Doctrine & Covenants/Church History
Lesson 29
Building the Kingdom of God in Nauvoo, Illinois

Lesson Highlights

A study of this lesson will teach us about how the early Saints worked to build the kingdom of God in Nauvoo and to encourage us to follow their example.

Scripture references for study:  D&C 124:1–21, 87–90, 97–110; 126; Our Heritage, pages 51–52, 55–58, 61–62
    Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked to the LDS Scriptures at and will open in a new window.

Lesson 29 Handout (PDF)

A Refuge In Illinois

The move to Illinois.

The Prophet escapes.

 The Saints fled toward Quincy, Illinois, on the Mississippi River, during the months the Prophet was in jail.

The Twelve In England

According to prophecy (D&C 118:5), five members of the Twelve and twenty Saints gathered at the temple site in Far West to take leave for their missions to England.

The Twelve did not actually leave from Illinois for their missions until later that summer due to sickness and the efforts of settling their families in Illinois.

In England.

The mission of the Twelve to England lasted just over one year.

Nauvoo - The City Beautiful

Joseph and Sidney visit Washington, D.C.

The Mormons lobbied the Illinois state legislature for approval of a charter for the city of Nauvoo.

The Nauvoo community grew quickly. In July, 1841, Heber C. Kimball wrote a letter to Parley P. Pratt describing the growth of the city: "When we got in sight of Nauvoo we were surprised to see what improvements had been made since we left home. You know there were not more than thirty buildings in the city when we left about two years ago, but at this time there are twelve hundred, and hundreds of others in progress which will be finished soon" (Life of Heber C. Kimball, p313).

D&C 124 - Instructions

By the time Section 124 was given to the Prophet on January 19, 1841, Nauvoo had become the center of the Church and about 3,000 people were living here.

READ D&C 124:2-3, 7-8.

READ D&C 124:15.

READ D&C 124:16-17. John C. Bennett counseled to stand by the Prophet.

READ D&C 124:22-23. Command to build the Nauvoo House.

In D&C 124: 84-118 the Spirit of Revelation speaks to various individuals giving counsel, instructions, encouragement or warning, and reproof, as each case may require.

Verses 123-145: Various officers in the Church identified and appointed.

See Organizing the Church in Nauvoo at for additional background information.

The Relief Society Organized

In 1842, Sarah Kimball offered to furnish material if the seamstress, Miss Cook, would make shirts for the workmen at the Nauvoo Temple. Other women became interested in the project and suggested that they organize a society for this purpose. Eliza R. Snow was asked to draft a constitution and by-laws which would be submitted to the Prophet for approval.

March 17, 1842:  Eighteen women gathered in the room over the Prophet's brick store and he organized them into a society. The Prophet was assisted by John Taylor and Willard Richards. Among the women present were Emma Smith, Elizabeth Ann Whitney, Sarah Kimball, and Eliza R. Snow.

In a latter meeting of the society, Joseph Smith counseled the sisters:

"The Relief Society was immediately popular. Attendance became too large for a single meeting, so under Emma Smith's direction sessions were rotated through each of the city's four ecclesiastical wards. Membership by September 1842 was 1,142, and enrollment increased by another 200 during the next eighteen months. At these meetings, Emma Smith emphasized the society's charge to improve community morals by teaching sexual purity. Her counselors, Sarah M. Cleveland and Elizabeth Ann Whitney, typically addressed the need to seek out the poor, widows, and the sick. At each meeting, the sisters would donate to a central store of goods for use by the presidency in clothing and feeding those in need. Recipients of such compassionate service were identified during these same Relief Society gatherings in reports from those who had been assigned to visit the homes. The meetings also included reminders of the need to develop personal spirituality by studying the scriptures, praying, and living the commandments. The Nauvoo Relief Society was discontinued in the spring or early summer of 1844, but the organization was later revived in the Salt Lake Valley." (Story of the Latter-day Saints, pp175-176)

In 1995, when interviewed by Mike Wallace, President Hinckley made the following statement:  "Women have a tremendous place in this Church. They have their own organization. It was started in 1842 by the Prophet Joseph Smith, called the Relief Society, because its initial purpose was to administer help to those in need. It has grown to be the largest women's organization in the world, with a membership of more than three million. They have their own officers, their own presidency, their own board. That reaches down to the smallest unit of the Church everywhere in the world." (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p545)

See Something Better: The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo at for additional information.

Gospel Doctrine Notebook

Record your thoughts on the remarkable events discussed in this lesson. What things can you do to help build up the kingdom of God?

Resources Used In This Lesson

A Comprehensive History of the Church by B.H. Roberts (CHC).

Church History and Modern Revelation by Joseph Fielding Smith (CHMR).

Essentials In Church History by Joseph Fielding Smith.

History of the Church (HC).

Joseph Smith and the Restoration by Ivan J. Barrett.

Life of Heber C. Kimball by Orson F. Whitney.

Men With A Mission, 1837-1841: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the British Isles by James B. Allen, David J. Whittaker, and Ronald K. Esplin.

Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie.

Messages of the First Presidency, Volume 1, compiled by James R. Clark.

Remarkable Stories From the Lives of Latter-day Saint Women by Leon R. Hartshorn.

Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley.

The Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star.

The Story of the Latter-day Saints by James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard.

Times & Seasons.

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Changes last made on:  22 May 2017