Lesson 147: Leaving Nauvoo

“Lesson 147: Leaving Nauvoo,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual (2013)

“Lesson 147,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 147

Leaving Nauvoo


After the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, under the direction of their quorum president, Brigham Young, led the Church and carried on the work of the Lord. They encouraged the Saints to complete the Nauvoo Temple. Because of continuing persecution, they also counseled the Saints to prepare to move west.

Suggestions for Teaching

The Saints work diligently to receive the blessings of the temple

Ask students to think of a time when they did something difficult because they knew the outcome would be worth the effort. Consider sharing a personal experience with the class. Then invite a few students to share their experiences.

Explain that after the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Saints had the difficult task of completing the Nauvoo Temple.

  • Why do you think it would have been difficult for the Saints to fulfill this commandment given through Joseph Smith?

Nauvoo Illinois Temple

Display a picture of the modern Nauvoo Illinois Temple (see Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 118; see also Explain that it took great sacrifice for the Saints to build the Nauvoo Temple. Invite a student to read aloud the following paragraph. Ask the class to listen for sacrifices the Saints made to build the first temple in Nauvoo.

In the October 1844 general conference, President Brigham Young asked the Saints to give their tithes and offerings to build the temple. In response, each Relief Society sister contributed a penny a week for building supplies. Many men tithed their time by working on the temple one day out of every ten. Others gave more than one-tenth of their means. Joseph Toronto gave Brigham Young $2,500 in gold and said he wanted to give all that he had to build the kingdom of God. (See Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 302; Our Heritage [1996], 59–60.)

  • Why do you think the Saints were willing to sacrifice so much to build the temple?

After students discuss this question, explain that persecution made the completion of the Nauvoo Temple difficult. Many enemies of the Church thought that once Joseph Smith was killed, the Church would collapse. However, when the Church continued to grow and flourish, enemies of the Church intensified their efforts to drive the Saints from Illinois.

Invite a student to read aloud the following paragraph. Ask the class to listen for what the enemies of the Church did to try to destroy the Church.

In September 1844, Colonel Levi Williams, one of those later indicted for the murders of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, organized a major military campaign to force the Latter-day Saints out of Illinois. It was advertised as “a great wolf hunt in Hancock County” (David E. Miller and Della S. Miller, Nauvoo: The City of Joseph [1974], 186). Upon hearing of this, Governor Thomas Ford of Illinois sent General John Hardin of the state militia to the county to keep the peace. A year later, in September 1845, Colonel Williams led a mob of 300 men who raided Latter-day Saints’ settlements in outlying areas, burning many unprotected homes, farm buildings, mills, and grain stacks. In mid-September, President Brigham Young asked for volunteers to rescue those Saints. The Saints in Nauvoo prepared 134 wagons to bring the families in the outlying settlements safely to Nauvoo. (See History of the Church, 7:45–46; Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 301; David E. Miller and Della S. Miller, Nauvoo: The City of Joseph, 185–86.)

  • How would these attacks have made it difficult to continue working on the temple?

Explain that many residents of Illinois feared that the presence of the Latter-day Saints might lead to a civil war. They asked the Saints to leave the state. On September 24, 1845, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles published a letter promising that the Church would leave the following spring.

  • Why might this have been a difficult decision to make?

  • How do you think the decision to leave Nauvoo might have affected the Saints’ efforts to complete the temple?

After students discuss this question, explain that even though the Saints knew they would have to leave Illinois, they continued to work on the temple.

  • Why do you think the Saints continued to work on the temple even though they knew they were going to leave?

Remind students that at that time, temple ordinances necessary for exaltation were not yet available to the general membership of the Church. In an 1841 revelation, the Lord promised the Saints that if they built the Nauvoo Temple, they would be able to receive those ordinances (see D&C 124:27–44).

  • What can the accounts of the Saint’s sacrifices and difficulties to build the temple teach us? (Students may identify a variety of principles, such as the following: Receiving temple ordinances is worth all our righteous effort and sacrifice. Write this principle and any others students identify on the board.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Thomas S. Monson. Ask the class to listen for the sacrifices some modern-day Saints made in order to receive temple ordinances.

President Thomas S. Monson

“Many years ago I read of a group of over a hundred members who left Manaus, located in the heart of the Amazon rain forest, to travel to what was then the closest temple, located in São Paulo, Brazil—nearly 2,500 miles (4,000 km) from Manaus. Those faithful Saints journeyed by boat for four days on the Amazon River and its tributaries. After completing this journey by water, they boarded buses for another three days of travel—over bumpy roads, with very little to eat, and with nowhere comfortable to sleep. After seven days and nights, they arrived at the temple in São Paulo, where ordinances eternal in nature were performed. Of course their return journey was just as difficult. However, they had received the ordinances and blessings of the temple, and although their purses were empty, they themselves were filled with the spirit of the temple and with gratitude for the blessings they had received” (“The Holy Temple—a Beacon to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 91).

