A Land War in Missouri

“You fell victim to one of the classic blunders: Never get involved in a land war in Missouri!”
— Thomas B. Marsh, President of the Twelve (paraphrased quite roughly)

Mormon Missouri War RISK!


In the first century of American independence, 1776-1876, the United States expanded from a (baker’s) dozen colonies huddled along the eastern seaboard to a federation of thirty-eight states spanning the continent. The reality on the ground was even more impressive than the changes to the map. Maps, after all, had long since covered the continent with European claims. But while the 18th century New France (that filled maps between Montreal and New Orleans) was largely ephemeral, the U.S. from Ohio to the Pacific in 1876 was comprehensively surveyed, systematically divided into 160-acre square sections, and thoroughly settled.

It’s hard to overstate the importance cheap land played in fueling this remarkable transformation. Land appropriated by the federal government from unwilling natives and sold to settlers for scant dollars an acre was the essential ingredient. But there was much more to the recipe. The brilliance of the system was its ability to self-replicate, not just at the state level (where new sovereign states west of the Appalachians took their place as equals to the original colonies), but also at the county level. As new territory was opened to settlement, western counties that replicated the structure of eastern counties were organized and settlers moved in and assumed positions in the new county structure. Essentially, settlement was built on a franchise model. As long as the frontier expanded, young and ambitious men had the ability to move west and become the local “franchisees” for the U.S. county in their new area.

The early Mormon experience can hardly be understood divorced from this context. The Mormon desire to build up Zion (“on this, the American continent”) resembled the desire of most Americans leaders on the frontier to build up their own town and county franchises. Although inspired by the prophecies of Ezekiel and John, the plats for the Mormon city of Zion closely resembled the plats for all American cities — grids which applied rectangular perfection upon the landscape, quite without regard to hills or ravines. And, as with their secular American counterparts, Mormon zionic experiments worked best when fuelled by the presence of cheap land. In the 1831-37 period, building up Zion in Kirtland was problematic because the local county franchise was already well established. Improved land cost $20 per acre or more and the Saints gathering to Ohio incurred massive debts to acquire it. In Missouri, by contrast, virgin land could be bought from the government for $1.25 per acre, and then improved by personal labor for substantial profit. The economic reality meant that more Mormons gathered to Missouri in the 1830s than to Ohio, despite the fact that church headquarters, the prophet, and the temple were all in Ohio, and despite the fact that opposition to the Saints in Missouri was much more violent, much earlier.

Land was the leaven and the local franchise was the dough, but any market system produces winners and losers. Nearly anyone could improve their $1.25 per acre homestead to a viable $20 per acre farm given enough of their own time and sweat. But if your ambitions were a little higher, much greater fortunes could be made if your land could be platted as a town and the lots subdivided and sold individually. In theory, your $1.25 per acre investment could return $1,000 per acre or more. Thus, the stakes were real.

When the church in Kirtland collapsed amid its many debts in 1837, Joseph Smith and other church leaders moved to Missouri and took direct control of the church there. Although the Missouri Saints had been unable to return to the lands in Jackson County since their expulsion in 1833, they had negotiated a compromise, whereby the state of Missouri gave them their own county, Caldwell County, in 1836. This was not a legal agreement — no law made Caldwell Mormon — but it was an understanding that kept the peace. Moreover, it gave Mormons a considerable degree of autonomy. They owned the local county franchise. This gave them the power of self-government, from their own militia, to their own justices, their own schools, and their own representatives to the state legislature. Indeed, the much vaunted (and much misinterpreted) later Nauvoo charter hardly did more than give the city of Nauvoo the same power that a normal county, like Caldwell County, enjoyed.

Of course, in 1838 (unlike 1840), Joseph Smith didn’t have the counsel of someone as experienced as John C. Bennett to explain that reality. Instead of consolidating the Saints’ power base, the First Presidency immediately abrogated the agreements of Missouri church leaders and began to expand outside of Caldwell County. The two major thrusts were the towns of Adam-ondi-Ahman in Daviess County and DeWitt in Carroll County. Adam-ondi-Ahman, founded by Joseph Smith on June 25, 1838, was perfectly sited at the center of Daviess County. Had the town survived, it surely would have eclipsed Gallatin as county seat. If Adam-ondi-Ahman controlled the county franchise, the owners of lots in the Mormon town would have become winners, while the non-Mormon losers would hold title to worthless lots in the abandoned plat of Gallatin.

In a recent article in BYU Studies, Jeffrey N. Walker has shown that timing was everything in the Daviess County conflict.* Walker illustrates that the enemies of the Saints were aware of (and profited because of) an important deadline. In the bulk of Daviess County, federal lands were to be auctioned on November 12, 1838. Anyone who settled the land prior to the auction had a preemption right — essentially, they were able to squat on land, improve its value to $20 or more per acre, and still buy it from the government on November 12 for the minimum price of $1.25 per acre. However, because of the events of the Mormon Missouri War, Mormons were ultimately prevented from buying the lands they had settled and improved in Daviess County. Walker shows that these valuable lands were instead bought by enemies of the Saints for the same undervalued price of $1.25 per acre.

Walker has consequently (and I think convincingly) argued that the motivation for dispossessing the Saints was economic. Mormons weren’t persecuted because of their religion, they were robbed to make a buck. Land was in question and land was everything.

But what Walker fails to mention is that the Mormons were also aware of the auction deadline when they moved into Daviess County. And long before the Mormons were driven from the county and prevented from exercising their own preemption rights, the Mormons acted on their knowledge of the looming deadline by attempting to acquire the preemption rights of their enemies. Crossing the county border on October 15, 1838, the Mormon militia from Caldwell County illegally entered Daviess County and thus became a “mob.” The Mormons subsequently sacked and burned to the ground the non-Mormon settlements of Grindstone Fork, Millport, and Splawn’s Ridge, along with the county seat of Gallatin. By the end of October (well before the November 12 deadline), Mormon mobs succeeded in driving all the non-Mormon settlers from Daviess County.

Of course, this victory for the Saints was temporary. However much the tactical actions of the Mormon mobs in Daviess County in 1838 paralleled the actions of the non-Mormon mobs in Jackson County in 1833, the fundamental strategic reality couldn’t have been any more different. The Jackson County Mormons may have had no one to call upon for support other than their distant coreligionists in Kirtland, but the Daviess County non-Mormons had an entire state (including an extremely sympathetic governor) to call upon for aid. As apostles Thomas B. Marsh and Orson Hyde, who witnessed Mormon mob activity in Daviess County, quickly realized, church leaders had fallen victim to one of the classic blunders. The Mormons had gotten themselves involved in a land war in Missouri. And once started, the war was one they quickly lost.

____________________

* Jeffrey N. Walker, “Mormon Land Rights in Caldwell and Daviess Counties and the Mormon Conflict of 1838: New Findings and New Understandings,” BYU Studies 47:1 (2008), 4-56.

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Comments

  1. I haven’t even read the post yet – but i just had to give mad props for the illustration.

  2. John Hamer says:

    Thanks, Orwell (#1): You were sure quick on the draw!

  3. You moderate the MHA session that Walker did at the SLC conference in 2007, right? I remembered being absolutely blown away by the details of his researche. It was a text-book picture of effective research and synthesis — piecing together so many intricate pieces of a puzzle so convincingly that once you heard it, it just seemed obvious, like “Why didn’t anyone see this before?”

    Great post, John.

  4. John Hamer says:

    DKL (#3): Thanks! Yes, I got to moderate that session. I completely agree with you, Walker’s presentation was a tour-de-force. The BYU Studies article cited above is the published version of the same. I’m revisiting it now because I’m finishing an update to my Northeast of Eden: Atlas of the Mormon Settlement of Caldwell County, Missouri, 1834-39.

  5. Awesome!

  6. Outstanding. What we won’t do for cheap land…

  7. Fascinating John. Is it your opinion that if the Mormons had limited themselves to Caldwell County they would have been left alone?

  8. Actually, people have thought of this before. The earliest Mormon narratives describing the expulsion postulated that the Missourians expelled the Saints from the state to get access to their property. The Mormons not only villified the Missourians as being “demons in the shape of men,” but also as “land pirates.” John Taylor, among others, argued that the expulsion was a premeditated plot to grab Mormon land. In addition, IIRC, LeSueur also argued that part of the motivation for the expulsion was to get Mormon lands. I don’t want to take too much away from Walker’s research, since he is the first to compile all the evidence for the thesis and present it compellingly, but let’s not get too carried away in granting him complete originality.

