Trouble preceded Joseph Smith’s arrival in Missouri. We’ve already discussed some of the issues between Mormons and Missourians in Jackson County, but things were about to get worse. Dr. Alex Baugh explains 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.
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.
It is interesting to me that trouble occurred in Missouri before Joseph ever arrived. Mormons have had a history of bloc-voting, and I suspect that has a large reason why outsiders object. It didn’t help that Joseph excommunicated important church leaders in Missouri, but following the bank failure, I can understand why he might have clamped down hard on dissent. It both help and hurt his leadership. It was also the start of the Danites, but I think plenty of blame can be laid at Governor Boggs feet as well for his poor handling of the problems in Missouri. (Next week we will talk about the Extermination Order.) What are your thoughts on this early persecution of Mormons? Do you see problems on both sides?