He informed the people that they had a set of men among them that had dissented from the church and were doing all in their power to destroy the presidency, laying plans to take their lives &c., accused them of counterfeiting, lying, cheating and numerous other crimes and called on the people to rise en masse and rid the county of such a nuisance. He said it is the duty of this people to trample them into the earth, and if the county cannot be freed from them any other way I will assist to trample them down or to erect a gallows on the Square of Far West and hang them up as they did the gamblers at Vicksburg and it would be an act at which the angels would smile with approbation.
Rigdon's strongly-worded sermon may have played a significant role in encouraging the dissenters to leave the county. In case it wasn't sufficient, Rigdon wrote letters to various leading dissenters—Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, John Whitmer, William W. Phelps, and Lyman E. Johnson—informing them that
you shall have three days after you receive this communication to you, including twenty-four hours in each day, for you to depart with your families peaceably; which you may do undisturbed by any person; but in that time, if you do not depart, we will use the means in our power to cause you to depart; for go you shall.
The second speech was Rigdon's 1838 Fourth of July oration given at Far West, which was characterized by Mormon historian Brigham Henry Roberts as a "'Declaration of Independence' from all mobs and persecutions. These speeches are believed by some to represent the beginning of the Missouri Mormon War. The closing passages of the July 4th speech state,
But from this day and this hour we will suffer it no more. We take God and all the holy angels to witness, this day, that we warn all men, in the name of Jesus Christ to come on us no more for ever, for from this hour we will bear it no more; our rights shall no more be trampled on with impunity; the man, or the set of men who attempt it, do it at the expense of their lives. And that mob that comes on us to disturb us, it shall be between us and them a war of extermination; for we will follow them until the last drop of their blood is spilled; or else they will have to exterminate us, for we will carry the seat of war to their own houses and their own families, and one party or the other shall be utterly destroyed. Remember it then, all men. We will never be the aggressors, we will infringe on the rights of no people, but shall stand for our own until death.
Two months later, open conflict developed in Daviess County. After the fall of Dewitt in Carroll County, the Mormons feared that the non-Mormons would run them out of Daviess County.
Justice of the Peace Philip Covington provided a sworn deposition in Daviess County that on 18 September 1838, he witnessed a band of 100 or more Mormon men march into Gallatin and drive out the citizens, before robbing and burning the store and Post Office. On 20 September, a group of 25 armed Mormons informed Covington that he had until the following morning to leave the county, or he and his family would be attacked.
Several non-Mormons attested that on 18 October 1838, on orders from Joseph Smith, a band of Mormons burned almost every building in Gallatin to the ground after robbing all items of value they could remove.
Lucas issued a set of four demands to the inhabitants of Far West:
Back in Far West Hyrum Smith and Brigham Young advised all the "Crooked River boys" to flee northward out of the state "for, if found, they will be shot down like dogs." Nearly seventy left.
Brigadier-General Doniphan: Sir:—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. Samuel D. Lucas, Major-General Commanding.
General Doniphan refused to carry out the order of death given by his superiors stating it was illegal and "cold-blooded murder," as he felt that Mormon leaders should not be tried by a military tribunal.
Ebenezer Robinson described the scene at Far West,
"General Clark made the following speech to the brethren on the public square:...'The orders of the governor to me were, that you should be exterminated, and not allowed to remain in the state, and had your leaders not been given up, and the terms of the treaty complied with, before this, you and your families would have been destroyed and your houses in ashes.'
The Far West militia was marched out of the city and forced to turn over their weapons to General Lucas. The men under the command of Lucas were then allowed to ransack the city to search for weapons. Brigham Young recounts that, once the militia was disarmed, Lucas's men were turned loose on the city:
[T]hey commenced their ravages by plundering the citizens of their bedding, clothing, money, wearing apparel, and every thing of value they could lay their hands upon, and also attempting to violate the chastity of the women in sight of their husbands and friends, under the pretence of hunting for prisoners and arms. The soldiers shot down our oxen, cows, hogs and fowls, at our own doors, taking part away and leaving the rest to rot in the streets. The soldiers also turned their horses into our fields of corn.
