“Exhibit Forges New Link with Missouri,” Ensign, July 1998, 79–80
When Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the Seventy and Missouri governor Mel Carnahan cut a ribbon to open the exhibit “A Commemoration of the Mormon Experience in Missouri,” the event joined Church members with Missouri citizens and leaders in friendship and understanding. The proceedings were held on 24 April in the rotunda of the state capitol building in Jefferson City to unveil an exhibit that will be displayed there until 24 July.
The cordial reception from Governor Carnahan was in dramatic contrast to how the Church was received in the 1830s, culminating in Governor Lilburn W. Boggs’s order in 1838 that all Mormons be driven from the state or be exterminated.
In Governor Carnahan’s remarks before the 1,200 attending the opening of the exhibit, he welcomed members of the Church into Missouri: “Elder Pinnock, we understand that we cannot undo history, but we can do what we can do today. Last May, we were very pleased to welcome you and a delegation from the Church to St. Louis for the preview of the beautiful temple. Today we welcome you to the official seat of state government, to the Missouri state capitol. You and all your friends, all the congregants of the Church, are most welcome today.”
Elder Pinnock spoke of the Church’s connection with Missouri since 1831, detailing many events of Church history in the state. He noted that the extermination order of 1838 was officially rescinded in 1976 by Governor Christopher S. Bond and went on to say, “But at least 100 years earlier, the spirit of the people that lived here rescinded on their own that extermination order. Missouri has provided a kind and wonderful climate for members of the Church.”
Joined by his counselors in the North American Central Area Presidency, Elders Kenneth Johnson and Lynn G. Robbins, both of the Seventy, Elder Pinnock presented Governor Carnahan and his wife, Jean, with a portion of the Carnahan family history.
Adding music to the occasion was the 100-voice Heart of America Mormon Choir, with participants from more than 40 wards and branches in the Kansas City area. Accompanied by a brass band, they performed a selection of hymns and patriotic songs.
Also in attendance were artists Liz Lemon Swindle and Glen S. Hopkinson, who were commissioned to produce paintings for the display.
Two years ago Martin Cooper, then Clinton Branch president, heard state capitol guides innocently giving inaccurate information about the Church. When one tour guide acknowledged he had been giving the same tour for 10 years, Brother Cooper knew something ought to be done. So began a two-year effort that evolved to include dozens of members across the state and culminated in the creation of the new exhibit.
The display features the following eight panels with historical paintings accompanied by text explaining the history of the Church in Missouri and a map showing the Mormon migration:
“Mormons Settle in Missouri” tells of the Church’s early days in the state.
“Unresolved Conflicts Reveal Friend and Foe” explains how differences and misunderstanding created conflict between Church members and some Missouri residents while other Missourians were sympathetic.
“A County of Their Own” details the creation in 1836 of Caldwell County, where members lived in peace for almost two years.
“A Time of Great Trial” explains the Extermination Order and the events at Liberty Jail.
“The Exodus from Missouri” tells of the members establishing Nauvoo, Illinois, and the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum.
“Emigrating Mormons Gather” highlights the members’ migration westward.
“Sustained by Their Faith in Christ” defines the Latter-day Saints as people holding fast to the restored gospel and teachings of Jesus Christ.