On September 16, 1845, Brigham met with the apostles and other civic leaders of Nauvoo and proposed that the Mormons seek peace with the mobs by agreeing to leave Nauvoo and Illinois in the spring. Th e surrender disagreed with his nature. Th e boy who had come of age on the dream of land-one’s own land-had seen Zion’s Camp unravel, in spite of its just cause. Th e devotee of Andrew Jackson had run from Missouri, cursing a corrupt and incompetent government. Th e man whose own life had shown him that every security apart from one’s own fortitude will fail made the practical compromise with the mob that would keep open the way of the Saints’ escape. Nevertheless, the king in him, the tyrant that could not be at anyone’s mercy or behest, had to speak: “put a stop to the mobs burning your property shoot the fi rst man who attempts.” 1
In 1845, Nauvoo was a thriving Mississippi River port city. In six years, the Mormons had turned a patch of malarial swampland that sold for two dollars an acre into the biggest city in Illinois. 2 Radiating out from the temple hill at the city’s center were hotels, mills, a foundry, and even a chinaware factory. 3 It was home, this city that had rescued them from the rage of Missouri. Joseph Smith, before his murder, had certainly contemplated removing his community once again, but under the apostles’ corporate leadership in the year aft er the murder, the Mormons seemed prepared to stay. In late 1844, the town leaders were planning increases in Nauvoo’s manufacturing capacity, and Brigham and apostle Parley P. Pratt were scouting locations for expansion settlements within two hundred miles of Nauvoo. 4 As Governor Th omas Ford ordered Brigham to “hold in readiness a suffi cient force” to suppress the mobs in the county, it even seemed at the time that Illinois expected the Mormons to stay. 5 More than a year aft er assassins shot Smith
repeatedly and stabbed his body with a bayonet, Brigham, now bearing the church on his own shoulders, dreamed he met his prophet Joseph in the aft erlife, who told him, “dont be in a hurry.” 6
Th is is not to say that 1845 Nauvoo was a place of peace and security. Authorities and presumptive authorities bearing writs continued to fl ow into the city with such frequency that in the spring, the church began sending men on missions expressly to help them avoid arrest. 7 Brigham himself occasionally went into hiding as he received reports of unidentifi ed men skulking about the neighborhood. Mormons and non-Mormons who had been called to witness against those accused of Smith’s murder were harassed and intimidated as the Carthage trial commenced early in 1845. Brigham organized young Nauvoo men into a neighborhood watch program as a substitute for the standing police force outlawed by the repeal of Nauvoo’s charter. Th e “Whistling and Whittling Brigade” secured every street corner in the city, falling around any suspicious characters, whittling as an excuse to brandish weapons, and whistling as an alarm to everyone else. Although it relied on passive-aggressive methods, Nauvoo’s Mormon security force was charged with real violence against outsiders. In private conversations, Brigham was not unaware of, nor unsupportive of, some less peaceful means of securing Mormon peace. 8 Nauvoo was secure enough in the summer to double the temple’s workforce and to explore without hurrying the avenues that opened to the Saints’ future.