Learning to Love
Doctrine and Covenants

Section 125: Iowa Saints By Michael J. Preece

Section 125: Iowa Saints

As saints from all over the United States, Canada, and the British Isles gathered to Nauvoo, some of them settled across the Mississippi River in the Iowa territory where land was inexpensive. Towns sprang up such as Montrose, Zarahemla, Ambrosia, Augusta, Nashville, and Keokuk. Two stakes were organized, the first in October 1839 in Zarahemla, with President John Smith, the Prophet’s uncle, as president. With the increasing emphasis on Nauvoo as a gathering place, however, the question was raised as to whether or not the Iowa saints should move across the river into Nauvoo. Perhaps this question was brought to a head because of D&C 124:25 which was the Lord’s command for all the saints to gather in Nauvoo to build the temple.

In March 1841, Joseph inquired of the Lord as to his will concerning the Iowa saints. Should they move across the river to join the rest of the saints, or should they stay in Iowa?

The Lord’s answer was that the saints should remain in Iowa and build up the stakes there. Within a few months, however, some legal problems arose concerning ownership of the lands in Iowa, and Joseph recommended that the Iowa saints move across the river to Nauvoo. Many did so, but some chose to stay in Iowa where they had built their homes. The stake organizations were dissolved in Iowa, and the saints remaining there were organized into branches.

1 What is the will of the Lord concerning the saints in the Territory of Iowa?

2 Verily, thus saith the Lord, I say unto you, if those who call themselves by my name and are essaying to be my saints, if they will do my will and keep my commandments concerning them, let them gather themselves together unto the places which I shall appoint unto them by my servant Joseph, and build up cities unto my name, that they may be prepared for that which is in store for a time to come.

verse 2 “are essaying to be my saints” Websters 1828 Dictionary defines essaying as “trying, making an effort, attempting.”

“gather . . . unto the places which I shall appoint unto them by my servant Joseph” The Lord reminds the saints of the importance of following his prophet even in practical secular matters as where they should settle (“gather”).

3 Let them build up a city unto my name upon the land opposite the city of Nauvoo, and let the name of Zarahemla be named upon it.

verse 3 “let the name of Zarahemla be named upon it” Actually the settlement called Zarahemla had been founded in 1839, and the prophet Joseph had recommended the name. Here the Lord merely gives his approval of the name.

4 And let all those who come from the east, and the west, and the north, and the south, that have desires to dwell therein, take up their inheritance in the same, as well as in the city of Nashville, or in the city of Nauvoo, and in all the stakes which I have appointed, saith the Lord.

verse 4 “Nashville” The village of Nashville was located in Iowa, across the river from Nauvoo, and a little south of Zarahemla. Nashville and Zarahemla were used as gathering places for the saints as they fled from Nauvoo and as stopping points for the members as they gathered to Winter Quarters and then traveled on to Salt Lake City.

Brief Historical Setting

1841 April

In April 1841, Joseph, who enjoyed ceremony and celebration, directed a day of enthusiastic display with many non-Mormon guests from surrounding towns looking on. The fourteen companies of the Nauvoo Legion drilled and paraded with Joseph commanding in his splendid lieutenant-general’s uniform. The cornerstone of the Nauvoo Temple was laid. One observer, Thomas C. Sharp, the editor of the Warsaw (Illinois) Signal saw something ominous in the marshal display, and he returned home to open a determined campaign against the Mormon presence in Illinois.

1841 July

In July 1841, Brigham Young arrived home from his mission in England. He had served several missions for the Church since his conversion in 1832. In a personal revelation received by Joseph, Brigham Young was told to remain home and assist the First Presidency [D&C 126 -Brigham Young].

By the late summer of 1842, Nauvoo was beginning to prosper, and its fame was spreading throughout the country. Nauvoo’s population, by this time, was between eight and nine thousand, and except for Chicago it was the largest town in the state of Illinois.

- Michael J. Preece