An amazing book for those interested in LDS history is Mormon Redress Petitions: Documents of the 1833-1838 Missouri Conflict, edited by Clark V. Johnson (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1992). This book provides primary sources on the terrible persecution that Latter-day Saints experienced in Missouri, leading to the infamous Extermination Order of Governor Boggs that threatened Mormons with death if they did not leave the state. The book contains hundreds of individual affidavits from victims of the persecution, listing what they lost and sometimes explaining the brutality they faced. There are also two eloquent appeals to Congress made by the Saints, and many other documents of interest. Some parts are difficult to read, such as the graphic eye-witness accounts of some of the killing and brutality that occurred.
In the face of such terrible injustice prevailing in Missouri, contrary to so many principles of the Constitution, we encounter the sickening cowardice and corruption of President Martin Van Buren, who told Joseph Smith and Elias Higbee, “Gentlemen, your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you” and “If I take up for you I shall lose the vote of Missouri.”
I also find it interesting to see the active role that so-called Christian clergymen played in stirring up and even leading mob actions against the Mormons, both in Missouri and Illinois. I don’t know if we have ever received an apology from any of the churches that played a role in such atrocities, but I am grateful that the State of Missouri took the Extermination Order off the books in 1976 (sorry folks – it’s no longer legal to shoot us on sight). And I’m grateful that the State of Illinois has officially apologized to the Church for what happened there. That’s right–in March 2004, a resolution was passed by the Illinois Legislature asking for “the pardon and forgiveness” of the Mormon Church for persecution that led to the expulsion of 20,000 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1844 from Nauvoo, and for the 1844 vigilante murder of Mormon leader Joseph Smith. Thank you, Illinois!
Some further information on the Missouri conflict, with links to helpful resources, is provided on my Mormon Answers page about the 1838 “Mormon War” in Missouri.