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Centennial Lessons: Church History for Women — 3. The Move to Missouri

By: Ardis E. Parshall - February 19, 2009

Please see the Introduction to this series for the origins of these lessons, written by Elder A.G. Pack, a missionary to England in 1930.

ANOTHER MOVE WEST: The fourth general conference of the Church was held in Kirtland, June 3rd-6th, 1831, and the following day a revelation [Doctrine and Covenants, Section 52.] was given commanding the Prophet to go to Missouri. Joseph, in company with others, left Kirtland on June 19th, traveling by wagon, stage and canal-boat, and reached Independence, Missouri, about the middle of July.

Immediately after their arrival another revelation [Doctrine and Covenants, Section 57.] was given making known that Independence was to be the central gathering place of the Saints, and locating the spot for the Temple. Elder Sidney Rigdon dedicated the land, and on August 3rd, the Prophet consecrated the site for the Temple. Thus was Zion located on the western border of civilization. Joseph left for Kirtland again on the 9th, arriving there August 27th.

THE PEOPLE IN MISSOURI: Soon a migratory stream of Saints started from Kirtland and other branches in the East. Here in Missouri they hoped to establish themselves in their promised land, beyond the reach of strife and persecution. the desire of the saints to gather in Zion is expressed in the life of Sister Polly Knight, wife of Joseph Knight, Sen., who died in Independence just after the dedication of the Temple spot.

Polly Knight’s health had been failing for some time, according to the statement made by her son Newel. She was very ill during the journey from Kirtland to Missouri, “Yet,” says her son, “she would not consent to stop traveling; her only, or her greatest desire, was to set her feet upon the land of Zion, and to have her body interred in that land. I went on shore and bought lumber to make a coffin in case she should die before we arrived at our place of destination – so fast did she fail. But the Lord gave her the desire of her heart, and she lived to stand upon that land.” [History of the Church, Vol. I, p. 199.]

Settlements were built in several parts of Jackson County, surrounding Independence, and soon there were about 1,200 Saints in Missouri. They purchased lands, started schools, published a paper, and preached the Gospel with success. Their faith held inviolate the freedom of conscience; they were law-abiding and peaceable. But their peace was short-lived. Trouble arose; truth ever has its persecutors.

One may ask why the Mormons were driven from place to place. Some may have been indiscreet in their staunch defence of their faith; others may have expressed sentiments that offended; but where they did so, they were going contrary to the principles of their religion. But there were more fundamental reasons. The Mormon people were fast becoming a potential political power. They disbelieved heartily in slavery, and Missouri was a slave-holding state. This fanned the jealousy of mobocrats and slave-holding overlords. Many have supposed they were persecuted because of plural marriage, but this doctrine was not introduced until 1843, ten years later. However, religious intolerance and bigotry are ever ready to fan mob violence into flame.

PERSECUTION ANEW: In early April, 1833, trouble had broken out.

There being no law that would rid the country thereabouts of the Latter-day Saints, it was wickedly determined by their enemies that this should be done without law. … A meeting was called to devise means as to the best way to dispose of the Mormons … They signed a declaration accusing the Mormons of blasphemy, pretensions to miracles, and healing the sick, casting our devils, and tampering with the negro slaves and the Indians, and declaring the Indian country to be theirs by heavenly inheritance. [A Brief History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Anderson, p. 54.]

On July 23rd, 1833, a mob entered Independence, dashing here and there in search of the leading Elders, and muttering vile oaths and imprecations against the Saints. Said they:

We will rid Jackson County of the Mormons, peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must. If they will not go without, we will whip and kill the men; we will destroy their children, and ravish their women! [Ibid.]

CRUELTY OF MISSOURI MOBOCRATS: The Saints, realizing that it was hopeless to contend against this lawlessness, and remembering that theirs was a gospel of peace, conceded to the demands of the mob to vacate the land. The mob committee promised, in return, that until they could leave they would be unmolested. In August, 1833, Oliver Cowdery left for Kirtland to report this sad condition to the Prophet.

However, when Oliver returned with a message of comfort, he found that the mob pledge had been broken and new troubles had arisen.

