Remembering Elder Joseph Standing

Monday, August 5, 2019
A memorial service was held in honor of Elder Joseph Standing, a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who was killed by a mob near Varnell, Whitfield County, Ga. 140 years ago on July 21, 1879.  
 
Tony Ingle, former Dalton State College basketball coach, who now serves as Bishop of the Dalton ward/congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, presided over the service.  Ron Shinnick, public affairs specialist for the Dalton ward, planned and conducted the event.  Local Chattanoogan, Phil Smartt, paid tribute. 
 
Officials said, "In 1878, Elder Standing was called to serve in the Southern States Mission.  His companion, Elder Rudger Clawson, was called in 1879.  They served without purse or script, and spread the good news and glad tidings of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in accordance with the law.  Standing was 24 years old, and from Salt Lake City, Utah.  Elder Clawson was 22 years old."
 
"Nine days prior to his death, Elder Standing had written to the governor of Georgia, Alfred H.
Colquitt, explaining 'the injustices heaped upon the missionaries” and “the activities of armed mobs in Whitfield County,' noting that 'the laws of Georgia are strictly opposed to all lawlessness and extend to her citizens the right of Worshipping God according to the dictates of conscience…. A word or line from the Governor would undoubtedly have the desired effect.  Ministers of the Gospel could then travel without fear of being stoned or shot,'" Elder Standing stated.
 
Through his secretary, Governor Colquitt replied, stating, “The Governor directs me to say that your statement is entirely correct [regarding the laws of Georgia and religious faith]” and he would “instruct the State Prosecuting Attorney for the District to inquire into the matter, and if the report be true, to prosecute the offenders” (see wikiepedia/Joseph Standing).   
 
According to historians, as recounted by Seferovich (see Master’s Thesis, 1996, scholarsarvhive.bye.edu):
 
On July 21, 1879, “a rowdy twelve-man mob apprehended Elder Standing and his companion, Elder Rudger Clawson, on a public road.  After a few hours of derogatory exchanges, violence erupted and Standing received a bullet in the face, leaving him unconscious but alive. A short time later, Clawson was finally allowed to leave to find help for his wounded companion.  In his absence, the disorderly crowd emptied their guns into Standing’s body, no doubt attempting to protect the individual murderer by implicating the group.  When the case came to trial three months later, the Georgia jury returned a verdict of not guilty.”
 
Elder Standing was the first missionary to be murdered in the Southern States Mission.  Five years later, two more missionaries were killed in Cane Creek, Tennessee.  Another missionary was killed in Mississippi in 1898.  
 
Elder Clawson accompanied Elder Standing’s body home to Salt Lake City, Utah after “washing the bloody stains from the missionary’s body and preparing it for the long train ride home” (Hoopes and Hoopes, The Making of a Mormon Apostle,1990).  More than 10,000 attended Elder Standing’s funeral services.  Elder Clawson returned to Georgia to testify against the mob at trial.  Although the mob was acquitted, Elder Standing is remembered.  
 
In 1880, a monument of Italian marble was placed over Elder Standing’s grave in Salt Lake City.  The marker was replaced in 2001.  In 1952, Church President David O. McKay dedicated a monument to Elder Standing in Whitfield County, Georgia.  The property is maintained by the Church and open to the public at Standing Road, Tunnel Hill, Georgia. 
 
At age forty-one, Elder Clawson became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the second-highest governing body of the Church.  He was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for forty-five years, serving as president of that quorum for twenty-two of those years.  
 
In Dalton, Georgia, 12 miles south of Varnell, a congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was established in May 1978.  In 1983, a temple, the first in the South, was dedicated in Atlanta, Georgia.  Some 150,000 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days now reside in Georgia and Tennessee.  Georgia is also the location of the Church’s area offices “where first response disaster aid is shipped throughout the South.”  Today, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a worldwide membership of over 16 million members with more than 65,000 missionaries serving in major cities and small communities around the globe.

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