Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Use of sources/Other homicides by members of the Council of Fifty

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Homicides committed by members of the Council of Fifty?

A FairMormon Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods, a work by author: Richard Abanes

Author's Claims


One Nation under Gods, page 213 (hardback and paperback)

  • "Other homicides were taken care of by members of the Council of Fifty."

Author's Sources


Endnote 44-45, page 552 (hardback); page 550 (paperback)

  • Oliver B. Huntington, statement in "Seymour B. Young Diary," under May 23, 1903.
  • Clayton, under July 5, 1845.
  • D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Signature Books, 1994), 179.

Answer


The cited sources do not support the idea that the early LDS Church was full of violent men who casually sanctioned homicide, or that the Council of Fifty became an instrument for extra-judicial murder.


Question: Did the Council of Fifty order homicides to be committed?

This claim misrepresents the cited sources

The author of One Nation Under Gods claims that "other homicides were taken care of by members of the Council of Fifty." [1] The author cites the following sources:

  • Oliver B. Huntington, statement in "Seymour B. Young Diary," under May 23, 1903.
  • Clayton, under July 5, 1845.
  • D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Signature Books, 1994), 179.

This claim, however, misrepresents the cited sources.

Huntington's statement was about the supposed suicide of the former head of the Nauvoo Legion

As shown elsewhere, Huntington's statement was about the supposed suicide of the former head of the Nauvoo Legion. It has nothing to do with Council of Fifty members committing "homicides."

Quinn's source discusses how some anti-Mormons were "maimed" after a member of the Council of Fifty sabotaged a canon

Quinn's source discusses how some anti-Mormons were "maimed" after a member of the Council of Fifty (Cyrus Daniels) sabotaged a canon. This is not a homicide. Quinn's source is Clayton's diary, so Clayton adds nothing extra.

Quinn also mentions that "within months Orrin Porter Rockwell...took vengeance upon a man who had helped kill the prophet."[2] Yet, Quinn provides no citation for this claim at all—it cannot be verified. He may be referring to an event in which the non-Mormon sheriff Jacob Backenstos was being pursued by Frank Worrell on horseback.

Worrell was a member of the Carthage Greys and commander of the guard at Joseph Smith's prison. Worrell and three others pursued Backenstos, who called to Rockwell and others for help. "At Backenstos' command, Rockwell singled out Worrell, took careful aim, and shot him squarely in the belt buckle, knocking him out of the saddle." His companions took their wounded leader to Warsaw, where he died.[3]

Backenstos was indicted and tried for murder by a non-Mormon jury. Non-Mormon testimony at the trial indicated that "Worrell knew he was following Backenstos and that he planned to kill him." Rockwell was likewise indicted and acquitted for the murder, since he was acting under Backenstos' orders.[4] Thus, even this event is not "homicide," an act of vengeance, or an inappropriate use of deadly force.

The claim that "members of the Council of Fifty" "took care" of other "homicides" is unsupported

Even if we grant Quinn's unsourced claim, this still only gives us one member of the Council of Fifty (Orrin Porter Rockwell) as guilty of a single homicide. ONUG's claim that "members of the Council of Fifty" "took care" of other "homicides" is unsupported.


Notes

  1. Richard Abanes, One Nation Under Gods, Endnote 44-45, page 552 (hardback); page 550 (paperback).
  2. D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Signature Books, 1994), 179.
  3. Dallin H. Oaks and Marvin S. Hill, Carthage Conspiracy, the Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1979), 195. ISBN 025200762X.
  4. Dallin H. Oaks and Marvin S. Hill, Carthage Conspiracy, the Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1979), 200. ISBN 025200762X.