Hey guys! In July 1831, Joseph Smith received the revelation now found in Doctrine and Covenants 57, which named Jackson County, Missouri, as the Saints’ promised land — their land of Zion — with the tiny town of Independence as the center of Zion. Saints immediately began settling the area. But, as you know, within just a few years they would be forcibly expelled from Jackson County. In this episode, we’re going to look at why, and how, that happened.
By the summer of 1833, there were about 1200 Latter-day Saints in Jackson County — about one-third of the total county population. Church leaders were trying to take things slow and make sure that those who emigrated would receive land and be taken care of. However, many Saints emigrated without the Church’s approval, straining resources in Zion, and contributing to unrest among the locals.
On July 20th, hundreds of Jackson county citizens gathered at the Independence courthouse and decided they would rid their society of the Mormons, “peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must.” Why? There were 3 reasons given:
- They were afraid (or at least said they were afraid) that the Saints would eventually take their lands by force. Apparently, they were unaware of the revelation on this subject which explicitly instructed the Saints to not do that, but rather to pay for their land, which they did.
- They also claimed the Saints were trying to force them from their lands by inviting freed slaves to join them in Zion, which was just the worst thing imaginable to the locals. This was based on a misinterpretation of an article in the Saints’ local newspaper, the Evening and Morning Star. “Though not the basic source of hatred the negro issue was played up … as a means of persuading the rest of the state that illegal violence was justified.”
- And then there was the question of political power and influence, which was likely really the main issue. The beliefs of the Saints were just too different, and the Missourians thought the Saints posed a threat to their way of life.
One leader of the July 20th meeting declared, “The evil is one that no one could have foreseen, and is therefore unprovided for by the laws; and the delays incident to legislation would put the mischief beyond remedy.” In other words, “What we want to do is totally illegal, but let’s put together a mob and do it anyway.” The Missourians, including a county judge, demanded that the Saints stop printing their newspaper and that they get the heck outta town, or else.
After the meeting, the demands were presented to Latter-day Saint leaders in Missouri, who were given a whopping 15 minutes to accept or reject the terms. When Edward Partridge refused to decide within that time frame, the mob destroyed the printing press; they tarred and feathered Edward and another man; they sacked Sidney Gilbert’s store; they drove some Saints from their homes, and some men were captured and whipped. Violence continued on July 23rd, some of the mob reportedly threatening, “If [the Mormons] will not go without, we will whip and kill the men; we will destroy their children, and ravish their women!” To stop the violence, Edward agreed to have the Saints out of Jackson County by the following spring.
Despite threats from the mob to kill anyone who sought for a redress of grievances, the Saints nonetheless brought their situation before Missouri Governor, Daniel Dunklin, who told them to take it up with local authorities. If that didn’t work, then the State would get involved. Of course, appealing to local authorities was doomed from the start, as many of them were members and leaders of the mob. But the Saints at least had hope in the state and began to rebuild their lives and made known their intention to stay and if necessary defend themselves in Jackson County.
As you may imagine, the mob wasn’t happy about this, and things got ugly again on October 31st, 1833, when the mob attacked the Whitmer settlement of Saints. The next day, there was an attack on the Saints near Independence. One man, Richard McCarty, was captured by the Saints while in the act of looting Sidney Gilbert’s store, but a hostile justice of the peace refused to issue a warrant for McCarty’s arrest. The next day, Nov. 2nd, there was another smaller attack on the Whitmer settlement, which was cut short as the Saints rallied to defend their own.
On Nov. 4th, astoundingly, Richard McCarty obtained a warrant for the arrest of the men who had caught him in the act of looting the Gilbert store, charging them with assault and false imprisonment. On this same day, there was a skirmish between the mob and the Saints west of Big Blue River. One Latter-day Saint and two Missourians were killed. But back in Independence, rumors spread that the Saints had killed 20 Missourians in the battle. This infuriated the Missourians and put the lives of the Latter-day Saint prisoners in danger.
That night, Latter-day Saint leaders decided it would be best for the Saints to simply leave the county before more blood was shed. But news of that decision didn’t spread instantly, and November 5th was a day of preparation for war for the Missourians gathered in Independence. The county militia was called out to broker peace between the Saints and the mob, and protect the Saints as they left the county. Unfortunately, the militia “had every appearance of a mob and in its ranks were many of the most bitter enemies of the Church.”
Meanwhile, a group of about 100 Saints was marching toward Independence to rescue the endangered prisoners — but when they heard that the prisoners had been released, the militia was called out to restore peace, and that the decision was made to leave the county, they disbanded. Unfortunately, news of the force enraged militia leader Thomas Pitcher, who demanded (among other things) that the group give up their weapons. The Saints agreed, with the additional stipulation that the mob would also be disarmed, which Pitcher agreed to do.
Not surprisingly, the mob never disarmed, and at this point, the game was over. Over the next couple of days, mobs rode through the county, driving the main body of Saints from their homes. Most refugees gathered along the banks of the Missouri River and eventually found refuge among the more hospitable citizens of Clay County, while others fled to Ray, LaFayette, and Van Buren counties. The government and rule of law had unequivocally failed to protect the Saints. In the next episode, we’ll look at how the Church responded to the situation. Check out the links in the YouTube description for more info on this topic, and have a great day!
Read the “Manifesto of the Mob” (also referred to as the “secret constitution”) as reported by the December 1833 issue of “The Evening and Morning Star” (then being printed in Kirtland). This is the document which called for the July 20, 1833, meeting which resulted in the destruction of the Saints’ newspaper in Missouri (see also an article titled “Mormonism,” published on August 2nd, 1833 by the Western Monitor, which reports on the proceedings of the July 20th meeting. Article reproduced in “History of the Church” vol. 1, pg 395-399): https://bit.ly/35m0Pvk
- Report on the expulsion from Missouri as reported by John Corrill in “The Evening and Morning Star,” Jan. 1834: https://bit.ly/2ToKhQt
- More on the expulsion as reported in the Jan. 1834 issue of “The Evening and Morning Star”: https://bit.ly/3vnOZvg
- More on the expulsion as reported in the Feb. 1834 issue of “The Evening and Morning Star”: https://bit.ly/2TwDxAc
- More on the expulsion as reported in the Jan. 1840 issue of “Times and Seasons”: https://bit.ly/3xnXtDP
- More on the expulsion as reported in the July 18, 1843 issue of “Times and Seasons” (pg. 263): https://bit.ly/3iKzRVN
- Why did Missourians think Latter-day Saints were inviting freed slaves into Zion? Here’s the original article from the July 1833 issue of “The Evening and Morning Star” which caused the issues: https://bit.ly/3vnnbah A couple of days later, the Star published an extra to clarify the issue, which you can read here: https://bit.ly/2Tyn7qL (be aware that the extra does not reflect the policy of the Church then or now. The editor took liberties with the extra, hoping to quell the unrest the previous article had caused).
- “Mormon Persecutions in Missouri, 1833,” by Richard Bushman: https://bit.ly/3zqWHb6
- For a map of where Latter-day Saint communities in Jackson county were, check out page 6 of this Mormon Historical Studies publication: https://bit.ly/2SBWAc1
- “Saints” Vol. 1, chapters 16-17 (also see related citations): https://bit.ly/3wv5wyU
- See also: “Missouri Persecutions,” by B. H. Roberts; “History of the Church,” Vol. 1 (starting with chapter 27 [pg. 72]); “Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt,” chapters 13-14; “Essentials in Church History,” by Joseph Fielding Smith, part 3.