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  • 10/27/2010

Today in History:

Missouri Issues the "Extermination Order" (1838)


Missouri Executive Order 44, also known as the "extermination order" (alt. exterminating order) in Latter Day Saint history, was an executive order issued on October 27, 1838 by Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs.

 The order was in response to what Boggs termed "open and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made war upon the people of this State ... 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." The order was formally rescinded in 1976.



Tensions between the Mormons and the Missourians escalated with two speeches given by Mormon leader Sidney Rigdon in June and July of 1838. The first speech, referred to as the Salt sermon, was targeted against former Mormons. In his 19 June 1838 sermon, Rigdon compared the Mormon church to the salt of the earth, and the Mormon dissenters to the salt that had lost its flavor. From this, Rigdon explained that it is the duty of the Saints to trample the dissenters under foot.

He informed the people that they had a set of men among them that had dissented from the church and were doing all in their power to destroy the presidency, laying plans to take their lives &c., accused them of counterfeiting, lying, cheating and numerous other crimes and called on the people to rise en masse and rid the county of such a nuisance. He said it is the duty of this people to trample them into the earth, and if the county cannot be freed from them any other way I will assist to trample them down or to erect a gallows on the Square of Far West and hang them up as they did the gamblers at Vicksburgh and it would be an act at which the angels would smile with approbation.

Rigdon's strongly-worded sermon may have played a significant role in encouraging the dissenters to leave the county. In case it wasn't sufficient, Rigdon wrote letters to various leading dissenters—Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, John Whitmer, William W. Phelps, and Lyman E. Johnson—informing them that you shall have three days after you receive this communication to you, including twenty-four hours in each day, for you to depart with your families peaceably; which you may do undisturbed by any person; but in that time, if you do not depart, we will use the means in our power to cause you to depart; for go you shall.

The second speech was Rigdon's 1838 Fourth of July oration given at Far West, which was characterized by Mormon historian Brigham Henry Roberts as a "'Declaration of Independence' from all mobs and persecutions. These speeches are believed by some to represent the beginning of the Missouri Mormon War. The closing passages of the July 4th speech state, But from this day and this hour we will suffer it no more. We take God and all the holy angels to witness, this day, that we warn all men, in the name of Jesus Christ to come on us no more for ever, for from this hour we will bear it no more; our rights shall no more be trampled on with impunity; the man, or the set of men who attempt it, do it at the expense of their lives. And that mob that comes on us to disturb us, it shall be between us and them a war of extermination; for we will follow them until the last drop of their blood is spilled; or else they will have to exterminate us, for we will carry the seat of war to their own houses and their own families, and one party or the other shall be utterly destroyed. Remember it then, all men. We will never be the aggressors, we will infringe on the rights of no people, but shall stand for our own until death.

Source: encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com

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