The Real Story Behind the Mormon Nauvoo Pageant


The Nauvoo Pageant is a yearly event here in Nauvoo put on by the Mormon Church.  It is a grand outdoor production that is very well done and draws thousands of Mormons and non-Mormons alike.

The performance and choreography are first class; however, the story line is pure “Faith Promoting” Mormon History.  Many half-truths are portrayed and some downright deceptions as well. In this issue of “The Midwest Expositor” I’ll attempt to address some of these items.

Since the “Pageant” opens with the character of Parley P. Pratt reminiscing about Nauvoo, let’s start with him.

Parley P. Pratt

Parley P. Pratt was one of the original Mormon Twelve Apostles.  Today’s Mormon History paints him as a real stalwart of the faith and a stellar example—he was anything but that!

Parley died at the hands of an outraged jealous husband, Hector McLean.  Parley had stolen McLean’s wife and married her while she was still married to McLean.  This woman, Eleanor McComb McLean, became Parley’s 12th wife.

In the closing scene of the pageant, Parley’s wife Mary Ann comes running out and his kids come running to him as they are to begin leaving for Salt Lake City.  At this point in history Parley had at least four other polygamous wives and Mary Ann had married Joseph Smith.  Why weren’t all the wives running out on stage?

Mary Ann found out that Parley had gone on a Mormon Mission and secretly married another wife, took her with him on his mission, and fathered a child with wife number 5, possibly while on this mission trip.

Mary Ann, before divorcing Parley, married Joseph Smith and became one of his polygamous wives.  She had a child in 1844 that was named Moroni, and is believed to have been fathered by Joseph Smith.

Parley was killed in May of 1857 by the outraged husband of his 12th polygamous wife, Eleanor McLean.  Parley had gone on a “missions” trip to San Francisco, where he first met Eleanor McLean.  She became infatuated with him.  Her husband, Hector, told Mormon Apostle Pratt to stay away from his wife.  “In the S. F. Bulletin of March 24, 1877, it is stated that the apostle made the acquaintance of Mrs. McLean while engaged in missionary work in San Francisco; that her husband, who was a custom-house official and a respectable citizen, ordered him to discontinue his visits, and kicked him out of the house for continuing them surreptitiously; and that the woman was so infatuated with the Mormon Elder that she devoutly washed his feet whenever he visited her.”  (Bancroft’s History of Utah, pg. 546)

When Parley left San Francisco and went back to Utah, Eleanor left her husband and children and followed him to Salt Lake City.  Eleanor, though still married to Hector, married Parley and became his 12th polygamous wife.

“At summer’s end in 1856, Pratt had left Utah with his new wife, the former Eleanor McLean, on a mission to the eastern states.  Eleanor was determined to reclaim her children, who were living in her parents’ mansion in New Orleans.”  (Blood of the Prophets, pg. 68)  When Pratt and his new wife Eleanor arrived in Missouri, they split up and she proceeded to New Orleans on her own.

“In New Orleans Eleanor told her parents ‘she had been to Utah and had been a teacher there, had boarded at Gov. Brigham Young’s, only boarded, had seen much suffering due to famine, and had seen also the error of her ways.  Said she had been mad.’  She still believed the Mormons were good people and that Young and his associates were true prophets, but she won the confidence of her parents.  One Saturday morning she spirited her children away and took them to Texas, hoping to rendezvous with Pratt.  She worked in Houston as a seamstress and on March 4, 1857, left the city with Elder James Gemmel to join a Utah-bound wagon train assembling in Ellis County.”  (Blood of the Prophets, pg. 69)

“McLean learned his wife was in Houston using the name Lucy R. Parker and set off in pursuit.  In Texas he intercepted a letter Pratt had sent to Eleanor, instructing her to ‘fly instantly’ northward and rendezvous with him on the Arkansas River.  ‘My carriage shall await you there if the Lord will,’ he promised.  Armed with Pratt’s instructions, McLean headed for Indian Territory…After a long pursuit McLean caught his wife in the Creek Nation and had her arrested.  Eleanor said he threw her on the ground and seized the children.”  (Blood of the Prophets, pg. 69)

