Artikkelit > Mormonit — vainottuja, vainoojia vai molempia?

The Mormon Vigilante Organization:
The Danites

Stephen LeSueur

Relations between the Mormons and Missourians were also strained as a result of dissension in the Mormon Church. The methods adopted by the Saints to purge dissenters from the Church fostered a militant and intolerant spirit among the Mormons and aroused the suspicion of Missouri settlers.

Dissension plagued Mormonism in its early years. Much of the opposition to the new religion was instigated by apostates: dissenters in Kirtland, for example, helped to drive Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and other Mormon leaders from that town in early 1838. Dissenters proved most troublesome, however, not because they stirred up hatred from without, but because they generated contentions, doubting, and disobedience within. Internal strife, Smith said, had led to the Saints' expulsion from Jackson County. Attempts to redeem Zion similarly failed due to "the transgressions of my people."25 In 1834 the Mormon prophet issued a revelation in which the Lord warned:

And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself. And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer.26

The Far West Saints, not wishing to repeat the experiences of Jackson and Clay counties, sought to create a righteous community - one pleasing unto God - by strictly enforcing God's commandments given through His prophet. Shortly after Smith arrived in Far West, local church leaders brought Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and a number of other known dissenters before a High Council court. Mormon leaders variously charged these men with selling their land in Jackson County contrary to Smith's revelations, violating the Word of Wisdom,27 and undermining the Prophet's authority by falsely accusing him of adultery. Cowdery believed this court action would lead to "the subversion of the liberties of the whole church" because ecclesiastical leaders were intruding upon the secular affairs of their people."28 The Mormons, however, saw little distinction between spiritual and secular matters - for God is ruler over both - and Cowdery and the others were excommunicated in April 1838. Rather than leaving Far West, however, the dissenters continued to oppose Smith and soon aroused suspicions that they were plotting to destroy the Church. Consequently, in June, the Mormons determined to remove the troublemakers from their community.

A group of Mormons met secretly in Far West to discuss how to get rid of the dissenters. The group adopted the name Daughters of Zion, which they later changed to Sons of Dan, or Danites.29 Some of the Mormons proposed killing the dissenters, but these and other radical plans were successfully opposed by Thomas Marsh, president of the Twelve Apostles, and John Corrill. The Danites took no action against the dissenters until Sunday, 17 June, when Sidney Rigdon preached what later became known as the Salt Sermon.30 Rigdon denounced Mormon apostates, comparing them to the salt that Jesus spoke of in the Gospel of St. Matthew. If the salt has lost its savor, Rigdon said, it must be cast out and trodden under the feet of men. Rigdon accused the dissenters in Far West of seeking to overthrow the Church and committing various crimes. Although he mentioned no names, the Mormons knew of whom he spoke. The next day the Danites sent a letter to the chief dissenters, warning them that the citizens of Caldwell County would no longer tolerate their abusive conduct. The letter, reportedly written by Sidney Rigdon, was signed by eighty-three Mormons, including Joseph's brother and counselor, Hyrum Smith, several Far West high councilmen, and George W. Pitkin, the Caldwell County sheriff. After describing the many offenses allegedly committed by the dissenters, the letter announced that the Mormons intended to drive them from the county. "There are no threats from you - no fear of losing our lives by you, or by any thing you can say or do, will restrain us," the Mormons warned, "for out of the county you shall go, and no power shall save you."31

The threat of violence created the desired effect. On 19 June the dissenters fled with their families to Richmond, Ray County. "These men took warning, and soon they were seen bounding over the praire like the scape Goat to carry off their own sins," wrote George W. Robinson, one of the Danite leaders, regarding the dissenters' flight; "we hav not seen them since, their influence is gone, and they are in a miserable condition, so also it [is] with all who turn from the truth ... ."32 The Mormons seized their property in Far West and held it for debts allegedly owed to the Church. The dissenters, claiming the Mormons stole the property, initiated a series of lawsuits för its recovery.

The expulsion of these men from Far West reflected a growing militant spirit among the Mormons, revealed a rigid intolerance for those who opposed their practices and teachings, and demonstrated their willingness to circumvent the law to protect their interests. Some Mormons objected to this lawless spirit, claiming that it violated the principles of republican government, but Sidney Rigdon defended the Saints' treatment of the dissenters:

... when a county, or body of people have individuals among them with whom they do not wish to associate and a public expression is taken against their remaining among them and such individuals do not remove it is the principle of republicanism itself that gives that community the right to expel them forcibly and no law will prevent it.33


  1. Doctrine and Covenants, 105:2, "Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, on Fishing River, Missouri, June 22, 1834." See also 101:1-8.
  2. Ibid., 105:5-6.
  3. The Word of Wisdorn is a Mormon health code forbidding the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, or tea.
  4. Oliver Cowdery to Warren and Lyman Cowdery, 4 February 1838. Photocopy, LDS Archives (Originals located at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California).
  5. John Corrill believed the name "Daughters of Zion" was taken from Micah 4:13 (A Brief History, p. 32). Albert P. Rockwood stated that the Mormon Armies of Israel were called Dan "because [the] Prophet Daniel has said the Saints shall take the Kingdom and possess it forever" ("journal," p. 8).
  6. For information on the Salt Sermon and the subsequent expulsion of the dissenters, see Robinson, "Scriptory Book" p. 47; Peck "Manuscript," pp. 6-7; Corrill, A Brief History, p. 30; Ebenezer Robinson, "Items of Personal History," The Return 1 (October 1889): 146-47; John Whitmer, "The Book of John Whitmer" (Typescript, Sait Lake City: Modern Microfilm, n.d.), p. 22; and Document, pp. 103-7, 110, 120, 139, testimonies of Sampson Avard, John Corrill, Reed Peck and John Whitmer.
  7. Document, p. 103, testimony of Sampson Avard; and Robinson, "Items Of Personal History," p. 146.
  8. "Scriptory Book" p. 47. For the dissenters' expulsion, see also Corrill,
    A Brief History, p. 30; Peck "Manuscript," p. 7; and Whitmer, "Book" p. 22.
  9. Peck, "Manuscript", p. 8. Rigdon compared their action to the hanging of gamblers in Vicksburg by a vigilante committee. (ibid., p. 7).

Stephen LeSueur: The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri ss. 37-40


 Etusivu | Sivun alkuun


 2001-06-02 — 2002-11-18