AN INACCESSIBLE MORMON ZION:EXPULSION FROM JACKSON COUNTY
This is Volume IV of an epic, multi-volume work entitled The Quest for the New Jerusalem: A Mormon Generation Saga, which combines family, Mormon, and American history, focusing upon how the author’s ancestors were affected by their conversion to the Mormon religion. In Volume I, four of the author’s ancestral families—the Carters, Hammonds, Knowltons, and Spencer’s—and the ancestors of Mormon Church founders Joseph Smith and Brigham Young are followed from the time they enter the Massachusetts Bay Colony in New England in the 1600s down to the early 1800s. Toward the end of Volume I, the focus is upon Joseph Smith and his family, including their move from Vermont to western New York and their religious and occult “magic worldviews.”
Volume II takes up the narrative at about the year 1820, and involves a detailed, comprehensive, and critical look at the events in the life of Joseph Smith, Jr., during the decade in which he purportedly was visited by numerous heavenly messengers, received the “golden plates,” translated the writing on the plates to produce the Book of Mormon, received priesthood authority from other heavenly messengers, published the Book of Mormon, and organized the Mormon Church. There is a detailed examination of the contentious debate concerning the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and the validity of Smith’s 1820s visionary experiences. The later chapters describe the movement of Church headquarters from western New York to northeastern Ohio in early 1831, Smith’s interest in western Missouri as the site for his New Jerusalem/Zion, and the conversion of the author’s direct ancestor Simeon Daggett Carter.
Volume III roughly covers Mormon history for the years 1831-33, and describes the influence of Sidney Rigdon and many other Ohio Campbellites (Disciples of Christ Church members) on the early Mormon Church. Numerous Joseph Smith revelations designate Jackson County, Missouri, as the New Jerusalem/Zion, the place where the Second Coming of Christ will soon take place. However, Smith chooses to live instead in Kirtland, Ohio, and serious disagreements and tensions develop between Smith in Ohio and Missouri Mormon leaders. Smith begins construction of a temple in Kirtland, and angry Missourians rise up in the summer of 1833 and violently expel the Mormons from Jackson County. They are given temporary sanctuary mainly in Clay County, located across the Missouri River to the north.
Volume IV describes the expulsion of Mormons from Jackson County, the efforts of Missouri state officials to deal with the explosive situation, and Smith’s attempt to explain why his Missouri Zion is now off-limits to Mormons, although the Lord purportedly has designated it as the site for the hallowed New Jerusalem and imminent Second Coming of Christ. Smith recruits a Mormon army (“Zion’s Camp”) and leads it from Ohio to western Missouri in an unsuccessful effort to forcefully “redeem Zion,” and fourteen members of the camp die of cholera at the end of the trek, including one of the author’s Carter ancestors.
There are serious recriminations against Smith within the Mormon Church on account of the total failure of this military venture, and a member of the Kirtland High Council—Sylvester Smith—brings formal charges against him. In the “trial,” however, the accuser quickly becomes the accused, and to avoid excommunication Sylvester is forced to apologize profusely for his “false accusations” against “The Prophet.”
A disgruntled, excommunicated Mormon--Doctor Philastus Hurlbut--travels to western New York in late 1833 and collects numerous affidavits from residents of the Palmyra/Manchester area alleging that the young Joseph Smith, his father, and some of his brothers engaged in illegal, occult, “treasure-seer,” “treasurer-digging” activities during the 1820s, and were lazy and dishonest. Many of these affidavits are published by Pain