The Building Up Of The City - Foreign Proselyting

The geographical situation of Nauvoo had something in its favor.

Lying on the east bank of the Mississippi, which is there two

miles wide, it had a water frontage on three sides, because of a

bend in the stream, and the land was somewhat rising back from

the river. But its water front was the only thing in its favor.

"The place was literally a wilderness," says Smith. "The land was

mostly covered with trees and bushes, and much of it so wet that

it was with the utmost difficulty a foot man could get through,

and totally impossible for teams. Commerce was so unhealthy very

few could live there, but, believing it might become a healthy

place by the blessing of heaven to the Saints, and no more

eligible place presenting itself, I considered it wisdom to make

an attempt to build up a city."

Contemporary accounts say that most of the refugees from Missouri

suffered from chills and fevers during their first year in the

new settlement. Smith, in his autobiography, laments the

mortality among the settlers. The Rev. Henry Caswall, in his

description of three days at Nauvoo in 1842, says:--

"I was informed again and again in Montrose, Iowa, that nearly

half of the English who emigrated to Nauvoo in 1841 died soon

after their arrival. . . In his sermon at Montrose in May 9,

1841, the following words of most Christian consolation were

delivered by the Prophet to the poor deluded English: 'Many of

the English who have lately come here have expressed great

disappointment on their arrival. Such persons have every reason

to be satisfied in this beautiful and fertile country. If they

choose to complain, they may; but I don't want to be troubled

with their complaints. If they are not satisfied here, I have

only this to say to them, "Don't stay whining about me, but go

back to England, and go to h--l and be d--d."'"*

*"City of the Mormons," p. 55.

Brigham Young, in after years, thus spoke of Smith's exhibition

of miraculous healing during the year after their arrival in

Illinois: "Joseph commenced in his own house and dooryard,

commanding the sick, in the name of Jesus Christ, to arise and be

made whole, and they were healed according to his word. He then

continued to travel from house to house, healing the sick as he

went."* Any attempt to reconcile this statement by Young with the

previously cited testimony about the mortality of the place would

be futile.

* "Life of Brigham Young" (Cannon & Son, publishers), p. 32.

The growth of the town, however, was more rapid than that of any

of the former Mormon settlements. The United States census shows

that the population of Hancock County, Illinois, increased from

483 in 1830 to 9946 in 1840. Statements regarding the population

of Nauvoo during the Mormon occupancy are conflicting and often

exaggerated. In a letter to the elders in England, printed in the

Times and Seasons of January, 1841, Smith said, "There are at

present about 3000 inhabitants in Nauvoo." The same periodical,

in an article on the city, on December 15, 1841, said that it was

"a densely populated city of near 10,000 inhabitants." A visitor,

describing the place in a letter in the Columbus (Ohio) Advocate

of March, 1842, said that it contained about 7000 persons, and

that the buildings were small and much scattered, log cabins

predominating. The Times and Seasons of October, 1842, said, "It

will be no more than probably correct if we allow the city to

contain between 7000 and 8000 houses, with a population of 14,000

or 15,000," with two steam mills and other manufacturing concerns

in operation. W. W. Phelps estimated the population in 1844 at

14,000, almost all professed Mormons. The Times and Seasons in

1845 said that a census just taken showed a population of 11,057

in the city and one third more outside the city limits.

As soon as the Mormons arrived, Nauvoo was laid out in blocks

measuring about 180 by 200 feet, with a river frontage of more

than three miles. An English visitor to the place in 1843 wrote

"The city is of great dimensions, laid out in beautiful order;

the streets are wide and cross each other at right angles, which

will add greatly to its order and magnificence when finished. The

city rises on a quick incline from the rolling Mississippi, and

as you stand near the Temple you may gaze on the picturesque

scenery round. At your side is the Temple, the wonder of the

world; round about and beneath you may behold handsome stores,

large mansions, and fine cottages, interspersed with varied


* Mackay's "The Mormons," p. 128.

Whatever the exact population of the place may have been, its

rapid growth is indisputable. The cause of this must be sought,

not in natural business reasons, such as have given a permanent

increase of population to so many of our Western cities, but

chiefly in active and aggressive proselyting work both in this

country and in Europe. This work was assisted by the sympathy

which the treatment of the Mormons had very generally secured for

them. Copies of Mormon Bibles were rare outside of the hands of

the brethren, and the text of Smith's "revelations" bearing on

his property designs in Missouri was known to comparatively few

even in the church. While the Nauvoo edition of the "Doctrine and

Covenants" was in course of publication, the Times and Seasons,

on January 1, 1842, said that it would be published in the

spring, "but, many of our readers being deprived of the privilege

of perusing its valuable pages, we insert the first section."

Mormon emissaries took advantage of this situation to tell their

story in their own way at all points of the compass. Meetings

were held in the large cities of the Eastern states to express

sympathy with these victims of the opponents of "freedom of

religious opinion," and to raise money for their relief, and the

voice of the press, from the Mississippi to the Atlantic, was,

without a discovered exception, on the side of the refugees.

