Lesson 17: Increasing Conflict in Missouri

“Lesson 17: Increasing Conflict in Missouri,” Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material (2018)

“Lesson 17,” Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material

Lesson 17

Increasing Conflict in Missouri

Introduction and Timeline

In 1838, tensions rose between the Saints and other citizens of Missouri. On October 27, 1838—two days after a battle between a group of Saints and the Missouri militia at Crooked River—Governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued an extermination order to drive the Saints from the state. Three days after the extermination order was issued, mobs attacked the settlement at Hawn’s Mill and killed seventeen Saints. Meanwhile, a large force of the state militia besieged the town of Far West. On October 31, George Hinkle, commander of the Saints’ militia at Far West, betrayed the Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders into the hands of the state militia. The next day, the Saints were forced to deliver up their weapons, and the state militia plundered Far West. State militia members took the Prophet and other Church leaders as prisoners and transported them to Independence and then to Richmond, Missouri.

October 25, 1838A group of Saints and the Missouri militia battled at Crooked River.

October 27, 1838Governor Boggs signed an order to exterminate the Saints from Missouri.

October 30, 1838A mob massacred seventeen Saints at Hawn’s Mill.

October 30–November 6, 1838The Missouri militia laid siege to Far West.

October 31, 1838George Hinkle betrayed the Prophet and other Church leaders to the state militia.

November 1838Joseph Smith and other Church leaders were held captive, first in Independence and then in Richmond, Missouri.

Student Readings

Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 1, The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846 (2018), chapters 29–31

Suggestions for Teaching

Tensions rise between the Saints and other citizens of Missouri

Display the following paragraph, and invite a student to read it aloud:

Elder David W. Patten of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles once told the Prophet Joseph Smith that “he had asked the Lord to let him die the death of a martyr, at which the Prophet, greatly moved, expressed extreme sorrow, ‘for,’ said he to David, ‘when a man of your faith asks the Lord for anything, he generally gets it’” (Lycurgus A. Wilson, Life of David W. Patten: The First Apostolic Martyr [1900], 53). On the day of David W. Patten’s funeral, the Prophet remarked, “There lies a man that has done just as he said he would—he has ‘laid down his life for his friends’” (in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. B-1, addenda, note Z, p. 10,

  • Based on your reading of chapter 29 of Saints: Volume 1, what circumstances led to David W. Patten’s death? (On October 25, 1838, David W. Patten led a group of Mormon militia to rescue two or three Church members who were being held hostage by a group of Missourians who had driven Saints from the area. In the battle that ensued—called the battle of Crooked River—David was shot in the abdomen. He died later that night.)

Crooked River, Missouri

Show the accompanying image of Crooked River, and explain that in addition to Elder David W. Patten, two Latter-day Saints and one Missourian were killed in the battle that occurred near the river.

Invite a student to read the following paragraph aloud:

In the weeks before the battle of Crooked River, mobs had raided and burned homes of Latter-day Saints in Missouri, and vigilante groups of Saints, seeking supplies to care for those who had been driven from their homes, had looted and burned stores belonging to other Missouri citizens. Governor Lilburn W. Boggs received exaggerated reports of these lootings and also heard false accounts of the Saints killing fifty or sixty Missourians at the battle of Crooked River. In addition, Governor Boggs received an affidavit from Thomas B. Marsh and Orson Hyde, who falsely testified that Joseph Smith “intended to overrun the state, the nation, and ultimately the world” (Saints: Volume 1, 346). On October 27, 1838, Governor Boggs signed an executive order stating that “the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State, if necessary, for the public good” (Manuscript History, vol. B-1, p. 842).

  • How did the circumstances in Missouri during the summer and fall of 1838 make it difficult for the Saints to defend themselves, their rights, and their property? (The Saints’ efforts to defend themselves from mob violence seemed to only lead to greater tensions and persecutions.)

A mob massacres Saints at Hawn’s Mill

Display the accompanying map, “The Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa Area of the United States,” and invite students to locate Hawn’s Mill, Missouri. Explain that on October 30, 1838, an armed mob of more than 200 men on horseback descended on the settlement of Saints at Hawn’s Mill (see The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839, ed. Mark Ashurst-McGee and others [2017], 269).

map of Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa areas
  • Based on your reading of chapter 30 of Saints: Volume 1, what happened to Church members at Hawn’s Mill? (Seventeen Saints were killed and more than twelve others were wounded. The surviving Saints were eventually forced to abandon their homes and property.)

To help students understand what one family experienced at Hawn’s Mill, invite a student to read aloud the following account by Amanda Smith. Before the account is read, explain that Amanda was traveling to Far West, Missouri, with her husband and children. They stopped at Hawn’s Mill on October 28 and were staying there when the massacre happened.

Amanda Smith

“When the firing had ceased, I went back to the scene of the massacre. …

“… Emerging from the blacksmith shop was my eldest son [Willard], bearing on his shoulders his little brother, Alma.

“‘Oh! my Alma is dead!’ I cried, in anguish.

“‘No, mother, I think Alma is not dead. But father and brother Sardius are [dead]!’ …

“But I could not weep then. …

“The entire hip joint of my wounded boy had been shot away. Flesh, hip bone, joint and all had been ploughed out. …

“We laid little Alma on a bed in our tent and I examined the wound. It was a ghastly sight. I knew not what to do. …

“Yet was I there, all that long, dreadful night, with my dead and my wounded, and none but God as our physician and help.

“‘Oh my Heavenly Father,’ I cried, ‘what shall I do? Thou seest my poor wounded boy and knowest my inexperience. Oh, Heavenly Father, direct me what to do!’” (Amanda Smith, in Edward W. Tullidge, The Women of Mormondom [1877], 122–24; spelling and punctuation standardized).

Amanda Smith

Display the accompanying image, and explain that it is a picture of Amanda Smith in her later years.

  • What stands out to you about how Amanda Smith reacted in this difficult situation?

Invite a student to continue reading Amanda Smith’s account. Ask the class to listen for how the Lord answered Amanda’s prayers.

Amanda Smith

“I was directed as by a voice speaking to me.

“The ashes of our fire [were] still smoldering. … I was directed to take those ashes and make a lye and put a cloth saturated with it right into the wound. … Again and again I saturated the cloth and put it into the [wound]. …

“Having done as directed I again prayed to the Lord and was again instructed as distinctly as though a physician had been standing by speaking to me.

“Nearby was a slippery-elm tree. From this I was told to make a … poultice [moist material made from herbs or other substances] and fill the wound with it.

“… The poultice was made, and the wound, which took fully a quarter of a yard of linen to cover, … was properly dressed. …

“I removed the wounded boy to a house … and dressed his hip; the Lord directing me as before. I was reminded that in my husband’s trunk there was a bottle of balsam [a solution of plant substances sometimes used in medicine]. This I poured into the wound, greatly soothing Alma’s pain.

“‘Alma, my child,’ I said, ‘you believe that the Lord made your hip?’

“‘Yes, mother.’

“‘Well, the Lord can make something there in the place of your hip, don’t you believe he can, Alma?’

“‘Do you think that the Lord can, mother?’ inquired the child, in his simplicity.

“‘Yes, my son,’ I replied, ‘he has shown it all to me in a vision.’

“Then I laid him comfortably on his face, and said: ‘Now you lay like that, and don’t move, and the Lord will make you another hip.’

“So Alma laid on his face for five weeks, until he was entirely recovered—a flexible gristle having grown in place of the missing joint and socket, which remains to this day a marvel to physicians” (Amanda Smith, in Edward W. Tullidge, The Women of Mormondom [1877], 124, 128; spelling standardized; see also Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 1, The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846 [2018], 354–55, 378–79).

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President James E. Faust (1920–2007) of the First Presidency about Amanda’s treatment of her son’s wound:

James E. Faust

“The treatment was unusual for that day and time, and unheard of now, but when we reach an extremity, like Sister Smith, we have to exercise our simple faith and listen to the Spirit as she did” (James E. Faust, “The Shield of Faith,” Ensign, May 2000, 19).

  • What principles can we learn from Amanda Smith’s example? (Students may identify several principles, including the following: As we exercise faith in the Lord, we can receive His guidance and help. Write this principle on the board.)

  • What are some ways we can receive the Lord’s guidance and help as we exercise faith in Him?

  • When have you received guidance and help from the Lord as you exercised faith in Him?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency. Ask the class to listen for what he taught about the tragedy at Hawn’s Mill.

Henry B. Eyring

“When tensions ran high in northern Missouri in the fall of 1838, the Prophet Joseph Smith called for all the Saints to gather to Far West for protection. Many were on isolated farms or in scattered settlements. He specifically counseled Jacob Hawn, founder of a small settlement called ‘Hawn’s Mill.’ A record of that time includes this: ‘Brother Joseph had sent word by Hawn, who owned the mill, to inform the brethren who were living there to leave and come to Far West, but Mr. Hawn did not deliver the message’ (Philo Dibble, “Early Scenes in Church History,” in Four Faith Promoting Classics [1968], 90). … [Later] the Prophet recorded the sad truth that innocent lives could have been saved at Hawn’s Mill had his counsel been received and followed” (Henry B. Eyring, “Finding Safety in Counsel,” Ensign, May 1997, 24–25; “Haun” in the original has been updated to “Hawn” to reflect recent research).

