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Early Mormon Church History
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also referred to as the Mormon Church) was formally established on April 6, 1830 in upstate New York by Joseph Smith, Jr. There were just 6 original members of the church – an inauspicious start for a religious organization whose membership would be numbered in the millions and whose reach would extend around the globe over the next century and a half.

As a result of strong and persistent proselytizing efforts the ranks of membership grew very rapidly in the formative years of the fledgling church. Many of the early converts came from Europe, seeking freedom, refuge and fellowship with the existing body of Latter-day Saints in the new land of opportunity – America. Unfortunately, the rapid growth of the church gave rise to tensions between early members of the church and the surrounding communities in which they resided. As the close knit society of saints began to prosper in their newfound communities, economic resentments arose as neighboring populations considered the success of the Mormon community a true threat to their own livelihood and economic security. These sentiments combined with a healthy degree of religious intolerance fanned the flames of tension. Minor disagreements soon escalated into full-blown conflicts accompanied by physical violence. Eventually these early saints felt compelled, and in some cases were forced to relocate to more hospitable environments. Unfortunately, they were plagued by a continuation of these earlier travails resulting in a frequent series of settlements and exoduses until they finally found a permanent refuge in Utah.

From Upstate New York the early saints first moved to Kirtland, Ohio, where they constructed their first temple. From Kirtland they were driven to Far West and Independence, Missouri. Fleeing Missouri, they developed a significant and prosperous community in Nauvoo, Illinois, on the banks of the Mississippi River. For a time the Latter-day Saints found peace in Nauvoo and established a thriving and important center of commerce on the western fringes of the United States. Unfortunately, their success was short lived. During their stay in Nauvoo, their leader, Joseph Smith, Jr. and several other prominent church leaders were imprisoned in the nearby Carthage jail. While in the jail at Carthage, an angry and violent mob burst into the jail at gunpoint and assassinated Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith. Several of the other imprisoned church leaders suffered wounds but survived to tell the story.

The murder of the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith seemed to embolden the enemies of the church who began to systematically threaten and terrorize the citizens of Nauvoo. Overwhelmed by the mounting threats and escalating violence and lacking the strong leadership of their fallen prophet, the beleaguered Latter-day Saints once again were compelled to leave behind, homes, properties, and the newly constructed Nauvoo Temple. Carrying what modest provisions they could reasonably load onto wagons and handcarts, they crossed the frozen Mississippi and headed yet further west toward the Rocky Mountains.