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D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, p.98

Nevertheless, there is evidence that Smith and leaders like Brigham Young disapproved of Sampson Avard's instructions to Danites that plundering all non-Mormons should be standard procedure and to kill any Danite who faltered in that obligation. Danite Lorenzo D. Young later wrote of his opposition to those teachings and of his brother Brigham's warning to beware of Avard. Lorenzo's autobiography implied this meant he also rejected Danite affiliation. To the contrary, he later described taking orders from Seymour Brunson (a Danite officer) for Lorenzo and Albert P. Rockwood (another Danite) to "patrol the country every night" and to demand the "countersign" (which Shurtliff described as Danite). [footnote:  Little, "Biography of Lorenzo Dow Young," 52-53; compare with previous discussion and sources concerning the Danite sign and countersign.]   Avard also testified in court that "I once had a command as an officer, but Joseph Smith removed me from it." [footnote:  Sampson Avard testimony, in Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders, &c In Relation to the Disturbances With the Mormons, 27; Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Atchison's Letters and the Causes of Mormon Expulsion from Missouri," Brigham Young University Studies 26 (Summer 1986): 26-27. ] Since that happened before Mormon forces surrendered and [p.99] before Avard turned state's evidence, there is good reason to believe that he promoted an extreme interpretation of Sidney Rigdon's sermons of June-July 1838, which were radical enough in themselves.

However, it is anachronistic to apply Smith's later rejection of Avard to the Danite general's actions four months earlier. In the early summer of 1838, Avard was the stalking-horse for the First Presidency. The Danite constitution specified: "All officers shall be subject to the commands of the Captain General, given through the Secretary of War." Joseph Smith had held the latter position "by revelation" in the church's "war department" for three years,  [footnote 87 Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders, &c In Relation to the Disturbances With the Mormons, 102; Jessee, The Papers of Joseph Smith, 2:42n2.] and had been commander-in-chief of the Armies of Israel for four years. What the Danites did militarily during the summer and fall of 1838 was by the general oversight and command of Joseph Smith.

In the skirmishes that both sides called "battles," Mormons used deadly force without reluctance. Benjamin F. Johnson wrote that Danite leader (and future apostle) Lyman Wight told his men to pray concerning their Missouri enemies: "That God would Damn them & give us pow[e]r to Kill them." Likewise, at the beginning of the Battle of Crooked River on 25 October 1838, Apostle David W. Patten (a Danite captain with the code-name "Fear Not") told his men: "Go ahead, boys; rake them down."  [footnote:  Dean R. Zimmerman, ed., I Knew the Prophets: An Analysis of the Letter of Benjamin F. Johnson to George F. [S.] Gibbs, Reporting Doctrinal Views of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Bountiful, UT: Horizon Publishers, 1976), 27; Nathan Tanner reminiscence, in George S. Tanner, John Tanner and His Family (Salt Lake City: John Tanner Family Association/Publishers Press, 1974), 386. At the time of this 1903 letter, Johnson was a patriarch and George S. Gibbs was an assistant in the LDS Church Historian's Office. His name has often been misread as George F. Gibbs, his father who was secretary to the First Presidency at the same time. The back cover of this publication described editor Zimmerman as "Supervisor of Academic Research for LDS Department of Seminaries and Institutes." ] The highest ranking Mormon charged with murder for obeying this order was Apostle Parley P. Pratt who allegedly took the careful aim of a sniper in killing one Missourian and then severely wounding militiaman Samuel Tarwater. This was after Apostle Patten received a fatal stomach wound. [footnote:  Indictment of Parley P. Pratt for murder of Moses Rowland, filed 2 Apr. 1839, Boone County Circuit Court Records, Case 1379, fd 17, Western Historical Manuscripts Collection, University of Missouri; John D. Lee autobiography in Mormonism Unveiled: or the Life and Confessions of the Mormon Bishop, John D. Lee (St. Louis: Bryan, Brand & Co., 1877), 73, with similar description in Reed Peck manuscript, 99-100 of the unnamed Parley P. Pratt, a "cold hearted villain (I know him well)." Neither History of the Church, 3:170-71, nor The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt, Jr. (New York: Russell Brothers, 1874), 195-97, explains the reason for Pratt's murder indictment or imprisonment.] In their fury at the sight of their fallen leader, some of the Danites mutilated the unconscious Tarwater "with their swords, striking him lengthwise in the mouth, cutting off his under teeth, and breaking his lower jaw; cutting off his cheeks…and leaving him [for] dead." He survived to press charges against Pratt for attempted murder.  [footnote:  James H. Hunt, Mormonism...Their Troubles In Missouri and Final Expulsion From the State (St. Louis: Ustick & Davies, 1844), 190-91. Although he did not acknowledge that Tarwater sustained these injuries after he was shot and lying unconscious on the ground, an assistant LDS church historian gave a more gruesome description of his injuries, including "a terrible gash in the skull, through which his brain was plainly visible." See Andrew Jenson, "Caldwell County, Missouri," The Historical Record 8 (Jan. 1888): 702.]

