“Lesson 130: The Establishment of Nauvoo,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual (2013)
After the Saints’ expulsion from Missouri, they turned swampland along the Mississippi River into the city of Nauvoo, a place of beauty. Nauvoo, Illinois, became the headquarters of the Church from 1839 to 1846. The Relief Society was formed there, and from the Nauvoo headquarters missionary work spread farther throughout the earth.
Note: This lesson provides an opportunity for two students to teach. Select two students a few days before this lesson, and give them copies of the designated portions so they have time to prepare.
Suggestions for Teaching
The Saints establish the city of Nauvoo
Remind students that the Saints were expelled from Missouri during the winter of 1838–39 while Joseph Smith was imprisoned in Liberty Jail.
How do you think the Saints might have felt when they were expelled from Missouri? (Answers might include that the Saints wondered where they should go.)
Explain that following the Saints’ expulsion from Missouri, they found refuge in Quincy, Illinois, and other small communities. Invite students to locate Quincy on Map 6 (“The Westward Movement of the Church”) in the Church History Maps section of their scriptures. On April 15, 1839, Joseph Smith and his fellow prisoners were told they would be transferred to another location. On the way to the new location, their guards allowed them to escape, acknowledging the injustice of holding them any longer. About a week later, Joseph Smith was reunited with his family in Quincy. Under Joseph Smith’s direction, the Church purchased land on both sides of the Mississippi River north of Quincy. The west side of the river was part of Iowa Territory, and the east side was part of the state of Illinois. The Saints established the new headquarters of the Church on the Illinois side at a place called Commerce, which they renamed Nauvoo.
Invite the first student teacher to come forward and briefly teach the class about the establishment of Nauvoo.
Missionary work spreads across the earth
Thank the students who taught. To prepare the class to learn about the growth of the Church during the Nauvoo period, ask the following questions:
What are some items that can extinguish a fire?
What are some items that cause a fire to grow?
Joseph Smith compared the work of God to a fire. Do you think the persecutions the Saints experienced in Missouri were like water that began to extinguish the work of God or like fuel that caused it to grow? Why?
Ask a student to read aloud the following statement that the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote in a letter to a newspaper editor named John Wentworth on March 1, 1842:
“Persecution has not stopped the progress of truth, but has only added fuel to the flame. …
“… The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (in History of the Church, 4:540).
What do we learn from this statement? (Students may identify a variety of truths, but emphasize the following: Nothing will stop the progress of God’s work throughout the earth. Write this truth on the board.)
Explain that when Joseph Smith recorded this prophecy, the Lord had begun to call missionaries to preach the gospel in various countries. As a result, thousands of people—primarily from Great Britain—were baptized. The new members brought great strength to the Church, and many traveled to join the Saints in Nauvoo.
To illustrate the truth on the board, ask for four volunteers to participate in a role play of an experience Wilford Woodruff had while preaching the gospel in Herefordshire, England, in 1840. Assign the volunteers the following parts: Wilford Woodruff, Clergyman, Constable, Narrator. Give each of the volunteers a copy of the following script to use in the role play:
After the volunteers have finished, ask the class the following questions:
How does Elder Woodruff’s experience illustrate the principle that nothing will stop the progress of God’s work?
How is Joseph Smith’s prophecy concerning the progress of God’s work being fulfilled today? How do you feel about participating in this work?
What can you do to help God’s work spread among all people? (You may want to invite students to respond to this question in their class notebooks or scripture study journals.)
Explain that in coming lessons, students will learn more about the important events that occurred and principles that were taught while The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints maintained headquarters in Nauvoo from 1839 to 1846. Testify of the principles discussed in class today, and invite students to act on what they learned.