Romney win in Missouri bears historical significance
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Romney win in Missouri bears historical significance

Date: November 8, 2012
By: Nick Thompson
State Capitol Bureau

A 182 year history in Missouri has not always been kind to Mormons, but the Show-Me State elected a Ladder Day Saint to lead the free world this year.
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Wrap: For 137 years, it was technically legal to kill a Mormon in Missouri.

The law was on the books until 1975, when Governor Bond rescinded what was known as the extermination order.

The order was issued in 1838, driving many Mormons out of the state.  

Mormons once held a stronghold in the state when the prophet Joseph Smith pronounced Independence as the location of Zion in 1831.

In the religion, Independence is the New Jerusalem where followers will gather for the second coming of Christ.

But Patrick Mason, author of "The Mormon Menace" says conflict broke out on the frontier.

Missourians didn't like the abolitionist views and polygamy practices of the settlers.


Actuality:  MASON13.WAV
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Description: "It continues to ramp up. Of course when Mormons are driven from their homes in Jackson County in 1833, they harbor those resentments. And that carries forward into 1838, when it breaks out into open hostilities, even open warfare between Mormons and non-Mormons in Missouri."

Clay County lawmaker Alexander Doniphans' led the charge to create Caldwell county in 1836 - a reservation for the Mormons.

But the Mormons quickly spilled in to other counties.  

An election riot at Gallatin in Daviess County in 1838, began the Mormon War.

Mason says Missourian's tolerance faded after the riot.

Actuality:  MASON1.WAV
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Description: "What are the limits of the religious tolerance in America. In a religiously diverse and plural country, how far is too far and what can the country accept an tolerate and what can it not tolerate, and of course those acts of violence reveal what people on the grassroots level feel was intolerable."

The Morman War raged on and the first Missouri Militia member was killed at a battle in Ray County.

Governor Lilburn Boggs said that was the last straw. 

He issued Executive Order 44, or The Extermination Order, following the battle. 

It declared the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State.

Many Mormons left Missouri for Illinois after the order.

Brigham Young University Professor Spencer Fluhman, author of "A Peculiar People" says nineteenth century Mormons learned to embrace their struggles. 

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Description: "Mormons kinda viewed that history of persecution as giving them kind of a communal identity. This is who we are -- it was kinda the bible story writ large right. We were forced out and went into exile it was kinda that Exodus story in a way."


Mason says to gain greater acceptance, the church gave up polygamy and its political party in the 1890s.
Mason says society also became more tolerant of different faiths.
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Description: "Part of it is just a growing diversity and embrace of religious pluralism in 20th and 21st century America."



Mason says some initial fears about Mitt Romney's Mormonism were similar to fears about John F. Kennedy and a connection to the Vatican.

But Mason says the Republican base quickly learned to embrace the candidate.

Fluhman says contemporary Mormon scholarship looks to bridge understanding of the events in Missouri, but both sides share responsibility in the misunderstanding. 
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Description: "Mormons have internalized over time about their past. And in some ways its a bitter narrative right? it's a narrative of rejection and persecution and blight and exile. And I think Missouri still figures in that story."

The church has over sixty thousand members in Missouri today, and temples in St. Louis and Kansas City.

Missouri's selection of Mitt Romney signals a significant historical change along the fault lines of religion.

Reporting from the state capitol, I'm Nick Thompson.