The Directions To The Saints About Their Zion

The state of Missouri, to which the story of the Mormons is now

transferred, was, at the time of its admission to the Union, in

1821, called "a promontory of civilization into an ocean of

savagery." Wild Indian tribes occupied the practically unexplored

region beyond its western boundary, and its own western counties

were thinly settled. Jackson County, which in 1900 had 195,193

inhabitants, had a population of 2823 by the census of 1830, and

neighboring counties not so many. It was not until 1830 that the

first cabin of a white man was built in Daviess County. All this

territory had been released from Indian ownership by treaty only

a few years when the first Mormons arrived there.

The white settler's house was a log hut, generally with a dirt

floor, a mudplastered chimney, and a window without glass, a

board or quilt serving to close it in time of storm or severe

cold. A fireplace, with a skillet and kettle, supplied the place

of a well-equipped stove. Corn was the principal grain food, and

wild game supplied most of the meat. The wild animals furnished

clothing as well as food; for the pioneers could not afford to

pay from 15 to 25 cents a yard for calico, and from 25 to 75

cents for gingham.* Some persons indulged in homespun cloth for

Sunday and festal occasions, but the common outside garments were

made of dressed deerskins. Parley P. Pratt, in his autobiography,

speaks of passing through a settlement where "some families were

entirely dressed in skins, without any other clothing, including

ladies young and old."

* "When the merchants sold a calico or gingham dress pattern they

threw in their profit by giving a spool of thread (two hundred

yards), hooks and eyes and lining. In the thread business,

however, it was only a few years after that thirty and fifty yard

spools took the place of the two hundred yards."--"History of

Daviess County", p. 161.

The pioneer agriculturist of those days not only lacked the

transportation facilities and improved agricultural appliances

which have assisted the developers of the Northwest, but they did

not even understand the nature and capability of the soil. The

newcomers in western Missouri looked on the rich prairie land as

worthless, and they almost invariably directed their course to

the timber, where the soil was more easily broken up, and

material for buildings was available. The first attempts to

plough the prairie sod were very primitive. David Dailey made the

first trial in Jackson County with what was called a "barshear

plough" (drawn by from four to eight yokes of oxen), the "shear"

of which was fastened to the beam. This cut the sod in one

direction pretty well, but when he began to cross-furrow, the sod

piled up in front of the plough and stopped his progress.

Determined to see what the soil would grow, he cut holes in the

sod with an axe, and in these dropped his seed. The first sod was

broken in Daviess County in 1834, with a plough made to order,

"to see what the prairies amounted to in the way of raising a

crop." Such was the country toward which the first Mormon

missionaries turned their faces.

We have seen that the first intimation in the Mormon records of a

movement to the West was found in Smith's order to Oliver Cowdery

in 1830 to go and establish the church among the Lamanites

(Indians), and that Rigdon expected that the church would remain

in Ohio, when he wrote to his flock from Palmyra. The four

original missionaries--Cowdery, P. P. Pratt, Peter Whitmer, and

Peterson--did not stop long in Kirtland, but, taking with them

Frederick G. Williams, they pushed on westward to Sandusky,

Cincinnati, and St. Louis, preaching to some Indians on the way,

until they reached Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, early

in 1831. That county forms a part of the western border of the

state, and from 1832, until the railroad took the place of wagon

trains, Independence was the eastern terminus of the famous Santa

Fe trail, and the point of departure for many companies destined

both for Oregon and California. Pratt, describing their journey

west of St. Louis, says: "We travelled on foot some three hundred

miles, through vast prairies and through trackless wilds of snow;

no beaten road, houses few and far between. We travelled for

whole days, from morning till night, without a house or fire. We

carried on our backs our changes of clothing, several books, and

corn bread and raw pork."*

* "Autobiography of P. P. Pratt," p. 54.

The sole idea of these pioneers seemed to be to preach to the

Indians. Arriving at Independence, Whitmer and Peterson went to

work to support themselves as tailors, while Cowdery and Pratt

crossed the border into the Indian country. The latter, however,

were at once pronounced by the federal officers there to be

violators of the law which forbade the settlement of white men

among the Indians, and they returned to Independence, and

preached thereabout during the winter. Early in February the four

decided that Pratt should return to Kirtland and make a report,

and he did so, travelling partly on foot, partly on horseback,

and partly by steamer.

