‘Mormon Land’: Theocracy, secret polygamy, female dissent, and Nauvoo’s place in the nation’s past and a religion’s present

(Photo courtesy Utah State Historical Society) Nauvoo, Illinois.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may think they know all about Nauvoo, the Illinois city on the banks of the Mississippi River that blossomed into their faith’s headquarters from 1839 to 1846.

There, Mormons built a fast-growing city-state that rivaled Chicago. There, they established a militia. There, they built their second temple. And there, they buried their beloved prophet.

But few know that during those Nauvoo years, church leaders worked to rewrite the U.S. Constitution even as Mormon founder Joseph Smith ran for U.S. president. Few know how polygamy emerged even as Smith worked to conceal and control it and how he struggled even mightier to win converts to these unorthodox unions, especially in his own household. His brother Hyrum, who was slain with him at Carthage, for instance, went from a vehement opponent of plural marriage to a zealous proponent almost overnight, while Joseph’s first wife, Emma, only occasionally veered from her disdain for the practice.

Historian Benjamin Park, author of the newly released “Kingdom of Nauvoo: The Rise and Fall of a Religious Empire on the American Frontier,” sheds new light on those subjects and more in this week’s podcast.

Listen here: