• Kingdom of Nauvoo

  • The Rise and Fall of a Religious Empire on the American Frontier
  • By: Benjamin E. Park
  • Narrated by: Bob Souer
  • Length: 9 hrs and 20 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (195 ratings)

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Kingdom of Nauvoo

By: Benjamin E. Park
Narrated by: Bob Souer
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Publisher's Summary

An extraordinary story of faith and violence in 19th-century America, based on previously confidential documents from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Compared to the Puritans, Mormons have rarely gotten their due, often treated as fringe cultists or marginalized polygamists unworthy of serious examination. In Kingdom of Nauvoo, Benjamin E. Park excavates the brief, tragic life of a lost Mormon city, demonstrating that the Mormons are essential to understanding American history writ large. Using newly accessible sources, Park re-creates the Mormons' 1839 flight from Missouri to Illinois. There, under the charismatic leadership of Joseph Smith, they founded Nauvoo, which shimmered briefly - but Smith's challenge to democratic traditions, as well as his new doctrine of polygamy, would bring about its fall. His wife Emma, rarely written about, opposed him, but the greater threat came from without: in 1844, a mob murdered Joseph, precipitating the Mormon trek to Utah. 

Throughout his absorbing chronicle, Park shows that far from being outsiders, the Mormons were representative of their era in their distrust of democracy and their attempt to forge a sovereign society of their own.

©2020 Benjamin E. Park (P)2020 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about Kingdom of Nauvoo

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Can't get over "Nauvoo" pronunciation

Good book, and I like Souer's voice and was excited for this audible book, but he pronounces Nauvoo as "nuvoo" the entire time and it drives me insane (to the point that I only focus on that). I looked it up to make sure I wasn't the crazy person, and no one else says it like that. I hope I can eventually get over it, especially when it is used through the entire book.

17 people found this helpful

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Biased and Bigoted

An attempt at telling a history like a news report, what is attempted to come across like a disinterested party, shows up with massive bias and in some cases wanton bigotry against Joseph Smith, and Mormonism, I am quite well versed on this history, and there are multiple assumptions made, big historical inaccuracies, and a clear agenda present.
But the most annoying thing, is, the reader cannot even pronounce the name of the city the whole book is about, he calls Nauvoo, Nvoo, it is literally so bad, it becomes all you can think about while he propagates the author's opinion.
it is really a test to listen to this, and DEFINITELY nowhere near accurate. Wouldn't recommend unless you listen to it fictitiously. It is however, wonderfully apologetic to the mobs that drove and murdered hundreds of innocent people, even referring to them as patriots. Not Kidding.

10 people found this helpful

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A more than marvelous work

What do you get when you combine boomtown dynamics, theocratic bravado, manifest destiny, church v. state battles, secret and illegal marriage practices, America's chaotic expansion, a charismatic leader, a malleable and dogmatic populace, and a whole lot of fun and wackiness? Something like Nauvoo, Illinois in the mid-nineteenth century. And Benjamin E. Park's book does a fantastic job weaving all of these threads in an instructive, fair, and compelling way.

Park unearths vital information that isn't widely and easily available to modern Mormons -- he goes deeper than the shiny, toothless representation of the Nauvoo period proferred by Mormon leaders and their correlation-mandated materials. Some of those friendlier happenings are true and essential to the story, but when they are isolated it gives a faulty, lifeless utopian feel to a vicious and visionary paradigm in both Mormon and American history.

It's imperative that both the Mormon and historical contexts go together in a C.S.-Lewis-which-shear-is-more-essential-in-scissors way for the story, and Park has the skills and sheer expertise to accomplish the task, raising the ghosts not just among the brick and ornate edifices, but the fallen wooden shacks and buildings as well.

In the book's final pages, a personal connection brought me joy. My great-grandma^4, Mary Ann [Frost] Pratt, was fed up with the secret polygamy of her husband, one of the earliest Mormon apostles, Parley Pratt, and was granted a divorce from him. I was happy to see her name in print since it took much resolve to stand up for one's self amid such patriarchal secrecy. It really meant a lot that a book of this import includes such seemingly small details since her husband (my great-grandpa^4) has had endless ink used on his behalf. She's a hero of mine and I feel honored to be her descendant.

The book has my highest recommendation, and I will soon re-read/listen.

10 people found this helpful

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Fantastic, but....

As an active member of the church and a avid seeker of church history, I found this work very enlightening and engaging. All of the previous reviews regarding the narrator are silly when compared to substance. Speed up the narration a bit and you'll never notice. However, this is not a read for the faint of heart or for those looking for a feel good, testimony building experience. It is content rich and presented as a historical sequence, not a spiritual driven narrative.

Like most works regarding church history, they must be consumed with caution. Some ideas may fit within the context of the church narrative and others are counter and are often exploited as "anti-mormon" literature. While I don't feel this is "anti" this work doesn't fit within the mormon narrative so often told as members.

After watching the author, a graduate of BYU, present to the Maxwell Institute (a church based research group) I felt it was safe to explore this book.

The first portion of the book was fascinating in the founding of Nauvoo and very similar to most of what is taught in the mormon narrative. I found the role of government oppression in the decisions of the early saints extremely enlightening and thought provoking, especially in our current time of converging ideas regarding the role of government in our lives.

