Ep 87 – Greener Grass in Nauvoo

On this episode, we give Hyrum Smith his long overdue NaMo nickname. We catch up with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as their mission in Europe draws to a close. They have been busy, baptizing and converting thousands of prospects into Mormons eager to move stateside to see how green the grass is in Nauvoo. Finally, on April 20, 1841 they boarded a ship headed for New York. After the history we bring on Ryan McKnight and Ethan Dodge for a Mormon Leaks Minute.


19th-Century life in England

Manuscript History of Brigham Young

Mormon Leaks links

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You heard it in the intro, we’re going to catch up with Brigham Young and the rest of the Quorum of the Twelve, but first we have to endow Hyrum with his NaMo nickname. This was a hard one for yours truly. First off, Hyrum is such a unique and phonetically unpleasing name already so the source material was already tough to work with. But, we must persevere! Out of a bunch of really good entries, for Hyrum Smith, Joseph’s second-in-command, sidekick, if you will, we’re going with a post on the facebook page by Gazelam Ale who nominated Sidekick-Abiff. Hyrum Smith will be known to us until 1844 as Sidekick-Abiff. The name will make a lot more sense when we get into 1842. We’ll put up our next potential nominee for a NaMo nickname at the end of the history portion today, stick around to play along! For now let’s shift our focus to Europe.

Brigham Young had made himself very useful to the church. Jo had established the travelling quorum of 12 apostles back in 1835 and since then the quorum had been on various missions to places far from the nuclear center of the church. The quorum of travelling apostles were essentially established as the primary missionary force with full ruling authority of the church wherever they may be proselyting to at any given time. The Quorum was to act as a satellite committee of Mormon leadership to establish stakes in far-off lands.

With the death of David Patten during the 1838 war between the Mormons and the state of Missouri, and the apostasy of Thomas B. Marsh, Bloody Brigham was essentially the senior most member of the quorum, making him and his best friend Heber Creeper Kimball the leaders of the travelling Quorum of apostles. Jo had called the quorum to a mission in Europe in September of 1839 around the same time Jo was preparing for his trip to meet with the president and by spring of 1840 they had landed on the shores of England to begin the mission.

When the mission initially began there was a bit of opposition to their proselyting, but they eventually began to meet with some success; we’ll talk about that and the reported numbers in a little while. First, we need to try and take stock of why the Mormon proselyting was so appealing to Europeans in the first place.

America was only an ocean apart from Europe geographically, but socially it was worlds apart. The ruling aristocracy in England funded by world-wide power granted by the East India Trading Company had created an economic divide between the working and ruling classes and only the wealthiest were insulated from being negatively affected by it. With the increased implementation of the industrial revolution, families who had been farmers or small merchants for generations were selling their plots to large farming corporations and moving into major metropolitan areas to work in factories and shops at alarming rates. Here’s a useful snapshot written by Tom Lambert on localhistories.org about 19th-century life in England.

“During the 19th century life in Britain was transformed by the Industrial Revolution. At first it caused many problems but in the late 19th century life became more comfortable for ordinary people. Meanwhile Britain became the world's first urban society. By 1851 more than half the population lived in towns. The population of Britain boomed during the 1800s. In 1801 it was about 9 million. By 1901 it had risen to about 41 million. This was despite the fact that many people emigrated to North America and Australia to escape poverty. About 15 million people left Britain between 1815 and 1914. …

In the early 19th century Britain was ruled by an elite. Only a small minority of men were allowed to vote. The situation began to change in 1832 when the vote was given to more men. Constituencies were also redrawn and many industrial towns were represented for the first time….

In 19th century Britain at least 80% of the population was working class. In order to be considered middle class you had to have at least one servant. Most servants were female. Throughout the 19th century 'service' was a major employer of women.

In the 19th century families were much larger than today. That was partly because infant mortality was high. People had many children and accepted that not all of them would survive…”

As to be expected with a massive influx of people moving into any metropolitan area, living conditions were absolutely terrible. The streets were dirty, the people rarely attained any primary education, children were slave labor and adults worked under a system of essentially indentured servitude with no unions and scarcely any say in politics or community affairs. The aristocracy of Britain represented one of the greatest gaps in income equality in history. When people in horrible living situations see somebody with a life significantly better than they, it doesn’t take long for them to want to act to change their situation. But, upward mobility socially and economically was essentially stagnant as the aristocracy worked to ensure.

I’ll allow Tim Lambert a few more lines to paint a picture for us:

“Living conditions in early 19th British century cities were often dreadful. However there was one improvement. Gaslight was first used in 1807 in Pall Mall in London. Many cities introduced gas street light in the 1820s. However early 19th century cities were dirty, unsanitary and overcrowded. In them streets were very often unpaved and they were not cleaned. Rubbish was not collected and it was allowed to accumulate in piles in the streets. Since most of it was organic when it turned black and sticky it was used as fertilizer…

At the end of the 19th century more than 25% of the population of Britain was living at or below subsistence level. Surveys indicated that around 10% were very poor and could not afford even basic necessities such as enough nourishing food. Between 15% and 20% had just enough money to live on (provided they did not lose their job or have to take time off work through illness). If you had no income at all you had to enter the workhouse. The workhouses were feared and hated by the poor. They were meant to be as unpleasant as possible to deter poor people from asking the state for help. However during the late 19th century workhouses gradually became more humane…

In the early 19th century housing for the poor was often dreadful. Often they lived in 'back-to-backs'. These were houses of three (or sometimes only two) rooms, one of top of the other. The houses were literally back-to-back. The back of one house joined onto the back of another and they only had windows on one side. The bottom room was used as a living room cum kitchen. The two rooms upstairs were used as bedrooms. The worst homes were cellar dwellings. These were one-room cellars. They were damp and poorly ventilated. The poorest people slept on piles of straw because they could not afford beds….”

These are all about the living situations and what metropolitan European societies looked like should we hop in a time machine and go wandering the streets of London in 1830. What about the working conditions of the people? It’s more terrible than you could actually imagine:

“During the 1800s the factory system gradually replaced the system of people working in their own homes or in small workshops. In England the textile industry was the first to be transformed. The Industrial Revolution also created a huge demand for female and child labor. Children had always done some work but at least before the 19th century they worked in their own homes with their parents or on land nearby. Children's work was largely seasonal so they usually did have some time to play. When children worked in textile factories they often worked for more than 12 hours a day. In the early 19th century parliament passed laws to restrict child labor. However they all proved to be unenforceable…

Conditions in coalmines were often terrible. Children as young as 5 worked underground. However in 1842 a law banned women and boys under 10 from working underground.”

Now we get to the religious aspect of life in 19th-century Europe. In Britain specifically, an 1851 survey found that only 40% of people attended church regularly. However, church attendance does not equate with belief in God or social proclivities to do so. The percentage of people believing in God who may have been open to proselyting campaigns was undoubtedly higher than the actual number of church attendees.

Let’s put a pin in European life in the 19th century, we’ll get back to it in a minute. Let’s contrast everyday American life from much of European life in large cities or even in semi-large townships.

From Tocqueville’s Democracy in America 1:55

“In America the principle of the sovereignty of the people is neither barren nor concealed, as it is with some other nations; it is recognized by the customs and proclaimed by the laws; it spreads freely, and arrives without impediment at its most remote consequences. If there is a country in the world where the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people can be fairly appreciated, where it can be studied in its application to the affairs of society, and where its dangers and its advantages may be judged, that country is assuredly America…

The American Revolution broke out, and the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people came out of the townships and took possession of the state. Every class was enlisted in its cause; battles were fought and victories obtained for it; it became the law of laws…

At the present day the principle of the sovereignty of the people has acquired in the United States all the practical development that the imagination can conceive. It is unencumbered by those fictions that are thrown over it in other countries, and it appears in every possible form, according to the exigency of the occasion. Sometimes the laws are made by the people in a body, as at Athens; and sometimes its representatives, chosen by universal suffrage, transact business in its name and under its immediate supervision.

In some countries a power exists which, though it is in a degree foreign to the social body, directs it, and forces it to pursue a certain track. In others the ruling force is divided, being partly within and partly without the ranks of the people. But nothing of the kind is to be seen in the United States; there society governs itself for itself. All power centers in its bosom, and scarcely an individual is to be met with who would venture to conceive or, still less, to express the idea of seeking it elsewhere. The nation participates in the making of its laws by the choice of its legislators, and in the execution of them by the choice of the agents of the executive government; it may almost be said to govern itself, so feeble and so restricted is the share left to the administration, so little do the authorities forget their popular origin and the power from which they emanate. The people reign in the American political world as the Deity does in the universe. They are the cause and the aim of all things; everything comes from them, and everything is absorbed in them.”

Of course, Tocqueville’s view of America was largely idealized and cleansed from seeing how the ideals laid out in the constitution actually came into practice having only toured America for a very short time before writing Democracy in America, but he does point out how powerful a concept sovereignty was and still is to the American dream. The significant takeaway from his readings is that America stood out among their industrialized European counterparts as the freest society where the aristocracy held the least power to affect change by comparison.

