Thursday, March 3, 2011

A dire prophecy fulfilled

While Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail, the saints were driven from Missouri under harsh conditions. We talk a lot about the three revelations—D&C 121,122, and 123—that Joseph Smith received, in particular about how they comfort us in our afflictions. One thing that we don’t hear much about at all is the prophecy in D&C 121 about the Lord’s judgments upon the saints’ persecutors. It has very strong statements in it:
11 And they who do charge thee with transgression, their hope shall be blasted, and their prospects shall melt away as the hoar frost melteth before the burning rays of the rising sun;
12 And also that God hath set his hand and seal to change the times and seasons, and to blind their minds, that they may not understand his marvelous workings; that he may prove them also and take them in their own craftiness;
13 Also because their hearts are corrupted, and the things which they are willing to bring upon others, and love to have others suffer, may come upon themselves to the very uttermost;
14 That they may be disappointed also, and their hopes may be cut off;
15 And not many years hence, that they and their posterity shall be swept from under heaven, saith God, that not one of them is left to stand by the wall.
16 Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them.
17 But those who cry transgression do it because they are the servants of sin, and are the children of disobedience themselves.
18 And those who swear falsely against my servants, that they might bring them into bondage and death—
19 Wo unto them; because they have offended my little ones they shall be severed from the ordinances of mine house.
20 Their basket shall not be full, their houses and their barns shall perish, and they themselves shall be despised by those that flattered them.
21 They shall not have right to the priesthood, nor their posterity after them from generation to generation.
22 It had been better for them that a millstone had been hanged about their necks, and they drowned in the depth of the sea.
23 Wo unto all those that discomfort my people, and drive, and murder, and testify against them, saith the Lord of Hosts; a generation of vipers shall not escape the damnation of hell.
24 Behold, mine eyes see and know all their works, and I have in reserve a swift judgment in the season thereof, for them all;
25 For there is a time appointed for every man, according as his works shall be. (D&C 121:11-25)
Every time I ran across these verses in my reading, I would wonder how they were fulfilled. So I did some research.
While the Prophet Joseph Smith was being held in Liberty Jail, a man offered the Prophet’s lawyer, Alexander Doniphan, a tract of land in Jackson County in payment of a debt. When the man left, the Prophet told Mr. Doniphan:

“I advise you not to take Jackson county land in payment of the debt. God’s wrath hangs over Jackson county. God’s people have been ruthlessly driven from it, and you will live to see the day when it will be visited by fire and sword. The Lord of Hosts will sweep it with the besom of destruction. The fields and farms and houses will be destroyed, and only the chimneys will be left to mark the desolation” (in B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:538).

Alexander Doniphan later remarked that he was reminded of this prophecy when Jackson County was devastated during the Civil War. (Doctrine & Covenants Seminary Teacher’s Manual)
Because the saints’ grievances were not redressed, those in Missouri who perpetrated the persecution were not brought to justice. Because they were not brought to justice, mobbing, plunder, persecution, and murder continued to be the favorite method of solving conflict. They resorted to intimidation and mobbing to try to influence elections in Kansas, which brought about the bleeding Kansas war just before the Civil war. (Find out about what happened during Bleeding Kansas and you'll see that was just business as usual for Missouri.) They resorted to mobbing and plunder during the Civil war in guerrilla groups, ostensibly for the Confederacy, but under no military control. Remember the Haun’s Mill massacre? It led to worse. A number of guerrilla bands combined together in 1863 to attack a town called Lawrence in Kansas and they killed 134 men and wounded at least 20 others. In response to that, Union General Ewing issued Order No 11, which commanded that residents of four western Missouri counties (one of which was Jackson county) leave their homes and the area, unless they could prove their loyalty to the Union. Even those who could prove loyalty had to move near military outposts. As the Missourians left those counties, the Union troops burned, looted, destroyed property and murdered men at will, against orders, taking revenge, in their view, for all the destruction the guerrillas had caused. The four counties became a devastated "no-man's-land", with only charred chimneys and burnt stubble showing where homes and thriving communities had once stood.

In this way the prophecy was fulfilled that the things which the Missourians were willing to bring upon others would come upon them to the very uttermost. Their houses and barns indeed perished. Joseph Smith’s prophecy to Alexander Doniphan was also fulfilled.

To read more about the circumstances of Order No. 11, you can read
“General Order No. 11 (1863),” Wikipedia
"Order No. 11 and the Civil War on the Border," Albert Castel
Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States during the Civil War, wrote:

“Whereas when our own beloved country, once, by the blessing of God, united, prosperous, and happy, is now afflicted with faction and civil war, it is peculiarly fit for us to recognize the hand of God in this terrible visitation, and in sorrowful remembrance of our own faults and crimes as a nation and as individuals, to humble ourselves before him and to pray for his mercy—to pray that we may be spared further punishment, though most justly deserved” (“Proclamation of a National Fast Day, Aug. 12, 1861,” in The Speeches of Abraham Lincoln [1908], 339–40, as quoted by Doctrine & Covenants Seminary Teacher’s Manual).
Other parts of Joseph Smith’s prophecy were fulfilled as well, through the instrumentality of Missouri’s financial affairs. The book Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri’s Civil War, 1861-1865 by Mark W. Geiger is a highly insightful account of how financial fraud contributed to the extraordinary levels of guerrilla violence in Missouri during and after the Civil War and led to Missouri acquiring the reputation of being “the robber state.” The downfall of Missouri’s planter elite is clearly described. The following is my summary of what his book describes.

