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.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!"
[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.