Lesson 18: The Expulsion of the Saints from Missouri

“Lesson 18: The Expulsion of the Saints from Missouri,” Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material (2018)

“Lesson 18,” Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material

Lesson 18

The Expulsion of the Saints from Missouri

Introduction and Timeline

On December 1, 1838, the Prophet Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Lyman Wight, Alexander McRae, and Caleb Baldwin were transferred to the Clay County jail, later known as Liberty Jail, in Liberty, Missouri, while awaiting trial for false charges of treason. Meanwhile, the Saints in northern Missouri suffered extreme difficulties as a result of persecution. Although the Saints were told they could remain in Missouri until spring, local mobs forced most of the Saints to evacuate the state by February 1839. With Joseph Smith and the other members of the First Presidency in jail and no agreed-upon destination for relocation, the exiled Saints spent the remaining winter and early spring scattered along the Mississippi River in both Iowa and Illinois. Many found temporary refuge in Quincy, Illinois, after having been received kindly by local citizens.

December 1, 1838Joseph Smith and five other Church members were imprisoned in Liberty Jail.

January 16, 1839In a letter from Liberty Jail, the First Presidency appointed the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to temporarily manage Church affairs.

January 26, 1839A Church committee was formed to help the poor evacuate from Missouri.

February 1839Most Saints began to evacuate from Missouri.

February 27, 1839A committee of citizens of Quincy, Illinois, passed a resolution to provide assistance and employment to the Saints.

Student Readings

Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 1, The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846 (2018), chapter 32

Suggestions for Teaching

Saints in Missouri are forced to evacuate

Display the accompanying map, “The Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa Area of the United States,” and invite students to locate Far West, Missouri. Remind the students of the extermination order issued by Missouri governor Lilburn W. Boggs on October 27, 1838, which led to mobs attacking and pillaging Far West and other Mormon settlements in northern Missouri. Also remind students that during this time, the Prophet Joseph Smith, his counselors in the First Presidency, and other Church members were captured and imprisoned in Richmond and Liberty, Missouri.

map of Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa areas
  • Based on your reading of chapter 32 of Saints: Volume 1, what were some of the specific challenges the Saints in northern Missouri faced after being expelled from their homes? (The Saints didn’t know where to go, they lacked food and supplies, and some had been injured during skirmishes with the Missouri militia or attacks by mobs.)

  • If you had been among the Saints who were forced to flee Missouri at that time, what thoughts or feelings do you think you might have had? Why?

  • While the Prophet Joseph Smith was confined in Liberty Jail, whom did he appoint to lead the Saints’ evacuation from Missouri? (The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with Brigham Young as its president.)

Ask students to locate chapter 32 of Saints: Volume 1. Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from page 376, starting with the paragraph that begins “Already Brigham had enlisted …” and concluding with the paragraph on page 377 that begins “The exodus out of Missouri …” Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Brigham Young admonished the Saints to do as they prepared to evacuate Missouri.

  • Based on Brigham Young’s proposal, what principle can we learn about the responsibility we have as disciples of Jesus Christ? (Students should identify a principle similar to the following: As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have a responsibility to help the poor and needy.) Write this principle on the board.

  • What are some ways we can fulfill our responsibility to help the poor and needy today?

Amanda Smith

Display the accompanying image, and explain that it is a picture of Amanda Smith, one of the thousands of Saints who were forced to flee from Missouri.

  • Why was it especially difficult for Amanda Smith and her family to comply with the evacuation demanded by the extermination order? (If necessary, remind the students that Amanda had lost her husband and one of her sons in the Hawn’s Mill massacre. Through miraculous spiritual guidance, she was led to know how to heal her six-year-old son, Alma, who had been shot in the hip. She was still waiting for Alma’s hip to heal when other Saints began evacuating Missouri.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following account by Amanda Smith. Ask the class to listen for how Amanda exercised faith while she remained at Hawn’s Mill, waiting for Alma to be healthy enough to evacuate.

Amanda Smith

“I cannot leave the tragic story without relating some incidents of those five weeks when I was a prisoner with my wounded boy in Missouri, near the scene of the massacre, unable to obey the order of extermination.

“All the Mormons in the neighborhood had fled out of the State, excepting a few families of the bereaved women and children. …

“In our utter desolation, what could we women do but pray? Prayer was our only source of comfort; our Heavenly Father our only helper. …

“One day a mobber came from the mill with the captain’s [order]:

“‘The captain says if you women don’t stop your … praying he will send down a posse and kill every … one of you!’ …

“Our prayers were hushed in terror. We dared not let our voices be heard in the house in supplication. I could pray in my bed or in silence, but I could not live thus long. …

“I could bear it no longer. I pined to hear once more my own voice in petition to my Heavenly Father.

“I stole down into a corn-field, and crawled into a [bundle of cornstalks]. It was as the temple of the Lord to me at that moment. I prayed aloud and most fervently.

“When I emerged from the corn a voice spoke to me. It was a voice as plain as I ever heard one. It was no silent, strong impression of the spirit, but a voice, repeating a verse of the saint’s hymn:

That soul who on Jesus hath leaned for repose,

I cannot, I will not desert to its foes;

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,

I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

“From that moment I had no more fear. I felt that nothing could hurt me” (Amanda Smith, in Edward W. Tullidge, The Women of Mormondom [1877], 129–30).