    In addition, it’s a mistake to reduce all Missourian motivations to simply economics. Political, social, cultural, and yes, religious, factors contributed to the conflict as well as economics. If I remember correctly, Walker himself acknowledges this in the article.

  9. John Hamer says:

    Sanford (#7): Yes. If Mormons had realized the incredible power owning their own county brought, and had built that up and consolidated their position, I think they would have been able to live in Caldwell County permanently in peace. Actually, whereas DeWitt was just a vainglorious error, I think that Mormons could have competed for Daviess and won without setting off a war. They just should have avoided burning down their enemies’ homes; if they’d sat tight and endured for a year or two, non-Mormon settlers would have avoided Gallatin and Daviess and the Saints would have won peacefully.

  10. I also think it’s a bit ridiculous to reduce Mormon motivations for the Daviess County October raid to wanting to get the pre-emption rights. Come on, a LOT more was going on by that time that led to the decision to invade the county.

  11. John Hamer says:

    David G (#8): You’re quite right. Walker’s article is important as a synthesis, but the idea isn’t totally original. Steve LeSueur who wrote the standard text on the subject also highlights the auction deadline and the property motivation. On the question of competing motivations: as you correctly remember, Walker is hesitant to argue against alternate motives, but he nevertheless argues strongly in favor of the economic motive. He states, “while the causes of the Mormon conflict in 1838 may be multifaceted, the result was not. Some Missourians enjoyed a financial windfall by getting clear title to the Mormons’ lands in Daviess County. Whether this was the primary motive from the outset is still unclear, it is an undisputed fact that key Missourians involved in the Mormon expulsion immediately seized a financial reward” (46). Political factors are intertwined with economic here, and I’m saying that I believe that these two trump the cultural and religious factors.

  12. John Hamer says:

    David G (#10): Seizing a county is a big deal. Counties were even more semi-autonomous than they are today and by controlling Daviess, the Saints would have doubled their power and more. For example, without owning Daviess, the Mormons might have been boxed in or owned discontinuous territories. Caldwell wasn’t close to being filled, but it would be eventually.

    I do think that taking control of Daviess County was the motivation for the Mormon invasion of the Daviess County.

  13. Right, but my point is I don’t think they seized Daviess simply to be able to claim the land at the auction in November. They didn’t just wake up on October 15, with everything being peaceful, and say, “Let’s go expell those Missourians so we can get their pre-emption rights.” While that may have been part of the motivation, I’d argue that the expulsion of the Saints from DeWitt and the rumors that that Missouri vigilantes were marching to Gallatin next played a much stronger role in the decision making than the desire to gain pre-emption rights.

  14. John Hamer says:

    Ok, but those are not religious or cultural factors. We’re still dealing with a strategy about how best to hold land, once a war is started. I think you’re arguing that the war starts with the non-Mormons attacking DeWitt in Carroll County, rather than with the Mormons attacking non-Mormon settlements in Daviess County. My point is: look at the Risk board. A few extremists in Carroll County may have looked at the board and realized that they were able to seize the DeWitt (an extremely recent, isolated Mormon colony), but their actions didn’t necessarily lead to a total war. Mormons could have recovered from that defeat and consolidated by taking up defensive positions at Adam-ondi-Ahman and in Caldwell. It’s only with the Mormon attacks in Daviess that peace becomes extremely unlikely, and with the Mormon attack on the state militia in Ray County (the Battle of Crooked River) that peace becomes impossible.

    The preemption deadline in Daviess may only provide a timeframe, but I think that the land and county ownership are still the critical motives in the overall war.

  15. “Mormons weren’t persecuted because of their religion . . .” Amen! Er, I mean, right on, John. A very useful post. While there was naturally some element of religious resentment or motivation on the part of some Missourians, the elements you highlight far eclipsed religious factors.

    Shortly following the Haun’s Mill massacre, Jeremiah Myers, the teen-aged son of the faithful Mormon who had built that mill (and nephew of the man who owned the infamous blacksmith shop in which so much of the slaughter took place) tried to visit his wounded brothers, but had to flee the returning mob on his favorite mare. “If that is what they call Mormonism,” Jerry later commented, “I have got enough of it.” And so, about the time of his eighteenth birthday, he testified at the Richmond hearings (which sent Joseph Smith and others to the Liberty Jail) on behalf of the state . . .

    . . . I was in the last expedition to Daviess county; being summoned from my home, (in the east part of Caldwell county,) by my militia officer, to go to Far West, where I was told we had to march to Daviess; and did so. . . . I was then told there was a mob in Gallatin, and that we were going to disperse them. When in about half a mile of Gallatin, we formed, and rushed into town with a huzzah. I saw only two men, who were running; others said there were about fifteen. We gathered up around the store, and some went in, hallooing to “bring them out here;” supposing there were men in the house. About this time, myself and another man returned to camp, at Diahmon. That evening I saw store-goods at the bishop’s store; and was informed by Mahlon Johnston, one of the company to Gallatin, that the goods taken from the store in Gallatin were goods I saw deposited at the bishop’s store; they were called and considered consecrated property; and that they were to be dealt out by the bishop to those who stood in need. . . .

    [Missouri. Circuit Court (5th Circuit). . . . Document Showing The testimony given before the judge of the fifth judicial circuit of the State of Missouri, on the trial of Joseph Smith, jr., and others, for high treason, and other crimes against that State. February 15, 1841. Ordered to be printed. (Washington, 1841; 26th Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Doc. 189), pp. 26-27.]

  16. Rick, are you saying that Mormons weren’t persecuted because of their religion in the 1830s and 1840s?

  17. I may be missing something, but I don’t recall “them Marmons broke an agreement not to move outside of the county where we put them” being a rallying cry.

    I thought it was pretty much… “Crazy nutters, believe in a prophet, thinks god talks to men, let’s kill them before their prophet says god told him to eat our women and children.”

    Or thereabouts…

    You can be certain if they had gained power in one county just like they did in Nauvoo, they would have eventually been forced out and Joseph and Hyrum killed anyway — possibly even sooner then the original martyr date.

  18. Although I am not an expert on this particular historical moment, it seems a little simplistic to try and separate economic and political factors from religious and cultural factors. Even though the pre-emption rights might have played a major motivational role in the conflict, much of the rhetoric was couched in religious terms. I imagine that this occurred because it allowed both sides to motivate persons who normally would feel uncomfortable getting involved in a land dispute. Thus, the conflict over religious becomes a motivation in itself as well because it serves as a powerful rhetorical device. I know enough about Jacksonian America to know that religious disputes often served as the most visible components of much large socio-economic conflicts. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to discount the importance of religious rhetoric simply because it was utilized as a weapon in land disputes. In my mind, cultural motivations always walk hand in hand with social, political, and economic factors. The largest evidence of this marriage throughout the course of American history can be found in the construction of race

  19. I think you’re arguing that the war starts with the non-Mormons attacking DeWitt in Carroll County, rather than with the Mormons attacking non-Mormon settlements in Daviess County.

    John, I think I’m on pretty solid historiographical ground in arguing that the war started with the expulsion from DeWitt in October (actually both Mormon and Missourian vigilante forces were mobilizing in August, but DeWitt was arguably the first major turning point). You’re relying on large doses of speculation and counterfactual reasoning if you really think that things would have died down after DeWitt. While I think we’d agree that the October raid on Daviess was a crucial turning point in the conflict (and in hindsight, a really bad strategy with terrible consequences: Haun’s Mill), I don’t agree that the war started there or that other factors did not lead to further conflict. Remember, it was rumors of Crooked River, a later and completely separate engagement that led to Boggs issuing the extermination order.

    The preemption deadline in Daviess may only provide a timeframe, but I think that the land and county ownership are still the critical motives in the overall war.

