Criticism of Mormonism/Books/No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith/Chapter 15

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Response to claims made in "Chapter 15: The Valley of God"

A FairMormon Analysis of: No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, a work by author: Fawn Brodie
Claim Evaluation
No Man Knows My History
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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 15: The Valley of God"

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Response to claim: 208 - Oliver Cowdery accused Joseph of trying to "set up a kind of petty government, controlled and dictated by ecclesiastical influence"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Oliver Cowdery accused Joseph of trying to "set up a kind of petty government, controlled and dictated by ecclesiastical influence…"

Author's sources: History of the Church 3:18n

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is correct. Oliver did make this accusation. Oliver Cowdery said,

The very principle of which I conceive to be couched in an attempt to set up a kind of petty government, controlled and dictated by ecclesiastical influence, in the midst of this national and state government. You will, no doubt, say this is not correct; but the bare notice of these charges, over which you assume a right to decide, is, in my opinion, a direct attempt to make the secular power subservient to Church direction—to the correctness of which I cannot in conscience subscribe—I believe that principle never did fail to produce anarchy and confusion.

This attempt to control me in my temporal interests, I conceive to be a disposition to take from me a portion of my Constitutional privileges and inherent right—I only, respectfully, ask leave, therefore, to withdraw from a society assuming they have such right.[1]





Response to claim: 211 - Joseph proclaimed that an altar found in Missouri was where Adam offered sacrifices

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:


  • Joseph proclaimed that an altar found in Missouri was where Adam offered sacrifices.
  • Joseph said that Adam shall come to visit his people at Adam-ondi-Ahman.
  • The Saints believed that Jackson County was the site of the Garden of Eden.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is correct.



Question: What is Adam-ondi-Ahman?

According to revelation, Adam held a meeting of his faithful posterity in a valley designated "Adam-ondhi-Ahman"

Prior to his death, the repentant Adam held a meeting of his faithful posterity in a valley designated "Adam-ondhi-Ahman:"

53 Three years previous to the death of Adam, he called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, who were all high priests, with the residue of his posterity who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing.

54 And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel.

55 And the Lord administered comfort unto Adam, and said unto him: I have set thee to be at the head; a multitude of nations shall come of thee, and thou art a prince over them forever.

56 And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation. (DC 107:53)

LDS scripture further notes:

Spring Hill is named by the Lord Adam-ondi-Ahman, because, said he, it is the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the prophet.(DC 116:1)[2]

Since Spring Hill was named by the Lord as the place where Adam will come to visit his people, it has generally been presumed to be the Adam-ondi-Ahman of Adam's mortal meeting with his posterity

It is perhaps significant the Lord named this site because of a future event—the pre-millennial assembly of Adam and his faithful descendants prior to the second coming of Christ. It has generally been presumed that "Spring Hill," Missouri is thus the Adam-ondi-Ahman of Adam's mortal meeting with his posterity (D&C 107, above) and the pre-millennial visit (D&C 116), which is certainly possible.

An alternate interpretation would be the Lord has given the Adam-ondi-Ahman name to a second site (i.e., at Spring Hill, Missouri) in memorial of the first great meeting of the whole righteous human race. That first meeting, at which Adam presided, would then be a foreshadowing of the greater meeting of all the righteous prior to Christ's triumphant return in glory. This reading might better explain why D&C 116 bothers to explain why the Lord is giving the name to the site. If the site was already called Adam-ondi-Ahman, perhaps there would be little need for the Lord to renew its name. One could see this as analogous to the site "Jerusalem." There is, in LDS doctrine, to be a "New Jerusalem" built on the American continent in the last days.[3] Yet, this does not mean the "New Jerusalem" site is the same as the Jerusalem of David and Jesus in the Old World, or that the old Jerusalem has ceased to exist.

On the other hand, Doctrine and Covenants 117 also seems to associate the Missouri Adam-ondi-Ahman with Adam's dwelling place in mortality:

7 Therefore, will I not make solitary places to bud and to blossom, and to bring forth in abundance? saith the Lord.

8 Is there not room enough on the mountains of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and on the plains of Olaha Shinehah, or the land where Adam dwelt, that you should covet that which is but the drop, and neglect the more weighty matters?

9 Therefore, come up hither unto the land of my people, even Zion. (DC 117:7-9)

The association of Adam-ondi-Ahman with the "land where Adam dwelt," and Adam's presence at Adam-Ondi-Ahman prior to his death have led most Latter-day Saints to conclude they are one and the same. (However, this verse raises more questions than it answers—there are no mountains of note in Missouri. So, was the geography more expansive than Joseph or the early saints presumed?)

Because Adam left the Garden of Eden, and (by this reading) dwelt somewhere in or near Missouri, many members have concluded the Garden of Eden must likewise be near by

As President John Taylor wrote:

Itt was stated by the Prophet Joseph Smith, in our hearing while standing on an elevated piece of ground or plateau near Adam-ondi-Ahman (Davis Co., Missouri,), where there were a number of rocks piled together, that the valley before us was the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman; or in other words, the valley where God talked with Adam, and where he gathered his righteous posterity, as recorded in the above revelation, and that this pile of stones was an altar built by him when he offered up sacrifices, as we understand, on that occasion.[4]


Response to claim: 211 - The Saints believed that Jackson County was the site of the Garden of Eden

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

The Saints believed that Jackson County was the site of the Garden of Eden.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is correct.



Question: Is it true that Mormons believe the original Garden of Eden was located in Missouri?

There is substantial circumstantial evidence that Joseph Smith taught this

Although we have no contemporaneous record of Joseph Smith teaching explicitly that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri, that reading is consistent with LDS scripture, and there is substantial later testimony from Joseph's associates that he did teach such an idea.

Most Latter-day Saints are aware of this, though it is a relatively minor point that plays little role in LDS theology. (By contrast, the idea that the New Jerusalem—Zion—will be built in the Americas looms much larger in LDS consciousness.)

This idea perhaps strikes most non-members as odd, but not simply because the Saints have an opinion about the Garden's location—as we have seen, religions of all stripes have had a wide variety of views on the subject. What likely strikes outside American observers as strange is the idea that the Garden is local—the LDS view does not place the Garden in a never-never land, buried in distant time and far-away space. Rather, the LDS Garden is local and somewhat immediate.

Upon reflection, though, the thoughtful observer will realize that this is simply one more manifestation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' uniqueness: rather than believing only in dead prophets, from long ago, in distant lands, in old records, the Church also embraces modern revelation, living prophets, and an on-going divine involvement with God's people. The gospel restored by Joseph Smith does not merely sacralize the past, but the present and future as well—and, it sacralizes both lofty matters and more earthly concerns like farms, hills, and geography.

It is this intrusion of the sacred into the mundane that surprises most observers—the issue of the Garden is merely one more example of a broader phenomenon.

A common mistake is taking an obscure teaching that is peripheral to the Church’s purpose and placing it at the very center

As the official LDS church website points out, "The doctrinal tenets of any religion are best understood within a broad context and thoughtful analysis is required to understand them. ... Some doctrines are more important than others and might be considered core doctrines. ... A common mistake is taking an obscure teaching that is peripheral to the Church’s purpose and placing it at the very center. For example, the precise location of the Garden of Eden is far less important than doctrine about Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice."[5]

LDS concepts and perspectives

It is important to first distinguish the "Garden of Eden" (the paradisiacal location where Adam and Eve dwelt before the Fall) from Adam-ondi-Ahman. Adam-ondi-Ahman was a location in which Adam and Eve settled after their expulsion from the Garden.


Question: What is Adam-ondi-Ahman?

According to revelation, Adam held a meeting of his faithful posterity in a valley designated "Adam-ondhi-Ahman"

Prior to his death, the repentant Adam held a meeting of his faithful posterity in a valley designated "Adam-ondhi-Ahman:"

53 Three years previous to the death of Adam, he called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, who were all high priests, with the residue of his posterity who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing.

54 And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel.

55 And the Lord administered comfort unto Adam, and said unto him: I have set thee to be at the head; a multitude of nations shall come of thee, and thou art a prince over them forever.

56 And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation. (DC 107:53)

LDS scripture further notes:

Spring Hill is named by the Lord Adam-ondi-Ahman, because, said he, it is the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the prophet.(DC 116:1)[6]

Since Spring Hill was named by the Lord as the place where Adam will come to visit his people, it has generally been presumed to be the Adam-ondi-Ahman of Adam's mortal meeting with his posterity

It is perhaps significant the Lord named this site because of a future event—the pre-millennial assembly of Adam and his faithful descendants prior to the second coming of Christ. It has generally been presumed that "Spring Hill," Missouri is thus the Adam-ondi-Ahman of Adam's mortal meeting with his posterity (D&C 107, above) and the pre-millennial visit (D&C 116), which is certainly possible.

An alternate interpretation would be the Lord has given the Adam-ondi-Ahman name to a second site (i.e., at Spring Hill, Missouri) in memorial of the first great meeting of the whole righteous human race. That first meeting, at which Adam presided, would then be a foreshadowing of the greater meeting of all the righteous prior to Christ's triumphant return in glory. This reading might better explain why D&C 116 bothers to explain why the Lord is giving the name to the site. If the site was already called Adam-ondi-Ahman, perhaps there would be little need for the Lord to renew its name. One could see this as analogous to the site "Jerusalem." There is, in LDS doctrine, to be a "New Jerusalem" built on the American continent in the last days.[7] Yet, this does not mean the "New Jerusalem" site is the same as the Jerusalem of David and Jesus in the Old World, or that the old Jerusalem has ceased to exist.

On the other hand, Doctrine and Covenants 117 also seems to associate the Missouri Adam-ondi-Ahman with Adam's dwelling place in mortality:

7 Therefore, will I not make solitary places to bud and to blossom, and to bring forth in abundance? saith the Lord.

8 Is there not room enough on the mountains of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and on the plains of Olaha Shinehah, or the land where Adam dwelt, that you should covet that which is but the drop, and neglect the more weighty matters?

9 Therefore, come up hither unto the land of my people, even Zion. (DC 117:7-9)

The association of Adam-ondi-Ahman with the "land where Adam dwelt," and Adam's presence at Adam-Ondi-Ahman prior to his death have led most Latter-day Saints to conclude they are one and the same. (However, this verse raises more questions than it answers—there are no mountains of note in Missouri. So, was the geography more expansive than Joseph or the early saints presumed?)

Because Adam left the Garden of Eden, and (by this reading) dwelt somewhere in or near Missouri, many members have concluded the Garden of Eden must likewise be near by

As President John Taylor wrote:

Itt was stated by the Prophet Joseph Smith, in our hearing while standing on an elevated piece of ground or plateau near Adam-ondi-Ahman (Davis Co., Missouri,), where there were a number of rocks piled together, that the valley before us was the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman; or in other words, the valley where God talked with Adam, and where he gathered his righteous posterity, as recorded in the above revelation, and that this pile of stones was an altar built by him when he offered up sacrifices, as we understand, on that occasion.[8]


Question: What statements have Latter-day Saints leaders made regarding the location of the Garden of Eden?

Most early statements about the location of the Garden of Eden in LDS thought come via Brigham Young

Most early statements about the location of the Garden of Eden in LDS thought come via Brigham Young, who often made reference to Joseph Smith's teachings on the matter. Brigham's history records he told Orson Hyde (who had been to Palestine):

You have been both to Jerusalem and Zion, and seen both. I have not seen either, for I have never been in Jackson County. Now it is a pleasant thing to think of and to know where the Garden of Eden was. Did you ever think of it? I do not think many do, for in Jackson County was the Garden of Eden. Joseph has declared this, and I am as much bound to believe that as to believe that Joseph was a prophet of God.[9]

As this idea was a common one among 19th century members, it seems likely Joseph was the source of the idea

At the very least, the members' perceived this to be what Joseph had told them.

Heber C. Kimball (1863):

...[T]he spot chosen for the garden of Eden was Jackson County, in the State of Missouri, where Independence now stands; it was occupied in the morn of creation by Adam and his associates who came with him for the express purpose of peopling this earth.[10]

George Q. Cannon (1867):

We appreciate the home that God has given us here, so fruitful in blessings [p.337] to the Saints; but we look forward to that land with indescribable feelings, because it is the place where God has said His City shall be built. It is the land where Adam, the Ancient of Days, will gather his posterity again, and where the blessings of God will descend upon them. It is the land for which the wise and learned have travelled [sic] and sought in vain. Asia has been ransacked in endeavouring [sic] to locate the Garden of Eden. Men have supposed that because the Ark rested on Ararat that the flood commenced there, or rather that it was from thence the Ark started to sail. But God in His revelations has informed us that it was on this choice land of Joseph where Adam was placed and the Garden of Eden was laid out. The spot has been designated, and we look forward with peculiar feelings to repossessing that land.[11]

Wilford Woodruff quoting Brigham Young (1879):

[spelling as original diary] Again Presdet [sic] Young said Joseph the Prophet told me that the garden of Eden was in Jackson Co Missouri, & when Adam was driven out of the garden of Eden He went about 40 miles to the Place which we Named Adam Ondi Ahman, & there built an Altar of Stone & offered Sacrifize [sic]. That Altar remains to this day. I saw it as Adam left it as did many others, & through all the revolutions of the world that Altar had not been disturbed.[12]


Question: Do any other religious traditions view the Garden of Eden as "local"?

The Garden of Eden or the primordial paradise of the race is often seen as the "center of the world"

The early Saints' view of a Garden of Eden "local" to them has its parallels in other religious traditions.

The Garden of Eden or the primordial paradise of the race is often seen as the "center of the world," or the cosmic point around which all creation turns (sometimes called an axis mundi or umbilicum mundi—the "navel" of the world).

Martin Luther warned that "we ask in vain today where and what that garden was" (155). Suarez said that knowledge of the earthly paradise was necessary to understand "all that the scriptures tell us of the condition of humanity before sin"

One student of the subject stated that during the 16th and 17th centuries the "location" of paradise was more important that any other question regarding it.[13]:155 And various religions have placed the Garden of Eden was in their part of the world.

Bishop Pierre-Daniel Huet (1691) a member of the French Academy, wrote of the wide variety of speculation and opinion on this subject

[The earthly paradise] has been located in the third heaven, in the fourth, in the heaven of the moon, on the moon itself, on a mountain close to the heaven of the moon, in the middle region of the air, outside the earth, on the earth, under the earth, and in a hidden place far removed from human knowledge. It has been placed under the Arctic pole.... Some have located it... either on the banks of the Ganges or on the island of Ceylon, and have even derived the name 'India' from the word 'Eden.'... Others have located it in the Americas, others in Africa below the equator, others in the equinoctial East, others on the mountain of the moon, from which they believed the Nile to flow. Most have located it in Asia: some in Greater Armenia, others in Mesopotamia or Assyria or Persia or Babylonia or Arabia or Syria or Palestine. There have even been those who wished to honor our Europe and, in a move that strays into complete irrelevance, have located it in Hedin, a town in Artois, their reason being the similarity between the words 'Hedin' and 'Eden'"[13]:162, citing Huet.

The Bible itself seems to place the Garden of Eden at the center of the world:

10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.

11 The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;

12 And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.

13 And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.

14 And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates. (Genesis 2:10-14)

The named rivers represent four of the great rivers of the known world, yet this description does not match any modern known configuration. It may be better to view these verses as a symbolic expression of Eden at "the center" of all that was known.

There is also a Jewish tradition that the Garden of Eden was in Jerusalem. There is a spring of water there known as the Gihon, one of the unidentified rivers of Paradise. Ezekiel 28:13 says “You were in Eden, the garden of God,” and then parallels that in the next verse with “you were on the holy mountain of God,” generally understood as the temple mount. There is important symbolism here. If a Jewish tradition can assign the location of the Garden to its traditional headquarters—Jerusalem—it is not surprising to have a Mormon tradition assigning the location of the Garden to Jackson County, Missouri, which for a time was its church headquarters and which according to prophecy will be again some time in the future.


Question: If the Garden of Eden was in Missouri, how did Abraham, Moses and other prophets end up in the Old World?

A variety of approaches have been suggested for this issue

Members and others sometimes ask how Abraham, Moses and other near eastern Bible prophets ended up in the Old World if Adam and Eden were in the Americas. A variety of approaches have been suggested for this issue:[14]

  1. Some have conceptualized the earth as having only one land mass (e.g., Pangaea) even into historical time, which was only separated in the days of Peleg (Genesis 10:25).
  2. Those who accept a universal Noachian flood simply see Noah floating from a New World site to Ararat in the Old.
  3. Those who accept a "limited flood" theory see a similar process occurring whereby Noah traveled down rivers or from sea coasts with the flood's arrival. (This would, in effect, be a reversal of the Book of Mormon's Old World to New World migrations).
  4. Since there is evidence for human migration over the Siberia-Alaska land bridge from Old to New World, some have postulated travel in the opposite direction.
  5. It has been suggested that the Lord gave a second site the name of Adam-ondi-Ahman in the Americas, while the original site was located elsewhere, in the Old World (see discussion above). In this model, early Church leaders assumed that there was only one Adam-ondi-Ahman, when there were (in fact) two.
  6. Some have seen the concept of Eden as a symbolic idea which acted to "sacralize" the Americas for a new gospel dispensation, without having reference to actual geographic realities. Early members then made this concept more literal than intended.
  7. Some see Eden as a place which was always "separate" from the fallen world around it, and so regard questions about the present "location" of Eden as non-sensical.
  8. Many, perhaps most, members consider the matter of relatively little importance, and have no strong feelings about the issue at all.

It must be noted that there is little, if any, scriptural or scientific evidence to support any of the above hypotheses

The solution chosen by an individual member will probably depend mostly on their attitudes to other issues about which there is no official Church position and a variety of positions espoused by members. These issues include matters such as the issue of Death before the Fall, Evolution, Pre-Adamites, the nature of Noah's Flood, the extent to which scripture ought to be interpreted literally, and related topics.


Response to claim: 213 - Sidney Rigdon supported Sampson Avard's formation of a "secret" band

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Sidney Rigdon supported Sampson Avard's formation of a "secret" band.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This is inferred by the author, but there is no evidence of this.



Gospel Topics: "At the Latter-day Saint settlement of Far West, some leaders and members organized a paramilitary group known as the Danites"

"Peace and Violence among 19th-Century Latter-day Saints," Gospel Topics on LDS.org:

At the Latter-day Saint settlement of Far West, some leaders and members organized a paramilitary group known as the Danites, whose objective was to defend the community against dissident and excommunicated Latter-day Saints as well as other Missourians. Historians generally concur that Joseph Smith approved of the Danites but that he probably was not briefed on all their plans and likely did not sanction the full range of their activities. Danites intimidated Church dissenters and other Missourians; for instance, they warned some dissenters to leave Caldwell County. During the fall of 1838, as tensions escalated during what is now known as the Mormon Missouri War, the Danites were apparently absorbed into militias largely composed of Latter-day Saints. These militias clashed with their Missouri opponents, leading to a few fatalities on both sides. In addition, Mormon vigilantes, including many Danites, raided two towns believed to be centers of anti-Mormon activity, burning homes and stealing goods.22 Though the existence of the Danites was short-lived, it resulted in a longstanding and much-embellished myth about a secret society of Mormon vigilantes.[15]


Question: When was the Danite band formed and why?

Sidney Rigdon gave a speech against dissenters on 17 June 1838 in Far West known as the "Salt Sermon"

Rigdon's speech was directly targeted at dissenters within the Church, and strongly implied that they should leave.

Leland H. Gentry,

The first official encouragement given to removing these "dissenters" from Caldwell County came in the form of a speech given by Sidney Rigdon on Sunday, 17 June 1838. Familiarly known in church history annals as the "Salt Sermon," Rigdon's address remains one of the controversial events of the period.[16]

Gentry notes John Corrill's description of the sermon,

President Rigdon delivered from the pulpit what I call the "Salt Sermon;" 'If the salt hath lost its savour, it is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men,' was his text; and although he did not call names in his sermon, yet it was plainly understood that he meant the dissenters or those who had denied the faith. He indirectly accused some of them with crime.[17]

The Danites appear to have been formally created about the time that Sidney Rigdon gave his “Salt Sermon” in Far West

The Danites were led by Dr. Sampson Avard, and the group appears to have been formally formed about the time that Sidney Rigdon gave his “Salt Sermon” in Far West, in which he gave apostates an ultimatum to get out or suffer consequences.[16] According to Avard, the original purpose of the band was to “drive from the county of Caldwell all that dissented from the Mormon church.”[18]:25 Once the dissenters had left the country, the Danites turned their attention to defending the Saints from mobs.


Response to claim: 214 - Joseph and Sidney "were careful not to be associated" with the Danites

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph and Sidney "were careful not to be associated" with the Danites.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This is simply the author's opinion: There isn't any evidence available to support it.



Question: Did Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon support the formation of a vigilante band called the Danites?

The Danites are sometimes confused with the “Armies of Israel,” which was the official defensive organization that was tasked with defending the Saints

The Danites were a brotherhood of church members that formed in Far West, Missouri in mid-1838. By this point in time, the Saints had experienced serious persecution, having been driven out of Kirtland by apostates, and driven out of Jackson County by mobs. Sidney Rigdon was publicly preaching that the Saints would not tolerate any more persecution, and that both apostates and mobs would be put on notice. The Danite organization took root within this highly charged and defensive environment.

The Danites are sometimes confused with the “Armies of Israel,” which was the official defensive organization that was tasked with defending the Saints, and which was supported by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. This is complicated by the fact that members of the Danite organization also served in the “Armies of Israel.”

Although Joseph Smith was aware of the intent of the Danites to cleanse the Church of "evil," he rejected the illegal activities of the Danite band

Regardless of their original motives, the Danites ultimately were led astray by their leader, Sampson Avard. Avard attempted to blame Joseph Smith in order to save himself. Joseph, however, clearly repudiated both the organization and Avard.


Response to claim: 214 - The Danites were a secret society with oaths, passwords and secret signs

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

The Danites were a secret society with oaths, passwords and secret signs.

Author's sources: *Correspondence, Orders, etc. in relation to the disturbances with the Mormons;…

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event





Question: Is it true that the Danites were pledged to “plunder, lie, and even kill if deemed necessary?"

Sampson Avard began retaliation against those who persecuted the Saints, including stealing and plundering

After the dissenters left Far West, Avard, took the idea of defending the Saints one step further by including retaliation against those who persecuted the Saints. Thus, the Danites began operating as a vigilante group outside the law. This, unfortunately, included stealing and plundering from those who stole and plundered from the Saints.[16]:4 The Danites believed that if they consecrated plundered goods to the Church, that they would be protected in battle.[16]:9 The group held secret meetings, with special signs used to identify themselves to one another.


Response to claim: 215 - Joseph "made a confused and damaging admission of his own relationship to the Danite organization" before his death

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that Joseph "made a confused and damaging admission of his own relationship to the Danite organization" before his death and that Joseph formally sanctioned Sampson Avard and the Danites.

Author's sources:
  • Minutes of a Nauvoo City Council Meeting, Jan. 3, 1844, History of the Church 6:165.
  • Correspondence, Orders, etc. in relation to the disturbances with the Mormons

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Joseph rejected the activities of the Danites.

Question: How were the activities of the Danite band exposed?

Sampson Avard was eventually brought to trial, and he blamed Joseph Smith for the Danite's activities

Much of the information that we have about the Danite organization comes from the document describing the criminal court of inquiry held against church leaders in Richmond, Missouri on November 12, 1838. When the group’s activities were exposed and church leaders brought to trial, Avard became a primary witness for the prosecution, and laid the blame for the Danites at the feet of Joseph Smith. Avard claimed that he had been acting under the direction of the First Presidency.[16]:7

Several witnesses indicated that Avard indicated that he would lie in order to incriminate the Church, and it is apparent that he testified in order to save himself.[18][19] Avard even produced a “Danite Constitution” for the court, despite the fact that nobody else in the organization had ever heard of it or seen it until that time.[16]:11-12

Joseph Smith rejected the Danite band and referred to them as a "secret combination"

Joseph Smith referred to the Danites as a “secret combination.”[20] Referring to Avard’s testimony before the judge, B.H. Roberts states,

This lecture of the doctor's revealed for the first time the true intent of his designs, and the brethren he had duped suddenly had their eyes opened, and they at once revolted and manfully rejected his teachings. Avard saw that he had played and lost, so he said they had better let the matter drop where it was. As soon as Avard's villainy was brought to the knowledge of the president of The Church he was promptly excommunicated, and was afterwards found making an effort to become friends with the mob, and conspiring against The Church. This is the history of the Danite band, "which", says the Prophet Joseph, "died almost before it had an existence."[21]

Sampson Avard had a reputation for not being trustworthy

There is clear consensus among both Mormon and non-Mormon early sources that Sampson Avard was not trustworthy.[16] Additionally, there is a well-documented case of Avard attempting to do what he was eventually accused of doing with the Danites: taking advantage of inefficient and ambiguous lines of communication and authority to establish his own command.

In his biography of John Taylor, B.H. Roberts recorded an incident wherein Avard tried take over the Church in Canada by feigning authority from Joseph Smith, when he in fact did not have any.[22] For many years this account was not supported by any first-hand accounts, but recently this incident has been confirmed by an account in the journal of Joseph Horne, a member of the Church who rode with Avard up to Canada and witnessed the attempt to take over the Church there.[23]


Question: Did the Danite band persist even after they were exposed?

Legends of “Danites” persisted for many years as the Saints moved to Nauvoo and later to Utah

Legends of “Danites” persisted for many years as the Saints moved to Nauvoo and later to Utah. The mysterious “Danites” have served as villains in fictional stories such as the first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet. Danites are sometimes associated with the Mountain Meadows Massacre, since one of the principal protagonists of that unfortunate event, John D. Lee, was himself once a member of the Danites in Missouri. With the help of imaginative writers, the mysterious “Danites” took on the status of an “urban legend” as a shadowy, mysterious vigilante group which enforced the will of church leaders by practicing blood atonement on those who opposed them. Brigham Young gave his opinion of such rumors during a conference talk on April 7, 1867 when he said:

Is there war in our religion? No; neither war nor bloodshed. Yet our enemies cry out "bloodshed," and "oh, what dreadful men these Mormons are, and those Danites! how they slay and kill!" Such is all nonsense and folly in the extreme. The wicked slay the wicked, and they will lay it on the Saints.[24]


Response to claim: 217 - Sidney Rigdon wanted to have Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer cut off from the church in order to banish his rivals

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Sidney Rigdon wanted to have Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer cut off from the church in order to banish his rivals.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This the the author's opinion of what motivated Sidney Rigdon.



Response to claim: 218-219 - Sidney Rigdon's Salt Sermon threatened the dissenters in the Church

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Sidney Rigdon's Salt Sermon threatened the dissenters in the Church, and the dissenters were ordered to leave Far West.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Rigdon's speech did threaten the dissenters within the Church, and strongly implied that they needed to leave Far West.



Question: When was the Danite band formed and why?

Sidney Rigdon gave a speech against dissenters on 17 June 1838 in Far West known as the "Salt Sermon"

Rigdon's speech was directly targeted at dissenters within the Church, and strongly implied that they should leave.

Leland H. Gentry,

The first official encouragement given to removing these "dissenters" from Caldwell County came in the form of a speech given by Sidney Rigdon on Sunday, 17 June 1838. Familiarly known in church history annals as the "Salt Sermon," Rigdon's address remains one of the controversial events of the period.[16]

Gentry notes John Corrill's description of the sermon,

President Rigdon delivered from the pulpit what I call the "Salt Sermon;" 'If the salt hath lost its savour, it is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men,' was his text; and although he did not call names in his sermon, yet it was plainly understood that he meant the dissenters or those who had denied the faith. He indirectly accused some of them with crime.[25]

The Danites appear to have been formally created about the time that Sidney Rigdon gave his “Salt Sermon” in Far West

The Danites were led by Dr. Sampson Avard, and the group appears to have been formally formed about the time that Sidney Rigdon gave his “Salt Sermon” in Far West, in which he gave apostates an ultimatum to get out or suffer consequences.[16] According to Avard, the original purpose of the band was to “drive from the county of Caldwell all that dissented from the Mormon church.”[18]:25 Once the dissenters had left the country, the Danites turned their attention to defending the Saints from mobs.


Response to claim: 223 - Sidney Rigdon's 4th of July sermon alluded to a "war of extermination" with the mob

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Sidney Rigdon's 4th of July sermon alluded to a "war of extermination" with the mob.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is correct.



Notes

  1. History of the Church 3:22.
  2. See also Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 3:35. Volume 3 link
  3. See A+of+F 1:10.
  4. John Taylor, The Mediation and Atonement (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News Co., 1882), 69.
  5. "Approaching Mormon Doctrine," from Newsroom: The Official Resource for News Media, Opinion Leaders, and the Public (4 May 2007) at lds.org. off site
  6. See also Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 3:35. Volume 3 link
  7. See A+of+F 1:10.
  8. John Taylor, The Mediation and Atonement (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News Co., 1882), 69.
  9. Brigham Young in Journal History of the Church (15 March 1857); cited in John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations: Aids to Faith in a Modern Day, arranged by G. Homer Durham (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960), 396. GL direct link
  10. Heber C. Kimball, "Advancement of the Saints, etc.," (27 June 1863) Journal of Discourses 10:235.
  11. George Q. Cannon, "Truth to Be Received for Its Own Sake, etc.," (3 March 1867) Journal of Discourses 11:336.
  12. Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 7:129 (journal entry dated 30 March 1879). ISBN 0941214133.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Jean Delumeau, History of Paradise. The Garden of Eden in Myth and Tradition (New York: Continuum, 1995)
  14. Kevin Barney, Was the Garden of Eden Really in Missouri? (blog entry), By Common Consent (4 July 2007).
  15. "Peace and Violence among 19th-Century Latter-day Saints," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (May 2014)
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 16.7 16.8 Leland H. Gentry, ""The Danite Band of 1838"," Brigham Young University Studies 14 no. 4 (1974). 423. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "gentry" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "gentry" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "gentry" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "gentry" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "gentry" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "gentry" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "gentry" defined multiple times with different content
  17. John Corrill, A Brief History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Commonly Called Mormons) (1839), 31. Cited in Gentry, "The Danite Band", 423.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders &c. in Relation to the Disturbances with the Mormons; And the Evidence Given Before the Hon. Austin A. King, Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of the State of Missouri, at the Court-House in Richmond, in a Criminal Court of Inquiry, Begun November 12, 1838, on the Trial of Joseph Smith, Jr., and Others, for High Treason and Other Crimes Against the State., (1841) U.S. Government Printing Office.
  19. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 3:209–210. Volume 3 link
  20. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 3:179. Volume 3 link
  21. B.H. Roberts, The Missouri Persecutions, 1900, p. 220
  22. B.H. Roberts, The Life of John Taylor (Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, 1963), 43-44.
  23. The Journal of Joseph Horne, Jr., 1858-1861: Including His Life Summary. LDS archives, 7. Horne’s account is also cited in Corwin L. Nimer, "Treachery and False Swearing in Missouri: The Rise and Fall of Sampson Avard," Mormon Historical Studies 5, no. 2 (Fall 2004): 37-60.
  24. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 12:30.
  25. John Corrill, A Brief History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Commonly Called Mormons) (1839), 31. Cited in Gentry, "The Danite Band", 423.