The boots-on-the-ground impact of sovereignty being the primary central tenet of Americanism was the average citizen feeling empowered to be the master of their own destiny, not subject to the dictates of the aristocratic elite who rule other countries. Literally, nowhere else on the planet was upward mobility encouraged and possible in the 19th century than in America.

Now let’s connect these two floating dots. For the majority of people living in squalor in Europe, ruled by a disconnected class of a few elite families who’d been in control of the constituent countries’ resources for centuries by that point, America posed a wonderful opportunity. A land with fruited plains, unlimited business potential, where your voice will be heard through America’s revolutionary governance system, where, in the last century, more people had lifted themselves out of poverty than they had anywhere else on the planet for the past millennium; a land with millions of acres of unclaimed land which had just been claimed from the First Nationers in the last decade. America was a place where people who were unsatisfied with the government could merely expand the frontier further west and be, for all practical purposes, free from all government control. For what people in London were paying in rent, a person could own a home with 50 acres, some livestock, and a lovely white picket fence in America, not constrained to tiny apartments with 20 people living in a house smaller than most American families inhabited.

Along come these Yankees, Bloody Brigham Young and the Heber Creeper Kimball, in 1840. They go from door to door telling these Europeans how great life is in America and that they’ve found a history book of the ancient Israelites travelling to America which was translated by a modern-day prophet, seer, and revelator. Not only is life great in America, but the Mormons have their own city right on the mother of rivers in the country. Nauvoo, the land of the beautiful, is located in the most advantageous spot on a peninsula overlooking the Mississippi which will soon be crowned with a massive granite temple as a testament to American and Mormon wealth.

Something worth noting though, the grass is always greener sales pitch only works on those who feel like their field is brown and barren. But, for all those Europeans who were dissatisfied with their life in any way, some missionaries showing up and offering a method for them to have better lives wasn’t a hard sell.

From Fawn Brodie’s No Man Knows My History beginning on page 264, we see how smart Bloody Brigham was in his sales efforts:

“The Mormon apostles who went to England had seen America’s worst panic, and thought they knew something about the poverty attendant upon economic depression. But in England they found in addition to financial chaos and unemployment the appalling housing of the urban slums and a fearful burden of taxes weighing on the thin shoulders of the poor…Thousands of workers were crowded into squat tenements, built without water or sewers, and almost without windows. Sporadic strikes were suppressed with vicious cruelty, as the dread specter of revolution. George A. Smith wrote back to Nauvoo: “I have seen more beggars here in one day than I saw in all my life in America.”

Shocked by what they found, the Mormon elders began to preach the glory of America along with the glory of the gospel. Brigham Young was convinced that emigration was the only solution for Europe’s “overpopulation” and made this the theme of many of his sermons. Soon the missionaries were publishing in Liverpool a little journal called the Millennial Star, which frequently had the ring of a real-estate agency propaganda pamphlet:

‘Living [in America] is about one-eighth of what it costs in this country… millions on millions of acres of land lie before them unoccupied, with a soil as rich as Eden, and a surface as smooth, clear and ready for the plough as the park scenery of England. Instead of a lonely swamp or dense forest filled with savages, wild beasts and serpents, large cities and villages are springing up in their midst, with schools, colleges, and temples…there being abundant room for more than a hundred millions of inhabitants.’

Before long the apostles were converting Englishmen in thousands. Their success loosed a deluge of anti-Mormon pamphlets. Even the sophisticated London Athenaeum took note of the new sect. “Mormonism is making rapid progress,” it pointed out on April 3, 1841, “particularly in the manufacturing districts, and it is also spreading in Wales. Furthermore, its converts are not made from the lowest ranks; those sought and obtained by the Mormonite apostles are mechanics and tradesmen who have saved a little money, who are remarkable for their moral character, but who are exposed to the delusion from having, as Archbishop Sharpe expressed it, ‘studied the Bible with an ill-balanced mind.’’”

Bloody Brigham was a truly brilliant businessman. I’ve said that numerous times before, but here we get to see a few examples of what set him apart from his counterparts in any leadership position in the church. Brigham Young was able to see the living conditions of the Europeans and realize it was something many of them were unhappy with. He used the wide fruited plains and endless business opportunities of the American continent as the logic to back up the Jesus-y heartsell and hit prospects with a bilateral approach to the point that they’d be insane to not take him up on the offer. Brigham mastered salesmanship 101. He showed these people a problem they didn’t know they had, told them the solution to fix their problem, and then, to show his true genius, he followed up with a simple and practical pathway for them to fix what ails them.

This pathway to Mormon exaltation came in the form of the prototype for the perpetual emigration fund. Some of you may be aware that Bloody Brigham created the perpetual emigration fund in 1849 which funded the emigration of somewhere around 30,000 Mormons from Europe to Utah. It was a tightly constructed and monitoring program that plugged new Mormons right into a simple algorithm which ended with them entering the Salt Lake Valley with just enough personal provisions to establish themselves and contribute their extra property to the bishop’s storehouses, but absolutely nothing more.

The perpetual emigration fund would later become a bargaining chip the federal government used against the Mormons in the 1880s when they were trying to stamp out polygamy. What Bloody Brigham set up for the European immigrants in early 1841 was the alpha version. But, even this wasn’t Brigham’s first run in moving hundreds or thousands of people from one place to another. If we remember back to the 1839 exodus of the Mormons from Missouri to Illinois and Iowa, Brigham and Heber Creeper were the main leaders in coordinating all the necessary logistics to move something like 10,000 Mormons hundreds of miles. Brigham employed his skills acquired from a mere two years ago to build an immigration system to get thousands of Europeans to Nauvoo.

Back to Brodie’s No Man Knows My History page 265:

“Few apostles remained in Britain more than a year. But before they left their work in the hands of lesser men, they had organized an emigration system which became so well known for its honesty and efficiency that it was cited in the House of Commons as a model for other companies to follow. The Mormons set up an office, chartered their own ships, organized the emigrants so that there would be ample food and water, nad charged less than four pounds for the journey all the way to New Orleans.

Much of the credit for the success of the emigration system was due to Brigham Young, whose business head was one of the soundest in the church.”

As a result of this system Bloody Brigham had constructed, thousands of European immigrants made their way to America in the following years. From a little earlier on the same page out of Brodie’s book:

“Two hundred converts left England for Nauvoo in 1840. In 1841 the number jumped to 1,200 and the following year to 1,600. “They had rather be slaves in America than starve in this country,” wrote Parley Pratt. “I cannot keep them back.” By 1844 there were at least 8,000 more clamoring to leave.”

Let’s jump over to Brigham’s autobiography taken from his journal entries in order to see his perspective of the famously successful missionary efforts as the Quorum was preparing to depart Europe to return to Nauvoo. You’ll find a link to it in the show notes should you care to read it for yourself. Prior to what we’re about to read there are dozens of single-line entries listing the number of converts departing headed for New York or New Orleans, we’ll skip over those as they aren’t terribly consequential. We pick up during their early April conference when they ran into an old friend who was headed for the holy land.

“--5-- The Quorum of the Twelve met, and resolved that the 17th day of April be appointed for the Apostles who are going to America to set sail from Liverpool. It was also resolved that the Twelve do business at the conference as a quorum, and call upon the Church as a conference to sanction the same.

--6-- Attended conference with Elders Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Parley P. and Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, Willard Richards, John Taylor and Geo. [George] A. Smith. There were represented 5,814 members, 136 elders, 303 priests, 169 teachers and 68 deacons. Elder John Albiston was ordained to the office of patriarch. Ten high priests and twelve elders were also ordained. We had a good time.

--7-- Attended council with the Twelve. We blessed Elder O. [Orson] Hyde, who was on his mission to Jerusalem….

April 15.-- Elders O. [Orson] Pratt, W. [Willard] Richards, George A. Smith, Levi Richards and myself, having bid the Saints in Manchester good-bye, went to Liverpool, and arrived in time to attend a tea party at the Music-hall, where 200 Saints were seated at table together. I addressed the meeting a short time, and was followed by several of the Twelve. At the close of the party the Twelve met a few moments, and agreed to sail on Tuesday…

--20-- Elders H. [Heber] C. Kimball, O. [Orson] Pratt, W. Wilford] Woodruff, J. [John] Taylor, Geo. [George] A. Smith, W. [Willard] Richards and family, myself and a company of 130 Saints, went on board the ship Rochester, Captain Woodhouse, at Liverpool, for New York. We gave the parting hand to Elders O. [Orson] Hyde and P. [Parley] P. Pratt, and a multitude of Saints who stood upon the dock to see us start. We drew out into the river Mersey, and cast anchor in sight of Liverpool, where we spent the day and night.

