Return to the City of Joseph

Modern Mormonism's Contest for the Soul of Nauvoo

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Scott C. Esplin
  • Champaign: 
    University of Illinois Press
    , November
     248 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


In the mid-twentieth century, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) returned to Nauvoo, Illinois, home to the thriving religious community led by Joseph Smith before his murder in 1844. The quiet farm town became a major Mormon heritage site visited annually by tens of thousands of people. Yet Nauvoo's dramatic restoration proved fraught with conflicts.

Scott C. Esplin's social history looks at how Nauvoo's different groups have sparred over heritage and historical memory. The Latter-day Saint project brought it into conflict with the Community of Christ, the midwestern branch of Mormonism that had kept a foothold in the town and a claim on its Smith-related sites. Non-Mormon locals, meanwhile, sought to maintain the historic place of ancestors who had settled in Nauvoo after the Latter-day Saints' departure. Examining the recent and present-day struggles to define the town, Esplin probes the values of the local groups while placing Nauvoo at the center of Mormonism's attempt to carve a role for itself within the greater narrative of American history.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Scott C. Esplin is a professor of religious education at Brigham Young University and a coeditor of Far Away in the West: Reflections on the Mormon Pioneer Trail.


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