Chapter Eleven: Expulsion from Jackson County

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“Chapter Eleven: Expulsion from Jackson County,” Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (2003), 127–39

“Chapter Eleven,” Church History in the Fulness of Times, 127–39

Chapter Eleven

Expulsion from Jackson County

The Prophet Joseph and those who accompanied him to Missouri in the summer of 1831 were joyful to learn that Jackson County was the location of the latter-day Zion. They did not realize that within two years the Saints would be driven from their homes in western Missouri. Although Church members were unaware of the persecutions that were before them, the Lord had told them that the glory of Zion would come only “after much tribulation” (D&C 58:4).

The year 1833 was one of tribulation for the Saints in Jackson County, Missouri. Irreconcilable conflicts developed with their neighbors over several issues, causing some citizens to take decisive action against the members of the Church. The conflict began during the summer, and in November organized mobs mercilessly drove the Saints from their homes and across the Missouri River under the worst of conditions.

Saints driven from Jackson County, Missouri

Expulsion from Jackson County by C. C. A. Christensen

A Need to Repent

By the end of 1832 there were over eight hundred Saints gathered into five branches in Jackson County. New people were arriving almost every week to establish their homes. Seven high priests—Oliver Cowdery, William W. Phelps, John Whitmer, Sidney Gilbert, Edward Partridge, Isaac Morley, and John Corrill—were appointed by Joseph Smith to preside over the affairs of the rapidly expanding Church in Zion. These brethren called other elders to preside over individual branches.

Some members, however, tried to circumvent the Church leaders in Missouri by ignoring their authority to preside, thereby making it difficult to set some of the branches in order. Others “sought to obtain inheritances in some other way than according to the laws of consecration and stewardship.”1 Elder Phelps wrote a letter to Joseph Smith in Kirtland about the dilemma and received a prompt reply containing revealed instructions. The Lord warned those who had evaded the revealed laws that they were not worthy to “have their names enrolled with the people of God” or “written in the book of the law of God” (D&C 85:3, 5). As Church historian, John Whitmer was directed to keep a record of those who received their inheritances “legally” from Bishop Edward Partridge as well as those who subsequently apostatized (see D&C 85:1–2).

Other difficulties arose in Zion. Petty jealousies, covetousness, light-mindedness, unbelief, and general neglect in keeping the commandments of God came to the attention of the Prophet. Some people in Zion even charged Joseph Smith with “seeking after monarchial power and authority” and said that he was purposely putting off settling in Zion.2

The Prophet wrote back in the spirit of peace and sent a copy of the “Olive Leaf” (D&C 88): “Though our brethren in Zion indulge in feelings towards us, which are not according to the requirements of the new covenant, yet, we have the satisfaction of knowing that the Lord approves of us, and has accepted us, and established His name in Kirtland for the salvation of the nations; … if Zion will not purify herself, He will seek another people. … Repent, repent, is the voice of God to Zion.”3

At the same time a council in Kirtland appointed Hyrum Smith and Orson Hyde to write a letter of reproof to the Church in Missouri. The letter was a stern warning to “repent, repent, or Zion must suffer, for the scourge and judgment must come upon her.” It went on to plead with the Saints to read and obey the scriptures and humble themselves before God. “They have not come up to Zion to sit down in idleness, neglecting the things of God, but they are to be diligent and faithful in obeying the new covenant.”4

Following receipt of the Olive Leaf revelation, a council of high priests met on 26 February 1833 and called for solemn assemblies to be held in each of the branches (see D&C 88:70). David Pettigrew wrote in his journal that Bishop Partridge appointed them “as a day of confession and repentance.”5 Elders Oliver Cowdery, William W. Phelps, and John Corrill also wrote to the authorities in Kirtland in behalf of the Saints in Zion expressing their desire to keep the commandments in the future.6 The Lord was pleased with this new spirit and revealed to the Prophet that “the angels rejoice” over the Saints in Missouri (D&C 90:34).

Optimistic Outlook for the Future

The migration of new Saints to Missouri in the spring and early summer of 1833 exceeded that of the previous season. Parley P. Pratt remembered that as new arrivals purchased land, built homes, and cultivated the land, “peace and plenty had crowned their labors, and the wilderness became a fruitful field, and the solitary place began to bud and blossom as the rose.” The Saints assembled each Sunday in their branches to worship. Harmony prevailed among them during these early days in June. Parley said, “There has seldom, if ever, been a happier people upon the earth than the Church of the Saints now were.”7

Independence, Missouri (Platte)

Edward Partridge purchased 63.43 acres from Jones Hoy Flournoy on 19 December 1831. This included the ground previously dedicated for the temple site. On 25 June 1833 the Prophet sent this plat to the brethren in Missouri.