B.H. Roberts wrote 62 years later that, "[t]he chastity of a number of women was defiled by force; some of them were strapped to benches and repeatedly ravished by brutes in human form until they died from the effects of this treatment. However, Mormon historian Stephen C. LeSueur notes,
Nearly all reports of rape are based on hearsay and rumors, and are not now believed to be true, even by LDS historians. In addition, the reports are generally vague and often exaggerated ... Charles Morehead, the representative of the state legislature from Ray County, said during a debate that 'he was in Far West when one of these reports was started, and he assisted in attempting to ascertain the truth, and the Mormons themselves admitted that it was false' (Missouri Republican, 24 December 1838).
Meanwhile, the crime was investigated. Sheriff J.H. Reynolds discovered a revolver at the scene, still loaded with buckshot. He surmised that the perpetrator had fired upon Boggs and lost his firearm in the night when the weapon recoiled due to its unusually large shot. The gun was found to have been stolen from a local shopkeeper, who identified "that hired man of Ward's" as the most likely culprit. Reynolds determined the man in question was Orrin Porter Rockwell, a close associate of the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, Jr.. However, Reynolds was unable to capture Rockwell.
Some Mormons saw the assassination attempt positively: An anonymous contributor to The Wasp, a pro-Mormon newspaper in Nauvoo, Illinois, wrote on May 28 that "Boggs is undoubtedly killed according to report; but who did the noble deed remains to be found out." Rockwell denied involvement in oblique terms, stating that he had "done nothing criminal" —although it is debatable whether he would consider shooting the hated former governor a crime.
Also at about this time, John C. Bennett, a disaffected Mormon, reported that Smith had offered a cash reward to anyone who would assassinate Boggs, and that Smith had admitted to him that Rockwell had done the deed. He went on to say that Rockwell had made a veiled threat against Bennett's life if he publicised the story. Joseph Smith vehemently denied Bennett's account, speculating that Boggs—no longer governor, but campaigning for state senate—was attacked by an election opponent. Mormon writer Monte B. McLaws, in the Missouri Historical Review, supported Smith, averring that while there was no clear finger pointing to anyone, Governor Boggs was running for election against several violent men, all capable of the deed, and that there was no particular reason to suspect Rockwell of the crime. This opinion was not shared by Rockwell's most noted biographer, Harold Schindler. Whatever the case, the following year Rockwell was arrested, tried, and acquitted of the attempted murder (Bushman, p. 468), although most of Boggs' contemporaries remained convinced of his guilt. It is likely that one of the turning points in Rockwell's trial was when he was allowed to demonstrate his shooting skills before the court. After an impressive display on the courthouse lawn, he asked the jurors "Do you suppose the sonofabitch would still be alive if it were I who shot him?"
WHEREAS, on October 27, 1838, the Governor of the State of Missouri, Lilburn W. Boggs, signed an order calling for the extermination or expulsion of Mormons from the State of Missouri; and
WHEREAS, Governor Boggs' order clearly contravened the rights to life, liberty, property and religious freedom as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, as well as the Constitution of the State of Missouri; and
WHEREAS, in this bicentennial year as we reflect on our nation's heritage, the exercise of religious freedom is without question one of the basic tenets of our free democratic republic;
Now, THEREFORE, I, CHRISTOPHER S. BOND, Governor of the State of Missouri, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the State of Missouri, do hereby order as follows:
Expressing on behalf of all Missourians our deep regret for the injustice and undue suffering which was caused by the 1838 order, I hereby rescind Executive Order Number 44, dated October 27, 1838, issued by Governor W. Boggs.
In witness I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the great seal of the State of Missouri, in the city of Jefferson, on this 25 day of June, 1976.
(Signed) Christopher S. Bond, Governor.