Part 2: 8 July–29 October 1838

Part 2 covers the period from July to October 1838. During July 1838, JS and his attempted to improve the church’s financial standing and further develop Mormon settlements in , particularly in , in , and in Carroll County. In August the outbreak of violence between and other Missourians resulted in legal difficulties and opposition that led to further conflict in September and October. The expansion of the Mormon presence in northwestern Missouri and the resulting conflicts are the subject of many of the documents in part 2.
JS had spent much of June 1838 in laying out and building , which was organized as a by the end of the month. About the same time, the church purchased land in to serve as another place for the Saints to settle. Latter-day Saint moved from to De Witt to help lead the Saints who would settle there. Sometime in early or mid-July, JS moved into Hinkle’s Far West home, which was located in the southwest quadrant of the town. Several documents produced during the period of July to October 1838 were probably created in this home.
This period also saw the formation of the , a private military group established in response to fears that church dissenters who were expelled from in mid-June would encourage residents of surrounding counties to oppose or even engage in mob violence against the Saints. In late June or the first few days of July, Latter-day Saint men who had been active in the discussions leading to the expulsion of dissenters formally organized the military group, which by the end of July was known as the Danite society. The preamble to the society’s constitution declared the intention of the Danites to defend the Saints’ rights and religion. , who attended some of the Danites’ early meetings but soon after left the church, recounted that the attended one of the first meetings, during which JS introduced the officers and indicated that “they wanted to be prepared for future events.” According to Corrill’s account, JS also explained that “he wished to do nothing unlawful & if the people would let him alone they [the Latter-day Saints] would preach the gospel & live in peace.” Corrill and others who later testified against JS reported that at about the same time, JS delivered a public sermon in which he took a more aggressive stance. Abner Scovil recounted that JS told the audience, “If the people would let him alone he would conquer them by the sword of the Spirit, but if they would not he would beat the plow shears into swords & their pruning hooks into spears & conquer them.” Other accounts of this sermon similarly note that JS declared the Saints would no longer subject themselves to mob violence. JS and the Danites were determined to defend the Saints, even threatening retribution against any mob that sought to oppress church members.
This stance was announced more broadly in an oration delivered at the church-sponsored Independence Day celebration held at ’s public square on 4 July 1838. A crowd of thousands—including both Latter-day Saints and other Missourians—gathered for this event, which JS presided over and which included the participation of various church, militia, and Danite officers. The celebration began with a parade, with contingents representing the militia and the Danite society, and also featured the laying of cornerstones for a , which indicated that the Saints intended to remain in the area. Then Rigdon gave his oration, affirming the loyalty of the Latter-day Saints to the and to the principles of civil and religious liberty. After reviewing the history of violence against the Saints, Rigdon stated that the Saints intended to defend their rights against any future persecution. He concluded by declaring that although the Saints would never be the aggressors, if faced with further mob violence they not only would defend themselves but would also wage “a war of extermination” against their enemies. , the clerk of the in Far West, recounted decades later that when Rigdon concluded, JS “led off with the shout of , Hosanna, Hosanna.” Robinson printed the oration in pamphlet form, and JS included a recommendation in the August issue of the Elders’ Journal that the Latter-day Saints purchase the pamphlet.
On 6 and 7 July, the church held its second quarterly conference of the year, and on 8 July, JS dictated five revelations related to the organization of church leadership and resources in . The first revelation named new , , , and —to replace those who had been removed in the previous months for dissent and apostasy. The revelation also directed all members of the to prepare for a mission “over the great waters” the following spring. The second revelation addressed the subject of former church leaders who had been removed, excommunicated, and then rebaptized. This revelation directed that former church and be and that they travel, preach, and proselytize. The third and fourth revelations dealt with church finances, outlining a plan for raising church revenue and directing that donations be managed by a council consisting of the First Presidency and other leaders. The fifth revelation, concerning both finances and leadership, instructed and to settle church finances in , Ohio, and relocate to Missouri before winter in order to help lead the church there. Later that day, JS and his counselors in the First Presidency wrote a letter to Marks and Whitney, conveying the text of the revelation and encouraging Marks, Whitney, and all faithful Latter-day Saints in Kirtland to move to Missouri.
At least the first three revelations were read to the congregation of Saints who attended the worship service held that day. When JS and his counselors visited about two days later, they probably shared the new revelations with the Saints living there. In response to the revelations, the Saints began donating personal property to the church, with the Danites helping gather the donations. On 26 July, JS convened a of church leaders, as instructed in the fourth of the 8 July revelations, to determine how to manage the donations.
During the remainder of July, the members of the First Presidency were “chiefly engaged in counciling and settling the emigrants to this land,” according to . By then, several thousand Saints had moved to , particularly to . A history the church published two years later in , Illinois, stated that by summer 1838, “there were from one hundred to one hundred and fifty dwelling houses erected in that place, six dry good stores in operation, one grocery and several mechanic shops. There were in the county, nearly or quite three hundred farms opened and several thousand acres under cultivation also, four saw and five grist mills doing good business.” The Mormon presence in Far West and in neighboring counties in northwestern was becoming a force to be reckoned with.