Then followed scenes which make the blood run cold. Men were beaten, houses destroyed, mob violence committed everywhere, and women and children sought safety in the wilderness. One of the mobbers was heard to boast: “with ten fellows, I will wade to my knees in blood, but that I will drive the Mormons from Jackson County!” [History of the Church, Vol. I, p. 430.]

Armed ruffians ranged the country in every direction, bursting into houses, terrifying women and children and threatening the defenceless people with death if they did not instantly flee. Out upon the bleak prairies, along the Missouri’s banks, chilled by November’s winds and drenched by pouring rains, hungry and shelterless, weeping and heartbroken, wandered forth the exiles. Families scattered and divided, husbands seeking wives, wives husbands, parents searching for their children, not knowing if they were yet alive. [Whitney’s history of Utah, Vol. I, p. 108.]

How truly had Mary Fielding Smith written to her sister – the Saints were to be tried. The Lord revealed the same truth:

Whoso layeth down his life in my cause, for my name’s sake, shall find it again, even life eternal. therefore, be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy. For if ye will not abide in my covenant ye are not worthy of me. [Doctrine and covenants, Sec. 98:13-15.]

Professed Christian ministers led these companies, calling the Mormons the “common enemy of mankind, and exulting in their afflictions.” The Prophet records:

On … the 5th and 6th November, women and children fled in every direction before the merciless mob. One party of about 150 women and children fled to the prairie, where they wandered for several days. … During this dispersion of the women and children, parties of the mob were hunting the men. [History of the Church, Vol. I, p. 436.]

OUR STALWART FOREMOTHERS: Do we realize what sacrifices our foremothers made to give us the Gospel? Rather than deny their testimony of the truth they underwent these hours of sore trial. One of them, Sister Abigail Leonard, says:

We continued our journey, over cold, frozen, barren prairie ground, many of our party barefoot and stockingless, feet and legs bleeding. [The Women of Mormondom, Tullidge, p. 164.]

Thus, in November, 1833, nearly 1,500 defenceless Saints were expelled form the homes they had so bravely won from a wilderness. Most of them crossed the Missouri River into Clay County of the same state. Here they were received with partial kindness, and under their industrious hands, the wilderness again began to bloom. Migrating Saints continued to arrive from the east.

THE PROPHET INFORMED OF CONDITIONS: In the early spring of 1834, messengers went to Kirtland to advise the Prophet of the condition of the exiled Saints. consequently he and others traveled throughout the eastern branches, pleading the cause of Zion. They asked for money; and called for volunteers to go to help their stricken brethren and sisers maintain their rights as United States citizens.

ZION’S CAMP: On May 5th, 1834, the Prophet, with a company of about 200 men, with 20 wagons loaded with the necessities of life, and with sufficient firearms for self-defence, started for Missouri. This was “Zion’s Camp.” They hoped to restore their brethren to their lands through petition to the Governor of the state. Most prominent among them were: Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, Orson Pratt, Jedediah M. Grant and George A. Smith. There were eleven women in the party.

As angels of mercy these sisters ministered to their brethren during an attack of cholera upon the camp; Betsy Parrish died during the siege. When Zion’s Camp arrived in Clay County they dispensed succour and comfort to needy souls. Though the leaders failed to obtain redress for the Saints, it proved the faith and courage of its members. From its ranks many of the first officers of the church and the Twelve Apostles were chosen.

Questions.

1. – Why did the Saints desire to “gather to Zion”?
2. – What were the causes of the persecutions of the Saints?
3. – Discuss the conditions which made the Saints feel that seeking redress was like “going to law with the devil.”
4. – Explain the true aspects of the so-called “Mormon rebellion.”
5. – What did the Lord mean when He said that if we laid down our life we would find it again?
6. – Locate Independence and Clay County. Relate the circumstances around which “Zion’s Camp” was organized.
7. – In what way was the expedition successful? Why?
8. – Bishop Edward Partridge, mentioned in the text, wrote the words to the hymn, “Let ion in Her Beauty Rise,’ which should be sung during closing exercises.



3 Comments »

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