Monday, May 28, 2007

The Persecutions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Missouri

For a more detailed account of the persecutions of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Missouri, go to "Establishing Zion in Missouri," Our Heritage, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which served as the primary source for this summary.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized April 6, 1830 in Fayette, New York. But by the winter of 1830-31, persecutions had become so intense that the majority of the members of the Church, including Joseph Smith and his wife Emma, moved to eastern Ohio. And in June of 1831, Joseph Smith received a revelation that he, several Elders of the Church, and an entire congregation of the Church which had been living in Colesville, New York were to go to Missouri where the Lord promised they would receive an inheritance. (See D&C 52). Joseph and the leaders of the Church arrived in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri by the end of July where the Lord revealed that Independence and Jackson County were the location of the future city of Zion, or the New Jerusalem. (D&C 57:1-5. See also 3 Nephi 21:23-24; Ether 13:3-6, 10; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 21:2).

After the congregation from Colesville, New York arrived in Independence, twelve men laid a newly cut oak log for the foundation of Zion in the Latter Days. The Church bought property for homes and a parcel where they would build a Temple to the Lord.
Joseph Smith returned to eastern Ohio, but the Church in Missouri began to grow rapidly. By April of 1833, there were approximately 1,000 members of the Church in Jackson County. And the growing number of Mormons made the native Missourians uneasy: Missouri was a slave state; most Mormons opposed slavery, and they feared the Mormons would gain substantial political power with their numbers. Additionally, members of the Church had trouble living according to the Lord’s commandments. Some even provoked those who were not members of the Church by telling them their land would soon belong to the Mormons.
On July 20, 1833, after a "secret constitution" had circulated among the Missourians, a mob of 400 men demanded that the Mormons leave Jackson County. The Mormons refused, and the mob destroyed the printing office where W.W. Phelps was printing the Book of Commandments, now contained in the Doctrine and Covenants.
Tensions escalated until the Governor of Missouri sent a militia to disarm the Mormons and the Missourians. Instead, the militia took the Mormons’ weapons and gave them to the mob. By the winter of 1833, the Mormons left Jackson County, and most settled in Clay County.
In 1836, the Missouri legislature, seeking to avoid more conflict created Daviess and Caldwell Counties where the Mormons would be allowed to settle.
During this time, Joseph Smith was living in eastern Ohio and occasionally traveled to Missouri, once in an effort to reclaim the Church’s property in Jackson County. But by March 1838, persecutions in eastern Ohio—from those not belonging to the Church but primarily from men who had left the Church—forced Joseph Smith and those who followed him to go to Missouri.
But Joseph did not find peace in Missouri.

On August 6, Daviess County was holding elections, and when Mormons in Gallatin attempted to vote, a mob of 100 men prevented them, resulting in a brawl. In October, an officer of the local Missouri militia kidnaped three Mormons. A Mormon militia, lead by Elder David Patten of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles went to rescue the three kidnaped Mormons.
The Mormons and the Missourians met at the Crooked River. While it is unclear who fired first, several men on both sides were killed, including Elder David Patten. Reports of this battle reached Governor Lilburn W. Boggs, and he issued an executive order: "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."
And the mobs were more than happy to comply.
After Governor Boggs issued the "Extermination Order," Joseph Smith directed all members of the Church to gather in either Far West or Adam-ondi-ahman—the two largest Mormon settlements—to protect themselves. Most Mormons hastened to Far West and Adam-ondi-ahman, but Jacob Haun didn’t.
Jacob Haun had established a mill east of Far West. And Joseph Smith personally instructed Haun to move his settlement to Far West. Haun ignored Joseph and did not tell those who were living with him. What’s worse, a group of Mormons fleeing Ohio had just arrived and didn’t know how dire the circumstances facing the Mormons were.