    The problem, of course, with this argument is that there’s really zero evidence to support it, except for after-the-fact reasoning. To my knowledge, there is no surviving evidence from the Missourians prior to or during the conflict to suggest that they wanted to take over Mormon lands. We only have a few dates, evidence that some Missourians did claim Mormon lands after the Saints were gone (which is, well, obvious; what else would they do?), and then, as I mentioned, a lot of Mormons saying that it was all a pre-conceived plot to steal land. On the other hand, there is substantial contemporary evidence from the Missourians themselves prior to and during the conflict that they were motivated by a fear of Mormon numbers (which manifested itself at the voting booth and in the market place) and Mormon fanaticism. Simply looking at a few deeds that were recorded after the Mormons leave and lining up a few dates is not enough evidence in my mind to dismiss the other factors which are substantiated in the historical record. Now, you may be suggesting that the fear of Mormon numbers and fanaticism was all just rhetorical cover for their “real” motivation: greed, but just saying somthing doesn’t prove it.

  20. Oh, and I endorse everything that Joel says in #18.

  21. Kevin Barney says:

    Awesome illustration, John. I enjoyed the Walker article and appreciate this summary of it.

  22. Is anybody else noticing that this debate is very similar to the debate surrouding the causes of the Spanish American War and the start of American Imperialism? Some people argue it was economic factors like opening the markets in Asia, or the need for resupply stations. Some argue it was cultural factors like the need to take up the white man’s burden. Others argue for religious factors like opening up the door for Christian missionaries. I am not taking a side in either debate, I just thought the parrallel was extremely interesting. Even in Mormon studies there seems to be the same historiographic trend as in other fields.

    I also enjoyed the illustration a great deal. Thanks for the post. x

  23. Sorry for the “x”, my baby hit the keyboard right as I hit enter.

  24. Morgan, you’re right, there are interesting parallels. The economics v. cultural debates are fairly old, especially between progressive historians and intellectual historians. But, these days, most historians accept that both economics and culture played important roles, and few credible historians would argue for one exclusively over the other.

  25. Now that I think about it a little more, taking a holistic approach can help us understand spiritual events better. In church classes we understandably focus on the spiritual reasons for the Missouri conflict, but we can look at economic and cultural factors to gain a greater appreciation and understanding for that part of our history. For instance, on my blog I have looked at the problems detailed in the books of Helaman and Third Nephi and examined what economic and military factors influenced those events. So I have reread those books with a new and greater insight than ever before, just from looking at a possible new explanation or influence. So thanks again for the post John.

  26. Thanks for the well written thoughts, John.

    We can put any time we want as a start of this little ending battle Remember that the Gallatin election was before DeWitt, the fiery July 4 speech before then, etc. Essentially, it was a 7 year long power play.

    Walker simply revived the old Mountain Mormon lament that it was ( maybe exclusively ) to steal our land in Daviess – and mentioned but ignored the much more powerful power argument. We seperated ourselves socially, politically, religiously and economically. While the land in Daviess was part of the equation, it was only a part, and a far less important part.

    And, Mountain Mormons always want to forget what John emphasized – we burned, robbed, stole and ran the non-Mormons from their homes in a purely military Danite action.

    The real Daviess conflict was much broader than just Daviess lands. For instance, would anyone argue against the article in our paper in Indepence inviting free blacks to come live with us in Missouri as something that started the first expulsion? Or that our not using Gentile stores was a big factor?

    As for #18 and 19 above, there was almost zero religious rhetoric involved. Many lay mormons claim that ( paricularly Mountain Mormons ), but the evidence is all the other way. In support of Walker’s thesis ( and John’s above ) the major religious rhetoric was the Missourians’ abhorrance at our demand that we were the rightful owners of the land. But, this fanned the flames – the Missouians did not actually want our Daviess lands per se, but did not want us running them off their lands and taking their power in the County.

    John, I think I might come visit Ron et al this fall and get back researching my area. Thanks again for the article.

    Mel

  27. John, this was very interesting and opened a world I never knew existed. Fascinating!

  28. Mel, fear of fanaticism runs through the sources we have from the Missourians. Now, if you mean by “almost zero religious rhetoric involved” that the Missourians aren’t spouting simplistic rhetoric that many “Mountain Mormons” imagine, then I agree with you. But that’s not what I’m talking about when I say religious factors and rhetoric. Rather, I’m referring to Missourian fears of fanaticism and delusion, which Spencer Fluhman explores thoroughly in his dissertation on anti-Mormonism in the 19th century. If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest to get a copy.

  29. David G, I don’t see Fluhman’s disseration available anywhere. Has is been published?

  30. “Rick, are you saying that Mormons weren’t persecuted because of their religion in the 1830s and 1840s?” (john f., #16)

    I would love to reply, “yes!” if only for a countering, shock value. But of course we know that nothing is ever that simple or cut and dried. What I will say is that in traditional “Sunday School” narrative in the Church, we have too often settled for simplistic religous persecution explanations which are highly inadequate.

  31. Sanford, Fluhman’s dissertation has not been published yet. He is currently in talks with publishers, so hopefully a revised disseration should appear within the next couple of years.

    It is available via Proquest if you have access to an academic institution with a subscription. If not, I’d be happy to send you a PDF. If you’re interested, feel free to email me at juvenileinstructor AT gmail DOT com

  32. In addition, unless I’m mistaken, Fluhman published a chapter from his dissertation in a recent volume of the Journal of Mormon History. He also has an online article that articulates some of his arguments:

    http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-9.html

  33. Can someone explain to me what the little block of land (county?) just south of Caldwell county on the map is supposed to be? Is that just a Risk reference that I’m missing?
    Thanks!

  34. Buncombe’s Strip was the 6 mile high 24 mile wide strip of land that was not part of Ray nor Caldwell county. At the time of creation of Caldwell County, it was originally supposed to be part of Caldwell, but because some of the settlers objected, it was given to be administered by Ray County until such time as the issue could be settled.

    Buncombe was, at the time we are talking about, a city in that strip, not far south and east of where the Battle of Crooked River was fought. Interestingly, its name was changed to Knoxville on the very day of the Crooked River battle.

    For a full explanation, see http://www.tungate.com/crooked_river.htm starting about 1/2 way down the page.

    Mel

  35. Mel and Rick:

    The dates between July 15 and July 23, 1833, specifically the Missourians’ manifesto or “secret constitution” of July 15, 1833 give pause for consideration in reviewing your comments above.

    Also, John H., it is difficult to see what role beneficial land prices paid in the seven day period between October 31 and November 6, 1833 or in the September and October 1838 sieges and burnings of Mormon homes and settlements by non-Mormon Missourians. Similarly, it is difficult to see how a remeditated plan to steal improved Mormon lands (if such a premeditated purpose existed, which is only speculation based on the fact that Missourians did, in fact, steal Mormons’ improved land after they drove them out) actually eclipsed the proceedings of these dates and the contents of the July 15, 1833 mob manifesto or the outcome of the July 20, 1833 “meeting” of Jackson County’s non-Mormon residents.

    Also, W.W. Phelps’ 1833 Evening and Morning Star article summarizing the law on importation of free blacks was mentioned above and this, together with disgust with the Mormons’ religion, seems to have been much more of a factor motivating Missourians’ hatred of Mormons than was the desire to steal their improved land. Getting improved land for free was just the cream on the top of expelling the Mormons, not the primary purpose. Instead, the historical record supports the Missourians’ belief that the Mormons’ isolationist tendency (e.g. living separately from non-Mormons and only patronizing Mormon businesses, to the extent this actually happened, and voting as a block, etc.) and their belief that Mormons advocated importing free blacks into the state (despite some Mormons’ attempts to assure them that this was not the case after Phelps’ newspaper article was published), combined with genuine disregard for their religion, specifically with the claim to having a prophet and to enjoyment of the spiritual gifts of the New Testament, as the reason that Missourians illegally dispossessed Mormons of their property and security.

    The 1838 “Mormon War” cannot be divorced from the events of the 1833 injustices perpetrated on Mormons by non-Mormons in Missouri. It is true that in the end Missourians took Mormon lands worth $20/acre or more for the original federal price of $1.25/acre (not paid to the Mormons), which was an additional injustice suffered by Mormons at the hands of merciless frontier mobbers. But it does not fit the facts to claim that religious persecution wasn’t an overriding factor in the expulsion of Mormons from the state of Missouri.

    For this reason, the following statement from the original post goes too far:
    Mormons weren’t persecuted because of their religion, they were robbed to make a buck. Land was in question and land was everything. The evidence doesn’t support it and thus it is a polemical, ends-oriented conclusion.

