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Missouri Executive Order 44, also known as the "extermination order" (alt. exterminating order) in Latter Day Saint history, was an executive order issued on October 27, 1838 by Missourimarker governor Lilburn Boggs. The order was in response to what Boggs termed "open and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made war upon the people of this State ... 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." The order was formally rescinded in 1976.


Speeches by Sidney Rigdon

Tensions between the Mormons and the Missourians escalated with two speeches given by Mormon leader Sidney Rigdon in June and July 1838. The first speech, referred to as the Salt sermon, was targeted against former Mormons. In his 19 June 1838 sermon, Rigdon compared the Mormon church to the salt of the earth, and the Mormon dissenters to the salt that had lost its savor. From this, Rigdon explained that it is the duty of the Saints to trample the dissenters under foot.

He informed the people that they had a set of men among them that had dissented from the church and were doing all in their power to destroy the presidency, laying plans to take their lives &c., accused them of counterfeiting, lying, cheating and numerous other crimes and called on the people to rise en masse and rid the county of such a nuisance. He said it is the duty of this people to trample them into the earth, and if the county cannot be freed from them any other way I will assist to trample them down or to erect a gallows on the Square of Far West and hang them up as they did the gamblers at Vicksburg and it would be an act at which the angels would smile with approbation.

Rigdon's strongly-worded sermon may have played a significant role in encouraging the dissenters to leave the county. Rigdon proceeded to write letters to leading dissenters such as Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, John Whitmer, William W. Phelps, and Lyman E. Johnson, informing them that

you shall have three days after you receive this communication to you, including twenty-four hours in each day, for you to depart with your families peaceably; which you may do undisturbed by any person; but in that time, if you do not depart, we will use the means in our power to cause you to depart; for go you shall.

The second speech was Rigdon's 1838 Fourth of July oration given at Far Westmarker, which was characterized by Mormon historian Brigham Henry Roberts as a "'Declaration of Independence' from all mobs and persecutions." These speeches are believed by some to represent the beginning of the Missouri Mormon War. The closing passages of the July 4th speech state,

But from this day and this hour we will suffer it no more. We take God and all the holy angels to witness, this day, that we warn all men, in the name of Jesus Christ to come on us no more for ever, for from this hour we will bear it no more; our rights shall no more be trampled on with impunity; the man, or the set of men who attempt it, do it at the expense of their lives. And that mob that comes on us to disturb us, it shall be between us and them a war of extermination; for we will follow them until the last drop of their blood is spilled; or else they will have to exterminate us, for we will carry the seat of war to their own houses and their own families, and one party or the other shall be utterly destroyed. Remember it then, all men. We will never be the aggressors, we will infringe on the rights of no people, but shall stand for our own until death.

Danite band and the Affidavit of Thomas Marsh

Thomas B. Marsh, then President of the Mormons' Twelve Apostles, signed an affidavit before the Richmond Justice of the Peace, Henry Jacobs. Marsh's affidavit stated that "They have among them (the 'Mormons') a company consisting of all that are considered true 'Mormons,' called Danites, who have taken an oath to support the heads of The Church in all things, whether right or wrong. I have heard the Prophet say that he would yet tread down his enemies, and walk over their dead bodies; that, if he was not let alone, he would be a second Mohammed to this generation, and that he would make it one gore of blood from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean." Joseph Smith, however, denied the existence of this band and condemned these statements.

Events at Gallatin

Open physical conflict between the Mormons and Missourians occurred on election day (August 6, 1838), in the town of Gallatin, Missourimarker. William Peniston, a candidate for the state legislature, made disparaging statements about the Mormons, calling them "horse-thieves and robbers", and warned them not to vote in the election. One of the Mormons present, Samuel Brown, claimed that Peniston’s statements were false and then declared his intention to vote. This triggered a brawl between the bystanders. A number of Missourians left the scene to obtain guns and ammunition and swore that they would “kill all the Saints they could find, or drive them out of Daviess county, sparing neither men, women or children.” The crowd dispersed, and the Mormons returned to their homes.

Two months later, open conflict developed in Daviess County. After the fall of Dewitt in Carroll County, the Mormons feared that the non-Mormons would run them out of Daviess County.

Justice of the Peace Philip Covington provided a sworn deposition in Daviess County that on 18 September 1838, he witnessed a band of 100 or more Mormon men march into Gallatin and drive out the citizens, before robbing and burning the store and Post Office. On 20 September, a group of 25 armed Mormons informed Covington that he had until the following morning to leave the county, or he and his family would be attacked.

Several non-Mormons attested that on 18 October 1838, on orders from Joseph Smith, a band of Mormons burned almost every building in Gallatin to the ground after robbing all items of value they could remove.

The Mormon War

Late in the evening of October 24, 1838, Captain Samuel Bogart of the Missouri state militia patrolled the northern part of Ray County, and Buncombe's Strip, a 6 mile strip of land between Ray and Caldwell County that was administered by Ray County. He "accosted at least two Mormon settlers in their homes, ordering them to leave the state, and took three Mormons prisoner," taking them to the state militia camp at Crooked River just down the road from the Mormon spy headquarters in Parson's home. One of the members of the Mormon Arson and Destruction Company was Thoret Parsons, who was told by Bogart that he was free to go, but had "to leave by ten o'clock the next day and remarked that he expected to give Far West "hell" before noon the next day." Captain David Patten led a detachment of Mormon Danites to rescue the prisoners, resulting in four fatalities: three among the Mormons (including Patten) and one from the state militia, an incident that became known as the Battle of Crooked River. An exaggerated report was sent to Governor Lilburn Boggs which stated that "Captain Bogart and all his company, amounting to between fifty and sixty men, were massacred at Buncombe, twelve miles north of Richmond, except three," and that Richmond was "to be laid in ashes this morning." Boggs, who just a few hours before had received word of the Mormon destruction of Daviess County, concluded that the Mormons were at war against the State and should be removed altogether. Missouri Executive Order 44 was issued October 27, to General John B. Clark of the Missouri State Militia.


Evacuation of Far West

An hour before sunset on 30 October 1838 (the same day as the Haun's Mill Massacremarker), 3500 members of the state militia, under the command of General Samuel Lucas, arrived outside Far West, Missourimarker. The Mormons in Far West, numbering about 200 men, were greatly frightened, but Joseph Smith ordered them to take up their weapons and prepare to fight. When the militia saw that the Mormons intended to fight, they withdrew into the woods to await the morning. Though some of the Mormons misinterpreted the soldier's retreat, Joseph Smith sent John Corrill and Reed Peck to search the militia camp for General Alexander W.marker Doniphanmarker, who had been friendly and instrumental towards Mormon efforts since the first days of the Mormons in Missouri, several years earlier. Corrill and Peck had instructions from Smith to "beg like a dog for peace" from Doniphan. The militia agreed not to attack Far West until negotiations between the two groups could be conducted.

Lucas issued a set of four demands to the inhabitants of Far West:
  1. The Mormon leaders were to surrender immediately to stand trial.
  2. Mormon property would be seized and used to pay for damages.
  3. The Mormons would leave the state immediately.
  4. The Mormons would turn over all of their weapons.

Back in Far West Hyrum Smith and Brigham Young advised all the "Crooked River boys" to flee northward out of the state "for, if found, they will be shot down like dogs." Nearly seventy left.

Military tribunal

Church leaders were tried under a military tribunal, convicted of high treason against the state of Missouri and sentenced to death. General Lucas issued the following order to General Alexander W. Doniphan:
Brigadier-General Doniphan: Sir:—You will take Joseph Smith and the other prisoners into the public square of Far West, and shoot them at 9 o'clock to-morrow morning. Samuel D. Lucas, Major-General Commanding.

General Doniphan refused to carry out the order of death given by his superiors stating it was illegal and "cold-blooded murder," as he felt that Mormon leaders should not be tried by a military tribunal.

Ebenezer Robinson described the scene at Far West,
"General Clark made the following speech to the brethren on the public square:...'The orders of the governor to me were, that you should be exterminated, and not allowed to remain in the state, and had your leaders not been given up, and the terms of the treaty complied with, before this, you and your families would have been destroyed and your houses in ashes.'"

The Far West militia was marched out of the city and forced to turn over their weapons to General Lucas. The men under the command of Lucas were then allowed to ransack the city to search for weapons. Brigham Young recounts that, once the militia was disarmed, Lucas's men were turned loose on the city:
[T]hey commenced their ravages by plundering the citizens of their bedding, clothing, money, wearing apparel, and every thing of value they could lay their hands upon, and also attempting to violate the chastity of the women in sight of their husbands and friends, under the pretence of hunting for prisoners and arms. The soldiers shot down our oxen, cows, hogs and fowls, at our own doors, taking part away and leaving the rest to rot in the streets. The soldiers also turned their horses into our fields of corn.

B.H. Roberts wrote 62 years later that, "[t]he chastity of a number of women was defiled by force; some of them were strapped to benches and repeatedly ravished by brutes in human form until they died from the effects of this treatment." However, Mormon historian Stephen C. LeSueur notes,

Nearly all reports of rape are based on hearsay and rumors, and are not now believed to be true, even by LDS historians. In addition, the reports are generally vague and often exaggerated ... Charles Morehead, the representative of the state legislature from Ray County, said during a debate that 'he was in Far West when one of these reports was started, and he assisted in attempting to ascertain the truth, and the Mormons themselves admitted that it was false' (Missouri Republican, 24 December 1838).

Civil trial

General Clark turned over his prisoners, consisting of about 60 men including Joseph Smith, Jr. and Sidney Rigdon, for a preliminary hearing by a civil court of inquiry in Richmond under Judge Austin A. King, on charges of treason, murder, arson, burglary, robbery, larceny and perjury. The court of inquiry began 12 November 1838. After the inquiry, all but a few of the Mormon prisoners were released, but Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Lymen Wight, Caleb Baldwin, Hyrum Smith and Alexander McRae were held without conviction, bail or legal representation in the Liberty Jailmarker in Libertymarker, Clay Countymarker on charges of treason against the state, murder, arson, burglary, robbery and larceny. The U.S. Senate voted 2 March 1841 to table a motion to consider printing out the court records of the Fifth Circuit of the State of Missouri regarding the trial for high treason and other crimes against that State of Joseph Smith, Jr., and others.

