The Prophet Joseph Smith » The Loss of Zion

[this teaching has not yet been illustrated]


By 1833, the number of Saints living in Independence, Missouri, was 1,200. Their increasing population was looked on with apprehension by the "old settlers" of Jackson County, particularly when the zealous Mormons predicted the destruction of all Gentiles (i.e. non-Mormons) at the Second Coming. Their interest in converting Native Americans caused fears that the local tribes would be used to help conquer the area for their New Jerusalem.


What brought tensions between Mormons and the Missourians to a head was the slavery issue. Rumors had spread that the Church was encouraging slaves to revolt against their masters or run away. In an attempt to discredit this rumor, the daily Mormon newspaper issued an "Extra" announcing that the Church had no intention of proselytizing to slaves or inviting free blacks to Missouri, but such denials made little difference.


In July of 1833 hundreds of Missourians gathered at the Independence courthouse and signed a manifesto declaring their intent to remove the Mormons from Jackson County "peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must." No additional Mormons were to be allowed to settle there, and those already settled were to promise to depart as soon as possible. Several prominent citizens attended the meeting, including Missouri's lieutenant governor Lilburn Boggs.


It was also proposed that the Mormon newspaper be shut down immediately, and the meeting at the courthouse quickly devolved into a mob that demolished the two-story building housing the Church's printing office which had been in the process of printing copies of the revelations of Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith. Searching for the Church's leaders, Bishop Edward Partridge and a companion were dragged to the public square and then tarred and feathered.


The assault continued days later as mobs set fire to haystacks and destroyed several barns, homes, and businesses. Tenaciously upholding the gospel principle of turning the other cheek, the Saints refused to fight back in their own defense. Under threats that all of their men, women, and children would be whipped, the Saints signed a document under duress, pledging to vacate the county by January 1, 1834.


Mob violence against the Mormon settlements continued through the summer, and in October, Church leaders ended their policy of passive resistance. The following month, the two sides met in battle in a corn field. The Missourians fired first, wounding Philo Dibble in the stomach, but he was miraculously healed by Newel Knight. In all, one Mormon, two Missourians and a few horses were killed.


Lieutenant Governor Boggs then ordered a state militia unit to forcibly drive the Mormons out of the county. While some Church members managed to quickly pack up some of their possessions, most of them lost everything as the mob and the militia continuously tormented them until every last one of them had left the county. Messengers brought news of these happenings to Kirtland by late November.


The prophet, and members of the Church throughout the country, were deeply distressed upon learning that Zion had been abandoned to the Gentiles. After a few days, Jesus gave a revelation explaining that he had caused the Saints in Missouri to suffer because of their transgressions, contentions, envyings, strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them, by which they had polluted their inheritance.



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