The state of Illinois has issued a public apology for expelling 20,000 Mormons nearly 160 years ago.
On March 24, the Illinois Legislature adopted a resolution seeking “the pardon and forgiveness” of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for “misguided efforts of our citizens, chief executive and the General Assembly” in persecuting Mormons of the time and contributing to the 1844 murder of church founder Joseph Smith.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn will lead a delegation to Utah next Wednesday to present the resolution to LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed wrote Wednesday.
“This is a thoughtful gesture,” said LDS spokesman Dale Bills.
The apology was set in motion, Sneed wrote, when Illinois Alderman Ed Burke and his wife, Judge Anne Burke, visited friends in Utah last year. They ended up at dinner with then Lt. Gov. Olene Walker and her husband, Myron, discussing the rise and fall of the Mormon city of Nauvoo, Ill., once a thriving metropolis that rivaled Chicago.
Ed Burke apparently became fascinated with the story of how the Latter-day Saints were driven from their would-be utopia on the Mississippi by their inhospitable neighbors. The alderman, whom Sneed described as a “closet historian,” discussed the issue with his brother, Rep. Dan Burke, D-Chicago, who drafted the resolution in February.
“The biases and prejudices of a less enlightened age in the history of the State of Illinois caused untold hardship and trauma for the community of Latter-day Saints by the distrust, violence and inhospitable actions of a dark time in our past,” the eight-page resolution said. “We acknowledge the disparity of those past actions and suspicions, regretting the expulsion of the community of Latter-day Saints, a people of faith and hard work.”
In 2002, Hinckley dedicated a five-story replica of the Nauvoo temple — the original was destroyed within about a decade after the Mormons left. Since then, thousands of Latter-day Saints have visited the re-created town.
When Hinckley, 93, heard about the resolution, “he was moved to tears,” Sneed quoted Anne Burke as saying. “Three generations have come and gone since the Mormon expulsion, but to them it’s like it happened yesterday.”