The Joseph Smith manual on persecution. http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=da135f74db46c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=5858b00367c45110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1&contentLocale=0
As usual the most damning writings about the church come from the official sources. The lesson manual talks about Liberty Jail and other “persecutions” coming because of the saints’ religious beliefs and ignores some of their own acts and statements, like Sidney Rigdon’s “Salt Sermon”, that contributed to their being attacked.
For example, a quote from Joseph Smith himself:
“Our religious principles are before the world ready for the investigation of all men, yet we are aware that all the persecution against our friends has arisen in consequence of calumnies [false charges] and misconstructions without foundation in truth and righteousness. This we have endured in common with all other religious societies at their first commencement.”
But, what about polygamy, which was practiced in secret until the 1850s, what about the attacks on non-Mormon settlers, etc? The thing that actually precipitated the Saints being run out of Far West is that in the Battle of Crooked River, where David Patten was killed, they actually engaged a unit of the Missouri State militia:
Regardless of what the facts might have been, the Missourians perceived the Mormons as a threat and reacted accordingly, for reasons having nothing to do with their religious beliefs.
These things in no way justify what was done to the Saints in Far West, but the actual history is not as black/white as the lesson manual says it is. And why do we need to devote an entire chapter to persecution? In what circumstances are members actually persecuted in this day and age, and why would we encourage people to view things that happen to them in this way, as black/white attacks on them because of their religion, as opposed to a more thoughtful analysis of the situation? Mormons are often singled out, but it has more to do with our strange and exclusive behavior than it does our religious beliefs. For example, I was told a story by a member who was invited out to a bar with co-workers and declined, but offered to bring his family to the inviter’s home instead. There is nothing in our religious beliefs that would prohibit going to a work function in a bar. Replying to a fairly non-threatening social engagement with an offer to bring your entire family to someone’s home, where you have to clean up, entertain, maybe have one on one conversation about subjects that are more personal than a work event, have the person’s large family ranging through a possibly childless home, etc, is just unusual.