Used by permission of author with minor editorial revision.
A Senior Project Submitted
Michael S. Riggs
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
For the Degree of
Bachelor of Science
The University of San Francisco
January 31, 1988
I wish to express my thankful
appreciation to the following individuals. My instructors Donald W. Schleicher, EdD, Joan C.
Schleicher, EdD and the University of San Francisco for a degree program that makes a quality
education possible for the adult student. My parents, Albert and Colleen Riggs, for instilling in
me the importance of a college degree John E. Thompson, my site contact, co-researcher and
close friend. Stephen C. LeSueur, for setting a new standard in the field of Missouri-Mormon
history. The RLDS Library-Archives staff for many years of unrestricted access and assistance.
And most of all to Marjorie Lynn, the woman of my dreams, may I never wake up
TABLE 1 - Estimates of 1838 Mormon Populations in
Outline of the Study
Importance of the Study
II. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Dissenting Mormon Accounts
III. MORMON VIEWS TOWARDS THEIR
George M. Hinkle
IV. MORMON VIEWS TOWARDS CIVIL
V. MORMON VIEWS TOWARDS NEW DOCTRINES AND
VI. THE PURGED
Effects on the Church
Estimating the Population of Dissenters
The Prodigal Sons
VII. SUMMARIES AND CONCLUSIONS
In the spring of 1838, shortly
after the organization of a new town-site called Adam-Ondi-Ahman in Daviess County,
Missouri, the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., revealed to his followers that:
it [Adam-Ondi-Ahman] was the place to which Adam fled when driven from the garden of Eden in Jackson County [Missouri] and that far West was the spot where Cain Killed Able (Peck, n.d., p.5).
It was indeed ironic that just six months later as they were surrounded by the Missouri State
militia, Joseph Smith and his adherents were confronted with religious genocide in the exact
same location where Joseph had proclaimed Able was murdered.
As in the Biblical account of Cain slaining Able, many of the Saints viewed the surrender of Far West as evil winning a temporary triumph over good. Not all of the Mormons, however, remained so steadfast in their convictions regarding either the leadership or the divine mission of the church. Although some of those who left the church during this difficult time later returned to the faith, the institution they had left was forever changed as a result of the events that transpired during the summer of 1838.
Outline of the Study
This study concentrates on four main areas relative to the organizational behavior of the Latter-day Saints during the so-called 1838 "Mormon war" in Missouri. The first aspect focuses on the Saints' feelings towards both civil and church authorities. For example, late in the conflict, after many unsuccessful attempts on the part of the Mormons to resolve their problems with their non-Mormon neighbors through legalistic methods, Joseph Smith declared in frustration, "all are mob the Governor is mob the militia are mob and the whole state is mob" (Peck, p. 19). This study has explored the extent to which this opinion shared by the rest of the Mormons.
The next topic of investigation explores Mormon attitudes towards several newly developed quasi-church programs formed during this period. Much has been speculated about the purpose and activities of a covert paramilitary group comprised of members of the church called the "Danites." This study looks at this issue primarily through the eyes of Mormons both in and out of the secret organization.
Another program which envoked varied responses from within the church was the formation of cooperative farms called "agricultual firms." Here again some Mormons were opposed to turning over their personal property to the church (Brush, 1891, p. 129). On the other hand, most saw it as an excellent opportunity to supply the needs of the less fortunate while also providing full employment for all of the members of the church (Rockwood, 1838, Note 1).
The third area of examination was to be a detailed estimate of how many Mormons actually left the church during and just after the Mormon war. For reasons presented later, this is currently not feasible. Thoughts on the known impact to the church of these losses, however, have been included.
The last subject centers around attempts at reconciliation made between "the faithful" and "the dissenters" after the war was over. Specific examples are given that provide valuable insights into the groups perceptions.
Finally, in the summaries and conclusions chapter, each section from the body of the study will be disscussed in an organizational behavioral setting. Dispite the 150 years of time that seperates modern management theories and the actions of the Mormon leadership during the fall of Far West, the applicable parallels for consideration are striking and relevant.
Although the writings of other scholars have been referenced, the principle goal was to use primary sources e.g., journals, as much as possible. This task was made a little easier as Mormons were instructed to keep journals and family histories as part of their religous teachings. Hundreds of Mormon narratives are extant via this medium.
Usually the accounts recorded nearest to the time of the actual events contain the most concise details. Objectively judging the validity of these sources (i.e., taking into account possible bias), was a painstaking process. The employed technique was an attempt to correlate details with known facts via other sources to see if the story being told really fits or not.
In verbatim quotations, the APA standard of maintaining the original "interior punctuation, spelling, and wording...even if it is incorrect," has been strictly adhered to. This is also the normal practice in most modern published historical works.
Because the Latter-day Saints were individuals with views that were not always homogeneous it is difficult to generalize about organizational beliefs and attitudes. One of the purposes of this study, however, is to demonstrate definite relationships and common patterns of thought shared by different groups within the church.
Inasmuch as this is a highly emotional and controversial topic, it is expected that debates will occur over the use and interpretation of certain sources. The issues are presented for the realm of scholarly dialogue; therefore, no offense should be received as none is intended.
It should be noted that the author is a believing Mormon, but every effort has been made to approach both the research and the writing in a "detached" manner. [Note: At the time the author was a Mormon.]
Importance of the Study
1988 is the sesquicentennial year marking the end of the 1838 Mormon war. As this milestone anniversary approaches, this study is intended as a timely contribution to the body of other research projects that have gone before it and, hopefully, those yet to come.
Understanding historical events is a sometimes made easier if it is related to a specific disipline. While the Mormon war has been placed in a political, religious, and economic context, it has yet to be viewed from a organizational behavior model. Although this study is by no means exhaustive, it will nevertheless, provide a unique prespective.
