Church History Lesson 29 (D&C 124; 126)


 Quincy—A Refuge in Illinois

Most of the exiled Saints made their way across Missouri to the east, crossing the Mississippi River into the town of Quincy. There, they were received with kindness by the citizens of Quincy, who not only took these refuges into their homes, fed and clothed them, but they were one of the few communities in Western Illinois that never turned against the Saints. In fact, years later, when the Saints were driven out of Nauvoo and were refugees on the western side of the Mississippi River, again the citizens of Quincy came to their rescue, sending them food and blankets.

The Lord has blessed Quincy, which as prospered and grown steadily, while all the surrounding town have faded into history and become run-down and sparsely populated. In 2002, when the Nauvoo Temple was re-dedicated, the Church held a Tabernacle Choir concert in Quincy to raise funds for local charities and to show our continuing gratitude for their kindness to our people.

 Joseph Left Behind in Missouri

Joseph languished behind in Liberty Jail while the body of Saints moved out of the state. His letters reveal much about his state of mind during this trial. The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote to Emma in November 1838: “Oh my affectionate Emma, I want you to remember that I am a true and faithful friend to you; and the children, forever. My heart is entwined around yours forever and ever; Oh, may God bless you all.”—Joseph Smith, Jr.


The Prophet Joseph Smith Escapes to Quincy

On 16 April 1839, while being transferred from Liberty Jail to another location for a hearing, the guards allowed Joseph and some of his companions to escape. Joseph made his way to Quincy, Illinois, where was reunited with his family and friends. He recorded in his journal the feelings of his heart concerning many of those who he was reunited with at Quincy.

Concerning Emma, he wrote, “With what unspeakable delight, and what transports of joy swelled my bosom, when I took by the hand on that night, my beloved Emma, she that was my wife, even the wife of my youth, and the choice of my heart. Many were the reviberations [reverberations] of my mind when I contemplated for a moment the many scenes we had been called to pass through. The fatigues, and the toils, the sorrows, and sufferings, and the joys and consolations from time to time [which] had strewed our paths and crowned our board. Oh! what a commingling of thought filled my mind for the moment. Again she is here, even in the seventh trouble, undaunted, firm and unwavering, unchangeable, affectionate Emma.”1

 Gathering to Commerce and Montrose

After the Prophet was freed from prison in Missouri, immediate plans were made to locate the Saints at another gathering place. After viewing properties on both sides of the Mississippi River (in both Iowa and Illinois), Church leaders purchased thousands of unimproved acres in the vicinity of Commerce, Illinois, about 35 miles up the Mississippi River from Quincy. Two cities were planned—one on the east side of the river (in Commerce, Illinois) and one on the west side of the river (in Montrose, Iowa).Nauvoo was very swampy land, but the Saints quickly started draining the swampy land, planting crops, and building homes.

 The Cities of Nauvoo and Zarahemla

During the summer of 1839, the Prophet renamed the city “Nauvoo.” Montrose, on the west side of the river, in Iowa, was renamed Zarahemla. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The name of our City (Nauvoo) is of Hebrew origin, and signifies a beautiful situation, or place, carrying with it, also, the idea of rest.”2

 “A Day of God’s Power”

Thousands of Saints were arriving at Commerce, unaware of the dangers posed by the malaria-bearing mosquitoes that flourished in the as-yet-un-drained swamp lands nearby. That summer, hundreds contracted malaria, including the Prophet. The Prophet’s yard was full of sick people, lying about on quilts and pallets, sweating with fever while a cloud of mosquitoes, gnats, and flies preyed on them. Tents of new arrivals were pitched along the riverbank nearby, and almost every single tent contained the chills and fever of malaria.

On July 22nd, Joseph himself was lying atop his bed sweating with the fever when he said: “I can’t lie here while people die. I must attend to the duties of my office.” He rose up from his sickbed and began administering to the sick, commanding them in the name of Jesus Christ to arise and be healed. One person after another arose and declared himself whole.

Nevertheless, the deadly sickness was tenacious. Those healed by faith and by science were prone to relapse, and death and disease continued to plague Nauvoo even after the swamps were drained and the malaria diminished. Other diseases that attacked and often killed the Saints were diarrhea, canker, measles, mumps, whooping cough, the bloody flux, consumption, and diphtheria.

