Illinois · Religion

“Christian spy” stabbed to death

September 16, 1845
Nauvoo, Illinois
Phineas Wilcox is stabbed to death after members of the Church of Latter-day Saints suspect him of being a Christian spy

The members of the Church of Latter-day Saints had been facing religious persecution from the community since at least 1838 when Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs signed a military order to kill or forcibly remove Mormons from the area, stating “The Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state, if necessary, for the public good.”

The group fled the state into Nauvoo, Illinois where they didn’t fare much better; the newspapers ran editorials calling the Mormon leaders frauds. LDS founder Joseph Smith ordered the newspaper office be destroyed which resulted in his arrest and subsequent murder at the hands of a lynch mob.

Phineus Wilcox, who has left very little record of his life behind, was suspected by LDS leader Brigham Young as being a Christian spy sent to gather evidence against the church. He was stabbed to death becoming one of the first victims of “blood atonement,” a controversial doctrine created by Brigham Young which asserts some sins are too great to be covered by the atonement of Jesus and thus require blood shed upon the ground as a sacrificial offering, to be carried out with love and compassion as it would be better for the accused to suffer briefly at the end of their life than endure an eternity of torment.

Approximately a year after Wilcox’s murder, a group of 2000 anti-Mormons marched on the Mormons, forcing their journey from Illinois to Utah.

Clipping from “The Story of the Mormons: From the Date of Their Origin to the Year 1901” by William Alexander Lin, published 1902

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