Illinois Apology to Mormons

A follow up to my post on the Nauvoo Legion.  In 2004 the Illinois General Assembly passed a resolution apologizing to Mormons for the conflicts between Mormons and non-Mormons leading up to the death of Joseph Smith on June 27, 1844.  I am rather dubious about such apologies.  Apologizing for the actions of others from long ago I think has little practical utility, especially when the apology costs nothing.  If one were cynical, and frankly as a life long resident of Illinois, it is hard not to be cynical about virtually any action of the state government in the Land of Lincoln, one might suspect that the apology has more to do with fostering Mormon tourism, as indicated in the above video,  at Nauvoo and surrounding regions, than in righting an historical wrong, especially when the average legislator in the General Assembly would have a depth of historical knowledge little greater than that possessed by the average ward boss in Chicago.  Be that as it may, here is the text of the resolution:

WHEREAS, 138 years ago Brigham Young and more than 20,000 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were expelled from the State of Illinois after the Illinois General Assembly withdrew its charter for the city of Nauvoo, Illinois in Hancock County in 1844; and

WHEREAS, During a period of seven years of Illinois history, from 1839 to 1846, Latter-day Saints built and developed the city of Nauvoo into the largest city in the State of Illinois and the tenth largest city in the nation; and

WHEREAS, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was established by Joseph Smith in Fayette, New York on April 13 6, 1830; and

WHEREAS, The Mormon Prophet, Joseph Smith, led the community of Latter-day Saints from Fayette, New York to Kirtland, Ohio in 1831; and from Ohio to Independence, Missouri, in 1837; and

WHEREAS, Joseph Smith, a strong anti-slavery advocate, led his community of some 15,000 Latter-day Saints to the Mississippi River town of Nauvoo, in Illinois, following their expulsion from the slave State of Missouri in 1839; and

WHEREAS, Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints exercised enormous industry and effort in the development and growth of the town of Nauvoo, succeeding in creating a prosperous community in which they drained the local swamp lands and transformed them into productive agricultural and residential environments; and

WHEREAS, Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints were given an extraordinary charter for the powers of home-rule by the Illinois General Assembly to create and preside over their own court system and also to maintain their own military force, second in size only to the United States Army; and

WHEREAS, Joseph Smith and the community of Latter-day Saints exercised extensive missionary activities which drew new Mormon settlers to the city Nauvoo, reaching a population of some 20,000 citizens by 1844; and

WHEREAS, The prevailing economic conditions of the nation in general, and Illinois in particular, faced a downturn in the early 1840s, with the result that the rapidly growing population of Nauvoo faced drastic levels of unemployment without success in attracting needed industry; and

WHEREAS, During the period of their residency in Nauvoo, Joseph Smith and his community of Latter-day Saints began as political Democrats, transferring their political allegiance to the Whig Party in both the elections of 1838 and 1840, before once again transferring their affiliations back to the Democratic Party in the election of 1842, until the establishment of the Reform Party by Smith in time for the election of 1844, when he began to seriously campaign for the office of President of the United States; and

WHEREAS, The expression of political authority and power within the community of Latter-day Saints was seen by many citizens in Illinois as reason for caution and concern, seeing the control of local courts by Joseph Smith as autocratic, and interpreting the leverage and influence of the Mormon community’s voting strength as an over influential and forceful voting bloc; and

WHEREAS, Local religious customs among the Latter-day Saints began to be viewed with suspicion, bias and misunderstanding; and

WHEREAS, Following the destruction of a local anti-Mormon newspaper known as the Expositor, violence against the Latter-day Saint community increased; and

WHEREAS, The Governor of the State of Illinois, Thomas Ford, called out the Illinois Militia to keep order; and

WHEREAS, Governor Ford had the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum Smith, jailed, on suspicion of complicity in the destruction of the Expositor, in the nearby town jail of Carthage, Illinois; and

WHEREAS, A violent mob stormed the Carthage jail on June 27, 1844, causing the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith; and

WHEREAS, Between 1844 and 1845, violent acts against the community of Latter-day Saints increased in volume and intensity, demonstrated in such acts as the burning of crops, the destruction of homes and the threatened extermination of the entire Mormon population; and

WHEREAS, Faced with the extremism against the community of Latter-day Saints, Brigham Young, the new leader of the Nauvoo community made plans to take his people out of Illinois; and

WHEREAS, Beginning on February 4, 1846, Brigham Young began sending the community of Latter-day Saints out of their homeland of Nauvoo, Illinois across the frozen waters of the Mississippi River, in the largest forced migration in American history; and

WHEREAS, Brigham Young made an exodus from the State of Illinois, leading tens of thousands of men, women and children, together with livestock and wagons that stretched across the expansive winter horizon for miles; and

WHEREAS, In this Mormon exodus, Brigham Young and the community of Latter-day Saints left behind their life in Illinois and the shining city that they had fashioned from both their faith and the hard work of their hands; and

WHEREAS, Brigham Young and the community of Latter-day Saints set off in the midst of winter for Utah, some 1300 miles to the west; and

WHEREAS, The severity of the winter placed on Brigham Young and the community of Latter-day Saints extreme hardships, trudging across the Iowa Plains to the far side of that state where they made a winter camp; and

WHEREAS, In the Spring of 1847, Brigham Young and the community of Latter-day Saints began again their journey to Utah, beyond the Rocky Mountain Range, to the valley of the Great Salt Lake; and

WHEREAS, On July 24, 1847, Brigham Young and the community of Latter-day Saints arrived in that valley following a trek of more than five months, journeying across the heart of the American continent, from the heartbreak of events in Nauvoo, Illinois to a place of far-western refuge; and

WHEREAS, Within 50 years of their arrival in the territory of Utah, the community of Latter-day Saint became the 45th state in the Union on January 4, 1896; and

WHEREAS, The community of Latter-day Saints grew from a population of 250,000 at the end of the 19th century to a population of more than 11 million people in our present day; and

WHEREAS, The goodness, patriotism, high moral conduct, and generosity of the community of Latter-day Saints has enriched the landscape of the United States and the world; and

WHEREAS, The biases and prejudices of a less enlightened age in the history of the State of Illinois caused unmeasurable hardship and trauma for the community of Latter-day Saints by the distrust, violence, and inhospitable actions of a dark time in our past; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE NINETY-THIRD GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, that we acknowledge the disparity of those past actions and suspicions, regretting the expulsion of the community of Latter-day Saints, a people of faith and hard work.

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Published in: on August 14, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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One Comment

  1. I think that this apology is enough. It removes a policy created many years ago that Mormons are enemies to the state of Illinois. It makes it clear that this is no longer the case.


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