Newspaper Article *
Religious History of Howell County, Missouri
By Bud Marvin
I have tried to figure out how to start this story and finally I decided to start with my great grandfather being a Baptist preacher, then my father was a Methodist lay preacher and finally I was supposed to be a Methodist minister. I ended up as a Mormon (LDS) elder for the last forty years but have not paid much attention to the history of the church. Once, while on the job at Zenith, my boss told me it was still legal to hang Mormons in Missouri, my first experience with religious prejudice. For years I kind of kept to myself and just went to church on Sunday. Once my father told me, when driving through Willow, “Buddy, that house is a Mormon house”. I thought he was kidding me and did not think about it until a few months ago when I drove by that same house on 137. I have a first cousin whose grandfather was a Mormon in this area and I knew about that house and they were built exactly the same, square with a pyramid roof and flat at the top. Kind of strange but today I realized why they might be built that way. The religion is based on a visit by Jesus to the Myan area in Mexico and the roofs are shaped just the same way as those temples down there are, pyramid like, with a flat top to them.
Now in the last week I have driven around Willow Springs and looked and so far I have marked down on a town map 45 houses. They are also out in the country, one was built in 1886 and the one right across from the First Baptist church was built in 1910. Then I contacted the RLDS office and they sent me the history of the formal church in Willow and it was formed in 1890 by I.A. White. The branch was then dissolved in 1897, but there was a large membership in the area for a lot longer than that. They also told me that houses were built just like that in Independence, Missouri and Lamoni, Iowa. Those houses still stand out as testament to the once large membership of Latter-Day-Saints in these areas. I then found out that the church that Joseph Smith first started up was originally called the “Church of Christ” later it was changed to Latter Day Saints. When Joseph Smith was killed the church went into turmoil and split up in many directions with the two largest groups finally ending up as the Latter Day Saints and the Remnant Latter Day Saints. One LDS group in Salt Lake and the RLDS in Lamoni, Iowa. Finally in 1976 governor Bond rescinded the extermination law that had been put into place back in1838 by Governor Bogg. It was the end of the worst religious discrimination to ever take place in the United States.
The RLDS group has now changed their name to Community of Christ and if you want to get on their web site you can look up your area's history. When I e-mailed them they jumped on Howell County in one day. I was impressed and I'm hard to impress. I simply typed in RLDS, which I thought stood for Reorganized Latter Day Saints, and you’re on the path. I now believe they are people who know the history of their families but think they belonged to one church and actually belonged to the other. Sadly they both believed in Joseph Smiths story.
* This was a letter to the editor, written by Mr. Marvin and published in the Howell County News. I contacted Mr. Marvin and asked permission to publish it on this site. He rewrote the original letter and submitted the above directly to this site. The opinions expressed in the article are those held by Mr. Marvin and may not reflect the options of this site coordinator.