Illinois lawmaker regrets confusion

LDS resolution meant to bring unity, he says

Published: Saturday, April 3 2004 12:00 a.m. MST

The Illinois lawmaker who took back a legislative apology to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their treatment in Nauvoo said Friday he's sorry about the confusion surrounding the change.

"I'm not trying to create controversy here. I'm trying to bring people together," said Illinois Rep. Jack Franks, the sponsor of a resolution that now professes only regret for "the expulsion of the community of Latter-day Saints, a people of hard work and faith."

When the resolution was first approved by the Illinois House on March 24, it also sought "the pardon and forgiveness" of Mormons for the violence that drove them from Nauvoo nearly 160 years ago, including the death of church founder Joseph Smith.

But Thursday, lawmakers passed a new version without that language at Franks' request. He told the Deseret Morning News that he thought the apology had been struck from the original draft of the resolution before it passed the first time.

"I can certainly express regret and let us know we don't feel that way now," said Franks, a Democrat from Woodstock, a community located about 65 miles northwest of Chicago. "But it's not my place to apologize for those actions."

The apology was written by a Chicago alderman, Ed Burke, who was moved to draft the resolution after hearing the Nauvoo story from Gov. Olene Walker's husband, Myron, during a vacation in Deer Valley last year.

Franks said he cut about a third of Burke's draft, including the final paragraph apologizing "for the misguided efforts of our citizens, Chief Executive and the General Assembly" in the expulsion of the Mormons from Nauvoo.

It wasn't until this week — when news of the apology surfaced in Chicago and Salt Lake City — that Franks said he discovered the last paragraph had not been cut. The Illinois House approved the new version without debate.

"I don't think it changes the sentiment at all. Certainly not the intent," Franks said. "The intent is to express regret and honor people. I'm just sorry this has become a bit more convoluted now when it doesn't need to be."

Another sponsor of the resolution — and the brother of Alderman Burke — Rep. Dan Burke, D-Chicago, said he was surprised at the media attention the change in the resolution has received.

Dan Burke said the apology was removed "because in this day of reparations and so forth, we thought it was best to leave it out." He said the concern was not that Mormons might seek compensation from Illinois but that other groups could.

Plus, Dan Burke said, "I have difficulty apologizing for something I had nothing to do with." The impact of the legislative action is the same, he said, "whether we say we're begging forgiveness or say we regret the dark days" the Mormons spent in Nauvoo.

Franks was expected to join a delegation of Illinois officials, including the Burkes and Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, coming to Salt Lake City next week to present the resolution to LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley.

But Franks said Friday he won't be able to make the trip because it conflicts with his family's celebration of Passover, a Jewish commemoration. The Illinois delegation is scheduled to appear with Hinckley and Walker at a press conference on Wednesday.

Franks said he learned about the LDS faith as a result of the resolution.

"I lost a lot of family members in the Holocaust," he said. "We all have something in common. I think it's important to stand together and acknowledge that type of treatment. I think that's the first step in ensuring that it never happens again."

Both Franks and Burke said they have received e-mails from all over the country praising the state's recognition of Nauvoo. "I'm gratified by the response. I never anticipated this outpouring of support," Franks said. "It's been great."


E-mail: lisa@desnews.com

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