971): 66-78; James L. Kimball, Jr., “A Wall to Defend Zion: The Nauvoo Charter,” Brigham Young University Studies 15 (Summer 1975): 499-526; Dallin H. Oaks, “The Suppression of the Nauvoo Expositor,” Utah Law Review 9 (Winter 1965): 878-82.
22. Smith, History of the Church, 4:295-96; Ford, 2:66-69; Hamilton Gardner, “The Nauvoo Legion, 1840-1845—A Unique Military Organization,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 55 (Summer 1961): 181-97; Ronald W. Walker, “Sheaves, Bucklers and the State: Mormon Leaders Respond to the Dilemmas of War,” Sunstone 7 July-Aug. 1982): 44-45; Godfrey, “Causes of Mormon Non-Mormon Conflict in Hancock County, Illinois,” 35; Marvin S. Hill, Quest for Refuge: The Mormon Flight from American Pluralism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 112-13; Flanders, Nauvoo, 98.
23. Kenney, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1:127-28, 2 Apr. 1837; Richard L. Bushman, “The Book of Mormon and the American Revolution,” Brigham Young University Studies 17 (Autumn 1976): 14-20; Marvin S. Hill, “Quest for Refuge: An Hypothesis as to the Social Origins and Nature of the Mormon Political Kingdom,” Journal of Mormon History 2 (1975): 12; O’Dea, The Mormons, 34-35; D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994), 80.
24. Val Dan MacMurray and Perry H. Cunningham, “Mormons and Gentiles: A Study in Conflict and Persistence,” in Ethnic Conflicts and Power: A Cross-National Perspective, eds. Donald E. Gelfand and Russell D. Lee (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1973), 212•15; O’Dea, The Mormons, 75; Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, 105-10.
27. Klaus J. Hansen. “Mormonism and American Culture: Some Tentative Hypotheses,” in The Restoration Movement, 11-20; Gordon D. Pollock, In Search of Security: The Mormons and the Kingdom of God on Earth, 1830-1844 (New York: Garland Publishing, 1989), 230-31.
31. Millennial Star 10 (Feb. 1841): 258-59: Richard T. Hughes and C. Leonard Allen, Illusions of Innocence: Protestant Primitivism in America, 1630-1875 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 141.
33. The first public sermon on the doctrine of baptism for the dead is found in Times and Seasons 2 (15 Apr. 1841): 387. See also Hill, Quest for Refuge, 51; Underwood, The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism, 69-71.
35. “William Clayton’s Testimony,” in George D. Smith, ed., <em>An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton</em> (Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1991), 559; Harrison, <em>The Second Coming</em>, 187-88: Sarah S. Scott to My dear Father and Mother, 6 Feb. 1845, in Mulder and Mortensen, <em>Among the Mormons</em>, 154; Van Wagoner, <em>Sidney Rigdon</em>, 352; Klaus J. Hansen, <em>Quest for Empire: The Political Kingdom of God and the Council of Fifty in Mormon History</em> (Lansing: Michigan State University, 1970), 54.</p> <p>36.<a name=”> Andrew Jensen, Historical Record 6 (July 1887): 226, in Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon, 293.
40. Andrew F. Ehat, ed., “‘They Might Have Known that He Was Not a Fallen Prophet’—The Nauvoo Journal of Joseph Fielding,” Brigham Young University Studies 19 (Winter 1979): 154; Millennial Star 23 (16 Feb. 1841): 102; Smith, History of the Church, 5:148-53; 4:231; Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, 1:161-65, 29 Aug. 1852; Times and Season 2 (1 June 1841): 424-27; Thomas G. Alexander, “Between Revivalism and the Social Gospel: The Latter-day Saint Social Advisory Committee, 1916-1922,” Brigham Young University Studies 23 (Winter 1983): 23.
54. William Mulder, “Mormonism’s ‘Gathering’: An American Doctrine with a Difference,” Church History 23 (Sept. 1954): 252; Ernest R. Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism, 1800-1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 48; Norman, “How Long, O Lord?” 51; Flanders, “Dream and Nightmare,” 151.
55. Kenney, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 2:365-66, 10 Mar. 1844; Smith, History of the Church, 5:326. Based on Jewish calendars, the year 1843 suggested two dates (21 March or 3 April) which Millerites believed would usher in Christ’s return. When the expected return did not occur in 1843, the so-called first disappointment, the date for the Second Advent was recalculated to 22 October 1844. See Jonathan Butler, “From Millerism to Seventh-Day Adventism: ‘Boundlessness to Consolidation,’’’ Church History 55 (Mar. 1986): 55; Michael Barkuu, Crucible of the Millennium: The Burned-Over District of New York in the 1840s (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1986), 31-46; Harrison, The Second Coming, 193-95. Mormons and Millerites, as apocalyptic, proselyting, and millennial groups, had numerous confrontations. See Grant Underwood, “Apocalyptic Adversaries: Mormonism Meets Millerism,” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 7 (1987): 53-61. John Taylor, “Millerism,” Times and Seasons 4 (15 Feb. 1843): 103-105, criticized “the false foundation upon which Mr. Miller rests his fabric,” and declared it “exposed in all its naked deformity.”
56. Smith, History of the Church, 5:336; Scott H. Faulring, ed., An American Prophet’s Record: The Diaries and Journals or Joseph Smith (1987; reprint, Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1989), 343, 6 Apr. 1843; Ehat and Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith, 179, 6 Apr. 1843. Smith had made the same prophecy four days earlier at a conference in Ramus, Illinois. See Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, 340, 2 Apr. 1843; Smith, An Intimate Chronicle, 95, 2 Apr. 1843. Clayton recorded the prophecy to state that Smith would be eighty-four years old. Saints deduced Smith would turn eighty-five on 23 December 1890, thus making 1890-91 the appointed time. See ‘James Burgess Notebook,” in Ehat and Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith, 334, 10 Mar. 1844; Frankin D. Richards, “Scriptural Items,” ibid., 181, 6 Apr. 1843; ‘Joseph Smith Diary,” by Willard Richards, ibid., 179-80, 6 Apr. 1843.
57. The “eighty-five year” prophecy appeared in canon form for the first time in the Doctrine and Covenants’ 1876 edition. The fifty-six-year prophecy is found in Smith, History of the Church, 2:182. Richard Lloyd Anderson has explained that Smith’s fifty-six year prophecy was intended to be “merely [Smith’s] opinion” rather than prophetic revelation. See Anderson, ‘Joseph Smith and the Millenarian Time Table,” Brigham Young University Studies 3 (1961): 57. Whether or not Joseph Smith’s two millennial proclamations were indeed revelation is immaterial. What is important is that in the late nineteenth century the Saints believed them to be prophetic declarations and acted on that belief. See also Jessee, ‘Joseph Smith’s 19 July 1840 Discourse,” 393, where Smith declares the Millennium is at least forty years away.
69. Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, 443, 28 Jan. 1844; Times and Seasons 5 (1 June 1844): 556-57. Smith’s presidential candidacy was publicly announced in ibid., 5 (15 Feb. 1844): 441. See also Smith, History of the Church, 6:188.
72. Kenney, Wilford Woodruffs Journal, 2:378, 6 Apr. 1844; Smith, History of the Church, 6:322; Robert Flanders, “To Transfer History: Early Mormon Culture and the Concept of Time and Space,” Church History 40 (Mar. 1971): 115-16; Winn, Exiles in a Land of Liberty, 199-204.
76. Kenney, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 2:366, 11 Mar. 1844; Smith, An Intimate Chronicle, 159, 10 Mar. 1845; Church History in the Fullness of Times (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1989), 270.
77. Jessee, ‘Joseph Smith’s 19 July 1840 Discourse,” 393; Robert Flanders, “The Kingdom of God in Illinois: Politics in Utopia,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 5 (Spring 1970): 26-36; Winn, Exiles in a Land of Liberty, 194-96; Hansen, Quest for Empire, 11, 60-61; Andrew F. Ehat, ‘Joseph Smith’s Introduction of Temple Ordinances and the 1844 Mormon Succession Question,” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1981, 156-57. Smith was also entertaining the possibility of a Mormon kingdom in Texas, Oregon, or California. See Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, 447, 20 Feb. 1844.
78. George Miller, in Godfrey, “Causes of Mormon Non-Mormon Conflict in Hancock County, Illinois,” 64; Ford, A History of Illinois, 2:155-57; Hansen, Quest for Empire, 73; D. Michael Quinn, “The Council of Fifty and Its Members, 1844-1945,” Brigham Young University Studies 20 (Winter 1980): 163-97; Andrew F. Ehat, “‘It Seems Like Heaven on Earth’: Joseph Smith and the Constitution of the Kingdom of God,” Brigham Young University Studies 20 (Spring 1980): 253-79; Hill, Quest for Refuge, 14041; Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, 124; Flanders, Nauvoo, 292.
79. Sarah S. Scott to My dear Father and Mother, 6 Feb. 1845, in Mulder and Mortensen, Among the Mormons, 154; Ford, A History of Illinois, 2:219-21; Winn, Exiles in a Land of Liberty, 223; R. Laurence Moore, Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 36; Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton, The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints, 2d ed. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992),69; Hansen, Quest for Empire, 54.