Shortly after Eleanor was arrested, Pratt was caught and arrested as well.  He was taken to Fort Smith, Arkansas, and put on trial.  “The next morning before a packed courtroom, McLean related ‘the burden of [his] soul’s anguish.’  Some five hundred spectators listened to him implicate the scoundrel apostle, producing intense excitement.  Twice McLean thought the crowd would tear Pratt to pieces, but even he admitted he did not have sufficient evidence to convict his wife-and her-lover.

Fearing the mob would lynch his prisoner, the magistrate postponed the case twice.  The next morning he had Pratt’s horse brought to the jail and quietly released him.  McLean’s friends reported Pratt’s escape, and with two companions, McLean tracked the unarmed man.  On the western border of Arkansas, McLean shot and stabbed his rival from horseback and left him for dead.”  (Blood of the Prophets, pg. 70)

So, Parley P. Pratt was murdered by Hector McLean.  Do we condone such an action?  Never; but, on the flipside of the coin, Pratt was not a martyr for the cause of Mormonism—He was murdered because he became involved with another man’s wife and then attempted to steal his children.  Parley wasn’t a martyr; he was a scalawag!!

The other information about Parley marrying a woman that his first wife, Mary Ann Frost, didn’t know about; then took this new wife on a “missions trip” with him; and, Mary Ann becoming Joseph Smith’s wife and possibly having a child with him, was all new information to me.  It’s kind of an interesting pattern here isn’t it: marry a new wife and take her on a “missions trip”; this exact same pattern cost him his life.

“1846 Pratt exchanged strong words in the Nauvoo Temple with his brother Orson over Parley’s accusations that Orson’s wife Sarah was “ruining and breaking up his family.”  Orson, expelled from the temple, complained to Brigham Young about Parley’s alleged immorality:  “If he feels at liberty to go into the city of New York or elsewhere and seduce girls or females and sleep and have connexion [sic] with them contrary to the law of God, and the sacred counsels of his brethren, it is something that does not concern me.”  Orson was referring to Parley’s relations with Belinda Marden, to whom he had been secretly sealed on November 20, 1844.  At the time Belinda accompanied Pratt on a mission to New York, not even his wife, Mary Ann, was aware of the marriage.  When Belinda gave birth to a son (1846), Mary Ann asked Belinda if the child were illegitimate.  Told the truth, Mary Ann immediately severed her marital relationship with Pratt, though she did not divorce him until 1853, after coming to Utah.”  (A Book of Mormons, Van Wagoner and Walker, pg.221).

Let’s look at Mary Ann’s marriage to Joseph Smith, she being listed as Joseph’s 35th polygamous wife.  “The Nauvoo Temple Record states that in February 1846 Mary Ann Frost was sealed to Joseph Smith “for eternity,” her husband, Parley P. Pratt, standing as proxy.  This is the only reference I have found linking Mrs. Parley Pratt’s name to that of the prophet, but since nearly all of the wives sealed to Joseph Smith in Nauvoo temple had clearly been married to him during his lifetime, it may be assumed that Mrs. Pratt had also been.

Mary Ann Frost was born on January 11, 1809 at Groton, Vermont, and was married to Pratt on May 9, 1837.  Since she was in England with Pratt from the fall of 1840 to April 1843, it is unlikely that she became a plural wife of Joseph Smith before the latter date.  Her son, Moroni, born on December 7, 1844 may be added to the list of boys who might possibly have been sons of Joseph Smith.”  (No Man Knows My History, 1995, pg. 484)

Aunt Jane

One of the big things the Pageant highlights is a black woman, Sister Manning, arriving in Nauvoo; she and her family being destitute after the extreme journey.  At center stage, Joseph Smith puts his arm around her and says, (I’m paraphrasing here), “We’ll take care of you.  You’re safe with us.”  Of course, what is totally missing is the racist Mormon Doctrine on those of African descent.  Sharing the same stage with the black Sister Manning is Brigham Young and John Taylor, the 2nd and 3rd Mormon Prophets.  Let’s look at some statements by them about those of African descent.

