Sunday, January 2, 2011

Former Missouri Governor Christopher Bond Says Mormons Still Thank Him For Formally Repealing Lilburn W. Boggs' Extermination Order Of 1838

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that former Missouri Governor Christopher "Kit" Bond says Mormons still thank him for having formally repealed the Extermination Order issued against members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Governor Lilburn W. Boggs in 1838. Furthermore, Bond also says that a number of people who come to Missouri told him they came back specifically because the Extermination Order was repealed.

Bond first learned of this Order during his first term as governor in 1976 when a White House aide called and told him about it. Upon investigation, Bond learned it was officially still on the books even though it wasn't enforced. He decided it was unacceptable, and on June 25th, 1976, Bond issued an executive order rescinding it. In the official proclamation, Bond said Boggs violated constitutional rights, and expressed Missouri’s “deep regret for the injustice and undue suffering which was caused by the 1838 order.”

Bond lost his bid for re-election later than year, but ran for governor and won in 1980. He won his first campaign for U.S. Senate in 1986 and was re-elected three times. He opted not to seek re-election in 2010, although he is a highly-respected lawmaker who's had no controversy associated with his name. Utah Senator Orrin Hatch credits eliminating the Extermination Order with helping create a robust Mormon community in Missouri that includes an LDS temple in St. Louis that opened in 1997 and another under construction in Kansas City. The St. Louis Beacon publishes an impressive tribute to Christopher Bond HERE.

Boggs' order was triggered by reports of armed clashes between Mormons and non-Mormons in northwest Missouri, culminating in the Battle of Crooked River on October 25th, 1838. Two citizens of Richmond, Missouri brought Governor Boggs reports which made it appear as if the Mormons were the sole instigators. Acting on the basis of those reports, Governor Boggs, acting in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Missouri militia, ordered General John B. Clark to march to Ray County with a division of militia to carry out operations against armed Mormons. The order described the Mormons as being in "open and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made war upon the people of this State." It stated that "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."

A copy of the order reached General Samuel D. Lucas of the state militia by the time he encamped outside the LDS town of Far West, in Caldwell County, on October 31st. Lucas gave a copy to the LDS Colonel George M. Hinkle and other Church representatives, to whom he dictated terms of surrender, and they showed it to Joseph Smith. It was probably a significant factor in Joseph Smith's decision to surrender to Lucas.

Following Joseph Smith's surrender, arrest, and imprisonment, the governor's order was carried out by a combination of militia troops and vigilantes. It culminated in the forcible removal from Missouri of virtually all members of the Church during the winter and early spring of 1838-1839. The legality and propriety of Boggs' order were vigorously debated in the Missouri legislature during its 1839 session. The order was supported by most northwest Missouri citizens, but was questioned or denounced by others. However, no determination of the order's legality was ever made.

Aftermath: On May 6th, 1842, an attempt was made on the life of Governor Boggs. Boggs was shot by an unknown party who fired at him through a window as he read a newspaper in his study. Governor Boggs was seriously wounded by the attempt, in which he was shot in the head and neck. He made a surprising recovery, and it was attributed to his generally strong constitution. The attempt inflamed anti-Mormon sentiment, and many bigoted news articles and unfounded accusations ensued. Subsequently, Boggs emigrated to California in 1846, settling in Sonoma and becoming alcalde (mayor) of the Sonoma district in 1847. During the California Gold Rush, Boggs owned a store and did quite well. On November 8th, 1849, Boggs resigned as alcalde and became the town's postmaster. He then accepted an appointment as state assemblyman from the Sonoma District in 1852. In 1855 he retired to live on a ranch in Napa County, California where he died on March 19th, 1860. His widow Panthea died in Napa County, California on September 23rd, 1880. They are buried in Tulocay Cemetery, Napa, California.

Mormon attitudes towards Lilburn W. Boggs may have played a role in fueling the Mountain Meadows Massacre in 1857. While the bulk of the Fancher Party was from Arkansas, some people from Missouri joined them. However, Mormon attitudes towards Lilburn W. Boggs have softened with the passage of time. It is now apparent that Boggs was somewhat of an impulsive weak sister who acted on the basis of the latest information conveyed to him rather than wait to conduct a more thorough inquiry. Thus he acted more out of opportunism and fear rather than malevolence. It was Boggs' subordinates, particularly General Lucas, who were truly vindictive against the Saints and who meted out particularly harsh treatment. But since Boggs was the governor, he was considered responsible for the Saints' travails at the time.

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