This paved the way for a vast extension of that mission work

which began with the trip of Cowdery and his associates in 1830,

was expanded throughout this country while the Saints were at

Kirtland, and was extended to foreign lands in 1837. The

missionaries sent out in the early days of the church represented

various degrees of experience and qualification. There were among

them men like Orson Hyde and Willard Richards, who, although they

gave up secular callings on entering the church, were close

students of the Scriptures and debaters who could hold their own,

when it came to an interpretation of the Scriptures, before any

average audience. Many were sent out without any especial

equipment for their task. John D. Lee, describing his first trip,


"I started forth an illiterate, inexperienced person, without

purse or scrip. I could hardly quote a passage of Scripture. Yet

I went forth to say to the world that I was a minister of the

Gospel." He was among the successful proselyters, and rose to

influence in the church.* Of the requirement that the

missionaries should be beggars, Lorenzo Snow, who was sent out on

a mission from Kirtland in 1837, says, "It was a severe trial to

my natural feelings of independence to go without purse or scrip

especially the purse; for, from the time I was old enough to

work, the feeling that 'I paid my way' always seemed a necessary

adjunct to self respect."

* For an account of his travels and successes, see "Mormonism


Parley P. Pratt, in a letter to Smith from New York in November,

1839, describing the success of the work in the United States,

says, "You would now find churches of the Saints in Philadelphia,

in Albany, in Brooklyn, in New York, in Sing Sing, in Jersey, in

Pennsylvania, on Long Island, and in various other places all

around us," and he speaks of the "spread of the work" in Michigan

and Maine.

The importance of England as a field from which to draw emigrants

to the new settlement was early recognized at Nauvoo, and in 1840

such lights of the church as Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, P.

P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and George

A. Smith, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, were sent to

cultivate that field. There they ordained Willard Richards an

Apostle, preached and labored for over a year, established a

printing-office which turned out a vast amount of Mormon

literature, including their Bible and "Doctrine and Covenants,"

and began the publication of the Millennial Star.

In 1840 Orson Hyde was sent on a mission to the Jews in London,

Amsterdam, Constantinople, and Jerusalem, and the same year

missionaries were sent to Australia, Wales, Ireland, the Isle of

Man, and the East Indies. In 1844 a missionary was sent to the

Sandwich Islands; in 1849 others were sent to France, Denmark,

Sweden, Norway and Iceland, Italy, and Switzerland; in 1850 ten

more elders were sent to the Sandwich Islands; in 1851 four

converts were baptized in Hindostan; in 1852 a branch of the

church was organized at Malta; in 1853 three elders reached the

Cape of Good Hope; and in 1861 two began work in Holland, but

with poor success. We shall see that this proselyting labor has

continued with undiminished industry to the present day, in all

parts of the United States as well as in foreign lands.

England provided an especially promising field for Mormon

missionary work. The great manufacturing towns contained hundreds

of people, densely ignorant,* superstitious, and so poor that the

ownership of a piece of land in their own country was practically

beyond the limit of their ambition. These people were naturally

susceptible to the Mormon teachings, easily imposed upon by

stories of alleged miracles, and ready to migrate to any part of

the earth where a building lot or a farm was promised them. The

letters from the first missionaries in England gave glowing

reports of the results of their labors. Thus Wilford Woodruff,

writing from Manchester in 1840, said, "The work has been so

rapid it was impossible to ascertain the exact number belonging

to each branch, but the whole number is 33 churches, 534 members,

75 officers, all of which had embraced the work in less than four

months." Lorenzo Snow, in a letter from London in April, 1841,

said: "Throughout all England, in almost every town and city of

any considerable importance, we have chapels or public halls in

which we meet for public worship. All over this vast kingdom the

laws of Zion are rolling onward with the most astonishing


* "It has been calculated that there are in England and Wales six

million persons who can neither read nor write, that is to say,

about one-third of the population, including, of course, infants;

but of all the children more than one-half attend no place of

public instruction."--Dickens, "Household Words."

The visiting missionaries began their work in England at Preston,

Lancashire, in 1836 or 1837, and soon secured there some five

hundred converts. Then they worked on each side of the Ribble,

making converts in all the villages, and gaining over a few farm

owners and mechanics of some means. Their method was first to

drop hints to the villagers that the Holy Bible is defective in

translation and incomplete, and that the Mormon Bible corrects

all these defects. Not able to hold his own in any theological

discussion, the rustic was invited to a meeting. At that meeting

the missionary would announce that he would speak simply as the

Lord directed him, and he would then present the Mormon view of

their Bible and prophet. As soon as converts were won over, they

were immersed, at night, and given the sacrament. Then they were

initiated into the secret "church meeting," to which only the

faithful were admitted, and where the flock were told of visions

and "gifts," and exhorted to stand firm (along with their earthly

goods) for the church, and warned against apostasy.

One way in which the prophetic gift of the missionaries was

proved in the early days in England was as follows: "Whenever a

candidate was immersed, some of the brethren was given a letter

signed by Hyde and Kimball, setting forth that 'brother will not

abide in the spirit of the Lord, but will reject the truth, and

become the enemy of the people of God, etc., etc.' If the brother

did not apostatize, this letter remained unopened; if he did, it

was read as a striking verification of prophecy."*

* Caswall's "City of the Mormons," appendix.

