Welcome to Episode 27 of the Naked Mormonism Podcast, the serial Mormon history podcast, I'm Bryce Blankenagel and thank you for joining me.
Last historical timeline episode covered a lot of ground. We were able to follow the majority of the missionary force back from the promised land Missouri, all the way back to Kirtland, Ohio. Soon after this, Joe moved down to live with the Johnson family in Hiram, Ohio along with Emma and their 11 month old adopted twins.
Soon after Joe and Emma moved to Hiram, things get heated up really fast. Rigdon preached that Joe was no longer a prophet of God, which I personally believe Joe tuned Rigdon up for doing, and Joe was able to calm the whole place down and reassure everybody that he was still totally the one true prophet dude.
After this little insurrection was handled, Joe and Rigdon teamed up to finish their inspired translation of the Bible, and bring about a whole new era of personal revelations. Of course, this only happened after Rigdon had moved to Hiram as well, and the delirious dynamic duo were able to really focus on the things at hand.
We also introduced a new set of characters to our timeline, most of them even got their very own NaMo nicknames. First off, we had William Wines Phelps, or as we came to know him Double-Dub Phelps. Next we had John Goebbels Whitmer, the church's first official historian/propaganda machine. And finally, we had somebody who is known as providing one of the most faith-based perspective, sanitized, white-washed, decontaminated, sparklingly spotless autobiographical history of the church, even our new friend and bankroller Philo Dibble-Dabble.
We were also introduced to somebody very very special to Joe last episode. Marinda Nancy Johnson Hyde Smith Smith Hyde. This is the first time that one of Joe's to-be wives entered our timeline in a significant way. In the wake of our introduction to Marinda Johnson, we found out that Joe and Rigdon suffered a horrible beating in March of 1832. Of course, the rumors flew that it was because Joe was getting a little frisky with Marinda, as he frequently did, and I made the assumption that this beating may have been in reaction to their little hanky panky, which I don't think is too crazy to assume, especially because two people in the mob were Marinda's older brothers, and she was 16 at the time. It makes sense that they would want to teach Joe a proper lesson, and helps to explain why they wanted to cut his balls off before they tarred and feathered Him.
After the beating, when Joe went to visit Rigdon, Hingepin Rigdon wanted to kill Joe, and asked his wife for his razor for the purposes of doing so. Apparently, he asked Joe for a razor to kill his wife with soon after, which may have pointed to something wrong in his head from the beating and fever. Or, maybe he wanted to kill Joe, because Joe's shenanigans elicted the worst beating of Rigdon's life. All of this is up to speculation, and that's what happens when we try to assign motives to historical situations, there is rarely ever consensus, so that's just my take on the facts.
Let's get into the meat of this episode and advance our storyline. Let's see how far through 1832 we can get, as to approach ever closer to the Nauvoo years when things really take off.
To kick off the crazy today, we have to understand the biggest motive behind what was going on in the church during 1832. One of the revelations that Joe and Rigdon received while in Hiram, Oh, was to compile all the existing revelations, and put them together into the Book of Commandments. They had most of the revelations written down in what was called the First Book of Revelations, but they were hand-written by a lot of different people, and weren't printed for mass distribution. The revelation I'm referring to was received on Nov 1 1831, and it told the leadership to gather the revelations together and compile them into the Book of Commandments for mass distribution. A lot of things that happen in 1832 after Joe leaves Hiram, Ohio, and most of them are tied to this one main project.
Our new friend Philo Dibble-Dabble was a wealthy guy living in Hiram, and he really liked Joe and the church. Upon Joe's arrival to Kirtland, he briefly lived on the farm of Frederick G. Williams, which was in dire straits. Dibble-Dabble sold a bunch of land, and gave $400 to Freddy Willey to pay off the debts he owed. Well, Joe was about to Dabble into the Dibble-Dabble fund once again to finance printing of the Book of Commandments.
In order to print a book, an early 19th century individual had a few options. They could write an amazing piece and have it picked up by a publisher, they could write it, and finance the printing like the Book of Mormon, or they could just buy a printing press and the materials necessary, and print whatever they like for a fair amount cheaper than a printing store would. Joe and company elected for the third option, and began setting up a printer in Jackson County Missouri, also known as Zion. According to the Dibble-Dabble autobiography, He had to put up a little money to get this done.
"In 1832 I sold my possessions in Ohio, and, we being called upon by Joseph to advance monies to purchase the land in Jackson County, I paid fifty dollars for that purpose and also gave Brother Parley P. Pratt fifty dollars to assist him as a pioneer. I was then called on for money to be placed in the hands of Brothers [Newel K.] Whitney and [A. Sidney] Gilbert, who were going to New York to purchase goods to take up to Jackson County, and gave them three hundred dollars.
I joined in with a company led by Brother Thomas B. Marsh, and arrived in Independence, Jackson County, on the 10th of November. I remained in Independence until spring and then removed to the Whitmer settlement, farther west, where I built a house, fenced twenty acres of land and put in a garden."
You may be asking, I thought the Whitmers lived in Fayette, NY, why did Dibble-Dabble say that he moved to the Whitmers, west of Independence, Missouri? For the answer to that question, we have to remember back to the missionary force that made the first trip out to Missouri in late 1830. This was supposedly the same missionaries that converted Hingepin Rigdon to Mormonism, but there are plenty of arguments that show us Rigdon knew about the Book of Mormon long before 1830. Anyway, this missionary force made it to Missouri, and Ollie Cowdery along with Freddy Willey went proselyting, while Dick Zyban Peterson, and Peter Whitmer moved into a house and got jobs to financially support the mission.
During this time, Peter Whitmer briefly lived with a man named Lilburn W. Boggs, who was a Missouri state senator until 1832 when he was elected to Lt. Governor. During the short time that Whitmer was living with and working for Boggs as his tailor, a 12 year old girl named Mary Elizabeth Rollins was working for Peter Whitmer as an assistant seamstress. Lilburn Boggs needed some new clothes for his new job, as well as a new suit for his inauguration, which were the projects that Peter Whitmer and Mary Rollins were working on.
To get a little background on the Rollins family, and where they came from, they were residents of New York that had moved to Kirtland around 1828. When the missionary troop arrived in 1830, they gave a Book of Mormon to Isaac Morley. The 11 year old Mary asked to borrow the book as it the story about it seemed so amazing to her. This was one of the very few copies that had been dropped off in Kirtland, and Morley wasn't too keen on giving his only copy to an 11 year old girl. After some persistence, Morley gave in and allowed Mary to take it home with her, on the condition that she bring it back to him before breakfast the next morning.
The Rollins' stayed up all night reading the book, and Mary was absolutely enthralled with it. The next morning she took the book back to Isaac Morley. I'll let her tell the story from there, taken from her amazing journal writings.
"When I reached Brother Morley's they had been up for only a little while. When I handed him the book, he remarked, "I guess you did not read much in it." I showed him how far we had read. He was surprised and said, "I don't believe you can tell me one word of it." I then repeated the first verse, also the outlines of the history of Nephi. He gazed at me in surprise, and said, "child, take this book home and finish it, I can wait."
Mary's journal entries are absolutely amazing. She tells her whole story in such graphic detail, and really gives the reader a sense of what it was like to live in frontier America in the 19th century. You may be wondering why I'm focusing on this girl so much. Well, I'll let her tell us why in another entry she wrote in her journal describing her time in Jackson County working with Peter Whitmer for the newly elected Lt. Governor Lilburn Boggs.
"Before or about the time I finished the last chapter, the Prophet Joseph Smith arrived in Kirtland, and moved into a part of Newel K. Whitney's house (Uncle Algernon's partner in the Mercantile Business), while waiting for his goods to be put in order. Brother Whitney brought the Prophet Joseph to our house and introduced him to the older ones of the family (I was not in at the time.) In looking around he saw the Book of Mormon on the shelf, and asked how that book came to be there. He said, "I sent that book to Brother Morley." Uncle told him how his niece had obtained it. He asked, "Where is your niece?" I was sent for; when he saw me he looked at me so earnestly, I felt almost afraid. After a moment or two he came and put his hands on my head and gave me a great blessing, the first I ever received, and made me a present of the book, and said he would give Brother Morley another. He came in time to rebuke the evil spirits, and set the church in order. We all felt that he was a man of God, for he spoke with power, and as one having authority in very deed."
Knowing Joseph's character, did that creep anybody else out? Let's get a little deeper here, this is taken from a statement Mary made in 1902.
"In 1834, [Joseph] was commanded to take me for a wife. I was a thousand miles from him. He got afraid. The angel came to him three times, the last time with a drawn sword and threatened his life. I did not believe."
This is a recurring theme. There is absolutely no way of discussing Mormon history without talking about polygamy. The two are so deeply intertwined that even studying Mormon history can't be properly done unless you factor in polygamy. Last episode we were introduced to Marinda Nancy Johnson that would later become one of Joe's wives, and I said that she marked the first of Joe's wives that we would meet in the timeline. I was wrong, because Joe met Mary Rollins in early 1831, and met Marinda in late 1831. Risking being wrong again later, I believe that Mary was the first of Joe's polygamist wives that shows up in our timeline. Let's get a proper sense of how Joe wrangled her in. He told her that he was commanded three times to take her as his wife, the first of which he reportedly told her in 1834 when she was 16. By 1842 in Nauvoo Joe was really trying to seal the deal and told her that it was time to make a decision. He told her an angel appeared to him with a drawn sword commanding them to be sealed for time and all eternity, lest Joe suffer condemnation. Joe told Mary that she would receive a witness of the truth of polygamy, and she sort of did. This is from a later statment given by Mary.
"Joseph came up the next Sabbath. He said, “Have you had a witness yet?” “No.” “Well,” said he, “the angel expressly told me you should have.” Said I, “I have not had a witness, but I have seen something I have never seen before. I saw an angel and I was frightened almost to death. I did not speak.” He studied a while and put his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. He looked up and said, “How could you have been such a coward?” Said I, “I was weak.” “Did you think to say, ‘Father, help me?’” “No.” “Well, if you had just said that, your mouth would have been opened for that was an angel of the living God. He came to you with more knowledge, intelligence, and light than I have ever dared to reveal.” I said, “If that was an angel of light, why did he not speak to me?” “You covered your face and for this reason the angel was insulted.” Said I, “Will it ever come again?” He thought a moment and then said, “No, not the same one, but if you are faithful you shall see greater things than that."
There is a lot more nuance to Mary's story, but I wanted to provide a little insight on her life for a little bit of context. I would recommend checking out her story, as well as her autobiography. It's a truly harrowing story, and it puts you there with her, going through the same trials that Mary experienced both in and out of the church. There will be links to her autobiography, as well as Mormon apologist Brian Hales' deconstruction of her relationship with Joseph.
That being said, do you see that game that Joe was running here? If he couldn't get a woman to consent to his devious wiles, he would just command them to get married to him. Something that's even crazier is Joe's ability to adapt if he saw it wasn't going his way. First he would try to simply seduce the target woman and keep everything completely secret. If that didn't work, he would command it, and if that didn't work and he knew that he wasn't going to close the deal, he would simply tell the target that God was testing her like Abraham with Isaac. Of course, God would never command something that he knew his children couldn't take, so the target refusing Joe's advances was nothing more than a trial god was giving her, meaning he wanted her to resist. There really is no losing when it comes to Joe and his wives.
Like I said, polygamy is tightly intertwined with Mormon history, and it's necessary to bring up each of these women as they came along in the storyline just to understand the context of their individual stories as being part of this larger body of history. I'll be pointing out these women when they come up in the storyline, and let their stories develop as the main timeline develops.
Let's meander back to the church as opposed to Joe's sexual escapades. Earlier we mentioned Dibble-Dabble giving shitloads of money to the church. This was in the midst of the expansion in Independence, desire to print the Book of Commandments, and empire building in general. Parley Parker Pratt, or as we call him P-cubed, was given $50 dollars to live on while on mission trips, while another $50 was given to purchase the land in Jackson county where the printing press would be built. After that, Dibble-Dabble gave $300 to Newel K. Whitney, or as we know him Father Whitney, and a man named Algernon Sidney Gilbert for the purposes of buying printing materials and a press in New York. We know Newel Whitney from the Whitney & Co. Store in Kirtland. This was the place that Joe moved into when he made camp in Kirtland. Joe had lived with Freddy Willey for a couple of weeks but after that, He and then pregnant Emma lived in the apartment above the store. During this time, Newel and his wife, Elizabeth Ann, were so hospitable to Joseph and Emma, that Joe cordially referred to her as Mother Whitney. Beyond that, we just extended the nicknames to include Newel as Father Whitney.
Not to take too large of a diversion, I have to admit that I'm wrong again. I said that little 12 year old Mary Rollins was the first woman to enter our timeline that would be one of Joe's plural wives. Well, chronologically speaking, that's wrong again. Alright, no more absolutes for me, because when Joe and Emma moved into the Whitney store, little 6 year old Sarah Ann would eventually become one of Joe's wives as well. He met her in super early 1831 when she was 6 and he was 25, possibly a very short time before meeting Mary. You see how interlaced polygamy is with Mormon history? We've missed a bunch of Joe's to-be plural wives, and we're a mere 2 years into the church being officially established.
Back to the Whitney store in Kirtland, Father Whitney had a business partner by the name of Algernon Sidney Gilbert, and these are the guys that took $300 from Dibble-Dabble to buy stuff for printing in New York. Algernon Sidney Gilbert was the uncle of young Marry Rollins that we talked about a while ago, which is how she came to be connected with Mormonism and Joe in the first place.
Algernon Sidney Gilbert will be with us in our storyline for quite some time, and it's worth providing a useful nickname for him. Often times he's referred to as just Sidney Gilbert or A. S. Gilbert, which can be awfully confusing with Sidney Rigdon. I must tell you right off that he won't be with us for long, and there isn't a whole lot about him in Mormon history, not much that's unique that could easily be made a snarky name with anyway. So, we'll just call Algernon Sidney Gilbert, Asid Gilbert.
Father Whitney and Asid Gilbert went on their mission trip funded by Dibble-Dabble to purchase everything necessary for printing the church's own private propaganda, overseen by Joe, Ollie, William Wines (Double-Dub) Phelps, and John Goebbels Whitmer.
Another person we need to introduce into our timeline that's a bit overdue is Isaac Morley. Morley was a wealthy man that was practicing the law of common stock under Hingepin Rigdon in Kirtland before Joe and company came along. I know it seems contradictory to say He was a wealthy man praciticing common stock, because the very implication of common stock is no rich and no wealthy. Well, Morley had a large farm with a lot of land about a mile from the center of Kirtland. From what I can tell there were about 4 or 5 families living on this farm in common housing, working the land for the benefit of the common stock storehouse in Kirtland. Morley's wealth comes into play when you realize that the people were working his land, living on his property, in houses that were probably erected, at no cost to Morley, by the parishoners of Rigdon's Campbellite church. That makes Morley the wealthy land owner, and the people that worked his land mere peasants or indentured servants, working ignorantly for the good of the community.
Luckily for us, Morley gives himself a nickname sufficient for our purposes. During the Nauvoo years, Morely was so good at making settlements that he was tasked with creating his own commune in near Lima, IL. This commune came to be known as Yelrome, and yes, Yelrome is Morley backwards. Isaac Morley just gave us the perfect palindromatic nickname for our timeline, meaning he will be known as Yelrom Morley. If this isn't creepy enough for you, a piece of Yelrom Morley's garments are framed in the Manti, Utah temple because he was one of the founding guys of Manti and other settlements in current day Sanpete County Utah.
Alright, got all of our new characters straight? We introduced two women that would later become wives of Joseph, whose names were Mary Rollins, and Sarah Whitney, and we also picked up Asid Gilbert, and Yelrom Morley. Father Whitney and Asid Gilbert were business partners, and Mary Rollins, the niece of Asid, was given her own copy of the Book of Mormon from Yelrom Morley. See why those people were all necessary to introduce for this small segment of the timeline? It's all a matter of small details building the overall narrative.
So Asid and Father Whitney took this $300 to New York for a few months and purchased a printing press and the typeset, which would all make its way to Independence by mid 1832. The lot had been purchased by Dibble-Dabble, and it was merely in need of the printing press the building would house, and paper to print stuff on.
The paper became Joe's personal mission. Double-Dub Phelps was overseeing the installation of the printing press, and had subsequently moved into the building that the press would be in. Double-Dub will soon be the main guy overseeing the printing of content by the church. By June 1832, the Book of Commandments, the Evening and Morning Star, and a proprietary hymn book were all being printed by Double-Dub in Independence.
In order to print all of this, there needed to be a MASSIVE amount of paper, which was actually pretty expensive back then. On April 4, 1832, Joe and a few others head to Wheeling, VA to buy paper. The initial plan was to print the hymn book, and 10,000 copies of the Book of Commandments. Once Joe realized how expensive paper was and lowered that to 3,000 copies of the Book of Commandments, that were physically VERY VERY small. I have a facsimile copy of it which is the same size as the original and my cell phone is bigger than it. With the paper saved in printing pocket sized books, Joe was able to oversee the production of the Evening and Morning Star, in which current events were covered, and updated revelations were distributed frequently.
To introduce our next event in the timeline, I'm going to read a letter. I believe I've referenced it in the past, or maybe read some excerpts, but now I'm going to read the letter in its entirety. It was written by a man living in Logan Utah name Aaron Dewitt in 1875. He wrote it to his sister, and it was found in a time capsule that was sealed in 1889, and reopened in the 1980's.
Logan, Utah Jan. 31, 1875
To Mrs. Elizabeth Durrant:
My Dear Sister:
How to commence this letter I have promised you so long. I hardly know, but will say in the first place I have been deceived, led into error, imposed upon, deluded, beguiled into a false religion in my youth and spent the best part of my life in a wilderness, a desert, a land of sage and salt, away from all enlightenment and civilization, among the most degraded tribes of Indians on the Western hemisphere. And what is still more worse, I have had to mingle with A BEASTLY, BLACKHEARTED, BLOODY PRIESTHOOD; a set of treacherous villains, as full of meanness as old Satan, and as thirsty for blood as a stinted leech.
While these are facts, they are not half told;
For hundreds have been killed for gold;
Both men and women have been slain
And robbed to add to Brigham’s gain.
I will here mention a few of the most inhuman and cruel acts ever committed by any man-eating savage in the darkest ages, and which none but a corrupt priesthood could ever perpetrated. All of these have been done in Utah since I came here by men claiming to hold THE HOLY PRIESTHOOD OF THE SON OF GOD, and sent by their great Prophet and leader to do these deeds of blood and plunder in the name of God Almighty.
On the 12th day of September, 1857, two days after I arrived in this accursed land, 119 men, women and children were murdered while traveling to California, by a band of Mormons painted as Indians, and led by a Mormon high priest, a pious president of a stake of Zion, and a wise ward bishop. After the emigrants had defended themselves against those wretches for three days beneath a burning sun in a sandy desert, WITHOUT A DROP OF WATER, they dressed two beautiful little girls in white and sent them to a spring nearby. But as they tripped along towards the sparkling stream they met the bullets of those merciless Mormons and fell dead into the water they were trying to secure to save their own lives and quench the parched throats of their beloved parents. Finally John D. Lee, a Mormon bishop, who had just been anointed A KING AND PRIEST TO GOD, and who had eighteen wives given to him for being so great and good, sent a flag of truce to the poor, parched up, bleeding emigrants and promised them protection if they would give up their arms and go back to the nearest town. This they gladly agreed to; but mark the next act of this sanctified saint. They had not gone a half mile from their camp, when this great deliverer gave the command to his men to fire, and every man was shot down and every woman screamed and ran. The terrible, sorrowful scene that ensued no tongue can tell. Every woman was caught and ravished, murdered, robbed of her jewelry, stripped naked and left unburied on the burning sand. In a few days nothing was left of all those beautiful forms but the bleaching bones the prairie wolf could not devour. Then every child those bloodhounds thought could tell the tale of their infernal villainy was beheaded or cut to pieces, and scattered quivering with its bleeding friends. Then those pure-souled priests plunged their hands into the gory clotted blood of their victims, and with outstretched arms toward heaven, EXPRESSED THEIR GRATITUDE TO GOD for so great a favor; to Him who doeth all things well; but who will undoubtedly, when they meet Him, hear His laugh re-echo through the caverns of the damned, saying, “I told you I would laugh at your calamity and mock when your fear cometh.”
All the property of those murdered men and women was gathered together the value of one hundred and fifteen thousand dollars, besides thirty-five thousand dollars in gold, and sent to their old master-murderer Brigham. And this is how he sits in his office, wags his big toe, and makes his means, and then boasts that he is THE GREATEST FINANCIER ON EARTH, and owns nothing but what the Lord has given him.
Another and similar case is that of the murdered Morrisites, a religious
body of simple-minded souls, who had met together for devotional
exercise in a small valley on the banks of the Weber River in the summer
of 1862, when a corps of the Nauvoo Legion, led by cowardly Captain
Burton, who is now on a mission preaching the
Gospel of Mercy to you dark benighted Britons, and inviting you to the home of the free and the land of the brave, but he is not gallant enough to come home himself. He is the dastardly dog who crawled on his belly, like his ancient progenitor which tempted Mother Eve, until he was near enough to fire a cannon and blow down
the house where those poor souls had met. Then, after they had surrendered, and given up their few fire arms, the poltroon shot and killed Joseph Morris, Mr. Banks, and two women, one with a beautiful baby nursing at her breast, took the rest of the camp prisoners, put them in the penitentiary, and finally fined them one hundred dollars each, just because they did not believe in the rascality of Brigham Young, and do as they were told.
What bloody deeds, what sin and strive
What sacrifice of human life,
What deeds of plunder have been done,
To raise a gory throne for Young.
I will next mention the most perfidious act coupled with the foulest murder ever committed since the world began. IT WAS IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT, when three of the Salt Lake City police were sent by the great Seer and Revelator of all the world, to see Dr. Robinson and ask him to set a broken limb for a poor man who, they said was writhing in agony. The Doctor had just retired to bed, but at his murderers’ entreaties, he dressed himself, and in a few moments was on his errand of mercy. He had not gone far when one of the villains, who walked behind, struck him on the head with a meat chopper he had stolen for the purpose, and cleft open his skull. The others fired their pistols immediately, and blowing out their victim’s brains, fled.
But my soul sickens at these dreadful deeds, or I would tell you of the brutal murder of Yates, the killing McNiel, the assassination of Borman, the shooting of Brassfield, the slaughter of the Akins party, the emasculation of Jones, and finally the butchering of him and his poor old mother. I would also mention the dead man in the meat market, the three men in the barn, the murder near the Warm Springs, the shooting of Pike in the streets of Salt Lake City in broad daylight, the murder of the Potters and Parishes, of Rhodes and Roberts, and HUNDREDS OF OTHERS WHO HAVE BEEN MURDERED IN COLD BLOOD, and robbed to satisfy the avaricious cravings of as foul a man and as false a Prophet as ever disgraced this sin-stained earth.
These horrible deeds have all been committed in our holy Zion, and not one of the perpetrators ever brought to justice. In fact, there has been no justice in the land. A few years ago a man’s life was not worth a cent who durst utter such words as there is evil in the land, or sin among the Priesthood. “You do as you are told!” has been the Gospel preached in this priest-ridden place for the last quarter of a century. In the fall of 1857, I heard our Prophet in a congregation of three thousands souls, tell his bishops they were to “counsel” the brethren to do as they were told; and, said he “if they don’t do it, lay righteousness to the line and judgment to the plummet. If you don’t know what that is, come to me and I will tell you!” He then threw back his head and with a revolting grin, DREW HIS FINGER ACROSS HIS THROAT, a sign the anointed ones well understood. And yet, the old bilk, with his smooth slang will make his innocent dupes believe he is free from guilt, and that he is THE LIGHT, THE TRUTH, AND THE WAY, and that he has a place prepared for them, where the waters are flowing placidly – a land of milk and honey.
But the waters are stained with blood, and the milk is turned to
And the honey has lost its sweetness, the people seem to say;
And dupes are getting scarcer, and obedience is dead,
And all the old man’s judgments and plummets, too, have fled.
THE HAND-CART EXPEDITION Then there was the hand-cart company that crossed the plains in 1856. The details of their distress caps the climax of all horrors. Could I portray that terrible journey and the sufferings of those poor souls, your very heart would bleed. Three ounces of flour per day was all they had to eat. Upon this scanty fare they dragged their carts with 100 pounds of luggage over the worst kind of road, and more than five hundred miles through snow, fording rivers whose currents are of the swiftest kind, and their waters always cold. Then at night, when those poor, wet, shivering souls came into camp they had no wood to make a fire. At times a few small willows could be obtained, just enough to bake their scanty cake. It did not take them long to eat their supper, for a mouthful each was all they had. So hungry were they, that some gnawed the flesh off their own arms, ate roasted hide, or fed upon their shoes. One-fourth of all who started, DIED OF STARVATION ON THE WAY.
From five to fifteen died every night for over 300 miles of the road. So weak and weary were these living skeletons that they could scarcely bury their dead. Every night a pit would be dug just large enough to place the dead in, and a shallow covering of dirt thrown over them. Those that dug the grave one night expected to be placed in theirs the next. Many a one prayed that his spirit might leave his frame of bones for a berth among the blessed.
Why did they start in this way? do you inquire. Because this false prophet had told them that it was the Lord’s plan of emigration, and the only way to secure salvation. They believing him to be a true prophet, had faith in all he said, and started on their journey, 1,400 miles, as late in the season as August. As they traveled on Westward toward the Zion of their hopes, songs could be heard from every cart and prayers from every camp. But before they got five hundred miles on their weary pilgrimage, THE SNOWS BEGAN TO FALL, the wintry winds to blow, and the keen frost and piercing cold set in. Then their suffering commenced in earnest. Still they trudged along day after day, full of faith in God and holy priesthood, and day after day endured greater pain. Finally their limbs began to freeze, and pieces fell from their worn-out bodies. They became dispirited and pined away and died, as I have already told you.
So sad and sickening is this Gospel plan,
As taught by Brigham, to poor fallen man,
That every time I mention his ill name,
It sends a shudder quivering through my frame.
I also tremble for the deeds he’s done;
For life destroyed, for blood he caused to run;
For victims frozen on the plains, through him,
While starving, suffering, falling limb from limb.
Dear Sister, in this sad letter I have told you the truth, AS IT IS IN JESUS CHRIST, and as I expect to meet at the final bar of retribution. All these deeds and a thousand others equal to them in baseness and brutality, have all been committed under the cloak of religion. But I must tell you more of them at another time.
I will now tell you the reason why we could not leave this blood-stained land, I mean ten or twelve years ago. In the first place, we were a thousand miles from the nearest town East, eight hundred miles to the nearest settlement West, and God only knows how far to any place north and south. On all this vast tract of land, NO WHITE MAN DWELT, no civilization was known, none but the red men roamed the dreary solitudes. To travel such a space required considerable food, a good wagon and team, in fact, everything necessary for a three month’s pilgrimage. Nor was it safe for a few men to go together, unless they were well-armed. Again, every Bishop knew your business AND WAS ALWAYS ON THE LOOKOUT. If you started, they would send men to drive off your stock, and thus you would be compelled to return. Then, if you did not behave and act the hypocrite, the bishop would send the Danites to use you up, send you across lots to that bright brimstone home we read about. Thus you see it was almost impossible to get away. But now we have a railroad across the plains and settlements every little way and civilization is coming to Zion. If the Lord won’t come the law will, and if Jesus is not approaching, justice is. Then all who want can leave. But now the priests want us to go, and we wish to stay.
Burst off every fetter, remove this Priestly yoke. And never rest contented, till every link is broke. For every man in Utah and woman shall be free. And shouts shall echo through the land for God and Liberty! Hoping to meet you soon on earth life and finally beyond the confines of time measured out to mortal man.
I am affectionately,
Thanks for hanging in there for the entirety of that letter. Before talking about Bloody Fucking Brigham himself we need to qualify that letter. Like I said, it was sealed in a time capsule and reopened a century later. Aaron Dewitt was an apostate that had left the church, and therefore everything he said is considered anti-Mormon propaganda bullshit, but is it really? In studying the various historical claims he made, he was fairly accurate. When it came to the Mountain Meadows Massacre, he was spot on with everything but the date. When he talked about the Morrisite war, every claim he made was accurate from what I could find. He may have had a slant against the church which came through his letter quite clearly, but let's be honest. When historians look at this letter, primarily believing members, they see an apostate with an ax to grind that was on a campaign to smear the leadership of the church he just left. A lot of people consider Brigham Young to be the holy and pious prophet of the Utah Mormon church that God called him to be, and this view of him comes in direct contradiction to a lot of people's perspective of him. Well, from a lot of other historically sound references, we can tell that this letter enlightens us a lot more about the character of Brigham Young than the sanitized version that the church teaches. We also know that a lot of the historical occurences claimed in the letter aren't usually attributed to Young but rather to his followers acting on their own accord. The Mountain Meadows Massacre is a great example of this. People have claimed for a long time that Young had no idea it was evening happening when it did happen, and that the man responsible, John Lee was executed for his evil initiative. That doesn't really explain why all the possessions of the Fancher party were absorbed by the church, and the US government subsequently billed for said property. It's merely theorized that Young knew about the MMM, or even worse, commanded it to happen, but there isn't smoking gun evidence of his connection to it. Dewitt, in this letter, merely drew a line between two dots that seemed like they needed a line between them, and I can't imagine that his reporting of the MMM is any different from anything else he reported.
All of that being said, a lot of people look at this letter and consider it nothing but hogwash, and completely ignore it. I think that's very intellectually disingenuous, almost as disingenuous as taking everything Dewitt said as absolute truth, there's a balance in between those perspectives that we need to find to get a close to the facts as possible.
It's quite obvious from some of the content in the letter that Dewitt really hated Brigham. Even his little ryhms were extremely slanted against Young, and I can't really fault him. It was a well known rumor that if somebody left the LDS church in the Utah territory, they were probably not going to be around for much longer. There were a few apostate that lived in Utah during the mid to late 1800's, but almost every single person that lived in Utah had made the pilgrimage as a Mormon. But let's use historical empathy for a minute, let's step into the shoes of Aaron Dewitt. He had made the trek all the way to Utah, and based on everything that had happened, understood Mormonism to be a false religion lead by a "Beastly blackhearted, bloody priesthood". Like almost every Mormon that made the trip across the plains was sold a good looking package that had afterlife insurance attached, and when they arrived and found Utah to be the desolate, uninhabitable wasteland desert that it is, and were obviously a little frustrated with the bait-and-switch that they'd experienced, but what was their solution? Like Dewitt said, there wasn't any civilization a thousand miles to the east, and 800 miles to the west, and nothing north or south for at least that far. Where were these people supposed to go once they realized that Utah was nothing more than a broken promise?
Dewitt was stuck in BFE Logan Utah, after travelling 1,400 miles, to live in a resource scarce desert, all perpetrated by a man that movie villians pale in comparison to, surrounded by people that hated him for his apostasy, with no alternate circumstance to flee to. Would we expect something written by a person in Dewitt's circumstance to be anything but hate-filled?
Everything that Dewitt claimed we'll get into once the timeline advances to the Utah years starting 1847, and we'll judge the historical accuracies of his claims as we encounter each circumstance. For now, let's dive into the Bloody motherfucker that was Brigham Young.
I'm willing to wager that there are a lot of things about Brigham Young that most Mormons don't know about. I'm just going to say this at the onset of our introduction to Young, that the church wouldn't continue to have 4 universities named after this man if they knew everything about him and what he did. If the majority of believing Mormons, especially in leadership positions, were to really understand Young, I think they would try to distance themselves from him as much as possible. A lot of things in Joseph Smith's history have been whitewashed, or ignored by the church as a whole, but the focus is on him because he was the founding prophet. Brigham Young's history is altogether forgotten by almost every single believer in Mormonism, and that's simply a crying shame. I can't stand idly by and let people believe nonsense about Bloody Brigham, without some real knowledge of who he really was.
On April 14th, 10 days after Joe left for Virginia to buy paper for Double-Dub Phelps' printing press in Independence Missouri, Brigham Young was baptized by Eleazer Miller after getting a Book of Mormon a year and a half earlier from his brother Phineas Young. Brigham's brothers, Phineas, Joseph, and John, all converted soon after him and began serving missions like Brigham. This occurence would forever shape the history of Mormonism into what we see today.
We already know Brigham got the nickname of Bloody Brigham from occurences that were described to us by Aaron Dewitt, but we need to really understand this guy. I'm going to read a series of quotes straight from the mouth of this cut-throat entrepeneur so we can get a grip on who this guy really was.
"Moon-men dress like quakers, must have the true gospel revealed to them by missionaries from the earth"
"Brother Cannon remarked that people wondered how many wives and children I had. He may inform them, that I shall have wives and children by the million, and glory, and riches, and power and dominion"
"Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain [black people], the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so."
A nice selection about Adam-God doctrine: "Father Adam came here and helped make the Earth. . . Then he said, 'I want my children who are in the spirit world to come and live here. . . I want my children that were born to me in the spirit world to come here and take tabernacles of flesh"
"The only men who become Gods... are those who enter into polygamy." Although, given the wording in D&C 132, I pretty much agree with him."
"Do you think it [the Sun] is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain. It was made to give light to those who dwell upon it."
"Cain slew his brother ...and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin ...and they never can hold the Priesthood until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises"
"I love the Constitution and government of this land, but I hate the damned rascals that administer the government"
"I want to live perfectly above the law, and make it my servant, istead of my master"
"Suppose you found your brother in bed with your wife, and put a javelin through both of them, you weould be justified, and they would atone for their sins, and be received into the kingdom of God. I would at once do so in such a case; and under such circumstances, I have no wife whom I love so well that I would not put a javelin through her heart, and I would do it with clean hands."
"You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild and semmingly deprived of intelligence"
Brigham dreamscape: "By and by, along came some mobocrats, and they greeted them with, “How do you do, sir, I am happy to see you.” They kept on that way for an hour. I felt ashamed of them, for they were in my eyes a disgrace to “Mormonism.” Then I saw two ruffians, whom I knew to be mobbers and murderers, and they crept into a bed, where one of my wives and children were. I said, “You that call yourselves brethren, tell me, is this the fashion among you?” They said, “O, they are good men, they are gentlemen.” With that, I took my large bowie knife, that I used to wear as a bosom pin in Nauvoo, and cut one of their throats from ear to ear, saying, “Go to hell across lots.” The other one said, “You dare not serve me so.” I instantly sprang at him, seized him by the hair of the head, and, bringing him down, cut his throat, and sent him after his comrade; then told them both, if they would behave themselves they should yet live, but if they did not, I would unjoint their necks. At this I awoke.
I say, rather than that apostates should flourish here, I will unsheath my bowie knife, and conquer or die. [Great commotion in the congregation, and a simultaneous burst of feeling, assenting to the declaration.] Now, you nasty apostates, clear out, or judgment will be put to the line, and righteousness to the plummet. [Voices, generally, “go it, go it.“] If you say it is right, raise your hands. [All hands up.] Let us call upon the Lord to assist us in this, and every good work."
Polygamy liability: There is one thing in the sayings of brother Babbit, which I will refer to, in relation to the loyalty of this people. I am at the defiance of the rulers of the greatest nation on the earth, with the United States all put together, to produce a more loyal people than the Latter-day Saints. Have they, as a people, broken any law? No, they have not. Have the United States? Yes! They have trampled the Constitution under their feet with impunity, and ridden recklessly over all law, to persecute and drive this people. Admit, for argument's sake, that the “Mormon” Elders have more wives than one, yet our enemies never have proved it. If I had forty wives in the United States, they did not know it, and could not substantiate it, neither did I ask any lawyer, judge, or magistrate for them. I live above the law, and so do this people. Do the laws of the United States require us to crouch and bow down to the miserable wretches who violate them? No. The broad law of the whole earth is that every person has the right to enjoy every mortal blessing, so far as he does not infringe upon the rights and privileges of others."
**Violence: **"The time is coming when justice will be laid to the line and righteousness to the plummet; when we shall take the old broad sword and ask, “Are you for God?” and if you are not heartily on the Lord's side, you will be hewn down. I feel like reproving you; you are like a wild ass that rears and almost breaks his neck before he will be tamed. It is so with this people."
**Polygamy: **"He has told you that he is an old man. Do you think that I am an old man? I could prove to this congregation that I am young; for I could find more girls who would choose me for a husband than can any of the young men.
Brother Thomas considers himself very aged and infirm, and you can see that he is, brethren and sisters."
"I will take the Government of the United States, and the laws of Missouri and Illinois, from the year 1833 to 1845, and if they had been carried out according to their letter and spirit, they would have strung up the murderers and mobocrats who illegally and unrighteously killed, plundered, harassed, and expelled us. I will tell you how much I love those characters. If they had any respect to their own welfare, they would come forth and say, whether Joseph Smith was a Prophet or not, “We shed his blood, and now let us atone for it;” and they would be willing to have their heads chopped off, that their blood might run upon the ground, and the smoke of it rise before the Lord as an incense for their sins. I love them that much."
"I am here to give this people, called Latter-day Saints, counsel to direct them in the path of life. I am here to answer; I shall be on hand to answer when I am called upon, for all the counsel and for all the instruction that I have given to this people. If there is an Elder here, or any member of this Church, called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who can bring up the first idea, the first sentence that I have delivered to the people as counsel that is wrong, I really wish they would do it; but they cannot do it, for the simple reason that I have never given counsel that is wrong; this is the reason."
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