  • What sacrifices did the Saints from Manaus make to receive temple ordinances?

Invite three students to come to the front of the class and read aloud the following accounts. Ask the class to listen for the Nauvoo Saints’ righteous efforts to receive temple ordinances.

  1. Church leaders dedicated rooms in the temple as they were completed so that ordinance work could begin as early as possible. The attic of the temple was dedicated for ordinance work on November 30, 1845. The Saints began receiving their endowments on the evening of December 10, with endowment sessions continuing until 3:00 a.m. on December 11. (See Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 303.)

  2. By the end of 1845, over 1,000 members had received temple ordinances. In January 1846, President Brigham Young recorded, “Such has been the anxiety manifested by the saints to receive the ordinances [of the Temple], and such the anxiety on our part to administer to them, that I have given myself up entirely to the work of the Lord in the Temple night and day, not taking more than four hours sleep, upon an average, per day, and going home but once a week” (in History of the Church, 7:567). Many men and women contributed by washing the temple clothing each night so the work could continue the next morning without delay. (See Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 303.)

  3. On February 3, 1846, President Young left the temple so he could prepare to leave Nauvoo the next day. But as he walked outside, he saw a large group of people who were still waiting to receive their endowments. Feeling compassion for his fellow Saints, he returned to the temple to serve them. He was not able to leave Nauvoo until two weeks later. Temple records show that 5,615 Saints were endowed before going west. (See Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 303–4.)

  • What impresses you about the Saints’ efforts to receive temple ordinances?

To help students feel the truth and importance of the principles you have written on the board and to help them apply these principles in their lives, invite them to respond to the following questions in their class notebooks or scripture study journals. (Write the questions on the board.)

What efforts and sacrifices do we have to make to receive temple ordinances?

Why do you think receiving the ordinances of the temple is worth working hard and making sacrifices?

What do you need to do so you can receive temple ordinances? (What do you need to stop or start doing?)

After sufficient time, ask a few volunteers to share their answers to the second question.

The Saints leave Nauvoo

Explain that after receiving temple ordinances, the Saints began to leave Nauvoo in February 1846. Over the next several months, they continued to leave Nauvoo, and different groups settled temporarily across the state of Iowa. By the end of April, most of the Saints had left Nauvoo. However, not all Church members were able to leave. A small number stayed in Nauvoo during the summer of 1846 because they were too sick, too poor, or too weak to make the journey. A few others chose to stay.

Invite a student to read aloud the following paragraph, which recounts what happened to many of those who stayed behind.

In September 1846 approximately 800 people, armed with six cannons, prepared to attack Nauvoo. The remaining Saints and some new citizens, numbering only about 150 fighting men, prepared to defend the city. After a few days of fighting, the Saints were forced to surrender and were told to leave the city immediately. The mob then entered the city, looted homes, and vandalized the temple. Some Saints who were not able to escape fast enough were beaten or thrown into the Mississippi River. After these remaining Saints were forced out of Nauvoo, they set up refugee camps along the Iowa side of the river. They did not have enough food, supplies, or physical strength to sustain themselves. (See Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 318.)

Explain that Church leaders sent rescue parties back across Iowa to help the suffering Saints.

  • How do you think you might have felt if you had been called to return to Nauvoo?

Invite a student to read aloud the message Brigham Young sent to the men who were charged with recruiting the rescue parties:

President Brigham Young

“Let the fire of the covenant which you made in the House of the Lord, burn in your hearts, like flame unquenchable, till you … have searched out every man … who [is able to leave], and impart the fire to his soul, till he shall rise up … and go straitway, and bring a load of the poor from Nauvoo. …

“… This is a day of action” (Journal History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sept. 28, 1846, 5–6, Church History Library, Salt Lake City).

  • What does Brigham Young’s statement teach us about the covenants we make? (Make sure students understand that it is not enough to make covenants—we need to keep them. Write the following truth on the board: The Lord requires us to live by the covenants we make.)

Write the following questions on the board:

What sacrifices have you made to keep covenants?

What blessings have you experienced because you have lived according to the covenants you have made?

Divide students into pairs, and invite them to choose one of the questions and discuss their responses with their partners. You may also want to invite a few students to share their responses with the class.

Conclude by asking students to consider what they need to do to live by the covenants they have made. Testify of the blessings of keeping our covenants.