It was with a heart full of thanksgiving and gratitude to God, my Heavenly Father, that I reflected upon his dealings with me and my brethren of the Twelve during the past year of my life, which was spent in England. It truly seemed a miracle to look upon the contrast between our landing and departing from Liverpool. We landed in the spring of 1840, as strangers in a strange land and penniless, but through the mercy of God we have gained many friends, established churches in almost every noted town and city in the kingdom of Great Britain, baptized between seven and eight thousand, printed 5,000 Books of Mormon, 3,000 Hymn Books, 2,500 volumes of the Millennial Star, and 50,000 tracts, and emigrated to Zion 1,000 souls, established a permanent shipping agency, which will be a great blessing to the Saints, and have left sown in the hearts of many thousands the seeds of eternal truth, which will bring forth fruit to the honor and glory of God, and yet we have lacked nothing to eat, drink or wear: in all these things I acknowledge the hand of God.”

Just like that, the majority of the Quorum of the Twelve, minus Orson L’Chydem and P-cubed Parley Parker Pratt, had concluded their mission in England and set sail for the United States. We’ll pick up on their trip in the coming weeks as we continue to progress through the spring into the summer of 1841.

Let’s talk about our newest nominee for a NaMo nickname. Wilford Woodruff was born in March 1807 and lived a fairly standard early life working in his father’s sawmill and flour mill. He joined the church on the last day of 1833 when the Saints were actively amidst being thrown out of Jackson County Missouri. In 1835 he left Kirtland for his first mission which covered Arkansas and Tennessee which happened after he’d been a member of the Zion’s Camp expedition. He was called to be an apostle in 1839, and eventually became a member of the Anointed Quorum and served as chaplain for the Nauvoo Legion. We won’t get too far ahead of ourselves here. I’ll just add that Wilford Woodruff was one of the foremost apocalyptists in the Presidency. He took after his forefather Joseph in that regard, chronicling natural disasters and preaching that the end is nigh at hand. But, I’m sure if you nailed him down and asked point-blank, when is the Lord coming to rule the earth and redeem Israel, he’d answer with something like, whenever it is the Lord’s will to return, we must have our lamps filled in preparation. In view of an ever-expanding timeline of the apocalypse, how about Whenever Wilford.

Wilford Woodruff also provides one of the best contemporary accounts of Mormon history with his incessant journal keeping. His journals have been cited thousands of times by hundreds of historians. He eventually became church historian and served in that capacity until he was called to be 4th president of the church in 1889. These journals have nearly daily entries since his baptism back in 1833 and if not for them we wouldn’t have any record of many prominent speeches given by church leaders. This guy spent nearly every waking moment writing, probably always had a little ink smudge on his nose that nobody bothered to tell him about. Ink and Quill Wil, I like that one.

How about we get a few quotes from the man:

If we are going to do away with polygamy, it would only be one feather in the bird, one ordinance in the Church and Kingdom. Do away with that, then we must do away with the prophets and apostles, with revelation and the gifts and graces of the Gospel, and finally give up our religion altogether.

Well, he died in hiding after he did away with polygamy by signing the 1890 manifesto, and you know he was well kept while in hiding. Scruffy Druffy fits the bill.

I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.

Almost every church leader thought he’d led them astray when he took polygamy off the table. He was Wayward Wilford to them, and he could be to us.

If you’d like to join in on the fun and play along with our NaMo nickname game, you can chime in with #NaMoNickname on twitter or chime in on Facebook, patreon, or any other social media on which our presence coincides, or you can write in to nakedmormonism@gmail.com. What do you think, Whenever Wilford, Ink and Quill Wil, Scruffy Druffy, or Wayward Wilford? Or, maybe you can be like Gazelam Ale and come up with something way better and I’ll arbitrarily select next week’s winner.

Let’s tie a bow on it for tonight by getting back to the central focus of today’s deep-dive, Brigham Young.

Bloody Brigham was nothing if not a cold and calculating businessman. He understood economics at a small level and was able to scale those concepts up to fabricate massive programs to move thousands of people thousands of miles in an organized fashion. Much can be said of Brigham Young and his legacy. The resounding fact remains, he saved the church multiple times when it was somehow in dire straits. He strikes me as the man Jo could go to and say, “brother Brigham, I have a problem, will you take care of it?” and Brigham would simply answer, “Consider it done brother Joseph.” And it would be.

Every major business needs a Brigham to survive. Jo was the ideas guy. He was the wacky CEO who was constantly surrounded by people smarter than him who would translate his crazy musings on how things should be into tangible actions. Every CEO needs that assistant who they can give the most obscure and complex task who will subsequently complete said task without asking questions or needing clarification. Keeping the Lion of the Lord in his position on the very edge of the spotlight is only an effective strategy for as long as he’s kept loyal and not incentivized to move up in the corporation anytime soon.

With his brilliance and ability to get done whatever he sets his mind to, Bloody Brigham doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who enjoys middle management forever.


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