VIEW FROM THE VISITORS CENTER

by Rocky Hulse

“JULY 4TH AND THE “EXTERMINATION ORDER!”

Here in Nauvoo we often hear of the persecution of the Mormons. Certainly the “Extermination Order” issued by Governor Boggs of Missouri which prompted the removal of the Mormons from Missouri and ultimately led to their settling in Commerce, Illinois, now Nauvoo, is ever fresh on the lips of those who come here on the Mormon History Trail pilgrimage. It is true that Governor Boggs did issue an “Extermination Order” on October 27, 1838, stating in part: “I have received…information of the most appalling character, which entirely changes the face of things, and places the Mormons in the attitude of an open and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made war upon the people of this State…. Your orders are, therefore, to hasten your operations with all possible speed. The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace—their outrages are beyond all description (One Nation Under Gods,  p. 161).” But, is this the whole story? Were the Mormons just innocent victims of unruly Missourians who, for no reason whatsoever, ran them out of their state?

As always, when dealing with Mormon History, you have to do some research to get the uncensored version of what really happened. The facts are that the Mormon Church issued the first “extermination” statements to the Missourians. On July 4th 1838, President Sidney Rigdon delivered a speech in Far West, Missouri which issued the first “extermination” statements: “But from this day and this hour we will suffer it no more. We take God and all the holy angels to witness, this day, that we warn all men, in the name of Jesus Christ to come on us no more for ever, for from this hour we will bear it no more; our rights shall no more be trampled on with impunity; the man, or the set of men who attempt it, do it at the EXPENSE OF THEIR LIVES. And that mob that comes on us to disturb us , it shall be between us and them A WAR OF EXTERMINATION; for we will follow them until the LAST DROP OF THEIR BLOOD IS SPILLED; or else THEY WILL HAVE TO EXTERMINATE US, for WE WILL CARRY THE SEAT OF WAR TO THEIR OWN HOUSES AND THEIR OWN FAMILIES, AND ONE PARTY OR THE OTHER SHALL BE UTTERLY DESTROYED (Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol 1, p. 441) (Emphasis added)

When the above fact, that the Mormon leadership first issued the “Extermination” statements, is brought to light, we often hear, “Sidney Rigdon acted on his own; that was not the policy of the Church.” Once again, not true. Joseph Smith approved of the “declaration.” Mormon Church Historian, B. H. Roberts, records: “The unwisdom of the utterance has been quite generally recognized by our writers, and by them responsibility for it has been placed upon the rather fervid imagination of Sidney Rigdon, who delivered the speech, and who quite generally is supposed to have been mainly or wholly responsible for it. THIS IS NOT TRUE. The speech was carefully prepared, written before delivery in fact, and read by other presiding elders of the church before its delivery. It immediately appeared in The Far West, a weekly newspaper published at Liberty, Clay county; and was also published in pamphlet form by Ebenezer Robinson on the press of the Elder’s Journal. JOSEPH SMITH IN HIS JOURNAL SPEAKS OF IT APPROVINGLY; and in the Elder’s Journal, of which he was the editor, and in the editorial columns under his name, the speech is approvingly recommended to the saints. In view of these facts, if the ‘declaration’ was of doubtful propriety, and unwise and impolitic, responsibility for it rests not alone on Sidney Rigdon, but UPON THE AUTHORITIES OF THE CHURCH WHO APPROVED IT, AND THE PEOPLE WHO ACCEPTED IT BY THEIR ACCLAMATION” (Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol. 1, p. 443) (Emphasis added).

So, on July 4, 1838, history accurately records that the Mormon Church leadership declared a “war of extermination” to be carried to the Missourians “OWN HOUSES AND THEIR OWN FAMILIES, AND ONE PARTY OR THE OTHER SHALL BE UTTERLY DESTROYED .” Governor Boggs did issue an “Extermination Order” against the Mormons, but it was 115 days after, and was in part in reaction to the Mormon Church leadership issuing theirs.

Should Governor Boggs have issued such an order? We can sit back and review history and debate that issue; however, once again Mormon History is being sanitized to “cover-up” what really happened. Just my view from the Christian Visitors Center.