The Expulsion from Missouri

By Richard and Pamela Price

Governor Boggs
Governor Boggs

"The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State, if necessary, for the public good. Their outrages are beyond all description." Thus read, in part, the "extermination order" issued by Missouri Governor Lilburn W. Boggs on October 27, 1838.

During the period of 1836–1838, the saints had settled in and built up Caldwell County, which had been designated for the saints in northwest Missouri. They had established several towns and had begun to enjoy peace and prosperity.

Then in the summer of 1838, persecution, fear, and hatred once again beset them, and war broke out between the saints and the nonmember settlers.

Events occurred quickly after the Battle of Crooked River on October 25, 1838. The next day Governor Lilburn Boggs ordered out ten thousand men of the state militia—six thousand of whom saw action at Far West; and on October 27 he issued his infamous "extermination order," which declared that all Latter Day Saints must leave Missouri or die. The governor placed Brigadier General John B. Clark in charge of the war, but General Clark was at Chariton, and it took him four days to move his fifteen hundred troops to Far West.

Major General Samuel Lucas of Jackson County was at Richmond in Ray County when the Governor's decision became known. He had 2,500 troops with him, armed with state-supplied rifles and cannons. Not waiting for General Clark to arrive, nor for any further orders, General Lucas rushed his troops to Far West. He arrived the evening of October 30 (the day of the massacre at Haun's Mill) and camped south of town.

On their way to conquer Far West some of the Missouri troops beheld a most miraculous phenomenon. According to Brother Levi Graybill one of the state militiamen asked him about the company of men on white horses.

I told him that I did not know of but four white horses that belonged to us. He said as they were coming in they saw a company of white horses one half mile long between them and Far West. Their riders were dressed in white and carried silver trumpets. He said they [the state troops who were coming to conquer Far West] halted until this white robed company went away. This man was from Jackson County. Another man, by the name of Julius Beach from Ray County, told the same story only he made the number greater, saying that it took one-half hour for them to pass a given point. (Journal of History 4:107)

On October 31, while his men were preparing to attack the town of Far West, General Lucas sent a "flag" to the saints with a message to the effect that he wished to talk with their leaders.

Lt. Col. George M. Hinkle was in charge of the saints' five hundred poorly-armed men. With a few other men, he went into the Missouri camp to negotiate. Lucas gave the saints two choices—being massacred or agreeing to the following terms:

  1. Surrender the Church leaders to be tried and punished,
  2. Surrender all weapons,
  3. Sign over all lands in Missouri (supposedly to pay the Missourians' war expenses and damages which the saints may have caused), and
  4. Leave the state.

Colonel Hinkle, as head of the saints' militia, was in a very trying position, since he was outnumbered. about five to one. Under these circumstances, he chose to sacrifice the leaders in order to save the population from a wholesale slaughter. Therefore he went back to the village and notified Church leaders that General Lucas needed them to go to his headquarters to negotiate. When they arrived, Hinkle announced, "Gentlemen, here are the prisoners I promised to deliver to you" (RLDS History of the Church 2:260). In this way, he surrendered Joseph Smith, President Sidney Rigdon, Apostle Parley P. Pratt, Apostle Lyman Wight, and George Robinson. Joseph and the other leaders were so shocked that they never forgave Col. Hinkle. The next day Hyrum Smith and Amasa Lyman were added to this group of prisoners.

The prisoners were treated like animals and were forced to sleep on the ground without shelter. Lyman Wight described their first night.

This proved to be a dismal night on the account of the rain, and three alarms in the course of the night, which brought every man to his feet, and placed him under arms. The hideous screeches and screaming of this wretched, murderous band would have made a perfect dead silence with the damned in hell. Thus I spent the first night after being imprisoned, for believing the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith to be a prophet of God. (RLDS History of the Church 2:260)

On Thursday, November 1, the Missouri officers held a court martial and decided that Joseph and the leaders should be shot. Accordingly, the following order was given:

Brigadier-General Doniphan; Sir: You will take Joseph Smith and the other prisoners into the public square of Far West, and shoot them at nine o'clock tomorrow morning.—Samuel D. Lucas, Major-General Commanding. (History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, p. 137)

Alexander Doniphan
Alexander Doniphan

General Alexander Doniphan had previously assisted the saints as a lawyer and in securing Caldwell County for their new home. A brave man, he sent this reply to his superior:

It is cold-blooded murder. I will not obey your order. My brigade shall march for Liberty tomorrow morning, at eight o'clock; and if you execute those men, I will hold you responsible before an earthly tribunal, so help me God!—A. W. Doniphan, Brigadier-General. (Ibid.)

