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The Missouri Mormon Experience

Edited by Thomas M. Spencer

Publication Year: 2010

The Mormon presence in nineteenth-century Missouri was uneasy at best and at times flared into violence fed by misunderstanding and suspicion. By the end of 1838, blood was shed, and Governor Lilburn Boggs ordered that Mormons were to be “exterminated or driven from the state.”
            The Missouri persecutions greatly shaped Mormon faith and culture; this book reexamines Mormon-Missourian history within the sociocultural context of its time. The contributors to this volume unearth the challenges and assumptions on both sides of the conflict, as well as the cultural baggage that dictated how their actions and responses played on each other.
            Shortly after Joseph Smith proclaimed Jackson County the site of the “New Jerusalem,” Mormon settlers began moving to western Missouri, and by 1833 they made up a third of the county’s population. Mormons and Missourians did not mix well. The new settlers were relocated to Caldwell County, but tensions still escalated, leading to the three-month “Mormon War” in 1838—capped by the Haun’s Mill Massacre, now a seminal event in Mormon history.
            These nine essays explain why Missouri had an important place in the theology of 1830s Mormonism and was envisioned as the site of a grand temple. The essays also look at interpretations of the massacre, the response of Columbia’s more moderate citizens to imprisoned church leaders (suggesting that the conflict could have been avoided if Smith had instead chosen Columbia as his new Zion), and Mormon migration through the state over the thirty years following their expulsion.
            Although few Missourians today are aware of this history, many Mormons continue to be suspicious of the state despite the eventual rescinding of Governor Boggs’s order. By depicting the Missouri-Mormon conflict as the result of a particularly volatile blend of cultural and social causes, this book takes a step toward understanding the motivations behind the conflict and sheds new light on the state of religious tolerance in frontier America.

Published by: University of Missouri Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-x

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Introduction: “Persecution in the Most Odious Sense of the Word”

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pp. 1-18

Parley P. Pratt recalled that the Missouri wind during the winter of 1830- 1831 blew “with a keenness that would almost take the skin off the face.”1 That winter was a particularly brutal one, called by pioneers in western Missouri the “Winter of the Deep Snow.” Contemporaries living in the region claimed...

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1. The Missouri Context of Antebellum Mormonism and Its Legacy of Violence

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pp. 19-26

The Mormon Church’s sojourn in northwestern Missouri in the 1830s is an interesting story but not a happy one. It reflects poorly at one point or another on virtually all of the actors involved.
Yet despite its troubles in Missouri, Mormonism has since become America’s most successful indigenous religion. As of May 2007, the Utah-based Church...

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2. Reassessing Joseph Smith’s “Appointed Time for the Redemption of Zion”

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pp. 27-49

In the aftermath of the 1833 expulsion from Zion and for the remainder of the decade, it became Joseph Smith’s prophetic preoccupation to restore his Missouri followers to their temporal properties and spiritual inheritance. Much attention has focused on Smith’s first attempt called “Zion’s Camp” to...

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3. Mormonism, Millenarianism, and Missouri

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pp. 50-61

Christian beliefs about the millennium, its nature, how it will be introduced, or how near it is, have varied considerably over the centuries. Originally, millennialism as an eschatology (a term derived from Greek, meaning, literally, doctrine of the “last things” or “end times”), was an outgrowth of...

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4. The Great Temple of the New Jerusalem

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pp. 62-74

The book of Ezekiel ends with the prophet’s description of the latter-day inheritances of the twelve tribes of Israel in the Holy Land. He indicates that there would be a holy city, forty-five hundred cubits (approximately one and one-third miles) square in which the Lord would be present.1 In the Apocalypse...

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5. The Mormon Temple Site at Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri

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pp. 75-99

Located in Mirabile Township in Caldwell County, Far West, Missouri, was a relatively short-lived Latter-day Saint community, existing from 1836 to 1839. Before this community was established, Jackson County served as the main gathering place from 1831 to 1833. However, in late 1833, violence erupted...

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6. “Was This Really Missouri Civilization?” The Haun’s Mill Massacre in Missouri and Mormon History

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pp. 100-118

The three-month-long “Mormon War” in northwest Missouri during 1838 has been viewed by Mormons and scholars of Mormonism as a trying time in the history of the LDS church. As Alexander Baugh, the eminent scholar of the Missouri period of LDS history, put it, “For a period of three agonizing...

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7. But for the Kindness of Strangers: The Columbia, Missouri, Response to the Mormon Prisoners and the Jailbreak of July 4, 1839

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pp. 119-138

The unkind and unlawful treatment of the Mormons in Missouri in the 1830s has been well documented. Except for the civility and fair hand of Alexander Doniphan, a Whig attorney and a brigadier general in the Missouri state militia in a sea of Jacksonian Democrats in the western counties, the...

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8. Lessons Learned: The Nauvoo Legion and What the Mormons Learned Militarily in Missouri

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pp. 139-150

The story of the Nauvoo Legion begins in Missouri. What began in 1831 with eager anticipation among a people anxious to establish Zion, their New Jerusalem, in Jackson County, Missouri, ended with a solemn proclamation of expulsion in October 1838 by a governor convinced the Mormons had to...

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9. Between the Borders: Mormon Transmigration through Missouri, 1838–1868

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pp. 151-178

The infamous extermination order issued October 27, 1838, by Missouri governor Lilburn W. Boggs caused thousands of Latter-day Saints to flee the state and seek refuge in Illinois.1 Throughout the harsh winter of 1838–1839, many Latter-day Saint families fled eastward (some 150 miles) by carts, wagons...


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pp. 179-182


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pp. 183-187

E-ISBN-13: 9780826272164
E-ISBN-10: 0826272169
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826218872
Print-ISBN-10: 0826218873

Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 10 illus, 3 maps
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1