Almost half of the reported deaths in Nauvoo were among children under the age of ten. Death often hit a family more than once, sometimes taking both parents. During that first summer nearly half the population of the new city died, including the Prophet’s own father, his brother, and his infant son.

 Joseph’s Example of Forgiveness

Many times in Kirtland and thereafter, the Prophet Joseph Smith emphasized the need to forgive those who offend us, especially when they sincerely repent. He now demonstrated what he taught with his remarkable forgiveness of W. W. Phelps. Phelps had personally participated in the atrocities at Far West, directing the mobs to the Prophet’s home, where they threw Emma and the children into the street and took everything of value. He now came humbly to the Prophet and begged his forgiveness for what he had done. The Prophet responded with a heartfelt letter.

The Prophet Joseph Smith said:

“It is true, that we have suffered much in consequence of your behavior—the cup of gall, already full enough for mortals to drink, was indeed filled to overflowing when you turned against us. One with whom we had oft taken sweet counsel together, and enjoyed many refreshing seasons from the Lord—‘had it been an enemy, we could have borne it’. . . .

“However, the cup has been drunk, the will of our Father has been done, and we are yet alive, for which we thank the Lord. And having been delivered from the hands of wicked men by the mercy of our God, we say it is your privilege to be delivered from the powers of the adversary, be brought into the liberty of God’s dear children, and again take your stand among the Saints of the Most High . . .

“Believing your confession to be real, and your repentance genuine, I shall be happy once again to give you the right hand of fellowship, and rejoice over the returning prodigal . . . ‘Come on, dear brother, since the war is past, for friends at first, are friends again at last.’ “3


We do not have sufficient time or space in this article to summarize every aspect of life in Nauvoo during this period. But suffice it to say that it was a thriving, growing, prosperous city, full of an industrious and faithful people.


 Obedience with Exactness

The Twelve were told to prepare for a mission the following spring (1839) (D&C 114:1–2).

They were told to cross the “great waters” and preach the gospel (D&C 118:1–6), and they were to leave from the temple site at Far West, Missouri, on 26 April 1839. By March 1839 most of the Saints had fled from Missouri to Illinois, and mobs threatened any leaders who returned to Far West. Nevertheless, President Brigham Young, four other Apostles, and several others returned to the Far West temple site shortly after midnight on the morning of 26 April 1839.

 The Sacrifice of the Twelve and Their Families

These brethren made great sacrifices as they left their homes and families to respond to their calls to serve the Lord.

—Many members of the Twelve were struck with ague as they prepared to depart for England.
—President Wilford Woodruff, who was very ill, left his wife, Phoebe, almost without food and the necessities of life.
—George A. Smith, the youngest Apostle, was so sick that he had to be carried to the wagon, and a man who saw him asked the driver if they had been robbing the graveyard.
—Only Parley P. Pratt, who took his wife and children with him, his brother Orson Pratt, and President John Taylor were free from disease as they left Nauvoo, although Elder Taylor later became terribly ill and almost died as they traveled to New York City.
—President Brigham Young was so ill that he was unable to walk even a short distance without assistance, and his companion, Heber C. Kimball, was no better.
—Heber C. Kimball was so ill that he could not even make it to the river without losing his strength. The Prophet Joseph Smith urged him to rise up and proceed on his mission.

Their wives and families, too, lay suffering. When the Heber C. Kimball and President Brigham Young reached the crest of a hill a short distance from their homes, both lying in a wagon, they felt they could not endure leaving their families in so pitiful a condition.

At Heber’s suggestion, they struggled to their feet, waved their hats over their heads, and shouted three times, “Hurrah, Hurrah, for Israel.” Their wives, Mary Ann and Vilate, gained strength enough to stand and, leaning against the door frame, cried out,”Goodbye, God bless you.”

 Their Extraordinary Success in England

Within a few months after arriving in England, President Wilford Woodruff baptized and confirmed many people. He traveled south until he came to the farm of John Benbow in Herefordshire. Mr. Benbow and his wife, Jane, received him gladly and said that there was a company of over 600 men and women who had formed their own congregation called the United Brethren.

