Could Mormons Be Legally Killed in Missouri for 138 Years?

by | Mar 6, 2020

Joseph Smith

For most people, The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormon Church, is most closely associated with the State of Utah. However, Missouri has an important and colored history with the Mormon religion.

Mormonism was founded in New York in 1830 by Joseph Smith. In 1831 Smith prophesied that Jesus’s Second Coming would occur in Independence, Missouri (a suburb of Kansas City and boyhood home of Harry S. Truman) and called Mormons to gather there to observe Jesus’s return. Additionally, Joseph Smith proclaimed that the Garden of Eden (of Adam and Eve fame) was located 70 miles north of Independence and is referred to by Mormons as Adam-ondi-Ahman.

The highlighted Adam-ondi-Ahman in the map is the site of the Garden of Eden according to Joseph Smith’s prophecy. Also note the location 70 miles to the south of Independence, Missouri. The map also shows the Mormon settlement of Nauvoo, Illinois and Carthage, Illinois, where Joseph Smith was killed.

Following these proclamations by Joseph Smith, Missouri was inundated in the early 1830s by Mormons from all over the country as they flocked to Independence to establish the “City of Zion” at the location of the Second Coming.

Long-standing Missourians didn’t take kindly to this influx of Mormon pilgrims and in 1838 the so-called “Mormon War” broke out as a series of violent encounters between Mormon and non-Mormon residents of Western Missouri. 22 people were killed (21 of which were Mormon) in a handful of skirmishes.

In the midst of the Mormon War Missouri’s Governor, Lilburn Boggs, issued infamous Executive Order 44 in which he ordered the Mormons out of the state. The order included the following language: “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.

Following this order and the violence of the Mormon War, most of the Mormons living in Missouri left the state and headed east to Illinois and founded the city of Nauvoo, Illinois. In 1844, Joseph Smith was killed in the nearby town of Carthage, Illinois. Following his death, Brigham Young led the Mormons out of Illinois and they founded Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Missouri extermination order stood for 138 years and has been interpreted by many as a license to kill Mormons, even though since 1838 Mormons have lived in Missouri without conflict. In 1976 then-Governor Kit Bond rescinded the extermination order.

So, could you kill Mormons legally in Missouri? Probably not – it is doubtful Executive Order 44 could be used as a defense. Nonetheless, the Mormon Church found the order disturbing and in 2010 awarded Kit Bond their highest award that can be given to a non-Mormon for rescinding the order in 1976.

Read more about the Mormon War and the extermination order here.


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