This bold action by Alexander Doniphan saved the lives of Joseph and the others, and it won a place of affection for him in the hearts of the saints. (In later years Lake Doniphan, the Church's reunion grounds near Excelsior Springs, Missouri, was named in his honor.)

General Doniphan marched his three hundred men back home to Liberty the next morning as stated and quit the war. His brave defiance caused General Lucas to become fearful of killing the Church leaders, and in this way their lives were spared.

On the same day that the order was given to shoot the leaders. General Lucas had Colonel Hinkle march the saints' troops out of town and required them to lay down their arms. The Missouri troops then entered the city and began pillaging it. They abused the men, raped some of the women, killed animals, and stole property.

General Lucas completely subdued Far West and forced the saints at bayonet point to sign over all their lands.

He allowed General Wilson to take custody of Joseph and the other leading prisoners. Wilson took them to Independence, starting the same day. But before going, the prisoners were allowed to enter Far West to bid farewell to their families. Joseph recorded,

We were taken to the town. . . . I found my wife and children in tears, who expected we were shot by those who had sworn to take our lives, and that they should see me no more. . . . When I entered my house they clung to my garments, their eyes streaming with tears. . . . I requested to have a private interview with them a few minutes, but this privilege was denied me. I was then obliged to take my departure, but who can realize my feelings which I experienced at that time, to be torn from my companion, and leaving her surrounded with monsters in the shape of men, and my children too. . . . My partner wept, my children clung to me, and were only thrust from me by the swords of the guards who guarded me. (RLDS History of the Church 2:258–259)

In Independence Joseph and the others were treated in a "Genteel manner." General Wilson even had them to his house for dinner on two occasions. They were also allowed to preach to the throngs of spectators and to walk to the Temple Lot on November 4th, with only one man as their "keeper."

Apostle Parley Pratt described their visit to the sacred spot.

We had no longer any guard—we went out and came in when we pleased, a certain keeper being appointed merely to look to us; with him we walked out of town and visited the desolate lands which belonged to our society [the Church], and the place which, seven years before, we had dedicated and consecrated for the building of a temple, it being a beautiful rise of ground about half a mile west of Independence. When we saw it last it was a wilderness, but now our enemies had robbed it of every stick of timber, and it presented a beautiful rolling field of pasture, being covered with grass.

Oh, how many feelings did this spot awaken in our bosoms! Here we had often bowed the knee in prayer to Jehovah in bygone years; and here we had assembled with hundreds of happy saints, in the solemn meeting, and offered our prayers, and songs, and sacraments, in our humble dwellings; but now all was solemn and lonely desolation. (RLDS History of the Church 2:298–299)

General Clark, who had been appointed by Governor Boggs to take charge of the war, arrived at Far West on November 4 and approved of the treaty that General Lucas had forced upon the saints. On November 6 he made a speech to the saints in which he reiterated the terms of the Lucas "treaty." Then he added,

Had your leaders not been given up, and the terms of this treaty complied with before this, you and your families would have been destroyed and your houses in ashes. (RLDS History of the Church 2:265)

General Clark gathered about sixty more influential Church men and sent them to Richmond to stand trial. Then he sent Colonel Sterling Price (who later became a Confederate general during the Civil War) to Independence to retrieve Joseph and the others from General Wilson and to take them to Richmond. Both General Clark and Colonel Price were cruel to the Church leaders. They locked some in irons and kept them all in dungeons with insufficient food and heat during the cold winter weather. They encouraged those who came to taunt the prisoners, and they drove away those who came to comfort them.

The Rebuking of the Guard

Upon one occasion, while in the Richmond prison, when the Missouri troops were boasting of their acts of murder, rape, and pillage at Far West, Joseph arose and rebuked them. Apostle Pratt described the incident.

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 any one else, although I lay next to him and knew he was awake. On a sudden he arose to his feet, and spoke in a voice of thunder, or as the roaring lion, uttering, as near as I can recollect, the following words:

Joseph Smith Rebuking the Guard
Joseph Smith Rebuking the Guard

"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 seen the ministers of justice, clothed in magisterial robes, and criminals arraigned before them, while life was suspended on a breath, in the Courts of England; I have witnessed a Congress in solemn session to give laws to nations; 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, pp. 210–211)

Imprisonment in Liberty Jail

Like General Lucas, General Clark determined to have Joseph and the other main leaders shot; but he could not find a legal excuse so he turned them over to Judge A. A. King. The Missourians forced some witnesses to turn "state's evidence" against the Church men; while others who wanted to testify in their behalf were arrested and imprisoned or driven out of the county by Captain Bogard and others (see RLDS History of the Church 2:292).

Finally, Judge King released all the prisoners but two small groups. He sent Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, Lyman Wight, Caleb Baldwin and Alexander McRae to Liberty, Missouri. Parley Pratt and four others were later sent to a prison in Boonville.

In Liberty Jail the prisoners were kept in the lower dungeon during the long winter of 1839. There, in chains, they suffered cold, hunger, and abuse. Conditions were horrible and Joseph suffered intensely with "the face ache." A few people were allowed to visit them, including Emma Smith and their oldest son Joseph III. Upon one such visit Joseph was inspired to bless his six-year-old son to be his successor in the office of prophet and president of the Church. This was not an ordination to that office, but a designation, in keeping with Doctrine and Covenants 43:1–2.

Joseph received inspiration upon several other important subjects while in Liberty Jail, in spite of the miserable conditions there. He also wrote letters to Bishop Partridge and others which gave needed directions to the bewildered saints.

The Exodus from Missouri

After the "extermination order," the Haun's Mill massacre, the pillaging of Far West and all the other villages, and the imprisonment of the leaders, the saints began to leave Missouri and to seek refuge in Illinois. The people of Illinois were outraged by the cruelty of the Missourians and welcomed the saints with compassion.

Many of the saints soon began the tortuous two-hundred-mile journey, most of them on foot, across the unsettled wilderness of northeast Missouri during the coldest part of winter. They lacked sufficient food and clothing and often were forced to sleep in the snow. Their suffering was unbearable, and about three hundred of the twelve thousand died, while many others received permanent injury to their health. To insure their speedy departure, small bands of the state militiamen continued to follow and harass them until they reached Illinois.

Joseph reported,

Since General Clark withdrew his troops from Far West, parties of armed men have gone through the county driving off horses, sheep, and cattle, and also plundering houses. (RLDS History of the Church 2:275)

Amanda Smith, who lost her husband and a son in the Haun's Mill massacre, described the journey to Illinois. She said,

I started the first of February for Illinois without money (mob all the way), drove our team, slept out of doors. I had five small children; we suffered hunger, fatigue, and cold. (Inez Smith Davis, Story of the Church, page 285)

Even in these trying circumstances the Lord performed miracles to assist His saints. For instance,a group of saints was traveling through the snow on the way to Illinois when they noticed a mob of troopers approaching from the rear on horseback. Knowing they would be molested, they hurried on; but the mobsters continued to gain on them. The saints began to pray most earnestly. Suddenly a blinding snow storm began behind them, while the way was clear ahead of them. The mobsters were forced to turn back by the storm and the group was spared further abuse.

The Manuscript of the Inspired Version Preserved

Emma Smith Crossing the Mississippi, by Virginia Brown
Emma Smith Crossing the Mississippi
By Virginia Brown

When Joseph was taken prisoner, all his valuable Church papers had been left at Far West in the hands of his secretary—a young man named James Mulholland. Among these papers was the manuscript of the Inspired Version of the Bible, which the Lord directed Joseph to make between 1830 and 1833 by correcting the King James Version. Fearing that he would be captured by the invading army and the manuscript destroyed, James gave it to his sister-in-law, Ann Scott, with whom he thought it would be safer.

Ann "made two cotton bags of sufficient size to contain them, and sewing a band around the top ends long enough to button about her waist, carried them under the folds of her dress in daytime when the mob was around and slept with them under her pillow at night." When Emma Smith started for Illinois, the bags and papers were given to her. On the last part of the journey, Emma walked across the frozen Mississippi River, carrying her babies, Frederick and Alexander, and leading little Julia and Joseph, with the manuscript of the Inspired Version and the other papers in the bags under her skirts (see Inez Smith Davis, Story of the Church, pages 285–286). Such was the devotion of the early saints who endured hardships, sorrows, and persecution because of their belief in the Restored Gospel.

This article appears as Chapter 26 in The Restoration Story. The Restoration Story may be purchased from the bookstore or online.