[From The Mormons by Gunnison, 1852]



WHEN the homeless starving multitudes had crossed the Mississippi, and found solace in Illinois, the question of a new residence arose, and the site of the town of Commerce, in the elbow-bend of the river' was selected for a city, and lands purchased on the half-breed tract, in Iowa, opposite. The name given to the place was Nauvoo, The City of Beauty. The situation was offered to the Prophet by Dr. Galland, the owner, who is the reputed author of a letter to Smith, setting forth the peculiar advantages of this point as a nucleus for his increasing colony. The plan for a city and temple is most ably set forth as a capital for a religious empire; and that a commercial town would be well supported by the surrounding country, which. is rich in agricultural resources. It is situated at the head of the Des Moines rapids, and beautiful prairies extend' like the undulating ocean, as far as the eye can reach, from the highest ridges, on all sides. On the rich delta of the Des Moines and Father of Waters, and in Hancock county, another " everlasting residence " for the saints, was consecrated. Soon the colonists changed the desert to an abode of plenty and richness. Gardens sprang Up' as by magic, decorated with the most beautiful flowers of the old and new world, whose seeds were brought as momentoes from former homes, by the converts that flocked to the new stake of Zion. Broad streets were soon fenced, houses ercuted, and the busy hum of industry heard in the marts of commerce: —the steamboat unladed its stores and passengers, and departed for a fresh supply of merchandize,—fields waved with the golden harvests, and cattle dotted the rolling hills. A temple site was chosen on the brow of the bluff overlooking the lower town, which part of the city was on the sloping meadow in the bend below. The pattern was given to the prophet by his angel, and all the details explained orally. A gentile architect was employed to draft it by dictation. He soon found that it was complicated and broke the rules of his art; but notwithstanding his difficulties, Joseph insisted that the tout ensemble must be right; and, true enough, the " Lord's design " was at last pronounced correct. Revelations were freely vouchsafed, and they were informed that their situation was much better than what it was in Pandemonium; and they must bear the late chastisement like obedient children. All saints wore loudly called to pay in their tithes of time and money—and one revelations especially, told the kings and queens to become nursing parents to the church, and bring in their gold, their silver, and all precious stones, to build and adorn the temple. Minute transactions were governed by these revelations; —some of them have been printed, but many more remain in the manuscript, and are of no further use than historical records for preserving memorials of that time, and actions of that people.

Flourishing centres of dense settlements sprung up in the vicinity of Nauvoo, and the accessions and exertions of emigrants enlarged their borders. Not alone to these was the increase confined. Horse-thieves and house-breakers,—robbers and villains gathered there to cloak their deeds in mystery, who, caring nothing for religion, could take the appearance of baptism, and be among, but not of them. Speculators came in, and bought lots, with the hope of great remuneration, as the colony increased. The latter class, unwilling to pay tithes, soon fell into disrepute, and when proper time had elapsed for conversion without effect, measures were taken to oust them. A proper sum would be offered for their improvements and land, and if not accepted, then petty annoyances were resorted to. One of these was called "whittling off." Three men would be deputed and paid for their time to take their jack-knives and stick down-east Yankees of course,—and sitting down before the obnoxious man's door, begin their whittling. When the man came out they would stare at him, but say nothing. If he went to the market, they followed and whittled. Whatever taunts, curses, or other provoking epithets were applied to them, no notice would be taken, no word spoken in return, no laugh on their faces. The jeers and shouts of street urchins made the welkin ring, but deep silence pervaded the whistlers. Their leerish look followed him every where, from "morning dawn to dusky eve." When he was in-doors, they sat patiently down, and assiduously performed their jack-knife duty. Three days are said to have been the utmost that human nature could endure of this silent annoyance; the man came to terms, sold his possessions for what he could get, or emigrated to parts unknown.

Though the banks of the river at Nauvoo are dry, and the city site rises in an abrupt slope to a commanding eminence on the prairie level, the marshes below exhaled a miasm that brought on its breath the " ague fiend," and much distressed those who had been exposed on the wintry march, and the new comers, whilst acclimating. During the process of draining the marshes, and in four years, one third of their number perished. This is another charge laid to their persecutors by the later converts, who say they forced them to take up their residence where no one was expected to be able to live, and allowed them to remain, only to see them perish. But numbers survived the agues, and the place was assuming a healthy, pleasant aspect. The State favored the exiles; charters were obtained for the city, with peculiarly favorable privileges—the Nauvoo Legion was incorporated, and the arms of the State loaned, in which they were well drilled, and became a standing army, with the prophet as Lieutenant General —the chiefs were incorporated a company for building the temple, and other companies for a grand boarding-house, the result of a revelation, in which the prophet and family were provided with an elegant suite of apartments, free of expense `'for ever"—for a university, and for manufactures.

