Mormon History Timeline
The Nauvoo Period
January 26- The exodus from western Missouri to Illinois is organized.
April 16- Joseph Smith and other prisoners in the Liberty Jail escape
from custody during a transfer.
April 22- Joseph joins his family in Illinois and reportedly indicates
his intentions for his son Joseph III to be his successor as church
May 10- Joseph moves to Commerce, Illinois which he renames Nauvoo. By
the end of 1845 the city's population would swell to 12,000. An
additional 3,000 Mormons live in the surrounding area.
July 22- Joseph prays for the malaria stricken citizens of Nauvoo.
November 29- U.S. President Martin Van Buren tells Joseph Smith that
the federal government cannot intervene to protect Mormon property or
civil rights in Missouri. Until the Civil War and the 14th Amendment
the constitutional separation between the federal government and the
rights of sovereign states prohibited such intervention.
May 27- The Latter-day Saints Millennial Star goes to press in
England. This would be the first LDS periodical to be printed outside
June 6- The first British converts arrive in Nauvoo.
August 15- Joseph Smith teaches baptism for the dead at the funeral of
Seymour Brunson. "General George Washington" is among the first for
whom a vicarious baptism for the dead is performed in the Mississippi
River. After 1841 baptisms for the dead would occur only in specially
constructed temple fonts.
December 16- The governor of Illinois signs the Nauvoo charter which
Joseph Smith uses to make the city an independent theocracy. Abraham
Lincoln votes for the charter, even though Nauvoo's Mormons had voted
as a bloc against him in the previous election.
January 30- Joseph is elected sole Trustee-in-Trust for the LDS
church, the legal entity for directing church finances until 1923.
February 4- The Nauvoo Legion is organized. It quickly becomes the
largest militia in the U.S.
March 1- Nauvoo city ordinance states that all religions will have
"free toleration, and equal privileges". The law provides for a $300
fine and a 6-month jail term for anyone convicted of ridiculing a
person's religious beliefs.
March 10- The governor of Illinois appoints Joseph Smith
lieutenant-general of the Nauvoo Legion.
April 5- Joseph Smith's first fully dated plural marriage is
solemnized to Louisa Beaman.
April 6- The cornerstones of the Nauvoo Temple are laid.
June 5- Joseph Smith is arrested as a fugitive of Missouri justice but
October 27- Joseph Smith marries a woman polygamously who lives with
her legal husband. Brigham Young University would later name one of
its residence halls after her. Zina D. Huntington would also marry
Brigham Young after Smith's death, her legal husband standing in as
witness. This is the first of a dozen cases of polyandry in Mormon
November 8- The first temple baptismal font is dedicated. The first
ordinance is a baptism for the dead, with Brigham Young as officiator
and Reuben McBride as proxy.
December 27- Smith exhibits to his twelve apostles what BrighamYoung
called the "seer stone" but what Woodruff called the "Urim and
Thummim". Young claimed that at Nauvoo Joseph Smith found two more
seer stones on the banks of the Mississippi River.
March 1- For the first time an account of Smith's first vision is
published, appearing in the Times and Seasons which publishes his
official account on April 1.
March 15- Joseph Smith is initiated into Freemasonry and organizes the
Masonic Lodge of Nauvoo.
March 17- Joseph organizes the Female Relief Society, today known as
the Women's Relief Society.
April 1- In publishing the official version of the first vision, the
Times and Seasons gives Smith's description of himself between the
ages of fourteen and seventeen.
April 7- Smith receives a revelation to establish a formal theocratic
government, "the Kingdom of God", later known as the "Council of
April 14- Smith unsuccessfully proposes plural marriage to Nancy Rigdon.
April 18- Joseph and Hyrum Smith file for bankruptcy.
May 4-5- The Quorum of Anointed or Holy Order of the Priesthood is
organized by Joseph Smith, and eight men are initiated into what would
later be called the "temple endowment".
May 6- An assassination attempt is made on Missouri's ex-governor
Lilburn W. Boggs, allegedly by former Danite and later member of the
Council of Fifty Orrin Porter Rockwell.
