Episode 194: The Mormon War of 1838, Part 2

February 10, 2018


TRIGGER WARNING: Historical violence

Episode 194: The Mormon War of 1838, Part 2

In the aftermath of the Battle of Crooked River things continue to escalate. The saints living in Hans Mill are massacred, and eventually Joseph and his BFFs are arrested. Brigham Young is now going to run the church while Joseph and the other important church leaders are sitting in jail.

Mormon Extermination Order


Drink count – 2 beers


Patron Bonus: Marie ponders the dead and the survivors


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7 Comments on “Episode 194: The Mormon War of 1838, Part 2”

  1. Rick Hansen Says:

    Boggs’ Extermination Order 44 said “The Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary…” https://archive.org/stream/BoggsExterminationOrder44/Boggs%20Extermination%20Order%2044#page/n1/mode/2up . I don’t know that it’s entirely accurate to say that the word ‘exterminate’ did not mean ‘kill.’ I think Webster’s 1828 definition for ‘exterminate’ leaves plenty of room for the word to be interpreted as ‘kill.’ From Webster’s: “1. EXTERMINATE: To destroy utterly; to drive away; to extirpate; as, to exterminate a colony, a tribe, or a nation; to exterminate inhabitants or a race of men. 2. To eradicate; to root out; to extirpate; as, to exterminate error, heresy, infidelity or atheism; to exterminate vice. 3. To root out, as plants; to extirpate; as, to exterminate weeds.” https://archive.org/stream/americandictiona01websrich#page/710/mode/2up
    Although, I would agree that for someone to say that it was legal to kill Mormons in Missouri up until the Extermination Order was rescinded in 1976 is a bit of a stretch. I doubt that defense would have held up in court.


  2. Duke of Earl Grey Says:

    I’m glad to hear tell of Lyman Wight’s “Shoot and be damned” bravery in the face of certain death, because LDS history never puts Joseph Smith in anyone else’s shadow. No, the one story a member of the church is most likely to hear of the church leaders’ imprisonment and trials in November 1838 is this reminiscence of Parley P. Pratt, which of course paints Joseph Smith as the legendary hero during these difficulties:

    “In one of those tedious nights we had lain as if in sleep till the hour of midnight had passed, and our ears and hearts had been pained, while we had listened for hours to the obscene jests, the horrid oaths, the dreadful blasphemies and filthy language of our guards, Colonel Price at their head, as they recounted to each other their deeds of rapine, murder, robbery, etc., which they had committed among the ‘Mormons’ while at Far West and vicinity. They even boasted of defiling by force wives, daughters and virgins, and of shooting or dashing out the brains of men, women and children.

    “I had listened till I became so disgusted, shocked, horrified, and so filled with the spirit of indignant justice that I could scarcely refrain from rising upon my feet and rebuking the guards; but had said nothing to Joseph, or any one else, although I lay next to him and knew he was awake. On a sudden he arose to his feet, and spoke in a voice of thunder, or as the roaring lion, uttering, as near as I can recollect, the following words:

    “’SILENCE, ye fiends of the infernal pit. In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still; I will not live another minute and bear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die THIS INSTANT!’

    “He ceased to speak. He stood erect in terrible majesty. Chained, and without a weapon; calm, unruffled and dignified as an angel, he looked upon the quailing guards, whose weapons were lowered or dropped to the ground; whose knees smote together, and who, shrinking into a corner, or crouching at his feet, begged his pardon, and remained quiet till a change of guards.

    “I have seen the ministers of justice, clothed in magisterial robes, and criminals arraigned before them, while life was suspended on a breath, in the Courts of England; I have witnessed a Congress in solemn session to give laws to nations; I have tried to conceive of kings, of royal courts, of thrones and crowns; and of emperors assembled to decide the fate of kingdoms; but dignity and majesty have I seen but once, as it stood in chains, at midnight, in a dungeon in an obscure village of Missouri.”


  3. Duke of Earl Grey Says:

    Let’s add a few tally marks to our Tote Board of Apostasy, shall we?

