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When the Saints Left Nauvoo for the Rocky Mountains

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When the Saints Left Nauvoo for the Rocky Mountains

Dena Kennedy

A Circular of The High Council. To the Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and to All Whom It May Concern. Nauvoo, 1846.

In late 1845, the leadership of the church had still not made a definitive decision on where the Saints would move. A variety of locations had been considered and several had become favorites. The publications of Lansford W. Hastings, John C. Fremont and others had been consulted and the Times and Seasons for November and December had suggested the Pacific coast would be their destination. But even as late as December 26 Brigham Young had written to Samuel Brannan in New York and indicated that the destination was still undecided. So it appears that in January 1846 not only did the general membership of the church not know for sure where they would be moving but church leadership was not certain either. But by January 20 the Nauvoo High Council issued this broadside stating that:

"We...embrace this opportunity to inform you, that we intend to send out into the Western country from this place, some time in the early part of the month of March, a company of pioneers...Our pioneers are instructed to proceed West until they find a good place to make a crop, in some good valley in the neighborhood of the Rocky Mountains..."

This is the first public announcement of the Mormons' intention to establish a settlement in the Great Basin rather than somewhere on the west coast. But less than two weeks later the plans for a March exodus had to be altered. On January 29 rumors began to circluate that state troops intended to arrest certain Mormons leaders. This along with a letter from Sam Brannan to Brigham Young suggesting that the federal government was planning to confiscate the saints' arms and prevent them from leaving, convinced the church leadership to leave immediately. So on February 4, 1846 the first wagons ferried across the Mississippi River and the evacuation of Nauvoo was on.