Counting our blissful martyrs

At least a part of our shared faith revolves around the times of hardship during the Restoration, and the number of faithful Saints who gave their lives in defending their religion against merciless mobs. It is perhaps worth examining how many people have died as martyrs to Mormonism, and consider the relative importance of their sacrifices.

If we were to judge based solely on frequency of reference in our sermons and manuals, we might conclude that some countless thousands had perished by the sword in Illinois and Ohio. Each year at Pioneer Day we are called upon to reflect upon their sacrifice. But despite being taught about Haun’s Mill and other instances of massacre, I have little idea of how many people have actually been killed because of their faith. For present purposes, let’s include victims of violence, as well as people dying from exposure and disease after being driven out of their homes – but exclude the general exodus westward and subsequent hardships of settlement.

I don’t know that raw numbers when it comes to martrydoms are meaningful – one martyr is sufficient for a religion. Nor do I mean to diminish the sacrifice of those who willingly gave their lives for their beliefs. But if some of us decide to persist in a modern iteration of a persecution complex, perhaps we’d best have a clear perspective on what the actual toll has been on Mormon lives.

Comments

  1. You know, for me it wasn’t just the deaths that are most meaningful. I have often thought about the sacrifices of those who were disowned, who built beauty and had to leave it, who consistently petitioned the government for redress but were rebuffed, for the constant threat of being jailed, etc.

    You can’t count those lives, but they matter just as much as the dead in the way I look at our heritage and the price they paid. Sometimes giving up one’s life isn’t as hard as leaving your home over and over again after losing loved ones to death.

  2. If the number exceeds those killed at Mountain Meadows, I would be more than a little surprised.

  3. Kent, your comment reminds me of a speech from a movie I saw years ago:

    “In a way, each of us has an El Guapo to face. For some, shyness might be their El Guapo. For others, a lack of education might be their El Guapo. For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous man who wants to kill us. But as sure as my name is Lucky Day, the people of Santa Poco can conquer their own personal El Guapo, who also happens to be *the actual* El Guapo!”

  4. Aaron Brown says:

    “one martyr is sufficient for a religion.”

    I’m curious what this means.

    I’ve never been able to get as exercised about historical Mormon persecution as some, given that certain other faith/ethnic communities have faced trials against which ours pale in comparison. But of course, that doesn’t mean ours hasn’t been real, and worth remembering. Maybe if I had pioneer ancestry (I don’t), it would resonate more strongly for me. I dunno.

    AB

  5. Steve Evans says:

    AB, just working in a pithy phrase to suggest that all religions I know of have martyrs. Gotta seal the testimony up with blood and all that.

  6. I’d disagree, Randy.

    MMM numbers are notoriously sketchy, but the estimates are in the 100, 120, 140 range.

    That’s may be attainable when you add up the number of individual Mormon deaths. Haun’s Mill killed nineteen. Crooked River (if it’s included) killed three. There are a lot of individual killings here and there: Joseph, Hyrum, Parley, baby Joseph.

    Hmm. Still a long way from 100, aren’t we?

    The big unknown for me is the sack of Far West. Just how many people were killed in the Missouri war and the sack? I’m not quite sure. Where are Ardis and Justin when you need them?

  7. I understand the inclination to exclude the westward migration, but that movement was a direct result of persecution – so I count those who died as martyrs in the most basic meaning of the word. When you include all who died as a direct result of persecution . . .

    However, I also believe raw numbers don’t mean much in discussions of Mormon martyrdom. They simply aren’t high enough, imo, to count for much when weighed against numerous other historical examples.

  8. Steve Evans says:

    Ray, right — which makes the Mormon persecution complex so baffling.

  9. I voted 100-500. But I think the final number is closer to 100 then 500.

    Do you count the hundreds dead on the trail to the SLC Valley? They in my view would fall into a grey area. They were not directly killed by a church enemy. Just forced to travel. BY considered them to be.

