COLUMN: What Would Joseph Do?

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Source: CVDaily Feed
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Today, the 178th anniversary of the Mormon extermination order in Missouri, is as good a day as any to remind Utahns for Trump why Latter-day Saints have deep concerns about his candidacy.

Well settled in the memories and histories of Latter-day Saints is Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs’ executive order to his state militia to remove Mormons, by deadly force if necessary, from the state. Mormon “crimes” included practicing a different religion and believing that slaves should be freed. Of course, the biggest crime for the Latter-day Saints was that they were different and they began to congregate in one place.

Donald Trump’s rants about American Muslims are well known. He is suspicious of them. He wants to track them and profile them. He wants their worship services monitored. And, for those seeking residency in the United States, he says no. Same thing for Hispanic immigrants. Trump calls them criminals and rapists. He wants to keep them out. He says he’ll build a wall – a huge wall, the best wall you’ve ever seen.

Trump’s irrational fears remind Mormons about their history in the 1830s. In 1833, five years before the governor’s extermination order, community leaders in Jackson County, Missouri, released a manifesto denouncing Latter-day Saints. Listen to its hysterical tone and misplaced patriotism,

“We, the undersigned, citizens of Jackson County, believing that an important crisis is at hand, as regards our civil society, in consequence [of] a pretended religious sect of people that have settled, and are still settling in our County, styling themselves Mormons; and intending, as we do, to rid our society, “peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must,”…deem it expedient, and of the highest importance, to form ourselves into a company for the better and easier accomplishment of our purpose…

“We believe them deluded fanatics, or weak and designing knaves, and that they and their pretensions would soon pass away; but in this we were deceived…[T]hey have been daily increasing numbers…[W]e have every reason to fear that, with but very few exceptions, they were of the very dregs of that society from which they came, lazy, idle, and vicious…[T]heir conduct here stands their characters in their true colors. More than a year since, it was ascertained that they had been tampering with our slaves, and endeavoring to sow dissensions and raise seditions amongst them…

“They declare openly that their God hath given them this country of land, and that sooner or later they must and will have possession of our lands for inheritance…[W]e believe it a duty we owe to ourselves, our wives, and children, to the cause of public morals, to remove them from among us, as we are not prepared to give up our pleasant places and goodly possessions to them or to receive into the bosom of our families, as fit companions for wives and daughters, the degraded and corrupted free Negroes and mulattos that are now invited to settle among us.

Under such a state of things, even our beautiful country would cease to be a desirable residence, and our situation intolerable.”

Several years had passed with rising contentions. By 1838, at the Battle of Crooked Creek, state militiamen disarmed Mormons and took three prisoners. An armed Mormon rescue party freed the captives, but in the skirmish three Mormons and one member of the militia were killed. Told that almost all the Missourians had been slaughtered, Governor Boggs issued his order. He wrote to the Jefferson City militia, “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.”

Such ugly behaviors are the result of ignorance and political calculation – the ignorance of the people and the calculations of a politician seeking votes. Today’s angry white men are yesteryear’s religious bigots persecuting Latter-day Saints. Donald Trump feels a lot like Lilburn Boggs when Trump derides Muslims and Hispanics. Both circumstances are filled with anti-intellectual irrationalities fed by political hype in the form of worry, anger, fear and conspiracy theories.

Imagine Latter-day Saints in 1938 Missouri voting for Lilburn Boggs. You can’t. Imagine rational voters throughout the state recognizing the constitutional abuses heaped upon the Mormons and still voting for Lilburn Boggs. You can’t. So why can’t you imagine Utah voters today, many Mormons among them, who will not vote for Donald Trump? We see a form of Boggs in Trump – the same irrationalities, similar dire methods called for, the same demonizing and the same ignorance.

After the extermination order was issued and the Mormons were driven from Missouri, Joseph Smith went to our Nation’s Capitol looking for redress only to be turned away by another conniving politician, President Martin Van Buren. Utah Mormons today should think on that situation. What if Joseph Smith were facing a decision to vote for presidential candidates Lilburn Boggs or Martin Van Buren? My guess is that Joseph would not vote for either candidate. In fact, my guess is Joseph would run for the office himself. But we don’t have to guess about that, do we?