The Book of Mormon is a sacred text of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that church members believe to be authored by the prophet Mormon and later translated by Joseph Smith. The book recounts the prophet’s story of ancient America while also offering context to the Mormon experience and religious philosophy. This first edition Book of Mormon serves as a reminder of the Mormon settlements and their fight to build a religious community in Missouri in the 1830s.
A belief in this book encouraged hundreds to follow Joseph Smith to Northwest Missouri, where they faced religious and political conflict with already-established settlers throughout the 1830s. Following Smith’s revelation of Western Missouri as Zion, Mormon families rushed to Jackson County to establish a religious settlement. Religious and political differences between settlers resulted in the citizens of Jackson County evicting church members from their community. After a brief time in Clay County, they settled in Caldwell County, which the state assembly created for them. The increased number of Mormon migrants to Western Missouri led to their settlement in surrounding counties. On August 6, 1838, vigilante threats escalated to armed violence as white Missourians tried to prevent Mormons from voting in Daviess County. Violence continued in late October when a Mormon paramilitary unit attacked a company of the authorized state militia in the Battle of Crooked River. In the aftermath, Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs issued an “Extermination Order” calling for Mormons to be driven from the state or killed. This order incited violence against Mormon communities and forced most church members to flee Missouri for Eastern Illinois, where soon after Smith was murdered and they were evicted again. The Mormon, under the leadership of Brigham Young, eventually sought refuge in what is now the state of Utah.