Explain that although Jacob Hawn wasn’t a Church member, he was appointed to seek Joseph Smith’s counsel on whether the Saints should remain at Hawn’s Mill.

  • What can we learn from Jacob Hawn’s decision to disregard prophetic counsel?

The Missouri militia besieges Far West and takes Church leaders prisoner

Refer again to the map used earlier in the lesson, “The Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa Area of the United States,” and invite students to locate Far West, Missouri.

Explain that while the massacre at Hawn’s Mill was happening, a state militia marched toward Far West, intending to subdue the Saints while awaiting further orders from the governor. Although the Saints were outnumbered five to one, they were determined to defend their families and homes. Joseph Smith asked George Hinkle, the leader of the Saints’ forces, to meet with militia members to find a peaceful resolution. Under a flag of truce, George met with leaders of the Missouri militia to discuss a way to end the conflict. The militia leaders had received notice of the governor’s extermination order, and General Samuel Lucas, one of the Missouri militia leaders, explained to George that his soldiers would carry out the order unless the Saints turned over their leaders, surrendered their weapons, and left the state.

  • What did George Hinckle decide to do in these circumstances? (He secretly arranged to betray Joseph Smith and other Church leaders into the hands of the Missouri militia.)

Inform students that after Joseph Smith was taken captive, the Missouri militia confiscated the weapons of the Mormon militia, plundered Far West, and terrorized the Saints.

Ask students to locate chapter 31 of Saints: Volume 1. Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from page 363, starting with the paragraph that begins “At the town square …” and concluding with the paragraph on the same page that begins “‘I’m more satisfied …’” Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened as the Missouri militia plundered Far West.

  • What principles can we learn from Heber C. Kimball’s courageous response? (Students may identify several principles. After they respond, write the following principle on the board: We can stay true to God and His prophets even when those around us do not.)

Write the following question on the board: What do you think of Joseph Smith now?

  • Have you ever been in a situation in which someone spoke against the Prophet Joseph Smith? How did you respond?

  • What helps you remain true to God and the prophets He has called to lead us today?

The Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders are tried and imprisoned

Briefly explain that the Missouri militia took Joseph Smith and other Church leaders from Far West to Jackson County for public display. The prisoners were then taken to a log cabin in Richmond to await trial, where they were chained together and forced to sleep on the floor.

Divide the class into small groups, and give each group a copy of the accompanying handout, “Dignity and Majesty.” Invite each group to read the handout and discuss together their answers to the question on the handout.

“Dignity and Majesty”

Joseph Smith addresses jailers

Elder Parley P. Pratt (1807–57) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles related the following regarding what happened while he was imprisoned with the Prophet Joseph Smith in Richmond, Missouri:

Parley P. Pratt

“In one of those tedious nights we had lain as if in sleep till the hour of midnight had passed, and our ears and hearts had been pained, while we had listened for hours to the obscene jests, the horrid oaths, the dreadful blasphemies and filthy language of our guards, Colonel Price at their head, as they recounted to each other their deeds … , which they had committed among the ‘Mormons’ while at Far West and vicinity. They even boasted of defiling by force wives, daughters and virgins, and of shooting or dashing out the brains of men, women and children.

“I had listened till I became so disgusted, shocked, horrified, and so filled with the spirit of indignant justice that I could scarcely refrain from rising upon my feet and rebuking the guards; but had said nothing to Joseph, or anyone else. … On a sudden he arose to his feet, and spoke in a voice of thunder, or as the roaring lion, uttering, near as I can recollect, the following words:

“‘SILENCE, ye fiends of the infernal pit. In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still; I will not live another minute and hear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die THIS INSTANT!’

“He ceased to speak. He stood erect in terrible majesty. Chained, and without a weapon; calm, unruffled and dignified as an angel, he looked upon the quailing guards, whose weapons were lowered or dropped to the ground; whose knees smote together, and who, shrinking into a corner, or crouching at his feet, begged his pardon, and remained quiet till a change of guards. …

“… I have tried to conceive of kings, of royal courts, of thrones and crowns; and of emperors assembled to decide the fate of kingdoms; but dignity and majesty have I seen but once, as it stood in chains, at midnight, in a dungeon in an obscure village of Missouri” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr. [1938], 210–11; spelling standardized).

  • What do you learn about Joseph Smith from this account?

“Dignity and Majesty” handout

Rather than having students review the handout “Dignity and Majesty,” you could show a portion of the movie Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration. Show the movie from time code 39:15 to 41:12, which portrays Joseph Smith’s response to his guards. Ask students to discuss what stands out to them in the video. This video is available on

Conclude the lesson by sharing your testimony of the truths you have discussed in today’s lesson. Encourage students to act on those truths.

Invite students to prepare for the next class by reading chapter 32 of Saints: Volume 1.

“Dignity and Majesty” handout