May 19- Smith becomes Nauvoo's mayor.
May 24-25- Three women testify that Assistant President John C.
Bennett and Apostle William Smith taught them that Joseph Smith
approved of "spiritual wifery" wherein several men have sexual
relations with the same woman.
May 25- Smith disfellowships John Bennett who quickly publishes the
first expose of Mormon polygamy.
June 14- The first fully-dated plural marriage is performed by Smith
for Brigham Young and Lucy Decker Seeley.
July 15- Thousands of Nauvoo Mormons search for Apostle Orson Pratt
after discovering a suicide note. They find him distraught because his
wife Sarah claimed that Joseph Smith had tried to seduce her.
August 8- Smith is arrested as an accessory to the attempted murder of
ex-Governor Lilburn Boggs. Nauvoo's municipal court claims
jurisdiction over Smith and discharges him.
August 10-19- Smith goes into hiding to avoid a second arrest.
August 20- Three apostles excommunicate Orson Pratt and ordain his
replacement in the Quorum of the Twelve.
August 31- Smith authorizes publication of affidavits accusing first
counselor Ridgon's daughter Nancy and Orson Pratt's wife of sexual
misconduct with John C. Bennett.
October 2- Missouri governor Thomas Reynolds offers a $300 bounty for
returning Smith to Missouri. Illinois's governor adds a $200 bounty.
December 27- Smith is arrested as an accessory in the attempted murder
of Gov. Boggs. He is taken into custody again in Nauvoo (5 Jan. 1843)
out of the hands of arresting officers and is again acquitted.
January 1- Joseph Smith tells dinner guests of a confrontation he had
with a Baptist minister back in Kirtland, Ohio: "I whipped him till he
begged. He threatened to prosecute me. I sent [Apostle] Luke Johnson
the constable after him and he run him out of the County into Mentor".
February 8- Joseph "talked with a brother and sister from Michigan,
who thought that a 'prophet is always a prophet;' but I told them that
a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such."
March 5- Joseph explains to the Nauvoo city council: "I was opposed to
hanging, even if a man killed another, I will shoot him, or cut off
his head, spill his blood on the ground, and let the smoke thereof
ascend up to God; and if I ever have the privilege of making a law of
that subject, I will have it so." When Brigham Young becomes president
of the LDS church he would define "blood atonement" as "the law of
May 14- Hyrum Smith (Presiding Patriarch and Associate President)
assures the people of Nauvoo that only the devil would give a
revelation approving "wifes & concubines".
May 26- Hyrum Smith embraces the doctrine of polygamy.
May 28- Joseph and Emma Smith are the first couple to be "sealed" in
marriage for eternity. In the weeks prior Joseph had married
seventeen-year-old Lucy Walker, and sixteen-year-old Flora Ann
Woodworth, and fourteen-year-old Helen Mar Kimball who later testified
that Smith had sexual relations with them.
July 12- Joseph's revelation on plural marriage is recorded. Hyrum
uses the written revelation to try to convert Emma Smith to accept the
August 1- Smith physically assaults the county tax assessor, for which
he pleads guilty and pays a fine.
August 12- Hyrum presents the revelation on plural marriage to the
Nauvoo high council.
August 27- In a sermon Joseph refers to his son Joseph III succeeding
him as church president.
September- Clarissa Merrifield dies from what is officially described
as "ague [chills] and fever, " but a Nauvoo diary tells of her being
"rebaptized for health" and inadvertently drowning.
October 19- William Clayton is told by Joseph not to worry about an
upcoming birth from a polygamous relationship, assuring that if it
becomes necessary to excommunicate him, Smith would immediately
November 5- Joseph becomes violently ill at dinner and believes that
wife Emma, due to her opposition of polygamy, has poisoned him.
December 1- Smith's manuscript diary makes first mention of the Nauvoo
Mansion's bar room. Joseph Smith III later reminisced that his father
had set up a fully-stocked bar in the house.
