Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Willard Richards, who were acting as a presidency over the affairs of the Church in the United States, directed the exodus from Nauvoo. They were not yet the Church’s First Presidency. It was not until after the 1847 trek that they were sustained by the Church membership as the First Presidency of the Church.
The first group of Saints to leave Nauvoo with the Church leaders, known as the Camp of Israel, was the decision-making group for the entire exodus.
Willard Richards was a missionary in England, secretary to Joseph Smith, Apostle, Church Historian, and later a counselor to Brigham Young.
In early February 1846, the first members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints crossed the Mississippi River and began their journey west. They were forced to start several months earlier than planned due to threats of harassment and interference.
Over the next eight months, between 12 and 15 thousand Latter-day Saints left Nauvoo and its surrounding settlements.
The Saints established two way stations, Garden Grove and Mount Pisgah, midway across Iowa. These temporary settlements provided a place to rest and renew provisions. In Nauvoo, the Saints had pledged that none who wanted to come would be left behind because of need. The creation of these way stations fulfilled that promise.
The formation of the Mormon Battalion secured much-needed financial support for the Saints.
April 13, 1847
“Elder John Taylor . . . arrived in the city . . . on his return from England. . . . He brought the following instruments for our use on this pioneer journey: two [sextants], two barometers, two artificial horizons, one circle of reflection, one telescope . . . all of which were exhibited to us in the evening and boxed up so that we could take them along.”
Using the equipment John Taylor brought from England, Orson Pratt contributed his skills to the first pioneer trek west as a scout, natural scientist, and surveyor.
April 17, 1847
“Orders from Gen. Young was for the whole regiment to journey in a copacked body as we were in an Indian country for every man to carry his gun loaded . . . And for every man to walk beside his wagon and not leave it except he is sent away.”
April 20, 1847
“After Brother Luke Johnson had got through distributing fish, I went and asked him to draw my tooth. He willingly agreed and getting his instruments, I sat down in a chair, he lanced the gum, then took his nippers and jerked it out. The whole operation did not take more than one minute.” —William Clayton
July 8, 1847
“As soon as I got my breakfast I rigged up my trout rod that I had brought with me from Liverpool, fixed by reel, line, and artificial fly, and went to one of the brooks close by camp to try my luck catching trout.”
July 23, 1847
“I ascended and crossed over the Big Mountain . . . so that I could have a view of a portion of Salt Lake Valley. The Spirit of Light rested upon me and hovered over the valley, and I felt that there the Saints would find protection and safety.”