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Mormonism: Guide to Materials and Resources: Early History (1805-1846)

The Special Collections & Archives department of the Merrill-Cazier Library contains a multitude of useful resources relating to Mormonism. This guide will provide an introduction to some of the materials, as well as additional resources.

Early History (1805-1846)

The early history of Mormonism begins with the birth of Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in 1805 and ends with the departure of many Latter-day Saints from Nauvoo, Illinois in 1846. This time period is comprised of many events that continue to define Mormonism today, including:

  • The publishing of the Book of Mormon
  • The organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • The building of the first temples
  • The persecution of the Saints, and
  • The death of Joseph Smith.

Many non-LDS groups, such as the Strangites and Bickertonites originated during this time.

The Special Collections & Archives collection has a number of resources from this time period. Journals and autobiographies provide rich primary sources on a variety of topics, such as marriage or early persecution of the church and its members. Foundational Mormon texts, including varying editions of the Book of Mormon, collections of scenes and sermons, and some periodicals and pamphlets are also available. Listed below are primary sources for this time period. Special Collections and the library also hold a number of secondary sources that can be found in the catalogue. 

Journals & Autobiographies

Some of the most valuable resources in this collection are in the form of journals or autobiographies. These first-person accounts offer valuable insight into the personal lives of people who have been associated with Mormonism over the last two centuries. 

Persecution & Appeals

Beginning in the 1830s, those who practiced Mormonism faced a significant amount of opposition both from the communities in which they lived and from governmental organizations. Special Collections & Archives houses several texts that document aspects of this persecution, including anti-Mormon writings and various appeals or requests for aid made by Mormon leaders.

Early Mormon Life


Non-LDS Group Publications

Between 1830-1844, at least ten religious groups separated from Joseph Smith's Church of Christ and formed independent non-LDS churches, with additional dispersion taking place after Smith's death. Pamphlets, periodicals, journals, or sermons from these groups can give valuable insight into life during this time period, as well as conflict and discussion regarding beliefs between different groups.

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