Many accounts (actually
interpretations) of the 1838 Mormon war have been written over the last 150 years.
Unfortunately, the majority reflect the individual or group bias of the respective
authors. This is not, however, meant as an unsympathetic critical observation. Most historical
writings were "slanted" until only very recently. The one major exception to this rule, when
dealing with this period, is Rollin J. Britton's Early Days on Grand River and the Mormon
Britton's work is a compilation of six separate articles (which were grouped as chapters) and was published in 1920 by the State Historical Society of Missouri at Columbia. His writing style was very non-judgemental--he simply quotes from primary sources and narrates as little as possible. Britton was neither Mormon nor tied (by ancestry) to the Missourian side. This probably explains his success in coming so close to total objectivity. His work does need to be expanded and updated in light of all the newly discovered material which has surfaced since his time. Any creditable scholars who have come after 1920 have by definition needed to refer to and be knowledgable about Rollin J. Britton's book.
Forty five years after Britton's book was published, Leland H. Gentry wrote his landmark Ph.D. dissertation entitled, "A History of the Latter-Day Saints in Northern Missouri from 1836 to 1839" (1965). This dissertation can be fairly described as dispassionate, yet faithful (from the Latter-day Saint point of view). The "middle of the road" approach taken in his study at least partially explains why it has never been published in book form. LDS publishers shy away from it because Gentry admits too many foibles on the part of the Mormons which, as a consequence, brands it as not "faith promoting" enough. Anti-Mormon critics, on the other hand, assail the work for not going far enough in placing blame on the leaders of the church for their actions during the war.
In 1981, Stephen C. LeSueur wrote a master's thesis entitled, "The Mormon War: The Struggle to Maintain Civil Order in Northwestern Missouri in 1838." The University of Missouri Columbia press has subsequently published an expanded version of this thesis into a book called The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri (1987). This book should serve as a catalyst towards renewing interest in the topic as it will be considered controversial. LeSueur has gone much further towards criticizing Mormon church leaders than Gentry's dissertation did. In effect, both works tend to counterbalance one another and are, therefore, equally important.
In her 1973 master's thesis entitled "Violence in Missouri, 1831-1839: The Case of the Mormon Persecution," Patricia A. Zahniser raises the important issue of perceived motives versus actual motives. She states that "While the usual reason for Mormon persecution in Missouri has been cited as being that of religious differences, these will be shown to be less important than the political and economic factors." This point is critical to this study because it is the cornerstone to understanding what the Mormons believed about the actions of Missouri's civil authorities. When dealing with the behavior of an oppressed group, it is important to first recognize why they feel they are being persecuted. Assertaining that fact will provide insight into the group's behavior patterns.
The above studies represent the major modern works on the subject. The following accounts represent a contrast between two different perspectives relative to the causes of the Mormon war. The accounts left by the Saints who stayed in the Church after this period shall hereafter be refered to as Pro-Mormon sources. The remaining Saints who left the Church during this time wrote what can be termed dissenting Mormon accounts. There were various reasons why different members left or stayed in the Church, so although each section is comprised of three different works supporting the two catagories, it should be stated that they are in nowise exhaustive conceptually.
After the expulsion of the Mormons from the state of Missouri in early 1839, the Saints launched a major propaganda campaign to educate the American people about the wrongs they had endured. This effort had a two-fold purpose. The first was to advance the cause of the Church by claiming persecution. God's people throughout the Bible were oppressed by their unbelieving neighbors. Given that the Mormons were already preaching that they were God's latter-day choosen people, was not this latest episode at the hands of the Missourians only a validation of their theological assertions? The second reason for "spreading the news" was to win popular support in their attempts to sue the state of Missouri for redress.
Three prime examples of Mormon authors writing in the above vein to the American people are John P. Greene's Facts Relative to the Exoulsion of the Mormons From the State of Missouri. Under the "Exterminating Order" (1839), Sidney Rigdon's An Appeal to the American People: Being an Account of the Persecutions of the Church of Latter Day Saints: and of the Barbarities Inflicted on Them by the Inhabitants of the State of Missouri (1840), and Parley P. Pratt's History of the Late Persecution Inflicted by the State of Missouri Upon the Mormons (1840). All three are similar in tone and text. They see the beginning of the final Mormon-Missouri difficulties as being the August 6, 1838, election day fight at Gallatin.
As the influx of Mormons moving into Missouri continued into the spring of 1838, the Saints outgrew overcrowded Caldwell county. Church leaders began to instruct new arrivals to settle in the surrounding counties, particularly Daviess county due north of Caldwell. At first, the Missourians living in Daviess county were friendly to the Mormons, but as the numbers of Saints began pouring in at an ever increasing rate throughout the early summer, the problems started. When August rolled around the young county held its first election.
Early in the campaign, William Peniston, the Whig party candidate for state legislature, realized that without the support of the new majority (the Mormons) he had little chance for success. After several unsuccessful attempts at wooing the Mormon vote, however, Peniston knew he would not obtain it. On the day of the election, Peniston took to a barrel and made a speech to his followers demanding that they deny the sufferage of the Mormons. A Missourian hit a Mormon standing nearby and a free-for-all erupted. Although no one was killed, exaggerated reports went out to both Mormons and non-Mormons stating that men had been killed on each side (Higbee & Thompson, R.B., 1840). All three of these pro-Mormon accounts saw the election day fight as the powder keg that spelled the beginning of the end.
To emphasize the gravity of the significant property losses incurred as a result of the expulsion, all three authors include graphic discourses on the affront to republicanism the whole affay constituted. These arguments, of course, were intended to arouse the public's outrage in their favor so as to bring pressure to bear on the Congress and the President for redress. In the end, however, states' rights prevailed and the Mormon's rights did not.
