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Was Extermination Order a License to Kill? (Part 4 of 7)

On October 27, 1838, Governor Lilburn Boggs signed the Extermination Order, saying that Mormons were to be driven from the state.  Did that mean it was legal to kill Mormons?  BYU Church history professor, Dr. Alex Baugh will tackle that question, and clear up some myths surrounding the Extermination Order.

Alex:  October 27, 1838–we call it the Extermination Order. But Boggs is not saying go out and kill every Mormon. That’s not legal. These are American citizens. These are Missouri citizens. What he’s saying is, “The Mormons must be exterminated.” And then he says, “Or in other words, driven from the state.” I think it’s very clear that he’s basically saying, “Let’s tell them, they’ve got to get out.” Now that order was unclear to some people, I’ll be honest with you. I think that we can safely say, that.

GT:  Do you think that some Missourians took that as license to kill?

Alex:  No, not really. I think it confused them. And Doniphan and others who, when they read the order, kind of wonder what’s he doing, but I think they realized he’s not saying go kill all the Mormons. He’s just saying, get them out of the state. Now, if they don’t go, then we have will take more decisive action. But Boggs is not a killer. Mormons might hate that statement. He’s a Christian man. He has 10 children. But he’s a politician for crying out loud and he’s going to appease his own Missourians, not the Mormons. He’s had it with them. He’s been dealing with us since Jackson County, because he lived in Jackson County. He didn’t like us there as much as anybody. We just seem to keep having problems with us. So he’s saying it’s time, states rights. He can do what he wants, get them out of here, let somebody else deal with them. Rick, if you read an 1828 dictionary, Webster’s Dictionary, the first dictionary in the United States, the first definition of exterminate is to remove from within one’s borders. So clearly, riddance was exterminate that we would kind of associate with today. But Boggs, I think if you read carefully his [order,] he’s saying they must be driven from the state. Now, if they don’t go, then we can have forceful action against them. I mean, we may have to take stricter measures. But he’s not saying go kill a Mormon.

GT:  Okay.

Alex:  Or go kill all the Mormons. I think Doniphan and others realize that that’s what the order stood for. So let’s get them to surrender, get them to leave. In fact, later when he talks to the Missouri legislature, when was it 1840, 39-40? Anyway, he says, “I issued the extermination order to prevent the effusion of blood. I don’t want people killed. I want them removed. So we don’t have to do more extreme measures.” So I’m just absolutely convinced that and yet so many Latter-day Saints think that the Extermination Order was a legal order to kill.

GT: Well, let me tell you something, that because I was in Kansas City in June grading AP Statistics exams. I had a roommate, and he actually grew up in Missouri and he mentioned something about Liberty, Missouri.  I’m like, “Oh, I want to go to Liberty.” And he’s like, “What do you want to know about Liberty?” And I’m like, “Oh, well, Liberty Jail and Joseph Smith,” and then he said to me, “You know, it was once legal to kill a Mormon in Missouri.”

Alex: I’ve heard that for so many years, it just I just makes me ill.

GT: There are non-Mormons that believe this, too.

Check out our conversation….

Many people believe the Extermination Order made it legal to kill Mormons. Dr. Alex Baugh says that is not true.

Don’t miss out other conversations with Dr. Baugh!

330: Mormon Dissent Leads to Salt Sermon

329: Mormon Expulsion from Jackson County

328: Trouble in Missouri 1833

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Mormon Dissent Leads to Salt Sermon (Part 3 of 7)

Following the Kirtland Banking Crisis in 1836, Joseph Smith finally came to Missouri, but dissent against his leadership followed him. Early leaders including Oliver Cowdery, the Whitmers, and even W.W. Phelps were disillusioned with his leadership. This led Sidney Rigdon to call out dissenters in his famous Salt Sermon. Dr. Alex Baugh tells us more about this tumultuous time.  After getting kicked out of Jackson County, the state of Missouri created Caldwell County specifically for Mormons.

Alex: The county’is created and actually signed into law by Lilburn W. Boggs on the 29th of December 1836, passed both the House and the Senate to create this county for us.

GT: Now I’ve heard you call it the Mormon reservation.