  10. Ray, Steve,

    The Federal Marshalls enforcing polygamy laws and Johnsons armies were pretty much non-violent episodes but left a lasting mark on several generations of SLC Valley mormons. I am sure that these two examples play a large part in our persecution hang-ups

  11. Hmm. The numbers on Far West may not be as high as I had thought. The EOM discusses it and says that there was one confirmed death.

    http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Missouri_Conflict

    The “Persecution” article isn’t really helpful in giving numbers either. http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Persecution

  12. I don’t see how you can count deaths due to disease or other hardship on a westward migration, since the migration was elective.

  13. John Mansfield says:

    Only a tiny fraction of Mormons in Missouri died, but their deaths showed that the Missourians weren’t kidding about ridding themselves of all Mormons, by violent force as required.

  14. There’s also the relevant question, what is a martyr? Back when the Columbine massacre happened, us evangelicals were fond of giving talks to the young people about Rachel Joy Scott and Cassie Bernall and how they told the shooters they believed in God. My skeptical friends would argue that they weren’t martyrs because we don’t know that they were killed because of their beliefs; Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed non-Christians just as easily. We don’t know that they’d have been allowed to live if they’d denied their belief in God.

    Some critics of Mormonism are fond of arguing that Joseph Smith, Jr. wasn’t a martyr because he died in a gun fight shooting back, and of course that adulterous pedophile had it coming anyways. I’m not saying I agree with them.

    But what makes a person a martyr? If two LDS missionaries get killed and shot in Brazil, are they martyrs? Do we know they were targeted because of their religion and not simply for their money?

    I always thought it was an interesting question.

  15. Elective, John? Not for my family. Perhaps no one was standing there with a gun pointed at them, but separation from the church was not an option they could live with.

    Discussions like this bother me quite a bit, not because of the way the question is posed but because of the way the results are usually interpreted. Let’s say that we could come up with a firm number of deaths caused directly at “the hands of their enemies.” So? if it’s more than those who died at MMM, are we the winners? if it’s less than those who died at MMM, then it doesn’t matter? I’ve also heard discussions that point to a low number of deaths and then use that to dismiss the entire notion of Mormon persecution. Having dismissed persecution, some then turn the tables to claim that Mormons were “practicing ethnic cleansing” against their neighbors. This was a favorite claim of one of the blowhards on Mormon-Library a few years ago.

    “Persecution” is more than death at the hands of an enemy. Sometimes life can be made pretty miserable. Rape, mistreatment of missionaries, threats, beatings, denied business and education opportunities, shunning, being cast out of one’s family, reading lies about your people in exposes and newspapers, lying lectures and everything else done to sully one’s reputation — all that is also persecution. And it all happened, over generations, whether these actions resulted in death or not.

  16. At least 210 died in the Willie and Martin handcart companies. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormon_handcart_pioneers

    So any number we view that includes the westward trek would have to be higher than 200 deaths. I believe there were at least 18 deat at Haun’s Mill. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haun%27s_Mill

  17. I wonder if we focus on those who died, thus making the “ultimate sacrifice” and forget to honor those who sacrificed much. When I visited Nauvoo, a guide showed us around a beautiful brick home and said it was the home of a woman (I wish I could remember her name) whose husband left on a several year mission shortly after they arrived in Nauvoo. She remained behind, living in a barracks with her children. When her husband finally arrived home, he built her this beautiful home. Within about 6 months they had to leave b/c of the persecution. I don’t know if I’d be able to pack up and leave gracefully in a situation like that. Especially not when you leave in Feb when it’s so cold that the Mississippi river ices over and then you’re camping in a tent with your several children looking across the river at the beautiful home you had to leave. Not the “ultimate” sacrifice, but worthy of remembrance, I think.
    Basically, I agree with Ardis. Persecution and sacrifice is more than death. :)

  18. Steve Evans says:

    Bridget, interesting question. I suppose to a certain extent martyrs are defined by the community and not externally; certainly, in any event, the ecclesiastical import of the martyrdom is felt more inside the religion than outside. For Mormons the role of Joseph Smith as martyr is more important than it would be for say an evangelical. Also I’d think that the label of martyr is almost always applied post-hoc.

    Ardis, discussions like these really can lead us to weird conclusions. I don’t know that I had any conclusion in mind, really, except perhaps to have an accurate sense of numbers in mind when we talk about people who have died for Mormonism. And you’re right on about persecution, of course.

