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Phase 5: Crossing and Dwelling

Spring, 1846 – Summer, 1852

Throughout 1845, preparations for the evacuation of Nauvoo had been largely supervised by a “Council of 50,” Smith’s final organizational innovation. Its membership was comprised of a cross-section of the church’s priestly bureaucracy, but included also men of temporal means and skill. Originally designed by Smith to mediate Nauvoo’s religious government to a religiously diverse society, his murder in 1844 and increased violence against church members in the environs surrounding Nauvoo led Brigham Young to use the Council as the primary agent for equipping and transporting Nauvoo’s ten thousand residents to a safe haven in the West, outside U.S. territorial boundaries.

 The result of their effort was, under the circumstances, a remarkably orderly transportation of several thousand people across several thousand miles and an ultimately successful resettlement in a desert. Large wagon companies were led by senior church leaders assisted by “captains” of tens and fifties and hundreds. Waystations, pastored by lay bishops, were built for those ill-provisioned and for all who had to winter on the prairies. The “Camp of Israel,” as they called their endeavor, was most fundamentally ordered, however, by religious ideals and worship practices, including marital sealings and its reciprocity of gendered priesthood. Though their church council had been disbanded, the women who had chosen to participate in “Abrahamic marriage” brought to the Camp of Israel their own practices and networks of authority and influence.

At a future date, we hope to use the Early Mormon Marriage database to compare the sealings from this phase to those in Nauvoo in order to identify changes in the social function and religious significance of sealings. In addition, we will be looking at the extent to which the new organizations created during this period – the Council of Fifty, the wagon companies, waystation bishoprics, and the first Utah settlements, the women’s “blessing meetings” – were informed, even defined by kinship networks created by sealings. Finally, the database will be used to trace familial and ecclesiastical networks through the female line.

Sealings Between 1846-1852: List of all time and eternity sealings after the exodus from Nauvoo and before the public announcement of plural marriage (after 3/1/1846 but before 8/31/1852).

Recommended Readings   

Arrington, Leonard J. Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900. University of Illinois Press, 2005, 1958.

Derr, Jill Mulvay, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook and Matthew J. Grow. The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History. Church Historian’s Press, 2015.

Derr, Jill Mulvay. “‘Strength in Our Union’: The Making of Mormon Sisterhood.” Sisters in Spirit: Mormon Women in Historical and Cultural Perspective (University of Illinois, 1987): 153-207.

Hardy, B. Carmon. Solemn Covenant: The Mormon Polygamous Passage. University of Illinois Press, 1992. Stegner, Wallace. The Gathering of Zion: The Story of the Mormon Trail (McGraw-Hill, 1964).