    On March 17, 1839, a few days before Joseph Smith would begin drafting his famous letter in Liberty Jail, Brigham Young held a conference in Quincy, Illinois.

    “After the conference had transacted various other business, Elder George W. Harris made some remarks relative to those who had left us in the time of our perils, persecutions and dangers, and were acting against the interest of the Church; he said that the Church could no longer hold them in fellowship unless they repented of their sins, and turned unto God.

    “After the conference had fully expressed their feelings upon the subject it was unanimously voted that the following persons be excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, viz.: George M. Hinkle, Sampson Avard, John Corrill, Reed Peck, William W. Phelps, Frederick G. Williams, Thomas B. Marsh, Burr Riggs, and several others. After which the conference closed by prayer.”

    Speaking of Thomas B. Marsh, the D&C is now done with him. He won’t come up in these pages again. So I think now is as good a time as any for the “milk strippings” story everyone keeps hearing about. What think ye?

    As Bryce explained, Thomas B. Marsh had a part in testifying against Joseph Smith, and may well have acted against the “interest of the Church”, as far as they were concerned. But rather than let Marsh’s stated reasons for leaving the church speak for themselves, the LDS church instead has associated his name inextricably with a famous cautionary tale, which they teach to this day, often in the same spiteful breath as the story of Symonds Ryder, with a common theme of how people only ever leave the church because they’re prideful, petty, and stupid.

    This story was first told in an 1856 General Conference talk by an apostle, George A. Smith, a cousin of Joseph Smith, who we’ll meet very soon in the D&C. Let’s have the thing in full:

    “You may think that these small matters amount to but little, but sometimes it happens that out of a small matter grows something exceedingly great. For instance, while the Saints were living in Far West, there were two sisters wishing to make cheese, and, neither of them possessing the requisite number of cows, they agreed to exchange milk.

    “The wife of Thomas B. Marsh, who was then President of the Twelve Apostles, and sister Harris concluded they would exchange milk, in order to make a little larger cheese than they otherwise could. To be sure to have justice done, it was agreed that they should not save the strippings, but that the milk and strippings should all go together. Small matters to talk about here, to be sure, two women’s exchanging milk to make cheese.

    “Mrs. Harris, it appeared, was faithful to the agreement and carried to Mrs. Marsh the milk and strippings, but Mrs. Marsh, wishing to make some extra good cheese, saved a pint of strippings from each cow and sent Mrs. Harris the milk without the strippings.

    “Finally it leaked out that Mrs. Marsh had saved strippings, and it became a matter to be settled by the Teachers. They began to examine the matter, and it was proved that Mrs. Marsh had saved the strippings, and consequently had wronged Mrs. Harris out of that amount.

    “An appeal was taken from the Teacher to the Bishop, and a regular Church trial was had. President Marsh did not consider that the Bishop had done him and his lady justice, for they decided that the strippings were wrongfully saved, and that the woman had violated her covenant.

    “Marsh immediately took an appeal to the High Council, who investigated the question with much patience, and I assure you they were a grave body. Marsh being extremely anxious to maintain the character of his wife, as he was the President of the Twelve Apostles, and a great man in Israel, made a desperate defence, but the High Council finally confirmed the Bishop’s decision.

    “Marsh, not being satisfied, took an appeal to the First Presidency of the Church, and Joseph and his Counsellors had to sit upon the case, and they approved the decision of the High Council.

    “This little affair, you will observe, kicked up a considerable breeze, and Thomas B. Marsh then declared that he would sustain the character of his wife, even if he had to go to hell for it.

    “The then President of the Twelve Apostles, the man who should have been the first to do justice and cause reparation to be made for wrong, committed by any member of his family, took that position, and what next? He went before a magistrate and swore that the “Mormons” were hostile towards the State of Missouri.

    “That affidavit brought from the government of Missouri an exterminating order, which drove some 15,000 Saints from their homes and habitations, and some thousands perished through suffering the exposure consequent on this state of affairs.