The plat is one mile square with each square in the plat representing ten acres.8

During the summer a school for the elders was organized in Zion that was modeled after the School of the Prophets in Kirtland. Parley P. Pratt was called to preside and to teach a class of about sixty elders, who met in shady groves. Elder Pratt fondly remembered: “Here great blessings were poured out, and many great and marvelous things were manifested and taught. The Lord gave me great wisdom, and enabled me to teach and edify the Elders.”9 Some of the brethren experienced the gift of tongues in these meetings. Meanwhile, W. W. Phelps continued to prepare the Book of Commandments for publication, and he also edited the Evening and Morning Star, which appeared monthly.

Late in June 1833 the Prophet sent a plan for the building up of the city of Zion and its accompanying temple to the Saints in Missouri. The city was designed for fifteen to twenty thousand people and “was to be one mile square, with ten-acre blocks, divided into one-half-acre lots, one house to the lot.”10 A complex of twenty-four “temples” was to be built and used as houses of worship. The schools were to be located on two central city blocks. Lands on the north and south of the city were to be used for barns, stables, and farms. The farmer, as well as the merchant and mechanic, was to live in the city to enjoy all the social, cultural, and educational advantages.11 Unfortunately, mob interference prevented the implementation of this plan, although many of its basic ideas were later used by the Latter-day Saints in northern Missouri; Nauvoo, Illinois; and in hundreds of other settlements in the West.

Causes of the Conflict in Jackson County

The happy and favorable circumstances of the Saints in Jackson County ended suddenly in July of 1833. The original inhabitants of the area became increasingly suspicious as the number of Church members in Jackson County grew rapidly. Many people feared they would soon be outnumbered by the new religiously motivated pilgrims from the East. The “old settlers” were from a different background than the incoming Latter-day Saints, and it was natural that cultural, political, religious, and economic differences arose.

Jackson County’s residents were a rough-and-ready group who had come from the mountainous regions of several southern states to the western edge of the United States to find freedom from societal restraints. Most of them were uneducated and lacked the cultural refinement that was more common in New England and the East. Many of them indulged in profanity, Sabbath-breaking, horse-racing, cock-fighting, idleness, drunkenness, gambling, and violence. Following his first visit to Jackson County, the Prophet Joseph Smith reflected on “how natural it was to observe the degradation, leanness of intellect, ferocity, and jealousy of a people that were nearly a century behind the times, and to feel for those who roamed about without the benefit of civilization, refinement, or religion.”12

The old settlers viewed the growing body of Saints as a political threat, even though members of the Church did not run for office or vote as a bloc during their short stay in Jackson County. By July 1833 the Mormon population in the county was almost twelve hundred, with more arriving each month. Some members boasted that thousands more were coming to live in the county. “By sheer arithmetic a few hundred additional Mormons could have wrested political control from those who had established the city and county.”13 Local citizens were naturally apprehensive of a religious zeal that predicted that all “Gentiles” (non-Mormons) would be cut off when the millennial kingdom was established in Jackson County.

Protestant ministers also resented the Mormon intrusion into the county. Latter-day Saints were labeled fanatics and knaves and were denounced as gullible and ignorant because they believed in and frequently experienced miracles, prophecy, healings, revelations, and speaking in tongues. Jealousy and fear of losing some from their flocks added to the antagonism of the ministers. The Reverend Finis Ewing of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church asserted, “The ‘Mormons’ are the common enemies of mankind and ought to be destroyed.” A reverend of the Missionary Society (sent to Christianize the American Indians) went “from house to house, seeking to destroy the Church by spreading slanderous falsehoods, to incite the people to acts of violence against the saints.”14

In addition, Mormon merchants and tradesmen successfully took over a portion of the lucrative Santa Fe Trail trade previously dominated by the Missourians. Some of the old settlers feared that the Church members were determined to take over their lands and businesses. Moreover, the Saints “did not purchase goods from the local merchants, as they had no money, but traded among themselves at the Church storehouse. … Some of the old settlers were selling their property to the Mormons and moving away. This meant fewer and fewer customers in the stores, and future financial ruin” for the remaining old settlers.