President Wilford Woodruff said:

“This body of United Brethren were searching for light and truth, but had gone as far as they could, and were calling upon the Lord continually to open the way before them and send them light and knowledge, that they might know the true way to be saved. When I heard these things I could clearly see why the Lord had commanded me, while in the town of Hanley, to leave that place of labor and go to the south; for in Herefordshire there was a great harvest-field for gathering many saints into the Kingdom of God.”4

Elder Woodruff’s efforts in this area of England enabled him “to bring into the Church, through the blessings of God, over 1,800 souls during 8 months, including all of the 600 United Brethren except one person.”

President Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, and others of the Twelve also had great success.

President Harold B. Lee said, “In one year, 1840 to 1841—one year and fourteen days, to be exact—nine members of the twelve were called to labor in the British Mission. If you remember the history [in Nauvoo], those years marked the period of some of the severest persecution that the Church was to undergo in this dispensation. In that one year and fourteen days the nine members of the twelve, with their associates, established churches in every noted town and city in the kingdom of Great Britain. They baptized between 7000 and 8000 converts. They printed 5000 copies of the Book of Mormon, 3000 hymn books, and 50,000 tracts, . . . and [they] emigrated 1000 souls to America.”5


 A Proclamation to the World (D&C 124)

Section 124, the first known revelation since July 1838, was received on January 19, 1841, about four weeks after the Prophet Joseph’s return from Washington, D.C. In it, the Lord commanded the Prophet Joseph Smith to write a proclamation (D&C 124:1–7). This was to be a warning concerning coming calamities for the nations of the earth (D&C 124:10). The proclamation was addressed to the kings of the world, the president of the United States, and the rulers and people of all nations. The leaders of the Church proclaimed that God had again spoken from the heavens and that the kingdom of God and the holy priesthood had been restored to prepare the way for the Second Coming of the Savior.

 Instructions That Went Unheeded

At Nauvoo, most of the Saints remained faithful. However, John C. Bennett, Lyman Wight, William Law, and Sidney Rigdon were among those who fell into apostasy and forfeited their blessings. This revelation (D&C 124) gave forewarning to these future apostates.

 To John C. Bennett (D&C 124:16–17). These promises emphasize the importance of obeying the Lord and enduring to the end regardless of previous good works. He did not do this, becoming a bitter apostate and enemy of the Church

 To Lyman Wight (D&C 124:18–19). Is advised to be humble and then the Lord will exalt him. After the Prophet’s death, Lyman rebelled against the Twelve and started his own Church which went to and failed in Texas.

To Almon Babbitt (D&C 124:84). The Lord chastises him for his disobedience and greed, which the Lord likened to setting up a golden calf. His chief ambition was to make money, and he advised the Saints to leave Nauvoo, contrary to the counsel of the Church leaders. When they did leave and he was put in charge of disposing of their property, he pocketed many of those funds.6

 To William Law (D&C 124:87–90, 97–122). Wonderful opportunities were offered to him, which he neglected to embrace. He failed to obey the Lord, and even his appointment in the First Presidency could not save him. He lost the Spirit of God and became one of the most bitter enemies of the Church. Apostates and persecutors rallied around him, and he tried to form a church of his own.”7

 To Sidney Rigdon (D&C 124:103–110). By this time, he was more or less in a spirit of apostasy. In Liberty jail, he declared to his fellow prisoners that the sufferings of the Lord were nothing compared with his, and while the faithful Saints were straining every nerve to complete the Nauvoo Temple, he had no word of encouragement to them. As a consequence of his disposition, he did not have good health. The Lord, therefore, points out to him the cause of his ailments and promises to heal him, if he will do his duty.

To Robert D. Foster (D&C 124:115–118). “Unfortunately, Foster was another man who disregarded the Lord’s counsel. After all the Prophet did to help him from time to time, he was one of the disloyal men who had Joseph Smith indicted on false charges, and he even conspired to bring about the Prophet’s death.”8


 The Red Brick Store

In January 1842, the Prophet Joseph Smith opened the “Red Brick Store” in Nauvoo. Emma worked long and hard helping Joseph unload wagon of supplies for the store. She stocked the shelves and helped run the store. On February 6, 1842, Emma gave birth to a son who did not live. The store had large rooms upstairs where leaders of the Church and the community could meet.

The Red Brick Store was one of the most important buildings in the Church during the Nauvoo period.

— It was a general store.

— It was a center of religious, social, and civic activity.

— The Saints established a public school there.

— They also used the building for Church and civic meetings and youth gatherings.