  19. Steve Evans says:

    I would not count those in the Willie/Martin handcart companies and having suffered death at the hands of their enemies. Note that may not preclude us of referring to them as martyrs – clearly their faith was the driving element in much of their decision-making.

  20. Thanks, Steve. As I said, I don’t have any problem with how the question is posed — it’s a perfectly valid thing to ask, and really ought to be measured — but I wanted to forestall the almost inevitable take-away point, that persecution of Mormons really wasn’t that big a deal because hardly anybody actually died.

  21. John Mansfield says:

    I don’t think all the deaths through decades of migration can be attributed to persecution, but those in Winter Quarters? Definitely yes. Chasing someone unto the freeway has been prosecuted as murder, optional as such flight may have been.

  22. John Hamer says:

    Ardis: Both your ancestors and mine may have felt they had no choice but to follow one of Joseph Smith’s successors on a dangerous migration west, but they actually did have a choice. Many choices. They could have chosen to go anywhere else and they could have even chosen to stay in Nauvoo like the prophet’s own family did. Moreover, Brigham Young had a choice of where and when to lead a migration, and he also could have advised people to find safety by scattering.

  23. I agree with John: we should count most of those who died of disease or accident between the premature expulsion from Nauvoo and, say, May 1847, as having died at the hands of their enemies. If the expulsion had come after preparations were complete and not in the winter and if they could have sold their property for reasonable prices, fewer people would have died on the trail in Iowa, they might have done a better job of setting up Winter Quarters, and they might have been healthier and thus better able to endure the 1846-7 winter. According to Wikipedia, 359 people died of disease between mid-September 1846 and May 1847 at Winter Quarters. I have no idea how many died in the outlying encampments or on the trail. To calculate the excess death rate, we’d also need to know the death rate in Nauvoo. Making up numbers completely out of the air: let’s say that 150 people died of disease/exposure on the Iowa trail and encampments and that, left alone in Nauvoo, only 200 would have died. Thus, there are something like 350 + 150 – 200 = 300 Iowa/Nebraska fatalities consequent to mob action. (Recall: entirely made up numbers.)

  24. The Willie/Martin handcart company is a good example of the difficulty in determining categories. There are those who look at the basic difference between that company (that suffered great losses) and others (that suffered relatively low casualties) and point to the facts that would lay responsibility on the leaders of the company, not any enemies.

    I understand and agree at some level with this assessment. After all, the “entire” westward movement wasn’t caused by persecution; after the first wave of those who left and died due to direct persecution, it was the Church leadership who called for the saints to gather to Zion. Many/most/all? of the saints in Europe, for example, probably could have remained there and not been killed by mob violence.

  25. I disagree, John. The Prophet’s own family may have been willing to separate from the church, but that was not a choice my family could make. Your reasoning would mean that there were no Mormon martyrs (nor Quaker, nor Huegenot, nor early Christian, nor any other), because every one of them could have chosen at some point not to affiliate with the church, or to renounce their belief, or to move away from the scenes of persecution.

  26. That’s a good way of looking at it, Steve. Back when Columbine happened, the thought never occurred to me to tell my skeptical friends that it was how the evangelical community views their deaths that really matters. Then again, if that’s the case, we probably don’t have the right to use the cases of martyrs in any kind of apologetic or testimony to the faith, at least not in testimonies meant to convince outsiders. Outsiders can almost always dissect martyrdom, for both our faith systems.

  27. John Hamer says:

    No, Ardis, by my reasoning, all of the people who died at Haun’s Mill were martyrs from “persecution” because they were directly shot by non-Mormons. By contrast, all of the people who died of disease in Winter Quarters died directly from disease. The distinction I’m making is between direct and indirect causes, because I think that once you get into indirect causes, you have to weigh all the indirect factors.

  28. Researcher says:

    Don’t forget the missionaries and members who died in mob violence in the Southern States Mission in the 19th century. No rational person could make a case that they died for some reason unrelated to their faith.

