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U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond says Mormons still thank him.

"I've had a lot of people who come to Missouri who told me they came back because the Extermination Order is repealed," Bond said.

Bond was the Missouri governor who eliminated the Extermination Order, which authorized the killing or expulsion of Mormons in that state in the middle of the darkest period in the faith's history. Now, after 24 years in the U.S. Senate, Bond is leaving government when his term officially ends Monday at 10 a.m. MST.

Sen. Orrin Hatch said Mormons are right to thank Bond. Hatch credits eliminating the Extermination Order with helping create what he called a "robust" Mormon community in the Show-Me State that includes an LDS temple in St. Louis that opened in 1997 and another under construction in Kansas City.

"To me, [the order] was a blight on their legislative record, their gubernatorial record that really needed to be removed and I'm really proud of Kit for moving to get rid of it," Hatch said.

In a telephone interview last week from his home in Mexico, Mo., Bond said he did not know much about Mormons in 1976. That's when a White House aide called and told him about the Extermination Order issued in 1838 by then-Missouri Gov. Lilburn W. Boggs. Although the order was no longer enforced, it was still on the books.

"As soon as I found out about it, I said that's unacceptable," Bond recalled.

On June 25, 1976, Bond issued an executive order that rescinded the Extermination Order. In the official proclamation, Bond said Boggs violated constitutional rights. Bond also expressed Missouri's "deep regret for the injustice and undue suffering which was caused by the 1838 order."

Rescinding the order didn't seem to net Bond many votes. Bond, a Republican, lost his re-election bid later that year.

"To be quite honest, there were still some people in northwest Missouri who were still carrying a 100-plus-year grudge who were very mad about it," Bond said, though he did not blame rescinding the order for the defeat.

Bond won his second term as governor in 1980. He won his first campaign for U.S. Senate in 1986 and was re-elected three times. He opted not to seek re-election in 2010.

Over the years, Bond has learned about the LDS faithful. He also has written about the need for better cultural exchanges with Southeast Asia and believes Mormons can help improve U.S. ties to those nations.

"Certainly Mormon missionaries in those areas in the Muslim countries are a very important part of a public outreach," Bond said.

Bond, 71, said most of the people who have approached him over the years want to talk about pressing federal issues and are unaware of the Extermination Order. But occasionally, someone in Missouri or on an airplane will thank him for rescinding the order. Bond said he was once in Asia and someone approached and thanked him for rescinding it.

"I have had the most gratifying experience meeting Mormons in Missouri, Washington and elsewhere who say, 'Thank you very much for what you did in 1976,' " Bond said.

Thomas Burr contributed to this report. —

What was the Extermination Order?

R The order, signed Oct. 27, 1838, by Missouri Gov. Lilburn W. Boggs, described Mormons as being "in open avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made war upon the people of this State." The order stated Mormons "must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace — their outrages are beyond all description." Boggs was spurred by reports of conflicts between Mormons and other residents of northwest Missouri. On Oct. 31, the Missouri militia general gave a copy of the order to LDS Church representatives and dictated terms of surrender to them, according to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, copyright 1992. It led to LDS leader Joseph Smith surrendering to Missouri authorities, according to the encyclopedia, and the forcible removal from Missouri of nearly all church members in the winter and spring of 1838-39.