To complicate matters, in the spring of 1833 the Missouri flooded, destroyed the landing at Independence, and shifted the channel of the river away from the community. A new town, Westport, with a better landing, was established farther upstream, and the business in Independence declined. Entrepreneurs in Independence blamed the Mormons for this situation.15 Foreseeing what the future might bring, some of the old settlers offered to sell out to the Saints. Members of the Church wanted to buy the farms and possessions, but did not have enough capital to do so. This exasperated the Missourians, and soon they were spreading tales of how poverty-stricken the Mormons were.

The Missouri frontiersmen feared and hated the Indians. Their antipathy increased in the 1830s as the government began to resettle eastern tribes on lands just west of Independence. After the 1832 Black Hawk War, citizens of western Missouri petitioned Congress to establish a line of military posts for their protection. The first Mormon missionaries came into this tense atmosphere declaring the prophetic destiny of the Native Americans. The old settlers were afraid the Saints would use the Indians to help them conquer the area for their New Jerusalem. Matters were further complicated by Protestant ministers who were jealous of Latter-day Saint proselyting efforts among the Indians.

The conflict between the Saints and the old settlers came to a head over the slavery issue. Missouri had come into the Union as a slave state under the famous Compromise of 1820. Slaveholding was limited, however. The old settlers prized their right to hold slaves and despised abolitionism. Some of the Saints brought abolitionist sentiments from the North and East, and the possibility of a black rebellion was a fear throughout the South at this time. In 1831 Nat Turner’s slave uprising in Virginia had resulted in the death of over seventy whites and one hundred slaves. An irrational fear of revolts swept over the slave states. Therefore, Missourians were highly aroused early in 1832 by rumors that the Saints were trying to persuade slaves to disobey their masters or run away.

To squelch the rumors, the July 1833 Evening and Morning Star ran an article cautioning the missionaries about proselyting among slaves and among former slaves, known as “free people of color.” Unfortunately the local Missourians misinterpreted this advice to mean that Brother Phelps was inviting free blacks to join the Mormons in Jackson County. The article caused such a furor that Phelps issued an “Extra” explaining that the Church had no intention of inviting free blacks to Missouri, but his denials were to no avail.

During the summer of 1833, the many differences between the Saints and the old settlers combined to set the stage for violence. A mob atmosphere had been developing since April; in early July hundreds of people, including prominent citizens, signed a manifesto known as the “secret constitution,” denouncing the Mormons and calling for a meeting on 20 July. The manifesto accused the Mormons of tampering with slaves, encouraging sedition, and inviting free Negroes and mulattoes to join the Church and immigrate to Missouri. It declared the intent of the signers to remove the Mormons “peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must.”16

Mobs Threaten the Saints

On Saturday, 20 July, four or five hundred disgruntled citizens met at the Independence courthouse. They chose officers and selected a committee to draft a document outlining their demands of the Mormons. The officers and committee members were some of the leading citizens of Jackson County: “In the main they were the county officers—the county judge, the constables, clerks of the court and justices of the peace.”17 The lieutenant governor of Missouri, Lilburn W. Boggs, a resident and large landholder in the county, also attended the meeting and encouraged the anti-Mormon activity.

The “secret constitution” was read at the meeting, and the committee drafted the declaration that no Latter-day Saints would be allowed to move to or settle in Jackson County, and those that were already there must pledge to leave as soon as possible. The Church newspaper was also to cease publication. A committee of twelve was appointed to present these demands to the Saints. The brethren, startled by the request and realizing that they should not forsake Zion, asked for three months to consider the proposition and to consult with Church leaders in Ohio. This was denied them. They asked for ten days, but the committee allowed them only fifteen minutes and returned to the meeting at the courthouse.

The meeting quickly turned into a mob that decided to destroy the printing office and the press. They surrounded the printing office and residence of W. W. Phelps, threw the furniture into the street and garden, broke the press, scattered the type, and destroyed nearly all the printed work, including most of the unbound sheets of the Book of Commandments. They soon leveled the two-story printing office. Next the mob decided to destroy the goods of the Gilbert and Whitney Store. Only when Sidney Gilbert promised that he would pack the goods in three days were they dissuaded.

With loud cursings, the mob then searched for the leading elders of the Church. Men, women, and children ran in all directions. The mob took Bishop Edward Partridge from his home and dragged him to the public square. Charles Allen, a twenty-seven-year-old convert from Pennsylvania, was also taken to the public square. The mob demanded that they renounce the Book of Mormon or leave the county. The two men refused to do either, so the mob prepared tar and feathers. Bishop Partridge calmly declared that he was willing to suffer for the sake of Christ as the Saints in former ages had done. The two bore the cruel indignity of tarring and feathering with so much resignation and meekness, that the crowd, which had been shouting vile oaths, dispersed in silence.18

A small number of copies of the Book of Commandments, which contained revelations received by the Prophet Joseph Smith, were providentially preserved. Two sisters, Mary Elizabeth and Caroline Rollins, ages fourteen and twelve, watched the mob throw the large, unbound sheets out onto the ground outside the printing office. Determined to save some of the copies, the girls grabbed as many sheets as they could carry in their arms and ran behind the building. Mobbers shouted at them to stop, but the girls escaped through a gap in a wooden fence and ran into a cornfield. For a long time they heard the men searching for them as they laid quietly on the ground.

When the mobbers left, Mary and Caroline found Sister Phelps and her family hidden in an old stable. Sister Phelps took charge of the sheets, and later the few preserved copies were bound. Each of the girls received a copy of the Book of Commandments, which they prized for the rest of their lives. A young man, twenty-year-old John Taylor (not the future President of the Church), risked his life by reaching between the logs of the print shop to retrieve a few sheets, and he also miraculously escaped from the mob as they tried to stone him.19

The mob appeared again on 23 July with rifles, pistols, whips, and clubs. They searched for Church leaders, cursing and profaning as they went. They set fire to haystacks and grain fields and destroyed several homes, barns, and businesses. The mob eventually confronted six leaders of the Church who, seeing the property and lives of the Saints in jeopardy, offered their lives as a ransom. Their names—Edward Partridge, Isaac Morley, John Corrill, John Whitmer, W. W. Phelps, and Sidney Gilbert—are held in honorable remembrance by the Church.

Rejecting this offer, the mob leaders threatened that every man, woman, and child would be whipped unless they consented to leave the county. Under duress the brethren signed an agreement to leave the county—the leaders by 1 January 1834 and the members themselves by 1 April. John Corrill and Sidney Gilbert were allowed to remain as agents to sell the property of the Saints. Corrill wrote that the members of the Church up to this time “had not so much as lifted a finger, even in their own defense, so tenacious were they for the precepts of the gospel,—‘turn the other cheek.’”20

Seeking Redress

After the agreement was signed, Oliver Cowdery was sent to Ohio to confer with Church authorities on the plight of the Saints in Missouri. A council in Kirtland met on 21 August and sent elders Orson Hyde and John Gould to Jackson County as special messengers. They instructed the Saints not to dispose of their lands or property nor to move from the county, unless they had specifically signed the agreement to do so. This message did not arrive in western Missouri until 28 September.

Meanwhile a few Church members attempted to settle in Van Buren County, but the citizens there also drew up an agreement to drive the Mormons out, so they returned again to their former homes. Throughout the summer, the mobs broke into the Mormon homes daily and continued their violence to the Jackson County inhabitants, even though they had agreed to refrain from harassing the Saints.

In August, the Western Monitor, a newspaper in Fayette, Missouri, ran a series of articles censuring the mob action in Jackson County and suggesting that the Saints seek redress from state authorities for the wrongs they had suffered. Thereupon Church leaders wrote up a petition detailing their grievances and denying the false accusations of the old settlers of Jackson County: “Influenced by the precepts of our beloved Savior when we have been smitten on the one cheek, we have turned the other also; … we have borne the above outrages without murmuring; but we cannot patiently bear them any longer; according to the laws of God and man, we have borne enough.”21 In early October, W. W. Phelps and the Church representative from Ohio, Orson Hyde, went to Jefferson City, the state capital, and presented the petition to Governor Daniel Dunklin. They asked him to raise troops to defend them in their rights, to give them permission to sue for damaged and lost property, and to bring the mob element to justice.

After a few days of consultation with the attorney general, the governor replied that he felt force would not be necessary to carry out the laws. He advised the Church representatives to seek redress and protection under the laws through petitioning the circuit judge and justices of the peace in Jackson County. If this effort failed, he promised to use other means to enforce the law.22

His advice proved ineffective. Samuel D. Lucas, the county judge for Jackson County, and two of the justices of the peace in the county, were among those who were trying to drive the Mormons out. Nevertheless, following the governor’s instructions, Church leaders engaged the services of four prominent lawyers in Clay County. These lawyers became friends of the Saints and defended them against their oppressors throughout the rest of the decade in Missouri. Two of them, Alexander Doniphan and David Atchison, attained state and national prominence between 1845 and 1865.

