Remembering Missouri

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.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

6 thoughts on “Remembering Missouri

  1. I was impressed when I read about the apology from Illinois and glad that I wasn’t alive before 1976, since I’m a Missouri native. Then again, there are old silly laws in the books from many states, and not alot of people know about them. Thank goodness for that, too.
    I have never understood how people can call themselves Christians by behaving in some of the ways that they do.

  2. Interesting point, T. Thinking of the “ministry” of modern anti-Mormon “Christian” preachers who stand at Temple Square yelling at people and waving Temple garments around, is ironic to see such blatantly unchristian behavior coming from those who preach that we aren’t Christian. But we need to be easy on them: anyone that fixated on public display of underwear is either suffering from some form of mental illness or is a Hollywood celebrity (these are not mutually exclusive categories, but the preachers sure don’t look like supermodels to me, and this probably belong to the first category). Maybe we can use Fast Offerings to help them get a little free therapy.

  3. One problem with your facetious proposal: fast offerings are only used to help needy LDS members. But maybe another fund could be used.

  4. I seem to remember something that Susan Black mentioned in a class I took from her at BYU—that Wilfred Woodruff did the temple work for the Founding Fathers, all the presidents of the United States except a couple. One of those being Martin Van Buren. He said something along the lines of, “his case is just, but I will do nothing for him.” Or something to that effect. Maybe you could deny or confirm that. I thought it was pretty funny.

  5. How about an apology for the Mountain Meadows Massacre? Origination of that nasty little “Blood Atonement” doctrine. If ol’ Pratt wouldn’t have coveted another’s wife, maybe ya’ll could have stayed in the Show Me state.

  6. What delicious irony! We come to Jeff Lindsay’s blog, the blog of a man who can easily be identified through just a little effort at research as a well read and informed LDS Church historian. We come to this blog and read about the next “must have” book for fellow Church history buffs. We come to this blog and find it, regardless of what we were looking for initially, to be a place where intelligent and in depth discussion of Church History can take place. And in what tone? The tone typically used by Latter Day Saints on the internet. One of sobriety, intelligence, perhaps a little levity or mirth, but mostly integrity and honor. And what tone do we see in the last comment, dated June 7, 2007? We see a flippant, ignorant, polemic, verbal molotov cocktail thrown by a coward who couldn’t muster the courage to at least come up with a nickname behind which to hide. We get a disjointed list of criticisms steeped in superficial hearsay and rumor, tempered with myopic bigotry.

    I’m sorry, am I supposed to be impressed, Anonymous?

    Let the earnest seeker of truth consider this:

    The Mountain Meadows massacre was the result of out of control rage and bigotry on both sides involved. The participants on the LDS side were in some cases operating as militia men under orders from superiors who grossly misrepresented the situation to them, and in other cases, knew full well that the migrating Gentiles, while making threats and insults, were not worthy of death, yet killed them anyway. This was done in direct contradiction to orders from Brigham Young, and the blame on the Church can ascend no higher than the shoulders of John D. Lee, who was executed for his role in it.

    The expulsion of the Latter Day Saints from Missouri had nothing to do with the murder of Parley P. Pratt, which occurred well after the expulsion from both Missouri and Illinois. Much more can be said about the expulsion from Missouri than space here permits, but an honest effort will reveal much of it. Parley P. Pratt was murdered in Arkansas because he went there (contrary to the Prophet’s counsel) to collect the personal belongings of a woman who left her abusive husband and married Elder Pratt. The ex-husband and some of his friends ambushed and murdered Elder Pratt over this personal issue, and it had virtually nothing to do with anything that ever happened in Missouri.

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