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    “Far West,” Church History Topics

    “Far West”

    Far West

    In 1836, three years after Latter-day Saints had been driven from Jackson County, the Missouri legislature created Caldwell County, a new county in a sparsely settled portion of the state, which they intended as a place for Latter-day Saints to settle. The Saints purchased land there and began building a city called Far West.1 In April 1838, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that Far West would be “a holy and consecrated land” as the Saints gathered there to build a temple and worship Him.2

    From late 1836 to 1839, as many as five thousand Saints established homes in and around Far West, which served as Church headquarters after Joseph Smith arrived in March 1838.3 During his time in Far West, the Prophet received seven revelations later published in the Doctrine and Covenants. In these revelations, the Lord revealed the full name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and established the law of tithing, among other things.4

    The settlement in Far West was modeled after the “Plat of the City of Zion,” a settlement plan originally intended for the building of Zion in Jackson County, Missouri.5 On July 4, 1838, the Saints placed and dedicated the four cornerstones for a temple in their new city.6

    Temple cornerstone and monument in Far West

    Temple cornerstone and monument in Far West, Missouri.

    No further work was done on the temple. Mob violence against the Saints in Caldwell and neighboring counties in the fall of 1838 soon grew into a large-scale armed conflict. Missouri governor Lilburn W. Boggs ordered the state militia to surround Far West and drive the Saints from the state. Major General Samuel D. Lucas, commander of the state militia, met with a delegation of Saints just outside Far West and demanded that Joseph Smith and other Church leaders submit to arrest or he would attack the city. When the delegation returned to Far West, one of its members, George M. Hinkle, told Joseph that Lucas “desired an interview” but apparently did not explain that the general intended to take him prisoner. Joseph and others agreed to meet with Lucas and were immediately arrested and threatened with execution, but they were ultimately imprisoned pending a trial.7

    Surrender at Far West

    Depiction of the surrender at Far West in November 1838.

    While Joseph Smith was in prison, the Saints complied with the state’s demands to leave Missouri and used Far West as a staging ground for their exodus. One of the revelations Joseph received instructed the Twelve Apostles to leave Far West on April 26, 1839, for a mission to England.8 Some opponents of the Church boasted that they had prevented the fulfillment of this divine instruction. However, before the Twelve’s mission to England, Brigham Young and other Apostles returned to the Far West temple site under cover of night to fulfill the revelation on the appointed day.9

    Notes

    1. Clark V. Johnson, “Let Far West Be Holy and Consecrated,” in Larry C. Porter and Susan Easton Black, eds., The Prophet Joseph: Essays on the Life and Mission of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1988), 228–29.

    2. Revelation, 26 April 1838 [D&C 115],” in Joseph Smith, Journal, March–September 1838, 33, josephsmithpapers.org; see also Doctrine and Covenants 115:7–8.

    3. Journal, March–September 1838,” 16–17, josephsmithpapers.org. See also James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 116–17.

    4. Revelation, 26 April 1838 [D&C 115]”; “Revelation, 8 July 1838–C [D&C 119],” josephsmithpapers.org. See Doctrine and Covenants 113–115, 117–120.

    5. Revised Plat of the City of Zion, circa Early August 1833,” josephsmithpapers.org; see also Steven L. Olsen, The Mormon Ideology of Place: Cosmic Symbolism of the City of Zion, 1830–1846, Dissertations in Latter-day Saint History (Provo, Utah: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History and BYU Studies, 2002), Figure 11.

    6. Alexander L. Baugh, “The Mormon Temple Site at Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri,” in Thomas M. Spencer, ed., The Missouri Mormon Experience (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2010), 80–81.

    7. Mark Ashurst-McGee, David W. Grua, Elizabeth Kuehn, Brenden W. Rensink, and Alexander L. Baugh, eds., Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839. Vol. 6 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Ronald K. Esplin, Matthew J. Grow, and Matthew C. Godfrey (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2017), 269–271. Joseph felt he had been deliberately betrayed, although Hinkle and others later insisted Joseph had understood Lucas’s demands.

    8. Revelation, 8 July 1838–A [D&C 118],” in Joseph Smith, Journal, March–September 1838, 54, josephsmithpapers.org.

    9. Revelation, 8 July 1838–A [D∓C 118],” 55, josephsmithpapers.org; see also Doctrine and Covenants 118:4–5; Baugh, “The Mormon Temple Site at Far West,” 82–83.