Legacy: A Distorted View of Mormon History
It Makes You Cry! - Quinn's New Book - A Fighting Prophet - Trouble in Nauvoo - Fleeting Prophets? - Occultic Ritual Abuse - The New Lighthouse
The Mormon Church's official magazine, The Ensign, printed the following in 1993:
"Imagine that you have just completed a tour of Temple Square in the heart of Salt Lake City, Utah. The guide suggests that you walk across the street and view Legacy, a new motion picture shown exclusively at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building....
"You decide to visit the building and view the film. As you walk into the 500-seat theater, sit down, and see the 31-foot by 62-foot screen before you, you suspect that Legacy will be no ordinary motion picture. And you are right.
"Lights dim, and Legacy, produced under the direction of the First Presidency, begins. Original music... performed by the Tabernacle Choir and the Utah Symphony, fills the theater on six-channel surround sound. The images on the huge screen before you are sharper and brighter than you have ever seen -- the result of being filmed on 70-millimeter film at an accelerated frame rate. At the same time you are viewing the film in English, foreign visitors wearing headsets are listening to the film in any one of four languages... via an infrared transmitter system built into the theater.
"Soon you realize that the story and spirit of Legacy are as powerful and different as its technical advances.... Through Legacy we can be totally swept away in time and space as we meet early members of the Church -- trek with them across the prairies, cry with them as they bury their dead, and rejoice with them as they marry and have children.... Most of the dialogue spoken by the main characters came from pioneer journals or letters. Everything the Prophet Joseph Smith says in the film is quoted from something that he actually said or wrote.
"As the lights in the theater come back on, you realize that Legacy is more than a review of historical facts -- it is a journey of the human heart back through time, an opportunity to figuratively walk alongside the early Saints and, with them, discover our own legacy of faith." (The Ensign, July, 1993, pages 32, 34)
IT MAKES YOU CRY!
The authors of this newsletter, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, were told that Legacy is such a powerful film that it brings many people to tears. Since we write about Mormon history, we felt that we should take the time to see this film. In addition, we thought it would be especially interesting to us because it purports to tell the "legacy" of our own ancestors -- Sandra is the great-great-granddaughter of the Mormon prophet Brigham Young, who brought the Mormons to Utah, and Jerald is a descendent of John Tanner, who helped the prophet Joseph Smith in the early days of Mormonism.
To say that this is a "powerful" film seems to be an understatement. The film vividly shows scene after scene of Mormons being persecuted or murdered. We were, in fact, deeply moved by Legacy and found it very difficult to hold the tears back. The acting in the movie is excellent and the scenery is beautiful.
Unfortunately, however, there is a down side to this impressive movie. The film does not accurately portray Mormon history because it only shows one side of the story. It entirely omits the reasons why the early Mormons were driven from place to place. For example, the film shows the mob destroying the Mormon printing press in Independence, Missouri, and the people being driven out. What the film fails to show, however, is that before the trouble occurred Joseph Smith gave revelations indicating that the Mormons would possess the land owned by the old settlers.
In one of his revelations Joseph Smith revealed that Independence was the "center place" of Zion: "Wherefore, this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion. And thus saith the Lord your God... Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse." (Doctrine and Covenants 57: 2-3)
In another revelation Joseph Smith quoted the Lord as saying: "And thus, even as I have said, if ye are faithful ye shall assemble yourselves together to rejoice upon the land of Missouri, which is the land of your inheritance, which is now the land of your enemies." (Doctrine and Covenants 52: 42)
In still another revelation we find that those who opposed Mormonism would be "plucked out": "And the rebellious shall be cut out of the land of Zion, and shall be sent away, and shall not inherit the land. For, verily I say that the rebellious are not of the blood of Ephraim, wherefore they shall be plucked out." (Doctrine and Covenants 64: 35-36)
While we feel the mob's actions cannot be justified, it is certainly understandable that the old settlers would be upset with the influx of Mormons who claimed they were sent by God to take over the land. For example, if a large flood of immigrants were to suddenly come into a city like Logan, Utah, proclaiming that God had given them the city because it was the land of their inheritance, it is likely that the Mormons who lived there would be very concerned about the matter. Although the Mormons are a peaceful people, it is likely that under these circumstances serious problems might develop.
David Whitmer, who was one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, wrote the following:
"The main reason why the printing press was destroyed, was because they published the Book of Commandments. It fell into the hands of the world, and the people of Jackson county, Missouri, saw from the revelations that they were considered by the church as intruders upon the land of Zion, as enemies to the church, and that they should be cut off out of the land of Zion and sent away. The people seeing these things in the Book of Commandments became the more enraged, tore down the printing press, and drove the church out of Jackson county." (An Address to All Believers in Christ, by David Whitmer, Richmond, Missouri, 1887, page 54)
Since Joseph Smith had put his prophetic reputation on the line by claiming that the Lord had told him that Independence would be the "center place" of Zion, he was unable to admit defeat. Consequently, he decided to try to reinstate the Mormons in Jackson County by making war on the wicked "Gentiles" (i.e., non-Mormons) who had thwarted his plans. Smith even claimed that on December 16, 1833, he received a revelation from God to attack his enemies:
"And now, I will show unto you a parable, that you may know my will concerning the redemption of Zion. A certain nobleman had a spot of land, very choice...
"And the enemy came by night, and broke down the hedge; and the servants were affrighted, and fled; and the enemy destroyed their works...
"And the lord of the vineyard said unto one of his servants: Go and gather together the residue of my servants, and take all the strength of mine house, which are my warriors...
"And go ye straightway unto the land of my vineyard; for it is mine; I have bought it with money.
"Therefore, get ye straightway unto my land; break down the walls of mine enemies; throw down their tower, and scatter their watchmen.
"And inasmuch as they gather together against you, avenge me of mine enemies, that by and by I may come with the residue of mine house and possess the land." (Doctrine and Covenants 101: 43-44, 51, 55-58)
Another revelation given by Joseph Smith stated that "the redemption of Zion must needs come by power; Therefore I will raise up unto my people a man [later identified as Joseph Smith], who shall lead them like as Moses led the children of Israel.... Therefore let my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., say... Gather yourselves together unto the land of Zion... And inasmuch as mine enemies come against you... ye shall curse them... And my presence will be with you even in avenging me of mine enemies..." (Doctrine and Covenants 103: 15-16, 22, 24, 26)
Joseph Smith was able to raise the army as he was commanded. It was referred to as "Zion's Camp." Significantly, however, his attempt to "break down the walls of mine enemies; throw down their tower, and scatter their watchmen" completely failed. Reed Peck commented as follows in a manuscript written in 1839:
"In accordance with the interpretation of this parable Joseph Smith called for volunteers collected about 210 'Warriors' and marched to Clay County under arms, but the cholera on the second day after their arrival dispersed them and all hopes were destroyed of 'redeem[in]g Zion' for the present, but to console the Mormons under this disappointment, Joseph Smith, before he returned from the campaign prophesied publicly to them, that 'within three years they should march to Jackson County and there should not be a dog to open his mouth against them'..." (The Reed Peck Manuscript, page 3)
Mormon writer Max Parkin observed: "The Camp, however, failed to accomplish its objective of reinstating the distressed Saints and it further aided in festering the sore of unpopular public opinion the Mormons already had in Ohio." (Conflict at Kirtland, 1966, page 129)
None of Joseph Smith's prophecies regarding the redemption of Zion came to pass and there seems to be little hope that the Mormons will ever possess the land.
Unfortunately, the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith never seemed to learn how to get along with those he called "Gentiles." Consequently, there was conflict everywhere he led the Saints. After the affair at Independence, Smith tried very hard to make Kirtland, Ohio, an important center for Mormonism. The church's publication, Messenger and Advocate, April 1837, vol. 3, p. 488, stated that Joseph Smith gave "a prophesy saying this place must be built up, and would be built up, and that every brother that would take hold and help secure and discharge those contracts that had been made, should be rich."
John Whitmer, one of the eight Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, wrote the following in his history of the church: "In the fall of 1836, Joseph Smith, Jun., S. Rigdon and others of the leaders of the Church at Kirtland, Ohio, established a bank for the purpose of speculation, and the whole church partook of the same spirit..." (John Whitmer's History, chapter 20, pp. 21-22) Although Joseph Smith encouraged his followers to support this bank, the Mormon writer John J. Stewart had to admit that the Kirtland Safety Society, "became bankrupt." (Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet, 1966, page 110) Mormon historian B.H. Roberts commented: "The 'Kirtland Safety Society' enterprise ended disastrously." (Comprehensive History of the Church, vol. 1, pp. 401-402)
Joseph Smith's prophecy that Kirtland would be built up by the Mormons completely failed, and instead of the people becoming rich, many of them became destitute. According to the History of the Church, vol. 3, page 1, Joseph Smith was "obliged to flee... on horseback, to escape mob violence..." Smith left Ohio owing thousands of dollars to his creditors. Mormon writers Marvin S. Hill, C. Keith Rooker, and Larry T. Wimmer acknowledge that Joseph Smith's big financial mistake was setting up an "unchartered bank":
"In the past it has been suggested by most Mormon authors that the reason for the lack of a charter was religious persecution. Joseph Smith himself declared 'Because we were "Mormons," the legislature raised some frivolous excuses on which they refused to grant us those banking privileges they so freely granted to others.' There is little evidence that the Church in this instance was subject to religious persecution.... In 1835, all requests for additional charters were refused, while in 1836 only one of seventeen requests was granted.... just over a month after the restructuring of the Society and its commencement of business, law suits were commenced against Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and others seeking a forfeiture judgment in the sum of $1,000 against each defendant for alleged violations of the 1816 Ohio statute prohibiting unauthorized banking.... The Smith and Rigdon cases were tried by a jury in October 1837, resulting in a judgment of $1,000 plus small costs against each.... Examination of the court records establishes that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were properly charged, tried by jury, and found to have violated the statute. This finding, of course, implicitly held the entire Society activity wholly unlawful, and made it impossible for it to survive, even had survival been otherwise possible.... The inability of the bank to meet his expectations and its eventual failure cost him [Joseph Smith] dearly in terms of credibility and personal resources.... While he may have been encouraged in his decision by various groups, and by bad professional advice from lawyers, ultimately the responsibility for the decision to proceed with the bank was his.... In the face of numerous lawsuits and threats upon his life, Joseph Smith chose the alternative of fleeing Kirtland -- a personal defeat since he fled not only creditors, but also had to leave behind the temple and the community he had gathered." (Brigham Young University Studies, Summer 1977, pages 437-38, 458)
The fact that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were both fined $1,000 for engaging in this "unlawful" activity may not seem too serious until a person considers the fact that a thousand dollars was a great deal of money in the 1830's.
Not surprisingly, Legacy, totally ignores all evidence that Joseph Smith and the early Mormons made serious mistakes and contributed to some of the situations that culminated in violence. Those who created this film seem to have been bent on giving a one-sided depiction proving that the early Mormons were always in the right and were only persecuted because they believed the Book of Mormon and followed righteous principles. While it is undoubtedly true that most of the Mormons were a peaceful people who took their religion seriously, some of the leaders of the church and also some in lower positions were greedy for power and misused public trust.
QUINN'S NEW BOOK
Recently an important new book by D. Michael Quinn was published by Signature Books. It is entitled, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power. Although the first printing of 3,000 copies sold out shortly after it appeared, the second printing is now available from Utah Lighthouse Ministry (see special offer on page 1 of this newsletter). This is a monumental work on the early history of Mormonism that throws a great deal of light on why the early Mormons seemed to draw persecution to themselves. Dr. Quinn obtained a Ph.D. in history at Yale University and was formerly Professor of American social history at the church's Brigham Young University. He wrote at least six articles for the church's official publication, The Ensign, and about the same number for Brigham Young University Studies. In addition, he has published some important books. He was considered one of the church's top scholars until he dug too deeply into Mormon history.
Dr. Quinn knows a great deal about the true history of the church because he had an inside track at the Historical Department under Dr. Leonard Arrington, who was formerly Church Historian. In a speech Quinn gave in 1981, he noted that he had "spent a decade probing thousands of manuscript diaries and records of Church history" that he "never dreamed" he would see.
On January 20, 1995, Associated Press writer Vern Anderson reported the following regarding Quinn's work:
"SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Mormons today may not recognize the contradictory, sometimes violent early church of their ancestors depicted in a new book based in part on documents the church now keeps locked up.
" Nineteenth century Mormonism was not polite,' unlike the congenial 20th century faith, says author D. Michael Quinn.
"Indeed, the rough-and-ready frontier Mormonism described in Quinn's 660-page 'The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power,' bears about as much resemblance to the modern church as a prickly pear to a hothouse orchid.
"The contrast helps explain the discomfiture of later generations of Mormon leaders with aspects of the early church founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith. Quinn details how that unease led to official doctoring of the historical record after Smith's death in 1844....
"Quinn's book... is based on 30 years of research in Mormon history. And for 15 of those years, Quinn enjoyed free access to the vast archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since 1986, however, church leaders, unhappy with the secular bent of the so-called New Mormon History, have sharply restricted access.
" My experience in the early 1970s was like a kid in a candy store. Every day was Christmas,' Quinn recalled in an interview. 'I had no idea at the time I would be the only outside researcher who ever saw these documents. Years later, I saw that was the case.'
"What he found there, and in many other archives, was the ingredients for a 'warts and all' revisionist history that startlingly supplements the sanitized official accounts -- designed to be faith-promoting -- that are familiar to most Mormons.
"For example:... In attempting to establish his kingdom of God, Smith embraced a set of what Quinn calls 'theocratic ethics' that placed Mormon priesthood authority above civil law. At times, primarily after Smith's death, those ethics sanctioned public denials of actual events, counterfeiting and stealing from non-Mormons, threats and physical attacks against dissenters, killing and castration of sex offenders, murdering of anti-Mormons and bribery of government officials." (Herald and News, Klamath Falls, Oregon, January 20, 1995)
D. Michael Quinn's desire to tell the truth about Mormon history eventually cost him his membership in the Mormon Church. Mormon scholar Allen Roberts wrote:
"Leaders repeatedly make it clear that they alone are authoritative in matters of church policy and belief. Even in the area of history, leaders attempt to control depictions of the Mormon past, advocating 'faithful history' and condemning historical findings, however true, revealing information contrary to the sanitized, apologetic, church-approved histories. Quinn, for one, was not excommunicated because his history writing was inaccurate. He was cut off because his findings did not reinforce pictures the church has painted of its past." (Private Eye Weekly, October 20, 1993, page 12)
A FIGHTING PROPHET
In his book, The Mormon Hierarchy, Quinn points out that as time went on Joseph Smith became progressively concerned about having a large army and sought for military power:
"Zion's Camp did not redeem Zion, but it transformed Mormon leadership and culture. In February 1834, the Kirtland high council elected Joseph Smith as 'commander-in-chief of the armies of Israel.' This was one of the first acts of the newly organized high council which thus acknowledged Smith's religious right to give God's command to 'go out unto battle against any nation, kindred, tongue, or people.' Zion's Camp was the first organization established for the external security of Mormonism. A year later, the military experience of Zion's Camp (rather than any ecclesiastical service) was the basis upon which Smith said he was selecting men for the newly organized Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Seventy. Unlike other American denominations, 'the church militant' was a literal fact in Mormonism, not just a symbolic slogan." (The Mormon Hierarchy, page 85)
Unlike the gentle and soft spoken man shown in Legacy, Joseph Smith was without question a fighting prophet. He not only liked to wrestle and prove his strength, but he sometimes kicked people and struck them very hard. D. Michael Quinn observed that Smith was a "church president who physically assaulted both Mormons and non-Mormons for insulting him..." (The Mormon Hierarchy, 261-262)
Under the date of March 11, 1843, we find this entry in Joseph Smith's History: "In the evening, when pulling sticks, I pulled up Justus A. Morse, the strongest man in Ramus, with one hand." (History of the Church, vol. 5, page 302) Two days later the following was recorded: "Monday, 13. -- I wrestled with William Wall, the most expert wrestler in Ramus, and threw him." (Ibid., 302) Under the date of June 30, 1843, we find this: "I feel as strong as a giant. I pulled sticks with the men coming along, and I pulled up with one hand the strongest man that could be found. Then two men tried, but they could not pull me up..." (Ibid., page 466)
Mrs. Mary Ettie V. Smith claimed that "the Prophet Joseph Smith had one day broken the leg of my brother Howard, while wrestling..." (Mormonism: Its Rise, Progress, And Present Condition, page 52)
John D. Lee related that one day Joseph Smith and some of his men were wrestling. Because it was "the Sabbath day" Sidney Rigdon tried to break it up. Joseph Smith, however, "dragged him from the ring, bareheaded, and tore Rigdon's fine pulpit coat from the collar to the waist; then he turned to the men and said: 'Go in, boys, and have your fun.' " (Confessions of John D. Lee, pages 76-78)
Jedediah M. Grant, a member of the First Presidency under Brigham Young, told of "the Baptist priest who came to see Joseph Smith.... the Baptist stood before him, and folding his arms said, 'Is it possible that I now flash my optics upon a man who has conversed with my Savior?' 'Yes,' says the Prophet, 'I don't know but you do; would not you like to wrestle with me?' That, you see, brought the priest right on to the thrashing floor, and he turned a sumerset right straight. After he had whirled round a few times, like a duck shot in the head, he concluded that his piety had been awfully shocked..." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, pp. 66-67)
While this may have seemed funny to President Grant, Joseph Smith had a violent temper which could lead to physical violence. His close friend Benjamin F. Johnson made this observation after Smith's death:
"And yet, although so social and even convivial at times, he would allow no arrogance or undue liberties. Criticisms, even by his associates, were rarely acceptable. Contradictions would arouse in him the lion at once. By no one of his fellows would he be superseded.... one or another of his associates were more than once, for their impudence, helped from the congregation by his foot.... He soundly thrashed his brother William... While with him in such fraternal, social and sometimes convivial moods, we could not then so fully realize the greatness and majesty of his calling." (Letter by Benjamin F. Johnson to Elder George S. Gibbs, 1903, as printed in The Testimony of Joseph Smith's Best Friend, pages 4-5)
Mormon writer Max Parkin refers to a court case against Joseph Smith in which Calvin Stoddard, Joseph Smith's brother-in-law, testified that, "Smith then came up and knocked him in the forehead with his flat hand -- the blow knocked him down, when Smith repeated the blow four or five times, very hard -- made him blind -- that Smith afterwards came to him and asked his forgiveness..." (Conflict at Kirtland, citing from the Painesville Telegraph, June 26, 1835)
Parkin also quotes Luke S. Johnson, who served as an apostle in the early Mormon Church, as saying that when a minister insulted Joseph Smith at Kirtland, Ohio, Smith, " boxed his ears with both hands, and turning his face towards the door, kicked him into the street,' for the man's lack of charity." (Ibid., page 268)
In the History of the Church for the year 1843, we read of two fights Joseph Smith had in Nauvoo:
"Josiah Butterfield came to my house and insulted me so outrageously that I kicked him out of the house, across the yard, and into the street." (History of the Church, vol. 5, page 316)
"Bagby called me a liar, and picked up a stone to throw at me, which so enraged me that I followed him a few steps, and struck him two or three times. Esquire Daniel H. Wells stepped between us and succeeded in separating us.... I rode down to Alderman Whitney... he imposed a fine which I paid, and then returned to the political meeting." (Ibid., page 524)
On August 13, 1843, Joseph Smith admitted that he had tried to choke Walter Bagby: "I met him, and he gave me some abusive language, taking up a stone to throw at me: I seized him by the throat to choke him off." (Ibid., page 531)
After he became president of the Mormon Church, Brigham Young commented, "if you had the Prophet Joseph to deal with, you would think that I am quite mild.... He would not bear the usage I have borne, and would appear as though he would tear down all the houses in the city, and tear up trees by the roots, if men conducted to him in the way they have to me." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 8, pp. 317-318)
While Mormon writer John J. Stewart claimed that Joseph Smith was "perhaps the most Christ-like man to live upon the earth since Jesus himself," this conclusion is not supported by Joseph Smith's History: "I am not so much a 'Christian' as many suppose I am. When a man undertakes to ride me for a horse, I feel disposed to kick up and throw him off, and ride him." (History of the Church, vol. 5, page 335)
In addition to choking, kicking people out of houses and churches, knocking them in the head, boxing their ears, and tearing their clothing, the evidence indicates that he threatened people's lives. Dr. Quinn reported the following:
"In an incident about which Smith's personal diary and official history are completely silent, he was acquitted in June 1837 of conspiring to murder anti-Mormon Grandison Newell. The silence may be due to the fact that two of Smith's supporting witnesses in the case, both apostles, acknowledged that the prophet discussed with them the possibility of killing Newell. Apostle Orson Hyde testified that 'Smith seemed much excited and declared that Newell should be put out of the way, or where the crows could not find him; he said destroying Newell would be justifiable in the sight of God, that it was the will of God, &c.' Hyde tried to be helpful by adding that he had 'never heard Smith use similar language before,'... Apostle Luke S. Johnson acknowledged to the court that Smith had said 'if Newell or any other man should head a mob against him, they ought to be put out of the way, and it would be our duty to do so.' However, Johnson also affirmed: 'I believe Smith to be a tender-hearted, humane man.' Whether or not the court agreed with that assessment, the judge acquitted Smith because there was insufficient evidence to support the charge of conspiracy to commit murder." (The Mormon Hierarchy, pages 91-92)
One of the biggest problems that confronted Joseph Smith was dissension within the ranks of his own church. Mormon historical records demonstrate that Smith not only felt that he was superior in physical strength to most men, but he also believed he had the inside track with God. He even went so far as to boast that he had been more successful than Jesus Himself in setting up a church:
"If they want a beardless boy to whip all the world, I will get on the top of a mountain and crow like a rooster: I shall always beat them.... I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him, but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet." (History of the Church, vol. 6, pp. 408-409)
With an exalted attitude like that it is easy to believe that Joseph Smith would have trouble with many people. As his friend Benjamin F. Johnson pointed out, "Contradictions would arouse in him the lion at once." Instead of handling things in a calm and orderly way, he would often resort to violence, name calling, and slander. This, of course, made many enemies within and without the church.
This is far different than the way the Mormon leaders operate today. For example, since October, 1993, the church has been purging prominent scholars and feminists who have written things that embarrass the church. The leaders, in fact, have taken an uncompromising stand against those who wish to tell the unvarnished truth about church history and other issues. Many scholars were questioned, and some were either excommunicated or disfellowshiped from the church. The purge has continued, and in December, 1994, Brent Metcalfe, editor of New Approaches to the Book of Mormon, was excommunicated for questioning the authenticity of Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon.
While it is true that some church scholars connected with Brigham Young University and FARMS have belittled the scholars who have been reprimanded or excommunicated, the top leaders of the church have been rather careful not to further antagonize those who have been disciplined.
Joseph Smith, on the other hand, did everything he could to blacken the character of those he perceived as enemies. Even the publications of the church were often used to make slanderous and insulting accusations against those who objected to the way Smith handled things. Joseph Smith even went so far as to attack the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon in a letter he wrote "to the Church" on December 16, 1838: "Such characters as McLellin, John Whitmer, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them." (History of the Church, vol. 3, page 232) David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris, of course, were the three special witnesses to the Book of Mormon, and John Whitmer was one of the set of eight additional witnesses who bore witness to the existence of the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was "translated."
In the same letter Joseph Smith called David Whitmer a "dumb ass": I would remember William E. McLellin, who... professes to be much of a prophet, has no other dumb ass to ride but David Whitmer... he brays out cursings instead of blessings. Poor ass! Whoever lives to see it, will see him and his rider perish like those who perished in the gainsaying of Korah, or after the same condemnation." (Ibid., page 228)
While the early Mormon people bitterly complained when the "Gentiles" drove them out, they did exactly the same thing to some of their own people when they opposed Joseph Smith's plans. In June, 1838, three of the Book of Mormon witnesses, former apostle Lyman E. Johnson, and William W. Phelps were sent a very threatening letter which accused them of serious crimes and ordered them to leave Far West, Missouri, at once. D. Michael Quinn shows that this letter was authorized by some of the highest leaders in the Mormon Church:
"On 17 June 1838, first counselor Sidney Rigdon preached his 'Salt Sermon' as a warning that Mormon dissenters would 'be cast out and trodden under foot of men.'... Rigdon was restating what a revelation of February 1834 had authorized the First Presidency to do to Mormons who 'hearken not to observe all my words' (D&C 103:8-10). The next day second counselor Hyrum Smith and his Uncle John Smith (assistant counselor in First Presidency) joined with Danite leader Sampson Avard (as first signer) and eighty other Danites in a threatening letter to Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, John Whitmer, Lyman E. Johnson, and William W. Phelps....
"Regarding this Danite expulsion of prominent Mormon dissenters, Counselor Rigdon told Apostle Orson Hyde at Far West that 'it was the imperative duty of the Church to obey the word of Joseph Smith, or the presidency, without question or inquiry, and that if there were any that would not, they should have their throats cut from ear [to] ear.' " (The Mormon Hierarchy, page 94)
The reader will notice the Quinn claims over eighty "Danites" signed the letter. The noted Mormon writer William E. Berrett explained that, "Such a band as the 'Danites' did exist, as historians affirm; but that Joseph Smith had nothing to do with it and exposed the participants when he became aware of it, is equally well-confirmed. History further affirms that Dr. Avard himself was the author of the organization... The organization had been for the purpose of plundering and murdering the enemies of the Saints." (The Restored Church, 1958, pages 197-98)
Although there has always been a great deal of evidence that the Danite Band existed and that Joseph Smith was involved in it, many Mormon scholars were unable to face the serious implications of admitting the prophet was involved in this nefarious organization. The Joseph Smith diaries, which contained important information regarding the Danites, were suppressed by the church leaders for about 140 years. Fortunately, however, we obtained access to a microfilmed copy of these diaries in 1976, and H. Michael Marquardt began to transcribe them. Eventually, with Marquardt's careful work of transcription, we were able to print the extant diaries from 1832 to 1839.
When Mr. Marquardt was transcribing the 1838 diary, he made a very significant discovery concerning Joseph Smith's involvement with the Danites. He found a portion of the diary which had been crossed out in a deliberate attempt to hide the fact that the Danites were a church organization which Joseph Smith supported. Although it was difficult work, Marquardt was able to transcribe a good portion of the material which someone had tried to obliterate. Since Mr. Marquardt did not have access to the original Joseph Smith diary, he was unable to transcribe all of the words.
Fortunately, in 1988 Mormon scholars Dean C. Jessee and David J. Whittaker published the important entry in Joseph Smith's journal. Since Jessee and Whittaker were able to transcribe portions of the entry which Marquardt could not read, it seems obvious that they worked from the original journal. We do know, in fact, that for many years Jessee has been allowed access to the original Joseph Smith diaries. In any case, the two Mormon scholars quote Joseph Smith's journal as saying:
"Some time past the bretheren or Saints have come up day after day to consecrate, and to bring their offerings into the store house of the lord, to prove him now herewith and se[e] if he will not pour us out a blessing that there will not be room enough to contain it. They have come up hither Thus far, according to the order <Rev?> of the Danites, we have a company of Danites in these times, to put right physically that which is not right, and to cleanse the Church of verry great evils which hitherto existed among us inasmuch as they cannot be put to right by teachings & persuasyons, This company or a part of them exibited on the fourth day of July [illegible word] They come up to consecrate by companies of tens, commanded by their captain over ten." (Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1988, page 14)
The threatening letter the Danites sent to the dissenters contained the following:
" To Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, John Whitmer, William W. Phelps, and Lyman E. Johnson, greeting:
" Whereas the citizens of Caldwell county have borne with the abuse received from you at different times... until it is no longer to be endured... out of the county you shall go, and no power shall save you.... there is but one decree for you, which is depart, depart, or a more fatal calamity shall befall you.... we will put you from the county of Caldwell: so help us God.' " (Letter quoted in Senate Document 189, Feb. 15, 1841, pages 6-9)
Book of Mormon witness John Whitmer, who was threatened by the Danites in the letter cited above, wrote the following in his history of the church:
"Joseph Smith, Jr., S. Rigdon, and Hyrum Smith moved their families to this place, Far West, in the spring of 1838. As soon as they came here, they began to enforce their new organized plan, which caused dissensions and difficulties, threatenings and even murders. Smith called a council of the leaders together, in which council he stated that any person who said a word against the heads of the Church, should be driven over these prairies as a chased deer by a pack of hounds, having an illusion to the Gideonites, as they were termed, to justify themselves in their wicked designs. Thus on the 19th of June, 1838, they preached a sermon called the salt sermon, in which these Gideonites understood that they should drive the dissenters, as they termed those who believed not in their secret bands, in fornication, adultery or midnight machinations.... They had threatened us, to kill us, if we did not make restitutions to them, by upholding them in their wicked purposes and designs.... to our great astonishment, when we were on the way home from Liberty, Clay County, we met the families of Oliver Cowdery and L.E. Johnson, whom they had driven from their homes, and robbed them of all their goods, save clothing, bedding, etc.
"While we were gone Jo. and Rigdon and their band of Gadiatons kept up a guard, and watched our houses, and abused our families, and threatened them, if they were not gone by morning, they would be drove out, and threatened our lives, if they ever saw us in Far West." (John Whitmer's History, page 22)
Book of Mormon witness David Whitmer, who was also threatened in the letter from the Danites, gave this information about the troubles in Far West:
"If you believe my testimony to the Book of Mormon; if you believe that God spake to us three witnesses by his own voice, then I tell you that in June, 1838, God spake to me again by his own voice from the heavens, and told me to 'separate myself from among the Latter Day Saints, for as they sought to do unto me, so should it be done unto them.' In the spring of 1838, the heads of the church and many of the members had gone deep into error and blindness. I had been striving with them for a long time to show them the errors into which they were drifting, and for my labors I received only persecutions. In June, 1838, at Far West, Mo., a secret organization was formed, Doctor Avard being put in as the leader of the band; a certain oath was to be administered to all the brethren to bind them to support the heads of the church in everything they should teach. All who refused to take this oath were considered dissenters from the church, and certain things were to be done concerning these dissenters, by Dr. Avard's secret band. I make no farther statements now; but suffice it to say that my persecutions, for trying to show them their errors, became of such a nature that I had to leave the Latter Day Saints; and, as I rode on horseback out of Far West, in June, 1838, the voice of God from heaven spake to me as I have stated above[.]" (An Address to All Believers in Christ, by David Whitmer, pages 27-28)
This statement by one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon poses a real problem for Mormon apologists. Those who reject Whitmer's statement that, "God spake to me again by his own voice from the heavens, and told me to 'separate myself from among the Latter Day Saints,' " are forced to conclude that one of the most important witnesses to the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon printed a false account of God telling him to "separate" himself from the Mormons. Significantly, although Whitmer still believed in the Book of Mormon, he was convinced that Joseph Smith was a false prophet and never returned to the Mormon Church.
However this may be, the fact that the Mormon leaders violated the civil rights of their own people by driving out dissenters from their midst caused many non-Mormons to conclude that they were dealing with a very dangerous group. As they heard reports by those who were driven out, they became increasingly fearful of the Mormons.
Legacy completely skirted around this important issue which contributed to the conflict. Furthermore, absolutely nothing was said about the secret band of Danites and the fear they created among those who lived near the Mormons.
In addition, the film has a scene showing Lilburn W. Boggs, who was governor of Missouri, issuing an "extermination order" on October 27, 1838. Governor Boggs wrote: "The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary, for the public peace." (The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints, by Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton, 1979, page 44)
While it is true that Governor Boggs did issue such a deplorable order, there is much more to the story. Actually, President Sidney Rigdon, who was "set apart March 18, 1833, as first counselor in the First Presidency by Joseph Smith" (see Essentials in Church History, 1942, page 660) suggested that there could be "a war of extermination" three months prior to the time Boggs issued his order. On July 4, 1838, President Rigdon delivered a very inflammatory speech. Mormon historian B.H. Roberts commented: "This oration by Sidney Rigdon has always been severely criticized as containing passages that were ill-advised and vehemently bitter. Especially those passages which threatened a war of extermination upon mobs should they again arise to plague the saints." (History of the Church, vol. 3, page 42, footnote)
An extract from Rigdon's speech is published in Roberts' Comprehensive History of the Church, vol. 1, page 441. After speaking of the persecution that church members had suffered, President Rigdon went on to say:
" But from this day and this hour we will suffer it no more. We take God and all the holy angels to witness, this day, that we warn all men, in the name of Jesus Christ to come on us no more for ever, from this hour we will bear it no more; our rights shall no more be trampled on with impunity; the man, or the set of men who attempt it, do it at the expense of their lives. And that mob that comes on us to disturb us, it shall be between us and them a war of extermination; for we will follow them until the last drop of their blood is spilled; or else they will have to exterminate us, for we will carry the seat of war to their own houses and their own families, and one party or the other shall be utterly destroyed.... We this day, then, proclaim ourselves free with a purpose and determination that never can be broken, No, never! No, Never! No, never!' "
One page 443, of the same volume, B.H. Roberts acknowledged that Joseph Smith himself approved of the speech:
"The unwisdom of the utterance has been quite generally recognized by our writers, and by them responsibility for it has been placed upon the rather fervid imagination of Sidney Rigdon, who delivered the speech, and who quite generally is supposed to have been mainly or wholly responsible for it. This is not true. The speech was carefully prepared... and read by other presiding elders of the church before its delivery. It immediately appeared in The Far West, a weekly newspaper... and was also published... on the press of the Elders' Journal. Joseph Smith in his journal speaks of it approvingly; and in the Elders' Journal, of which he was the editor, and in the editorial columns under his name, the speech is approvingly recommended to the saints. In view of these facts, if the 'declaration' was of doubtful propriety, and unwise and impolitic, responsibility for it rests not alone on Sidney Rigdon, but upon the authorities of the church who approved it, and the people who accepted it by their acclamation."
When Sidney Rigdon later fell into a state of apostasy, the other Mormon leaders tried to blame him for their troubles in Missouri. President Brigham Young went so far as to state: "Elder Rigdon was the prime cause of our troubles in Missouri, by his fourth of July oration." (Times and Seasons, vol. 5, page 667)
There can be no doubt that Joseph Smith and other Mormon leaders made a serious mistake when they approved Rigdon's speech. This speech undoubtedly helped trigger the violence that erupted in Missouri.
During the conflict that ensued Joseph Smith's Danites were engaged in plundering and burning houses. Smith, however, denied the plundering and asserted that the anti-Mormons "fired" their own houses "and then reported to the authorities of the state that the 'Mormons' were burning and destroying all before them." (History of the Church, vol. 3, pages 163-164) His brother Hyrum also charged that the anti-Mormons, "not being able to incense the 'Mormons' to commit crimes, they had recourse to this stratagem to set their houses on fire... the 'Mormons' did not set them on fire..." (Ibid., pages 408-409)
Unfortunately, neither Joseph nor Hyrum were telling the truth about this matter. The evidence concerning the burning of houses and plundering by the Mormons is irrefutable. Statements made by faithful members of the church provide devastating evidence against the statements made by Joseph and Hyrum Smith. For example, Benjamin F. Johnson, a Danite, who later served on Joseph Smith's highly secret Council of Fifty, commented:
"...I started... and fell into rank with a company of near twenty mounted men... I soon learned our destination was to Taylor's on Grand River, about nine miles above, where it was said arms and ammunition were held for the use of the mob.... There were two men with a number of women and children, and all affirmed that there was nothing of the kind there.... our captain ordered a search in the cornfields... which soon resulted in the discovery of arms and ammunition and of their falsehoods. The females hastily took from the houses what they could carry, and here I might say there was almost a trial of my faith in my pity for our enemies... Among the women was one, young married and apparently near her confinement, and another with small children and not a wagon, and many miles away from any of their friends, and snow had begun already... to fall. My sympathies were drawn toward the women and children, but I would in no degree let them deter me from duty. So while others were pillaging for something to carry away, I was doing my best to protect... the lives and comfort of the families who were dependent on getting away upon horseback.... While others were doing the burning and plunder, my mission was of mercy... Before noon we had set all on fire and left upon a circuitous route towards home." (My Life's Review, 1947, pp. 38-39)
Oliver Boardman Huntington, another faithful church member, who was only fourteen years old at the time he was initiated into the Danite order, wrote the following:
"Open hostilities had previously commenced on both sides, by the mobs burning one or two houses.... it was my natural turn to glory in excitement... I wished and desired to be in the midst of the scene; and often in vain spent tears, implored my father to let me go with the scouting parties.... At the time that Galeton was to be burned, I pleaded with father to let me go; but to no effect. On the appointed day I went to the top of the hill... and cast my eyes in the direction of Galeton... and saw the smoke rising towards Heaven, which filled me with ambition, the love of excitement, tumult and something new.... The next day I went to Bishop Knights and saw the plunder, and O what lots, I... heard them tell, in what order they took the place... The store they burned, but the goods were preserved." ("Oliver Boardman Huntington Journal," pages 31-32, typed copy, Utah State Historical Society)
Speaking of the Danites, D. Michael Quinn noted that, "As of 4 September 1838, Danite John N. Sapp estimated their number at 800-1,000." (The Mormon Hierarchy, page 479) Through his meticulous research Quinn has identified about 230 of these Danites by name (Ibid., pages 479-485). Quinn's book has some important new information about the Danite band.
In our book, Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? pages 428-450, we have a great deal of material regarding the Danites and their nefarious activities.
The film Legacy shows an attack on the Mormons by the Missourians at Haun's Mill. According to Joseph Fielding Smith, who later became president of the church, seventeen people were killed. (Essentials in Church History, page 235) Two of the victims were boys under ten years of age. Joseph Fielding Smith cited the History of Caldwell County which said that an old man was wounded in the attack and then "frightfully mangled." It was reported that he was mutilated with "a rude sword, or corn knife." (Essentials in Church History, page 235) On the same page, Smith spoke of "the diabolical deeds" of the members of the militia. He did, however, acknowledge on page 234 that "the executioners were principally seeking for the men, and let most of the women escape."
There is, of course, no way that a person can justify this bloody deed. Dr. Quinn was very disturbed by the "brutality of the anti-Mormon" militia that "attacked the LDS settlement at Haun's Mill," but he put the matter into perspective by showing that the action of the Danites at the Battle of Crooked River led to the slaughter at Haun's Mill:
"In the skirmishes that both sides called 'battles,' Mormons used deadly force without reluctance. Benjamin F. Johnson wrote that Danite leader (and future apostle) Lyman Wight told his men to pray concerning their Missouri enemies: 'That God would Damn them & give us pow[e]r to Kill them.' Likewise, at the beginning of the Battle of Crooked River... Apostle David W. Patten (a Danite captain with the code-name 'Fear Not') told his men: 'Go ahead, boys; rake them down.' The highest ranking Mormon charged with murder for obeying this order was Apostle Parley P. Pratt who allegedly took the careful aim of a sniper in killing one Missourian and then severely wounding militiaman Samuel Tarwater. This was after Apostle Patten received a fatal stomach wound. In their fury at the sight of their fallen leader, some of the Danites mutilated the unconscious Tarwater 'with their swords' striking him lengthwise in the mouth, cutting off his under teeth, and breaking his lower jaw; cutting off his cheeks... and leaving him [for] dead.' He survived to press charges against Pratt for attempted murder....
"A generally unacknowledged dimension of both the extermination order and the Haun's Mill massacre, however, is that they resulted from Mormon actions in the Battle of Crooked River. Knowingly or not, Mormons had attacked state troops, and this had a cascade effect. Local residents feared annihilation: 'We know not the hour or minute we will be laid in ashes,' a local minister and county clerk wrote the day after the battle. 'For God's sake give us assistance as quick as possible.' Correspondingly, the attack on state troops weakened the position of Mormon friends in Missouri's militia and government. Finally, upon receiving news of the injuries and death of state troops at Crooked River, Governor Boggs immediately drafted his extermination order on 27 October 1838 because the Mormons 'have made war upon the people of this state.' Worse, the killing of one Missourian and mutilation of another while he was defenseless at Crooked River led to the mad-dog revenge by Missourians in the slaughter at Haun's Mill." (The Mormon Hierarchy, pages 99-100)
From the above it seems obvious that the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith made a very serious mistake when he approved Sidney Rigdon's speech which threatened that if the Mormons were attacked, there would be "a war of extermination; for we will follow them until the last drop of their blood is spilled; or else they will have to exterminate us..." Although Bogg's order to the troops was similar to the Rigdon speech in that he incorporated the word "exterminated," when it came right down to it, the Mormons were offered a flag of truce.
John Taylor, the third president of the Mormon Church, said that when Joseph Smith was finally pinned down by the militia (he used the word "mob"), Smith acted like he did not want the conflict to end:
"Some 25 years ago, in Far West... there were not more than about 200 of us in the place.... Joseph... then led us out to the prairie facing the mob and placed us in position; and the first thing we knew a flag of truce was seen coming towards us.... Joseph Smith, our leader, then sent word back... said he, 'Tell your General to withdraw his troops or I will send them to hell.' I thought that was a pretty bold stand to take, as we only numbered about 200 to their 3,500..." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 23, page 37)
Joseph Smith's bold attitude was undoubtedly just for show, for John Corrill related that, "Smith appeared to be much alarmed, and told me to beg like a dog for peace..." (A Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, by John Corrill, 1839, page 41) Reed Peck confirmed Corrill's statement (see our book, The Mormon Kingdom, vol. 1, page 75). This book contains a great deal of information regarding the war in Missouri and other confrontations the early Mormons had with their neighbors.
Although some Mormons were massacred at Haun's Mill in Missouri, members of the church got their revenge in 1857 when some people from Missouri passed through Utah. In the book, The Mormon Experience, written by former Mormon Church Historian Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton, we read the following about the Mountain Meadows Massacre:
"The one exception was the Francher train, a company of overland immigrants from Arkansas and Missouri that passed through Utah in August 1857 just when Mormon tempers and fears were at a fever pitch. In a remote, grassy valley in the south of Utah this company was virtually annihilated by a combined force of Mormon militia and Indians." (The Mormon Experience, page 167)
The authors go on to point out that the Francher train had "a few hangers-on known as Missouri wildcats, who... made profane, provocative boasts that they had participated in the Haun's Mill Massacre... Some 120 persons were killed by Mormon militiamen and Indians working together." (Ibid., pp. 167-68)
Like the early Mormons in Missouri, the people in the Francher train were offered a flag of truce. Unfortunately, however, these early Mormons were far more treacherous than the Missourians who allowed the Mormons to leave the state. In this case the flag was only used as a means to get the people to surrender their arms so they could be slaughtered. Joseph Fielding Smith admitted that, "It was determined by those making the attack that no emigrant should live who could tell the tale.... [John D.] Lee induced the emigrants to surrender under the promise of protection and conveyance to a place of safety. They were led to a place where the Indians were in ambush, and at a given signal a volley of shots rang out, both Indians and white men participating in the outrage." (Essentials in Church History, page 516)
In her book, The Mountain Meadows Massacre, the noted Mormon scholar Juanita Brooks stated that although the Mormon prophet Brigham Young did not order the massacre, he "was accessory after the fact, in that he knew what had happened, and how and why it happened. Evidence of this is abundant and unmistakable, and from the most impeccable Mormon sources." (The Mountain Meadows Massacre, 1970, page 219) Brooks also reveals that Brigham Young protected the perpetrators from the law.
The journal of Wilford Woodruff, who later became the 4th president of the Mormon Church, makes it clear that while President Brigham Young publicly condemned the massacre, he actually believed that God approved of the diabolical deed:
"We visited the Mountain Meadow Monument put up at the burial place of 120 persons... The pile of stone was about 12 feet high... A wooden Cross was placed on top with the following words: Vengence is mine and I will repay saith the Lord. President Young said it should be Vengence is mine and I have taken a little." (Wilford Woodruff's Journal, 1833-1898, vol. 5, page 577)
TROUBLE IN NAUVOO
After the Mormons left Missouri they founded a city in Illinois which Joseph Smith called Nauvoo. Unfortunately, the people that moved to Nauvoo began to have serious trouble with their neighbors. One of the practices that really offended outsiders was the practice of polygamy. On July 12, 1843, Joseph Smith set forth a revelation which made it clear that he and other church members should enter into plural marriage and that the doctrine was very important for their salvation. Although Mormons no longer practice plural marriage, the current edition of the Doctrine and Covenants still has the revelation on polygamy. Section 132, verses 61-62, contains the following:
"And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood -- if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouses the second... he cannot commit adultery... And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified."
Mormon scholar Allen Roberts pointed out that in Legacy there has been an attempt to sanitize the history of the church:
"The recent church movie, Legacy, shown in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building... is an example of the church approach. It portrays the life of a real historical figure, Mary Elizabeth Rawlins Lightner, and uses quotes from her actual journal. She befriends the prophet, converts to Mormonism and eventually marries a young Mormon man. What the movie doesn't tell is that in 1842, after repeated propositions, she became one of Joseph Smith's polygamist wives." (Private Eye Weekly, October 20, 1993, page 12)
Richard S. Van Wagoner, a Mormon who is an authority on polygamy, gives this information:
"Mary Elizabeth Rollins, married to non-Mormon Adam Lightner since 11 August 1835, was one of the first women to accept the 'celestial marriage' teachings of the prophet. 'He was commanded to take me for a wife,' she declared... 'I was his, before I came here,' she added... Brigham Young secretly sealed the two in February 1842 when Mary was eight months pregnant with her son, George Algernon Lightner. She lived with Adam Lightner until his death in Utah many years later. In her 1880 letter to Emmeline B. Wells, Mary explained: 'I could tell you why I stayed with Mr. Lightner.... I did just as Joseph told me to do, as he knew what troubles I would have to contend with.' " (Mormon Polygamy: A History, 1989, page 43)
It seems clear that there was more than just polygamy involved here; Joseph Smith had obviously taken another man's wife. D. Michael Quinn made it clear that Mary was not the only married woman Joseph Smith took: "These entries refer to Zinda D. Huntington (Jacobs) and Mary Elizabeth Rollins (Lightner). Both were plural wives of Joseph Smith despite their continued marriages to other men." (The Mormon Hierarchy, page 401)
Later in Utah, Jedediah M. Grant, second counselor to President Brigham Young, gave a sermon in the Tabernacle in which he confirmed that Joseph Smith asked for other men's wives:
"When the family organization was revealed from heaven -- the patriarchal order of God, and Joseph began, on the right and on the left, to add to his family, what a quaking there was in Israel. Says one brother to another, 'Joseph says all covenants are done away, and none are binding but the new covenants; now suppose Joseph should come and say he wanted your wife, what would you say to that?' 'I would tell him to go to hell.' This was the spirit of many in the early days of this Church....
"What would a man of God say, who felt aright, when Joseph asked him for his money? He would say, 'Yes, and I wish I had more to help to build up the kingdom of God.' Or if he came and said, 'I want your wife?' 'O yes,' he would say, 'here she is, there are plenty more.'.... Did the Prophet Joseph want every man's wife he asked for? He did not... If such a man of God should come to me and say, 'I want your gold and silver, or your wives,' I should say, 'Here they are, I wish I had more to give you, take all I have got.' " (Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, pages 13-14)
Since most people who lived in Illinois in the 1840's were very opposed to polygamy and adultery, Joseph Smith's new teaching regarding "the patriarchal order of God" was bound to cause a great deal of conflict. Despite the fact that Smith attempted to hide these strange practices and even publicly denied them, leaks occurred and the secret became known. Just about a month before his death Joseph Smith was charged with adultery. The following appears in Smith's History:
"A.A. Lathrop came to my clerk, Dr. Richards, and told him an officer was on his way with an attachment for him, and that the grand jury had found a bill against me for adultery, on the testimony of William Law; he had come from Carthage in two hours and thirty minutes to bring the news." (History of the Church, vol. 6, page 403)
Not surprisingly, the film Legacy completely glossed over the reason Joseph Smith was murdered and the Mormons were forced to leave Illinois. As noted above, the film did show the wicked anti-Mormon mob destroying the Mormon printing press in Independence, Missouri. What the film failed to show was the fact that Joseph Smith ordered the destruction of a printing press in Nauvoo in a futile attempt to cover up his own questionable behavior.
In addition to the problems regarding polygamy and adultery, Joseph Smith built up a large militia which terrified the non-Mormons in Illinois. D. Michael Quinn stated that, "the Nauvoo Legion was no ordinary militia. By 1842 the legion had 2,000 troops, by far the largest single militia in Illinois. Within two years, the Nauvoo Legion had nearly 3,000 soldiers. By comparison the U.S. army had less than 8,500 soldiers that year." (The Mormon Hierarchy, page 106)
A careful look at Joseph Smith's actions in Nauvoo certainly raises a question of whether he was becoming more concerned about gaining political and military power than he was about spiritual matters. For example, in 1844 the secret Council of Fifty decided to run Joseph Smith for the presidency of the United States. Just a short time before this, Joseph Smith had stated that he did not want to participate in politics: "...but as my feelings revolt at the idea of having anything to do with politics, I have declined, in every instance, having anything to do on the subject.... I wish to be let alone, that I may attend strictly to the spiritual welfare of the Church." (History of the Church, vol. 5, page 259)
Even though Joseph Smith made this statement in 1843, in 1844 he announced that he was a candidate for the presidency of the United States. The elders of the church were actually called to electioneer for Smith. Brigham Young stated: "It is now time to have a President of the United States. Elders will be sent to preach the Gospel and electioneer." (History of the Church, vol. 6, page 322)
Joseph Smith seems to have desired to lead a large army, for he prepared a "Petition to the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, dated 26th March, asking the privilege of raising 100,000 men to extend protection to persons wishing to settle Oregon and other portions of the territory of the United States..." (History of the Church, vol. 6, page 282) In this document we find the following:
"Section 1. Be it ordained... that Joseph Smith... is hereby authorized and empowered to raise a company of one hundred thousand armed volunteers...
"Sec. 2. And be it further ordained that if any person or persons shall hinder or attempt to hinder or molest the said Joseph Smith from executing his designs in raising said volunteers... [he] shall be punished by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars... or by hard labor on some public work not exceeding two years, or both..." (History of the Church, vol. 6, page 277)
D. Michael Quinn pointed out that the "Council of Fifty" sanctioned this "extraordinary proposal." Obviously, this bizarre petition was rejected by Congress. In any case, this request would lead one to wonder just why Joseph Smith would want such a large army. The fact that his secret Council of Fifty was involved in the matter certainly raises some interesting questions. Why would he want an army almost twelve times larger than the U.S. Army?
A non-Mormon newspaper, The Warsaw Signal, printed the following: "How military these people are becoming! Every thing they say or do seems to breathe the spirit of military tactics. Their prophet appears, on all great occasions, in his sp[l]endid regimental dress[,] signs his name Lieut. General, and more titles are to be found in the Nauvoo Legion, than any one book on military tactics can produce... Truly fighting must, be a part of the creed of these Saints!" (Warsaw Signal, July 21, 1841)
To make the situation even worse, Joseph Smith went so far as to have himself ordained "King." The noted Mormon scholar Kenneth W. Godfrey stated:
"Antagonism toward the Mormon Prophet was further incited when it was correctly rumored, that he had been ordained 'King over the Immediate House of Israel' by the Council of Fifty. This action was wrongly interpreted by non-Mormons to mean that he was going to attempt to overthrow the United States government by force.... his kingly ordination only incensed the populace, and his untimely death became even more inevitable." (Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1968, pp. 212-213)
Dr. Quinn's book contains some revealing information concerning this matter:
"Two days after this general conference Smith became Mormonism's theocratic king. The kingdom's clerk William Clayton wrote that during the 11 April 1844 meeting 'was prest. Joseph chosen as our Prophet, Priest and King by Hosannas.' Clayton did not describe what happened immediately after this secret sustaining vote by the Council of Fifty.... a later revelation to the Council of Fifty affirmed that God called Smith 'to be a Prophet, Seer and Revelator to my Church and Kingdom; and to be a King and Ruler over Israel.'...
"As one researcher notes, admitting only three gentiles to the Council of Fifty was certainly 'a poor representation' on Smith's part 'if he expected the Council soon to be in control of the world.'... However, in functional terms this non-Mormon participation was an unparalleled development, because they became privy to Mormonism's greatest secret.... the three non-Mormons voted for and witnessed Smith's ordination as 'King, Priest and Ruler over Israel on the Earth.' Smith believed that no one, not even non-Mormons, would disclose this event because he had administered a secrecy oath to each.
"The oath of secrecy began at the preliminary meeting on 10 March when Smith's diary stated: 'Joseph required perfect secrecy of them.' By June disaffected members disclosed that: 'For the time being, this was to remain a perfect secret until God should reveal to the contrary,' and they claimed that Smith 'swore them all to present secrecy, under the penalty of death!'...
"Official minutes described the Council of Fifty's initiation ceremony as 'the Charge, the name, & Key word, and the Constitution, and Penalty.' George Q. Cannon, the council's later recorder, 'read the minutes of the 1st organization which did sanction the "penalty." '... Mention of a "Penalty" in the Council's official minutes corroborates the 1844 claim of dissenters that the Fifty had an obligation of 'secrecy, under the penalty of death.'
"The Daughters of Zion (Danites) of Missouri also had passwords and a penal oath of secrecy, and former Danites accounted for one-third of the men Smith admitted into the Council of Fifty." (The Mormon Hierarchy, pages 124, 128-129)
Unfortunately for Joseph Smith, William Law, who had served in the First Presidency of the church, turned against him. D. Michael Quinn reported:
"On 10 May 1844 Smith's former counselor William Law and his fellow religious dissenters distributed a prospectus for their newspaper, the Nauvoo Expositor. It advocated repeal of Nauvoo's charter and proposed to reveal 'gross moral imperfections' in Nauvoo. This was nothing new....
"However, there was a disturbing reference in the prospectus about Nauvoo's 'SELF-CONSTITUTED MONARCH.' If Smith doubted that this vague statement hinted at betrayal by one of the Fifty, he did not want to risk even the possibility of disclosure.... he took no action to forcibly suppress the pre-announced publication of the Expositor's first issue the next month. Smith no longer seemed greatly concerned that the dissident publication would reveal secrets about his polygamy and would advocate repeal of Nauvoo's charter. Such publicity did not justify his taking the risk of attacking freedom of the press.
"However, he got a shock when the first issue of Nauvoo Expositor appeared on 7 June. Law and associates proclaimed: 'We will not acknowledge any man as king or lawgiver.' The first issue promised that details of all its allegations would appear in the next edition....
"Smith realized that Council of Fifty members had betrayed him. He could not allow the Expositor to publish the secret international negotiations masterminded by Mormonism's earthly king.... The Nauvoo Expositor demonstrated that one or more members had violated their 'charge' and oath of secrecy, and Smith no longer trusted the Council of Fifty as an institution. Without that trust his grand designs for the Kingdom of God collapsed.
"On 22 June 1844 Smith told the Clerk of the Kingdom that he could burn all the records of the Council of Fifty. The council's King, Priest, and Ruler over Israel on Earth did not care what William Clayton did with the Fifty's minutes, as long as they did not fall into the hands of the church's enemies." (The Mormon Hierarchy, pages 138-140)
Joseph Smith finally concluded that the Nauvoo Expositor must be destroyed. While Smith was very worried that the Expositor would disclose the secrets of the Council of Fifty, he was also concerned about the newspaper revealing more information regarding his secret practice of polygamy. Although Joseph Smith and other Mormon leaders emphatically proclaimed that the charges concerning plural marriage were a lie, eight years after Smith's death the church published the revelation on polygamy. The publication of this revelation proved beyond all doubt that the statements in the Expositor were true. Thus it is clear that the Expositor was condemned on the basis of false testimony given by Joseph and Hyrum Smith. A photographic reprint of the Nauvoo Expositor is available from Utah Lighthouse Ministry (see book list on page 15 of this newsletter).
In a synopsis of the proceedings of the Nauvoo City Council we find the following:
"Mayor [Joseph Smith] said, if he had a City Council who felt as he did, the establishment (referring to the Nauvoo Expositor) would be declared a nuisance before night...
"Councilor Hyrum Smith [Joseph's brother] believed the best way was to smash the press and pi the type." (History of the Church, vol. 6, pp. 441-445)
The Nauvoo City Council blindly followed Joseph Smith's wishes and ordered the press destroyed. The following is recorded in Joseph Smith's History under the date of June 10, 1844:
"The Council passed an ordinance declaring the Nauvoo Expositor a nuisance, and also issued an order to me to abate the said nuisance. I immediately ordered the Marshal to destroy it without delay...
"About 8 p.m., the Marshal returned and reported that he had removed the press, type, printed paper, and fixtures into the street, and destroyed them." (History of the Church, vol. 6, page 432)
Charles A. Foster, one of the publishers of the Expositor, wrote the following in a letter dated June 11, 1844:
"Mr. Sharp: -- I hasten to inform you of the unparalleled outrage, perpetrated upon our rights... a company consisting of some 200 men, armed and equipped, with muskets, swords, pistols, bowie knives, sledgehammers, &c, assisted by a crowd of several hundred minions... marched to the building, and breaking open the doors with a sledge-hammer, commenced the work of destruction and desperation.
"They tumbled the press and materials into the street, and set fire to them, and demolished the machinery with a sledge hammer, and injured the building very materially. We made no resistance; but looked on and felt revenge, but leave it for the public to avenge this climax of insult and injury." (Warsaw Signal, June 12, 1844)
Mormon writer William E. Berrett declared:
"The destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor... proved to be the spark which ignited all the smoldering fires of opposition into one great flame.... It offered... a legal excuse to get the Prophet and other leaders into their hands. The cry that the 'freedom of the press' was being violated, united the factions seeking the overthrow of the Saints as perhaps nothing else would have done." (The Restored Church, page 255)
The Mormon historian B.H. Roberts seemed willing to concede that Joseph Smith was acting outside the law when he ordered the Expositor destroyed: "The legality of the action of the Mayor and City Council was, of course, questionable, though some sought to defend it on legal grounds; but it must be conceded that neither proof nor argument of legality are convincing. On the grounds of expediency or necessity the action is more defensible." (History of the Church, Introduction to vol. 6, page XXXVIII)
D. Michael Quinn told what happened in the days which followed:
"At midnight on 22 June, Smith, his brother Hyrum, Willard Richards, and bodyguard Porter Rockwell slipped quietly out of Nauvoo and crossed the river... The prophet's departure appalled the faithful Mormons he left behind.... Even the secret elite of Mormonism felt deserted. Reynolds Cahoon and Lorenzo D. Wasson, both members of the Council of Fifty, accused Smith of cowardice for leaving Nauvoo. He responded, 'If my life is of no value to my friends it is of none to myself,' and he returned to Nauvoo to stand trial in Carthage, Illinois.
"Smith was broken in spirit when he entered Carthage Jail charged with treason....
"To Smith, the kingdom was dead... a trusted Mormon gave him final verification of treachery in the Council of Fifty. The man reported that dissident Wilson Law was saying that 'the kingdom referred to [in Daniel] was already set up and that he [Joseph Smith] was the king over it.'
"The morning of 27 July [sic], Smith sent an order... to Major-General Jonathan Dunham to lead the Nauvoo Legion in a military attack on Carthage... Dunham realized that such an assault by the Nauvoo Legion would result in two blood baths -- one in Carthage and another when anti-Mormons (and probably the Illinois militia) retaliated by laying siege to Nauvoo for insurrection. To avoid civil war and the destruction of Nauvoo's population, Dunham refused to obey the order and did not notify Smith of his decision....
"About 5 p.m. on Thursday, 27 June 1844, more than 250 men approached the Carthage Jail.... Within moments three prisoners were desperately trying to secure the upper room's door with bare hands and wooden canes against a cursing mob shooting randomly inside. Joseph Smith fired back with a six-shooter pistol at the attackers in the doorway, wounding three of them.... The man the murderous vigilantes knew as a church president, mayor, militia commander, U.S. presidential candidate, and Master Mason leaped out the second-floor window shouting , 'O Lord my God!'
"Mormonism's king was dead." (The Mormon Hierarchy, pages 140-141)
As noted above, Legacy fails to deal with any of the problems that led to the conflict in Nauvoo. While Legacy is a very exciting film, it is a distortion of the true history of early Mormonism. It is, in fact, nothing but a propaganda film created specifically to bring the uninformed into the Mormon Church and to strengthen the testimonies of those who are already in the church.
FLEETING PROPHETS ?
In April, 1995, Gordon B. Hinckley was sustained as the 15th prophet of the Mormon Church. President Hinckley was eighty-four years old at the time he became the "living Prophet" of the church. While he appears to be in good health and of sound mind, it seems unlikely that he will be effective in his position for very many years.
In our book, The Changing World of Mormonism, published by Moody Press in 1980, we pointed out that the church has an extremely serious problem. While church leaders maintain that it is absolutely necessary to have a "living Prophet" to guide the Saints and receive revelation for the church, it is obvious that some of these prophets were so old that they became only figureheads before their deaths:
"During the past few years Mormon leaders have been faced with some serious problems. Their response to these problems plainly shows that they are not led by revelation. Several of these problems appear to be complicated by the fact that some of the Mormon leaders are very old. David O. McKay, the ninth president of the church, lived to be ninety-six years old. But he was in very poor health toward the end of his life and was hardly in any condition to function as prophet, seer and revelator for the church. Instead of appointing a younger man after McKay's death, church leaders chose Joseph Fielding Smith who was ninety-three years old. Smith lived to be ninety-five, and the leadership passed to Harold B. Lee who was seventy-three years old. Lee lived for less than two years and Spencer W. Kimball became president.... The way the Mormon hierarchy is structured there seems to be little hope of a younger leader, and apparently less hope for any new revelation. The claim of being led by a 'living Prophet' has for a long time appeared to be just an idle boast." (The Changing World of Mormonism, page 439)
As we had suggested, the seriousness of the situation became more and more apparent as time went on. The problem is that the Mormon leaders have set up a tradition which has become almost like the "law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not." (Daniel 6:8) Church leaders believe that the man who has seniority in the Council of the Twelve Apostles is the one who should become the "living Prophet" of the church. This often means that those who take on the mantle of the prophet do so at a time in their lives when they are least competent to adequately perform their duties. They are often impaired both physically and mentally when they reach the highest office in the church.
