Richmond, Missouri

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Richmond, Missouri, a city in Ray County, is a place of significance in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is located about 40 miles east of Independence/Kansas City, Missouri.

Joseph Smith imprisoned in Richmond

In 1838, Joseph Smith was imprisoned with his associates in an old log building in Richmond for more than two weeks while a hearing was held to see if they should be tried for an assortment of trumped up charges. Parley P. Pratt recalled that the prisoners were abused by the guards who, with obscene oaths, boasted of the atrocities they had committed against Church members.

Elder Pratt said he could scarcely refrain from rebuking the guards when Joseph rose and “in a voice of thunder,” said:
“SILENCE, ye fiends of the infernal pit. In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still; I will not live another minute and bear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die THIS INSTANT.”
According to Elder Pratt, the “quailing guards” lowered their weapons, their knees “smote together,” they shrank into a corner or crouched at the Prophet’s feet and begged his pardon.

Pratt later wrote “I have seen the ministers of justice, clothed in magisterial robes, and criminals arraigned before them, while life was suspended on a breath, in the Courts of England; I have witnessed a Congress in solemn session to give laws to nations; I have tried to conceive of kings, of royal courts, of thrones and crowns; and of emperors assembled to decide the fate of kingdoms; but dignity and majesty have I seen but once, as it stood in chains, at midnight, in a dungeon in an obscure village of Missouri.”[1]

Home of David Whitmer

Richmond was the home of David Whitmer for the last four decades of his life. He is buried in Richmond, as is his brother-in-law Oliver Cowdery. The Church has maintained the property where Oliver is buried and the Three Witnesses Monument was erected by the Church there in 1911. The Tabernacle Choir performed in the historic Ferris Theater in Richmond at the dedication of the Three Witnesses Monument in 1911.

Alexander Doniphan Statue

Alexander W. Doniphan is honored with a bronze statue in front of the Ray County Courthouse in Richmond. The statue recognizes his heroism in the 1846 war with Mexico and his other civic-minded deeds. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ will remember him for his defense of Joseph Smith.

Soon after Missouri governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued his Mormon Extermination Order of 27 October 1838, which declared that “the Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state” (History of the Church, 3:175), Brigadier General Alexander W. Doniphan received the following order from his superior officer:
“You will take Joseph Smith and the other prisoners into the public square of Far West, and shoot them at 9 o’clock to-morrow morning.”
To this command, General Doniphan replied: “It is cold-blooded murder. I will not obey your order. My brigade shall march for Liberty tomorrow morning, at 8 o’clock; and if you execute these men, I will hold you responsible before an earthly tribunal, so help me God.”[2]

Missouri governor Mel Carnahan issued a proclamation declaring October 27, 1994—the 156th anniversary of the Extermination Order—as Brigadier General Alexander W. Doniphan Day, in part because of “the personal convictions, strength of character, courage, and respect for the rule of law displayed by Brigadier General Alexander W. Doniphan, [that] saved the life of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.”[3]

Doniphan lived in nearby Liberty. He died on August 8, 1887, in Richmond and was buried in Liberty.

Mormon History Room

The Ray County Historical Society and Museum has a “Mormon History Room," which was updated and refurbished through the efforts of George J. Van Komen who presided over the Missouri Independence Mission.