On October 30, 1838, a mob surprised the settlement and quickly overpowered the few dozen men who were trying to defend the settlement. The mob directed all men who would save themselves to gather in the blacksmith shop. After the men were in the shop, the mob stuck their muzzles through the gaps in the walls of the shop and opened fire until they were sure all inside were dead. The mob also shot and killed women and children attempting to flee into the woods. At least seventeen were killed and thirteen were wounded.
Among those wounded was young Adam Smith whose hip had been blown off. His mother found him and called on the Lord:
"Oh my Heavenly Father, I cried, what shall I do? Thou seest my poor wounded boy and knowest my inexperience. Oh Heavenly Father direct me what to do!" She said that she "was directed as by a voice," instructing her to make a lye from the ashes and cleanse the wound. She then prepared a slippery elm poultice and filled the wound with it. The next day she poured the contents of a bottle of balsam into the wound.
Amanda said to her son, "Alma, my child, … you believe that the Lord made your hip?"
"Yes, mother."
"Well, the Lord can make something there in the place of your hip, don’t you believe he can, Alma?"
"Do you think that the Lord can, mother?" inquired the child, in his simplicity.
"Yes, my son," I replied, "he has shown it all to me in a vision."
Then I laid him comfortably on his face, and said: "Now you lay like that, and don’t move, and the Lord will make you another hip."
So Alma laid on his face for five weeks, until he was entirely recovered—a flexible gristle having grown in place of the missing joint and socket.
Alma lived a long life and served in various capacities within the Church, including as a missionary to Hawaii (before it became an island paradise).

Soon after the massacre at Haun's Mill, the Missouri State Militia marched into Far West and arrested Joseph Smith and other leaders of the Church. The general of the militia held a court martial and sentenced Joseph to death, but a younger officer, Alexander Doniphan—an attorney who had defended Joseph in several "criminal" trials—refused to carry out the order, swearing that if the Joseph were killed, he would hold the leader of the militia accountable.
Instead, Joseph and several others were taken to prison in Independence and later Richmond. One night, those who were guarding Joseph and the leaders of the Church bragged about the rapes, murders, and other atrocities they had committed against the Mormons. After he could take no more, Joseph, in shackles, stood, and according to the account of Parley P. Pratt, a member of the Twelve who was in prison with Joseph, said, "SILENCE, ye fiends of the infernal pit. In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still; I will not live another minute and hear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die THIS INSTANT!"
Parley continued:

[Joseph] ceased to speak. He stood erect in terrible majesty. Chained, and without a weapon; calm, unruffled and dignified as an angel, he looked upon the quailing guards, whose weapons were lowered or dropped to the ground; whose knees smote together, and who, shrinking into a corner, or crouching at his feet, begged his pardon, and remained quiet till a change of guards. . . .
I have tried to conceive of kings, of royal courts, of thrones and crowns; and of emperors assembled to decide the fate of kingdoms; but dignity and majesty have I seen but once, as it stood in chains, at midnight, in a dungeon in an obscure village of Missouri.
While Joseph was in prison, Brigham Young, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, led over 8,000 Mormons out of Missouri to Illinois. Again, the members of the Church were forced to leave their homes in the dead of winter. Most were impoverished and many had no shoes. Instead of shoes, they wrapped rags around their feet, but the rags provided little protection.
And blood stained the ice and snow along the road to Illinois.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Work is a gift from our loving Heavenly Father who currently works with His Son, Jesus Christ, to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. (Moses 1:39). And since the Fall, work has been a part of life on Earth. Adam and Eve, who had been accustomed to eating the fruits of the Garden of Eden without effort, were cast out to till the soil and tend flocks. For them, survival required work. But work does more than sustain the physical needs of mortality: It is a means through which we grow spiritually and bless others. In fact, the most important work we can do, the work within our own homes, is an unpaid position and can be very expensive.

Just as an unexercised muscle atrophies, so does an unworked soul. Idleness shrinks us as people; thus, we must be "anxiously engaged in a good cause" to prevent littleness of soul. (D&C 58:27). And we grow in proportion to the degree of effort required by our work.

Also, we cannot forget that growing pains always accompany work-induced growth.

In my life, the times of greatest growth have also been the times of greatest exertion and pain. As a missionary, I awoke at 6:30 a.m., studied for two-and-one half hours, spent at least ten hours in the streets and homes of Ecuador, and was in bed by 10:30 p.m. just to do the same thing the next day. More often than not, I met with rejection and heartache and was left to trust in the Lord and have faith that someone would listen to my message.

I recall a young couple whom my companion and I approached in the street. We introduced ourselves as missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and offered to share the message of the Restored Gospel and that through Jesus Christ our families can be eternal. They listened politely, for a moment, and gave us their address so we could stop by. We left them a pamphlet and continued contacting others along the road. After a few hours, we walked near where we had contacted the couple to find their pamphlet tossed apathetically in the road.

But the rejection of a first encounter does not compare to when a family tells you to stop coming back to their home. For example, in Cayambe, I met Edwin and Lourdes Maygua, a young couple with two children. On our second visit with them, I asked Edwin, "Do you know the Book of Mormon is true?"

He paused for a moment, then replied, "Yes."

I was shocked: no one had ever learned of the truth of the Book of Mormon after only one visit. I asked Edwin how he knew.

"I read the chapter I said I would, and I prayed. After I did, I felt something I had never felt before. This book is true."

In missionary parlance, this was a "golden" couple. I could see him and Lourdes dressed in white for their baptisms and for the day they would enter into the temple to be sealed to each other and to their children for all eternity. But our following visits never lived up to the first two, and after a few weeks, Edwin and Lourdes told us to never come back.

That was the longest walk back to my apartment I have ever had. The skies seemed black and the stars veiled. It's been a long time since I hurt that bad.

Rejection and frustration filled the final year of my two-year mission. And I only witnessed two people join the Church as the result of my efforts. But near the end of my mission, as I sat in my apartment sorrowing, I felt immersed in the power of God, and I knew more powerfully than ever that Jesus is the Christ, the living Son of the living God and His Church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

My mission was hard, but I would go back in a heartbeat. For without it, I would not be the man I am today.

Today, I find myself amidst another trying, work-filled undertaking: law school. And to aggravate things, I'm a student at the Marine Corps of law schools, Baylor. But for you to understand my struggles and growth as a law student, you need to know how a Mormon farm boy from rural Utah ended up at Baylor Law School:

I graduated from BYU in the spring of 2004 with a degree in History and dreams of becoming a published writer. As a new father, I was anxious to find a job to support my wife and daughter. But despite my 3.93 GPA and Magna Cum Laude honors, no one wanted me, not even for an interview. And I was willing to work anywhere.

After four months of unemployment and living in my wife's grandmother's basement. I was distraught, depressed, and flabbergasted that no one wanted me. After hours of prayer for guidance and speaking with my dad about what I should do, Dad asked if I had considered studying law. I hadn't. But after our talk, I couldn't put it out of my mind. I kept returning to it over and over until my wife and I decided our next step in life would be to go to law school.

Within two weeks, I had a job as a bank teller.

But we continued to make plans for law school: I would go to the University of Utah or BYU so we could stay close to home. But just in case, I applied to several other schools in the inter-mountain region. Still the Lord had other things in mind for me.

And by the time I was done applying, I hadn't even thought of Baylor Law School. But a letter from Baylor came, encouraging me to apply and offering to waive the application fee. I had nothing to lose so I sent an application.

By this time, I decided BYU was our best option, and when I received my acceptance letter from them, I sent them notice of my intent to enroll. Then the letter from Baylor arrived with an offer which forced us to reconsider our decision.

After hours of prayer, heartache, and meditation in the Temple, my wife and I knew we were needed in Waco.

And I am sure our life here and my experience at Baylor Law school are much harder than they would have been had we stayed in Utah. My first quarter was awful, especially when I realized that I could not see myself at a law firm whose only purpose was to make money.

During one especially challenging day, I sat through Civil Procedure listening to how the professor could compute forty percent of any number in seconds without a calculator. And I decided I was done. I had not felt better in weeks.

When I went home, I triumphantly announced my decision to my wife. She broke down. "We prayed about this, and it's right. We left our families and came all this way, and even if you never practice one day as an attorney, I know this is where the Lord wants us to be."

Her faith kept me in law school.

Then I discovered criminal law, and the Lord's plan unfolded itself a little more: He wanted me to be a prosecutor. And little by little, I started enjoying myself. In hindsight, the Lord really does know what He's doing, especially since the only criminal classes BYU and Utah offer are Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure while Baylor offers Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Advanced Criminal Procedure, Criminal Practice and Procedure, Juvenile Justice, Appeals and Habeas, Sentencing, White Collar Crime, internships with the district attorney's office, and the opportunity to receive a concentration in Criminal Law.

I will be much better prepared to be a prosecutor when I graduate from Baylor than I would have been upon graduating from BYU or the University of Utah.

This fall, the challenge of Practice Court with its severe growing pains awaits me. With great trepidation and anxiety, all I can do is trust the Lord that He will be with me and help me through the process. And I know He will: He hasn't forsaken me yet; why would He during the most difficult stretch of Law School, especially at a Law School He selected for me?

But I don't expect my growth to end upon graduation. A prosecutor has more power to work good in society than any other type of attorney. Yet I expect to meet frustration and sorrow. And I'm sure I'll wonder, like I did as a missionary, whether I'm making any difference. Yet despite the difficulty of the task, I will continue to work.