    The suggestion in comment # 9 is similarly not supported by the historical record:
    If Mormons had realized the incredible power owning their own county brought, and had built that up and consolidated their position, I think they would have been able to live in Caldwell County permanently in peace. Actually, whereas DeWitt was just a vainglorious error, I think that Mormons could have competed for Daviess and won without setting off a war. They just should have avoided burning down their enemies’ homes; if they’d sat tight and endured for a year or two, non-Mormon settlers would have avoided Gallatin and Daviess and the Saints would have won peacefully.

    The events of 1838 in which the Missourians illegally dispossessed Mormons of their property and security were not an isolated occurrence. This came on the heels of the same treatment in Jackson County and elsewhere at the hands of Missouri mobs and more than five years’ abortion of justice at the hands of corrupt/complicit government officials all across the spectrum from justices of the peace to judges to state militia leaders to two governors of the state. Based on this background, it cannot be said that “sat tight and endured for a year or two, non-Mormon settlers would have avoided Gallatin and Daviess and the Saints would have won peacefully”. The historical evidence suggests that Missourians would not have left Mormons unmolested in Caldwell County either. At the very least, forcing them out of Caldwell County would also have given Missourians improved land for free.

    At any rate, Rick, the only reason to put forward a revisionist depiction of the reasons for Missourians’ forceful expulsion of Mormons from their homes and from the state would be to deny Mormons the narrative or religious persecution that defines our early history. Missourians look just as bad whether they expelled the Mormons from the state for the premeditated purpose of stealing their improved land or whether they expelled them out of a mix of hatred of their religion, isolationism, indifference to slavery, and economic success (and stealing their improved land as a side benefit). In fact, the latter provides more nuance to the equation and paints the Missourians as more complex people than simple cutthroat robbers hoping to get their hands on improved land for the federal price. The question then becomes, why would someone want to deny Mormons’ their narrative of religious persecution, particularly where this is obviously supported by the historical record?

  36. Let me also say that your image is great. I osmosed a lot of my early geography knowledge through Risk, Axis & Allies, and Civilization. Any chance that we might get a printable PDF version of the board you put together there? Then I’ll just have to invent some sort of game to make use of it.

  37. I agree with john f.

  38. I also agree with John F’s #35

    Its clear to me from looking at the history in MO that it would not have been possible for a large LDS population to have lived unmolested for very long in MO. I think that the history of the expulsion from Nauvoo bears this idea out. It was only a few years after arriving from MO in Nauvoo that real issues erupted with the folks in the surrounding counties culminating in a forced evacuation from Nauvoo.

  39. I find john f.’s final paragraph (in #35) curious. Just, curious. What I said, I stand by (#30), and I want to repeat it again:

    “. . . in traditional ‘Sunday School’ narrative in the Church, we have too often settled for simplistic religious persecution explanations which are highly inadequate.”

    I can’t believe that any serious and informed Mormon historian of any camp could dispute that statement. To suggest that this carries an agenda of “. . . want[ing] to deny Mormons’ their narrative of religious persecution . . .” is deliberately to polarize the issue rather than to explore ways in which we have expanded our persecution myths to cover too many of our own conduct failures as a people. Ohio mobs wouldn’t try to emasculate a prophet for saying he spoke with God, nor would Caldwell County renegades shoot point blank at little boys hiding in a blacksmith shop because their parents believed in three degrees of glory. Yes, there was persecution, but it was not essentially religious at its core – then, or almost ever, anywhere.

  40. Rick, while agreeing with you that the typical Sunday School narration is too simplistic, I have to agree with john f. that a major motive for revisionist history like this is, as he says, to deny any validity to the Mormon narrative. That has always appeared to me to be Mel Tungate’s reason for recasting Mormon activity in Missouri as “ethnic cleansing,” which he did so often at one point that I left that discussion list forever.

    You say, “Yes, there was persecution, but it was not essentially religious at its core – then, or almost ever, anywhere.” Yet, every revisionist historian of Mountain Meadows takes it for granted that it was Mormon religiosity, peppered perhaps with a little greed, that led to Mountain Meadows.

    Among the revisionists, the Mormons are never the victims of religious persecution, but always the perpetrators of it.

  41. Mel (26),
    What, pray tell, is this “Mountain Mormon” of which you write?

  42. I think it’s important to understand the nuances that fueled what occurred in Missouri, but treating it as a complete exception to why the same thing happened in multiple locations seems every bit as simplistic as the “typical Sunday School narration” – and that is my primary concern with this post. It appears to be the opposite caricature of the argument it is rejecting.

    One says, “It was all about religious ideology.” The other says, “It had nothing to do with religious ideology.” I don’t believe either one – and rejecting John’s attempt to add nuance in discussing the overall motivations as supporting the typical Sunday School narration simply is ludicrous, imo.

  43. Excellent point Ardis. Although I would point out in a general sense that some revisionsim is good. New sources become available, and sometimes a dominant narrative takes root that is not adequately evident in sources.

    To use an example, my Masters thesis on Stonewall Jackson found that many of the common perceptions (lemon sucking, tactical genius, lack of cavalry at the Battle of Front Royal) are just wrong, but get repeated many times by many people anyway. So revisionists actually have an important function in the field in general. (Perhaps I am preaching to the choir on that point)

    I don’t know the historiography of Mormon studies enough to comment to know for sure. But based on what I have read, you seem to make an excellent and correct point regarding the Mormon study revisionists double standard in assigning religious motivations.

  44. Historiographical trends don’t have any particular relevance for whether brother Hamer’s analysis here holds up. Whether or not revisionism deprives a social group of its narrative of persecution is not relevant to the legitimacy of that revisionism.

    John H and others are arguing here that the conflict was mostly about land, not religion. John F calls BS, claims the saints are being deprived of their narratives, that it basically was religious in nature, but then actually argues that it was basically political. The fact is that most people — even wicked Missourians — don’t kill, plunder, and expel over theological disagreements. To the extent that our persecution narratives involve images people bullying, killing, and ethnically cleansing Mormons because of our beliefs, then, yes, those narratives are disabused by historical evidence and analysis that fills in explanatory gaps with more reasonable factors like land dispute and political conflict.

    Hamer, Walker, et al are basically doing here what Turley, Walker, et al did with MMM.

  45. Ron Madson says:

    Enlightening post and comments. Thank you. In my personal opinion, what happened to the Saints both prior to Gallatin and Crooked River was justice—these are not my words but the word of the Lord as I read it. After the initial skirmishes in Missouri in 1833 the Lord gave the saints DC 98 on August 6, 1833. The Lord describes that section as his “immutable covenant.” This covenant warns the saints that if they retaliate in any manner against their enemies then what occurred to them then “it shall be accounted unto you as being meted out as a just measure unto you.” (DC 98: 24). And what were they commanded to do when assaulted by enemies? : “bear it patiently and revile not against them, neither seek revenge…” But DC 98 was ignored then as it is ignored now. Had the saints taken seriously DC 98 they would have subdued their enemies with Christianity. Or maybe we really don’t believe these words. In 2003, DC 98 was as irrelevant among the saints as an immutable covenant by those at our helm to those in quorum instruction. It was not applied/obeyed in 1838 and for sure not our model for 2003 to present–and we should know better. I still think we suffer from a scriptural dyslexia—the “tenets” in DC 89 are nearly carved in stone while the “immutable covenant” in DC 98 is treated as if it is only a suggestion.

  46. john f. (#35): As I hope I’ve made clear in my comments above, I agree with you that the initial post (and subsequent comments that support it) is a gross oversimplification of what happened in Missouri during the 1830s and the motivations of both sides of the conflict. But I think it’s important not to go far in the other direction. From reading your comment, I suspect (but correct me if I’m wrong) you’ve been reading some of Richard Anderson’s writings on Missouri. I know Richard and I respect him both as a dedicated Latter-day Saint and as a scholar, but few historians of the Missouri period really buy his arguments. In particular, while you’re right that 1833 should be broadly seen as parallelling the 1838 crisis, this should not be used as an excuse to completely subsume the unique causes of 1838. Aside from 1838 having its own dynamics, this view reduces the violence to an inevitable conflict. Historians today reject the idea that anything in the past was inevitable, since this robs historical actors of agency. The outcome in 1838 was not inevitable; people made choices among various options. This not only holds the Missourians accountable for their actions, but also the Mormons. I think we do a disservice to the Saints by reducing them to simply victims of oppression. They made choices as well that led to the final outcome.