— The Relief Society was organized in this store on 17 March 1842.

— Before the temple was completed, the upper floor was used as an ordinance room. The first endowments in this dispensation were given there.

 Some Sisters Organize Themselves for Charity

Sarah Granger Kimball, wife of Hiram Kimball, one of the city’s wealthiest citizens, hired a seamstress named Margaret A. Cooke. Desiring to further the Lord’s work, Sarah donated cloth to make shirts for the men working on the temple, and Margaret agreed to do the sewing. Shortly thereafter, some of Sarah’s neighbors also desired to participate in the shirt making. The sisters met in Sister Kimball’s parlor and decided to formally organize.

Formal Organization of the Relief Society

On Thursday, March 17, 1842, the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo was founded under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “ I assisted in commencing the organization of ‘The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo’ in the Lodge Room. Sister Emma Smith, President, and Sister Elizabeth Ann Whitney and Sarah M. Cleveland, Counselors. I gave much instruction, read in the New Testament, and Book of Doctrine and Covenants [25:1–8], concerning the Elect Lady, and showed that the elect meant to be elected to a certain work . . . and that the revelation was then fulfilled by Sister Emma’s election to the Presidency of the Society, she having previously been ordained [set apart] to expound the Scriptures. Emma was blessed, and her counselors were ordained by Elder John Taylor.”9

 Purpose of the Relief Society

On April 28, 1842, the Prophet and Willard Richards were present at the sixth meeting of the society, held in the upper room (Lodge Room) of the Red Brick Store.

The Prophet Joseph Smith said on that occasion:

“This is a charitable Society, and according to your natures; it is natural for females to have feelings of charity and benevolence. You are now placed in a situation in which you can act according to those sympathies which God has planted in your bosoms. If you live up to these principles, how great and glorious will be your reward in the celestial kingdom! If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates. . . .

“Let this Society teach women how to behave towards their husbands, to treat them with mildness and affection. When a man is borne down with trouble, when he is perplexed with care and difficulty, if he can meet a smile instead of an argument or a murmur—if he can meet with mildness, it will calm down his soul and soothe his feelings; when the mind is going to despair, it needs a solace of affection and kindness. . . .

“You will receive instructions through the order of the priesthood which God has established, through the medium of those appointed to lead, guide and direct the affairs of the Church in this last dispensation; and I now turn the key in your behalf in the name of the Lord, and this Society shall rejoice, and knowledge and intelligence shall flow down from this time henceforth; this is the beginning of better days to the poor and needy, who shall be made to rejoice and pour forth blessings on your heads.”10

Provoking Their Husbands to Righteousness

The Prophet Joseph Smith said to the sisters on March 17, 1842, “The object of the Society [is] that the Society of Sisters might provoke the brethren to good works in looking to the wants of the poor-searching after objects of charity, and in administering to their wants—to assist by correcting the morals and strengthening the virtues of the community, and save the Elders the trouble of rebuking; that they may give their time to other duties, & etc., in their public teaching.”11

 Charitable Activities of the Relief Society

The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote one month later on March 24, “I attended by request, the Female Relief Society, whose object is the relief of the poor, the destitute, the widow and the orphan, and for the exercise of all benevolent purposes. Its organization was completed this day. Mrs. Emma Smith takes the presidential chair; Mrs. Elizabeth Ann Whitney and Sarah M. Cleveland are her counselors; Mrs. Elvira Cole is treasurer, and our well-known and talented poetess, Miss Eliza R. Snow, secretary.”12 These sisters prayed for each other, strengthened each other’s faith, and consecrated their lives and resources to help further the cause of Zion.


1. S.H. Faulring (Ed.), The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith: An American Prophet’s Record, 246–248.
2. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 182.
3. Letter to W.W. Phelps, July 22, 1840, History of the Church, 4:162–164.
4. President Wilford Woodruff: History of His Life and Labors, ed. Matthias F. Cowley, 116–119.
5. In Conference Report, Apr. 1960, 108.
6. In Journal of Discourses, 7:350.
7. Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, rev. ed. [1972], 785.
8. Sperry, Compendium, 664.
9. History of the Church, 4:552–553.
10. History of the Church, 4:605–607.
11. History of the Relief Society: 1842–1966, 18.
12. History of the Church, 4:567.