The History Of The Mormons
Joseph has a Vision
Joseph Smith was born in 1805. He was to become the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joseph believed himself to be ordained by God to preach a new gospel after seeing visions. “The Book of Mormons” published in 1830 was accepted as being inspired by God. The followers of Joseph Smith were called “Mormons,’ which means, ‘more good.’
The ‘gentiles’ feared the economical and political strength of the new church. There were constant clashes between the two groups when the Mormons established colonies in Missouri and Ohio. In Missouri Joseph Smith was arrested by state troops when they attacked the Mormons.
The Saints Flee to Illinois
- Brigham Young fled with the ‘saints’ to ‘Illinois.’ Joseph finally escaped and joined them there.
- Here he eventually built the city of Nauvoo and the church prospered, he built a church and a university. He also started a private army and sent missionaries to other countries.
- However when Joseph claimed to have received a revelation, which made him announce the doctrine of plural marriages, he brought a lot of trouble upon the church. When rumors reached the gentiles that Joseph and other leaders had taken additional wives, opposition to this led to armed clashes.
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Joseph and Hyrum Smith are Killed
Joseph was summoned by Governor Ford for trial at Carthage and with three other leaders he surrendered. A mob stormed the jail where they were kept and killed Joseph and his brother Hyrum Smith. When Brigham Young heard of the killings, he was in New England. He hurried home, but it took him six weeks to reach Nauvoo. When he reached Nauvoo many saints had gone into hiding and the tension between the Mormons and gentiles was tense.
Change of Leadership
Brigham Young took over the leadership of the church. He decided that the saints had to leave Nauvoo at once. Everything that they had built in Nauvoo would have to be left. He suggested they move to the desert In the Utah basin because nobody would want to live there and they could live in peace. Utah was in Mexico and out of the United States.
Preparing To Flee Nauvoo
- Every home in Nauvoo was turned into a workshop.
- The woman labored long hours sewing and knitting, making warm garments for the long journey to Utah.
- The men built wagons. For more than a year the saints prepared for the great migration.
- The gentiles were insisting that they were all to be deported.
- In February 1846, Brigham started moving five thousand of the families to Utah as he knew the mobs were not going to give them a chance to move all the families safely.
- Behind them they left their farms, homes, temple and mills.
Preparing a Settlement for the Thousands of Mormons Following
When they reached Iowa after two months they had covered only one hundred and fifty miles. Brigham stopped so that they could rest and prepare for the thousands of saints that were still coming.
- Within a month they had ploughed the ground and planted vegetables, cabins and wells were ready.
- They then moved on again until they reached Mount Pisgah to plant and built and move on again.
- The thousands of saints following him were so eager to reach Brigham that they did not stop at the settlements that he had prepared for them.
- When he reached the Missouri River he had been overtaken by fifteen thousand saints, with all their cattle, horses and sheep.
- Once again the Mormons started to build a settlement.
US at War with Mexico
One day a captain from the US Army arrived and said that he wanted five hundred of Brigham’s men as they were at war with Mexico. He was annoyed at first as the Government had chased them away but after considering that he could have five hundred of his men transported for free to the West and he would have that many mouths less to feed through the winter he agreed. They would also be paid a wage.
Dread Disease 'Black Canker'
- In the winter thousands of the saints developed a disease called ‘black canker.’
- A sort of combination of scurvy and fever, their legs and arms swelled, until in some extreme cases the limbs turned black.
- They did not know if it was caused by the water or not having fresh vegetables. The plague stopped with the coming of the cold weather
- In April Brigham and just over a hundred men traveled ahead to Utah to choose a site and start a settlement.
- As they traveled towards Utah they passed through the lands of the Pawnee and Sioux Indians.
- The Indian chief rode into their camp and demanded gifts. Brigham was forced to hand over tobacco, flour and salt. They also followed them and stole some of their horses.
In July 1847 they finally came to a plain which was surrounded by a semi-circle of mountains. Brigham was still weak from his sickness but he walked around the camp praising his men for the work they had done.
- In the three days that they had reached the Utah Basin before him they had already dammed creeks, dug trenches and made small reservoirs.
- However they were not happy with the chosen place. Every where they went they stepped on large horrible crickets that swarmed in by the millions.
