31 July 2012

Mormons Migrate to Missouri

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, 2003, Excerpts

When Mormonism made its debut, Joseph Smith’s embryonic religion was not welcomed with open arms by everyone. Joseph’s widespread reputation as a charlatan, along with a rash of malicious rumors about his “gold Bible,” had fueled animosity throughout the Palmyra region. In December 1830 Joseph received a revelation in which God, noting the hostility in the New York air, commanded him to move his flock to Ohio. So the Latter-day Saints packed up and resettled just east of present day Cleveland, in a town called Kirtland.

In Ohio the Mormons found their neighbors to be relatively hospitable, but in the summer of 1831 the Lord revealed to Joseph that Kirtland was merely a way station, and that the Missouri frontier was in fact “the land which I have appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the Saints.” Joseph instructed his followers to assemble in Jackson County and start building a New Jerusalem there. Saints began pouring into northwestern Missouri, and continued arriving in ever-greater numbers through 1838.

The people who already lived in Jackson County were not happy about the monumental influx. The Mormon immigrants for the most part hailed from the northeastern states and favored the abolition of slavery; Missourians tended to have southern roots – many of them actually owned slaves – and were deeply suspicious of the Mormons’ abolitionist leanings. But what alienated the residents of Jackson County most was the impenetrable clannishness of the Mormons and their arrogant sense of entitlement: the Saints insisted they were God’s chosen people and had been granted a divine right to claim northwestern Missouri as their Zion.

This polarizing mind-set was underscored by a revelation Joseph received in 1831, in which God commanded the Saints to “assemble yourselves together to rejoice upon the land of Missouri, which is the land of our inheritance, which is not the land of your enemies.” When Missourians became aware of this commandment, they regarded it as an open declaration of war.

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