Brigham Young said, “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race?  If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spotThis will always be so.”  (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 10, pg. 110)

John Taylor said, “And after the flood we are told that the curse that had been pronounced upon Cain was continued through Ham’s wife, as he had married a wife of that seed.  And why did it pass through the flood?  Because it was necessary that the Devil should have a representative upon the earth as well as God.”  (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 22, pg. 304)

Has the Mormon Church ever denounced these racist statements or rescinded its doctrine on the inferiority of blacks based upon its “Pre-existence” doctrine? No, it has not!

The real zinger here about Sister Manning that is totally left out of the Pageant, is that she tried her whole life to be allowed to go through the Mormon temple to receive her “Endowment” as the white folk were allowed to do.  She died not being allowed the ability to accomplish that event; however, the First Presidency of the Mormon Church did allow her a special ceremony where she was sealed to Joseph Smith as his servant for eternity: “Instead the First Presidency “decided she might be adopted into the family of Joseph Smith as a servant, which was done, a special ceremony having been prepared for the purpose.”  The minutes of the Council of Twelve Apostles continued, “But Aunt Jane was not satisfied with this, and as a mark of dissatisfaction she applied again after this for sealing blessings, but of course in vain.”  (Black Saints in a White Church, pp. 40-41)

I find it quite disingenuous of the Mormon Church to make such a big play of Joseph Smith and Jane Manning, this early black Latter-day Saint.  The Mormon Church is trying very hard to rewrite their racist history and discriminatory doctrine concerning those of African descent.  The truth is, this woman and her family were never treated as equals as the Pageant attempts to imply, and each time she applied to be allowed to participate in the Mormon Temple Ceremonies she was denied.  The Paul Harvey, “rest of the story” is that she was given the privilege to become Joseph Smith’s slave for eternity.  Now, I wonder why the Mormon Church leaves that part out of the Pageant?

The “Exodus”

At the end of the Pageant a very heart-wrenching statement is made that the Mormons only had four hours notice to pack their things and leave Nauvoo in the dead of winter.  I totally agree that the Mormons suffered terribly in their departure of Nauvoo and their trek across Southern Iowa in the dead of winter.  There is simply no question about that; however, what is the whole story here, instead of the rewritten history designed to gender up sympathy?

All of the mayors of the towns around Nauvoo had agreed with the Mormon leadership to keep their people under control, as it had been proposed, and agreed, that the Mormons would leave Nauvoo after the spring thaw.  So, why did the Mormons leave in the dead of winter in February, instead of waiting until the spring thaw as previously agreed?  “Warrants pending for the arrest of Brigham Young and other leaders on charges of counterfeiting were among the reasons for the early departure of the Saints from the ‘city of Joseph’ in February rather than in the spring as originally proposed.”  (Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1968, pg. 215)

If Mormonism is true, why does it have to hide behind half-truths and lies?  The Bible doesn’t hide the faults of David and others—it tells the truth.  Why can’t Mormonism do the same?  It can’t, because it isn’t true and it has to rewrite its history to prevent its members from finding out the truth!

Joseph Smith – How Many Wives?

Several times during the Pageant, Joseph Smith is onstage with Emma, his first wife, reflecting on what is happening in Nauvoo.  The interaction between him and Emma is always so endearing.  My question is, why weren’t all the other 48 wives of Joseph onstage so that Joseph, Emma, and all the other wives could have a family council?  When Joseph Smith died, June 27, 1844, he had at least 49 wives.  Even Mormon scholars admit at least 33 wives and most grudgingly agree on the 49; however, to the day he died, Joseph Smith stood publicly and absolutely denied that neither he, nor any other Mormon was practicing polygamy, and that was simply a lie.  Isn’t it interesting that the “Prophet of the Restoration” is a documented liar?

