A Young Folks' History of the Church by Nephi Anderson - HTML preview
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When the bodies of the martyred Prophet and Patriarch were brought from Carthage, they were met by thousands of the Saints from Nauvoo who wept aloud for the loss of their beloved leaders. The scene was a very sad one. Elder Willard Richards spoke to the people and advised them to remain peaceable as they had always been, and let the Lord avenge the murder of their loved ones.
The bodies of Joseph and Hyrum were buried privately at Nauvoo so that their enemies might not disturb them.
And now the Saints were a little confused about who should be their leaders. Joseph, the President of the Church, and Hyrum, one of his counselors, were dead, and Sidney Rigdon, the other counselors, had some months before got tired of affairs at Nauvoo and had gone to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. He was an apostate at heart, though he had not yet been cut off from the Church. Most of the Twelve Apostles were away on missions, and word was sent for them to return as soon as possible.
Though at first there was some misunderstanding among the Saints, the Lord did not intend his Church should go to pieces because its leader had been taken away. The Church had been set up never to be thrown down or left to other people. The Gospel had been given to the earth "for the last time and for the fullness of times." The Saints had a promise that the kingdom was theirs "and the enemy shall not overcome." It would be a poor church, indeed, that would go to pieces every time its chief officer died. No; the Lord, through Joseph, had organized the Church so well that this could not be. There was a quorum in the Church that had been given all the power necessary to carry on the work of the Church in case the First Presidency was taken away. That quorum was the Twelve Apostles. Now that there was no First Presidency, it was the duty of the Twelve to preside and regulate the affairs of the Church until such time that there should be another president appointed. Brigham Young was the president of the Twelve, so in reality he was the leading man in the Church.
But now came Sidney Rigdon from Pittsburg. He wanted to be appointed the leader of the Church, or as he called it, a "guardian." He, with some others, tried to have a meeting of the Saints before the Twelve could get home. This meeting was appointed for the 8th of August, 1844. On the 6th of August President Young and five of the Apostles arrived at Nauvoo.
The meeting was held at the grove, and Sidney Rigdon and some of the Twelve spoke. When Brigham Young arose to address the meeting, it seemed to the Saints that both in appearance and speech he was like the Prophet Joseph. This certainly was a sign to them. At this meeting Sidney Rigdon was rejected and the Twelve Apostles were upheld as the quorum to lead the Church.
Sidney Rigdon did not like this. He got a few followers and tried to organize another church. A number of others did the same, but all these movements did not amount to much. The Saints kept on under the direction of the Twelve, building the temple and other public edifices in Nauvoo.
The enemies of the Church were disappointed. They had thought that if they could get Joseph out of the way that would be the end of "Mormonism." Of course they did notunderstand that "Mormonism" is the Lord's work and does not depend for its success on one or two men. He can raise up any number of men to carry on his work, and now Brigham Young and his brethren were the men who could and would carry it on.
In May, 1845, some of the murderers of Joseph and Hyrum were tried, and by a jury pronounced innocent. This gave the mobbers more courage, and they gathered again. In the small settlements outside of Nauvoo many houses were burned and the inmates driven into the fields. These Saints were advised to move into Nauvoo for protection.
Some time before his death, Joseph had predicted that the Saints would yet move to the Rocky Mountains; and he had even begun the movement by holding councils and asking for volunteers from the brethren to go ahead and locate a place to which the Church might gather. President Young and the Twelve now began preparing to carry this plan out. They could plainly see that it was useless to try to live in peace in Illinois. The mobs grew larger and fiercer. The people living in the counties surrounding Hancock county, threatened to drive the "Mormons" from the state; and the officers whose duty it was to enforce the laws would not do so if it was to protect the "Mormons."
So in August, 1845, it was decided to select three thousand men who, with their families, were to go to Upper California. All this western country was then called Upper California. The authorities of the Church promised the mob leaders that if they would not molest them they would all leave the state early the next spring.
But the mobbing did not cease at this; so the sheriff of the county, a Mr. Backenstos, organized a posse, that is, a company of men to help him enforce the laws and keep order. The sheriff kept after the mob to prevent them from burning houses, etc., and this made the mobbers very angry. One day some of them tried to kill the sheriff, but he was saved by two "Mormons" coming to his rescue. Thus during the summer and fall of 1845 there was much trouble between the mobs, the "Mormons," and the militia.
All this time the Saints had worked hard to finish the temple. It had been decided to do this even if they had to work with the "trowel in one hand and a sword in the other." October 5th the temple was near enough finished that a conference was held in the building. No general conference had been held for three years, as Joseph had said none should be convened until it could be held in the temple.
After this the work on the building still went on, and in a short time it was so far completed that it was dedicated, and a great many of the Saints received their endowments within its sacred walls.
All that winter, (1845-46) Nauvoo was like a big workshop. Everybody that could was preparing for the great move westward. Farms and houses were offered for sale. Wagons were built, and as iron was scarce, many of them had wooden tires. Horses and cattle were gathered. It was to be the sixth move of the Saints from their homes, and it was no small undertaking now as there were many thousands of people, and they were to go to a wild, unknown land among the deserts and mountains of the West.
The move began on February 4, 1846, and from that date on there was a continuous stream of wagons crossing the Mississippi river to the Iowa side. A camp was made on Sugar creek, nine miles from Nauvoo, where the Saints gathered. Towards the last of the month the weather became very cold, the river froze over so that teams could be driven across on the ice. It was a bad time of the year to begin such a move. Many of the Saintswere poorly clad, some had no tents or wagon covers, and in the snow and cold there was much suffering; but on the Saints went, looking with sad hearts on their deserted homes; but rather would they face the winter storms and cold than to live in constant dread of cruel mobs.
Topics.—1. Presiding authority in the Church. 2. The Twelve sustained. 3. Action of Sidney Rigdon. 4. Mobbings. 5. The removal.
Questions and Review.—1. Where were Joseph and Hyrum buried? 2. What were the feelings of the Saints? 3. Why were the Saints troubled about a leader? 4. Where were most of the Twelve at the time of the martyrdom? 5. When the First Presidency is taken away, what is the next presiding authority in the Church? 6. What did Sidney Rigdon want? 7. What testimony was given the Saints at the meeting on August 8th? 8. What became of Sidney Rigdon? 9. What did the enemies of the Church expect to do by killing Joseph Smith? 10. Who first planned the move to the mountains? 11. Tell about the work of the mobs. 12. Why did the Saints work so hard to finish the temple, knowing they would have to leave it? 13. When did the move westward begin?