December 29- The Mormon Church newspaper Nauvoo Neighbor advertises
ale and beer from the Nauvoo Brewery.
January 2- An English court acquits the first Mormon missionaries to
accidentally drown a convert during baptism.
February 1- Joseph and Hyrum Smith publicly announce the
excommunication of an elder for teaching polygamy.
February 8- Joseph's only acknowledged polygamous child Josephine is
born. Her mother Sylvia Sessions Lyon is legally married to Windsor P.
Lyon with whom she is living, and so this is the first acknowledged
polyandrous child. On this same day Joseph Smith fines two
African-Americans for "trying to marry white women".
April 5- Hyrum Smith dedicates Nauvoo's Masonic temple.
May 17- At a Nauvoo political rally Joseph is nominated as U.S.
May 21- Mormon leaders leave Nauvoo to campaign for Joseph Smith.
June 10- William Law's Nauvoo Expositor is published with references
to the 1843 polygamy revelation and to Smith's 1844 ordination as king
June 10- By Joseph Smith's order as mayor the council destroys the
Expositor as a "public nuisance".
June 11- William Law and associates flee Nauvoo with their families
after learning of a murder conspiracy against them.
June 18- Joseph declares martial law and gives his last public address
to the Nauvoo Legion.
June 23- Joseph and Hyrum flee Nauvoo. News of Joseph's departure
causes near panic among his loyal followers. After being accused of
cowardice, Smith returns to Nauvoo that evening.
June 24- Joseph surrenders to civil authorities to stand trial for
riot and treason.
June 27- A large group of men approaches Carthage Jail disguised with
blackened faces. Smith assumes it is the Nauvoo Legion that he has
secretly ordered to rescue him. However, major-general Jonathan Dunham
has disobeyed Smith's orders knowing that such action would bring
severe retaliation upon Nauvoo. Instead vigilantes storm the upstairs
room of the jail, instantly killing Hyrum and severely wounding
Taylor. Joseph defends himself with a pistol, jumps out the window,
and begins to shout the Masonic distress: "Oh, Lord, my God, is there
no help for the widow's son?" Masons in the crowd show no mercy and
prop the semi-conscious Smith against a nearby well and shoot him
several times at point-blank range.
July 16- While in Peterboro, Massachusetts Brigham Young learns of the
killing of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.
August 6- Young arrives in Nauvoo and in private meetings begins to
defend the succession right of the Twelve.
August 8- A special Nauvoo conference sustains the Twelve as the
acting church presidency. Some witness a transfiguration of Young into
the image of Smith.
August 15- Emma Smith says that "secret things…cost Joseph and Hyrum
their lives" and that the same would befall the Twelve.
September 19- Young begins to marry some of Smith's polygamous widows
as his own wives.
December 5- Young signs a letter as "Prest of the Church of L.D.S."
January 29- The Quorum of Twelve votes to exempt the LDS apostles, two
general bishops, and the Nauvoo Temple Committee from having to pay
March 5- Apostle Heber C. Kimball preaches: "Some think we shall be
driven from Nauvoo; but we are going to stay in Nauvoo and we shall
build it up…"
April 3- Young commends the Nauvoo police for beating "a man almost to
death in the Temple."
April 7- At General Conference Young is sustained as "President of the
whole Church of Latter-Day Saints," though this is edited out of the
church newspaper's conference minutes.
May 1- The Times and Seasons denies that Latter-day Saints engage in polygamy.
June 23- Irvine Hodge is stabbed to death in front of Young's house,
presumably by Nauvoo police officers Hosea Stout, Elbridge Tufts, and
Allen J. Stout.
September 24- Brigham Young signs a pledge to lead the Mormons out of
Nauvoo in the spring for an anticipated re-settlement in Oregon or on
November 15- Times and Seasons publishes Eliza R. Snows poem, "My
Father in Heaven." Now the most famous LDS hymn written by a woman; it
speaks of a Heavenly Mother equal in status to a male consort.
February 4- The first companies of Mormons leave Nauvoo and cross the
(source: The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, D. Michael Quinn)