General Alexander Doniphan Refuses Illegal Order to Execute Joseph Smith
After the Missouri Militia ransacked the Mormon settlement of Far West, and had taken Joseph Smith and other LDS Church leaders prisoner, Militia General Lucas ordered their prisoners' execution, but Brigadier General Alexander Doniphan refuses the order, calling it "cold blooded murder".
On October 27, 1838, Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs issued the Mormon Extermination Order. The Missouri Militia was then dispatched to the town of Far West, and other Mormon settlements to "exterminate the Mormons, not excepting the women and children, and burn their houses and otherwise destroy their property." (History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, p. 140)
Four days after the order was issued the Mormons were violently subdued. Joseph Smith, along with eight other church leaders in Far West, were taken prisoner. The church members were ordered leave the state and disband. That night General Samuel Lucas issued the following order:
"SIR:--You will take Joseph Smith and the other prisoners into the public square of Far West, and shoot them at 9 o'clock tomorrow morning.
"SAMUEL D. LUCAS,
General Doniphan's indignant response to the order by his superior officer was:
"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.
"W. W. DONIPHAN,
The "History of Caldwell County" records that, "The prisoners somehow heard of the order, and kneeled in prayer, and prayed fervently that it might not be executed. And it was not. Flagrantly insubordinate as was General Doniphan's refusal, he was never called to account for it. The 'Mormons' have always remembered General Doniphan's humanity on this occasion, as well as on others, and when, in 1873, he went to Salt Lake City, he was received with much feeling, and shown every regard and attention by Brigham Young and the other authorities of the Church and city, and by even the masses of the people.".
Regarding the violence at Far West and their capture, Parley P. Pratt writes, "As we arose and commenced our march on the morning of the 3rd of November, Joseph Smith spoke to me and the other prisoners, in a low, but cheerful and confidential tone; said he: 'Be of good cheer, brethren; the word of the Lord came to me last night that our lives should be given us, and that whatever we may suffer during this captivity, not one of our lives shall be taken.' Of this prophecy I testify in the name of the Lord, and, though spoken in secret, its public fulfillment and the miraculous escape of each one of us is too notorious to need my testimony."
Rather than executing the prisoners, the militia marched them to Independence, Missouri to protect them from execution and await incarceration. On this matter Parley P. Pratt repeats a statement made by Militia General Wilson which went as follows: "It was repeatedly insinuated, by the other officers and troops that we should hang you prisoners on the first tree we came to on the way to Independence. But I'll be damned if anybody shall hurt you. We just intend to exhibit you in Independence, let the people look at you, and see what a damned set of fine fellows you are. And, more particularly, to keep you from that old bigot of a General Clark and his troops, from down country who are so stuffed with lies and prejudice that they would shoot you down in a moment."
History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, p. 140
History of Caldwell County, p. 137
Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt
History of the Church, Vol.3