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Mormon History, Missouri

Missouri: 1831-1838

Jackson County Missouri was the place that the Lord revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith where Zion would be built. At the time the revelation was received the Mormon Church also had a settlement in Kirtland, Ohio and the Church was divided between the two sites. A Mormon temple site was dedicated in Independence and land was bought in the county. Soon about 1,000 Latter-day Saints converted by Mormon missionaries had immigrated to the site. Parley P. Pratt recorded, "There was a spirit of peace and union, and love and good will manifested in this little Church in the wilderness, the memory of which will be ever dear to my heart."1

But Mormon history repeated itself as peace did not last long and soon the Mormons were persecuted just as they had been in New York. As local residents feared the growing population and the practice of Mormonism they demanded the Saints leave. When leaders refused they attacked the newspaper office and destroyed it. Two young girls Mary Elizabeth and Caroline Rollins risked their lives to rescue the unbound pages of the Book of Commandments that contained revelations to Joseph Smith from God. The sisters ran into the street and gathered as many pages as they could. Mary Elizabeth recalled, "We ran as fast as we could. Two of them started after us. Seeing a gap in a fence, we entered into a large cornfield, laid the papers on the ground, and hid them with our persons. The corn was from five to six feet high, and very thick; they hunted around considerable, and came very near us but did not find us." 2 At the same time the mob tarred and feathered Bishop Partridge and Charles Allen.

The Mormon Church sought help from the government and local military leaders were told to disarm both sides. But Colonel Pitcher's sympathies were with the mob. He took the weapons of the Saints and delivered them to the mob leaving them defenseless against the mob, which attacked again. Finally the Saints were instructed to leave their homes and flee to Clay County.

After a brief stay the Mormons were asked to leave the county and moved to Far West, Missouri where the corner stone for another Mormon temple was laid and never completed. It was not long before persecutions began again.

"A mob of 100 people at the election polls in Gallatin, Daviess County, would not let the Saints cast their ballots. This led to a brawl in which several people were injured." 3 Governor Boggs brought in the state militia to keep the peace. But Captain Bogart was allied with the mob and kidnapped three Mormons. A fierce battle waged between the militia and the company of Latter-day Saint militia that was sent to rescue the men. Men were killed on both sides.

"The death of a militiaman in the Battle of Crooked River, along with other reports, was employed by Governor Lilburn W. Boggs in formulating his infamous 'extermination order.' That decree, dated 27 October 1838, stated in part, 'The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary, for the public peace—their outrages are beyond all description.'"4

Mormon history reports that three days after the extermination order was issued a mob of two hundred men attacked the community of Haun's Mill. In an act of treachery the mob called for all men who wished to live to run into the blacksmith shop. Then they proceeded to fire into the building killing or wounding all those inside.

Shortly after the massacre Joseph Smith and other leaders were imprisoned in Liberty Jail. Joseph Smith wrote, "The Judges have gravely told us from time to time that they knew we were innocent, and ought to be liberated, but they dare not administer the law unto us, for fear of the mob." 5 To save face someone with authority arranged for the prisoners to escape and they fled to Illinois where the Saints greeted them.

While they were imprisoned about 8,000 Mormons left Missouri to escape the extermination order and fled to Illinois. Suffering extreme hardships as they traveled during the cold of winter. Early Mormon history in Missouri had reached its end.

(1) Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr. (1938), 72.

(2) Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, July 1926, 196.

(3) 35448, Our Heritage, 4: Establishing Zion in Missouri, The Early Years in Missouri

(4) 35448, Our Heritage, 4: Establishing Zion in Missouri, The Early Years in Missouri

(5) “Copy of a Letter from J. Smith Jr. to Mr. Galland,” Times and Seasons, Feb. 1840, 52.

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