The following report comes from BCC commenter Mark Brown, aka Mark IV.
Have you ever wondered why people in you ward never name their baby boys Lilburn? Does your great grandfather’s patriarchal blessing promise that he will help build the temple in Jackson county? Why do Mormons have a love/hate relationship with the Show Me state?
Your questions would have all been answered last weekend. The Missouri Mormon Experience: From Conflict to Understanding was held at the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City. The house chamber was the setting for this event, which was billed as an academic and commemorative conference. The presenters were from BYU, the Community of Christ, the University of Missouri, and an archivist who works for the state of Missouri. The keynote speaker was Jan Shipps, and the guest of honor was U.S. Senator Kit Bond. He was honored for his action as governor when he rescinded Executive Order # 44 which had been issued by his predecessor Lilburn W. Boggs, and which we know as the Extermination Order. Governor Boggs is the distinguished looking gent whose picture accompanies this post and who would have been appalled at the prospect of 30,000 LDS people within the borders of his state.
Taken as a whole, the conference was a success, and the organizers and presenters are to be applauded for their efforts. It is anticipated that the papers will be published by the University of Missouri Press within the year.
What follows next are my brief notes and thoughts from the presentations.
1. It is difficult to overstate how deeply convinced our people were that they were building Zion in Independence, MO. Not just in a pure in heart sense, but that this frontier town was the actual, physical place where the New Jerusalem was to be built, the geographic location where God would instantiate Zion. Professor Shipps described how the first log for the first cabin built by Mormons in Independence was carried and set in place by twelve men representing the twelve tribes of Israel.
2. Jacksonian democracy and and 19th century Mormonism were a bad mix. In the presidential election of 1830, Jackson received 210 of 213 votes cast in Jackson county, MO. The Jacksonians believed strongly in the principle of Vox Populi, Vox Dei, or at least Vox white male Populi, Vox Dei. When Mormons appeared in 1831, they professed belief in Vox Dei, period. Our idea of revelation and obedience to God was deeply repugnant to believers in Manifest Destiny. The values embodied in the names of the two most prominent towns — Independence and Liberty — ran counter to the LDS view of cooperation, consecration, and stewardship.
3. Even though most of the early Mormons (including Joseph Smith and Brigham Young) were ardent Jackson democrats, they put their political preferences aside in order to carry out the prophetic vision of Zion-building.
4. It is probably not accurate to describe the adversaries of the Mormons as a mob. They were actually quite well organized, with a command structure, internal discipline, and official recognition. Joseph Smith learned from this experience, and we can see the results in the establishment of the Nauvoo Legion.
5. As far as we can tell, Sidney Rigdon was the first to use the word “extermination” in public. In his patriotic address on July 4, 1838, he said: “And that mob that comes on us to disturb us, it shall be between us and them a war of extermination; for we will follow them until the last drop of their blood is spilled; or else they will have to exterminate us, for we will carry the seat of war to their own houses and their own families, and one party or the other shall be utterly destroyed…” I can certainly understand how Boggs would have considered that a throwdown. At any rate, he issued executive order # 44 on October 27, and the attack at Haun’s Mill occurred three days later, on October 30, 1838.
6. Joseph Smith displayed spectacularly poor judgement in his choice of counselors. See Rigdon above. Also see Bennett, Marks, and Law.
7. In the church now, gathering to Zion is understood to mean joining the church. Yet there are still many who anticipate they will “go back to Jackson county”. The LDS church is, after the federal government, one of the largest landowners in the county, and continues to purchase undeveloped farmland there by the thousands of acres. Why?
Some websites of interest are: