Missouri Persecutions and Expulsion

Church History in the Fulness of Times Teacher Manual, (2001), 32–33


  1. 1.

    Internal and external factors led to conflict between the members of the Church and the Missourians.

  2. 2.

    Jacob Haun’s disobedience to the counsel of Joseph Smith resulted in tragedy at Haun’s Mill.

  3. 3.

    The Church passed through one of its darkest hours when militia acting under the direction of Governor Boggs’s extermination order laid siege to Far West, and the Prophet and other Church leaders were incarcerated for months.

    Suggested Approaches

  • Using the map in the student manual (p. 193) or map 5 in the back of the triple combination, tell the experiences of the Saints at each of the following locations:

    • Election day battle at Gallatin

    • Battle of DeWitt

    • Battle of Crooked River

    • Haun’s Mill Massacre

    • Boggs’s extermination order and warfare against the Saints in Caldwell and Daviess counties

    • Siege of Far West

  • While incarcerated in the Liberty Jail under appalling conditions, the Prophet dictated two letters to Church members in general and Bishop Edward Partridge in particular. From these letters came Doctrine and Covenants 121–23. Review these sections, pointing out some of the promises and warnings:

    Doctrine and Covenants 121:9 The Prophet Joseph is promised that he would yet be set free.

    Doctrine and Covenants 121:11–20 A warning to the apostates.

    Doctrine and Covenants 121:26–32 Promises to the Saints.

    The entire letters are found in History of the Church, 3:289–305.

  • One of the great lessons taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith during this time was forgiveness of enemies. W. W. Phelps and other prominent Saints apostatized during this period of persecution. W. W. Phelps was later excommunicated. Through the winter of 1838–39 the Prophet Joseph and other leaders languished in jail while the Saints were driven from the state. Some time after, the Prophet and his companions were set free, W. W. Phelps wrote a letter asking for Joseph’s forgiveness and to be accepted back into the Church (see History of the Church, 4:142). Considering all that he had gone through, the Prophet’s response could have been venomous. Read the letter Joseph Smith wrote to W. W. Phelps (see History of the Church, 4:163–64). The poem at the end of the letter greatly touched Brother Phelps.

    W. W. Phelps was a firm and loyal friend of the Prophet from that day forward. Following the Martyrdom, Brother Phelps spoke at the Prophet’s funeral, where he read one last poem to his good friend: “Praise to the Man” (see Hymns, no. 27). Every time we sing this hymn, or any of the hymns Brother Phelps wrote, we might remember the lesson on forgiving others that the Prophet exemplified so beautifully in his relationship with W. W. Phelps.

    Theme Sources

  • History of the Church, 3:55–86, 149–244.

  • Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:428–532.

  • Readings in LDS Church History, 1:271–333.

  • Reed C. Durham, Jr., “The Election Day Battle at Gallatin,” Brigham Young University Studies, Autumn 1972, pp. 36–61.

    Accounts by both Church members and nonmembers of the election day battle.

  • Alma R. Blair, “The Haun’s Mill Massacre,” Brigham Young University Studies, Autumn 1972, pp. 62–67.

    A unique account showing why the massacre took place and detailing some of the kindnesses that occurred after the massacre.

  • Eliza R. Snow, “Eliza R. Snow Letter from Missouri,” Brigham Young University Studies, Summer 1973, pp. 544–52.

    Gives an account of the Saints in Caldwell County during the difficult winter of 1838–39.

  • Clark V. Johnson, “Missouri Persecutions: The Petition of Isaac Leany,” in Ronald W. Walker, ed., “The Historians Corner,” Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1983, pp. 94–103.

    Reproduces a document signed by a Latter-day Saint and sent to Washington, D.C. detailing the persecution he experienced in Missouri in 1838–39.

  • Clark V. Johnson, “The Missouri Redress Petitions: A Reappraisal of Mormon Persecutions in Missouri,” Brigham Young University Studies, Spring 1986, pp. 31–44.

    The Mormon War through the eyes of many of those who participated in it, with new information regarding the Mormon losses in terms of land, damages, and casualties.

  • Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Classics in Mormon Literature series (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985), pp. 149–91.

    Parley P. Pratt was in Far West at the time the extermination order was issued. He gives an account of the scenes and events that followed.

    Additional Sources

  • Gregory Maynard, “Alexander William Doniphan: Man of Justice,” Brigham Young University Studies, Summer 1973, pp. 462–72.

    The life of Alexander Doniphan and his contribution to the cause of the Latter-day Saints.

  • Leland Homer Gentry, “A History of the Latter-day Saints in Northern Missouri from 1836 to 1839,” Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1965, chaps. 8–14.

    A detailed account of the problems in northern Missouri that resulted in the expulsion of the Saints.

  • Neal A. Maxwell, “A Choice Seer,” in Brigham Young University 1985–86 Devotional and Fireside Speeches (Provo: University Publications, 1986), pp. 113–21.

    A talk about the Prophet Joseph Smith, much of which relates to the Prophet in Liberty Jail.

  • B. H. Roberts, The Missouri Persecutions (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965), chaps. 34–44.

    Good summary chapters of events in northern Missouri that ended in the expulsion of the Latter-day Saints.

  • Junius F. Wells, “Alexander William Doniphan,” Improvement Era, Dec. 1902, pp. 113–21.

    A biographical sketch of Doniphan’s early life and his involvement with the Saints in Missouri. Focuses on his involvement in the war with Mexico in 1846.