Part 6: 3 October 1840–30 January 1841

By fall 1840, the in western and southeastern had grown large and stable enough for church leaders to focus on incorporating the city of , Illinois, and solidifying the church’s administrative structure. JS and —the quartermaster general of the Illinois militia, who moved to Nauvoo in early September 1840—led the efforts to compose a bill to obtain a city charter, which was submitted to the Illinois legislature on 27 November 1840. Bennett successfully lobbied members of the legislature from both the Democratic and Whig parties, and the bill was signed into law on 16 December. In addition to granting extensive legal powers and protections to Nauvoo’s citizens, the act provided charters for a militia body designated as the and for a university to be established in Nauvoo. It officially incorporated the city, creating Nauvoo’s governing bodies and offices and delineating the requirements for serving in those positions and for voting in city elections.
As Saints migrated to the area, church leaders continued to promote the development of necessary city infrastructure. By fall 1840, Nauvoo’s population was approximately three thousand. JS outlined his ideas for successfully integrating church members emigrating from —many of whom had little money—into the Nauvoo community. He informed members of the that more prosperous church members should emigrate before poorer members, thereby infusing Nauvoo’s economy with resources that could be used to help the poor. JS also called for church members to come to Nauvoo and establish manufacturing enterprises such as “Cotton Factories, Founderies, Potteries &c &c,” which could be used to generate jobs for poor British converts from urban centers who were “not accustomed to the farming business.”
Efforts to sell land to recently gathered Saints also continued, although most who bought land did so on credit, which did not help generate the income church leaders needed to pay off the debts they had contracted when purchasing the land in 1839. A report likely produced in January 1841 noted that although church leaders had made various debt payments, a $6,000 payment was due immediately “or the Church may suffer loss.” During this period, JS renegotiated terms of at least one contract with land speculator to help alleviate some of the financial distress.
A January 1841 revelation highlighted efforts to build up the city of . It declared that the church was responsible for building a in the area and also directed church leaders to construct a boardinghouse—called the —to serve as “a resting place for the weary traveller” and as a “delightful habitation for man.” The revelation also organized the leadership structures of various church , including the and in Nauvoo. Since the Saints’ forced exodus from in winter 1838–1839, JS and other church leaders had found few opportunities to consider the administrative structure of the church. In addition, some leaders—including , to the church; , ; , ; and , Nauvoo member—had died in previous months. The revelation filled these vacant offices and listed those already serving in leadership positions, including members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Nauvoo high council, and the presidency of the . The revelation designated as patriarch and gave him “the and blessing and glory, and honor and priesthood and gifts of the priesthood, that once were put upon him that was my servant .” was designated as a bishop to replace Partridge, and was appointed as a counselor in the in Hyrum Smith’s stead.
The revelation also emphasized that a needed to be constructed in so that the Saints could perform for the dead there. JS first taught the doctrine of baptism for the dead—whereby church members could be baptized on behalf of deceased family members—at the funeral of in August 1840, and he expounded on it at the October 1840 general . Church members almost immediately began performing baptisms in the for their late relatives. The January 1841 revelation stated that the members could continue to be baptized in the river only until the completion of the temple, where such baptisms would then be performed. JS delivered other discourses—some during weekly lyceum meetings held in Nauvoo—focusing on the and the eternal nature of spirits and matter.
Concerns about church members in , Ohio, continued during this time. The October 1840 general conference appointed , who had been cleared of charges of speaking ill about JS and other church leaders by the high council in September, to preside over the church in Kirtland. That same month, JS and wrote a letter to the Kirtland Saints, expressing their hope that church members there would “hold up the hands of our beloved brother [Babbitt] and unite with him in endeavoring to promote the interest of the kingdom.” Because was still functioning as the presiding authority in Kirtland, JS wrote him a letter in January 1841 to explain Babbitt’s leadership appointment as well as to express appreciation for Granger’s efforts to clear debts JS owed merchants, including a mortgage that existed on the Kirtland .
This part contains nineteen documents, including the minutes of the October 1840 general conference, the act granting the charter, the January 1841 revelation, and a report from agents regarding Nauvoo land sales. It also contains several pieces of correspondence either to or from JS, an aborted bill to incorporate the church in , accounts of meetings in which JS gave discourses, and a proclamation the First Presidency made to the church. Nearly all of these documents were produced in Nauvoo or the surrounding area.
  1. 1