84. Paul Wilbur Tappan, “Mormon-Gentile Conflict: A Study of the Influence of Public Opinion on In-Group Versus Out-Group Interaction “With Special Reference to Polygamy,” Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, 1939, 420. See also Danel W. Bachman, “A Study of the Mormon Practice of Plural Marriage Before the Death of Joseph Smith,” M.A. thesis, Purdue University, 1975, 261-97; Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, 63-72; Godfrey, “Causes of Mormon Non-Mormon Conflict in Hancock County, Illinois,” 111. The first major public exposure of Smith’s secret polygamy doctrine was initially published in serial form in the Illinois press, and is found in John C. Bennett, The History of the Saints, or an Expose of Joe Smith and Mormonism (Boston: Leland and Whiting, 1842).
85. D. Michael Quinn, “Latter-day Saints Prayer Circle,” Brigham Young University Studies 19 (Fall 1978): 79-105; Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, 113~17; David John Buerger, “The Second Anointing in Latter-day Saint Theology and Practice,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 16 (Spring 1983): 16-22; George D. Smith, “Nauvoo Roots of Mormon Polygamy, 1841-46: A Preliminary Demographic Report,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 27 (Spring 1994): 1-72. The secret practice of polygamy and the duplicity surrounding it are expanded in D. Michael Quinn, “LDS Church Authority and New Plural Marriages, 1890-1904,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 18 (Spring 1985): 19-23; Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, 19-62; Bachman, “The Study of the Mormon Practice of Plural Marriage,” 176-217.
86. Ehat, “‘They Might Have Known that He Was Not a Fallen Prophet.’’’ 154; Times and Seasons 4 (15 Feb. 1843): 99-100; Smith, History of the Church, 6:3; William Mulder, The Mormons in American History (1957; reprint, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1981), 28.
87. William Law Diary, 13 May 1844, in Lyndon W. Cook, “William Law, Nauvoo Dissenter,” Brigham Young University Studies 22 (Winter 1982): 68. See Smith, History of the Church, 5:510-12, for Smith’s admission, as early as July 1843, that internal dissent was once again raising its head in the church. See also Flanders, Nauvoo, 243.
92. Ford, A History of Illinois, 2:162; Dallin H. Oaks and Marvin S. Hill, Carthage Conspiracy: The Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith (1975; reprint, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1979), 6-29. Dallin Oaks affirms that “there was no legal justification in 1844 for the destruction of the Expositor press as a nuisance.” See Dallin H. Oaks, “The Suppression of the Nauvoo Expositor,” Utah Law Review 9 (Winter 1965): 891.
93. Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, 490, 11 June 1844; Smith, History of the Church, 6:432-52; Keith Huntress, “The Murder of Joseph Smith,” in Mormonism and American Culture, eds. Marvin S. Hill and James B. Allen (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), 77; Flanders, “Dream and Nightmare,” 157-59; Flanders, Nauvoo, 306•307; Roger D. Launius, “The Murders in Carthage: Non-Mormon Reports of the Assassination of the Smith Brothers,” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 15 (1995): 17-34.
94. Times and Seasons 5 (15 Dec. 1844): 743-44; Linda King Newel and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, Prophet’s Wife, “Elect Lady, “Polygamy’s Foe, 1804-1879 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1984), 197-202; Hill, Quest for Refuge, 154- 55; D. Michael Quinn, ‘Joseph Smith Ill’s Blessing and the Mormons of Utah,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15 (Summer 1982): 80; Richard S. Van Wagoner, “The Making of a Mormon Myth: The 1844 Transfiguration of Brigham Young,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 28 (Winter 1995): 1-24.
105. Kenney, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 2:616, 18 Nov. 1845; Ford, A History of Illinois, 2:301-302; Klaus J. Hansen, Mormonism and the American Experience (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 139.
117. Winn, Exiles in a Land of Liberty, 78, 236: Ephraim Edward Ericksen, The Psychological and Ethical Aspects of Mormon Group Life (1922; reprint, University of Utah Press, 1975), 29-31. Patricia Nelson Limerick contends that while membership in the Mormon church, with its own economic, social, and familiar patterns, laid the foundation for the creation of a new culture or subculture, the forced exodus created a “separate peoplehood” leading to a unique Mormon “ethnicity.” See Limerick, “Peace Initiative: Using the Mormons to Rethink Culture and Ethnicity in American History,” Journal of Mormon History 21 (Fall 1995): 17-19.