Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Chapter 8

Table of Contents

Response to claims made in "Chapter 8: Big Trouble In Little Missouri"

A FairMormon Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods, a work by author: Richard Abanes
Claim Evaluation
One Nation Under Gods
Chart one nation under gods chapter 8.jpg

Response to claims made in One Nation Under Gods, "Chapter 8: Big Trouble In Little Missouri"

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Response to claim: 147 - The author claims that "Twenty-first century Mormonism" promotes the idea that Cain, Abel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, and Noah lived in Missouri

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that "Twenty-first century Mormonism" promotes the idea that Cain, Abel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, and Noah lived in Missouri.

(Author's sources: *No source provided.)

FairMormon Response

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

It would be safe to say that Twenty-first century Latter-day Saints rarely discuss this issue. Nineteenth century and early twentieth century Latter-day Saints may have speculated on this.



Response to claim: 150, 535n18 (PB) - Did Oliver Cowdery accuse Joseph of having a "dirty, nasty, filthy affair" with Fanny Alger?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Did Oliver Cowdery accuse Joseph of having a "dirty, nasty, filthy affair" with Fanny Alger?

(Author's sources: Oliver Cowdery, letter to Warren Cowdery, January 21, 1838.)

FairMormon Response

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

Oliver did accuse Joseph of such activities.



Question: Did some of Joseph Smith's associates believe that he had an affair with Fanny Alger?

Oliver Cowdery perceived the relationship between Joseph and Fanny as a "dirty, nasty, filthy affair"

Some of Joseph's associates, most notably Oliver Cowdery, perceived Joseph's association with Fanny as an affair rather than a plural marriage. Oliver, in a letter to his brother Warren, asserted that "in every instance I did not fail to affirm that which I had said was strictly true. A dirty, nasty, filthy affair of his and Fanny Alger's was talked over in which I strictly declared that I had never deserted from the truth in the matter, and as I supposed was admitted by himself."[1]

Gary J. Bergera, an advocate of the "affair" theory, wrote:

I do not believe that Fanny Alger, whom [Todd] Compton counts as Smith’s first plural wife, satisfies the criteria to be considered a “wife.” Briefly, the sources for such a “marriage” are all retrospective and presented from a point of view favoring plural marriage, rather than, say, an extramarital liaison…Smith’s doctrine of eternal marriage was not formulated until after 1839–40. [2]

There are several problems with this analysis. While it is true that sources on Fanny are all retrospective, the same is true of many early plural marriages. Fanny's marriage has more evidence than some. Bergera says that all the sources about Fanny's marriage come "from a point of view favoring plural marriage," but this claim is clearly false.

Even hostile accounts of the relationship between Joseph and Fanny report a marriage or sealing

For example, Fanny's marriage was mentioned by Ann Eliza Webb Young, a later wife of Brigham Young's who divorced him, published an anti-Mormon book, and spent much of her time giving anti-Mormon, anti-polygamy lectures. Fanny stayed with Ann Eliza's family after leaving Joseph and Emma's house, and both Ann Eliza and her father Chauncey Webb [3] refer to Joseph's relationship to Fanny as a "sealing." [4] Eliza also noted that the Alger family "considered it the highest honor to have their daughter adopted into the prophet's family, and her mother has always claimed that she [Fanny] was sealed to Joseph at that time." [5] This would be a strange attitude to take if their relationship was a mere affair. And, the hostile Webbs had no reason to invent a "sealing" idea if they could have made Fanny into a mere case of adultery.


Response to claim: 151, 537n29-33 (PB) - Did Joseph allow the formation of the Danites?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Did Joseph allow the formation of the Danites?

(Author's sources: *Hill 75.
  • William Edwin Berrett, The Restored Church, 198.
  • Sampson Avard, Correspondence, Orders, 97-98.
  • Winn, 123.
  • David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, 27-28.)

FairMormon Response

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

Joseph was aware of the Danites when they opposed dissenters in the Church. Joseph rejected the Danite band and their activities once he learned that they were plundering.



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: 151, 537n35-36 (PB) - Did Sidney Rigdon give public approval to the Danites during a speech he delivered on June 17, 1838?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Did Sidney Rigdon give public approval to the Danites during a speech he delivered on June 17, 1838?

(Author's sources:
  • Winn, 124.
  • Reed Peck, Reed Peck Manuscript, 3.)

FairMormon Response

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

Rigdon did not mention the Danite band in his speech, although it may have inspired them to act.



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.[6]

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.[7]

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.[6] According to Avard, the original purpose of the band was to “drive from the county of Caldwell all that dissented from the Mormon church.”[8]:25 Once the dissenters had left the country, the Danites turned their attention to defending the Saints from mobs.


Response to claim: 537n30 (PB) - "Such historical revisionism is typical of Mormon historians, who must at all costs, preserve the integrity of early Mormon leaders"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "Such historical revisionism is typical of Mormon historians, who must at all costs, preserve the integrity of early Mormon leaders."

