Doniphan award is presented to Lt. Gen. Robert Arter


For the eighth consecutive year, the Liberty Missouri Stake has given the Alexander W. Doniphan Community Service Award to an individual who exemplifies the courage of that brigadier general's refusal in 1838 to obey an illegal order to execute the Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders on the public square at Far West, Mo.

John Dillingham, left, presents community service award to to retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Robert Arter.
John Dillingham, left, presents community service award to to retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Robert Arter.

This year's award recipient is retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Robert Arter, whose military service culminated in his assignment as commanding general, Sixth United States Army. Recipient of many awards and decorations during his years of service, he — like Alexander W. Doniphan — is a member of the Fort Leavenworth Hall of Fame.

The presentation was made Sept. 13 at the Frontier Conference Center in Fort Leavenworth.

The award was created by the stake and the Alexander W. Doniphan Community Service and Leadership Foundation, Inc. It honors recipients who exemplify Gen. Doniphan's outstanding characteristics and personal commitments in education, jurisprudence, statesmanship, patriotism and business.

On Nov. 1, 1838, late in the afternoon, Gen. Samuel D. Lucas of the Missouri militia convened a secret — and illegal — court martial of the Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders from Far West. By midnight an order was sent to Brig. Gen. Doniphan: "Sir, you will take Joseph Smith and the other prisioners into the public square of Far West and shoot them at 9 o'clock tomorrow morning."

Gen. Doniphan replied: "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 those men, I will hold you responsible before an earthly tribunal, so help me God!"

The courage of Gen. Doniphan that night saved the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The men were taken instead to Richmond and then placed in jail in Liberty, Mo. He took a great interest in education and was the first superintendent of schools in Clay County. He was also one of the founders of William Jewell College. Elected to the Missouri House of Representatives several times, he was instrumental in the formation of Caldwell and Daviess counties, which became a refuge for the Latter-day Saints after they were driven out of Jackson County, Mo. He was also appointed by President Abraham Lincoln as a delegate to the Washington Peace Conference in 1861.

Besides his service in the Missouri militia, he was a colonel of the 1st Regiment of Missouri Mounted Volunteers; he and his regiment marched more than 5,000 miles to fight in the Mexican-American War. Gen. Arter served as a co-chairman with former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger of the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution. He also worked with Sen. Harry Darby to endow an annual award to encourage the study and writing of military history by the offices of the United States Army Command and General Staff College. He serves as the president and CEO of the Armed Forces Bank in Leavenworth and as civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army, along with several other positions of leadership.

Setting the highest standards of education for military officers has been a hallmark of his life's work. In early 2006, he was a founding member and chairman of the Command and General Staff College Foundation Inc. He continues to serve as chairman of the foundation.

The award program included brief presentations on the life of Alexander Doniphan by John A. Dillingham, co-chairman of the award committee; by President Jeremiah Morgan of the Liberty Missouri Stake; and by Hyrum Smith, second-great-grandson of the Prophet's brother, Hyrum Smith.

Gen. David Petraeus, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, sent a video tribute to Gen. Arter, and additional remarks were given by Brig. Gen. Gordon B. Davis Jr. of the United States Combined Arms Center.

The "Alexander Doniphan March" was pre-recorded by Calvin C. Permenter, professor of music at William Jewell College, and played during the program. The march was written and performed for Gen. Doniphan and his men at a celebration in their honor in 1847 upon their return from the Mexican-American War.

During the program, Gen. Arter and Gen. Davis announced that a new, annual Alexander Doniphan Award will be presented for the first time to the student with the highest academic rank in the intermediate level education class that graduates in June 2013 from the Command and General Staff College.

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