Smith and others escape

During a transfer to another prison in the spring of 1839, Smith escaped. The exact circumstances that allowed for him to escape are not certain, as one historian (John Whitmer) recounts that Smith bribed the guards, while another historian (Harold Schindler) states that high state officials--perhaps even Governor Boggs--realized that an escape would be convenient for everyone. Smith and the other Mormons resettled in Nauvoo, Illinoismarker beginning in 1839.

Post evacuation

On the rainy evening of May 6, 1842, Governor Boggs was shot by an unknown party who fired at him through a window as he read a newspaper in his study. Boggs was hit by large buckshot in four places: Two balls were lodged in his skull, another lodged in his neck, and a fourth entered his throat, whereupon Boggs swallowed it. Several doctors—Boggs' brother among them—pronounced Boggs as good as dead; at least one newspaper ran an obituary. To everyone's great surprise, Boggs not only survived, but gradually improved.

Meanwhile, the crime was investigated. Sheriff J.H. Reynolds discovered a revolver at the scene, still loaded with buckshot. He surmised that the perpetrator had fired upon Boggs and lost his firearm in the night when the weapon recoiled due to its unusually large shot. The gun was found to have been stolen from a local shopkeeper, who identified "that hired man of Ward's" as the most likely culprit. Reynolds determined the man in question was Orrin Porter Rockwell, a close associate of the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. However, Reynolds was unable to capture Rockwell.

Some Mormons saw the assassination attempt positively: An anonymous contributor to The Wasp, a pro-Mormon newspaper in Nauvoo, Illinoismarker, wrote on May 28 that "Boggs is undoubtedly killed according to report; but who did the noble deed remains to be found out." Rockwell denied involvement in oblique terms, stating that he had "done nothing criminal" —although it is debatable whether he would consider shooting the hated former governor a crime.

Also at about this time, John C. Bennett, a disaffected Mormon, reported that Smith had offered a cash reward to anyone who would assassinate Boggs, and that Smith had admitted to him that Rockwell had done the deed. He went on to say that Rockwell had made a veiled threat against Bennett's life if he publicized the story. Joseph Smith vehemently denied Bennett's account, speculating that Boggs—no longer governor, but campaigning for state senate—was attacked by an election opponent. Mormon writer Monte B. McLaws, in the Missouri Historical Review, supported Smith, averring that while there was no clear finger pointing to anyone, Governor Boggs was running for election against several violent men, all capable of the deed, and that there was no particular reason to suspect Rockwell of the crime. This opinion was not shared by Rockwell's most noted biographer, Harold Schindler. Whatever the case, the following year Rockwell was arrested, tried, and acquitted of the attempted murder (Bushman, p. 468), although most of Boggs' contemporaries remained convinced of his guilt. A grand jury was unable to find sufficient evidence to indict him, convinced in part by his reputation as a deadly gunman and his statement that he "never shot at anybody, if I shoot they get shot!... He's still alive, ain't he?"

Rescinded in 1976

Although the Extermination Order technically became inoperative with an end to the state of war and the surrender of Mormon leaders on November 1, it continued to dignify forced removal of the Mormons by unauthorized citizens. The legislature deferred discussion of an appeal by Mormon leaders to rescind it, and nearly all Latter Day Saints, more than 10,000, were driven from the state by the spring of 1839. The extermination order was formally rescinded by Governor Christopher S. Bond on June 25, 1976, 137 years after being signed. In late 1975, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint (now Community of Christ) Far West, Missourimarker Stake President Lyman F. Edwards invited Governor Bond to participate in the RLDS annual stake conference in 1976, as a good-will gesture for the bicentennial celebration of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. In his address at that conference, Bond presented an Executive Order:
WHEREAS, on October 27, 1838, the Governor of the State of Missouri, Lilburn W. Boggs, signed an order calling for the extermination or expulsion of Mormons from the State of Missouri; and
WHEREAS, Governor Boggs' order clearly contravened the rights to life, liberty, property and religious freedom as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, as well as the Constitution of the State of Missouri; and
WHEREAS, in this bicentennial year as we reflect on our nation's heritage, the exercise of religious freedom is without question one of the basic tenets of our free democratic republic;
Now, THEREFORE, I, CHRISTOPHER S. BOND, Governor of the State of Missouri, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the State of Missouri, do hereby order as follows:
Expressing on behalf of all Missourians our deep regret for the injustice and undue suffering which was caused by the 1838 order, I hereby rescind Executive Order Number 44, dated October 27, 1838, issued by Governor W. Boggs.
In witness I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the great seal of the State of Missouri, in the city of Jefferson, on this 25 day of June, 1976.
(Signed) Christopher S. Bond, Governor.

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