Miracles exerted a most potent influence among the people in

England with whom the early missionaries labored, and the

Millennial Star contains a long list of reported successes in

this line. There are accounts of very clumsy tricks that were

attempted to carry out the deception. Thus, at Newport, Wales,

three Mormon elders announced that they would raise a dead man to

life. The "corpse" was laid out and surrounded by weeping

friends, and the elders were about to begin their incantations,

when a doubting Thomas in the audience attacked the "corpse" with

a whip, and soon had him fleeing for dear life.*

* Tract by Rev. F. B. Ashley, p. 22.

Thomas Webster, who was baptized in England in 1837 by Orson Hyde

and became an elder, saw the falsity of the Mormon professions

through the failure of their miracles and other pretensions, and,

after renouncing their faith, published a pamphlet exposing their

methods. He relates many of the declarations made by the first

missionaries in Preston to their ignorant hearers. Hyde declared

that the apostles Peter, James, and John were still alive. He and

Kimball asserted that neither of them would "taste death" before

Christ's second coming. At one meeting Kimball predicted that in

ten or fifteen years the sea would be dried up between Liverpool

and America. "One of the most glaring things they ever brought

before the public," says Webster, "was stated in a letter written

by Orson Hyde to the brethren in Preston, saying they were on the

way to the promised land in Missouri by hundreds, and the wagons

reached a mile in length. They fell in with some of their

brethren in Canada, who told him the Lord had been raining down

manna in rich profusion, which covered from seven to ten acres of

land. It was like wafers dipped in honey, and both Saints and

sinners partook of it. I was present in the pulpit when this

letter was read."

However ridiculous such methods may appear, their success in

Great Britain was great.* In three years after the arrival of the

first missionaries, the General Conference reported a membership

of 4019 in England alone; in 1850 the General Conference reported

that the Mormons in England and Scotland numbered 27,863, and in

Wales 4342. The report for June, 1851, showed a total of 30,747

in the United Kingdom, and said, "During the last fourteen years

more than 50,000 have been baptized in England, of which nearly

17,000 have migrated from her shores to Zion." In the years

between 1840 and 1843 it was estimated that 3758 foreign converts

settled in and around Nauvoo.**

* "There is no page of religious history which more proudly tells

its story than that which relates this peculiar phase of Mormon

experience. The excitement was contagious, even affecting persons

in the higher ranks of social life, and the result was a grand

outpouring of spiritual and miraculous healing power of the most

astonishing description. Miracles were heard of everywhere, and

numerous competent and most reliable witnesses bore testimony to

their genuineness." --"Rocky Mountain Saints," p. 10.

** Two of the most intelligent English converts, who did

proselyting work for the church and in later years saw their

error, have given testimony concerning this work in Great

Britain. John Hyde, Jr., summing up in 1857 the proselyting

system, said: "Enthusiasm is the secret of the great success of

Mormon proselyting; it is the universal characteristic of the

people when proselyted; it is the hidden and strong cord that

leads them to Utah, and the iron clamp that keeps them

there."--"Mormonism," p. 171.

Stenhouse says: "Mormonism in England, Scotland and Wales was a

grand triumph, and was fast ripening for a vigorous campaign in

Continental Europe" (when polygamy was pronounced).

The emigration of Mormon converts from Great Britain to the

United States, in its earlier stages, was thoroughly systemized

by the church authorities in this country. The first record of

the movement of any considerable body tells of a company of about

two hundred who sailed for New York from Liverpool in August,

1840, on the ship North American, in charge of two elders. A

second vessel with emigrants, the Shefeld, sailed from Bristol to

New York in February, 1841. The expense of the trip from New York

to Nauvoo proved in excess of the means of many of these

immigrants, some of whom were obliged to stop at Kirtland and

other places in Ohio. This led to a change of route, by which

vessels sailed from British ports direct to New Orleans, the

immigrants ascending the Mississippi to Nauvoo.

The extent of this movement to the time of the departure of the

Saints from Nauvoo is thus given by James Linforth, who says the

figures are "as complete and correct as it is possible now to

make them*":--

* "Route from Liverpool to Great Salt Lake Valley," 1855.

Year *** No. of Vessels *** No. of Emigrants

1840 1 200

1841 6 1177

1842 8 1614

1843 5 769

1844 5 644

1845-46 3 346

Total 3750

The Mormon agents in England would charter a vessel at an English

port* when a sufficient company had assembled and announce their

intention to embark. The emigrants would be notified of the date

of sailing, and an agent would accompany them all the way to

Nauvoo. Men with money were especially desired, as were mechanics

of all kinds, since the one sound business view that seems to

have been taken by the leaders at Nauvoo was that it would be

necessary to establish manufactures there if the people were to

be able to earn a living. In some instances the passage money was

advanced to the converts.

* For Dickens's description of one of these vessels ready to

sail, see "The Uncommercial Traveller," Chap. XXII

Some Church-inspired Murders The Camps On The Missouri facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail