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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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Trouble in Missouri 1833 (Part 1 of 7)

Joseph Smith had a revelation that Jackson County, Missouri was the promised land. It turns out that the Jackson Country residents weren’t on board with that revelation. It was a very tumultuous time when Mormons and Missourians both wanted to control the local politics. Dr. Alex Baugh describes many of the reasons the two groups didn’t get along.

Alex:  So, politically, we’re basically Democrats now in Jackson County.

GT:  Mormons were Democrats. Did you just say that?

Alex:  No question. Yeah. Yeah.

GT:  What happened?

Alex:  So politically, we were Democrats. Jackson County is named after Andrew Jackson. I mean, the Jacksonian Democracy, Jackson. So politically, we we’re a little more aligned that way, but that pans out differently depending on where we were, and so on. But there were definitely not many Whigs[1] in the church. So there’s the political issue, although, again, I think what Missourians were more worried about, Rick, was not so much that Mormons were Democrats, but that the Mormons would hold office and be the ones who would govern. They kicked us out of Jackson County in 1833, at the right time if you want to say it that way. Had Mormons continue to immigrate, they would have outnumbered the local citizenry. There’s no question. So the political aspect was more numbers than the difference in political power.

GT:  Okay.

Alex:  They just didn’t want the Mormons being the the ones who are making the laws and carrying out the edicts, whatever.

GT:  So was it religion, or was it politics that was the bigger issue?

Alex:  Yeah, well, it’s always religion, and, that was my point. You can look at the slave issue. You can look at Northerners versus Southerners. You can look at the social. I think we can safely say that at least in Jackson County, the Mormons were a little bit of a cut above some of the frontier Missourians. That doesn’t mean that some of the Missourians were not well educated and sophisticated, but at least bright people. I think the Mormons were probably a little bit of a cut above, at least in, like I say, Jackson County, maybe not as much in Clay [County.] There are some bright people in Clay County. Oh, my gosh. We’ve got a future U.S. senator in David Rice Atchison. There were just some bright political figures in Clay County.

But the point is political, social, economic, the Mormons were rather clannish. We traded among ourselves. That doesn’t mean we didn’t help support the local economy and local merchants, but we were trying to implement consecration. But the underlying thing, Rick, was we were seen as religious radicals. I mean, we went against the Christian elements of the day. We believed in strong prophetic leadership. We didn’t believe in the Trinity. We claimed visions. I’m just trying to think here, again, we practiced Consecration. That was part of our economic element that we combined together to support each other. We believed in additional scripture. Oh my gosh, that went against [everything.] “A Bible, a Bible.” So we were seen as on the religious fringe. If we would have been any other faith, there would have been no problem and we could have still had some of those differences, and probably lived peacefully. But it was oil and water, and we just didn’t mix. So it was a lot of things.

Check out our conversation…..

[1]  The Republican Party was founded in 1854.  The Whig Party were essentially replaced by the Republican Party.

BYU Church History professor, Dr. Alex Baugh says Mormons and Missourians were like oil and water.

If you’re interested in early Church history, don’t miss our interview with Dr. Mark Staker on the Kirtland Period.

020: Kirtland Banking Crisis: Joseph Takes the Blame

019: Kirtland Banking Crisis: Why it Failed

018: Kirtland Banking Crisis:  Why a Bank?

016: Elijah’s Visit & the Sealing Keys (Staker)

014: Did the Kirtland Temple Sparkle?  (Staker & Bennett)

013: Kirtland Temple University?

012: Kirtland Era Polygamy

011: Black Pete’s Mormon Mission in 1831

010: Black Pete:  The First Black Mormon