There were several Mormon Wars. They all arose at the point where local Christian clergies competing unsuccessfully with Mormonism, sold their congregations and attendant, backslidden community rabble, on the proposition that Mormons were aiming to take over and supersede their God-given, inalienable rights as American Christians. The Mormons it was claimed, in each of these cases, would then enforce their own morality instead of state and federal law and authority. They would allow only their own to do business or prosper. Naturally, this is how the professional Christian clergy would have seen the situation, since that is exactly what they intended to do, and ultimately did.
In Missouri, The Mormon War of 1838, the main problem was simply that Mormons were on the verge of out-voting old Christian settlers. Fistfights broke out as old Christian settlers tried to drive Mormons from the polls. The Mormons slugged their way in to vote anyway. The Christians came back with guns. The Mormons also had guns. The Mormons were better shots and the old Christian settlers cried “rebellion” to the governor. The governor issued an order of extermination. A storm of Mormon-killing ensued.
In Nauvoo Illinois, the Mormon War of 1844, Joseph Smith and the city council ordered a small portion of the city’s defense forces to destroy an anti-Mormon printing press, the Nauvoo Expositor, that had set up under their noses. Anti-Mormonists seldom mention that its operators, along with some valid “inside” exposure of legitimately alarming doctrinal developments centered around plural marriage, were transparently using this claim to journalism and a dedication to “truth” as a pretext for rather a lot of base name-calling and bold, inflammatory assertion that Joseph Smith was the devil incarnate and a bloodthirsty murderer. The paper’s content was fueled by excommunicated Mormons, many of whom had sought and gained some sort of privileged status amongst Joseph Smith’s organization, and had then taken improper liberties with that status–sexual, financial, and at various times, as did Sampson Avard, via organizing secret vigilante sub-groups to defend and avenge the Saints, which they then claimed had been authorized by Smith himself. After excommunication, I repeat, only after excommunication–an excommunication that each and all of them begged to avoid amid great public confession–several, like William Law, attempted to start their own churches, and others, like the allegedly syphilitic Francis Higbee, his randy brother Chauncy, or the ex-Mayor William Bennett, former Methodist minister, university founder, abortionist, and all-‘round manipulative sociopath, soon abandoned splitting off their own religious empires from Joe Smith’s flock, dove headlong into the anti-Mormon business, and after some success with a lecture-circuit, intended to fully monetize their Joe-Smith pay-back enterprises with the Nauvoo Expositor. And just to rub Joe’s nose in it, they set up right downtown Nauvoo. Sampson Avard became a star witness in subsequent hearings after Joseph Smith’s assassination, maintaining a brief celebrity by inventing tales of the fanciful “Danite” bands of conspiratorial marauders that became the subjects of dime novels for generations, and remain a staple of anti-Mormonism today.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
Governor Thomas Ford, in his history of Illinois, styles Bennett “probably the greatest scamp in the western country.” But this was not until long after the Mormons, thrice victimized, had become aware of his villainy.
The Nauvoo Expositor published exactly one edition before the new Mayor Smith and his city council fell for the bait, and did exactly what the Expositor’s owners probably wanted them to do. They condemned and destroyed the press as a public nuisance. This was admittedly a marginal end-run around the First Amendment.
When anti-Mormon riots broke out all over the county in protest, Smith called out the city’s state-chartered militia to defend the town’s interests. This too, was probably the anti-Mormon coalition’s hoped-for reaction. Unfortunately for Smith, by then the mobs were made up in good part by the Illinois State Militia from Carthage and elsewhere, and mobbers from Missouri and Iowa who had been rallied by the anti-Mormon press of another regional rabble-rouser, Thomas Sharp, of the Warsaw Signal.
The Expositor’s cadre of wounded parties maintained that Smith’s use of the Legion to destroy the press constituted a riot and wanted His Honor the Mayor criminally indicted for inciting it. They claimed the use of the Legion to destroy a press, and prevent its owners from defending it was treasonous, and in fact, when the anti-Mormon Mob/Militia hit Nauvoo, they maintained that declaring martial law in response to this incursion was treasonous, because at least some element of the murderous throng was there on official state business. In spite of several local court hearings and dismissals of the matter, the Expositor’s defenders then claimed Smith had overthrown all civil law by force of the Legion and cried to Thomas Ford, the governor. The Warsaw Signal broadcast these inflated charges throughout the region, and eventually the nation.
- It should be the firm determination of every one holding in veneration the institutions of the country, upon the first outrage against a citizen of this county, to give those “Latter-day Devils,” a scathing that will eclipse the “Missouri Persecutions,” or in other words, Missouri Justice.
- …Yes Joe! we have that confidence in your saintship, that we do not believe that the concentrated extract of all the abominations of the Infernal Regions, can add one stain to the blackness of your character. Look in a mirror Joe and you will see the reflection of the most detestable wretch that the earth contains.
In advocating force, Sharp appealed to the primitive law of communal self-defense that had authorized mob actions from the Revolution to the killing of the abolitionist printer Elijah Lovejoy in Alton, Illinois, in 1837, ironically the same principle underlying the wrecking of the Expositor. The theory that a community had the right to enforce its will against impending danger had authorized vigilantism and lynchings in one community after another in every section of the nation. Relying on it to make his case, Sharp was sure of support when on June 12 he called for Joseph’s assassination and the extermination of the Mormons.
–Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling
By Richard Lyman Bushman, Jed Woodworth
Ford was faced with a state-wide revolt by the anti-Mormon factions, a revolt he probably didn’t have enough “loyal” forces to contain. In an act he claims would satiate the mob’s lust for blood, he persuaded Smith to surrender himself and disarm the Legion while he investigated the validity of the charge of inciting to riot, and a proper legal trial could be held. Smith of course, had already been before several judges on all the previous charges, but when he and his close church associates showed up as arranged in nearby, allegedly neutral ground in Carthage to surrender, they were instead charged with treason.
In Carthage, same State Militia the governor had called in to keep order and protect the prisoners, the fiercely anti-Mormon Carthage Greys, had joined forces with the Mormon-hating Warsaw Regulators, a rogue citizen’s militia, and other travelling mobs like the one known as “Moses’ Fire Insurance Company,” famed for burning out Mormons, and these combined forces openly swore to kill Smith for sure this time. Having been repeatedly warned of these rather public threats, governor Ford brushed off the danger as mere bluster, and left the assembled mob around Smith’s jail at Carthage to further “investigate” the situation, saying “The people are not that cruel.”
As soon as the governor and his personal force was out of town, rather than wait for a hearing, the mob-militia coalition stormed Carthage Jail dressed as Indians, and shot Joseph Smith and his brother down like dogs. In a few days, after it appeared there would be no retaliation from the Mormons, the mob then progressed to assaulting Mormon out-settlements, and eventually besieged Nauvoo, culminating in a full militia cannon assault. Other factions of the State Militia, apparently still loyal to the state and national constitutions, sided with the Mormons and helped defend the city. It didn’t end well for the Mormons however, and they eventually were driven from the state in the dead of winter, landing in Utah at the end of a white man’s trail of tears not unlike the original Native American version.
The state of Illinois officially apologized for its treatment of the Mormons in 2004. This is particularly since later investigation proved that the fatal shots had almost certainly been inflicted upon Joseph Smith by the Carthage Greys, his State Militia guards. Missouri issued an official apology in 1976. Christian excuse-makers however, are still unwilling to concede any culpability in the matter. Many Christian ministries are dedicated specifically to rationalizing both the Missouri extermination order, the expulsion from Illinois, and of course, the last and most significant of these anti-Mormon melees, these military and para-military engagements between Christian crusaders and Mormon defenders, the Armageddon of Mormon Wars, the Utah Mormon War of 1857.
In 1847, Brigham Young succeeded the assassinated Joseph Smith and fled the raging, armed extermination effort centered around the then premier Mormon metropolis, Nauvoo Illinois. He landed in the Utah Valley and in ten years had built a major city in the desert, and an entirely self-sufficient greater community all around the Great Basin and Intermountain West. (Las Vegas was originally a Mormon supply stop for example.)
Originally, Young formed a provisional State of Deseret, out of a large portion of disputed, and mostly abandoned Mexican territory. (The Mormons had in fact been enlisted by the US government to form an army battalion, the “Mormon Battalion” to defend US interests in the disputed region and win the area for the United States.) Young’s long-term plan was to apply for US statehood and almost immediately made applications for same. Allowing Mormons majority control over their own state however, a state blocking a strategic corridor connecting the new east and west coasts, was seen by Congress to be extremely undesirable. Young however, believed that under Constitutional law statehood would allow them great autonomy and protection from further Christian persecution. Instead, Congress created Utah Territory, which could then be administered directly by Congress, particularly regarding appointing governors and other high officers.
Mormons wanted a state, they wanted autonomy. But the Mormons took what they could get, and Utah Territory was formed. Mormonism adapted to and overcame the desert, and spread itself out along supply and support lines from one end of the country to the other.
As much as Christian settlers from Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and points east, all claimed they wanted nothing to do with Mormonism, no sooner had the Mormons opened up the Intermountain West, than the same hick Bible-thumpers who were ready to fight Mormonism to the death in Missouri or Illinois, the same bare-footed yokels who drove Mormonism out of the Midwest, were loading up their guns and Bibles into wagons and following the Mormons out to Utah. They also seemed keen to check out the gold discovery two members of the Mormon Battalion found in California at Sutter’s Mill, while taking a break after their hitch in the army. The Baptists and Methodists in particular, Mormonism’s old Arminian, stump-preaching friends from Missouri, made it an official point to recruit good Christian armies of missionary invasion and help them emigrate to Utah, California, Nevada, anywhere the Mormons settled, to secure the territory for Jesus. (Their Jesus that is.)
Ten years into Mormonism’s taming of the wilderness in their Utah hideout, the goal of Mormonism’s Christian enemies back in Washington had evolved into a frantic effort to prevent Mormonism from gaining the slightest toe-hold anywhere in the nation. The entire continent had to be kept safe for Christianity.
Political, military, and cultural hostilities erupted in 1857-58 when President James Buchanan fulfilled an 1855-56 campaign promise to suppress Mormons and sent the United States military to occupy Utah in what is now known as the “Utah War.” Mormons regarded this as a violation of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo [which had formed the territory out of Mexican land] and an attempt to renew the campaign of violence against Mormons that had occurred in Missouri and Illinois. Mormons felt that they no longer had anywhere new to migrate, and that they had to stand their ground. It was during this period, on September 11, 1857, that a controversial incident known as the “Mountain Meadow Massacre” occurred in which some resentful Mormons and Piute Indians killed a group of civilian settlers passing from Arkansas to California via Utah.
Most movers and shakers in American politics pandered to rabid Christian constituencies like the Temperance Movement only because they could still get a drink in any backroom gin joint they wanted anyway. But looking pro-Temperance automatically gained them the massively organized WASP Temperance vote. So too, in their days of glory, did pandering to the anti-Mormonists gain you a similarly solid block of votes, essentially the same block of votes as the Temperance vote. This was a substantial boost for your political ambitions, whatever your personal feelings on Mormonism might actually be. In any case, there was money to be made in Utah. There were contracts and infrastructure the Mormons would otherwise use to benefit themselves and build their own power base. Politicians and military leaders found that falling into the company of the good Christian forces of anti-Mormonism, humoring them, giving them what they wanted, was a sure-fire promotion and vote-getter.
For the Yankee, Abolitionist, Christian vote-getter, there was the Republican Party, founded on the platform that it would abolish the “Twin Relics of Barbarism: Slavery and Polygamy.” James Buchanan, arguably the most troublesome US president Mormonism encountered, was a Northern Democrat with Southern sympathies called a “doughface” in period slang. In response to the Abolitionist lead of the new Republican Party, Democrats in Buchanan’s day courted Southern and States-Rights Christians by also swearing to eradicate the Mormon blight immediately upon election. The slavery issue on the other hand, could wait they said, (forever that is) but the Mormons needed immediate attention. Democrats were also promising the Ozark/Appalachian rabble in the east, free land in the newly opened west. And once again, Mormons were in the road of these promises. And Mormons were decidedly anti-slave, they even invited free slaves to join them.
Ultimately, the dominating Democrats and rising Republicans both found anti-Mormonism to be a wonderfully convenient diversion from the fact that the Union was falling apart at the seams over the slavery issue.
The closest rival to the very popular Democrat Party before the formation of the new Republican Party, was the “Know Nothing” party, alternately called the “American Republican Party,” the “Native American Party,” and “American Party.” The “Know Nothing” nickname referred to a secret-society element, or central contingent of its membership. When asked about their party or activities, they would respond only, “I know nothing.”
The “Know Nothings” were formed at the collapse of the old Whig Party, formerly the haven of all the old Anglican Communion, conservatives. But after a few generations, American-born Anglican-types and many other American Protestants began to sound the call to stop the immigration and infiltration of American Protestant purity by German and Irish Roman Catholics. The party culminated itself in a number of acts of anti-Catholic violence, sabotage and riots back east, and then split apart over the slavery issue, sending pro-slave Protestant Nativists to the Democrats, and Abolitionist Protestant Nativists to what became the new Republican Party. Just a few months before similar mobs killed Joseph Smith in Carthage Illinois, there were massive, violent anti-Catholic riots in April of 1844 in Philadelphia, ironically, the “City of Brotherly Love.” Similar riots and violent acts continued against mostly Irish and German Roman Catholic immigrants for a decade or more, in a host of cities and regions manifesting immigrant, and particularly Roman Catholic populations.
While these Nativist, Protestant-driven persecutions were called the “Bible Wars,” and the press and general American society seemed somewhat shocked that Christians would rise up and kill fellow Christians, if must be remembered that the Mormons were even more persecuted, and more violently so, for a far longer period, a period some could argue hasn’t quite ended. But of course, Mormons aren’t Christians, and they were overtly annoying to all of Christianity, constantly in the road of “real” Christians, and “progress,” and so at one level or another, most of America thought they had it coming. But in reality, the several Mormon Wars should be more correctly viewed in the same context as the Know Nothing and other Nativist, Protestant persecutions of foreign Roman Catholics, simply because they are foreign, and not “true” Christians, and for no other substantive or substantial reasons.
“No less than two hundred families have been compelled to remove from their homes…. Men with their wives, and often six or seven children, trudging fearfully through the streets, with small bundles, seeking a refuge they knew not where….a large number of Irish Catholics and others, who were so ruthlessly thrust from their homes during the riots of Tuesday and Wednesday, had encamped in Camac’s Woods and other places, some two or three miles north of the city….They were without food, except what chance or charity threw in their way, and destitute of clothing sufficient to protect them from the damp night air. While in this deplorable situation….one woman gave
birth to a child.”
–From A Full and Complete Account of the Late Awful Riots in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia: John B. Perry, 1844.
For all of these dominant parties and political orientations, the Mormons fulfilled every qualification of the perfect boogeyman. They had a Pope-like prophet. They had secret vengeance societies–or so it was claimed by their defectors and that was enough evidence for anyone wanting to exterminate them anyway. They were taking all the free land out west and claiming they’d have it all eventually, for their own private Zion. For all of these Nativists, Mormons were mass-recruiting foreigners to immigrate. For the pro-slave Southern hicks they were all just a bunch of smartassed Yankee Abolitionists. For the pious North and South, they weren’t Christians, and they weren’t even corrupted, fallen, aberrant Christians, like the Catholics. They weren’t even that close to being acceptable American citizens.
The most serious problem was, Mormons had become a huge voting block. Pleasing the Mormons essentially gave you any election in their areas, and this without bribes or threats or graft of any kind. And they weren’t stupid, so none of the usual promises or tricks to fool the constituency worked against them. For a while, the waning Whig party bolstered itself by openly playing the anti-Mormon card. Democrats in those days, eagerly toyed with Mormon affections. Unlike other easily manipulated immigrant or ethnic voter bases however, Mormons couldn’t be bought with promises of free land or other goodies, were entirely self-sufficient, and had their own agenda. When the Mormons did not prove reliable, when candidates had to deal individually with each Mormon community issue-by-issue, when Joseph Smith formed his own presidential candidacy, and pledged the Mormons would only support their friends of whatever party, and would cross party lines to do so, the decision was taken by the Democrats to simply eliminate the Mormon puzzle from the political equation rather than attempt to court this fickle, if substantial, group of self-willed and demanding constituents.
President James Buchanan was a Presbyterian from Pennsylvania, a founding stronghold of the Know Nothings, and member of the first Christian sect to become the sworn enemy of Joseph Smith and his Mormon church from its earliest days in the “Burned Over District” of New York’s revival era. He had his nose firmly suckled into the butt-cheeks of both the Southern pro-slavery and the universal anti-Mormon Movements. He’s also often cited in lists of the top-ten worst US presidents:
In his inaugural speech, Buchanan stated that the slavery issue was of “little practical importance” because the Supreme Court was about to settle it. Two days later they announced the Dred Scott decision in which it ruled that people of African descent, whether or not they were slaves, could never be citizens of the United States, and that Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in federal territories. Buchanan was widely believed to have been personally involved in the outcome of the case. Additionally, Buchanan’s administration was troubled by the Panic of 1857 – a sudden downturn in the US economy. Before Buchanan left office, seven slave states seceded, the Confederacy was formed, all arsenals and forts in the seceded states were lost (except Fort Sumter and two remote ones), and a fourth of all federal soldiers surrendered to Texas troops. Historians in 2006 voted his failure to deal with secession the worst presidential mistake ever made.
Under previous president Pierce, one of the throng of good Christian profiteers to seek his cash-cow in Utah Territory, was a man named McGraw. WMF McGraw had been awarded the mail contract for the Territory, but apparently wasn’t very dependable or swift in his postal obligations. He’d hoped to make the line profitable from passenger trade, but Brigham Young as governor and head of the Mormon church, already had a superior personnel transport and supply line set up in all directions to facilitate the ongoing Mormon emigration, supply, and construction efforts. The only passenger market McGraw had, was a handful of occasional non-Mormon travellers. As governor, Brigham Young concluded after some time, that McGraw’s contract was a waste of time and money and awarded the new mail contract to fellow Mormons who were already engaged in the far more developed and reliable Mormon transportation efforts.
Most federal appointees got along well with Governor Young and Mormon society. But McGraw went screaming back to Washington as part of a small coven of partisan officials and others had gone to Utah either to get rich, or under the intention of heeling Brigham Young and his Mormon heretics, and cowing them into faithful dogs of American Christian rule. All of these disaffected parties were particularly upset that period Mormons lived as an almost socialist community, dealt generously and forgivingly with their brethren, and yet stuck it to the Gentiles at every opportunity like capitalist bastards. (As opposed to the current Mormon culture in which BYU cranks out hundreds of Mormon MBA’s every year, each of which makes it his goal to see just how much cash he can screw out of the faithful all along the Wasatch Front, so he can build the biggest house on the highest bench in Provo.)
Much of the offence taken by this particular group of federal officers initially send from Congress to rule Utah Territory, came down to Brigham Young’s flock cramping their style in the grafting, drinking, and whoring departments. Even today, grafting, drinking, and whoring are still considered in some camps to be principal benefits of any high office. Back then, it was simply a way of life. As a result of this combined, sudden flurry of complaints, President Pierce nullified the Mormon mail contract, halted the US Postal Service to said territory, and effectively cut off all communication to and from Utah and its governor as a result.
According to LDS historians James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, the most influential information came from William W. Drummond, an associate justice of the Utah territorial supreme court who began serving in 1854. Drummond’s letter of resignation of March 30, 1857 contained charges that Young’s power set aside the rule of law in the territory, that the Mormons had ignored the laws of Congress and the Constitution, and that male Mormons acknowledged no law but the priesthood.
- He further charged the Church with murder, destruction of federal court records, harassment of federal officers, and slandering the federal government. He concluded by urging the president to appoint a governor who was not a member of the Church and to send with him sufficient military aid to enforce his rule.
This account was further supported by Territorial Chief Justice Kinney in reports to Washington, where he recited examples of what he believed to be Brigham Young’s perversion of Utah’s judicial system and further urged his removal from office and the establishment of a one-regiment U.S. Army garrison in the territory.
Furniss states that most federal reports from Utah to Washington “left unclear whether the [Mormons] habitually kicked their dogs; otherwise their calendar of infamy in Utah was complete.”
Pierce’s administration was vote in the middle of his woefully inadequate exploration of the question of Brigham Young’s alleged Utah rebellion. In 1857, fulfilling his campaign promises, newly elected president James Buchanan eagerly embraced the opportunity to send a large army out to suppress this imagined rebellion, and Congress appointed a new Christian governor, Alfred Cumming, who travelled with the army, presuming that he would have to be installed by force of arms. This little adventure set itself west in the spring of 1857, and soon became known as “Buchanan’s Blunder,” though it was officially called the “Utah Expedition.” It ultimately bankrupted the national treasury and after only a few years of debauched army occupation of Mormon country, circumstances found the expedition’s leader, Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston and a lot of his troops and officers, seceding from the Union and making war upon the Constitution wholesale, leaving the North entirely broke and poorly able to meet the very real Southern rebellion.
Johnston died at the battle of Shiloh in 1862, a Confederate officer. You will have to look hard for his involvement in the Utah War, but you will easily find him listed as a Confederate war hero, awarded the rank of General, and considered by Rebel president Jefferson Davis to be the finest commander in the world.
In 1860, after about four years of Buchanan’s Utah blundering, a new president named Abraham Lincoln found himself on the brink of an American Civil War, and the Union of States pressed to the breaking point by Buchanan’s Southern friends. Lincoln’s economic and military capacity to defend the Constitution was severely crippled by 40 million dollars of pointless Utah War debt, an unheard of sum at the time. Most of it was squandered on pay, feed, contracts, booze and whorehouses intended to keep the Christian forces of civilization in the Utah Expedition comfortable. When the Union needed troops immediately along the Potomac at the outbreak of civil war, most of the Union army was comfortably bivouacked in Cedar Valley Utah, exiled to that remote wasteland southwest of Salt Lake City by mutual agreement of Brigham Young and the new Christian governor Cumming to keep the army and its accompanying rabble out of town as much as it was possible to do so.
In Camp Floyd, near present-day Fairfield and Cedar Fort, Johnston’s army immediately built their own camp-follower subdivision of whorehouses, gambling dens and taverns, called “Frog Town.” Brigham Young complained that before the Christian forces of “civilization” had invaded them, there hadn’t been a single murder and scarcely a violent crime in the territory for ten years, and since the Christian invasion, they were dealing with multiple fights, shootings, theft, robbery and other crimes almost daily.
When Lincoln recalled the Utah Expedition, a good portion of his troops took the free ride back east and then deserted immediately to fight for the Confederacy. The Utah Expedition was in short, a major boondoggle. There were no military engagements. Brigham Young welcomed the new governor openly and immediately. The army on the other hand, was bottled up and harassed all winter in a hellishly cold canyon while Mormon guerrillas burned their supply wagons, scattered their livestock, and cut them off from all communications. After protracted negotiation they were allowed to enter the valley, but only to pass through—to be forced to camp in a rocky back-valley fifty miles away from Salt Lake City. Nothing much else happened until the Civil War broke out. After some three years or more and nearly forty-million dollars, Johnston’s Army had succeeded only in bringing Utah Territory its first whorehouse, a string of grog shops, and a jail.
All the comforts of Christian society.
On June 19,  the New York Herald summarized the non-engagement: “Killed, none; wounded, none; fooled, everybody.”
In 1857, as Andrew Johnston’s army was marching on Utah to make its Mormon population submit to Christian Biblical convention and political rule, the Mormon and Native American victims of years of bigoted American Christian persecution, converged at a place called “Mountain Meadows” to have it out with what they perceived to be a company of American Christian bigots who had declared war on them. This culminated in one-hundred and twenty allegedly docile and innocent Christians being shot, speared, and beaten to death by a group of Indians and Mormons who had apparently finally taken just about enough of their crap. That’s the short explanation. But brevity isn’t everything. I’ll elaborate.
In the first Mormon War of 1838, most Christian apologists openly confess that Christian forces in Missouri and Illinois authored a “Secret Constitution,” or “Mob Manifesto” in which they openly declared a war of extermination on Mormonism. They contend however, that Mormons also issued a declaration of war on Christianity. This is popularly confused with Mormon 1st Counselor Sidney Rigdon’s infamous “Salt Sermon,” of June 17 1838, which actually only compared apostate Mormons to salt that has lost its savor, and ominously invited apostates to stop making trouble for the church and find somewhere else to live. This warning, without any question was fairly menacing in its implications. I was extended however, specifically to Mormon apostates who were stirring anti-Mormon violence against the Saints, and extended only to telling them leave before some unspecified “bad things” could come of their continued efforts against the Saints.
The speech actually in question, also delivered by Rigdon, was given on July 4th, 1838, and anti-Mormon forces use it to this day as an excuse for Missouri Governor Lilburn W Boggs’ “Extermination Order,” Executive order 44) issued months later in the same year. The chronology of course is backwards. Mormons had been persecuted, murdered, tortured, raped and pillaged for many years by mobs and appointed militia officers lead by Christian ministers before any of this Mormon “tough talk” began.
While it is claimed that Rigdon’s July 4th declarations only inflamed his Christian neighbors, Christian apologists then and now only selective quote one small section of the oration, and always neglect to mention the many expressions of inspiring, patriotic tribute to the United States Constitution that precede the one juicy paragraph or two they always quote from this so-called Mormon “declaration of war”:
In celebrating this, the anniversary of our independence, all party distinctions should be forgotten, all religious differences should be laid aside. We are members of one common republic, equally dependent on a faithful execution of its laws, for our protection, in the enjoyment of our civil, political, and religious privileges. All have a common interest in the preservation of the Union, and in defense and support of the constitution. Northern, southern, and western interests, ought to be forgotten, or lost for the time being, in the more noble desire to preserve the nation, as one whole; for on this depends the security of all local and sectional interest; for if we cannot preserve them by supporting the Union, we cannot by rending it in pieces. In the former there is hope, in the latter fear, in one peace, in the other war.
All attempts, on the part of religious aspirants, to unite church and state, ought to be repealed with indignation, and every religious society supported in its rights, and in the exercise of its conscientious devotions. The Mohameden, the Pagan, and the Idolater, not excepted, and be partakers equally, in the benefits of the government. For if the Union is preserved, it will be by endearing the people to it; and this can only be done by securing to all their most sacred rights. The least deviation, from the strictest rule of right, on the part of any portion of the people, or their public servants, will create dissatisfaction, that dissatisfaction will end in strife, strife in war, and war, in the dissolution of the Union.
Next to the worship of our God, we esteem the education of our children and of the rising generation. For what is wealth without society, or society without intelligence. And how is intelligence to be obtained?–by education. It is that which forms the youthful mind: it is that alone, which renders society agreeable, and adds interest and importance, to the worship of God. What is religion without intelligence!–an empty sound. Intelligence is the root, from which all true enjoyments flow. Intelligence is religion, and religion is intelligence, if it is any thing. Take intelligence from it, and what is left? a name–a sound without meaning. If a person desires to be truly pious in the sight of God, he must be purely intelligent. Piety without intelligence, is fanaticism, and devotion without understanding, is enthusiasm.
[A not very subtle jab at the fundamentalist hicks and apostates persecuting them.]
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 forever, for 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 attempts it, does 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, till the last drop of their blood is spilled, or else they will have to exterminate us: for we will carry the seal of war to their own houses, and their own families, and one party or the other shall be utterly destroyed. –Remember it then all MEN.
We will never be the aggressors, we will infringe on the rights of no people; but shall stand for our own until death. We claim our own rights, and are willing that all others shall enjoy theirs.
As I say, this sermon was delivered by Sidney Rigdon, the time First Counselor in the LDS presidency, and authorized by Joseph Smith, its primary author. There is in fact, nothing whatsoever in it that implies disloyalty to Constitutional law or the United States. There is nothing whatsoever in this that suggests anything other than a commitment to “no longer tamely submit” to lawless persecution. This we are told by Mormon critics, was authored and presented as gospel to the general LDS membership directly by the LDS First Presidency in the name of founding prophet Joseph Smith, on the Fourth of July, 1838. How then, some twenty years later, had this same organization’s leaders changed their minds entirely about their patriotic and political orientation? How is it that in 1857, Brigham Young suddenly figured it would be a smart thing to have some Mormon assassins pop out to Mountain Meadows and randomly slaughter a wagon train full of peaceful Christian travellers just for the hell of it?
Well, this makes perfect sense to the Christian bigot, because this is what Christian ministers of the day, and even of this day, thought, and still think of Mormonism:
The Monstrosity of Mormonism
Lyman Whitney Allan, DD, Newark NJ
The Assembly herald, Volume 10
By Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. General Assembly
Mormonism is a monstrosity. It is a fungus growth upon civilization. It is a gross externalism, a horrible abnormalism. It never developed from roots deep in the trend of the Christian centuries. It started, in its degenerate individualism, forth and up from the pit. It began down in the blackness an isolated phenomenon. It bears the features of satanic parentage. It is Beelzebub’s offspring. By its fruit we know it, and its fruits have been blood and shame.
We make no apology for this characterization. History is history. A half century of time confirms what we have uttered. The apology for fifty years of infamous history rests with the Mormon hierarchy.
It is grossly foolish to lighten or to gloss over modern Mormonism by endeavoring to forget and eliminate its past. Mormonism and murder stand together. We appeal to the Mountain Meadow massacre and the bloodshed of “destroying angels.” Mormonism and sensualism are linked indissolubly…
Mormonism is the foe of the individual. What can the character of the individual Mormon be who is taught that sinful Adam is the only God with which he has to do, that it is good to slay the body to save the soul, and adultery is a means of grace? What can the character of the family be when the wife and the mother, whom God intended to be the purifying, uplifting and divine influence in the home, is to all intents and purposes a prostitute?…
Polygamy is only another name for moral leprosy…
…Mormonism has doubled its adherents in twelve years. Four hundred thousand people in this country claim allegiance to Mormonism, and they are people who are in some way so sinewy in spirit and body as to have transformed a desert and to have gotten the dominating political power in several States and to have constructed, as Professor Ely has remarked, “the most perfect piece of social mechanism with which I have ever in any way come in contact, excepting alone in the German army.”
I have had a Mormon elder in my home and been face to face with his sophistries. I have hurled the truth at Mormon elders from my pulpit, and the effect upon them was absolutely nothing. Neither excited nor touched, they went forward with the same hypocritic non-chalance to perpetuate and extend the aggressiveness of the Mormon machine.
We have made mistakes. We have admitted Utah as a State. The error is evident. It must be corrected. How? Cannot the Christian Church all over the land influence the emigration of Christian men and women to “Mormonized” territories? The preponderance of a Christian population will solve the Mormon problem. The Church must keep an eagle eye upon our Congress. it must not permit action favorable to Mormonism.
No, it’s not recent rhetoric from the Religious Right about Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy. But it might as well be. The Christian assumption of Constitutional and political right to rule is as clearly seen in the above criticism of the first elected Utah State Mormon Senator, Reed Smoot, in 1903, as it was in the 1838 Mob Manifesto:
We, the undersigned, citizens Jackson County, believing that an important crisis is at hand, as regards our civil society, in consequence a pretended religious sect of people that have settled, and are still settling in our County, styling themselves “Mormons;” and intending, as we do, two we are society, “peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must,” and believing as we do, that the arm of the civil law does not afford us a guarantee, or at least a sufficient one against the evils which are now inflicted upon us, and seem to be increasing, by the said religious sect, deem it expedient, and of the highest importance, to form ourselves into a company for the better and easier accomplishment of our purpose — a purpose which we deem it almost superfluous to say, is justified as well by the law of nature, as by the law of self-preservation.
If we fairly judge the history of Mormon patriotic expression, we clearly see a consistent deference to the rights of all religious orders and beliefs, and a strong support for all political and religious orientations as guaranteed in the US Constitution. Christian utterances along political lines on the other hand, consistently assume that America is theirs by God’s ordination and Constitutional mandate. The emphasis above, is mine, but note that the Christian Secret Constitution, or Mob Manifesto, was authored by all the noted Christian clergy of the region, as well as many civil officers with whom they fellowshipped. It was not, as is claimed, in reaction to Rigdon’s “Salt Sermon,” or even the LDS Presidency’s 4th of July address. Rigdon’s Independence Day declaration could have been authored by Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, or Ben Franklin. The Mob Manifesto in contrast, is a sinister, Christian Nation response to the LDS church’s publication of an article that implied an invitation to free negroes to emigrate to Missouri and join the Mormons.
Contrary to the delusions of Christian, moral-equivalency pretenders, the old Christian settlers of Missouri declared a war of extermination on the Latter-day Saints because they refused to let a bunch of nigger-loving Mormons continue to build a thriving, free society that would crush their aspirations to build slave-powered mansions on cheap western farmland. Yes, that’s how they really put it. That’s how Christianity really justified the Missouri extermination order. That’s the unsanitized version.
But more than that, anti-Mormonists would like you to ignore period neutral evidence that suggests the Mormons had repeatedly appealed from the very start of their troubles in the state, to then Missouri governor Daniel Dunklin, through a team of lawyers and had tried again and again to resolve matters peacefully. The truth is, mob violence against Mormons in Missouri commenced in 1833 when it was realized and circulated through Christian journals that Mormons had reached majority in Jackson County and would soon command all of its affairs by simple domination of the ballot box:
- From the 31st of October until the 4th of November , there was one continual scene of outrages of the most hideous kind. the mob collected in different parts of the county and attacked the Saints in most of their settlements, houses were unroofed, others were pulled down, leaving women and children, and even the sick and the dying exposed to the inclemency of the weather. Men were caught and whipped or clubbed until they were bruised from head to foot, and some were left upon the ground for dead. The most horrid threats and imprecations were uttered against us, and women and children were told, with cursings, that unless they left the country immediately they should be killed.
Never pacifistic, the Mormons vowed to fight back. And they did on November 4 when the Saints and the Missourians fought a ruinous skirmish on the eastern side of the Blue River. One Mormon and two Missourians died in the fighting and several received injuries.
Because of this battle Missouri militia Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Pitcher, also a respected Independence business leader, went with troops on November 5, 1833, to the main Mormon settlements and forced the Mormons to give up their arms. Within a short time twelve hundred Mormons began leaving the county, now having no way to protect themselves.
–Alexander Doniphan, Portrait of a Missouri Moderate
The Mormons dragged their mounting civil and criminal cases against their persecutors through the courts as advised by their governor, while Dunklin pretended to be helpless to do more. This only incited the Old Christian Mobs to move into the adjoining counties where the Mormons had fled, to again loot, pillage, burn, and brutally destroy their homes and possessions, because it was thus clear the Mormons intended to stay and fight rather than run off as instructed by the Christian settlers.
By the time Mormonism attempted to vote at Gallatin Missouri, the start of the Mormon War of 1838, they had been through at least three counties and two governors attempting to settle their grievances in the courts and via the several police and security agents of the state. The newly elected governor Lilburn W Boggs was likewise appealed to for the protection of their persons, their property, and their civil rights. He had however, been elected as the head of the nameless “First Settler’s Party,” a very localized Nativist movement that had as it’s sole object driving out or exterminating the Mormons and keeping Missouri free for God-fearing Christian slave owners to exploit.
The real story of Mormon exile reduces Governor Boggs to a tool of the strong first-settlers’ party in upper Missouri. This group deserves identification and a name; it existed in active and dormant forms for at least two years in about ten counties that ringed the Mormon area. Governor Boggs catered to this faction, to the point of allowing them unlimited freedom against Latter-day Saint settlements, and finally adopting their goals and slogans in his extermination orders.
Naturally, today’s Christian apologists won’t tell you that Missouri’s Lilburn W Boggs’ only reply to Mormon cries for help was, and this almost verbatim, to tell them that the state had wasted enough time and money defending the Mormons, and the warring parties would just have to fight it out amongst themselves.
On October 9, A C Caldwell returned to De Witt to report that the Governor’s response was that the “quarrel was between the Mormons and the mob” and that they should fight it out.
In the anti-Mormon mobbings that killed Joseph Smith in 1844, Governor Ford of Illinois, when forced to make the hard choice of enforcing his Constitutionally demanded duty to protect the Mormons at the expense of his popular constituency, later essentially concurred with Boggs’ sentiment:
Men engaged in unpopular projects expect more protection from the laws than the laws are able to furnish in the face of popular excitement.
Anti-Mormonists keep insisting that Mormons got what they had coming in Missouri for burning down the polling town of Gallatin. They always forget to mention that Christian mobs had refused them their legal franchise to vote and physically assaulted them as they approached the polling place, which is what actually commenced the warfare. They also forget to mention that the thus offended Mormons burned Gallatin not only because they were being denied the right to vote there, but because the same parties attempting to drive them from the polls at Gallatin had been involved in burning most of them out of the counties next door some months previously.
Historian Richard L. Anderson concludes that Governor Boggs’s extermination order in Missouri was a fourth use, not the first, of a “remove-or-be-exterminated” policy employed by an aggressive, northwestern Missouri, anti-Mormon political faction. By then, the Latter-day Saints had been forced from counties three times—from Jackson County in 1833, Clay County in 1836, and Carroll County just two weeks before. The governor merely made into state policy what had been county policy. He was a friend of faction leaders who, in practice, were an “expulsionist party.” This party gave Mormons an extermination order for Carroll County on 22 September, whereupon the Mormons petitioned the governor, reporting they were threatened with force and violence. They said their accusers had given them until 1 October to leave “and threatened, if not gone by that time, to exterminate them without regard to age or sex.” Governor Boggs’s order “only ratified the
program and slogans of the first-settlers’ party of upper Missouri.” The words “remove or be exterminated” were, Anderson observed, “expulsion party passwords.”7
Anderson also affirmed that Governor Boggs’s order was a military order that was modified in the field but that technically lost its legal force when the military situation ended by 1 December. Since the Mormon exodus took place from December to April, “civilians without any authority enforced an expulsion policy that did not originate with the governor in the first place.”
Perhaps some of the most impartial, if a bit sketchy, recordings of the anti-Mormon War of 1838 came from period journalists attempting to make sense of the events as they were happening:
The Mormon war has been terminated, by a surrender of the Mormon leaders to the troops under Gen. Atchinson. This happened on Sunday, Oct. 28th. On that day, about three thousand men, being part of the army of 5000, ordered out under Gen. Clark, comprising Gen. Atchinson’s division made their appearance before the town of Far West, the county seat of Caldwell county, where the Mormons were entrenched. Upon their approach the Mormons had hoisted a white flag, which was shot down by Capt. Bogart, [Reverend Bogart] but was immediately replaced. Gen. Atchison then sent in a message, with a view to learn their wishes and intentions, when six of the leaders avowed their willingness to surrender, in the expectation that the Mormons should be unharmed. The surrender was accepted, and the individuals put under guard. Their names are Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, George Hinkle, Lyman Wight, Parley P. Pratt, and Mr. Knight. The Mormons assembled, at Far West, comprised 700 men under arms. Of this number, a small body of 150, retreated and pursued their way to the northern frontier.
The reports vary as to what happened after the surrender. In fact, our intelligence does not come down clearly to a period, later than the day of the capitulation.
[What happened after the surrender was rape, torture, murder and pillage—the details of which were not immediately forthcoming for obvious reasons. The details are however, now a part of the state records.]
On the day after, Gen. Atchison received the orders of the Governor, which has already been mentioned in this paper, as directing the expulsion or extermination of the Mormons. It is said that, shocked and disgusted with the severity of the command, he retired and went home. After that event, it is stated that several — some accounts say 40 of the Mormons — were put to death.
One version of the statement is, that the Mormons killed, at this time, were such as had not come into Far West. [To surrender.] We need, however, more certain and authentic information, than we now have, on this head.
Gen. Clark, with the remainder of the troops collected from the Counties below Caldwell, was, on the Friday after the surrender, encamped in Ray county, and had not then reached Far West.
It is stated that, about the time of the surrender, a Company of men — 200 in number — fell upon a body of the Mormons, in Splawn’s settlement, on Shoal Creek, about 20 miles from Far West. The Mormons, it is said, were 36 in number; and the story runs that all but four were put to death. Some of the names of the killed, as reported to us, are David Evans from Ohio, Jacob Fox, from Pennsylvania, Thomas M’Bride and his father, Mr. Daly, M. Merrill and his son-in-law, Mr. White, all from Ohio. [Haun’s Mill.]
The facts about Bogart’s fight are that two of his men were killed — one outright and one died of his wounds. At the same four Mormons fell — among them the captain of their band. [Battle of Crooked River.] Bogart’s company were stationed on the line of Ray Co., to intercept communication between Ray and Caldwell. They had captured 4 Mormons; and to rescue these the attack was made upon them by the Mormons. Bogart’s Company is said to have been 40 in number, and the Mormons 70.
As to the Mormon ravages in Daviess County — the plundering and burning of which so much has been said — we are informed that, before those hostile operations, the Mormons held a consultation, at which the propriety of the steps afterwards taken, was debated at large. Some of their number were averse to the plan, and nearly one third dissented from it. The reasons assigned for these measures, were alleged outrages by their enemies in Carroll and Daviess Counties. According to the Mormon statement, their houses and buildings, near DeWitt, in Carroll County, had been destroyed by their enemies, and they themselves expelled from the County and afterwards pursued, on their retreat into Daviess. It was, therefore, as they allege, in retaliation for previous unprovoked outrages, that they executed their system of violence and terror in the County of Daviess. Evidently, they could not have adopted a more suicidal policy — allowing their own statements to be wholly true.
We have no time now — and it would take more space than we can spare for it — even with a knowledge of all the facts, to enter into a history of the origin and progress of this difficulty. But there is a statement in this connection, which we have heard but recently, and which we sincerely hope is not true. That statement is as follows:
About the 9th or 10th of last month, when about 80 Mormon families had been expelled from Carroll county, and driven into Daviess, a message was sent by them to the State executive, praying for his interposition in their behalf. The reply to that message was, that already the State had been put to a great deal of expense on account of these difficulties, and that he could see no cause to interpose, thus leaving the parties to fight it out!
[The governor’s latter response to the Mormon cry for help and justice is also now a part of the state record.]
–Daily Missouri Republican – November 9, 1838
[Not by the way, by any means a pro-Mormon newspaper.]
The above testimony of course, tends to negate the Christian apologist’s contention that the Missouri extermination order was justified because the Mormons attacked the state militia. OK, well, the Mormons did attack the militia. Anti-Mormons billed it as the “Battle of Crooked River,” and pretended the Mormons almost wiped out the entire militia contingent. As we see above however, only one of the state’s company was killed and another died of wounds later. And of course the “state militia” involved was actually a rogue body of Christian volunteers led by the infamous Captain Samuel Bogart, a Methodist minister and sworn enemy of Mormonism. And of course, Bogart and his men had been systematically raiding Mormon settlements on his own initiative. Bogart was the Vicar of Christ who slaughtered and hacked up old men and children at Haun’s Mill, killed perhaps a hundred or more Mormons there and elsewhere, and was at the time holding four Mormons hostage—the liberation of which was the sole intention of the so-called attack upon said “militia” at Crooked River.
Having been forcibly expelled from Jackson County in 1833, the Mormons had migrated north to a county specially created for them by the legislature, Caldwell. However, the influx of new Mormon converts into Missouri caused them to start settling in adjacent counties (including Daviess), which many older settlers felt they had no right to do. Fears arose that the Mormons would take control of all political offices in nearby counties, and this combined with prejudice and fears about the Mormons’ economic practices, attitudes toward Native Americans and slaves, and other factors to create an explosive situation by the fall of 1838.
Bogart first took an active role in anti-Mormon activities during a disturbance in Carroll County, where Mormons had established a settlement called De Witt, in violation of an alleged agreement with non-Mormons not to settle in that county. No written agreement to this effect was ever produced, but this did not stop renegade Missouri militiamen from laying siege to the Mormon settlement from October 1 to October 10, 1838. When General Hiram Parks arrived with militia troops—Bogart and his company among them—to restore order, Bogart and his unit immediately sided with the anti-Mormon mob, refusing to obey General Parks’ orders to such a point that Parks had to order them back to Ray County to prevent them from joining the vigilantes. Parks unsuccessfully endeavored to have Bogart expelled from the State Guard for his insubordination.
Following a fight between Mormons and non-Mormons during a county election in Gallatin, county seat of Daviess County, Bogart impetuously called out his militia unit, ostensibly to prevent an imminent invasion of Ray County by the Latter Day Saints. No such invasion was actually contemplated, but Bogart decided to act aggressively against the Mormons, anyway. He marched his company to the Caldwell County line, picking up volunteers along the way, then obtained permission from his new superior, General David Atchison, to “range the line” between the two counties to prevent any invasion of Ray County. However, Bogart and his men decided that the defensive posture ordered by Atchison was not to their liking, and so they divided into smaller units and proceeded to disarm Mormons living first in northern Ray County, then in southern Caldwell, as well. Though clearly exceeding his original mandate, Bogart continued to harass and threaten local Mormon settlers and even threatened to give Far West—county seat of Caldwell County, and the main Mormon settlement in Missouri—”thunder and lightning” if the Mormons did not leave the area forthwith.[1
Following the conclusion of the Mormon War, Bogart was involved in an altercation with fellow-citizen Alexander Beattie during a militia election, during which Bogart shot and killed Beattie, then fled to Texas with a thousand-dollar bounty on his head. He settled in Washington County, where he joined the Texas Rangers and became a company commander in that organization. While in the Rangers, Bogart participated in the abortive Mier Expedition in 1842–43 into Mexico, which resulted in the infamous “black bean” incident, where seventeen Texans were executed after drawing black beans in a random death lottery instituted by orders of Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Bogart survived his experiences in Mexico, and upon his return to Texas in 1844, settled down in Collin County. Here he would serve four two-year terms in the state legislature, including one as a senator.
Bogart was never brought to justice for his murder of Beattie, nor for any of the depredations he had committed against the Mormons in Missouri.
Bogart resigned from the Texas legislature in 1861 on account of ill health, after signing the Texas ordinance of secession. He died on 11 March 1861, and is buried in Collin County in an unmarked grave.
The Most Reverend Major Bogart—a promotion given in Texas–is described by Christian apologists to this day as one of the “heroes” of the Missouri Mormon “rebellion.” And unless you want to count the possible inclusion of remnants of Bogart’s Christian Militia in the “Missouri Wildcats” who met their doom at the hands or the Mormon instigators of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, none of the Christian “heroes” of any of the anti-Mormon Wars were ever brought to “justice.”