Historians Honor Missouri State Senator for Ending the “Extermination Order” of Mormons

Kansas City, Missouri – This weekend hundreds of amateur and professional historians gathered at the Holiday Inn Water Resort in Kansas City to share research into Mormon traditions going back to 1830. Last night at an awards banquet in nearby Independence, several hundred members of the Mormon History Association also honored former U.S. Senator Christopher S. “Kitt” Bond. In 1976 then-Missouri Governor Bond rescinded the “extermination order” that had been issued against Mormons in the nineteenth century.

Shortly after Mormonism’s inception in upstate New York, founder Joseph Smith announced that the second coming of Christ would be located in Jackson County, Missouri. A year later in 1831, Mormon settlers began moving to the county seat of Independence, intending to build up a utopian City of Zion in preparation for Christ’s immanent return.

The settlement was rapid, and shortly Missouri residents became alarmed as these new immigrants, who primarily hailed from northern abolitionist states, began to purchase vast amounts of land. The Mormons built insular communities and engaged in bloc voting. The existing settlers, Southerners, held more conservative views, which soon led to ideological conflicts.

In March 1838, Joseph Smith arrived in Independence and well-publicized speeches from both Mormon and non-Mormon communities fueled antagonism, finally leading to violent raids on each other. Election day skirmishes in turn led to the complete expulsion of Mormons from Jackson County. More violence followed even as the refugees escaped to the northern part of the state.

On October 27, 1838, Governor Lilburn W. Boggs signed an “extermination order” declaring that “the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated, or driven from the State, if necessary for the public peace.” This military directive demanded a mid-winter exodus from the state of approximately 10,000 men, women, and children.

The order was technically still in effect in the State of Missouri until June 25, 1976, when Governor Bond issued another executive order voiding the earlier one. Bond formally apologized for the suffering inflicted on Latter-day Saints.

At the awards banquet last night, the association gave Senator Bond the Thomas L. Kane Award for Outstanding Service to the Mormon Community by a non-Mormon. The association specifically referenced Bond’s courage in ending what had amounted to almost a century and a half of animosity and suspicion between Latter-day Saints and their Missouri neighbors.

The association issued several other awards for articles and books on Mormon history published the previous year. These included:

Best Undergraduate Student Paper Award, Joseph T. Antley’s “Early America’s Treasure Quest: The Effort to Recapture the Supernatural in the American Northeast.”

Best Graduate Student Paper, Matthew Bowman’s “Matthew Philip Gill and Joseph Smith: The Dynamics of Mormon Schism.”

Best Thesis Award (two winners), Debra Marsh’s “Respectable Assassins: A Collective Biography and Social Economic Study of the Carthage Mob” and Caye Wycoff’s “Markets and the Mormon Conflict in Nauvoo, Illinois, 1839 – 1846.”

Best Dissertation, Jonathan Moyer’s “Dancing with the Devil: The Making of the Mormon Republican Pact.”

Best Article Award, Samuel Brown’s “Joseph Smith in Egypt: Babel, Hieroglyphics, and the Pure Language of Eden.”

Best International Book, In Harm’s Way: East German Latter-day Saints in WWII by Roger P. Minert.

Best Documentary (two winners), Eliza R. Snow: The Complete Poetry, edited by Jill Mulvay Derr and Karen Lyn Davidson, and Mountain Meadows Massacre: The Andrew Jenson and David H. Morris Collection, Richard E. Turley and Ronald W. Walker, editors.

Best Biography, Mormon Convert, Mormon Defector: A Scottish Immigrant in the American West, 1848 – 1861 by Polly Aird.

Best First Book, Performing American Identity in Anti-Mormon Melodrama by Megan Sanborn Jones.

Best Book Award, “Liberty to the Downtrodden”: Thomas L. Kane, Romantic Reformer by Matthew J. Grow.