Brigham Shares his Vision for the Utah Basin
As Brigham spoke about his vision for the Utah Basin the men looked at him and then stared at the desolation before their eyes and wondered if his sickness had affected his mind.
- His vision of Salt Lake City would be wide streets set in ten acre blocks.
- There would be fruit and shade trees, as well as gardens and lawns.
- There would also be a temple surrounded with lawns, fountains and ponds.
- Soon men were cutting timber, while others were building log houses.
- A third group of men were busy erecting a spacious building for church services. When this was completed they built a huge stockade as a defense against the Indians, and planted vegetables.
- Brigham had to travel back to Missouri before the winter was upon them.
- He worried about those that he had to leave behind as the crops had been planted too late for harvesting.
- A month after they had arrived they were on their way back to Missouri. He took with him most of the wagons and half the men, no provisions as they would be needed by those staying behind.
- He and his men would live on meat on the return journey. Before he left he told those staying behind to put their faith in God and they would all survive.
Back to Missouri
After traveling for several hundred miles they were met by a scout who informed him that John Taylor who he had left in charge of the thousands at Missouri were on their way to Utah.
He was furious when he met up with them and one thousand six hundred women and children. While he was rebuking the men the woman had prepared a feast for them. Brigham realized that he would have to rule with stern discipline. He sent the party onto the Utah Basin and said that they would need great resourcefulness to survive.
He arrived in Missouri in October. In England where they had 20,000 converts, Brigham contacted them and told them to emigrate as soon as they could. They had to bring seeds of grain, fruits, vegetables, and trees. They also had to buy machinery for spinning and weaving.
He wanted everything necessary to build a model society. They would need a printing press and equipment as he expected to be isolated from the world. The immediate problem was getting the rest of the saints to Utah. They needed to store food and wagons had to be repaired.
As they were preparing to leave, Heber came to Brigham and told him that the war with Mexico had ended and that the Utah Basin now belonged to the United States. Brigham was shocked.
On the trial many old people had died. As they came closer to the Utah Basin they were convinced that those left behind could not have survived. He was overjoyed to find his people alive.
Saved by the Gulls
Brigham was amazed at what they had accomplished while he was away. They had built nearly 500 houses, a flour mill and sawmills.
They told him that the crickets came by the millions and nearly destroyed all the crops. They tried to drown them, then tried burning them but there were too many crickets and it did not work. Then he said the Lord send the gulls. There were so many that they covered the fields like snow. The gulls saved part of the crops. They were also saved by the sego lily when they had no more food. The Indians eat the roots, so they dug up tons of them and it was all they had to eat for weeks. Brigham knew that he had to organize his people to avoid famine. The winter was not far off.
- He sent the best hunters to mountains far away to kill all the wild beasts they could find.
- Some of the men fished while others looked for wild fruit.
- He rationed the food. Many of the saints lived in adobe hovels which were small and windowless, with roofs of willows, rushes and earth. When it rained these roofs leaked. Many of the old saints died.
- In the spring the men ploughed the fields and more houses were built.
The Saints Arrive From England
Thousands of saints arrived from England and more houses had to be built. Trouble brewed when gold was discovered in California. Thousands of fortune-hunters entered their valley. They stole everything they could and wanted to marry Mormon girls. Some of these men were sincere and were converted to the new faith and settled in the valley, while others married Mormon girls and then deserted them. Brigham told Heber that he would soon have to bring in plural marriages to keep the single woman away from the gentiles. Three years later he introduced plural marriages and a storm erupted.
Brigham had been elected governor by his people but the real administrators of the territory were officers sent by President Fillmore, who Brigham suspected were spies. On a Sunday morning in 1852 Brigham announced the truth about their leaders who had a few wives. The saints were angry and dismayed. In the following weeks many renounced their faith and went to California. However there were many saints who accepted the new doctrine.
The Salt Lake City’s great tabernacle was completed in 1855. It had a length of 126 feet. Brigham had some great plans. He wanted to build a university, co-operative banks, shops and a theater.
Brigham Young died in 1877. Before he died he declared that John Taylor would be the new president. What the Mormons achieved in very difficult circumstances and under persecution from the gentiles may just be described as amazing. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young had the vision and determination to lead their saints to greatness.
© 2016 Anita Hasch