Using the accounts of those disestablished from any organization is an onerous, yet important element to research. Ignoring them leaves only a partial rendering, while a carte blanche acceptence of their versions is equally suspect in the reconstruction of an accurate history. Because dissenting Mormons were part of the organization as a whole, their accounts have been used extensively in this study.
Probably the three most quoted dissenting Mormon works are John Corrill's A Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints (1835/1985); William Swartzell's Mormonism Exposed. Being a Journal of a Residence in Missouri from the 28th of May to the 20 of August, 1838 (l840/n.d.); and Reed Peck's The Reed Peck Manuscript (n.d.). All three writers lost faith not only in Joseph Smith Jr. as a prophet, but also in the institution he led.
In 1839, former Church member John Corrill published a fifty page pamphlet explaining his reasons for separating himself from the Mormon faith. This work is absolutely crucial to the study of the Mormon experience in Missouri. Corrill was baptized into the Church in Janurary 1831 and soon afterwards found himself numbered with the earliest of the Saints to emigrate to western Missouri. He describes in some detail the hardships endured by the Mormons at the hands of their Missouri neighbors through three forced moves.
Corrill, having been a prominent leader within the Church hierarchy and later a powerful Mormon dissenter, provides a vaulable perspective that should not be overlooked. For example, he views the Mormons as clearly acting on the defensive against the Missourians up to the summer of 1838. His staunch opposition to Mormon militancy was perhaps the single greatest reason for his eventual disaffection. By today's standards Corrill might correctly be labled a dove. In the eyes of his Mormon peers, however, Corrill was a notorious tratior to the cause.
William Swartzell, unlike Corrill, was neither a long time member of the movement nor of the state of Missouri. Rather his experience is typical of many early Latter day Saints who left the Church almost as soon as they came in. His published journal account of this critical period adds some details to the story not elsewhere found. Insights into the chronology and nature of Danite meetings held in Adam-Ondi-Ahman and evidence that agricultural firms were being planned in and around Adam-Ondi-Ahman a whole month before Far West are just two examples of how invalueable this source is.
Swartzell's book claims to be a day-by-day rendering of his journey to, residence in, and finally escape from Missouri covering a total of only five months. Although undoubtablly based on some kind of journal entries, the printed form was obviously embellished to a certain degree. At the end of his 8th of July entry, for example, he states that he had determined to make his escape from the Mormons, but three weeks later he requests to join the Danites. This would seem to indicate an apparent shift in the text. It is the possiblity of undetected insertions that make this source less than totally reliable.
Perhaps the most important of the three works was Reed Peck's unpublished letter to his "friends." In substance it is very similar John Corrill's book. Both men were what Peck termed "anti Danites" (Peck, p. 20). Both men were also later branded traitors by their brethern for the parts they played in the surrender of Far West. They saw themselves as part of a rational minority in the midst of an organization engulfed in militaristic hysteria.
Peck writes about early Danite activities in greater detail than Corrill. It is probable that Peck was a Danite whereas Corrill was not. Based on the theories of historian John E. Thompson, the proceedings of the July 4th, 1838, celebration and procession in Far West were after the order of the Danites (1985, Note 2). In the August, 1838, issue of the official Church organ, Reed Peck is listed as the Adjutant in the July 4th, parade alongside other notable Danite officers (Elder's Journal, Aug., 1838, p. 69). Although Peck soon afterwards opposed the prinicple of Danitism, his early firsthand accounts of the group's beginnings are extremely beneficial.
In summary, all three of these works are absolutely paramount to understanding at least one faction of dissenting Mormons perspectives. There were other groups, however, represented within the disaffected that are also discussed in depth later in the body of this study.
Not unlike the seige on
Biblical Jerico, the battle of Far West was quick and decisive, but when the walls of the latter city
came metaphorically tumbling down, God's people found themselves on the inside. "This was not
the way it was supposed to happen, or was it"? Did not brother Joseph say, "I am determined that
we will not give another foot and I care not how many come against us, 10 or 10000 God will
send his Angels to our deliverance and we can conquer 10000 as easily as 10"(Peck, p. 19). For a
growing number of skeptical Saints the question of what went wrong meant, "Was Joseph Smith
mistaken or can divine providence really produce failure?"
For the vast majority of the Mormons, the answer was clear: if God allowed us to be defeated, it must be because he is displeased with us (collectively) as a choosen people. Indeed, Joseph Smith's mother Lucy Mack Smith made the following observation about her son's prophetic role and the consequences of not heeding his warnings (and therefore God's warnings).
It may be said that, if Joseph Smith had been a prophet, he would have foreseen the evil, and provided against it. To this I reply, he did all that was in his power to prevail upon his brethren to move into Far West, before the difficulty commenced, and at a meeting, three weeks previous, he urged the brethren to make all possible haste in moving both their housed and their provisions into the city. But this counsel appeared to them unreasonable and inconsistent, therfore they did not heed it (1912/1969, p. 320).
As it is presented in chapter
four, most Mormons felt that if God was displeased with them, he must be even more upset with
the Missourians. It was commonly maintained that the wicked authorities of the State of Missouri
along with its citizenry would suffer to the last farthing for the insolence of fighting against the
designs of God.
Few Mormons placed any blame for the events on Joseph Smith. However, as far as all the other Mormon leadership was concerned, he seems to be the only notable exception. In the wake of the surrender of Far West almost a complete turn over in church hierarchy emerges. Just as the general membership was willing to view themselves as inept in the eyes of God so too were they willing to include all of the leadership, except Joseph. This section will focus on the Mormon membership's views towards four Mormon leaders who played key roles in the events of the summer of 1838.
By far the most influential latter-day Saint (excluding Joseph Smith) in northwestern Missouri during this period was Sidney Rigdon. He was the right hand man to the prophet, leading orator/spokesman for the Church, and the primary catalyst for the rise of Mormon militancy. Six years after the surrender of Far West, his inflamatory retoric was referred to by a another leading Mormon as "...the main auxiliary that fanned into a flame the burning wrath of the mobocratic portion of the Missourians" (Grant, 1844/1984, p. 3).
Sidney Rigdon had been a very prominent preacher on Ohio's western reserve when in 1830 four missionaries from New York armed with copies of The Book of Mormon found him. At first Rigdon was cautious and hesitant about their message, but after intense study and prayer he became convinced of its truthfulness (Backman, 1983, pp. 1-8).
The field was truly white in Ohio for Mormonism and most of its converts had been Rigdon's former parishioners. This made Rigdon's transition to a leader within the Mormon hierarchy from his former role easier. The earliest converts to the new church were from the "burnt over district" in up-state New York, not Ohio. Some of these original members later had troubles with Sidney Rigdon. David Whitmer, a Mormon dissenter, blamed most of his problems with the Church on Rigdon. Writing late in his life about Rigdon's early influence on the Church, Whitmer wrote:
Rigdon was a thorough Bible scholar, a man of fine education, and a powerful orator. He soon worked himself deep into Brother Joseph's affections, and had more influence over him than any other man living. He was Brother Joseph's private counsellor, and his most intimate friend and brother for some time after they met. Brother Joseph rejoiced, believing that the Lord had sent to him this great and mighty man Sydney Rigdon, to help him in the work, Poor Brother Joseph. He was mistaken about this, and likewise all of the brethren were mistaken; for we thought at that time just as Brother Joseph did about it (Whitmer, 1887, p. 35).
By the summer of 1838,
Sidney Rigdon had long since been firmly established in a position second only to Joseph Smith
in Church leadership. It was during this summer that Joseph and Sidney had been forced to move
from Ohio to Far West, Missouri, because of mass disaffections of Church members. These
"apostates" had claimed that Joseph Smith was a "fallen prophet" and threatened to kill him.
Rigdon became infuriated when upon his arrival in Far West he found some of these same
apostates had also relocated to the city.
Rigdon felt that something had to be done to prevent a repeat of the Ohio fiasco. He was determined to put a stop to their influence at whatever the price. In June, he gave a speech to the Saints at Far West commonly referred to as the "salt sermon." His text was taken from Christ's parable contained in the Sermon on the Mount:
Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost his savor, wherwith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men (Matthew 5:13, KJV).
In the strictest sense Rigdon
applied a literal interptation to the verse and used it as a threat to the apostates if they did not
leave Far West immediately. The desired effect was achieved and the dissenters left (Thompson,
J. E., 1986).
Having cleaned house internally, Rigdon next turned his attention to the Missourians. During the time that Smith and Rigdon had been living in Ohio, the Mormons in Missouri had endured great persecution resulting in two forced moves. Although the situation was relatively quiet between the gentiles and the Mormons when Rigdon came to Far West, he made another speech declaring the Church's independence from mobs. This oration was heard by most of the Saints as it was given as the keynote address during the July 4th celebration. It was afterwards printed up and widely distributed amongst the surrounding non-Mormon communities (McKiernan, 1971/1986).
In the official published versions of the difficulties, pro-Mormon writers (including Sidney Rigdon) tended to focus on the August 6th election day fight as the beginning of the troubles (Rigdon; Greene; Pratt, 1840). Many private Mormon journals and autobiographical accounts, however, view the genesis as dating back to the expulsion of the dissenters and the July 4th address. Allen Stout (a faithful Danite) said that Rigdon's "4th of July...declaration of independence...enraged the mob worse than ever, so that by Fall the whole country was under arms" (Stout, n.d., pp. 7-8, Note 3). Luman Shurtliff (also a Danite), wrote: "herd an oration delivered by Sidney Rigdon in the delivery of which the orator became quite excited and proclaimed loudly our freedom and liberty in Missouri. Although Sydney as an orator and one of our leading men his oration brought sorrow and gloom over my mind and spoiled my further enjoyment for the day" (Shurtliff, n.d., pp. 119-120, Note 4).
Had the Mormons prevailed over their non-Mormon neighbors, Sidney Rigdon would have been remembered as a hero. Dispite the fact that the majority of the group sustained his policies, he took much of the blame for the failure. He was never fully accepted or trusted again by Joseph Smith after the Missouri period. He separated himself from the main body of the Church following Joseph Smith's death in 1844 after an unsuccessful bid to become his successor. In the aftermath of his departure from mainline Mormonism (he later tried unsucessfully to start his own church), it was easier for Mormon apologists to look back in retrospect and find fault with many of his past actions. Justifiably or not, the Missouri period was certainly no exception.
When it was all said and done the only thing both the loyal Mormons and the dissenters could agree on was their dislike of Dr. Sampson Avard. His testimony at the court hearings following the surrender were the most damaging of all to Joseph Smith and the others held with him. In a November 29, 1838, report to the Governor his appointed commander over the war against the Mormons General Clark wrote: "I will here remark, but for the capture of Sampson Avard, a leading Mormon...I do not believe I could have obtained any useful facts. No one disclosed any useful matter until he was captured and brought in" (Orders, 1841, p. 90).
Those who had dissented had different reasons for distaining the doctor. Avard, after all, had been a prime mover in the organization of the secret Danite society within the Church sometime in June of 1838. The original purpose of the Danites was the removal of all dissenters from Far West.
George M. Hinkle
Perhaps the most misunderstood and maligned of all the former Church leaders who fell by the wayside after the surrender was Colonel George M. Hinkle. His chief crime against Mormonism was an act that he felt saved the Church from certain genocide (Messenger and Advocate, 1845). He had been asked by Joseph Smith along with others to meet the Governor's state militia and negotiate a settlement. Hinkle returned a short time later with the terms and conditions for a Mormon surrender. General Lucas demanded that as a pretext to not attacking the city, he required Joseph Smith and a few other leading Mormons to give themselves up as hostages within one hour. Hinkle relayed this communication to Smith who agreed that he must submit to save the people. When Hinkle escorted the prophet and the others back into Lucas' camp, however, the General received Smith and his party as prisioners and not merely hostages (Peck, pp. 26-28). Further, Hinkle was allowed to return to Far West on his own recognizance. All this convinced the prisioners (and especially Joseph Smith) that Hinkle had betrayed them as a Judas. Hinkle's later appearance in November, 1838, as a witness for the state at the preliminary hearings also seemed to confirm their belief that he had lost the faith (cited in Jessee, 1984, pp. 362, 376).
Many times previous to the surrender Hinkle had proven his commitment to the cause to the extent that his loyalty could not have honestly been questioned. He commanded the Mormon resistance at the battle of De Witt less than a month before the fall of Far West (Jensen, July, 1888 p. 604). The day before he was accused of perpetrating his heinous deception against Joseph Smith, he had shown extreme courage when he (in his military capacity) called for volunteers to go with him to protect an outlaying Mormon settlement that had been brutally attacked earlier that day (Rollins, 1924, p. 6, Note 5).
In the years following the Missouri period, Hinkle was active in several different churches with LDS origins (Launius, 1977, p. 3; Wood, 1987, p. 20). Though he remained bitter about being blamed for the events that transpired at the surrender, he nevertheless carried with him certain Mormon theological beliefs he felt he could not deny.
In a manner common to George M. Hinkle, Lyman Wight was ever ready to prove his tenacious loyalty to the Church on the battle field. Unlike Hinkle, however, even in the face of overwhelming odds, Wight was willing to fight on at all cost.
Wight was one of the company that General Lucas required to be held as hostage (and later taken as prisioner) along with Joseph Smith. Judge Joseph Thorp, a non-Mormon state militiaman, witnessed Wight's bravery at the time of the surrender.
They [Joseph Smith, George W. Robinson, Sidney Rigdon, Parley P. Pratt, and Lyman Wight] were about as badly scared set as I ever saw, except old Wright, [Wight] who stood like a lion and said fight, without a sign of fear abut him (Thorp, 1924, p. 89).
Lyman Wight records an
interesting exchange he had with a General under Lucas' command the next day while still
General Wilson, subaltern of General Lucas, took me on one side and said; "We do not wish to hurt you nor kill you, neither shall you be, by G---; but we have one thing against you, and that is, you are too friendly to Joe Smith, and we believe him to be a G--- d--- rascal, and Wight, you know all about his character." I said, "I do, sir." Will you swear all you know concerning him?" said Wilson. "I will, sir" was the answer I gave. "Give us the outlines," said Wilson. I then told Wilson I believed said Joseph Smith to be the most philanthropic man he ever saw, and possessed of the most pure and republican principles--a friend to mankind, a maker of peace; "and sir, had it not been that I had given heed to his counsel, I would have given you hell before this time, with all your mob forces."
He then observed, "Wight, I fear your life is in danger, for there is no end to the prejudice against Joe Smith." "Kill and be damned sir," was my answer. He answered and said "There is to be a court-martial held this night; and will you attend, sir." "I will not, unless compelled by force," was my reply.
He returned about eleven o'clock that night, and took me aside and said: "I regret to tell you your die is cast; your doom is fixed; you are sentenced to be shot tomorrow morning on the public square in Far West, at eight o'clock." I answered, "Shoot, and be damned."
"We are in hopes," said he, "you would come out against Joe Smith; but as you have not, you will have to share the same fate with him." I answered "You may thank Joe Smith that you are not in hell this night; for, had it not been for him, I would have put you there" (Documentary History of the Church, 1978, Vol. 3, p. 446).
Wight, like many of his
brethern, had already experienced two previous forced internal exiles at the hands of their
Missourian neighbors. As illustrated above, by this time his fuse had become very short. After it
was decided not to go through with the executions of the prisioners that next day, Wight and the
others spent the next five and half months in Missouri jails awaiting a formal civil trial. At one
point, they were transferred back to Daviess County (Wight's home before the surrender) for a
court proceeding. Peter H. Burnett, a non-Mormon defense lawyer representing the group,
provided a view into another side of Lyman Wight.
Some of the guards had been in the combats between the Mormons and the people of Davis [sic] County.
The subject of incessant conversation between Wight and these men was the late difficulties, which they discussed with great good nature and frankness. Wight would laughingly say, "At such a place" (mentioning it) "you rather whipped us, but at such a place we licked you" (Burnett, 1880, p. 66).
Many of the Danite officers
took on nicknames to withhold their identities and also to build upon the climate of their
vocations. Examples of these pseudonyms were "Captain fearnaught," "Captain Blackhawk," and
"The Thunderbolt." Perhaps the most accurate of them all belonged to Colonel Lyman Wight,
"The Intrepid" (Schindler, 1966, p. 55).
In preparation for the July 4th
1838 festivities, a liberty pole was raised in Far West to hoist "the stars and stripes" (Littlefield,
1888, p. 36). A day or two later a thunderstorm rumbled through the city and the pole was
destroyed by a lightning bolt. Accounts of this incident were recorded by some as a token of their
impending loss of civil liberties in Missouri (Shurtliff, p. 119; Hunt, 1844, p. 181).
It seems inconceivable that once upon a time in America a Governor of a state could have issued an executive order calling for the extermination of a religious movement. It is not included in any grade school history classes, but it did happen. On October 27, 1838, Governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued his infamous "extermination order," which said in part, "The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated, or driven from the State, if necessary, for the public good" (Britton, pp. 33-34).
The Mormons and Governor Boggs went way back together as adversaries. Boggs was from Jackson County which was the original settling place of the Saints in Missouri. When the Mormons were driven from their homes and property in 1833, then Lieutenant Governor Boggs played a major role against them (Zahniser, p. 21; Peck, p. 1). One Mormon recorded in his autobiography that he was forced to surrender his gun to Boggs during a confrontation in 1833 (Duncan, 1852, p. 5, Note 6). These earlier events become a strong basis for general distrust of Boggs five years later during the summer of 1838.
Parley P. Pratt who was one of the first four Mormons to arrive in Jackson County in 1831 later wrote the following about his views on the election of Boggs to Governor.
... the majority of the State so far countenanced these outrages [against the Mormons] that they actually elected Lilburn W. Boggs (one of the oldest actors in the scenes of Jackson County, who had assisted in murder and plunder, and the expulsion of twelve hundred citizens, in 1833) for Governor of the State, and placed him in the executive chair, instead of suspending him by the neck, between the heavens and the earth, as his crimes justly merited. This movement may be said to have put an end to liberty, law and government in that State. About this time, Colonel Lucas, a leader of the banditti, was elected Major General, instead of being hung for treason and murder. And Moses Wilson, another leader of the mob, was elected Brigadier-General; and others were advanced accordingly. These all very readily received their commissions from their accomplice, Governor Boggs, and thus corruption, rebellion and conspiracy had spread on every side, being fostered and encouraged by a large majority of the State; and thus the treason became general (Pratt, 1938/1985, p. 85).
By the beginning of October,
1838, any respect that Joseph Smith might have had for state government was void. Reed Peck
testified that Joseph Smith in a public discourse prior to the surrender stated "that he had a
reverence for the constitution of the United States and of this State; but, as for the laws of this
State, he did not intend to regard them, nor care any thing about them, as they were made by
lawyers and blacklegs" (Orders, p. 119). John Corrill felt that Smith and the Mormons had
become "desperate" as a result of the lack of support they had been given by state officials and
especially the Governor (Corrill, pp. 29-30).
The difference with the dissenters (for example, Corrill and Peck) was a concern that even if the civil authorities were unsympathtic, they knew that if the Mormons turned to vigilantism it would eventually bring the whole State down on them (Corrill, p. 30). In the end the dissenters were right. It was a lose-lose situation for the Saints.
Along with the problems of internal disaffections and open warfare with the Missourians throughout the summer of 1838, the Mormons also faced another major challenge: too many Mormon emigrants. To deal with the dissenters and the mobs, a covert para-military group called the Danites was formed. The second problem was answered with the institution of special cooperatives called agricultural firms or just firms. Both the Danites and the firms were short lived (less than five months), but their impacts on the organization are still felt today.
Every writer who has researched this period of Mormon history is confronted with the Danites. That the group existed is undeniable, the heart of the controversy has to do with how involved Joseph Smith himself was in its activities. It has little bearing on this study if Joseph Smith did or did not structure or support the Danites. It is important, however, to determine if Mormons in general (loyal or not) believed he did.
Since a vow of silence regarding both membership and activities were required of the Danites, detailed accounts are naturally found mostly in the writings of dissenting Mormons. This has given apologetic LDS historians the plausible deniability necessary to acquit Joseph Smith of any involvement (Dyer, 1976, pp. 300-301). Too many oblique remarks are made by loyal Saints concerning the Danites to conclude that the group's existence was not common knowledge among the general membership (Thompson, J. E., 1985, Note 2). Even the Missourians were well versed in the acts of the Danites (LeSueur, 1987). It can be argued that if the Mormons and Missourians where knowledgeable about the exploits of the Danites, then they surely assumed that Joseph Smith knew. To take this reasoning one step further, if they believed that Joseph Smith did know (regardless of if he really did or not) and did not renounce it, then they could conclude that he at least supported their cause.
Given that the environment existed for a general perception that Joseph Smith did in fact support the Danites, it may be summized that the "loyal" Mormons would have also backed them. Although this conclusion is basically sound, it is not without execptions. Mosiah Hancock wrote in his autobiography that he felt that the Danites were hypocrites, only supporting the prophet "skin deep" (n.d., p. 11, Note 7). It was also understood that after the surrender it was the Danites the State militia had come for (Godfrey, K. W., Godfrey, A.M., & Derr, 1982, p. 93). The degree to which this caused resentment among the loyal Mormons, however, is hard to determine. According to Reed Peck, he informed General Doniphan the night before the surrender that many Mormons in Far West were opposed to the militancy of the Church leaders. He did this in an attempt to dissuaded the Army from destroying the city with "indiscriminate slaughter" (Peck, p. 25). It is difficult to judge, therefore, how exaggerated his statement might have been.
The dissenters, of course, were opposed to the Danites. Reed Peck and William Swartzell (two well known dissenters) had actually been in the organization for a brief time (Peck, p. 10; Swartzell, pp. 22-23). David Whitmer (an earlier dissenter than Peck or Swartzell) was numbered among those who were driven out of Far West in June 1838. He blamed Sidney Rigdon for being the instigator of the Danites (Whitmer, p. 35). Most of the dissenters agreed with Whitmer that one or more of the Church's first Presidency were behind the actions of the Danite band (Gentry, l974).
After two years of settling Caldwell County, it became apparent that the demands placed on the Church by the steady flow of Mormon emigrants was insurmountable. Something different had to be done. In a October 6, 1838, letter to his sister (Note 1), Albert P. Rockwood provided an excellent description of the remedy.
Arrangements are now makeing for constant employment for both Male and Female by the operation of Church firms, which are about being been verry extensively established the members lease all their Real Estate (save the city lots) to the firm to which they belong, for a term of years from 10 to 99, without and consideration or interest--Personal Estate is put in on nearly the same condition.--Every member that joins is to put in all he has over and above his needs and wants for his privite stewardship in all cases each person is bound to pay his honest debts before leasing.--the Calculation is for the Brethren to dwell in the Cities & cultivate the lands in the vicinity, in fields many miles in extent; or from City to City, the Brethren own most of Caldwell Co, most of it is or will proba[b]ly be leased to the firms...all kind of necessary articles will be manufactured by these firms, that be no necessity of purchasing of our Enemies The firms furnish constant employ for all who Join them and pay $1.00 pr day for a mans work-Any surplus that may remain, after paying the demands of the firm is to be divided According to the needs & wants...Many houses must be built this fall.--The operation of these firms enable a Man to get a comfortable house in a verry short time when he gets about it 1st by his working for the firm 70 or 80 days then the firm turn out Stone Cutters, Carpenters, Masons Teams &c to complete the house.
On the surface, this seemed to
be an answer that would satisfy everyone. Those who had settled in Caldwell County a year or
two before and had amassed a sizable amount of property had less to gain and a lot to lose. The
fact that the organization of the firms was under the direction of the Danites also made joining
less than optional (Peck, pp. 12-13). This is illustrated in a biographical article of one loyal
Mormon opposed to the firms.
About this time Dr. Avard [a Danite General] came among the Saints, preaching the "common stock" theory: and during the summer of 1838 the Saints formed three "firms," as they were called, for the purpose of doing business in common. Those west of Far West were joined toghether in one firm, and the ultimate intention was to move all the houses near together and farm the adjoining country in common. Bro. Brush opposed this movement, but a majority favored it and he yielded, hating to stand alone (Brush, p. 129).
The concept of moving into the
cities and farming cooperatively on the outskirts was not appealing to everyone. One "Br.
Hoopes" said, "All this confusion startles me--they tell me that I must come into the city and build
in it, or I will be cut off from the Church. I will not do it" (Swartzell, p. 34).
It was for the above reasons that the firms were created, but the scope of purpose soon expanded. Joseph Holbrook related how he and Squire Bozarth of the Western firm were sent down to Fort Leavenworth to bid on the construction of a major road project. Their bid of $l4,000 was not successful, but it demonstrates the aggressiveness of the firm's enterprises (n.d., p. 22, Note 8; Riggs, 1988, Note 9).
The surrender of Far West resulted in the abolition of both the Danites and the firms. Throughout later Mormon history, however, variant forms of both institutions were revived at different times. The prinicples taught in the firms are in part considered by modern Mormonism to be encompassed in the "law of consecration." A doctrine which Latter-day Saints are still taught will be lived again by the faithful members of the Church (Cook, 1985).
The were three classes of dissenters within the Mormon Church during the spring and summer of 1838. Basically, they can be categorized into groups by time periods. The first group was comprised of people who had lost faith in Joseph Smith (for a variety of reasons) before June 1838. The second set of dissenters left the Church starting in June and continued up until the surrender. The third are made up of those who left during and just after the fall of Far West.
Combined, these groups represented a virtual whos who of Mormonism. All three of the published witnesses to The Book of Mormon and half of the original twelve apostles were included. Many of these people had been the backbone of the Church, and yet much to their disappointment Mormonism did not die without them In fact, with an almost complete turnover in leadership, Joseph Smith went on to build a city even greater than Far West on the banks of the Mississippi River in Illinois. What effect then, if any, did these dissenters have on the Church? How many were there? And finally, to what extent was reconciliation made between the dissenters and the Church?
Effects on the Church
It is hard to say what things would have turned out like under a particular set of unacted upon circumstances. This would be like examining the aftermath of an event and trying to judge if it occured because of or in spite of a missing element. What can be said about the Church in the wake of the Missouri defections is that it continued to grow at a rapid rate (LDS Millennial Star 1841, Vol.1 p. 21).
It is interesting that after the Mormons became established in Illinois, Joseph Smith decided to take a more hands off approach to the temporal affairs so he could concentrate more on the spiritual needs of the Church (Nauvoo High Council Minutes, July, 1840, p. 9-11, Note 10). In light of the absolute temporal control Joseph Smith demanded during the Missouri years, this change in direction seems significant. Could it have been at least indirectly attributable to the dissenters?
Another important aftershock in the wake of the disaffections was the matter in which it was handled later in Illinois. Church court cases were held before a High Council of twelve high priests. It was here that a Mormon's Church membership could be taken away or upheld based on the testimony received. The Nauvoo, Illinois High Council heard several cases involving Church members who were still critical of Danite activities in Missouri. This was not tolerated, it was systematically hushed up every time the issue was raised. In a March 1842 case, for example, John Jamison of the Union Branch had the collective hand of fellowship withdrawn from him by the High Council for among other things "teaching that the Church was driven out of Missouri for stealing." This was an indirect reference to the Danite activities the summer before the surrender of Far West (Nauvoo High Council Minutes, p. 40, Note 10). In another case, Mose Martin was threatened with expulsion from the Church if he did not recant certain derogatory statements about two Danite members. He accused Seymor Brunson and Amasa Lyman of being part of "a gang of Gadianton robers" functioning within the Church. The term "Gadianton robbers" is borrowed from an account in The Book of Mormon involving a secret band of maraudering thieves and murderers (1830, p. 410). Brunson and Lyman were both very active in various Mormon military operations prior the the fall of Far West (LeSueur, 1987, p. 118; Jensen, 1887, Vol. 6, p. 127). Martin, unlike Jamison, withdrew the accusations and was forgiven (Nauvoo High Council Minutes, Aug. 1840, p. 13, Note 10). The method for quieting dissent in Nauvoo was much more discreet than it was in Missouri, no more "Salt sermons."
Estimating the Population of
It is difficult to determine the total number of Saints which were driven from Missouri. The published estimates range from ten to fifteen thousand (see table 1).
At least estimates exist for a total number. No hard data is extant at all on the number of
Mormons who left the Church during this time. One problem is that the dissenters did not gather
together again like the faithful did. In fact, some of the dissenters even followed the Mormons to
Illonios. At this point, it would be irresponsible research to make an estimate on the number of
The Prodigal Sons
Orson Hyde had been a member of the Church's second highest priesthood qourum, the twelve apostles. Late in October 1838, however, he and Thomas B. Marsh (another Mormon apostle) left the Church and went to the city of Richmond, Missouri. While there they swore out affidavits against the former comrades, accusing them of treason. These two statements resulted in a much greater awareness being placed on the conflict by the Missourians (Gentry, 1965, pp. 275-279).
An excellent first hand account of one loyal Mormons feelings about about being face to face with a dissenter is found in the journal of Allen Stout.
I was on my return from Richmond landing with a span of mares and wagen, belonging to B. Jones, and on the wide prairie I saw a man walking behind me. I reined in the team to let him overtake me, and who should it be but ORSON HYDE, who had apostatized in the fuss, but had seen a vision in which it was made known to him that if he did not make immediate restitution to the Quorum of the Twelve, he would be cut off and all his posterity, and that the curse of Cain would be upon him. I invited him to ride with me, which he was very thankful for as he was very much fatigued, I also divided my morsel of break with him, but I was not much in love with Apostates so soon after my exit from prison. But I saw that Brother Hyde was on the stool of repentance (pp. 9-10, Note 3).
In 1840 W. W. Phelps wrote
Joseph Smith a letter expressing a desire to return to the fold. After chiding him for leaving his
friends in their "day of distress," Joseph's responding letter welcomes Phelps back into fellowship
with "Come on, dear brother, since the war is past, for friends at first, are friends again at last"
(Documentary History of the Church, 1978, Vol. 4, pp. 163-164).
In addition to the above, the following prominent men also returned to one brand of Mormonism or another later in life, Oliver Cowdery, George M. Hinkle, Thomas B. Marsh, William McLellin, Fredrick G. Williams, Martin Harris, and Luke S. Johnson. Although none of these men returned to their former standings within their respective churches, they were warmly received with all having been forgiven.
This study has gone into some detail to demonstrate that an absolutely homogenous organizational perspective did not exist among the Mormons in and around the time of the surrender of Far West in 1838. This diverse mixture of attitudes reacting to a common shared event has thus made for an excellent research topic. Throughout the body of this historical project are a mulitude of potential modern management textbook case studies. The purpose of this final chapter is to superimpose the principles of organizational behavior over the data, thereby, gaining insights into the past and present. The ensuing observations are subdivided by sections and correspond to the chapters in the study beginning with chapter three.
By understanding how a variety of Mormons felt about their leaders in a period of great internal and external distress, a parallel can be made to crisis management (Caplow, 1983, pp. 37-40). For the Mormon leadership, the way to handle the situation was to force loyalty out of their subordinates. This method might have been a total failure if the leadership did not have the prinicple of divine command on their side (Barry, 1985, pp. 51-52).
Robbin's treatment of strong versus weak organizational culture (1986, pp. 433-434), is very germane to this subject. It is known that dispite the Church's total defeat in Missouri, the vast majority of Mormons did move with the organization out of the state. This would have required a very high level of shared core values (which has also been deminstrated in the study). All this would indicate the presents of a very strong culture. The question of how good or bad this strong culture was on the group continues to be debated.
Sidney Rigdon was very adapt at using the external forces (Stoner, 1982, p. 379) to rally support to the cause. The problem was that success sometimes breeds on itself and can go too far, as in this case.
Sampson Avard was the ultimate "bridge burner" and scapegoat. He was disliked by both the dissenters and the loyalists. Joseph Smith and others were able to place most of the blame for the activities of the Danites at his feet.
George M. Hinkle found himself in a classic lose-lose situation. As a realist he knew that the Mormons could not win in the face of overwelming odds. He also knew that in order to save his people, he had to put himself in a compromising position. His real downfall with Mormonism, however, was the result of bypassing on an apparent agreement involving a third party (Haney, 1986, p. 253).
In short, Lyman Wight was a great team player because nobody ever wanted to fight against him. His unyeilding loyalty to the Church later won him the office of apostle. Sometimes the best workers do move up within organizations.
No matter how justified it may be, it does not make sense 99 percent of the time for a David to take on a Goliath. The loyal Mormons were so pumped up against Missouri's civil authorities that they felt they were invincible. This leadership tactic provides temporary stimulus for effective group cohesiveness, but eventually the house of cards will fall.
As in the example of Joseph Smith and the Danites, it is often more important what members of an organization perceive (Haney, p. 59) about the beliefs of their leaders, than what those beliefs in reality actually are. In the institution of the firms, the Mormon leadership violates the equity theory (Robbins, pp. l34-l36). For those Mormons who had just arrived in Far West, without the prospects for land, the firms would have been a wonderful idea. Those who were asked (by Danites) to give up vast amounts of property out of the goodness of their hearts were more prone to oppose the plan.
The effect dissenters had on Mormonism can be equated to turnover in a business. If Joseph Smith had been able to spend more time interacting with some of these men, perhaps fewer of them would have left the organization (Dowling & Sayles, 1978, p. 65).
The last area involves the resolution of conflicts. The Mormon leadership exhibited a directly aggressive style of conflict management. The pre-June 1838 dissenters were more nonassertive in that they fled the situation (though they probably had little choice). The post-June to the surrender and the post surrender period dissenters acted in a indirect aggressive mode (Adler, 1986, pp. 110-113).
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