    Now, as to your larger point. I think it’s safe to say that Hamer and his cohorts are being intentionally provocative (I suspect it has a lot to do with how they see the modern Utah church and its members, but I’ll let them answer for themselves). What annoys a lot of “revisionist historians” is that Mormons have since the 1830s primarily emphasized their victim status, while deemphasizing that the Saints made choices that contributed to the resulting violence (like burning buildings, expelling people from their homes, and “consecrating” stolen property).

    As to if religion or economics or land was the primary motivator for the Missourians actions, I think I’ve made abundantly clear where I stand on that my the comments above. Rick (#39), while you are correct that the Missourians did not persecute the Saints for such beliefs as the three degrees of glory, I don’t know of any historian who argues that the doctrine and practice of gathering was not a primary cause of the conflict. Gathering was a religious belief that had social, cultural, political, and economic implications, granted. But that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t “religious” at its core. Again, the Missourians saw the Mormons as dangerous and deluded fanatics who threatened the established republican and protestant order. Aside from Fluhman, I recommend you read Laurence Moore’s Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans to understand more fully Protestant fears of Mormons and other outsiders.

  47. If revisionism leads to biased use of sources and faulty reasoning then it does matter Brad. I find that the former can lead to the latter. Its important to examine Hammer in the wider context. How do his arguments affect the field? How has the research of other historians affected his? So “revisionism” does matter in this case. Historians do not write in a vacuum, understanding the context can help you understand his contribution to the field.

    This knee jerk reaction against applying the word “revisionist” to a scholar implies a hostility to those that the espouse the orthodox view. It is really unecessary to direct it at me (if you were) because I enjoyed his thesis, even if I disagreed in some specifics.

    It is important to analyze a person’s argument, AND digest his place in the constant cross pollenization of a given field.

  48. Faulty reasoning and biased use of sources plague revisionists and orthodox alike. How a historical/analytical argument fits into a historiographic matrix is interesting, but in itself it has no bearing on the veracity of said arguments. Hamer’s (and Walker’s) argument treats the Missouri War in the same way that Turley, Walker, and Leonard treat MMM or MacKinnon treats the Utah War (or Benny Morris treats the Arab-Israeli conflict). The fact that it diminishes mythologized narratives of religious persecution is also interesting, but, again, in itself is irrelevant to the question of how the historical analysis stands up to scrutiny.

  49. I disagree for a couple reasons but that is mvoing dangerously close to one of those yes/no exchanges that gets annoying very fast. If you want to know why I disagree in greater detail you can message me. Otherwise I will continue to enjoy this great discussion as we agree to move on.

  50. Mark Brown says:

    Here is the value of John’s post for me.

    Let’s see a show of hands — who among us has previously heard of Grindstone Fork, Millport, and Splawn’s Ridge? I will confess that these names were new to me. Until those names are as familiar to us as Haun’s Mill, we are overplaying our victim hand. It doesn’t mean that there was no religious perscution, it just means that we need to find a way to include the culpability of our own people in the narrative.

  51. #50 – Well said, Mark.

  52. John Hamer says:

    Hey folks, I have to apologize for my poor blog etiquette. I was in a real scuffling mood when I posted this on Sunday and then I got hit Monday morning by work and wasn’t able to check back in until now. But I’m very happy to see that a great discussion has ensued. Lots of insightful (and divergent) views! I’m going to try to engage them.

  53. John Hamer says:

    Ok, we’re throwing around a lot of catch phrases. On the “gross oversimplification” question, I’m going to point out that this is a blog post, not a dissertation. I don’t think that the phrase “revisionist” when applied to historians is useful. It’s little more than a political statement like “activist” applied to judges. Everything a judge does is “active” and the basic function of the historian is “revision.” When you write history, you are revising, even if you are revising your narrative in an apologetic direction.

    David: When we’re giving advice about what people should have done, of course we’re dealing in counter-factuals. Of course we don’t know what would have resulted if anyone acted differently than they did. We can only know what they did and what resulted; and we don’t even know the extent to which the second thing is a “result” rather than simply something that would have come next regardless.

    You’re talking about fear of Mormon numbers. I think that fear of Mormon numbers is about land. Land isn’t just about greed. Let’s say you moved west to fulfill the American dream and you moved to Carroll County. You helped found a town called Carrollton, which succeeded in becoming the county seat, but because half your county was owned by non-resident landlords (because Congress had granted certain lands to veterans), the overall growth of your county was retarded compared to even much newer neighboring counties like Livingston to the north. So life’s already tough. Now suddenly, an alien group comes in and buys half the plat of a town in your county. Worse, they have the potential to outnumber you in a year, move the county seat away from Carrollton, and consequently vote you and your partners out of your county franchise, ruining you. On top of that, you were told they had agreed not to settle in Carroll County in exchange for being granted a county of their own, which they were granted. It’s not just greed; it’s your entire life. Which is not to say that violence is your appropriate recourse; of course it’s not. However, the desire to “persecute” on the basis of the aliens’ religion is not your top motivation. Whether or not they have a new Bible isn’t top on the list of things causing you to become a vigilante, even if it does color your rhetoric. Your motivation is the fact that you’re about to lose everything you’ve built; your life’s investment.

  54. John Hamer says:

    John F: There wasn’t perpetual war between 1833 and 1838. I think you’re wrong to conflate them. There was a reasonable truce between the 1833 conflict and the 1838 war. During that truce Mormons were given a county. That’s a big deal, even if many Mormons then and now didn’t perceive it for what it was. If there hadn’t been a truce, Missouri wouldn’t have given Mormons that county; you simply don’t give counties to people you aren’t trying to make peace with. That was a significant gesture; and it was made with the (non-legally binding) understanding that the Mormons would confine their settlement to that county. Frankly, owning your own county is a lot better than owning some land in somebody else’s county, especially when many of those somebodies hate you.

  55. John Hamer says:

    BTW: I want to point out that my great great great great grandfather was a Danite who fought in the Battle of Crooked River. When David W. Patten was wounded in the battle, he was brought back to my grandparents’ house where he died of his wounds.

    Hi Mel! — it’s great to hear from you again, thanks for chiming in.

    Sam — “Mountain Mormons” or Rocky Mountain Saints is Jan Shipps’ shorthand for LDS and other Brighamite Mormons as opposed to the Prairie Saints (Community of Christ, etc.) that I tend to hang out with here in the Midwest.

  56. John,

    I don’t think any of our comments about the “simplistic” nature of your argument were referencing the depth of the post. Instead, we were questioning the way in which you’ve made this a “chicken or egg” type argument when the answer should more accurately be characterized as both. While I can accept that land might be one of the primary if not the primary motivation for the conflicts of 1838, the fact that one of the sides of the conflict self-identified and were identified by others as a religious community means that religious factors were involved. You make a strong case for why fear of land-hungry Mormons could motivate a very bitter reaction from Missourians, but was it the only motivation? I think this is a much harder case to make.

    Also your comments about all historical discovery as revisionism are correct, but also a little slippery. Revisionism has been a real project in the historical world since the 1960s and 1970s. Historiographically, American historians had come to a point of consensus history in the 1950s which focused on grand narrative and felt like it had all of its ducks in a row about how history worked and should be told. It was focused primarily on “great men” and politics. The idea of revisionist history came as a reaction to this consensus. Revisionist historians utilized different types of evidence and methodology to critique the political and cultural assumptions bound up in consensus history. Thus, the concept of revision became a short-hand referent for historians that rejected the politics of consensus. In recent years, the idea of revisionism has been flipped around by conservative politicians and scholars as a way of referring to narratives they consider subversive. They want to conflate the idea of subversiveness with inaccuracy or distortion. They are utilizing the rhetoric of revisionism against the original perpetrators of the movement. I guess what I’m ultimately trying to say is that revisionism is a real thing–it encompasses the reenvisioning of historical narrative based on political and ideological reassessments. What John is trying to say is that such reimagining is key to all historical endeavor. The idea of revisionism should not be an anathema, but I think it is important for historians to reveal and engage the reasons and sensibilities behind their projects of revision.

