Friday, February 15, 2008

Mormon Persecution or Defiance of the Law?


On the front page of The Hawk Eye, January 27, 2008, is large picture of a Mormon on his horse depicting the Mormon Pioneer Trail journey. The lengthy article goes on to page 7A. On page 7A is an insert titled “History of the Mormon Pioneer Trail.” The insert states “Political and religious pressure from their neighbors, however, forced them to leave Illinois in 1846.” This statement is deceptively vague.

What the article doesn’t say is why this event happened. Why were the Mormons forced from the State of Illinois? Ask any Mormon and they will immediately tell you it was because of religious persecution. Mormons are taught this by their Church and truly believe this; however, is this true? The simple answer is: No. Was “religious persecution” involved? Undoubtedly. But the real reason that the Mormons were forced from the State of Illinois was the absolute abuse of the law by their leadership. The State of Illinois could simply tolerate no more the refusal by the Mormon leadership to obey the laws of the United States, the State of Illinois and the County of Hancock.

When the turmoil surrounding the Mormons being expelled from the State was happening, the voice of reason was the town of Quincy, Illinois, which was known for giving the Mormons refuge when they were expelled from Missouri.
On the front page of the July 24, 1844 issue of the Quincy Herald Whig, just under 30 days after Joseph Smith’s murder in the Carthage Jail, is an article that clearly defines the total disregard for the law by the Mormon community. This article is more than a year and a half before the Mormons were expelled and gives defined instances of the abuses of the law that were being done in Nauvoo, Illinois. These abuses were the reason that the Governor of Illinois put in place his order for the Mormons to be removed from the State. For the Mormons to claim that persecution was the reason for their removal vice the truth that their leadership was in total defiance of the law is a rewriting of history to garner sympathy from an unknowing public and an active attempt to hide the truth; persecution plays well in the press, defiance of the law doesn’t. The following is a quote taken from the July 24, 1844 front page article of the Quincy Herald Whig, which lays out some of the abuses of the law that were being exercised by the Mormon Leaders in Nauvoo, in direct defiance of the laws of the United States, the State of Illinois, and the County of Hancock: “Who does not know the fact that one short year since Joseph Smith, when arrested by the authority of the governor of this state, upon a demand made by the governor of Missouri, discharged himself from custody by a mock trial upon habeas corpus before his creatures, the city council of Nauvoo, he himself being president of that same city council, as mayor of the city! Who does not know that this successful defiance of the laws of this state, and of process emanating from its highest executive authority, is but one instance out of many. Let me enumerate a few of them. The authorities of Nauvoo have assumed and exercised the power— To establish a recorder’s office for the record of deeds, independent of that provided for by the state laws in every county.

To grant marriage licenses, independently of the state laws requiring them to issue from the clerk of the county commissioners’ court.

To try cases of slander and causes the jurisdiction whereof is vested exclusively in the circuit courts of the state.

To punish by fine and imprisonment persons guilty of speaking words disrespectful of Joseph Smith, and other alleged offenses, which if cognizable any where, belonged exclusively to the circuit courts.

To arrest and annoy peaceable visiters to the city, by vexatious confinement and examination, under pretence of regulating its police.

To discharge persons from arrests upon civil or criminal process from any court of the state, by writs of habeas corpus emanating from the city council.

And they passed an ordinance prohibiting any civil officer to serve process from the state courts in Nauvoo, unless it was countersigned by their mayor, under penalty of fine and imprisonment, which the governor of the state is forbidden to remit by his pardon!”

No one is saying that the Mormons didn’t suffer tremendously when they left Nauvoo and trekked westward; but, they didn’t have to leave. If their leadership would have simply obeyed the laws of the land the Mormons wouldn’t have been forced from the state. The Mormon Church knows that truth doesn’t garnish sympathy, so they promote the story that the reason that the Mormons were “driven out” was religious persecution which is a blatant falsehood!

I for one believe the citizenry of Illinois ought to cry out and demand the Mormon Church tell the truth about what really happened and remove the smear story being fostered against the Great State of Illinois that a bunch of religious Illinoisan bigots drove the Mormons out because of religious persecution. No, the Mormons were forced to leave because they refused to obey the laws of the land.


  1. Ha. We know this stuff went on. Yet, we know that religious persecution was the MAIN reason for the exodus out of Nauvoo. If the State and the people of Illinois had simply respected our religious beliefs then the drastic steps taken by Joseph Smith, Jr. and the Presidency would not have gone as far as it did. It was a power struggle, and yes it was immature for both parties, and the Mormons lost. It all started because Mormons had differing beliefs than most Christians in Illinois at the time. That same reason explains the expulsions from Kirtland, OH and Independence, MO.

  2. David - did you read the post you commented on, or just lapse into your indoctrinated response mode. Sorry David, real history, not revised Mormon history, shows that the real reason for the Mormons being driven from each successive state was their defiance of Federal, State and local laws. Was there religious persecution, yes there was; however, the "REAL" reason for the Mormons being driven out of each area they settled was their leaders refusing to obey the laws of the land!!!

  3. Ha. Yeah, it was all a huge mess. It's something that I wish had never happened but it's one of those past indiscretions that we Mormons must live with. I think every church has their moments of history which they wish would never be brought up, but that's life. I still hold to the belief that if religious persecution hadn't driven the Saints to Nauvoo then the liberties taken by the Prophet wouldn't have occurred but I can see how it could be viewed in multiple ways.

  4. This blog is clearly not any more bent on getting to the "truth" in any academic sense.

    It's worth noting that this is an anonymous writer who acknowledges the atrocity of Joseph Smith's murder but wants to defend citizens of Hancock county. I don't see how these resolutions, taken out of context, really prove anything. Of course there was major disagreement over the powers granted by the charter, extreme jealousy and suspicion about the growth of Nauvoo and its voting power, and a good deal of misinformation.

    Plus, the state of Illinois is sorry.

  5. Ha. That's the best you've got going for you, Anonymous?


Rocky and Helen Hulse

Rocky and Helen Hulse
Defending Christianity From Mormon Doctrine