(Author's sources: Author's opinion.)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information





The author is expressing his negative opinion as if it were fact.

Response to claim: 152, 538n39 (PB) - Did Joseph write in his private journal that he was aware of the Danite's purpose?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Did Joseph write in his private journal that he was aware of the Danite's purpose? Were these words then crossed out so that they wouldn't appear in the history of the Church?

FairMormon Response

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

Joseph Smith's journal entry for 27 July 1838 shows that he was familiar with the Danites and that he believed that their objective was to "put to rights physically that which is not right" and to "cleanse the Church of very great evils." This likely refers to the encouragement of dissenters to leave the county. The entry in the journal is definitely crossed out, although the reason for this is not stated.



27 July 1838 Friday

July 27th some time past the bretheren or saints have come up day after day to consecrate, and to bring their offerings into the store house of the lord, to prove him now herewith and se[e] if he will not pour us out a blessings that there will not be room enough to contain it,167 They have come up hither Thus far, according to the ord[e]r of the Dan-Ites, we have a company of Danites in these times, to put to rights physically that which is not righ[t], and to clense the Church of verry great evils which hath hitherto existed among us, inasmuch as they cannot be put to rights by teachings & persuaysons,168 This company or a part of them exibited on the fourth day of July They come up to consecrate, by companies of tens, commanded by their Captain over ten.[9]

Joseph Smith's "Missouri Journal," 27 July 1838 with the crossed out section that discusses the Danites

See also Leland Gentry, The Danite Band of 1838, BYU Studies 14/4 (1974): 421—50.


Response to claim: 155 - "The Missourians actually seemed committed to continuing their pursuit of a peaceful co-existence with the Mormons"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "The Missourians actually seemed committed to continuing their pursuit of a peaceful co-existence with the Mormons."

(Author's sources: *Author's opinion.)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

The claim is absurd. The Missourians had drawn up a manifesto calling for the Mormons to be driven out.




Response to claim: 156 - Did Latter-day Saints plan to "take over" by voting?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Did Latter-day Saints plan to "take over" by voting?

(Author's sources: Author's opinion.)

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 an absurd claim. Does anyone plan to "take over" when they exercise their right to vote? Isn't the entire point of voting to be able to participate in the process of selecting those who will govern us?



Response to claim: 156-157, 539n61 (PB) - the Saints were "horse thieves, liars, counterfeiters, and dupes"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "...calling their attention to the fact that the Saints were 'horse thieves, liars, counterfeiters, and dupes.'"

(Author's sources: LeSueur, 61.)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

This is not a "fact" as implied by the author.



Response to claim: 159 - According to the author, after driving the Saints from their homes, Bogart started to threaten the Saints "in their own territory"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

According to the author, after driving the Saints from their homes, Bogart started to threaten the Saints "in their own territory."

(Author's sources: *Author's statement.)

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

The author implies that those "Mormons" who were driven "from their homes" were not living "in their own territory."




Response to claim: 167 - "the evidence clearly revealed that Joseph had directed most, if not all, of the illegal activities in which the Saints had been engaged"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "...the evidence clearly revealed that Joseph had directed most, if not all, of the illegal activities in which the Saints had been engaged."

(Author's sources: Author's opinion.)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

This is the author's opinion, with no evidence to support it.



Notes

  1. Richard Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 323–25, 347–49.
  2. Gary James Bergera, "Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841–44," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 38 no. 3 (Fall 2005), 30n75.
  3. Wilhelm Wyl, [Wilhelm Ritter von Wymetal], Mormon Portraits Volume First: Joseph Smith the Prophet, His Family and Friends (Salt Lake City, Utah: Tribune Printing and Publishing Company, 1886), 57; Ann Eliza Young, Wife No. 19, or the Story of a Life in Bondage, Being a Complete Exposé of Mormonism, and Revealing the Sorrows, Sacrifices and Sufferings of Women in Polygamy (Hartford, Conn.: Custin, Gilman & Company, 1876), 66–67; discussed in Danel W. Bachman, "A Study of the Mormon Practice of Polygamy before the Death of Joseph Smith" (Purdue University, 1975), 140 and Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 34–35.
  4. Ann Eliza would have observed none of the Fanny marriage at first hand, since she was not born until 1840. The Webbs’ accounts are perhaps best seen as two versions of the same perspective.
  5. Young, Wife No. 19, 66–67; discussed by Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy", 83n102; see also Ann Eliza Webb Young to Mary Bond, 24 April 1876 and 4 May 1876, Myron H. Bond collection, P21, f11, RLDS Archives cited by Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 34 and commentary in Todd Compton, "A Trajectory of Plurality: An Overview of Joseph Smith's Thirty-Three Plural Wives," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 29/2 (Summer 1996): 30.
  6. 6.0 6.1 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
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. "Journal, March–September 1838," The Joseph Smith Papers