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"Nauvoo Exodus"

Less predictable than fiction, history has a way of revealing people's insecurities, hatred, and bigotry in the persecution of others with only slightly different beliefs from their own.  This was no more true than in 1844.  Hatred had followed the Mormons to Nauvoo, and slowly it began to show its face when farmers in Illinois joined with the Mormon's old enemies from Missouri.  Together, they decided to take matters into their own hands.

Initial attempts to force the Mormons to leave their city failed.  Homes and farmhouses were set on fire.  Threats against church members continued, even death threats against church leaders.  When a local newspaper printed an attack on the Church's policies and beliefs, Joseph ordered the press be destroyed.  It culminated in the governor having Joseph, his brother Hyrum, and other leaders arrested and locked up in nearby Carthage, Illinois.  They were being protected for their "own good."  One day went without serious incident but on the fateful day of June 27, 1844, a lynch mob showed up.  It was clear the church leaders would not be sufficiently guarded.  They could hear the mob making their way past the guard.  Trapped on the second floor with no choices other than a small window, adrenaline took over.  What seemed like just in the nick of time, Hyrum was the only one to jump out while the cell was being entered but a bullet shot from his jail cell caught him before he reached the ground.  Joseph realized his brother had been shot for only moments before succumbing to the same treatment, being shot multiple times.

Justice was never served.  The action was supposed to dissolve the church but anticipating his assassination, Joseph Smith had appointed a quorum to run the church following any martyrdom.  Brigham Young was on a mission in New York at the time of the murders, and upon learning of the fate of the church's leaders returned immediately to Nauvoo.  Brigham brought comfort to the grieving congregation, and soon was appointed President of the Quorum.

For over a year the community prospered.  Accelerated building on the temple showed that the scare tactics had failed.  Acts of terrorism increased, mobs attacked isolated farms.  The Illinois governor had sided with the anti-Mormons.  After implied threats from the governor, the church agreed to move during the spring and summer of 1846.  Agreements were made guaranteeing no violence until the church had time to move.  Those promises were broken, and other acts of violence intensified.

Brigham Young had closely studied the reports just published of Lieutenant John C. Frémont's expedition to the Pacific, in which the Salt Lake area was described as "lush green countryside."  Brigham knew they had to move west, and this sounded like a perfect spot.

The church had already planned to move west again.  The only problem was there were a lot of people to move.  To ease the strain, church leaders decided to start early taking around 300 people west with them to help determine and blaze a suitable trail for others to follow.  When other church members heard of the leaders leaving them behind, many insisted on joining in on the initial journey.

On February 4th, 1846, long lines started forming at the Mississippi.  Unsympathetic ferry owners took advantage of the situation, charging excessive rates for crossing, more than most families or the entire populous could afford.  A hell of unjustified bigotry and hatred had wrapped up around them trapping them in the heavenly place they had created from scratch.

Miraculously, on February 24th, the river froze over, and even allowed for wagon and oxen to make it across.  Making the crossing of the Mississippi easy created its own problem.  The initial planned 300 quickly grew to 3,000, many deciding in haste with little time to properly prepare for the long journey across Iowa.

The first group to leave stopped after making it nine miles into Iowa, setting up camp at a place called Sugar Creek.  After what was presumed sufficient time to get reorganized, the group started across Iowa.

On top of the harsh cold winter that was difficult enough to deal with, most were not prepared for the travel.  Tents had no floor or end flaps; food provisions, supplies, and medication supplies were not adequate for the journey; thousands got sick, and hundreds lost their lives along the way.  When the cold weather ended, the rains started, continuing almost continuously on into July,  the worst torrential rains in Iowa's history.  What would normally take three to three and a half weeks to travel the 327 mile distance across Iowa turned out to be four and a half months.  For much of the time, the mud reached the bottom of the wagon beds.

Perseverance won out, and the Mormons eventually reached the Missouri River.  The exodus from Nauvoo continued throughout the spring with the latest group reaching the Missouri in late summer.  Some were not able to leave Nauvoo due to the expense.  To make the trip also required having a group large enough to help out in emergencies.  Without a wagon, a team, and adequate supplies, taking on the trek would be no less than a suicide venture.  Unfortunately, remaining behind to be subjected to constant persecution was no less an easy path to take.

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