    I agree with Edje that you have to count the Winter Quarters deaths. My ancestor was there because of her faith and because of persecution and for no other reason. She died there on March 12, 1847, leaving behind two small daughters and a son. I would consider her as much a martyr to the faith as David Patten or the Smith baby who died of exposure due to mob violence. If it had not been for her attempt to exercise her religious faith in a country that guarantees religious freedom as an essential right, she probably would have lived and died of old age in Toronto, Canada, instead of perishing in miserable conditions in Winter Quarters.

  29. IIRC there were five missionaries murdered in the South between 1880 and 1900; for one of them it is not clear whether it was random violence or anti-Mormon violence. Two of the missionaries died at the “Cane Creek Massacre,” along with two members (and one mobber).

    Under the “martyr–not at hands of enemy” heading I’d include missionaries who died of malaria and other tropical diseases (which are rare in the intermountain West).

    On staying in Nauvoo: the Smiths were able to stay only because so many thousands of other Mormons left. The mob/militia would not have tolerated a substantial population remaining. They were willing to let a few (about a thousand, IIRC) stay. So, short of renouncing their faith, most of the Mormons in Nauvoo _had_ to leave.

    On the Westward migration in general: calculating excess deaths is always tricky because the basal death estimate is, of necessity, counterfactual. If the Mormons had been allowed to stay in Missouri then we could estimate the excess death rate as the number of people who died between Iowa City and Salt Lake minus the Mormon death totals in a peaceful Missouri. Ditto Nauvoo.

    The question is, would the prophet have received a revelation telling the saints to go to Salt Lake even without persecution? If so, then the westward migration (after WQ, May 1847) is out; otherwise, I think it’s in—but we’d have to come up with a good analysis of Missouri death rates.

  30. I think what bugs me is that I frequently hear in the Church about the bad things that were done to “us”, as if those events were completely one sided, and that we generally chose not to remember those outsiders who may have been adversely affected by the Mormon movement, of whichever branch. I suppose it is only human to do so–growing up, that is the way I remember U.S. history’s being presented to me: the Communists were always evil and always broke their treaties, the U.S. was always on the side of angels and always kept their treaties (somehow not remembering the U.S. treaties routinely broken with Native Americans).

    I suppose the danger of remembering that history–Mormon and U.S.–has two or more sides and facets is that we may become cynical and moral relativists. On the other hand, consistent focusing or dwelling one-sidedly on the wrongs done by our “enemies” (whether to Mormons or Americans) leads to unhealthy feelings of animosity or cultural insularity.

  31. btw, let me say for the record how bizarre/repugnant it is to talk of whose deaths “count.” They all count, of course. Even if we are trying to set some definitional boundaries, let’s not lose sight of the enormous amount of suffering involved here.

  32. John Hamer says:

    That there was an enormous amount of suffering is undeniable. The problem, in my opinion, is continually attributing that suffering to “persecution.” I think we should never use that word discussing our history because of its constant overuse and misuse. We should instead say that early Saints were routinely “in conflict” with their neighbors. The Saints were reacting to actions of their opponents who were, in turn, reacting to the Saints’ own actions.

  33. I am on board with the idea that the Winter Quarters deaths should be included in our count. I also have a ancestor who died there at a very young age leaving behind 6 kids. The cause of his death was directly related to being forced out of Nauvoo during winter.

  34. Serious question: Do we count James Strang as a Mormon martyr?

  35. John’s suggestion reminds me of Judge Chamberlain Haller’s response to Vinny, when he objected to the surpise expert witness:

    Judge Chamberlain Haller: That is a lucid, intelligent, well thought-out objection.
    Vinny Gambini: Thank you, sir.
    Judge Chamberlain Haller: Overruled.

    John Hamer, your recommendation is overruled!

  36. John Hamer says:

    d’oh!

  37. I don’t think this is nearly as much a historical question (for which I would be happy to defer to our resident historians) as it is a definitional question. If conduct would qualify as first or second degree murder at the hands of persecutors, that would seem to clearly satisfy Steve’s test. But what about conduct that amounts to felony murder, manslaughter, reckless endangerment, or mere negligence? Is that enough?

