Kingdom of Nauvoo: The Rise and Fall of a Religious Empire on the American Frontier
By Benjamin E. Park
Liveright Publishing, 2020, 324 pp.
Joseph Smith Jr. founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) in 1830 in Fayette, New York. The Mormons moved from Western New York to Kirtland, Ohio, to Far West, Missouri, to Nauvoo, Illinois, and finally to the Great Salt Lake Basin in Utah. The bizarre tenets and practices of the cult alarmed the local populations wherever they moved and fomented opposition.
In this excellent book, historian Benjamin Park focuses on the Mormons’ settlement at Nauvoo, Illinois from 1839 to 1846. Non-Mormons in neighboring Illinois towns were increasingly alarmed and antagonized by 1) the unified Mormon voting bloc in state elections, 2) Nauvoo’s charter whereby the city (at Smith’s direction) granted itself extraordinary powers, 3) the city’s large and intimidating militia, the Nauvoo Legion, comprised of 2500 volunteers, and 4) the spreading rumors of Mormon polygamous marriages. Smith’s defensive measures further escalated the tensions. He ordered an opposition party’s printing press destroyed and declared martial law. Smith was arrested and he and his brother were murdered by an angry mob at the Carthage, Illinois jail on June 27, 1844. Smith was age 38 years old. Brigham Young assumed leadership of the church and led the 15,000 Mormon residents of Nauvoo to the Great Salt Lake Basin in Utah.
Mormons contend the LDS church was the victim of diabolical persecution at Kirtland, Far West, and Nauvoo, but, as Park shows, much of the angry opposition was the result of Smith’s own making.
Park details how Mormon theology “progressed” during the Nauvoo period, including proxy baptisms for the dead and polygamous marriage “sealings.” Some of Smith’s most passionate opponents were disaffected members who were shocked by their “prophet’s” increasing megalomania and secretive promotion of polygamy. Some historians put the number of Smith’s plural wives at Nauvoo as high as 49, including several under the age of 18, and many women who were already married to other church members.
I enjoyed reading this very interesting history of the Mormons’ Nauvoo period, but it’s sad thinking about the millions of souls who have been entrapped by the Mormon false gospel. Many Mormon tourists flock to Nauvoo in the summer months. The city is called the “Mormon Williamsburg.” Tourists can visit the rebuilt temple and the former homes and commercial buildings belonging to Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, etc. This is another example of how unsaved pseudo-Christians build religious monuments that have nothing to do with Jesus Christ and the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.