And as a prosecutor, I hope to bless the lives of others. Several weeks ago, during finals weeks, I asked my friend, Sean, to bless me by the power of the Priesthood. During this blessing, Sean prophesied that my work as a prosecutor will have a great effect on the community where the Lord has prepared for me to go, and even some of those whom I prosecute will thank me in some future time for my work.

Still my discussion on work would not be complete without mentioning the most difficult job anyone can have, that of a Mother. The job of a Mother requires long hours, high stress, and no pay. It's exhausting, and I speak from experience. When my son was born, I took over as the mother of my daughter while my wife and my son were in the hospital.
After two days of running around and doing what my wife does every day with our daughter, I was thankful when my in-laws flew in from Utah. The day after they arrived, I sat in the chair next to my wife's bed at the hospital, leaned back my head, and took a five-hour nap.

Law school is easy compared to Motherhood!

Thus, work with its accompanying growing pains is vital for our growth as human beings. As we dedicate ourselves, our growth bleeds over into the lives of others, and we become the means of blessing the lives of countless others, many of whom we will not know until after this life is over.
And notwithstanding its difficulty, we must never shrink from work.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Are Mormons Christians?

This is a topic which I don't discuss directly and prefer to let my essays speak for themselves. But my Church, perhaps in response to the recent PBS documentary, has provided a link on its official website to address whether Mormons are Christians.

Click here to go directly to the information the Church provided.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

My Summer Job

If any of you are interested in learning some criminal law, I working for the Smith County Bar Foundation as a research assistant to the Contract Attorneys who represent indigent defendants in Smith County, Texas. At the request of one of the attorneys, I started a website where they could access my research.

I'm not claiming to be a great legal mind, but you might want to see what I've been doing this summer. And if you notice I'm wrong, please correct my mistake!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Response to "The Mormons" on PBS

I was in the middle of a move and did not get to watch the documentary. But from what I gather from those who watched it, the documentary focused primarily on marginal topics and was unbalanced. Again I didn't watch it, but if you would like to read some responses from those who did, here are two links.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Worth of Souls

Today, I was planning on posting an article I'm writing about Joseph Smith, the prophet. I was more than half finished before we went to Church, but I wanted to share what happened at Church. And the article about Joseph Smith will be up in the next few days.
On the first Sunday of each month, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are encouraged to fast for twenty-four hours and give the money they would have spent on food to the needy. In conjunction with fasting, we also hold a testimony meeting in which no sermons are prepared and members from the audience stand and share their testimonies about Jesus Christ, the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ, and other aspects of the Gospel.
This was our first Sunday in Tyler and was also the testimony meeting for our ward. Before the services started, I noticed an older gentleman walk into the Chapel. His white hair was short and combed back, and he wore a well-trimmed moustache and goatee. He wore a grey-and-black, striped shirt with short sleeves, blue jeans, and white sneakers. His forearms were covered with colorful, both in hue and design, tattoos; his left elbow was surrounded by a green spider web, and his right elbow had a small target on it. And I suspect the tattoos didn't stop at his elbows.
Naturally I wondered how he had found his way to Church, but I was pleased to see him.
After the administration of the Sacrament, the bishopric turned the time over to the congregation for the bearing of testimonies. Imagine my surprise when the older, tattooed gentleman stood and made his way to the pulpit.
"My name is Larry," he began. "Last week I brought my girlfriend here, and she asked me why I would take her to a place like this. To answer her, I guess I need to answer why I'm here. The past is the past, and ain't nothing we can do to change it. But I know I can change my future. I've been mixed up in crime, prison, drugs, prostitution, you name it. And I know I need to change. I have a friend who said this is the only Church where she felt she was a part of a family, instead of just being a member. That's my testimony. Thank you, Amen."
After Larry finished his testimony, the words of Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith came to my mind:
Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;

For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.

And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance.

An how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth.
Doctrine and Covenants 18:10-13.
Upon remembering these words, the Spirit of God filled my soul, and I felt a portion of the joy that our Father in Heaven and our Savior, Jesus Christ, must be feeling for Larry. Like the prodigal, Larry has seen there is bread enough and to spare in his Father's house. And the Father has been waiting with outstretched arms to welcome Larry home.
Truly, the worth of a soul, no matter how stained with sin, is great in the sight of God, for we are all His children. And He will welcome us home if we turn to Him.
May we remember our worth and the worth of those around us and may we be like Larry in turning to our Heavenly Father is my sincerest desire.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen!