State of Illinois Expresses Regret for Expulsion of Saints

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“State of Illinois Expresses Regret for Expulsion of Saints,” Ensign, June 2004, 75–76

State of Illinois Expresses Regret for Expulsion of Saints

A delegation of Illinois government officials met with Church leaders and members of the media on 7 April 2004 to officially express regret for events that happened nearly 160 years ago.

Beginning in early 1846, approximately 20,000 Saints were forced out of Illinois, which was the start of what would become the “largest forced migration in American history,” according to Resolution 793 of the Illinois House of Representatives. Passed with unanimous consent on 1 April 2004, the resolution expresses regret for the murder of Joseph Smith in 1844 and the ultimate expulsion of the Saints from their beloved Nauvoo.

The resolution recognizes that “biases and prejudices of a less-enlightened age in the history of the State of Illinois caused untold hardship and trauma for the community of Latter-day Saints by the distrust, violence, and inhospitable actions of a dark time in our past.”

The idea for the resolution came from Chicago Alderman Edward Burke while he was vacationing in Utah with his wife, Anne, an Illinois Appellate Court Justice. At a dinner with Governor Olene S. Walker, Alderman Burke heard about the Church’s history in Illinois from Governor Walker’s husband, Myron. “I am embarrassed to say that was the first time I learned about Nauvoo and the details of what happened,” said Alderman Burke. “I thought that, number one, the people of Illinois ought to know more about their own history; and number two, it’s a travesty that’s gone on for too many years.”

When he returned home, Alderman Burke spoke to his brother, Illinois State Representative Daniel Burke (D-Chicago), about drafting a resolution. Ed and Anne Burke showed President Gordon B. Hinckley a draft of the resolution in March 2004.

At the 7 April press conference, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust, First and Second Counselors in the First Presidency, formally accepted the resolution from Illinois delegates Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn and Representative Dan Burke. (President Hinckley, whose wife, Marjorie, had passed away the evening before, was excused from the event.) Ed and Anne Burke also attended the conference.

On behalf of the State of Illinois, Lieutenant Governor Quinn expressed regret for the injustices suffered by the early Latter-day Saints in Illinois. “There was a day in February 1846 on Parley Street [in Nauvoo] where people who were practicing their faith, people of good faith, were asked to leave the state and … move to another place,” said Lieutenant Governor Quinn. “It wasn’t right. We acknowledge it was wrong and express our regrets and look forward to the future.”

Representative Dan Burke read Resolution 793 aloud to reporters and presented a leatherbound copy to President Monson.

President Monson thanked the delegation for their “kind words and this gracious gesture. We’re grateful to you and the good people of Illinois,” he said.

“We view this resolution as an affirmation that Nauvoo is and will always be a place of peace,” said President Faust. “We know that Latter-day Saints will always have a home in Illinois.”

Left to right: President James E. Faust and President Thomas S. Monson accept a copy of the resolution from Illinois Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn and State Representative Dan Burke. (Photograph courtesy of Church Public Affairs.)