Violence between Mormons and non-Mormons in northwestern broke out in , Daviess County, during the election held on 6 August 1838, with federal, state, and local offices on the ballot. , a Whig candidate for the Missouri House of Representatives, wanted to limit the voting power of the Mormon population in the . As Latter-day Saints approached the polls in Gallatin, Peniston persuaded a crowd of men that the Saints should not be permitted to vote. When one of the men attempted to strike a Latter-day Saint, a fight ensued. The Danites who were present rallied to defend themselves and other Saints against the mob. Although several on both sides were injured, no one was killed. Few, if any, church members voted.
Reports of the riot reached the following day, with exaggerated claims that two or three church members had been killed. Consistent with ’s Independence Day declaration that the Saints would retaliate against mobs, the First Presidency, Danite commanders, and other church members in marched to on 7 August. Upon arriving in , the church’s main settlement in Daviess County, they learned that although several Saints were injured during the affray, no one had been killed. They also heard rumors that Daviess County justice of the peace was organizing anti-Mormon vigilantes with the intention of driving the Saints out of the county. The following day, more than one hundred armed Latter-day Saints rode to Black’s residence to investigate the truth of the rumors. After an intense exchange, Black agreed to write and sign a statement pledging to leave the Saints alone and uphold the law.
The Latter-day Saints left ’s home believing that the tense situation had been resolved, but Black immediately took legal action. He prepared an affidavit claiming that JS and —who was the most well-known church member living in —had led more than one hundred men to Black’s residence, threatened his life, and forced him to sign an agreement against his will. Black went to neighboring to rally support against the Saints, while and other allies went to , Ray County, Missouri, where they prepared a complaint repeating Black’s claims and then presented it before Judge of ’s fifth judicial circuit. Based on the complaint, King issued a warrant for the arrest of JS and Wight. Daviess County sheriff William Morgan went to to serve the warrant on Wight, but Wight reportedly rebuffed the sheriff. Morgan then went to , where JS told the sheriff he was willing to submit to arrest but that he preferred to be tried in rather than in Daviess County. Morgan then traveled to Richmond to consult with King; when the sheriff returned to Far West, he reportedly acknowledged that he was outside of his jurisdiction and could not take JS. Rumors quickly circulated that the Latter-day Saint leaders were resisting arrest.
At the beginning of September 1838, JS received word that a multicounty anti-Mormon vigilante force was forming to arrest him and . In an attempt to defuse the rising tension, JS contacted and obtained legal counsel from , who was an attorney and also a major general in the militia. King arranged to preside over a preliminary hearing to be held just north of the border between and counties. On 5 September, in preparation for the hearing, JS prepared an affidavit describing the 8 August confrontation at ’s home. At the hearing, held 7 September, King found probable cause to believe that JS and Wight had committed a misdemeanor during the confrontation. The judge therefore held that the two men should appear at the next session of the Daviess County Circuit Court. Following the hearing, JS and met with and Edgar Flory, who had been sent by citizens to investigate the situation. In response, the church leaders prepared an affidavit addressing rumors that the Latter-day Saints had been conspiring with Native Americans to attack other Missourians.
vigilantes were not placated by the results of the 7 September hearing. Instead of dispersing, the vigilantes began taking Mormon captives and arranged to acquire militia rifles from to use in an attack on the Saints in . On 9 September, upon learning of these developments, a company of ten Latter-day Saints under the command of William Allred intercepted the guns and arrested the men transporting the arms shipment. Around this time, JS and wrote to , seeking counsel. The judge replied on 10 September, assuring the church leaders that the detained Latter-day Saints would be released unharmed and insisting that JS and Rigdon release the arrested gunrunners. King also stated that he had advised to call out two hundred militiamen to maintain order. On 12 September 1838, Brigadier General , acting under Atchison’s orders, arrived in and assumed custody of the gunrunners and the rifles.
proceeded to , where he sought to resolve the impasse between the Mormons and the anti-Mormon vigilantes by meeting with representatives from both sides and arranging for a preliminary hearing on 18 September. On that date, Daviess County justices of the peace John Wright and Elijah Foley evaluated the evidence against thirteen church members who were allegedly at ’s home on 8 August. Rather than defend themselves in the court’s hostile environment, the Latter-day Saints agreed to appear before the next session of the Daviess County Circuit Court. Seeing that the militia intended to uphold the law, the vigilantes dispersed.
However, the calm proved to be short lived. In October 1838, the conflict between the Saints and other Missourians reignited and then violently exploded. During this period of conflict, JS produced few documents. Nevertheless, his representatives dealt with various financial matters on his behalf, which resulted in the production of several documents. continued to manage financial affairs for JS and the church in , while church agent worked to resolve church debts in . By late October, Granger had successfully settled the First Presidency’s debts to four merchants in , Ohio, and was working with attorneys to assess remaining obligations. The corresponding financial documents, as well as revelations, correspondence, and legal papers, are featured in part 2.
  1. 1