    “Do you understand what trouble was consequent to the dispute about a pint of strippings? Do you understand that the want of fences around gardens, fields, and yards, in town and country, allowing cattle to get into mischief and into the stray pen, may end in some serious result? That the corroding influence of such circumstances may be brought to bear upon us, in such a way that we may lose the Spirit of the Almighty and become hostile to the people? And if we should not bring about as mighty results as the pint of strippings, yet we might bring entire destruction to ourselves. If you wish to enjoy your religion and the Spirit of the Almighty, you must make your calculations to avoid annoyances, as much as possible.”

    So there you go. Your standard, TBM, Mormon in the pews has never heard of Danites, or Gallatin, or any of Thomas B. Marsh’s true and legitimate concerns. As far as they’re taught, Thomas B. Marsh simply wanted revenge for this milk strippings incident, so he told lies about Joseph Smith. A few points:

    1. There’s no record in all the minutes of all the various councils Marsh is said to have appealed to that this event ever happened. It was never documented at all until George A. Smith’s sermon in 1856.

    2. This is not to say the events of this story couldn’t have happened, whether or not they were embellished by George A. Smith. In a letter written by a penitent Marsh years later, he mentioned having reconciled with “G.W. Harris” about… something. He didn’t specify. Was it milk strippings? Maybe.

    3. That G.W. Harris is almost certainly George W. Harris, who had a prominent part in the conference at which Marsh was excommunicated in absentia. His wife was Lucinda Pendleton Morgan Harris. When Joseph Smith first arrived in Far West, he stayed at the Harris house, and we can assume they would have been tight with the Prophet.

    4. They were very tight, in fact. Lucinda Harris is listed among the polygamous wives of Joseph Smith. Many scholars believe she married Joseph during this 1838 period. If true, that would make her Wife #3, after Emma Hale Smith and Fanny Alger.

    5. If the milk strippings story really happened, and the Sister Harris of the story was Lucinda Harris, it’s not at all surprising that Marsh lost his appeal to the First Presidency. It would’ve been Marsh and his wife against Joseph Smith’s secret wife!

    6. Lastly, as for the “Morgan” in Lucinda Pendleton Morgan Harris (Smith?)’s name, she happened to be the widow of none other than William Morgan, of the Morgan Affair, mentioned by Bryce in this very episode (or in Part 1, maybe?), the man who was killed for divulging the secrets of Freemasonry. Coincidence? Or could Joseph just not resist getting in on that legacy when he had a chance?

    In case anyone thinks I’m clever enough to connect all these dots, you are wrong. If I might pimp out another podcast, Radio Free Mormon did a very thorough run down of the milk strippings story last year, which is worth listening to for Brigham Young’s horrible take down of Marsh, all by itself:



    • Gottfried TheHirsute Says:

      Well said, Duke! I remember how much I was galled when I found out that the ‘milk strippings’ story that I had been raised with was pure propagandistic character assassination. All because Marsh had a conscience.

      A couple of bits of extra info: before the Harrises moved to Far West, they lived in Terre Haute, Indiana. Joseph would stay at their home on his trips back and forth to Missouri from Kirtland. This is most likely when Joseph and Lucinda developed a relationship, whatever that consisted of. Later, in Nauvoo, Joseph gave George and Lucinda the lot “just across the street from my own.” How convenient. 😉

      And when Lucinda was sealed as (plural) wife to Joseph in the Nauvoo Temple in 1846, George Harris stood in as Joseph’s proxy. (!) George and Lucinda didn’t go to Utah and stayed in Iowa. Eventually she left him and went to live with her (by then grown) daughter in Tennessee. I think she deserves a movie of her own – she was involved with two major pivotal events of the early 19th century in the U.S. and is practically unknown.

      One more thing– let’s not forget that W.W. Phelps was a member of the Batavia (New York) Masonic Lodge that was involved in Morgan’s kidnapping. There’s more story here that needs ferreting out…


  4. help3434 Says:

    Joseph Smith surrendering and General Doniphan refusing to execute him is in a movie, the LDS produced Joseph Smith:The Prophet of Restoration. You should watch it and do a review.


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