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Encyclopedia of Mormonism, LDS Communities

In Caldwell And Daviess Counties

Milton V. Backman, Jr., and Ronald K. Esplin

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, HISTORY OF THE CHURCH


LDS Communities In Caldwell And Daviess Counties

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Tower Hill at Adam-ondi-Ahman

The Missouri legislature created Caldwell and Daviess counties in December 1836 in an attempt to resolve "the Mormon problem." After the Latter-day Saints were driven from Jackson County in 1833, they were given temporary refuge in Clay County (see gentleman's agreement with the old settlers. The explorers found a beautiful townsite on the Grand River. While there, the Prophet received a revelation that this was also the site of Adam-ondi-Ahman, mentioned in a revelation three years earlier as the valley where Adam had gathered his righteous posterity "and there bestowed upon them his last blessing" (D&C 107:53; cf. 78:15-16). This news helped confirm the decision to create a stake there and designate the area as a gathering place for Ohio members traveling to Missouri.

At a June 28, 1838, conference in the newly laid-out community, affectionately nicknamed Di-Ahman, Joseph Smith's uncle, John Smith, was called as stake president. Throughout the summer of 1838, Latter-day Saints poured into Daviess County, where a plentiful harvest helped provide for the impoverished members of the Kirtland Camp when they arrived in early October. That same spring, the Saints also began to settle in DeWitt, in nearby Carroll County near the confluence of the Grand and Missouri rivers, where they established a steamboat landing from which immigrants could move to the other LDS settlements. .

The Saints in northern Missouri industriously planted crops and built log houses throughout the summer, and prospects for peace appeared good. They still hoped for eventual reconciliation with the citizens of Jackson County so that they could return to their center place, but in the meantime they intended to prosper where they were. By revelation, Far West was to become a temple city (D&C 115:7), and the following spring, the Quorum of the Twelve would dedicate the temple site before departing on a mission to Great Britain (D&C 118:4). Revelation in Far West also prescribed the formal name of the Church, "even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" (D&C 115:4), and established the tithing system, which continues to provide financial stability to the Church and to bless its members (D&C 119, 120).

But new difficulties arose. First, Sidney Rigdon publicly threatened dissenters in his June "Salt Sermon," intimating that they should leave Far West or harm would befall them. News of this threat reinforced anti-Mormon hostility throughout Missouri. Second, LDS militia officer Sampson Avard formed an underground group of vigilantes labeled Danites. Avard convinced this oathbound group that they operated with the approval of Church leaders and that they were authorized to avenge themselves against the Church's enemies, even by robbery, lying, and violence if necessary. Third, in an inflammatory Independence Day speech, Sidney Rigdon thundered out a declaration of independence from further mob violence. He warned of a war of extermination between Mormons and their enemies if they were further threatened or harassed.

Finally, and perhaps most important, the new LDS settlements in Adam-ondi-Ahman and DeWitt angered other Missourians who thought that the Mormons had agreed to stay in Caldwell County. Church leaders countered that as American citizens they had the right to buy land and live wherever they chose. Soon, depredations occurred, and with mobilization of militias on both sides, the stage was set for war. After violence erupted in October 1838, Governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued his infamous Extermination Order, declaring that all Mormons should be driven from Missouri or be exterminated.

At first, Church members attempted to defend themselves in their respective settlements, but the outlying towns were not defensible. Before all the Saints could gather to safety in fortified Far West, lives were lost in several confrontations, including the Haun's Mill Massacre, where seventeen LDS men and boys died. The siege of Far West took place during the last three days of October. Joseph Smith and other Church leaders were arrested and incarcerated, several in Liberty Jail, and the Saints were forced to abandon their improved lands to their enemies and leave Missouri (see Missouri Conflict). Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, members of the Twelve Apostles who were not imprisoned, and John Taylor, who was ordained an apostle in December, led the heroic efforts to relocate the approximately 12,000 Missouri Saints across the Mississippi River into Illinois.


Gentry, Leland H. "A History of the Latter-day Saints in Northern Missouri from 1836 to 1839." Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1965.

LeSueur, Stephen C. The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri. Columbia, Mo., 1987.


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Read how the Mormon Killers got paid by the US Government for caring for the orphan children after they had killed their parents.