The second portion of the book and most controversial portion is the role of polygamy in the evolution of the church. It's kind of the dark underbelly of church history no one likes to talk about. However it's unfortunate role in that time can not be avoided and has to be wrestled with. I appreciate the author references to the polygamist time of Joseph's teachings as a "project." Maybe just a personal preference but it places the polygamist project as more of an experiment than as a doctrine. It's a project that failed and therefore it can be seen as such and be left behind.

Regardless of how you may feel about that portion of church history, it's good to ask the question if the church movement would have progressed to the wonderful things it is today without some missteps in the past.

Read this book for an enriching history of the early Saints and a better understanding of role of government in this period of the United States. Make sure to let your current biasis not dictate the understanding and political feelings of those in that time period. It's the recount of the 1800's not the 2020's. Let the information enrich your understanding, not doubt your faith. Your testimony is built on the present not the past. Overall a very fascinating read!

5 people found this helpful

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A compelling read

I was initially hesitant to begin this book as I have become somewhat tired of the topic but I found it so interesting that I completed it within 24 hours.

The appeal of the book is due in no small part to its being so wonderfully concise - both the text and the narration maintain a brisk pace that doesn't waste words and keeps your interest piqued throughout the reading.

Nowhere else have I read an account of this period of Mormon History that pools together so many of the most important details, nor that forms so fascinating and complete a picture of how they relate to each other and the larger American context of the time-period as this book does.

Of the many insights to be gained from reading this book, what impressed itself most powerfully on me was how the early Mormon church's experiences in Missouri and Illinois affected their political outlook - especially Joseph's. You certainly get a sense for some of that from reading other sources but it is presented much more clearly here and that context goes a long way toward making sense of the radical goals of the Council of Fifty.

For anyone interested in the history of Mormonism this book is a must-read

5 people found this helpful

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Nuanced look at early limits of American ideals

"the reciprocity required to maintain democratic balance between citizenry and government seemed to erode on the American frontier, where tyrannical majorities stamped out dissent."
- Ben E Park, alluding to both Lincoln and Tocqueville, in Kingdom of Nauvoo

Having grown up in the LDS faith tradition, my relationship to both Mormon history and Nauvoo was largely influenced by a purely religious and almost myth-based history. I knew that Mormon history in the 1830s -40s took place before the Civil War in New York, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois (and eventually Utah), but I largely thought of pre-Civil War, Jacksonian America and the pre-Utah history of my faith as existing in isolation of each other. That false, historical separation was unfortunate. It is impossible to truly understand either early Mormon history without understanding the context of American politics (especially frontier politics) at the time OR to understand American history during the post post-Jackson era without understanding the "Mormon Problem". Using the Mormon city of Nauvoo as a lense, Ben Park is able to weave both the story of early Mormonism together with the limits of American democracy as it pertained to minorities in the pre-Civil War, pre-14th amendment, America. The inability of the Federal government to adequately protect minority groups, before the 1868 amendment, from states (read Missouri) or mobs was a nearly fatal flaw in American democracy.

If all Ben Park did was tell a good history of Nauvoo, I would have probably given this book four stars, but Ben was able to weave a fantastic narrative that integrated Nauvoo's story into the challenges of American democracy. He did it with fantastic research* and a nuanced approach that didn't forget that women were a large part of the early Mormon history AND that adequately put into perspective Mormon persecution against the larger brutality of Slavery and America's genocide and persecution of Native tribes. He does this skillfully in a way that helps give nuance to his narrative rather than simply as an after thought.

That gift for nuance also comes in useful as Ben Park explores the genesis of Mormon polygamy in Nauvoo and the internal and external conflicts its practice created.

5 people found this helpful

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A great book that is fair and gives great context

This book tells the story of Mormonism’s most successful attempt at creating a theocratic government. If you want to see Mormons and non Mormons (sometimes anti) humanized in a way that you can empathize with the choices each are making then this book is great. While I don’t think all of the aspects of polygamy and Joseph’s financial dealings were included that should have been, it is a quality book that really helps you see this people in the very emotional and human context they lived in.

2 people found this helpful

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Exceptional!

This was such a masterful telling of history. It felt so true to all perspectives, not "whitewashing" anything but leaving one with a deeper compassion and understanding of events as they unfolded. Can't recommend enough!

2 people found this helpful

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Good listen, with one caveat.

Great book, good reader, except for the constant mispronunciation of Nauvoo. Very surprised they let that slide. Try to ignore it and listen anyway.

2 people found this helpful

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Latest history

This is amazing historical research and written beautifully. Stories that I’ve never heard with a perspective I’ve never thought of. Thanks for the great work.

1 person found this helpful

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  • willoneill
  • 06-30-20

Brilliant

One of the best history books I’ve ever read, so well written and fascinating. Top stuff even if like me you know virtually zero about the Mormons

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-16-21

Surprisingly interesting

Religious history can sometimes be.. well, boring. However, in this book Benjamin Park offers a novel insight into the founding years of the Mormon church in Nauvoo, as well as a new perspective on frontier life. I genuinely respect the amount of work that must’ve gone into this book, as it is packed with detail and yet presented in a unique way. Also, as a non-believer, I appreciated that this was a very secular representation of a religious topic, which made the book very digestible.