Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Dark Side of Early Mormonism: Assassination of Apostates & Gentiles

One of the more disturbing aspects of early Mormonism that I have encountered in my recent reading is the existence of a team of Mormon thugs, who were willing to assassinate/murder whoever the Prophet (Joseph Smith or Brigham Young) wanted eliminated. At first, this simply seemed like vicious anti-Mormon propaganda, but after reading a number of first-hand accounts by Mormons and even by the 'Danites' themselves (as the assassins were sometimes known), it becomes clear to me that this was a part of early Mormonism's 'dark side' that needs to better understood.

Danite Bill Hickman
 One of the better known Mormon 'destroying angels' was Bill Hickman.  After he lost favor with Mormon Prophet Brigham Young in the 1860s, with 25 years of hitman service to Smith and Young,  wrote a memoir that spelled out his murderous activities pretty clearly.  The following story comes from that online memoir and gives you the flavor of what the Danites did for the Mormon hierarchy.
When we had got across what was known as the Big Mountain, and into East Cañon, some three or four miles, one Mr. Hartley came to us from Provo City. This Hartley was a young lawyer who had come to Salt Lake from Oregon the fall before, and had married a Miss Bullock, of Provo, a respectable lady of a good family. But word had come to Salt Lake (so said, I never knew whether it did or not), that he had been engaged in some counterfeiting affair. He was a fine-looking, intelligent young man. He told me he had never worked any in his life, and was going to Fort Bridger or Green River to see if he could not get a job of clerking, or something that he could do. But previous to this, at the April Conference, Brigham Young, before the congregation, gave him a tremendous blowing up, calling him all sorts of bad names, and saying he ought to have his throat cut, which made him feel very bad. He declared he was not guilty of the charges.

I saw [Mormon Apostle] Orson Hyde looking very sour at him, and after he had been in camp an hour or two, Hyde told me that he had orders from Brigham Young, if he came to Fort Supply to have him used up. "Now," said he, "I want you and George Boyd to do it." I saw him, and Boyd talking together; then Boyd came to me and said: "It's all right, Bill; I will help you to kill that fellow." One of our teams was two or three miles behind, and

Orson Hyde wished me to go back and see if anything had happened to it. Boyd saddled his horse to go with me, but Hartley stepped up and said he would go if Boyd would let him have his horse. Orson Hyde said: "Let him have your horse," which Boyd did. Orson Hyde then whispered to me: "Now is your time; don't let him come back." We started, and about half a mile on had to cross the cañon stream, which was midsides to our horses. While crossing, Hartley got a shot and fell dead in the creek. His horse took fright and ran back to camp.
A more contemporary Mormon insider, Martin Wishnatsky, writes about the chilling Mormon practice of 'holy murder':
Numerous firsthand accounts of the early days of Mormonism amply documented the truth that "holy murder" had indeed been practiced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These executions, carried out by a private police force known as the "High Police," took various forms in keeping with the temple oaths. Slitting the throat is the one most commonly mentioned. Presumably once this one has been inflicted, the others are no longer necessary. These ceremonial killings were described euphemistically as "saving" the victim, as in "Where is so and so? We haven't seen him lately." "Oh, didn't you hear? He got 'saved' the other night." "Fed him to the catfish" had its place as did the phrases "used him up," "slipped his breath," "put him out of the way," and "sent him over the rim." After the migration to Utah, the term "salt him down in the lake" came into vogue.

Just as the French have a great variety of terms for describing foods that are lacking in English, the early Mormons had many words for murder, reflecting their peculiar involvement with this craft. Invoking vengeance on the disloyal was known as "praying for our enemies." Killing them secretly was known as "not letting the right hand know what the left hand is doing."

Joseph Smith taught his followers that to kill those who violated their covenants was praiseworthy in the eyes of God. The first endowment ceremony, he explained, took place on the Mount of Transfiguration, where Christ instructed Peter, James and John in the secret handshakes and then bound them with oaths of blood should they ever forsake their loyalty to Him. This doctrine appears frequently in Church writings, and is cited in the work Doctrines of Salvation written by Joseph Fielding Smith, Prophet of the Church in the years 1970-72. After coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration, the Apostles bound the other members of the twelve to loyalty on penalty of death as well. When Judas betrayed Christ, they killed him in fulfillment of their endowment oaths. An eyewitness reports that Joseph Smith "talked of dissenters and cited us to the case of Judas, saying that Peter told him in a conversation a few days ago that he himself hung Judas for betraying Christ . . . ." The Reed Peck Manuscript (1839).

