31 July 2012

Mormons Massacred - Haun’s Mill Missouri

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, 2003, Excerpts

In the summer of 1838, Missourians launched a campaign of harassment and violence against the Mormon residents of Daviess County, forcing most of them from their homes. Finally, on October 14 in Far West, Joseph assembled several hundred of his followers in the town square and urged them to fight back. Venting years of pent-up anger, they began raiding Gentile towns and plundering food, livestock, and valuables, burning approximately fifty non-Mormons homes in the process. Outraged, Missourians retaliated with counterattacks, destroying several Mormon cabins. Eleven days after Joseph’s forceful call to arms, a skirmish resulted in the death of three Saints and one Gentile.

Days later, three companies of the Missouri militia launched a surprise attack on a Mormon settlement known as Haun’s Mill. Late in the afternoon of October 30, 1838, as the sun “hung low and red in a beautiful Indian sky,” some twenty-five Mormon families working in the fields were surprised to see 240 troops appear suddenly from the surrounding woods, aim their muskets, and fire in unison at the Saints. The commander of the Mormons, realizing that his lightly armed community had no chance against such an overwhelming force, immediately waved his hat and yelled out his desire to surrender. The Missourians ignored his pleas for mercy and kept shooting. The event became known as Haun’s Mill Massacre, and was stamped into the Latter-day Saints’ collective memory. More than 160 years later, Mormons still speak of it indignation and undiminished rage.

Missouri mosque razed by fire, month after arson attack
06 Aug 2012
A mosque has burned to the ground in the US state of Missouri, a month after an arson attack on the building. The building in the city of Joplin was completely destroyed by the fire. Members of the local community said the mosque had been targeted several times since it was founded five years ago. "Our sign has been burnt... Our mailbox was smashed multiple times. We had bullets shot at our sign," former mosque board member Navid Zaidi told AFP news agency.

Mormons Terrorized by Locals

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, 2003, Excerpts

In the 1830s northwestern Missouri was still untamed country inhabited by rough, strong-willed characters. Jackson County residents initially responded to the perceived Mormon threat by holding town meetings, passing anti-Mormon resolutions, and demanding that civil authorities take some kind of action. When such gestures failed to stem the tide of Saints, however, the citizens of Independence took matters into their own hands. In July 1833 an armed mob of five hundred Missourians tarred and feathered two latter-day Saints and destroyed a printing office because an LDS newspaper had published an article deemed overly sympathetic to the antislavery.

Then, one cold November night, vigilantes systematically terrorized every Mormon settlement in the region. After savagely beating the men, they drove twelve hundred Saints from their homes, forcing them to run for their lives into the frigid darkness. Most of them fled north across the Missouri river, never to return to Jackson County.

In 1836 the Missouri legislature, hoping to relocate the Saints in an out-of-the-way place that forestall bloodshed, had designated sparsely populated Caldwell County as a zone of Mormon settlement. By 1838 the Mormons had purchased some 250,000 acres in Caldwell County from the federal government and built a thriving town they christened Far West. But in the summer of 1838 trouble erupted in neighboring Daviess County, where Mormons had spilled over the county line and begun establishing large new settlements.

Mormons Migrate to Missouri

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, 2003, Excerpts

When Mormonism made its debut, Joseph Smith’s embryonic religion was not welcomed with open arms by everyone. Joseph’s widespread reputation as a charlatan, along with a rash of malicious rumors about his “gold Bible,” had fueled animosity throughout the Palmyra region. In December 1830 Joseph received a revelation in which God, noting the hostility in the New York air, commanded him to move his flock to Ohio. So the Latter-day Saints packed up and resettled just east of present day Cleveland, in a town called Kirtland.

In Ohio the Mormons found their neighbors to be relatively hospitable, but in the summer of 1831 the Lord revealed to Joseph that Kirtland was merely a way station, and that the Missouri frontier was in fact “the land which I have appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the Saints.” Joseph instructed his followers to assemble in Jackson County and start building a New Jerusalem there. Saints began pouring into northwestern Missouri, and continued arriving in ever-greater numbers through 1838.

The people who already lived in Jackson County were not happy about the monumental influx. The Mormon immigrants for the most part hailed from the northeastern states and favored the abolition of slavery; Missourians tended to have southern roots – many of them actually owned slaves – and were deeply suspicious of the Mormons’ abolitionist leanings. But what alienated the residents of Jackson County most was the impenetrable clannishness of the Mormons and their arrogant sense of entitlement: the Saints insisted they were God’s chosen people and had been granted a divine right to claim northwestern Missouri as their Zion.

This polarizing mind-set was underscored by a revelation Joseph received in 1831, in which God commanded the Saints to “assemble yourselves together to rejoice upon the land of Missouri, which is the land of our inheritance, which is not the land of your enemies.” When Missourians became aware of this commandment, they regarded it as an open declaration of war.

30 July 2012

Joseph: Winning Converts

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, 2003, Excerpts

Joseph began winning converts almost immediately after he received the plates from Moroni, well before the book was printed and made public. When the Mormon Church was formally established in April 1830, it claimed some fifty members. A year later the membership exceeded one thousand, and fresh converts were arriving all the time.