Spencer W. Kimball, the 12th president of the church, whom we mentioned above, was in bad shape toward the end of his life. Nevertheless, he continued as a figurehead president until he died at the age of ninety. Ezra Taft Benson became the 13th president of the church in 1985. As Benson became older it became obvious that he was not really leading the church. On July 10, Vern Anderson of the Associated Press reported that President Benson's grandson, Steve Benson, was deeply concerned regarding his grandfather's growing problem of senility:
"As Mormon Church President Ezra Taft Benson approaches his 94th birthday, the years have stilled his voice, clouded his mind and raised questions about the faith's rigid order of succession.
"Attired in a sweatsuit and fed by others, Benson spends his days in supervised seclusion in an apartment... He is an infirm retiree in a church that doesn't officially retire its 'prophet, seer and revelator.'
"The incongruity struck a 13-year-old Benson great-grandson the other day as he poured his breakfast cereal: 'Dad, why do they call him prophet when he can't do anything?'...
"His son's question is one reason [Steve] Benson decided to speak openly for the first time about his grandfather's decline....
"A more compelling motivator, however, is what he believes are misleading efforts by the church's hierarchy to preserve an image of a more vibrant Ezra Taft Benson, an image less problematic for the core Mormon belief in a literal prophet of God.
" I believe the church strives mightily to perpetuate the myth, the fable, the fantasy that President Benson, if not operating on all cylinders, at least is functioning effectively enough, even with just a nod of the head, to be regarded by the saints as a living, functioning prophet,' he said.
"That is not the grandfather Benson saw... in March... whom he has seen struggle with encroaching senility during much of his 7-year administration.
" The last time I saw him he said virtually nothing to me,' said Benson... 'He looked at me almost quizzically, as if he were examining me.'...
"Benson, who has not spoken in public for more than three years, was already suffering memory loss when he assumed the presidency in 1985 at age 86. His grandson said facing church audiences became a frightening experience for a man who once had relished the pulpit.... Steve Benson, 39, said it has been some time since his grandfather has been capable of participating in any way in the administration of the church's affairs, although that is 'an image that people deeply, almost desperately want to believe.
" And I'm not demeaning or ridiculing that desire to believe. I'm just saying that what the church is presenting to the members to believe is not factual,' he said." (Salt Lake Tribune, July 10, 1993)
In the same interview, Steve Benson observed: "I don't think God would expect us to be bound legalistically or structurally to a system that obviously isn't working...." Steve Benson's words seem to be almost prophetic. On May 30, 1994, his grandfather died. Instead of changing this unusual system, church leaders choose Howard W. Hunter, who was 86 years old and in poor health, to be the 14th prophet. Hunter was so weak at the time that he became the "living Prophet" that he had a difficult time speaking, and within nine months he was dead.
Historian D. Michael Quinn pointed out that the Mormon Church faced a succession crisis after Joseph Smith's death because Smith had not made it clear how his successor should be appointed. Church officials went so far as to falsify some documents to slant opinion to their point of view. Dr. Quinn commented: "A scholarly advocate of Brigham Young acknowledges that only 'approximately half of those who were members of the Church at the death of Joseph Smith did follow the Twelve through all the difficulties of the succession-exodus period [of 1844-52].' A church which loses 50 percent of its previous members within eight years is in a severe crisis." (The Mormon Hierarchy, page 242)
Quinn believes that this great apostasy in Brigham Young's time caused church leaders to be fearful that there could be another split. Consequently, to prevent this the General Authorities decided to go with a system of seniority. This system makes it very difficult for a power struggle over who should be the "living Prophet" to develop.
The Bible relates that the prophet Moses was extremely old at the time of his death. Nevertheless, it also reports that at the time of his death, "his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated." (Deuteronomy 34: 7) In the case of the Mormon prophets, however, it is very obvious that as they grow older they become infirm and senile like other men. There seems to be no special protection for these "living prophets." Joseph Smith became the prophet of the Mormon Church when he was only about twenty-five years old. Today, it is very difficult for a man to achieve that high position until he is somewhere between seventy to ninety years old. Things have certainly changed!
As the Bible says, it is dangerous to put our trust in man: "Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord." (Jeremiah 17:5) Instead of putting all their trust in a so-called "living Prophet," members of the Mormon Church would do well to give their full attention to Jesus:
"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, by whom also he made the worlds;" (Hebrews, 1:1)
D. Michael Quinn has a very good discussion of the question of succession in his book, The Mormon Hierarchy. On pages 253-260, he addresses the serious problem of older men being called to head the church. He also demonstrates that there has been some opposition to the policy within the highest ranks of the church.
OCCULTIC RITUAL ABUSE
In 1991, we published a secret memo written by Glenn L. Pace, Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric of the Mormon Church. Pace claimed that he personally interviewed "sixty victims" of ritualistic child abuse who "are members of the Church." He went on to state that "Forty-five victims allege witnessing and/or participating in human sacrifice. The majority were abused by relatives, often their parents." Mr. Pace then related that these victims were subjected to horrific torture and brainwashing. Surprisingly, the victims told Pace that the perpetrators were "Young Women leaders, Young Men leaders, bishops, a patriarch, a stake president, temple workers, and members of the Tabernacle Choir. These accusations are not coming from individuals who think they recognized someone, but from those who have been abused by people they know, in many cases their own family members."
Interestingly, the Mormon Church did not try to deny that there was a problem but instead maintained that it was only a very small percentage of church members who had been subjected to this abuse.
In 1994, two and a half years after we published the Pace Memo, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that allegations of Satanic ritual abuse were reported in a Mormon Church in Oklahoma. In a letter to Gordon B. Hinckley, signed by Merradyth and Jack McCallister, we find the following: "In June of 1963, my husband Jack, had been sexually molested by his bishop (Samuel H. Gardener) [a bishop of the Oklahoma First Ward who died in 1967] for two years between 15-17.... In June of 1993, our son, Scott, was 23 years old and recently returned from an honorable mission. He told my husband about being sexually molested between the age of 15-17 by his bishop..." (Letter dated March 23, 1994)
The McCallisters' son also accused his former bishop of ritually abusing him. Interestingly, on Feb. 26, 1994, the Oklahoma newspaper, The Yukon Review reported that the former bishop had been "charged with soliciting another person to commit an act of lewdness after a December incident at a University of Oklahoma men's restroom."
The McCallisters could not be silenced by the local Mormon Church leaders, and Merradyth was excommunicated from the church. Her husband, Jack, who was himself a former bishop, left the church over the matter. Another member of the church, Mary Plourde, who accused the former bishop and other church leaders of ritually and sexually abusing her children, was also excommunicated because she would not keep silent about the problem. Still another woman, Cinda Rhoton, reported she and her children were victims of ritual abuse. Both the former bishop and her ex-husband allegedly took part in the abuse.
We have obtained important information about this matter and have published it in our new book, Occultic Ritual Abuse: Fact or Fantasy? In addition, this book contains a great deal of information on the subject of sexual abuse, the effect of incest and ritual abuse on victims, people who develop multiple personalities and other serious mental problems because of abuse, repressed and restored memories, and the attempt by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation and others to undermine the credibility of those who are trying to help survivors. See our special offer on Occultic Ritual Abuse: Fact or Fantasy? on the first page of this newsletter.
THE NEW LIGHTHOUSE
We are very happy to report that the new Utah Lighthouse building is almost finished. Although it has been a long and bumpy drive, we are now very close to the end of the road. We want to extend our thanks to all those who have helped us reach this point. While the ministry had to borrow over $60,000, it does not have to pay interest on this amount. Nevertheless, we would like to get this loan paid off as soon as possible. Those who are interested in helping with this or the general work of the ministry should be aware that Utah Lighthouse is a non-profit organization. In addition to our work with Mormons, we provide support for 44 children through World Vision. Those who are interested in helping this ministry can send their tax-deductible contributions to UTAH LIGHTHOUSE MINISTRY, PO Box 1884, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110. Both contributions and orders can be made over the phone (801-485-0312) with Visa, MasterCard, or Discover Card.
While we deeply appreciate the financial contributions that we receive, we strongly believe that PRAYER is the most important thing. As Apostle Paul admonished: "Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;" (Colossians 4:2)
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