Danite Assassin
The idea that Christ taught His apostles to kill His enemies continued in the Church after Joseph Smith's death in 1844. In a Sunday sermon given in Salt Lake City in the late 1850's, Heber C. Kimball, grandfather of the current Mormon prophet, explained again that the apostles killed Judas in keeping with their endowment oaths. "It is said in the Bible," related Kimball, "that Judas' bowels gushed out, but they actually kicked him until his bowels came out." He declared his determination to enforce in Utah the same penalties that Peter and John had inflicted in Jerusalem. "I know the day is right at hand," he said, "when men will forfeit their priesthood and turn against us and against the covenants they have made, and they will be destroyed as Judas was." (Journal of Discourses 6:125-126).

The traditional Christian doctrine of "love thy enemies" in Mormon hands after passing through the blood rituals became "kill thy enemies." In Missouri in the 1830's, wrote Benjamin F. Johnson, a friend of Joseph Smith, "we were taught to 'pray for our enemies' that God would damn them and give us power to kill them."

That the death orders came right from the top and that the practice originated with Joseph Smith is well documented. "I have heard the Prophet say," recorded Thomas B. Marsh, "that he would yet tread down his enemies and walk over their dead bodies." (Affidavit, Richmond, Mo., October 24, 1838) One of the original Mormons, John Whitmer, in his memoir of the Church records the following incident: "Smith called a council of the leaders together in which he stated that any person who said a word against the heads of the church should be driven over these prairies as a chased deer by a pack of hounds."

John D. Lee, a member of Joseph Smith's bodyguard, reports:

"I knew of many men being killed in Nauvoo by the Danites (the assassination squad). It was then the rule that all the enemies of Joseph Smith should be killed, and I know of many a man who was quietly put out of the way by the orders of Joseph and his Apostles while the Church was there.

It has always been a well understood doctrine of the church that it was right and praiseworthy to kill every person who spoke evil of the Prophet."

John D. Lee, Mormonism Unveiled, 1891.
Shades of an Islamic fatwah against Salmon Rushdie, or the Catholic Inquisition.


  1. Don't forget the pogroms against Jews throughout history. What is it with religious intolerance? I am an ex-Catholic (now agnostic), married to a "non-practicing" Jew. We get along just fine...

  2. [Wow, whatta blog, Carl! Saw this gem on the net & want to share it. Harry]

    mormonism's DIRTY little secret

    by Aaronita Smith

    Non-Mormon scholars as well as Mormon ones are aware of a hard-core pornographic drawing in the "Book of Abraham" which is Mormon-approved scripture.
    This Book is part of the "Pearl of Great Price" which, along with the "Book of Mormon" and the "Doctrine and Covenants," make up the LDS church's "triple combination" in one volume.
    The porn is found in Fig. 7 of Facsimile 2 in the "Book of Abraham" which shows two beings facing each other, which were described by Joseph Smith as representing the "Holy Ghost" and "God sitting upon his throne," the latter clearly showing an aroused male sex organ.
    After Smith published this sketch in his newspaper in 1842, which offended Mormon sensibilities, the phallic portion was whited out for more than a century until the "restored" LDS church decided in 1981 to restore what had long been censored!
    Equally shocking was the discovery that the "Book of Abraham" had nothing to do with Abraham or his God but was actually based on ancient Egyptian funeral documents depicting occultic obscene practices - and the original sketches showed an erotic phallus on both beings including the one Smith blasphemously claimed was the Holy Ghost!
    For further information see "Book of Abraham" (Wikipedia). Also see Jerald and Sandra Tanner's "Mormonism - Shadow or Reality?" which on 76 pages reproduces the original Egyptian X-rated drawings and shows how Smith altered them and created one of his many frauds. Highlights in the classic Tanner work can be seen by typing "Facts From Mormons (By a Utah Resident)" and "What LDS Leaders Say" on Yahoo.

    (Mitt Romney didn't approve of this insight of mine into his faith!)

  3. This Mormon practice of Secret killings and the way it was carried out seems to fit the mormon definition of "secret combinations". Interesting irony!

  4. This Mormon practice of Secret killings and the way it was carried out seems to fit the mormon definition of "secret combinations". Interesting irony!

  5. I am a descendant of William Hickman, he was my great great grandfather. I would love any information on him.. anne.sartor@gmail.com

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