As early as March, 1830, Smith had conceived the idea (or some

one else for him) of a gathering of the elect "unto one place" to

prepare for the day of desolation (Sec. 29). In October, 1830,

the four pioneers were commanded to start "into the wilderness

among the Lamanites," and on January 2, 1831, while Rigdon was

visiting Smith in New York State, another "revelation" (Sec. 38)

described the land of promise as "a land flowing with milk and

honey, upon which there shall be no curse when the Lord cometh."

This land they and their children were to possess, both "while

the earth shall stand, and again in eternity." A "revelation"

(Sec. 45), dated March 7, 1831, at Kirtland, called on the

faithful to assemble and visit the Western countries, where they

were promised an inheritance, to be called "the New Jerusalem, a

land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints

of most High God." These things they were to "keep from going

abroad into the world" for the present.

The manner in which the elect were told by "revelation" that they

should possess their land of promise has a most important bearing

on the justification of the opposition which the Missourians soon

manifested toward their new neighbors. In one of these

"revelations," dated Kirtland, February, 1831 (Sec. 42), Christ

is represented as saying, "I will consecrate the riches of the

Gentiles unto my people which are of the house of Israel."

Another, in the following June (Sec. 52), which directed Smith's

and Rigdon's trip, promised the elect, "If ye are faithful ye

shall assemble yourselves together to rejoice upon the land in

Missouri, which is the land of your inheritance, WHICH IS NOW THE

LAND OF YOUR ENEMIES." Another, given while Smith was in

Missouri, in August, 1831 (Sec. 59), promised to those "who have

come up into this land with an eye single to My glory," that

"they shall inherit the earth," and "shall receive for their

reward the good things of the earth." On the same date the Saints

were told that they should "open their hearts even to purchase

the whole region of country as soon as time will permit,...lest

they receive none inheritance save it be by the shedding of

blood." It seems to have been thought wise to add to this last

statement, after the return of the party to Ohio, and a

"revelation" dated August, 1831 (Sec. 63), was given out, stating

that the land of Zion could be obtained only "by purchase or by

blood," and "as you are forbidden to shed blood, lo, your enemies

are upon you, and ye shall be scourged from city to city."

* Tullidge, in his "History of Salt Lake City" (1886), defining

the early Mormon view of their land rights, after quoting Brigham

Young's declaration to the first arrivals in Salt Lake Valley,

that he (or the church) had "no land to sell," but "every man

should have his land measured out to him for city and family

purposes," says: "Young could with absolute propriety give the

above utterances on the land question. In the early days of the

church they applied to land not only owned by the United States,

but within the boundaries of states of the Union." After quoting

from the above-cited "revelation" the words "save they be by the

shedding of blood," he explains, "The latter clause of the

quotation signifies that the Mormon prophet foresaw that, unless

his disciples purchased 'this whole region of country' of the

unpopulated Far West of that period, the land question held

between them and anti-Mormons would lead to the shedding of

blood, and that they would be in jeopardy of losing their

inheritance; and this was realized."

As to their obligation to pay for any of the "good things"

purchased of their enemies, a "revelation" dated September 11,

1831 (the month after the return from Missouri), gave this


"Behold it is said in my laws, or forbidden, to get in debt to

thine enemies;

"But behold it is not said at any time, that the Lord should not

take when he pleased, and pay as seemeth him good.

"Wherefore as ye are agents, and ye are on the Lord's errand; and

whatever ye do according to the will of the Lord, it is the

Lord's business, and it is the Lord's business to provide for his

Saints in these last days, that they may obtain an inheritance in

the land of Zion."--"Book of Commandments," Chap. 65.

In the modern version of this "revelation" to be found in Sec. 64

of the "Doctrine and Covenants," the latter part of this

declaration is changed to read, "And he hath set you to provide

for his saints in these last days," etc.

So eager were the Saints to occupy their land of Zion, when the

movement started, that the word of "revelation" was employed to

give warning against a hasty rush to the new possessions, and to

establish a certain supervision of the emigration by the Bishop

and other agents of the church. Notwithstanding this, the rush

soon became embarrassing to the church authorities in Missouri,

and a modified view of the Lord's promise was thus stated in the

Evening and Morning Star of July, 1832, "Although the Lord has

said that it is his business to provide for the Saints in these

last days, he is not BOUND to do so unless we observe his sayings

and keep them." Saints in the East were warned against giving

away their property before moving, and urged not to come to

Missouri without some means, and to bring with them cattle and

improved breeds of sheep and hogs, with necessary seeds.

The Different Accounts Of The Revelation Of The Bible The Evacuation Of Nauvoo - The Last Mormon War facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail