Who Started It?

The  Mormon Wars:

The war in heaven never ended. It just changed battlefields, and in these last days, it has once more become a pitched battle for the souls of men. Sooner or later, all men and women will be required to declare their allegiance…

The history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is replete with tales of sacrifice and suffering, tragedy and triumph. Now members of the Church can gain a deeper understanding of many of the significant trials faced by early Saints with Mormon Wars, a groundbreaking volume that masterfully presents historical accounts of pioneer perseverance. From violent mob persecutions to armed troops in the Utah territory to the war against polygamy, understanding the events that refined the early Saints will fortify your faith in the face of continuing modern-day battles. – Deseret  Books 

 

Suffer the Children  Prologue

Testimony may be a formal written or spoken statement, especially one given in a court of law. 19th Century Mormons kept journals for a reason. Joseph Smith told them to. There shall be a record kept among you.

“There is one subject I wish to speak upon and that is the keeping of a journal with respect to the dealings of God with us. … When the Prophet Joseph organized the Quorum of the Twelve, he counseled them to keep a history of their lives, and gave his reasons why they should do so.

I have had this spirit and calling upon me since I first entered this church. I made a record from the first sermon I heard, and from that day until now I have kept a daily journal. Whenever I heard Joseph Smith preach, teach, or prophesy, I always felt it my duty to write it; I felt uneasy and could not eat, drink, or sleep until I did write.” – Matthias F. Cowley, Wilford Woodruff: History of His Life and Labors

Careful and complete records served as a protection against opponents of the Church. In instructions to the Quorum of the Twelve in 1835, Joseph Smith urged them to note down the procedures of meetings held, for “the time will come, when, if you neglect to do this thing, you will fall by the hands of unrighteous men…. If you will be careful to keep minutes of these things…it will be one of the most important records ever seen” (History of the Church 2:198-99).

Mormon Settlement
Haun’s Mill, Missouri
October 30, 1838

“A body of the militia under the command of Colonel Ashley, said to have been between two and three hundred men, began the savage work at Haun’s Mills, on Shoal Creek, in the eastern part of Carroll county. This body of men was under the immediate command of Captain Nehemiah Comstock, who had given assurances the previous day that the Mormons there would be protected from the attacks of the mob that were threatening to destroy their property.

The banks of Shoal Creek on either side teemed with children sporting and playing while their mothers were engaged with domestic employment and their fathers employed in guarding the mills and other property, while others were engaged gathering in their crops for their consumption.

[Joseph Young] “It was about four o’clock, while sitting in my cabin, with my babe in my arms, and my wife standing by my side, the door being open. I cast my eyes on the opposite bank of Shoal Creek, and saw a large company of armed men on horses directing their course towards the mills with all possible speed. As they advanced through the scattering trees that stood on the side of the prairie, they seemed to form themselves into a three-square position, forming a vanguard in front. At this moment. David Evans, seeing the superiority of their numbers (there being two hundred and forty of them, according to their own account), swung his hat and cried for peace.

Their leader, Mr. Nehemiah Comstock, fired a gun, which was followed by a solemn pause of ten or twelve seconds, when all at once they discharged about one hundred rifles, aiming at a blacksmith’s shop into which our friends had fled for safety; and charged up to the shop, the cracks of which between the logs were sufficiently large to enable them to aim directly at the bodies of those who had there fled for refuge from the fire of their murderers. There were several families tented in rear of the shop, whose lives were exposed, and amidst a shower of bullets fled to the woods in different directions.

After daylight appeared, some four or five men, with myself, who had escaped with our lives from the horrid massacre, repaired as soon as possible to the mills to learn the condition of our friends, whose fate we had but too truly anticipated. When we arrived at the house of Mr. Haun, we found Mr. Merrick’s body lying in rear of the house, Mr. McBride’s in front, literally mangled from head to foot.

We were informed by Miss Rebecca Judd, who was an eye-witness, that he was shot with his own gun after he had given it up, and then cut to pieces with a corn-cutter by a Mr. Rogers, of Davies county, who keeps a ferry on Grand River, and who has since repeatedly boasted of this act of savage brutality.

Mr. York’s body we found in the house, and after viewing these corpses, we immediately went to the blacksmith’s shop, where we found nine of our friends, eight of whom were already dead; the other, Mr. Cox, of Indiana, was struggling in the agonies of death, and soon expired.

We immediately prepared, and carried them to the place of interment. This last office of kindness due to the relics of the departed was not attended with the customary ceremonies or decency, for we were in jeopardy, every moment expecting to be fired upon by the mob, who we supposed to be lying in ambush waiting for the first opportunity to despatch the remaining few who were providentially preserved from the slaughter of the preceding day.

The place of burying was a vault in the ground, formerly intended for a well, into which we threw the bodies of our friends promiscuously.

Among those slain I will mention Sardius Smith, son of Warren Smith, about nine years old, who through fear had crawled under the bellows in the shop, where he remained till the massacre was over, when he was discovered by a Mr. Glaze, of Carroll county, who presented his rifle near the boy’s head and literally blowed off the upper part of it. Mr. Stanley, of Carroll county, told me afterwards that Glaze boasted of his fiend-like murder and heroic deed all over the country.

To finish this work of destruction, this band of murderers, composed of men from Davies, Livingston, Ray, Carroll, and Chariton counties, led by some of the principal men of that section of the upper country. . . . proceeded to rob the houses, wagons, and tents of bedding and clothing; drove off horses and wagons, leaving widows and orphans destitute of the necessaries of life, and even stripped the clothing from the bodies of the slain.

According to their own account, they fired seven rounds in this awful butchery, making upwards of sixteen hundred shots at a little company of men about thirty in number ”- Stenhouse, Thomas B. H. . The Rocky Mountain Saints [1887]”

*

September 1857 Mountain Meadows

In a forlorn move hoping to appeal to the humanity of their enemies, the emigrants dressed two little girls in “spotless white” and sent them with a bucket toward the stream.  Both were shot dead in an instant.

The children in the first wagon huddled together. One year old Sarah Dunlap was shot in the elbow, sending all the children into a frenzy.

John Calvin Miller, six, was among the children, and with him were his sister Mary, four, and his one-year-old brother James. John was the only one of them who would talk, but he could not remember their last name, only that he was there when their mother and father and two other brothers were murdered, and that he saw the men who shot them. Georgia Ann Dunlap was eighteen months old. Her parents and seven sisters and brothers had just been executed in front of her eyes, and she was alone with her five-year-old sister, Prudence Angelina, who could not stop sobbing.

Emberson Tackitt, four, had watched his mother hacked to death, while his father,  two older brothers, an aunt, and three cousins were being shot and their throats cut a few yards away. Like John Miller, Emberson had also seen many of the murders clearly enough to identify them, but he knew to keep silent just then. His younger brother, nineteen-month0old William Henry, who was in his mother’s arms when the attack began, lay dazed and whimpering in one of the wagons.

Gushing blood from a gunshot wound that had mangled her ear, Sarah Frances Baker, three, her five-year-old sister Mary Elizabeth, the youngest of the surviving infants, nine-month-old William, had just watched the slaughter of their parents and a seven-year-old sister. Felix Marion Jones was eighteen months old. Within a few minutes his family had been wiped out, and he would not be able to remember anything about his murdered father, mother and sister.

Christopher, “Kit Carson” Fancher, five, along with his twenty-two-month-old sister Triphenia, has seen their wounded father shot in his litter and their mother murdered with an ax, while six brothers and sisters under the age of nineteen were being killed nearby. Nancy Sophrona Huff, at four, was the sole survivor of a family of six annihilated in the same way.

One child died as they arrived at Hamblin’s ranch. Another one, one-year-old Sarah Dunlap, had her left arm severed by a musket ball. Cling frantically to her, their dresses soaked in blood, were her sisters Rebecca, six, and Louisa, four. They had all seen the slaughter of their seven brothers and sisters, as well as both parents, and Rebecca had pried her baby sister from the arms of their dead mother. – Sally Denton, American Massacre, The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857

*

Suffer the Children

May 25, 1861

 While on a trip to the southern settlements with Brigham Young, we visited the Mountain Meadow Monument put up at the burial place of 120 persons killed by Indians in 1857. The pile of stone was about 12 feet high, but beginning to tumble down.

 A wooden cross was placed on top with the following words: Vengeance is mine and I will repay saith the Lord. President Young said it should be Vengeance is mine and I have taken a little.

 “Five days later the church president spoke to a congregation filled with many of the participants in the massacre.

Pres. Young said that the company that was used up at Mountain Meadows were the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and connections of those that murdered the prophets; they merited their fate, and the only thing that ever troubled him was the lives of the women and children, but that under the circumstances this could not be avoided.”- Journal of Wilford Woodruff.

Kill them all!

INTRODUCTION

Suffer the Children portrays a religious society trapped within a mythical reality of their own making. I had in mind two sets of children who suffered.

In this writing I spend time with those children of the Fancher-Baker Wagon Train who were murdered as well as those who survived the massacre at Mountain Meadows in 1857 and who were eventually returned to relatives in Arkansas.

The second set of children in the novel are the grown up children who suffered at the hands of persecutors and who later perpetrated, endorsed or passively accepted – in both Missouri, Illinois and Utah Territory – atrocity as something approved by God.

Mormonism has always been a performance-based religious organization that believes and teaches unreasonable notions about itself. When that happens one may lose one’s self inside that make-believe world that is totally based on assumption. In such an assumed reality one’s role often becomes more challenging particularly if one has been given authority and responsibilities within the earthly kingdom.

Resistance to the demands made by fellow actors within this pretended performance can be extremely difficult, even terrifying. In nineteenth-century Utah Territory one had to perform within that perceptual reality or endure relentless coercion to conform or perish. Easy entry and exit into a culture and its imagined reality according to desire and inclination was rare. “Let’s-pretend” devolved into rigid and inflexibly literalist religious fundamentalism. Rules and conditions had to be met.

Human beings were mentally stampeded to believe that not only was the scenario real, but the threats were also real. Those who threatened enjoyed implied power that only existed so long as believers accepted the notion that their leaders had the backing and moral power of a pretended supernatural reality.

Inside the pretended drama, belonging and participation was validated mostly by the lead actors’ opinions. Harmony with the leaders was of paramount importance. It is only in such a venue that theologically-based threats appear even in most fundamentalist religions today remain legitimate.

Another way of describing fundamentalist legitimacy is that it lies mostly with the unconscious acceptance of a notion that there IS a God who would empower some mortals to eternally course or impede the spiritual progress of other mortals in pursuit of what’s best for the imaginary kingdom.

In the reality portrayed in this writing, when threatened physical sanctions were translated into actual actions carried out by authoritative enforcers, the Mormon leadership enforced discipline by its “club rules” with violence. Social ostracism, shunning, and actual dis-enrollment in the earthly club, i.e. excommunication. These were genuine spiritual fears of many Saints.

 

“The adults around us hooked our attention and put information into our minds through repetition. That is the way we learned everything we know. By using our attention we learned a whole reality, a whole dream. We learned how to behave in society: what to believe and what not to believe; what is acceptable and what is not acceptable; what is good and what is bad; what is beautiful and what is ugly; what is right and what is wrong.”

“… It was not your choice to speak English. You didn’t choose your religion or your moral values — they were already there before you were born. We never had the opportunity to choose what to believe or what not to believe. We never chose even the smallest of these agreements. We didn’t even choose our own name. As children, we didn’t have the opportunity to choose our beliefs, but we agreed with the information that was passed to us from the dream of the planet via other humans. The only way to store information is by agreement. The outside dream may hook our attention, but if we don’t agree, we don’t store that information. As soon as we agree, we believe it, and this is called faith.”

“To have faith is to believe unconditionally. That’s how we learn as children. Children believe everything adults say. We agree with them, and our faith is so strong that the belief system controls our whole dream of life. We didn’t choose these beliefs, and we may have rebelled against them, but we were not strong enough to win the rebellion. The result is surrender to the beliefs with our agreement. I call this process the domestication of humans.” – Ruiz, Don Miguel. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

 

 

In today’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints one can watch live broadcasts of general conference sessions. General Authority talks appear rehearsed and are offered up in a particularly mild and gently persuasive manner. They tend to come across as the quiet counsel one might receive in the presence of a special person who lives in close connection to the Divine.

Such a contemporary performance flies in the face of the historical style and manner of 19th-century Mormon preaching. Such preaching varied little from the standard evangelizing liturgy utilized all along the early American frontier. Sermons were usually and literally shouted from pulpits and outdoor platforms; laced mostly with religious rhetoric, not gentle counsel. Fire and brimstone was the bread and butter of religious persuaders. Mormonism was no exception. Given the absence of microphones and amplifiers, they literally bellowed at their audiences.

Even a casual reading from the Journal of Discourses reveals thickly rhetorical speechifying. They all did it: Brigham Young, Heber Kimball, Jedidiah Grant, Parley Pratt and others. Case in point is a challenge I make to Latter Day Saints who read this novel: Try to imagine the fiery blood atonement sermons of Brigham Young, Heber Kimball and especially Jedidiah Grant as they might be given today in LDS General Conference.

If one is an emotional captive inside an imagined reality and willing to pretend that such a murderous God is real – or as most Mormons express – “I know that God Lives!”- Believers do not necessarily live a serene religious life of gentle journeys through meetings, hymns and communion. Rather, life becomes an agony of quiet desperation in fear of a Divine Tyrant and His tattletale angels keeping silent notes. It can be a perceptual life monitored by mortal authoritarians and co-believers poised to act on apostasy.

19th-century Mormonism as established by the preaching and works of Joseph Smith and extended by Brigham Young and his successors was then and remains today a faith obligated to please a God who keeps score. Thomas Paine spoke of this authoritarian circumstance and its fragile extension that hovers always in the atmosphere of fundamentalist/literalist religions.

 

“Revelation when applied to religion, means something communicated immediately from God to man.

No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons.

It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and, consequently, they are not obliged to believe it. It is a contradiction in terms and ideas to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second hand, either verbally or in writing.

Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication. After this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner, for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.” – Paine, Thomas, Age of Reason

 

Brigham Young himself agreed with Thomas Paine.

“I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way.

Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.

 

Obedience + Worthiness = Spirituality, which pleases God who rewards with blessings.

 

Ask any true believing Mormon and you will get some form of the above equation as a description of what constitutes the spiritual human interaction with God. In tragic circumstances such assumptions can lead to good people committing terribly evil and immoral acts by virtue of an unconscious conspiracy to consider a myth the truth.

That conspiracy includes an unconscious willingness to believe that murder of the innocent is approved by an invisible but revelatory Jesus the Christ who is not necessarily thought of as the gentle Prince of Peace, rather as a divine and judgmental Master and Commander.

The history of the Mountain Meadows event demonstrates how the local Mormon membership tragically assumed – based on the exhortations of others from higher up – that Jesus wanted them to what they did; that in fact within the priesthood rituals and other religious moments that were performed as the drama played out, the Iron County Mormon patriarchy and its foot soldiers assumed that Prince of Peace would sanctify their actions as a consequence of their fealty and obedience.

Historical Fiction to Describe a Crime from the Past

PREFACE

Suffer the Children is a work of fiction. The writing is based on actual events around which the fiction has been written. In composing dialogue and speeches from historical persons, I have used direct quotations from the source list appended at the end of the novel. The rest of the dialogue involving actual persons is my own creation based on my own research and intuitive conclusions regarding the movement of the plot within the novel. The dialogue of fictional characters is my own voice of course.

I researched and wrote this novel as a cultural and heritage-based Mormon who was born and raised in rural Southeastern Idaho. My research included my own perceptive experience from childhood; how I remember visualizing the narratives, stories and folklore I was given about Church history. My education included a strong emphasis on with the theological assumptions regarding Mormonism as the “one true and living Church on the face of the earth.”

I found a variety of sources within and without the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the value of which proved to be problematic. The Church’s self-narrative has been written, re-written and reworked so often that one is forced to literally take on faith what has been many times an altered and republished narrative.

My research of non-faith-inspired historians, particularly those whose scholarship and sources are worthy of regard and respect, recognizes authors who have demonstrated a professional historian’s eye for historical accuracy combined with reasonable assessments of events, motivations behind them and well-researched quotations.

The autobiographical sources connected to this story include works and confessions that are for the most part self-serving and written from a specific point of view to serve a specific writer’s agenda.

Nevertheless, non-Mormon life stories are as valid and self-serving as are the journals, biographies and autobiographies of Mormon authors whose intents reflect their own faith-promoting agenda. True believing 19th and 20th- century journal keepers were taught to record their lives and profess their convictions regarding the hand of the Lord and His divine restoration. Those recordings are in fact the principle sources of most of the folklore and stories that became the historical underpinning of the culture.

beware lest you likewise sacrifice your reason in the conduct of your life

Epigraph
O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!
Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
That ever lived in the tide of times.

Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood!
Over thy wounds now do I prophesy,–
Which, like dumb mouths, do ope their ruby lips,
To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue–

A curse shall light upon the limbs of men;
Domestic fury and fierce civil strife
Shall cumber all the parts of Italy;
Blood and destruction shall be so in use

And dreadful objects so familiar
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quarter’d with the hands of war;
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds:

And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war;

That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.
– William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

***

“Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”
… an utterance attributed to Henry II of England,
which led to the death of Thomas Becket,
the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1170. 

While it was not expressed as an order,
it caused four knights to travel from Normandy to Canterbury,
where they killed Becket.


The phrase is now used to express the idea
that a ruler’s wish can be interpreted as a command
by his or her subordinates. – Wikipedia


***


Once your faith, sir, persuades you to believe
what your intelligence declares to be absurd,
beware lest you likewise sacrifice your reason
in the conduct of your life.

In days gone by, there were people who said to us:
“You believe in incomprehensible, contradictory and impossible things because we have commanded you to;
now then, commit unjust acts because we likewise order you to do so.”

Nothing could be more convincing.
Certainly anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.
If you do not use the intelligence with
which God endowed your mind
to resist believing impossibilities,
you will not be able to use the sense of injustice
which God planted in your heart
to resist a command to do evil.
Once a single faculty of your soul has been tyrannized,
all the other faculties will submit to the same fate.
This has been the cause
of all the religious crimes
that have flooded the earth. –Voltaire

***

The epitaph says, for those who can read it,
that he is a saint and martyr who shall breathe again
and shall in wondrous joy inherit and flourish,
shall wear a crown and be seated in the kingdom.

And I have heard it said that this must be so –
if by killing men and shedding blood,
by damning souls and causing deaths,
by trusting evil counsels,
by setting fires, destroying men,
dishonouring paratage,

seizing lands and encouraging pride,
by kindling evil and quenching good,
by killing women and slaughtering children,
a man can in this world win Jesus Christ,
certainly Count Simon wears a crown
and shines in heaven above.

– Anonymous Author of Song of the Cathar Wars