  57. re David G. # 46: You wrote, From reading your comment, I suspect (but correct me if I’m wrong) you’ve been reading some of Richard Anderson’s writings on Missouri.

    I haven’t been reading anything by Richard Anderson and am not emulating any of his arguments as far as I know.

    In particular, while you’re right that 1833 should be broadly seen as parallelling the 1838 crisis, this should not be used as an excuse to completely subsume the unique causes of 1838.

    My comment # 35 does not in any way use 1833 to “subsume the unique causes of 1838″. When I said that the 1838 “Mormon War” cannot be divorced from the injustices and persecution of 1833 and the events of the subsequent five years, this did not deny or overlook the fact that the Mormon militia from Caldwell County crossed into Daviess County in October 1838 against the advice of Alexander Doniphan, lawyer and brigadier general of the Missouri state militia, to protect Mormon homes and lands in Daviess County from Missourian mobs (and thus the Mormon militia was acting outside of its county jurisdiction) in the wake of rumors that a Missouri militia was mobilized, with artillery, to expel the Mormons from both Daviess and Caldwell Counties. My statement also does not ignore the fact that vigilante groups of Mormons (the Danites) forced some Missourians out of their homes in Daviess County after Mormons were disenfranchised at Gallatin on August 6, 1838, harassed and expelled from DeWitt in Carroll County by a Missouri mob between the end of August and the beginning of October 1838, and after hearing the above-mentioned rumors of the advancing Missouri militia with the intent of forcing the Mormons from their homes and lands in Daviess and Caldwell Counties. My comment # 35 does not imply that these Mormon acts of aggression, which in the end analysis were really defensive in nature in the bigger picture, did not occur or that they were a good idea. I did not suggest that the persecution suffered by Mormons at the hands of Missourians should cover any conduct failures by Mormons in these episodes. I also did not suggest that it was morally justified for Mormons to burn some Daviess County Missourians out of their homes in retribution for having been burned out of their own homes, particularly given that it is highly unlikely that those Missourians forced to leave their homes in Daviess County by the vigilante Mormons were involved in the earlier expulsions of Mormons from their homes and lands in Jackson and Carroll Counties. Instead, my comment # 35 is meant to show why assigning a premeditated motive of stealing improved lands is overly simplistic to explain why Missouri mobs abused, disenfranchised and expelled Mormons from their homes and lands between the years 1833 and 1838. This hardly seems a controversial proposition. One need not look much further than the Missourians’ July 15, 1833 manifesto for an exposition of grievances against the Mormons. Is the argument being advanced that these weren’t primarily religious and political or that these things didn’t concern Missourians anymore in 1838?

    As to your comments on history, inevitability and agency, etc., they were nice but seem misplaced as a response to my comment # 35. Also, since the comment was directed at me I should just note here that I did not argue that anything in the past was inevitable, although I don’t know for a fact that absolutely nothing in the past was inevitable given particular inputs or that historians necessarily make as stark a point of that as you suggest.

    I think we do a disservice to the Saints by reducing them to simply victims of oppression. They made choices as well that led to the final outcome.

    David, see above if you were under the impression that my comment # 35 reduced Mormons simply to victims of oppression.

    Brad, I think that to the extent that the term revisionism is being used here it is being used to refer to suspect instances of such revisionism. For example, I don’t trust history books written and produced in East Germany during a certain period. The revisionism (in the bad sense) of such works is apparent in both its method and its outcome. Its legitimacy is therefore very much in question based on the conclusions it draws from an established historical record that more than adequately supports the “orthodox” interpretation of the events at issue. To apply that here, if the only real outcome of a new interpretation of a historical period is that it deprives a religious group of a long established narrative of religious persecution that occurred during that period, which narrative is amply and uncontroversially supported by the historical record, then such deprivation is indeed relevant in evaluating the particular conclusions.

    Mark # 50, reading between the lines of your comment, you seem to be saying that Mormons are not sufficiently aware that some vigilante bands of Mormons drove some of Daviess County’s non-Mormon Missourians out of their homes in October 1838 after Mormons were disenfranchised in Gallatin and driven out of Carroll County and in the face of rumors that the Missouri militia intended to drive them out of both Daviess and Caldwell Counties. I think you are probably right about that. Most Mormons, being Mormons, are more focused on the injustices done to the Mormons in illegally depriving them permanently of their property and security and perhaps if they understood that some Mormons did burn down some Missourians’ homes in October of 1838, then perhaps our view of the victimhood of Mormons during the period would change somewhat. I am not 100% sure that a more widespread understanding of the mistakes made by some Mormons in October 1838 would lead to a different Mormon approach to the historical experiences of Mormons in being expelled from the state in 1838 but it is a possibility. I don’t quite understand your idea of equating the Haun’s Mill Massacre of October 30, 1838 — where a Missouri mob of over 200 men from four different counties killed 18 Mormons — with Grindstone Fork, Millport, and Splawn’s Ridge though. I also do not think that the historical record justifies attributing that massacre and the other events in expelling the Mormons from Missouri to a desire to possess improved land. How does William Reynolds’ statement “Nits make lice and if he would have lived he would have become a Mormon” made with reference to blowing off ten-year-old Sardius Smith’s head fit into the overall plan to get cheap land? Isn’t it more reasonably and straightforwardly interpretated as a statement and act against Mormons as such, and not merely against them as holders of coveted improved land?

    Rick, the last paragraph in my comment # 35 shows the nuance that is actually part of the bigger picture for why Missourians’ hated and persecuted Mormons. Neither that paragraph nor the rest of comment # 35 disputes, as you seem to be implying, your statement about “traditional ‘Sunday School’ narrative in the Church” in which Mormons “too often settled for simplistic religious persecution explanations which are highly inadequate”. Ironically, the brief statement in the last paragraph of comment # 35 alone refers to much more nuance than either the traditional Sunday School narrative, as you have framed it, or John H.’s simplified analysis in the original post. Moreover, my comment # 35 in no way seeks to, nor does it in fact, “cover” any “conduct failures” of the Mormon people. As my last paragraph in comment # 35 points out, however, reinterpreting the expulsion of the Mormons from Missouri in 1838 as a premeditated grab for improved land does not add to an understanding of the bigger picture of what was happening with the Mormons in Missouri during the period and what they faced in their daily lives. It does not vindicate the Missourians because they look just as bad whether they killed and drove out Mormons and stole their land out of a desire to get the land itself or out of a mix of factors that included primarily religious and political resentment. The remaining “use” of the reinterpretation is therefore a polemic against the Mormon narratives of religious persecution, as you implicitly if not directly admit in your comment # 39 when you state that the reintepretation merely “explore[s] ways in which we have expanded our persecution myths to cover too many of our own conduct failures as a people” (which is a straw man in any case as my comment # 35 did not endorse reading the historical record to cover any Mormon conduct failures). In any event, the old, established Mormon “persecution myths”, as you frame it (apart from any efforts to cover up Mormon conduct failure, if such efforts actually exist), as recorded on Mormons’ contemporaneous statements and historical records and in old works of church history that collect and offer straightforward interpretations of the same, are more obviously supported by a simple reading of the events, and are also actually borne out and confirmed by a more granular treatment of the historical record. On that note, I do not believe that your statement that “[y]es, there was persecution, but it was not essentially religious at its core – then, or almost ever, anywhere” can be supported by either a straightforward or a granular reading of the historical record. One thing that you seem to be overlooking is that Mormons point to religious persecution in the early history of Mormonism because it actually happened, and not just to tell stories.

  58. By the way, I consider myself a revisionist and much of the work I do to be revisionist history.

  59. re # 54, John H., in saying “[f]rankly, owning your own county is a lot better than owning some land in somebody else’s county, especially when many of those somebodies hate you” you seem to be acknowledging that many Missourians hated Mormons. This doesn’t fit in particularly well with a land-grab theory of expulsion. What do you view that hatred to have been based on if not religion and politics?

  60. Steve Evans says:

    Maybe I’m missing something, but is anybody arguing that their theory is the exclusive reason for the expulsion? If not, aren’t we just talking about degrees of importance of the relative factors?

  61. John Hamer says:

    Hi Joel! If we had achieved historiographical consensus in the 1950s, it’s a shame the 2nd coming couldn’t have been timed for that moment: We would have all been on the same page when we called it quits.