    Minutes, 28 June 1838.  

  2. 2

    Murdock, Journal, 23 June 1838, 95; John Murdock, Affidavit, Adams Co., IL, 10 Jan. 1840, photocopy, Material relating to Mormon Expulsion from Missouri, 1839–1843, CHL.  

    Murdock, John. Journal, ca. 1830–1859. John Murdock, Journal and Autobiography, ca. 1830–1867. CHL. MS 1194, fd. 2.

    Material Relating to Mormon Expulsion from Missouri, 1839–1843. Photocopy. CHL. MS 2145.

  3. 3

    Minute Book 2, 6 July 1838; “List of Names of the Church of Latter Day Saints Living in the S W Quarter of Far West,” 25 Mar. 1838, p. [5], in Teachers Quorum Minutes, CHL.  

    Teachers Quorum. Minutes, 1834–1845. CHL. MS 3428.

  4. 4

    The name was apparently a reference to militant imagery in the biblical book of Micah: “Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass: and thou shalt beat in pieces many people: and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth.” (Micah 4:13; see also Corrill, Brief History, 32.)  

  5. 5

    Reed Peck, Testimony, Richmond, MO, Nov. 1838, p. [63], State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Treason and Other Crimes (Mo. 5th Jud. Cir. 1838), in State of Missouri, “Evidence”; JS, Journal, 8 July 1838; see also Letter to Oliver Cowdery et al., ca. 17 June 1838.  

  6. 6

    JS, Journal, 27 July 1838. JS later stated that this name came from Judges chapter 18, which describes the Israelite tribe of Dan—the Danites—conquering territory. JS explained that he introduced the term Danite when alluding to Judges chapter 18 at a time “when the brethren prepared to defend themselves from the mob in Far West.” (Nauvoo City Council Draft Minutes, 3 Jan. 1844, 36.)  

  7. 7

    See Constitution of the Society of the Daughter of Zion, ca. Late June 1838.  

  8. 8

    John Corrill, Testimony, Richmond, MO, Nov. 1838, p. [30], in State of Missouri, “Evidence.”  

  9. 9

    Abner Scovil, Testimony, Richmond, MO, Nov. 1838, p. [50], in State of Missouri, “Evidence.”  

  10. 10

    See, for example, John Corrill, Testimony, Richmond, MO, Nov. 1838, pp. [30]–[31]; George Walter, Testimony, Richmond, MO, Nov. 1838, p. [35]; George M. Hinkle, Testimony, Richmond, MO, Nov. 1838, p. [42], in State of Missouri, “Evidence”; see also Thomas B. Marsh and Orson Hyde, Affidavit, Richmond, MO, 24 Oct. 1838, copy, Mormon War Papers, MSA.  