  • What can we learn from Amanda’s example that can help us during our times of trial and affliction? (Students may identify a variety of principles, including the following: As we fervently pray during our afflictions, the Lord will comfort and strengthen us. Write this principle on the board.)

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from page 379 of Saints: Volume 1, starting with the paragraph that begins “The words strengthened …” and concluding with the paragraph on the same page that begins “Ignoring him …” Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Lord further strengthened Amanda and her family following her prayer. Invite students to report what they found.

  • When have you experienced comfort or strength from the Lord as you have fervently prayed during your afflictions?

Exiled Saints find temporary refuge in Quincy, Illinois

Refer again to the map “The Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa Area of the United States,” and invite students to locate Quincy, Illinois. Explain that between January and March 1839, most of the approximately 8,000 to 10,000 Saints living in northern Missouri abandoned or sold their lands, homes, and the majority of their belongings as they evacuated the state. Many found temporary refuge across the Mississippi River in Quincy, Illinois, a city about 170 miles (275 kilometers) from Far West. These refugees endured difficult circumstances on their winter journey, including hunger, freezing temperatures, rain, snow, and mud.

  • How might the sudden arrival of the Saints have caused difficulties for the residents of Quincy, Illinois?

Explain that in late February 1839, citizens of Quincy gathered in the courthouse to hear reports by a committee appointed to investigate the circumstances of the Latter-day Saint refugees. Invite a student to read the following portion of the committee’s resolution aloud. Ask the class to listen for what the citizens of Quincy decided to do.

“The strangers recently arrived here from the State of Missouri, known by the name of the Latter Day Saints, are entitled to our sympathy and kindest regard, and … we recommend to the Citizens of Quincy, to extend to them all the kindness in their power to bestow, as persons who are in affliction. …

“… We recommend to all the citizens of Quincy, that in all their intercourse with the strangers, that they … be particularly careful not to indulge in any conversation or expressions calculated to wound their feelings, or in any way to reflect upon those, who by every law of humanity, are entitled to our sympathy and commiseration” (Quincy Argus, Mar. 16, 1839, [1]; spelling standardized; see also Manuscript History of the Church, vol. C-1, p. 889,

  • If you were in the place of the Latter-day Saint refugees, what would be your feelings toward the residents of Quincy?

Explain that notwithstanding the charitable assistance provided by the Quincy residents, the large influx of Saints relocating to Quincy resulted in many Saints crowding into tents, sheds, huts, and dugouts for shelter during the winter and spring of 1839.

Divide students into small groups, and give them the accompanying handout, “The Hendricks Family in Quincy, Illinois.” Ask students to read the handout together and discuss their responses to the questions on the handout.

The Hendricks Family in Quincy, Illinois

James and Drusilla Hendricks

Read the following account of the Hendricks family as told by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Jeffrey R. Holland

“Amidst the terrible hostilities in Missouri that would put the Prophet in Liberty Jail and see thousands of Latter-day Saints driven from their homes, Sister Drusilla Hendricks and her invalid husband, James, who had been shot by enemies of the Church in the Battle of Crooked River, arrived with their children at a hastily shaped dugout in Quincy, Illinois, to live out the spring of that harrowing year.

“Within two weeks the Hendrickses were on the verge of starvation, having only one spoonful of sugar and a saucerful of cornmeal remaining in their possession. … Drusilla made mush out of it for James and the children, thus stretching its contents as far as she could make it go. When that small offering was consumed by her famished family, she washed everything, cleaned their little dugout as thoroughly as she could, and quietly waited to die.

“Not long thereafter the sound of a wagon brought Drusilla to her feet. It was their neighbor Reuben Allred. He said he had a feeling they were out of food, so on his way into town he’d had a sack of grain ground into meal for them.

“Shortly thereafter Alexander Williams arrived with two bushels of meal on his shoulder. He told Drusilla that he’d been extremely busy but the Spirit had whispered to him that ‘Brother Hendricks’ family is suffering, so I dropped everything and came [running]’ [Drusilla Doris Hendricks, “Historical Sketch of James Hendricks and Drusilla Doris Hendricks,” Church Archives, Salt Lake City, 14-15]” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “A Handful of Meal and a Little Oil,” Ensign, May 1996, 31).

  • What principles can we learn from this account?

Read the following statement by President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018):

Thomas S. Monson

“The sweetest experience I know in life is to feel a prompting and act upon it and later find out that it was the fulfillment of someone’s prayer or someone’s need” (Thomas S. Monson, in William R. Walker, “Follow the Prophet,” Ensign, Apr. 2014, 40).

  • When have you acted on a prompting from the Holy Ghost and been led to help someone in need?

The Hendricks Family in Quincy, Illinois handout

After sufficient time, ask a few students to report what they learned from the handout. Students may identify a principle such as the following: When we act on promptings from the Holy Ghost, we can be led to help those in need. Consider sharing your testimony of this principle.

Invite students to think of individuals they know who may be in need. Invite them to prayerfully seek and act on inspiration from the Holy Ghost to help those people. You might encourage students to write down the spiritual promptings they receive so that they can remember to follow up on those promptings.

Encourage students to prepare for the next class by reading chapter 33 of Saints: Volume 1. Ask students to look for lessons they can learn from the Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders as they suffered in Liberty Jail.

The Hendricks Family in Quincy, Illinois handout