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‘CHURCH’S SURVIVAL DEPENDED UPON EXODUS FROM NAUVOO’

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Despite wilderness adversities, external misunderstanding, opposition, persecution, and internal feuding, the Latter-day Saints not only survived as a people and as a Church but more, they overcame.

It is easy for modern readers to underestimate the stakes involved. Once the decision had been made to quit Nauvoo and head West, there was absolutely no turning back. Either they make it to wherever they were going in the tops of the Rockies, or the Church would likely disintegrate. There were enough Strangites, Rigdonites, Lyman Wight supporters, and sympathizers with other possible contenders to Joseph's mantle that had the trek come to ruin, the distraught, disorganized, and disgruntled remnants would have been easy pickings.The commitment to leave Nauvoo and to leave the environs of their Missouri detractors was unalterable. Rather die in the wilderness than on the streets of Nauvoo or the fields of Missouri. If Nauvoo had ever been the salvation of the Church, to stay there any longer would surely have been its condemnation. As Brigham Young confided:

"I feel as though Nauvoo will be filled with all manner of abominations. It is no place for the saints; and the Spirit whispers to me that the brethren had better get away as fast as they can. . . . I hope the brethren will not have trouble there, but the dark clouds of sorrow are gathering fast over that place."

The opposition was too deep and the persecutions too real to allow for any possible accommodation with Jacksonian America. It was for the "survival of the Church," as Brigham Young said on different occasions, that the Latter-day Saints had to leave Illinois. - "Forging Identity out of Exigency: Exploring the Heritage of the Exodus," Richard E. Bennett, University of Manitoba Archives