    Journal of the Senate . . . of Illinois, 27 Nov. 1840, 23; Act to Incorporate the City of Nauvoo, 16 Dec. 1840.  

    Journal of the Senate of the Thirteenth General Assembly of the State of Illinois, at Their Regular Session, Begun and Held at Springfield, December 5, 1842. Springfield, IL: William Walters, 1842.

  2. 2

    Gregg, History of Hancock County, Illinois, 273; John C. Bennett [Joab, pseud.], Springfield, IL, 16 Dec. 1840, Letter to the Editor, Times and Seasons, 1 Jan. 1841, 2:266–267; Journal of the Senate . . . of Illinois, 9 and 17 Dec. 1840, 61, 89.  

    Gregg, Thomas. History of Hancock County, Illinois, Together with an Outline History of the State, and a Digest of State Laws. Chicago: Charles C. Chapman, 1880.

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

    Journal of the Senate of the Thirteenth General Assembly of the State of Illinois, at Their Regular Session, Begun and Held at Springfield, December 5, 1842. Springfield, IL: William Walters, 1842.

  3. 3

    “The Mormons,” Daily Chronicle (Cincinnati), 26 Aug. 1840, [2]; Letter to John C. Bennett, 8 Aug. 1840.  

    Daily Chronicle. Cincinnati. 1839–1850.

  4. 4

    Letter to Quorum of the Twelve, 15 Dec. 1840.  

  5. 5

    Report of Agents, ca. 30 Jan. 1841.  

  6. 6

    Promissory Note to Horace Hotchkiss, 23 Oct. 1840.  

  7. 7

    Revelation, 19 Jan. 1841 [D&C 124:60].  

  8. 8

    Eliza R. Snow, “Elegy,” Times and Seasons, Oct. 1840, 1:190–191; Obituary for Edward Partridge, Times and Seasons, June 1840, 1:127–128; JS History, vol. B-1, 839–840; Obituary for Seymour Brunson, Times and Seasons, Sept. 1840, 1:176.  

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

  9. 9

    Revelation, 19 Jan. 1841 [D&C 124:95].  

  10. 10

    Revelation, 19 Jan. 1841 [D&C 124:29–32].  

  11. 11

    Simon Baker, “15 Aug. 1840 Minutes of Recollection of Joseph Smith’s Sermon,” JS Collection, CHL; Jane Harper Neyman and Vienna Jaques, Statement, 29 Nov. 1854, Historian’s Office, JS History Documents, ca. 1839–1860, CHL; Minutes and Discourse, 3–5 Oct. 1840.  

    Smith, Joseph. Collection, 1827–1846. CHL. MS 155.

    Historian’s Office. Joseph Smith History Documents, 1839–1860. CHL. CR 100 396.

  12. 12

    Vilate Murray Kimball, Nauvoo, IL, to Heber C. Kimball, 11 Oct. 1840, photocopy, Vilate Murray Kimball, Letters, 1840, CHL.  

    Kimball, Vilate Murray. Letters, 1840. Photocopy. CHL.

  13. 13

    Accounts of Meeting and Discourse, 5 Jan. 1841; Account of Meeting, 12 Jan. 1841; Account of Meeting, ca. 19 Jan. 1841.  

  14. 14

    Minutes, 5–6 Sept. 1840; Minutes and Discourse, 3–5 Oct. 1840; Letter to the Saints in Kirtland, OH, 19 Oct. 1840.  

  15. 15

    Letter to Oliver Granger, 26 Jan. 1841.