Right around 1857, the Missouri legislature decided to revamp their banking laws to make it easier to get credit and do business and trade. (At that time, each bank had its own currency it could only be used in the region near that bank. So a traveler who wanted to do business in a faraway place, had to exchange currencies multiple times on their journey and each time, they had to pay a fee for it.)

The Missouri legislature made some very good banking laws that required the banks to have a lot of specie reserves and have a lot of investment before they could do business. This made them very stable. However, Missouri lawmakers also wanted to protect slavery, so they deliberately prevented any but pro-slavery people from starting a bank. Savings banks existed, but they were very small and only the pro-slavery state banks could print currency. (Through the rest of this summary, all mention of banks refer to state banks.)

At the very beginning of the Civil War, when states were deciding to secede from the Union, Missouri’s elite slave-holders wanted to secede. But a majority of the voters in the state voted NOT to secede. The governor tried to arrange secretly for the state government to borrow money to buy weapons so they could join and fight for the Confederacy, but the legislature opposed it when the plan was made public. So, all the pro-slavery and Confederate sympathizers who ran Missouri’s banks began to make lots of short-term loans to their families and extended families and friends using bank money so that they could buy weapons and ammunition. The pro-slavery bankers were also worried that the United States government would take over the Missouri banks and take away all the money, so they thought making lots of loans would be a way to prevent that and keep the money out of Union reach. They also thought that the war would be very short and the confederate side would win. Also, the Confederacy promised to help pay back any loans if the people couldn’t repay it themselves. They borrowed lots of the bank money themselves and they cosigned loans for others to borrow lots of money too. This was all VERY DISHONEST. Most of these loans were made in the spring and summer of 1861. They were scheduled to be repaid at the end of the year.

By the end of 1861, though, many of those loans were not repaid. Also, the banks had loaned so much money away that they were broke. The banks were also in debt to each other and couldn’t repay each other. There was no government bailout and the confederate government couldn’t help.

By late 1862, Union forces were able to get rid of most of the pro-slavery bankers and replace them with Union-sympathizing bankers. The only way the new Union bankers could fix the banks was by collecting on all the bad debts by taking to court all the people who had borrowed money and hadn’t repaid. So they did.

The debt collection efforts took years, but it also set off a chain reaction of bankruptcies. Each loan had a number of people who cosigned it and who were all liable for repaying any shortfall. Those debtors often took out multiple loans. And there was no orderly way to prioritize who would get repaid first, so if one person was taken to court over a debt, then all his other creditors would file suit too to try to keep from being the last one repaid with nothing. Then all the people (family and friends) who cosigned the loan with them had to go to court too, and all the other creditors of those people would file suit against them and it would spread from family to family to family like wildfire.

These Confederate debtors got no sympathy in the Missouri courts, since the Union had also gotten rid of Confederate judges and appointed Union judges. Union forces had implemented a loyalty oath for government office and only people who had taken a loyalty oath to the Union could vote, so Confederate sympathizers were effectively disenfranchised. The press was also censored. And no legislative bills for debt relief were passed. The banks gradually collected on the debts by seizing debtors’ property and selling it, and when it was all over, most of the defendants had no property left. (123 lawsuits of this kind occurred in Jackson County.)

History has noted that guerrilla warfare was worse in Missouri than any other Confederate state, but it so happens that there is just enough evidence to suggest that a number of young men who came from indebted elite families became guerrillas out of bitterness at their loss and lack of prospects and out of desire to avenge their families.

Also, in comparing between different Confederate states, it was found that those wealthy citizens of Missouri were much more downwardly mobile (i.e. they lost social status) than wealthy citizens in other Confederate states. In other states, the plantation system survived the war, but in Missouri, the large properties were sold off and bought up by immigrants from other states because so few Missourians had extra money.

The above is my less-nuanced summary of some of the main points in Geiger’s book. In reading it, it became perfectly obvious to me that this was also fulfillment of Joseph Smith’s prophecy. The elite Missourians were blinded. They were taken in their own financial craftiness when the times and seasons and reins of power shifted. Then their hopes were blasted, their prospects melted away (as they lost their property), they were disappointed, they were despised by those who used to flatter them (they sunk to lower levels of society and were no longer admired as elites and leaders or they left).

I am not sharing this information with the intent of raising feelings of schadenfreude, but rather to show that the word of the Lord to Joseph Smith was fulfilled in this instance just as it was in the better-known instance of his Civil War prophecy.

3 comments:

Kimberly said...

Wow! Thank you for doing all that research and sharing, very insightful.

grego said...

Michaela,

I'm impressed with your articles and the thought and study in them. It's a great balance between "the word" and "beyond the word", and applying "the word".

grego

Becca said...

I, too, love your posts. This one particularly. I have always kind of wondered what would/had happened to Missouri because of all the horrible things they did to the saints. Definitely no sachedenfreude here - but definitely more understanding. Thank you so much for sharing this.