General conferences were semi-annually held for awhile, and missionaries appointed to Palestine, Africa, and Europe, and to each congressional district of the home country. The policy was, and always has been, to select the ambitious, the uneasy, or the too enquiring and knowing once and, under Divine command, send them to carry the revived gospel to the ends of the earth, in order to give them a chance to let off the steam of discontent. Especially it is the policy to put on this duty inquisitive minds who are diving too deeply into the mysteries of their faith, and are "becoming weak in the same." Such usually receive the command "from on high," to buckle on the armor, as a particular compliment of Heaven—and, flattered by the notice of the great President above, accept the commission, and go forth to battle manfully. They become oftentimes the most zealous advocates, for, being thrown on the defensive, they seek for arguments to sustain what just before they were disposed to overthrow; and disputation and controversy confirm them wonderfully in the truth of the doctrine, and their power to "confound the wise and the unwise." It is the surest way to make full Mormons of the wavering, by enlisting their pride, and engaging their attention on the defensive side of the question. They soon look into their own souls for the proof that they are on the side of truth, as their convictions go with their desire of proselyting. " We know it, for the evidence is revealed within us," they will say—the interior proof is all in all, when the historical or theological opposition is found too strong to be met with argument.

Missionaries are sent with all the promptness of military orders, a three days' notice for a three years' absence from family and business not Infrequently being all that is given. Families are cared for by the Presidency and bishops. Three hundred were chosen at one conference. Previous to starting, they were assembled to receive the orders of Joseph. He preached a fervid sermon, that stimulated their pride of conquering difficulties without scrip or purse. One of that band, still well-affected to the society, though differing on one point from its teaching, related to the writer some parts of the discourse. One main point insisted on was, that "spiritual wifery" was to be most pointedly denied; and that they taught that one man should live in chaste fidelity with one woman in conjugal relationship. In the dark concerning the revelation allowing polygamy, he sincerely declared that but one wile was ever known to any of his brethren. While .ci~lously preaching in the city of New York, he was thought worthy, by the Apostle Lyman, to be let into the secret of the "blessings of Jacob," the privileges of the Saints. Called aside ore ally by the President of the Stake' he was told that God had always rewarded his distinguished saints with special privileges'' such as would be wrong for sinners, but by revelation made harmless to the good. As an instance he would cite Jacob, David, and Solomon, who had many wives allowed them. In these last days, also, the like had been accorded to Joseph Smith and others; and having now full confidence in his holiness, the priest could have the same privilege of adding to the household of the faith many children, by choosing additions to the present wife. The priest says he was utterly astounded, but, on reflection, chose to dissemble, and say he would consider the matter. In the evening he was invited to witness "a sealing" of several couples, at a large boarding-house. In the front parlor the ceremony, like a marriage, was performed; and, as each pair was "finished" by the priest, they retired through the folding doors, and thus to their own apartments. The guest was so shocked, that he retired to his home, and though he never took any open part against the "church of new privileges," he was, denounced as a deserter in their papers, and the public cautioned against him as a defamer. Strange to say, he was, at the time of our interview, contemplating rejoining~his people in the mountains.


It was during this peaceful time, about 1841-2, that the revelation allowing to the High Priests and chiefs of their hierarchy as many wives as they could support, and declaring it a duty for those eligible to the priesthood, to take one wife at least, was said to be given. In vain, it is reported, proved the opposition of Emma, The Elect Lady—in vain, also, her threat of another husband in retaliation; the only consolation received was, that a prophet must obey the Lord, " he would be obedient to the heavenly vision." The story of " spiritual wives," or rather that the wives were held in common, and those whose husbands were not in full fellowship with the church, like themselves, were sealed to the elders, probably arose from the published doctrine that a woman cannot be saved without a man to take her into the heavenly kingdom. It is even yet asserted, we believe, by the Mormonish, and opposers of this part of "Revelation," (for there are many of both sexes denouncing it, without being cut off, because it is not yet a publicly proclaimed doctrine,) that certain women are sealed to high dignitaries; but, for ourselves, we know nothing of the truth or falsity of the charge: we can only say that all marriage relations that came under our notice were most purely correct in appearance; and that all wives in Utah showed a devotion and alacrity in domestic affairs and family duties, that would promote the harmony of the world, and make many a heavy heart beat for joy, if universal.

That polygamy existed at Nauvoo, and is now a matter scarcely attempted to be concealed among the Mormons, is certain. Elsewhere are given their reasons for its justification. It is a thing of usual and general conversation in the mountains, and we often heard one of the Presidency spoken of with his twenty-eight wives; another with "forty-two, more or less;" and the third called an old bachelor, because he has only a baker's dozen. It is neither reproach nor scandal; no one is present to see the ceremony of sealing but the priestly clerk and parties; therefore, if a Gentile asks one if all the women in his neighbor's house, with prattling babes, are the landlord's wives, the answer is, " I know nothing about it, and attend to no man's family relations."


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