    Mormon War Papers, 1838–1841. MSA.

  11. 11

    JS, Journal, 4 July 1838; “Celebration of the 4th of July,” Elders’ Journal, Aug. 1838, 60.  

  12. 12

    Discourse, ca. 4 July 1838.  

  13. 13

    Robinson also recalled that the speech “was a carefully prepared document, previously written, and well understood by the First Presidency,” suggesting that JS was involved in the speech’s production. (Ebenezer Robinson, “Items of Personal History of the Editor,” Return, Nov. 1889, 170.)  

    The Return. Davis City, IA, 1889–1891; Richmond, MO, 1892–1893; Davis City, 1895–1896; Denver, 1898; Independence, MO, 1899–1900.

  14. 14

    Elders’ Journal, Aug. 1838, 54.  

  15. 15

    Revelation, 8 July 1838–A [D&C 118:4, 6].  

  16. 16

    Revelation, 8 July 1838–B.  

  17. 17

    Revelation, 8 July 1838–C [D&C 119]; Revelation, 8 July 1838–D [D&C 120].  

  18. 18

    Revelation, 8 July 1838–E [D&C 117]; Letter to William Marks and Newel K. Whitney, 8 July 1838.  

  19. 19

    JS, Journal, 8 July 1838.  

  20. 20

    JS History, vol. B-1, 804.  

  21. 21

    Revelation, 8 July 1838–C [D&C 119]; Revelation, 8 July 1838–D [D&C 120:1]; Minutes, 26 July 1838; see also JS, Journal, 27 July 1838.  

  22. 22

    JS, Journal, 8 July 1838.  

  23. 23

    Berrett, Sacred Places, 4:288; History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, Missouri, 118.  

    Berrett, LaMar C., ed. Sacred Places: A Comprehensive Guide to Early LDS Historical Sites. 6 vols. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1999–2007.

    History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, Missouri, Written and Compiled from the Most Authentic Official and Private Sources. . . . St. Louis: National Historical Co., 1886.

  24. 24

    “A History, of the Persecution,” Times and Seasons, Mar. 1840, 1:66; see also History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, Missouri, 121.  

    History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, Missouri, Written and Compiled from the Most Authentic Official and Private Sources. . . . St. Louis: National Historical Co., 1886.

  25. 25

    See Historical Introduction to Affidavit, 5 Sept. 1838; and Butler, “Short Account of an Affray,” [1]–[4], CHL; see also LeSueur, “Mixing Politics with Religion,” 184–208.  

    Butler, John L. “A Short Account of an Affray That Took Place betwene the Latter Day Saints and a P[o]rtion of the People of Davis County Mo at an Election Held in Galaton, August 6, 1838,” 1859. CHL. MS 2418.

    LeSueur, Stephen C. “Mixing Politics with Religion: A Closer Look at Electioneering and Voting in Caldwell and Daviess Counties in 1838.” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 33, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2013): 184–208.

  26. 26

    See Affidavit, 5 Sept. 1838.  

  27. 27

    Historical Introduction to Affidavit, 5 Sept. 1838; JS, Journal, 16–18 Aug. 1838.  

  28. 28

    Historical Introduction to Affidavit, 5 Sept. 1838.  

  29. 29

    See Historical Introduction to Recognizance, 7 Sept. 1838.  

  30. 30

    See Affidavit, 8 Sept. 1838.  

  31. 31

    See Letter from Austin A. King, 10 Sept. 1838.  

  32. 32

    See Robert Wilson, Gallatin, MO, to James L. Minor, Jefferson City, MO, 18 Mar. 1841, in Document Containing the Correspondence, 159–164; and Alexander Doniphan, “Camp on Grand River,” MO, to David R. Atchison, 15 Sept. 1838, copy; David R. Atchison, Liberty, MO, to Lilburn W. Boggs, 20 Sept. 1838, copy, Mormon War Papers, MSA.  

  33. 33

    For further information regarding the “Mormon War” in Missouri in October 1838, see Introduction to Part 3: 4 Nov. 1838–16 Apr. 1839.