But perhaps the greatest attraction of Mormonism was the promise that each follower would be granted an extraordinarily intimate relationship with God. Joseph taught and encouraged his adherents to receive personal communiqu├ęs straight form the Lord. Divine revelation formed the bedrock of the religion.

The Lord routinely issued commandments to Joseph, continually revealing sacred principles that needed to be revised or changed outright. Indeed, the notion that each Mormon prophet receives guidance from an ongoing series of revelations was, and remains, one of the religion’s crucial tenets. These revelations are compiled in a thin volume titled The Doctrine and Covenants, which in some ways has supplanted The Book of Mormon as the Latter-day Saints’ most consequential scriptural text.

Joseph: Charismatic Joe

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, 2003, Excerpts

Charisma is a quality that’s hard to define and even harder to explain, but Joseph was flush with it. The term is derived from the Greek kharis, meaning “graced” or “a special gift from God.” And the Latin word charisms, defined as “gift of the holy spirit.” It’s meaning has evolved through the centuries and is now seldom associated with sanctity, but Joseph’s brand of charisma seems to have been true to the original definition. He was imbued with that exceedingly rare magnetism possessed by history’s most celebrated religious leaders – an extraordinary spiritual power that always seems to be wrapped in both great mystery and great danger.

“He was big, powerful, and by ordinary standards very handsome, except for his nose, which was aquiline and prominent. His large blue eyes were fringed by fantastically long lashes which made his gaze seem veiled and slightly mysterious.”

Joseph’s budding religion was both a reflection of the era’s Jacksonian ideals and reactionary retreat from them. On the one hand, Joseph was a champion of the common man and a thorn in the side of the ruling elite. But on the other, he was deeply suspicious of the confusing babble of ideas sweeping the country, and was made nervous by the fickleness of democratic government. His church was an attempt to erect a wall against modernity’s abundance of freedom, its unbridled celebration of the individual.

Joseph: President, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, 2003, Excerpts

The official title of the supreme leader of the LDS Church is “President, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator.” This is because from its inception, Mormonism was a faith in which religious truth and ecclesiastical authority were supposed to be derived from a never-ending string of divine revelations.

In the beginning, Joseph Smith had emphasized the importance of personal revelation for everyone. Denigrating the established churches of the day, which were more inclined to filter the word of God through institutional hierarchies, he instructed Mormons to seek direct “impressions from the Lord,” which would guide them in every aspect of their lives. Quickly, however, Joseph saw a major drawback to such a policy: if God spoke directly to all Mormons, who was to say that the truths He revealed to Joseph had greater validity than contradictory truths He might reveal to somebody else? With everyone receiving revelations, the prophet stood to lose control of his followers.

This goes a long ways toward explaining why, since 1830, some two hundred schismatic Mormon sects have splintered off from Joseph’s original religion; in fact, sects continue to splinter off on an ongoing basis.

29 July 2012

Joseph: The Book of Mormon

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, 2003, Excerpts

The narrative inscribed on the golden plates, translated by Joseph Smith as The Book of Mormon, is the history of an ancient Hebrew tribe, headed by a virtuous man named Lehi. In raising his large brood, Lehi drummed into the heads of his offspring that the most important thing in life is to earn God’s love, and the one and only way to do that, he explained, is to obey the Lord’s every commandment.

Lehi and his followers abandoned Jerusalem six hundred years before the birth of Christ, just ahead of the last Babylonian conquest, and journeyed to North America by boat. In the New World, alas, long-simmering family jealousies flared. Lehi had always favored his youngest and most exemplary son, Nephi, so it shouldn’t have surprised anybody when the old man bequeathed leadership of the tribe to him. But this infuriated Nephi’s miscreant brother Laman, causing the tribe to split into two rival clans after Lehi’s passing: the righteous, fair-skinned Nephites, led by Nephi, and their bitter adversaries, the Lamanites, as the followers of Laman were known. The Lamanites were “an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, whose behavior was so annoying to God that He cursed the whole lot of them with dark skin to punish them for their impiety.

Shortly after the resurrection of Christ, according to The Book of Mormon, Jesus visited North America to share His new gospel with the Nephites and Lamanites and to persuade the two clans to quit squabbling.

Tensions continued to build, eventually sparking a full-blown was that culminated, around A.D. 400, with a brutal campaign in which the reprobate Lamanites slaughtered all 230,000 of the Nephites [which explains why Columbus encountered no Caucasians when he landed in the New World in 1492]. The victorious Lamanites survived to become the ancestors of the modern American Indians, although eventually these “red sons of Israel” lost all memory of both the Nephites and their Judaic heritage.

The leader of the Nephites during their final, doomed battles had been a heroic figure of uncommon wisdom named Mormon; the last Nephite to survive genocidal wrath of the Lamanites was Mormon’s son Moroni, whose account of the Nephites’ demise makes up the final chapters of The Book of Mormon. This same Moroni would return as an angel fourteen centuries later to deliver the golden plates to Joseph Smith, so that the blood-soaked history of his people could be shared with the world, and thereby effect the salvation of mankind.