    I think historiography is a continually evolving process, like your chicken/egg chain, it’s never finished. And while their may well be consensus at any given snap-shot moment, the components of that consensus are continually shifting and would be different at any other snap-shot moment. We’re probably all in consensus now with your point above that it’s preposterous to state that any one factor in a complex problem is the one and only motivation. I thoroughly agree that everything is complex. I will certainly retract and disclaim my simplified model, if we can promise that no one will ever use the shorthand: “the early Saints were driven from place after place because of religious persecution.” This narrative, while ubiquitous, has several disadvantages: (1) that it’s false (like all simple models) for the gross simplification argument you make above that everything is complex and no simplified model can accurately describe a complex system; (2) it ignores the more important factors and emphasizes less important factors; and (3) it teaches modern Mormons bad lessons today, viz. to view bad reactions through a frame of “persecution” rather than as the understandable response to one’s own bad actions.

    If you have one simplified (and unhelpful) narrative wedged into everyone’s brains, how do you fix the problem? Someone has to write something that over-emphasizes a new factor to be highlighted and then everyone knowledgeable can cautiously point out how this is over-emphasizing the new factor and that the real picture is complex. Meanwhile the complexity has been highlighted (for those not in the know) and the boundaries of that complex picture moved.

  62. John Hamer says:

    Evans (#60): What we’re missing is the appreciation I might have expected from you when I began this post with a hil-larry-ous Princess Bride reference. As far as one-factor-onlyism goes, the one thing I think everyone agrees is that we don’t believe in it.

  63. Steve Evans says:

    Don’t get me wrong – I am all for Princess Bride references. But you gotta dig deeper!

  64. John Hamer says:

    That hurt most of all.

  65. As you wish, John. AS….YOU…WISH!

  66. Ick.

  67. Mountain Mormons are, as John H says above, shorthand for those who followed Brigham Young and the Q12 to Utah and are members of the COJCOLDS today. They are sometimes called Brighamites, but that word is sometimes considered derogatory.

    Plains Mormons are those who stayed in the midwest and are now Community of Christ ( used to be called RLDS ) or any of dozens and dozens or what are sometimes called Remnant churches.

    John F gave the source, and I think Jan has coined useful words.

    I too have enjoyed the comments. We are all seeking to understand the balance of what was happening in that timeframe.

    We are seeing this kind of re-looking at old events in other areas of “Mormon” history. Specifically, good historians, such as Ardis who commented above, have provided valuable information in areas of 1857 Utah, and are to be commended for their work. Her work on the Santa Clara canyon attacks are a must read for anyone trying to understand the mind of Brigham Young.

    In this 1838 period, we are seeing a similar new look at a period of time that has long been dormant. We have seen major works by Baugh and LeSueur, and coming ones by LeSueur and Compton, with major contributions by Riggs ( on economics of the Indian territories ), Hamar, Riggs, Romig et al on land ownership, etc in that timeframe.

    As to the argument by Walker as to the economics of land ownership in Daviess, I find that hard to believe as a primary motivation of the Daviess County residents. What I do find completely convincing is that the Saints were afraid of being run out of Dodge, particularly in light of the attacks on them at the Gallatin election, and the just completed seige of DeWitt and the Saints being expelled there. Simply, they desired to protect their Daviess holdings. Certainly, as others have commented, they could have chosen other tactics, such as showing force but not using it. They outnumbered the old settlers ( funny term for a group that had been in Daviess for only a few years before the Mormons came ), and I don’t think that land ownership was enough motivation for the non-Mormons to have run the Mormons out of Daviess. DeWitt was a city, easy to lay seige to, but Daviess was a very spread out area. To lay seige to that area would have taken thousands, many thousands, of troops. Up until Daviess, no group had wantonly burned others out, and I just do not see the Daviess settlers as anxious to do that before the Mormons took to the sword in Daviess.

    I see no evidence of non-Mormon meetings trying to drive the Mormons out of Daviess, nor any notes to that effect, prior to the Mormon raid there.

    As to whether I have on this thread or any other thread ever sought “to deny any validity to the Mormon narrative”, the answer is no. But, I have sought for balance, balance that is on this thread, but does not often appear in some writings.

    In essense, to me Walker revived an old argument to ascribing land ownership as a primary reason. After the fact, as John f stated above, the Missourians did take over some of the Mormon improvements. But, we need a much bigger smoking gun, similar to what Ardis wrote about in her monumental work about 1857 Utah, before we can say that this is the motivation for running the Mormons out of Daviess county.

    Mel

  68. You might be missing the following:

    Original Post: Mormons weren’t persecuted because of their religion, they were robbed to make a buck. Land was in question and land was everything.

    Comment # 9: I think that Mormons could have competed for Daviess and won without setting off a war. They just should have avoided burning down their enemies’ homes; if they’d sat tight and endured for a year or two, non-Mormon settlers would have avoided Gallatin and Daviess and the Saints would have won peacefully.

    Comment # 11: Political factors are intertwined with economic here, and I’m saying that I believe that these two trump the cultural and religious factors.

    Comment # 12: I do think that taking control of Daviess County was the motivation for the Mormon invasion of the Daviess County.

    Comment # 14: The preemption deadline in Daviess may only provide a timeframe, but I think that the land and county ownership are still the critical motives in the overall war.

    Comment # 15: While there was naturally some element of religious resentment or motivation on the part of some Missourians, the elements you highlight far eclipsed religious factors.

    As a general observation — those who are advocating are more traditional approach to the expulsion of Mormons from Missouri seem to be taking a view that encompasses a multi-faceted approach to Missourians’ reasons for perpetrating the act that also incorporates economic factors into the broader mix of cultural, political and social factors. This approach also is consistent with what Mormons were reporting about the economic/land aspects of the expulsion from the earliest days, as noted in David G.’s comment # 8. As David notes, however, although the historical record supports the fact that Missourians did, in fact, steal Mormons’ land after they were forced out of their homes and out of the state, there isn’t evidence that this was their plan in advance or their primary motivation in forcing the Mormons from their homes and from the state in November of 1838.

    On the other hand, those who are advocating the economic/land factor as the primary reason for the expulsion seem to elevating it above the rest of the factors in the mix and are tending to play down especially the religious factor in the persecution and expulsion. This doesn’t seem to square with the historical record of Missourians’ dealings with Mormons during the period.

  69. Interesting john f. I agree that the overall effect is to down play the religious factor. I also tend to think we overblow the religious factor, but not as much as the OP corrects for.

  70. re # 61, John H. wrote I will certainly retract and disclaim my simplified model, if we can promise that no one will ever use the shorthand: “the early Saints were driven from place after place because of religious persecution.”

    Although it is clear that a mix of factors combined as reasons that the Missourians forced Mormons out, the fact is that this shorthand actually kind of works — it has yet to be demonstrated how it doesn’t. The fact that Missourians stole the Mormons’ land after they forced them out of their homes doesn’t function as proof that Mormons weren’t forced out based on hatred of their religion and just generally who they were as a people — everything about them, which can be summed up with the shorthand term of “their religion”. Just read the July 15, 1833 manifesto. These feelings about the Mormons’ religion didn’t change by 1838, despite reports by Mormons and non-Mormons alike that there was relatively little friction during 1837. There isn’t evidence that Missourians no longer despised Mormons’ religion and viewed it as grounds for expulsion, as described in the 1833 document. It just meant that Mormons and non-Mormons were segregated from each other for the time being, so Missourians didn’t have to actively contemplate Mormons’ worldview.

    When speaking of the Missourians hating the Mormons because of their religion, this encompasses everything that the Mormons’ religion was to them: their whole life and way of being, including the tenets of their faith (referred to by Missourians as “fanaticism”), the political bloc voting (a necessity in the Mormons’ eyes to counter disadvantages derivative of the deep disregard for these tenets of their faith), the isolationism in terms of living and doing business, which were also a product of Mormons’ religion because they stemmed from Mormons’ belief that they were building up a Zion society that belonged to those who shared their beliefs and not to those who rejected their beliefs, the cultural differences that resulted from non-slave-holding New Englanders moving to the frontier because of the religious doctrine of the gathering, etc. This is all religious, is it not?

  71. John Hamer says:

    John F.: In fact, it has been debunked, repeatedly. For example, the Mormons were not driven out of New York or Kirtland, Ohio, at all. It’s a bad shorthand that teaches bad lessons.

