Part 1 of this series can be found here.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
A Fairly Short History of Mormonism — Part 3, Later Missouri Period
Kirtland began falling apart with bankruptcies. Families with means moved to the Missouri settlements. Smith went to "Zion" for two months and in his absence Kirtland completely fell apart with lawsuits flying and a separate church set up. Brigham Young and other leaders fled to Missouri to avoid arrest. Smith returned to take over and was brought before a church trial in the temple; things went badly for him. Smith and Rigdon then fled to Zion the 2nd week of January 1838. The leaders in Kirtland seized the temple and denounced Joseph, proclaiming his depravity.
When Smith arrived in the town of Far West they were all glad to have him. Far West was in Caldwell county and became prosperous. Many of the Kirtland saints became disgruntled and also arrived at Far West, forgetting Smith’s crimes. Smith then began surveying for expansion in Missouri. He had previously said that Independence was the site of Eden, Daviess County was where Adam lived after expulsion, and Far West was where Cain killed Abel.
While the mission in England sent hundreds of poor converts, Rigdon was blamed for the Kirtland debacle.
By mid-June 1838 Joseph had secret bands organized as armies, with the primary band known as the Danites. Rigdon inflamed the Danites against dissenters, and he issued threats against anyone opposing Smith. Beginning in July, Far West operated as a co-operative farm, but few were happy with this, and Lyman Wight preached for war against the Missourians. On July 4, 1838 Joseph had a parade to celebrate laying the cornerstone of the temple. The army was impressive and Rigdon's speech threatened Missourians with extermination.
When election day arrived on August 6, 1838, the Missourians didn't want Mormons to vote and a riot ensued wherein Mormons prevailed. Of course this led to increased hatred against Mormons. Millers wouldn't grind grain and armed bands raided farms, burning, stealing and beating the men. Caldwell County became the only safe place, and Smith built his army now from every able-bodied man.
Missourians demanded that Mormons leave DeWitt by October 1st. Instead, Smith reinforced the town with 200 immigrants. Missourians then laid siege, shooting at anyone coming near. Smith snuck in for a visit in time to see men caught foraging severely beaten. He then led them all out under a flag of truce, with the loss of one woman dying in childbirth, and settled them in Far West.
Daviess County then began moving against other settlements. On October 14, 1838 Smith gave a speech with the intent to defend Adam-ondi-Ahman with his army, threatening confiscation of property for any dissenters (Rigdon threatened dissenters with death). The next day Smith had 100 men march in, reinforcing Lyman Wight's 250 men. Lyman preached for an attack.
Missourians heard of the movement and threats, and they began abandoning towns. When the Mormons invaded Gallatin it was deserted, so they plundered and burned several buildings. They pillaged three other towns without burning them. When Mormons in Far West saw the booty, many were appalled and packed up and left. Rigdon put a stop to the exodus with the threat of them being brought back dead or alive, and he threatened death to anyone caught preparing to leave. Within a week Missourians retaliated and every isolated Mormon cabin was burned. Far West was threatened with destruction. Smith then called all Mormons to go to either Far West or Adam-ondi-Ahman.
By the end of October 1838 there began exaggerated stories of Mormons massacring Missourians, which led to a panic. Gov. Boggs stepped in to stop the Mormons and wrote out an order to treat the Mormons as enemies and to exterminate them. Far West then prepared for a siege and built breastworks. By October 29th, all but one outlying settlement was abandoned: Jacob Haun had just finished his flour mill and refused to leave it.
The next day a large militia approached Far West. A message was smuggled in to Far West with a copy of the extermination order and word of 10,000 troops enroute. A large contingent arrived and halted just outside of Mormon gun range.
At this time a wounded man arrived from Haun's Mill, reporting that they were attacked by 200 militia and 17 of 38 persons, including women and children, were killed, with 15 wounded escaping. Unconfirmed stories said that some of the women were gang-raped.
On October 31st delegates met to discuss terms. Smith, Rigdon, Wight, Parley Pratt and George Robinson were taken by the militia as hostages. The Mormons were to sign over their property to the Missourians, give up their weapons and pack up and leave the state; if they failed to do so they would be annihilated. The prisoners were told they were to be shot at dawn, but dissension among the commanders halted the execution.
Brigham Young, Edward Partridge and Heber Kimball escaped when no one was allowed to leave. During the week 6000 militia raided Far West, killing livestock and leaders, and gang-raping some of the young women. 56 men were jailed and the Mormons were told to leave as soon as possible, although they were not expected to do so in the winter. They were told staying beyond spring would bring about their extermination.
Meanwhile, the prisoners spent a day in Independence jail before being shipped, shackled together, to Richmond for trial. On November 30th all but 10 were released, with six kept in Liberty and the other four in Richmond.