In addition to seeking legal redress, Church leaders ended their policy of passive resistance and counseled the members to arm themselves for the defense of their families and homes. A delegation to Clay County purchased powder and lead, and Church officials announced on 20 October 1833 their intent to defend themselves against any physical attack.

Saints Driven from Jackson County

When the old settlers saw that the Saints intended to defend themselves, they renewed their acts of violence and circulated rumors about the blasphemy of the Mormons’ doctrines and their supposed intentions to take possession of Jackson County by force. Within a week the mood of the county was at a fever pitch. On the night of Thursday, 31 October, a mob of about fifty horsemen attacked the Whitmer Settlement on the Big Blue River, west of Independence. They unroofed thirteen houses and nearly whipped to death several men, including Hiram Page, one of the Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon. These depredations continued for the next two nights in Independence, in Blue township, in Kaw township, and again in the Whitmer Settlement. Men were beaten, and women and children were terrorized. When Church leaders were unable to obtain a warrant against the raiders, the elders posted guards at each of their settlements to defend themselves.

Not all of the citizens of Jackson County were against the Saints. Some of those who were friendly toward the members of the Church had no sympathy with the rioters or with the lawlessness of the mob. Unfortunately, little was done by these sympathizers to prevent the violence inflicted upon the religious newcomers.

Monday, 4 November, became known as the “bloody day” of the conflict. Several Missourians captured a Mormon ferry on the Big Blue River, and soon thirty or forty armed men from each side confronted each other in the corn fields.23 The mob fired first, wounding Philo Dibble in the stomach, but he was miraculously healed through a priesthood blessing by Newel Knight. Andrew Barber was mortally wounded. The Mormons returned fire and killed two Missourians and a few horses. That same day several Church leaders had been arrested in Independence and brought to trial. As their trial was in progress in the courthouse, altered news of the battle reached the town, accusing the Mormons of entering the house of a citizen and shooting his son. This enraged the crowd, which threatened to kill the prisoners. The prisoners, however, were quickly taken to the jail and locked up for their safety. Throughout the night citizens collected arms and ammunition in preparation for a general massacre of the Saints the next day. Rumors also circulated that the Mormons were going to bring in Indians to fight with them. Meanwhile, the jailed prisoners, hearing of these preparations, informed the sheriff that they intended to leave the county and to urge all other Church members to do the same.

At the instigation of Lieutenant Governor Boggs, a unit of the state militia under the command of avowed anti-Mormon Colonel Thomas Pitcher was called in to drive the Mormons out of the county. Meanwhile, Lyman Wight, hearing of the imprisonment of Church leaders, gathered about two hundred armed brethren and marched toward the jail. About a mile outside Independence, they learned that the militia had been called in. Boggs negotiated an agreement that both camps would give up their arms and that the Saints would leave the county within ten days. The Saints surrendered their weapons with the understanding that the weapons would be returned once the Saints had moved to Clay County. The militia retained their arms, however, and the Saints never saw theirs again.

True to their pledge, as soon as they were released, the prisoners made plans for a quick retreat of the Saints across the Missouri River. A number of marauders, however, rode through the countryside the next three days harassing the Mormon settlers, including a group of about 130 women and children who had been left alone while their men hunted for wagons. At least two women died while the Saints were fleeing the county.24

Leaving Missouri

The Saints Leave Missouri, by C. C. A. Christensen

The shores of the Missouri near the ferry were lined with refugees on both sides. Some were fortunate enough to escape with their household goods, but many of them lost everything. Parley P. Pratt wrote: “When night again closed upon us the cottonwood bottom had much the appearance of a camp meeting. Hundreds of people were seen in every direction, some in tents and some in the open air around their fires, while the rain descended in torrents. Husbands were inquiring for their wives, wives for their husbands; parents for children, and children for parents. … The scene was indescribable, and, I am sure, would have melted the hearts of any people on the earth, except our blind oppressors.”25

The mob in Jackson County continued tormenting the few remaining members of the Church until all of them were driven out of the county. Lyman Wight reported, “I saw one hundred and ninety women and children driven thirty miles across the prairie, with three decrepit men only in their company, in the month of November, the ground thinly crusted with sleet; and I could easily follow on their trail by the blood that flowed from their lacerated feet on the stubble of the burnt prairie!”26 Early in the spring of 1834 the Missourians learned of the approach of Mormons from Ohio and burned the remainder of the houses belonging to the Saints in an attempt to discourage the return of the exiles.

