Illinois Public Officials Apologize To Mormons

The state of Illinois has formally apologized for its treatment of the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and thousands of its followers who were forced from the state more than 100 years ago.

In April, the state House of Representatives passed a resolution apologizing for the state's treatment of Mormons, who founded Nauvoo, Ill., in 1839, and for the murder in 1844 of Joseph Smith, founder of the church.

A week after the House passed Resolution 793, a group of Illinois officials visited Salt Lake City to announce the state's apology. In 1846, the new leader of the church, Brigham Young, led tens of thousands of Mormons on a 1,300-mile exodus from Illinois to Salt Lake City following two years of "violent acts against the community of Latter Day Saints," the resolution stated.

Before settling in Nauvoo, Smith and his community of some 15,000 fellow Mormons were chased from New York, Ohio and Missouri.

Some Mormon beliefs and practices, mainly polygamy, were controversial, and opponents charged that Smith, who served as mayor of Nauvoo, was trying to silence his critics. In 1844, Illinois Gov. Thomas Ford jailed Smith and his brother Hyrum for their involvement in the destruction of an anti-Mormon newspaper. A mob subsequently stormed the jail in Carthage, Ill., and killed both men.

At the Salt Lake City ceremony, Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and a state judge met with Utah Gov. Olene S. Walker and Mormon leaders at a church administration building to apologize for the state's treatment of Mormons. At a press conference following the meeting, Quinn said that the people of Illinois "are tolerant" and "believe in religious freedom."