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Former Missouri governor honored for rescinding Mormon 'extermination order'

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — U.S. Sen. Christopher S. "Kit" Bond, who as Missouri governor in 1976 rescinded the 1838 "extermination order," authorizing the expulsion of Mormons from the state, has been honored by the Mormon History Association for his action 34 years ago.

At the Friday evening awards banquet of its annual conference, the association gave Bond its Thomas L. Kane Award for outstanding service to the Mormon community by a non-Mormon.

Absent because of a scheduling conflict, the senator sent a recorded video message and acceptance of the award.

"You bet I'd do it again," Bond declared regarding his rescission of Gov. Lilburn W. Boggs' 1838 order. "The treatment of the Mormon people in Missouri in the 1830s and beyond was barbaric. Women were raped and tortured. Men were killed by mobs or driven out of state. Their property was stolen. The lucky ones were those who were left alive with nothing and were forced to make their way into a more hospitable state."

What makes it especially hard to understand was that the barbarism was state-sanctioned, Bond said, adding that Boggs' order made it legal to kill anyone who belonged to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"What surprised me was that as late as 1976, the law was still on the books, though thankfully, it had not been enforced and nobody paid attention to it," Bond said.

"We cannot change history, but we certainly ought to be able to learn from it and where possible acknowledge past mistakes," he said. "That was what motivated me to rescind the extermination order in 1976."

Bond said Missouri is now home to more than 100,000 Mormons.

His action rescinding the order was facilitated by a contact from Lyman Edwards, a leader in St. Joseph, Mo., of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Speaking to the audience after Bond's message was shown, Edwards said he contacted then-Gov. Bond in 1975 asking if he would be amenable to rescinding the order. He received an encouraging reply from the governor saying he might be interested.

In February 1976, Edwards recounted that he, his wife and a local Episcopal priest approached the governor at a Republican party banquet about the prospect. Ultimately, Bond attended the conference of Edwards' congregation, and Edwards accepted Bond's executive order "on behalf of the saints of the Restoration movement."

Prior to the presentation to Bond, the association awarded a special citation to the Missouri State Archives for a significant contribution to the study of Mormon history.

In presenting the citation, association executive director Patricia Lyn Scott said that in September 2006, the archives and the Columbia Missouri Stake of the LDS Church co-sponsored a conference of history in commemoration of Mormon history in Missouri. To complement that event, the archives began digitizing records related to Mormon history and making them accessible on a website. The records included the 1838 extermination order.

Also at the awards banquet, Richard and Claudia Bushman, prominent Mormon scholars, each were presented the Leonard J. Arrington Award for distinguished and meritorious service to Mormon history.

The association also gave the following awards for articles and books published in the past year:

Best book — Matthew J. Grow's "Liberty to the Downtrodden: Thomas L. Kane, Romantic Reformer."

Best first book — Megan Sanborn Jones' "Performing American Identity in Anti-Mormon Melodrama."

Best biography — Polly Aird's "Mormon Convert, Mormon Defector: A Scottish Immigrant in the American West, 1841-1861."

Best documentary (two winners) — "Eliza R. Snow: the Complete Poetry," edited by Jill Mulvay Derr and Karen Lyn Davidson; and "Mountain Meadows Massacre: The Andrew Jenson and David H. Morris Collection," edited by Richard E. Turley Jr. and Ronald W. Walker.

Best international book — Roger P. Minert's "In Harm's Way: East German Latter-day Saints in World War II."

Best article — Samuel Brown's "Joseph Smith in Egypt: Babel, Hieroglyphics and the Pure Language of Eden."

Best dissertation — Jonathan Moyer's "Dancing with the Devil: The Making of the Mormon Republican Pact."

Best thesis (two winners) — Debra Marsh's "Respectable Assassins: A Collective Biography and Social Economic Study of the Carthage Mob"; and Caye Wycoff's "Markets and the Mormon Conflict in Nauvoo, Illinois, 1839-1846."

Best undergraduate student paper — Joseph T. Antley's "Early America's Treasure Quest: The Effort to Recapture the Supernatural in the Northeast."

Best graduate student paper — Matthew Bowman's "Matthew Philip Gill and Joseph Smith: The Dynamics of Mormon Schism."