Fawn Brodie’s book “No Man Knows My History” clearly lays out documented facts concerning Joseph Smith’s polygamous ways that weren’t even hinted about in the Nauvoo Pageant.  If the following information came out today in a documentary about some man in the United States, he would be arrested as a sexual predator.  The below quote is quite repulsive concerning Joseph Smith and his polygamous wives: “It will be seen that at least twelve were married women (with living husbands), although the evidence for Mrs. Levi Hancock is only word-of-mouth tradition in the Hancock family.  The ages of Joseph’s wives varied all the way from the fifteen years of Helen Mar Kimball, daughter of Heber C. Kimball, to the fifty-nine years of Rhoda Richards, spinster sister of Joseph’s secretary Willard Richards.

The prophet married five pairs of sisters: De1cena and Almera Johnson, Eliza and Emily Partridge, Sarah and Maria Lawrence, Mary Ann and Olive Grey Frost, and Prescindia and Zina Huntington.  Patty and Sylvia Sessions were mother and daughter.

The majority of the prophet’s wives fall into three general categories: first, the group of married women to whom Joseph was sealed between 1838 and the expulsion of Bennett in June 1842; and second, the leading women in the Nauvoo Relief Society, who were married to the prophet during the furor that followed Bennett’s departure.”  (No Man Knows My History, pp. 336-337)

I need to interject a comment here.  Part of the Nauvoo Pageant was to make a big deal of the establishment of the Women’s Organization called the “Nauvoo Relief Society,” to try to show how women have an important role in Mormonism.  The Nauvoo Pageant played up the establishment of this women’s organization, with their stated purpose to bring relief to the families of Nauvoo that were in need.  I won’t argue that this was not a noble cause; however, the Mormon Church conveniently leaves off the fact that a large number of the women represented on stage became Joseph’s polygamous wives.  That little fact was completely left out of the “Pageant.”  This is so sad.  Thirteen million people are placing their eternities on the validity of the history put forth in this pageant—which is an edited, distorted, falsified history.  It is not the truth.  Let me pick up the quote again with the 3rd group of Joseph’s wives.

“The third group consists of the dozen or more unmarried women whom he married in the spring and summer of 1843.  Most of them were quite young.  Helen Mar Kimball was fifteen; Nancy Mariah Winchester (who may be identical with Nancy Maria Smith) was fifteen or sixteen; Lucy walker, Sarah Lawrence and Flora Ann Woodworth were seventeen.  Maria Lawrence and Melissa Lott were nineteen.  Six of the girls Joseph took as wives lived at various times as wards in his own home.  These were the Partridge sisters, the Lawrence sisters, Eliza R. Snow, and Lucy Walker.  One of these, the seventeen-year-old Lucy Walker, who had moved into the prophet’s home after the death of her mother, described Joseph’s whirlwind courtship.”  (No Man Knows My History, pp. 336-337)

I could go on for several more pages about Joseph’s polygamous marriages, and believe you me, some of them are quite scandalous; however, I’ll leave that for books like Fawn Brodie’s: No Man Knows My History.

God Was Once A Man

For those who have seen the Nauvoo Pageant in either of the past two summer’s performances, you will remember the scene where the fellow is digging the ditch to drain the swamp of Nauvoo and this big fellow is poking fun at him.  The name of the fellow who was digging the ditch was “King Follet.”  One of the last scenes in the Pageant was Joseph Smith speaking at King Follet’s funeral.  The scene has Joseph talking about seeing his “brother” again in the next life.

The part of the story the Pageant conveniently leaves out is that this funeral discourse has been one of the most controversial sermons Joseph Smith ever delivered.  This is the sermon where Joseph Smith declared that God was once a man: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!  That is the great secret…It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.  Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you…”  (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. pp. 345-346)

It’s no wonder the Mormon Church leaves those statements out of the Pageant.  If they had them in the play and a Christian in the audience heard them, they would instantly know that the Mormon Church’s doctrine of God is at complete odds with Christianity.

Joseph The Martyr?

The next point I want to cover are the legal charges that caused Joseph’s arrest and placed him in jail in Carthage, Illinois.  This arrest and confinement ultimately led to the mob rushing the jail and murdering him and his brother. Hyrum.

The first year of the new Nauvoo Pageant the script said Joseph and Hyrum were taken to jail on “simple charges.”  The second year of the Pageant, this line was changed to “false charges.”  The truth is that a newspaper, “The Nauvoo Expositor,” which was printed in the building where Kraus’s Furniture Store now stands, was printed in Nauvoo by ex-Mormons that had been in Mormon Leadership.  This paper exposed the fact Joseph Smith and many others in senior Mormon leadership were actively practicing polygamy privately, but denying it publicly.

The Nauvoo Expositor printed only one issue.  Joseph Smith acting in his capacity as Mayor of Nauvoo, backed by his City Council, declared the newspaper a “nuisance,” and therefore ordered it destroyed.  Over 200 Mormons stormed the Nauvoo Expositor building pulling the presses and all other materials into the street and burning them.  Joseph and Hyrum Smith were charged with “Treason,” and John Taylor and Willard Richards were charged with “Inciting a Riot.”  Ordering the destruction of a newspaper in the State of Illinois, whether in 1844 or 2007, remains illegal.  There’s this minor technicality called the 1st Amendment.  So, for the Mormon Church to allow the script to say that the charges were “simple” or “false” is a deliberate deception on their part.  If the President of the United States was to order the destruction of the New York Times or the Washington Post because they printed information about him that he didn’t like, he would be brought up on charges, and rightfully so!

While they were in jail a mob rushed the jail and murdered Joseph and Hyrum.  That was an egregious act of brutality and lawlessness that was absolutely wrong and should never have happened.  On the other hand, the Mormon Church promotes Joseph’s arrest as “a lamb being led to the slaughter.”  This is absolutely blasphemous.  Jesus was the only Lamb that was ever led to slaughter.  He was innocent and went of his own free will knowing he was going to be our sinless sacrifice.

I have been at the Carthage jail, where Joseph and Hyrum were killed, and have personally heard the Mormon Missionaries acting as tour guides describe the room where Joseph was killed as their “Calvary.”  What an atrocious statement, making Joseph Smith equal to Jesus.  The fact is that Joseph was guilty of ordering the destruction of the “Nauvoo Expositor.”  It is terrible that mob justice was executed; however, what you don’t hear at the Carthage Jail is that Joseph had a pepper box pistol in his possession and discharged all six barrels into the onrushing mob.  Three barrels misfired; nonetheless, Joseph is credited with killing two and wounding a third.  “He, however, instantly arose, and with a firm, quick step, and a determined expression of countenance, approached the door, and pulling the six-shooter left by Brother Wheelock from his pocket, opened the door slightly, and snapped the pistol six successive times; only three of the barrels, however, were discharged.  I afterwards understood that two or three were wounded by these discharges.  Two of whom, I am informed, died.”  (History of the Church. Vol. 7, pp. 102-­103)

Does this sound like a lamb being led to the slaughter?  Have you ever heard of a martyr dying in a blazing gun battle?  Mormonism rewrites its history to be “faith promoting” instead of telling the truth.  Thirteen million people today have been fed a falsified history of Joseph Smith and the origins of their church.  What is reality and what is myth are very different and 13 million people are trusting their eternities on a myth.  How sad!!

Folks, we are on the front lines.  Every night of the Pageant we will be down at the Pageant site witnessing and passing out tracts to both the Mormons and the non-Mormons who attend.  We will be opposed; of that there is no doubt.  Keep us in your prayers for safety and the strength and fortitude to stand tall for Jesus Christ in the midst of a cult stronghold.  Our ministry isn’t easy, but it is so needed.

Article by Rocky and Helen Hulse, Issue No. 25 July 2007, “The Midwest Expositor” publication of Mormon Missions Midwest This article was reprinted and reposted on our website by permission.

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