    Meanwhile, I’m not sure that redefining religion to encompass all of life is helpful in making sense of the conflict between the Mormons and their neighbors.

    Missourians were hardly a block group, zealously lock-step behind this 1833 manifesto you’re citing. Non-Mormon Missourians were thoroughly disparate mix of individuals who had different, competing interests, and different positions relative to the Mormons. Most non-Mormon Missourians (of course) did not own slaves and some were from New England or other northern states, especially in the counties north of the Missouri River. It should be pointed out that some Mormons were also southerners and a few actually owned slaves. So we don’t have two completely distinct camps over the slavery issue in 1838.

    Among non-Mormon Missourians, there continued to be an extremist element opposed to the Mormons for a variety of reasons, some of which was religious (in the form of general distaste for religious fanaticism that you mention). However, there was also a strong, liberal element of non-Mormon leaders that was very religiously tolerant and very sympathetic to the Mormons. Whenever the extremists over-played their hands, as with the manifesto you’re citing and related violent expulsion of the Mormons from Jackson County, the liberals were able to sway public sympathy of the vast centrist majority to their side. Thus, in 1833-34, the residents of Clay County — who were non-Mormon Missourians too — welcomed Mormon refugees into their homes and lands as a temporary haven, and when return to Jackson proved impossible, helped set the Mormons up with their own county. These are still the actions of non-Mormon Missourians after the issuance of this manifesto that you’re talking about. Clearly non-Mormons were not a unitary group with one distinct agenda.

    This same group of liberal non-Mormon Missourian leaders would have worked to turn sympathy in the Mormons’ favor after the Gallatin election brawl and the illegal siege of DeWitt. However, the expulsion of the non-Mormons from Daviess and the sacking of all non-Mormon homes and settlements there, coupled with an attack on the state militia in the Buncombe strip (which was legally attached to Ray County), totally disempowered the Mormons’ allies among the Missourians. It’s like U.S. policy toward Palestine. Right now, we’re so discredited, we can’t openly help our natural allies among the Palestinians because our help would discredit them.

    The Daviess expedition and the Battle of Crooked River galvanized Missouri public opinion behind the worst extremists. Even the horror of the Haun’s Mill massacre couldn’t immediately restore the balance of public opinion to something moderate. Of course, it did swing sympathy and build popular support among some non-Mormons in Illinois, who opened their homes to Mormon refugees.

  72. And let’s not forget that the “religious doctrine of gathering” included provisions for the consecration of non-Mormon property to the Mormon Zion…

  73. ¿Por qué debe usted guardar el ir en la persecución alrededor de religiosa cuando está bañando monjas y a hermanas escaso revestidas de la sociedad de la relevación en otro poste?

  74. Well played, hermano.

  75. In fact, it has been debunked, repeatedly. For example, the Mormons were not driven out of New York or Kirtland, Ohio, at all. It’s a bad shorthand that teaches bad lessons.

    We’re talking about Missouri here, not New York or Kirtland.

    Missourians were hardly a block group, zealously lock-step behind this 1833 manifesto you’re citing. Non-Mormon Missourians were thoroughly disparate mix of individuals who had different, competing interests, and different positions relative to the Mormons.

    So how could a premeditated plan to steal Mormons’ land and then pay the federal price for it be in serious contention? Would a conspiracy among such disparate interests have been viable enough to constitute a credible alternative in examining the historical record for reasons as to why Missourians deprived Mormons of most of their rights as Americans in driving them out of the state?

    Most non-Mormon Missourians (of course) did not own slaves and some were from New England or other northern states, especially in the counties north of the Missouri River. It should be pointed out that some Mormons were also southerners and a few actually owned slaves. So we don’t have two completely distinct camps over the slavery issue in 1838.

    Although no one (on this thread) is arguing that no Mormons owned slaves or even that Mormons were abolitionists, the 1833 violence against the Mormons in Jackson County was precipitated by Phelps’ Evening and Morning Star article discussing the legal requirements for bringing free blacks into the state. It is true that Mormons did not represent a distinct non-slave-holding bloc in opposition to the Missourians and, in fact, it is true that Phelps went so far as to explicitly reject the idea that his article or the Mormons were advocating bringing free blacks into the state but this did not allay the Missourians’ resentment against the Mormons. The newspaper article remained the last straw on top of Mormon “fanaticism”, gathering, voicing of beliefs in a god-given right to inherit the land, and other elements connected with Mormons’ religion and the historical record seems to indicate that the Missourians did in fact act as a distinct pro-slavery camp in this as they remained convinced or allowed their articulated reasons for mob action (which they viewed as legally justified under the existing antebellum approach to abolitionist presses that were claimed to threaten the public peace) to stand that the Mormons were advocating bringing free blacks into the state. The rhetoric of July 1833 referred to the Mormons as a product of everything about their religion and, based on that and on the newspaper article, compared them to slaves in terms of standing to be a part of the existing community. On July 20, 1833, these reasons were used as justification to destroy the printing press of the Evening and Morning Star, destroy the Phelps’ house and their belongings and the store and many of its belongings, and tar and featherings — all of which was described as an orderly execution of the resolves of the public meeting of Jackson County’s leading citizens.

    It is unclear how Mormons’ religion can possibly be separated out from all this.

    These are still the actions of non-Mormon Missourians after the issuance of this manifesto that you’re talking about. Clearly non-Mormons were not a unitary group with one distinct agenda.

    This is true and I have not argued that non-Mormon Missourians were a unitary group with one distinct agenda and I haven’t said a word in this thread about Clay County (I don’t think).

    The Daviess expedition and the Battle of Crooked River galvanized Missouri public opinion behind the worst extremists.

    Even if Missourians’ would have been content to leave the Mormons entirely in peace but for the Mormons’ mistaken actions in Daviess County (a possible but very tentative argument from the historical record), the fact of Mormon action as a catalyst for Missourians to force them entirely from the state does not sideline the issue of the Mormons’ religion as a primary factor for all the hostility against them.

    What is the reason to absolve Missourians of perpetrating violence against the Mormons based on their Mormon religion (which included the crazy religious beliefs — e.g. in a prophet and New Testament spiritual gifts that the Missourians generally referred to as “fanaticism” — as well as the derivative aspects of Mormon life, all of which were outgrowths of the tenets of Mormon faith at the time, including bloc voting, isolationism, grand claims to inheritance rights, different cultural background of the Mormons as a result of having gathered from far and wide, and some divergent views on slavery and public morals)?

  76. And let’s not forget that the “religious doctrine of gathering” included provisions for the consecration of non-Mormon property to the Mormon Zion

    Although this is a cynical way to phrase it Brad, assuming that this is true, how would opposition to that and forcing people who believed in that out of their homes not be religious persecution?

  77. In the same way that palestinian resistance to 1930s Jewish settlement was not religious persecution.

    The whole point is that the practical implication of the “consecration” of gentile properties in Mormon revelations was that Mormons claimed a right to land owned by non-Mormons. Opposition to that is not religious persecution. It’s conflict with a group that self-identifies and articulates its goals and motivations in religious terms. The religious persecution narrative presumes that gentiles reacted violently to religious beliefs they found offensive. The argument here is that, despite the fact that the conflict was couched in religious terms, it was really about practical concerns. Even the fanaticism accusations bespeak not a concern that Mormons uncritically believe what their prophet teaches about theology, but over the scope of their commitment to acquiring economic and political power at the expense of non-Mormons.

  78. Brad, the Missourians actions against the Mormons were not just based on Mormons’ inheritance rhetoric, but on what lived Mormonism was all about as manifested to the outside observer by the following: a belief in a living prophet and New Testament spiritual gifts (it cannot be overstated that this “fanaticism” was expressed as a key reason to oppose the Mormons), the gathering to Zion, the consecration of properties in Zion, social/cultural isolation and political bloc voting, with the last straw being cultural/political in the pretextual Mormon opposition to slavery (which was denied by the Mormons) that was the touchstone for the expulsion of the Mormons from Jackson County.

  79. I’m not arguing it was just about any one thing. Just that the rubber meets the road on the pragmatic level, economics and politics, land and freed slaves. Religion? Only to the extent that religious rhetoric and revelations magnified in the eyes of non-Mormons Mormons’ commitment to things that threatened them in real life.

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