Alex: Well, it kind of almost is. They’re kind of saying, “Okay, we’re going to block off this chunk of land for the Mormons. The expectation was, I mean, it was a gentleman’s agreement, but the idea was, if any Mormons come to Missouri, that’s where they gotta stay, that’s where they gotta live. But the point is, you can live anywhere you want. But the Latter-day Saints were grateful and I think I saw that as a temporary solution. But things deteriorate once we start getting up there, because number one, we begin moving into some other areas. We have some localities of pockets of Latter-day Saints elsewhere. Well, hold it, we weren’t supposed to do that. The thing that I think probably triggered the animosity again, was well, several things. But one of them is, of course, Joseph Smith, finally ends up, him and Sidney Rigdon and the First Presidency coming to Missouri. All this time, headquarters has been in Kirtland. Boy when Joseph arrives, he arrives March 14, 1838, him and Sidney. And boy, that sent a signal, “Mormons are here to stay, this is their homeland. They want to settle this as Zion. We’re not in Jackson County, but we’re there in Missouri now, and that’s the headquarters. So, they’re worried a little bit about again, political numbers, we start going outside. In May Joseph goes up to Daviess County, and declares that this one area is Adam-ondi-Ahman. We begin settling up there. We purchase land down in Carroll County, a little community called De Witt, start settling outside there, so that that causes problems as well. But Caldwell really worked out quite well for a couple of years there and we had our own government, we had our own–we even elected our own legislator to the Missouri legislature, John Corrill. We could form our own militia, and, boy, we can defend ourselves if we have to. The problem is, of course, the dissent that started in Kirtland comes to Missouri, and no sooner did Joseph Smith to get there, then, within a month, Oliver Cowdery is excommunicated, David Whitmer is excommunicated. Just right before he came, W.W. Phelps was excommunicated, John Whitmer. These men stay in Missouri, stay in Far West. They cause problems. McClellin is another one. Then, unfortunately, of course, we have the rise of the the Danite company, and these men decide that we’ve got to get rid of these guys. We got to cleanse the church. So these dissenters should not even be with us. We have the salt sermon of Sidney Rigdon, and it was a clear indication, “You’re not welcome here and we’ll help you move.” And where do they go?

Alex: June 17, I believe it was, he gives the Salt Sermon, 1838 and then that’s where he says, “You’re no longer welcome here. If the salt has lost its savor, it’s no good, but to be trodden under foot by men.”

GT: So he’s going after Mormon dissenters.

Alex: Right.

Check out our conversation….

Sidney Rigdon called out Mormon dissenters with his Salt Sermon.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Alex!

329: Mormon Expulsion from Jackson County

328: Trouble in Missouri 1833

 

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Mormon Expulsion from Jackson County 1833 (Part 2 of 7)

We’re continuing our conversation with Dr. Alex Baugh.  We’ve already discussed some of the issues between Mormons and Missourians in Jackson County, but things were about to get worse.  We’ll tackle why Bishop Edward Partridge and W.W. Phelps were beaten severely and find out why Missourians expelled Mormons from Jackson County in 1833.

GT:  Well, apparently the there were a bunch of mobs in Missouri that attacked the press.

Alex:  Yeah, right, on the 20th.

GT:  The 20th of?

Alex:  Of July, I’m sorry, 1833. Okay, They tarred and feathered Partridge.  He said, “Hey, now hold it.”

GT: Bishop Partridge.

Alex:  Of course, they went to church leaders. He’s right there in Independence. He’s the figurehead leader of the church there and, they said, “We have some ultimatums here.” There were four or five ultimatums. Of course, he didn’t want to agree to any of them. He said, “Give us a little time.” They refused to allow that.

GT:  They said, “Just get out.” They’d already destroyed the press.

Alex:  They said, “If you don’t sign this, you’ll suffer some consequences.” He utterly refused. He asked for some time so they could consult with Joseph. They gave him no time. They hadn’t even given him time to consult with other leaders and other settlements in Jackson County, the Lyman Wight/prairie settlement at Colesville. He’s in Independence. He’s 9-10, 12 miles away from these other groups of Mormon settlers. He’s just given, “Sign or else.” He’s just saying, “No way.” So they took more aggressive action and went and got him and pulled him into the north part of the town square and northwest corner and tarred and feathered him and another Latter-day Saint and then went over to Phelps’s printing press, just walked away, and ransacked the building and destroyed the press and type. They were going to do some other damage to some of the local properties of the church, and fortunately, again, things kind of settled down. But three days later, the Mormon leaders agreed that they would leave–half of them would leave Jackson County by the first of January 1834. Then the rest would leave by the latter part of April 1834. So they were giving us time to get our crops in, sell their properties and so on. Unfortunately, and this could go into a whole ‘nother discussion, but immediately, of course, the church leaders dispatched messengers to Kirtland to try to find out what to do.

Check out our conversation….

W.W. Phelps and Bishop Edward Partridge were beaten by mobs to coerce them to leave Jackson County, Missouri in 1833.

Don’t miss our previous conversation with Alex!

328: Trouble in Missouri 1833