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New book focuses on Latter-day Saint history in Illinois before 1839

From BYU Religious Studies Center

For many people interested in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the story of the Church in Illinois began in 1839 with the founding of Nauvoo, a belief that overlooks the rich history that encompasses the previous 10 years.

A new book published by the Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, “Mormon Thoroughfare: A History of the Church in Illinois, 1830-1839,” bridges that historical gap.

Illinois became a Latter-day Saint thoroughfare in 1830 when missionaries unexpectedly had to cross the state on their journey from Ohio to Missouri. This event helped make Illinois one of only four states to receive missionaries at that time: Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Peter Whitmer Jr., Ziba Peterson and Frederick G. Williams all served there.

In just five years, the Church became possibly the fourth largest religious body in the state. Thanks to the early missionary effort in Illinois, future apostle Charles C. Rich joined the Church and became a branch president. His conversion, as well as the trek of the original missionaries, is recounted in this volume.

The history of this state also includes the “Mormon War” and the march of Zion’s Camp. Also included are the accounts of Kirtland Camp and the Saints’ exodus from Missouri to Quincy, Ill. Both LDS and non-LDS perspectives are utilized to bring important events to light.

The authors are Marlene C. Kettley, a historian who grew up in Illinois, and Arnold K. Garr and Craig K. Manscill, BYU professors of Church history and doctrine.

For more information on the book, contact Arnold Garr, (801) 422-3363,

Writer: Stephanie Wilson

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