01 August 2012

Joseph: Anointed King, Priest, and Ruler over Israel on Earth

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, 2003, Excerpts

A month after breaking out of jail in Missouri, Joseph Smith surveyed the shore along this majestic bend in the Mississippi River and resolved that the Kingdom of God’s capital city would be erected precisely here, in Hancock County, Illinois. Nauvoo is a small, tidy town with little on its surface to distinguish it from hundreds of other small, tidy towns that freckle the American landscape. Within five years more than fifteen hundred thousand of the Lord’s Elect were living in and around Nauvoo making it the second-largest municipality in Illinois. From nothing, the Saints created a city that rivaled Chicago.

As an unintended consequence, Illinois set Joseph up as de facto emperor of his own autonomous city-state. He had himself officially anointed “King, Priest, and Ruler over Israel on Earth.” He commanded a well-armed and rigorously disciplined militia, the Nauvoo Legion, which boasted nearly half as many men as the entire American Army at the time, and then, eager for still for military power, he petitioned the U.S. Congress for authorization to establish a one-hundred-thousand-man fighting force under his personal control. Congress thought better of granting this latter request, but Joseph was on a roll nevertheless.

In January 1844 Joseph announced his candidacy for president of the United States. An argument can be made that Joseph ran for president because he had come to believe that it was the only way his Saints were ever going to gain state protection from the terrible persecutions they had been subjected to wherever they had attempted to live.

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