Kingdom of Nauvoo: The Rise and Fall of a Religious Empire on the American Frontier

Benjamin Park. Liveright, $28.95 (352) ISBN 978-1-63149-486-4
In this enjoyable and fastidiously researched work, Park (American Nationalisms), professor of history at Sam Houston State Univ., highlights early Mormons’ political and social roles in the development of the American West. The Mormons’ first attempt to build a “new Zion” in Missouri ended in the summer of 1838 with their wholesale flight in the face of state-sanctioned violence. Afterward, they founded “kingdom of Nauvoo” in western Illinois. Led by Joseph Smith, the Mormons aimed to make Nauvoo into a God-fearing community and a model of what they believed to be the imminent kingdom of God on Earth. Park depicts the rise and fall of Nauvoo in vivid detail, exploring how it collapsed in 1848 due to a combination of factors, particularly growing state and community-wide discomfort with the Mormons as a “separate people” who lived outside of common Protestant norms and Joseph Smith’s paranoid tendencies. The community’s secretive structure, which Park argues contributed to its failure, was designed to keep Smith in power and also to conceal practices (such as polygamy) he felt might be detrimental to the church’s public reputation. Park, who was given extensive access to the Mormon Church’s archives, entertainingly establishes this little-known Mormon settlement’s proper place within the formative years of the Illinois and Missouri frontier. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 09/17/2019
Release date: 02/25/2020
Genre: Religion
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