Nevertheless, Mormon marauding against non-Mormon Missourians in 1838 was mild by comparison with the brutality of the anti-Mormon militias. Three days after Governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued a military order that the Mormons "must be exterminated, or driven from the State," a Missouri militia unit attacked the LDS settlement at Haun's Mill on 30 October 1838. They shot at and wounded thirteen fleeing women and children, then [p.100] methodically killed eighteen males, including two boys (ages nine and ten). When one of the Missouri militiamen found ten-year-old Sardius Smith's hiding place, he put "his rifle near the boy's head, and literally blowed off the upper part of it," testified survivor and general authority Joseph Young shortly thereafter. Other Missourians used a "corn-cutter" to mutilate the still-living Thomas McBride. When the survivors found the elderly man, his corpse was "literally mangled from head to foot." Aside from Young's status as a near-victim along with his wife and children, Haun's Mill struck at the heart of other general authorities: Sardius was a nephew of former Seventy's president Sylvester M. Smith whose brother also died in the massacre, and recently appointed apostle Willard Richards lost a nephew there.

A generally unacknowledged dimension of both the extermination order and the Haun's Mill massacre, however, is that they resulted from Mormon actions in the Battle of Crooked River. Knowingly or not, Mormons had attacked state troops, and this had a cascade effect. Local residents feared annihilation: "We know not the hour or minute we will be laid in ashes," a local minister and county clerk wrote the day after the battle. "For God's sake give us assistance as quick as possible." Correspondingly, the attack on state troops weakened the position of Mormon friends in Missouri's militia and government. Finally, upon receiving news of the injuries and death of state troops at Crooked River, Governor Boggs immediately drafted his extermination order on 27 October 1838 because the Mormons "have made war upon the people of this state." Worse, the killing of one Missourian and mutilation of another while he was defenseless at Crooked River led to the mad-dog revenge by Missourians in the slaughter at Haun's Mill.


D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, p.485

BCR:Battle of Crooked River participant. JDL claimed that all Mormon participants were Danites, which is supported by other sources for Danire affiliation. Participants can be identified by cross-referencing Joseph Holbrook autobiography, Special Collections and Manuscripts Department, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; Elias Smith diary, 26 Oct. 1838, microfilm, in Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, California, and in Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City; History of the Church, 3:169-71, 4:411, 7:219; Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders, &c In Relation to the Disturbances [p.486] With the Mormons, 108, 109-10, 127, 132, 133-34, 135, 144, 147; Hosea Stout autobiography, 1845, in Reed A. Stout, ed., "Autobiography of Hosea Stout, 1810-1844," Utah Historical Quarterly 30 (Fall 1962): 335-37; Deseret Evening News, 18 July 1870; Lycurgus A. Wilson, Life of David W. Patten: The First Apostolic Martyr (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1900), 64-68; B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church….6 vols. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1930), 1:531n27; James Amasa Little, "Biography of Lorenzo Dow Young," Utah Historical Quarterly 14 (Jan.-Oct. 1946): 54-60; Nancy Clement Williams, Meet Dr. Frederick G. Williams… (Independence, MO: Zion's Printing and Publishing Co., 1951), 121; Pauline Udall Smith and Alison Comish Thorne, Captain Jefferson Hunt of the Mormon Battalion (Salt Lake City: Nicholas G. Morgan, Sr., Foundation, 1958), 31; George S. Tanner, John Tanner and His Family (Salt Lake City: John Tanner Family Association/Publishers Press, 1974), 91, 386, 393-96; Davis Bitton, The Redoubtable John Pack: Pioneer, Proselyter, Patriarch (Midvale: UT: Eden Hill, 1982), 25. Also Clark V. Johnson, ed., Mormon Redress Petitions: Documents of the 1833-1838 Missouri Conflict (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1992), esp. 708 in which Charles C. Rich testified that Brigham Young "said I must flee north into the wilderness and take all that I could find of the Brethren that was in the Crooked river battle," and Rich's letter, 21 Dec. 1838, in John Henry Evans, Charles C. Rich: Pioneer Builder of the West (New York: Macmillan Co., 1936), 61, and Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1830-1972), 246 reels, Micro-forms, Marriott Library, 1 Nov. 1838, 3.


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