Aftermath of the Expulsion

Most of the exiled Saints found temporary quarters in Clay County, although a few sought refuge in other nearby counties. The citizens of Liberty, the county seat of Clay County, charitably offered shelter, work, and provisions. The refugees moved into abandoned slave cabins, built crude huts, pitched tents, and lived on a meager subsistence until the arrival of spring. Some men found work splitting rails, building houses, and grubbing brush. Several of the sisters worked in the households of well-to-do farmers, while others taught school. In the spring some were able to rent land and plant crops. Although most of the citizens of Clay County were friendly, they considered the settlement of the Saints in their midst as only temporary. Hostile elements in Jackson County dubbed these sympathizers “Jack-Mormons,” a term applied in the nineteenth century to friendly non-Mormons.

Meanwhile, from Kirtland Joseph Smith followed the events in western Missouri. Upon hearing of the July troubles he wrote to the Church in Zion: “Brethren if I were with you I should take an active part in your sufferings, and although nature shrinks, yet my spirit would not let me forsake you unto death, God helping me.”27 In October 1833 the Lord revealed to Joseph that “Zion shall be redeemed, although she is chastened for a little season. … Let your hearts be comforted; for all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly, and to the sanctification of the church” (D&C 100:13, 15).28

Elders Hyde and Gould, emissaries from Kirtland to Missouri, returned to Ohio on 25 November with “the melancholy intelligence of the mob in Jackson county persecuting the brethren.”29 This deeply distressed the Prophet. He wrote, “I cannot learn from any communication by the Spirit to me, that Zion has forfeited her claim to a celestial crown, notwithstanding the Lord has caused her to be thus afflicted. … I know that Zion, in the due time of the Lord, will be redeemed; but how many will be the days of her purification, tribulation, and affliction, the Lord has kept hid from my eyes; and when I inquire concerning this subject, the voice of the Lord is: Be still, and know that I am God! All those who suffer for my name shall reign with me, and he that layeth down his life for my sake shall find it again.”30

A few days later the Lord explained that the Saints in Missouri suffered affliction “in consequence of their transgressions. … There were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they pollute their inheritances.” (D&C 101:2, 6).

The Saints in Missouri wondered whether they should establish permanent or temporary settlements in Clay County since there was little hope of returning to their homes in Jackson County. At a conference on 1 January 1834 they decided to send two elders to Kirtland to counsel with the Prophet and arrange for relief for the Missouri Saints. Lyman Wight and Parley P. Pratt volunteered. They lacked the means to make the trip, however. Parley wrote, “I was at this time entirely destitute of proper clothing for the journey; and I had neither horse, saddle, bridle, money nor provisions to take with me; or to leave with my wife, who lay sick and helpless most of the time.”31 These noble brethren were outfitted with the aid of other members. They proceeded by horseback as rapidly as possible, but inclement weather delayed their arrival until the early spring.

While awaiting instructions from their Prophet, Church leaders in Missouri sought reparation from the Missouri state government. A court of inquiry held in Liberty in December called for the arrest of Colonel Thomas Pitcher of the state militia. It soon became evident, however, that public opinion in Jackson County against the Saints was so strong that criminal prosecution was impossible. Church leaders decided to abandon the effort. Governor Dunklin ordered the arms of the Church members to be returned, but his order was defied.

The Saints kept the subject of their wrongs continually before the state authorities. At the same time they petitioned Andrew Jackson, president of the United States, and enclosed with their petition the reply of Governor Dunklin to their petition to him. The governor claimed that the law did not authorize him to keep a military force in Jackson County to protect the Mormons after they were returned to their homes. The Saints asked the president to restore them to their homes and possessions and to ensure their protection. Unfortunately this request came during one of the great debates in American history over the question of the sovereign rights of states. The general feeling in America was that the federal government had no authority to intervene in a state’s internal affairs, such as those occurring in Jackson County, unless the governor declared a state of insurrection. In May 1834 the federal government denied the Saints’ petition, arguing that the offenses listed were violations of state, not federal, law. Meanwhile Governor Dunklin also hesitated to take action. Lawyers for the Church argued the Saints’ case before the state legislature, but that body also refused to help.

July 1833 to July 1834 was a period of the “refiner’s fire” for the Latter-day Saints in western Missouri. Members of the Church throughout the United States were profoundly disappointed that the land of Zion had to be abandoned. Their only recourse was to wait patiently upon the Lord for deliverance and direction.