An account of Mormon founder Joseph Smith's construction of a new city for his followers on the banks of the Mississippi River in Illinois, Nauvoo, which at its height surpassed Chicago's population with 12,000 inhabitants. A university history professor, Park shows the ways in which Mormons were representative of their era, elevating 19th century Mormon history into the American mainstream.
The 2016 opening to historians of Mormon archives about Nauvoo enables Park to name names and assign dates to the events leading up to the Mormon cataclysm. He fashions a dense, exciting, and absorbing narrative of the most consequential and dramatic movement to dissent against and secede from the Constitutional republic before the Civil War.
In Kingdom of Nauvoo, historian Benjamin E. Park has a wild story to tell ... Mr. Park is a smooth writer and a careful historian—at times, too careful—who is blessed here with an overabundance of fascinating material ... Mormon historians have finally come to grips with polygamy in the past quarter-century, and Mr. Park isn’t bringing much new to the table here. If anything, he sounds slightly protective at times ... Mr. Park adeptly describes [Joseph] Smith’s cautious acceptance of female authority on the frontier and Brigham Young’s reactionary rejection of it ... Mr. Park is sharp and unsparing in his account of the church’s initial acceptance, and later humiliation, of its very few black members during the Nauvoo era and its aftermath ... Too often, Mr. Park seems to be pulling his punches when describing [Smith].
Park’s book is a compelling history, built from contemporaneous accounts and from the previously unreleased minutes of the Council of Fifty, a governing body of sorts that Smith convened in Nauvoo, Illinois, when he was feeling besieged by his enemies and anticipating the Second Coming of Christ ... Park’s access to these minutes is part of what makes Kingdom of Nauvoo so illuminating.