    We also have serious questions of proximate cause the further things get attenuated. I can at least see the argument on Winter Quarters, for example, but the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies? Be serious.

    The deaths of all those who died under such trying circumstances clearly matter. But the question posed here seems to be looking for more than that.

  38. Do we count those that lost their membership at the hands of inquisitorial leaders, like the missionary beefcake calendar guy?

    Some gave all.

  39. John Mansfield says:

    btw, let me say for the record how bizarre/repugnant it is to talk of whose deaths ‘count.'”

    What, exactly, did you have in mind when with putting up a poll asking what the count is? Not to be bizarre or repugnant, I assume.

  40. John Mansfield says:

    As for how optional Latter-day Saints’ flight from Nauvoo was, the terms of their surrender ending the Battle of Nauvoo allowed only five Mormon men and their families to remain in the state to settle affairs.

  41. John Mansfield says:

    In other words, there was someone pointing a gun at Ardis’ relatives and our predecessors in the Church, requiring them to flee Nauvoo.

  42. Mansfield, read the post and the comments.

  43. As to those on the trail to the Salt Lake Valley, people were going west. Some of these people were Mormon. Amongst those Mormons, from what I read, many fewer died than in the other groups, due, in large part to the organizational genius of Brigham Young. Except for that whole handcart thing. Which he totally screwed up. Anyway, as one with dead ancestors buried on the trail, I say these people don’t count as Mormon martyrs. They count as people who died for all the same reasons people died back then.

  44. John Mansfield says:

    I’ve read them all, such as #19 by Steve Evans: “I would not count those in the Willie/Martin handcart companies and having suffered death at the hands of their enemies.”

  45. Refugees from Missouri whom malaria killed are also a part of the class of Mormons who died indirectly from persecution. Some deaths would have been averted if they had gathered to sanctuaries less swampy than Quincy and Commerce, but the Missouri expulsion was a factor.

  46. Then you have not understood, John. Perhaps your time is best spent elsewhere.

  47. Except for that whole handcart thing. Which he totally screwed up.

    To dispute your claim as to Brigham Young’s “totally screw[ing] up” the whole handcart thing would be a serious threadjack. But I believe the historical record would prove you mistaken, djinn. My seconds and I will meet you in Weehawken at dawn.

  48. John Mansfield says:

    “Then you have not understood, John. Perhaps your time is best spent elsewhere.”

    Perhaps. The intricacies of your baiting people into commenting with you on which deaths were caused by persecution and then denouncing such bizarre/repugnant comments must be beyond my capacity.

  49. I pretty much redid my entire families genealogy; one thing that I noticed was that the same family also had multiple children with the same name. A son would be named John, for example, die; with the next son named John. Names didn’t tend to stabilize until a kid was about two. I always suspected (without other evidence) that this was just expectation that kids died often, and young. But here is a chance for me to ask a wider audience who, also, presumably knows their genealogy; is this a family quirk or have you also found such anomalies?

  50. As I read this post I was thinking about the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda who have killed about 900 people since mid-December, and slaughtered 45 people in a Catholic church. I thought about the different ways that Palestinians and Israelis tell their histories and the ways words like Martyr and persecution play out in such conflicts. My first thought was our deaths and persecutions aren’t even in the same league. Then, set straight, by Ardis’ comments, I realized that this isn’t the way to think about the deaths. Those deaths touched others and touch us in ways that still define us and give meaning. The number doesn’t matter. We are infused with who we are and have become by those deaths. My ancestors were able to do really hard and amazing things, in part because of the stories and meaning those deaths provided. It’s sort of like (and don’t take me wrong here) a kind of collective consciousness. Lot’s of things give meaning to who I am. Lot’s of people have suffered far worse things than I have, but it’s my own sufferings that define who I am. Can’t this be true for us as a people too?

    I really like this post and thread.

  51. Very well said, Steve. That’s the main reason I don’t think “the numbers” matter; the faith of which they testify does.

  52. onewhoknows says:

    Careful John Mansfield,
    You’re coming dangerously close to disagreeing with Steve Evans, the punishment for which, is banning.
    This blog is only for those who share their own opinions and then censor others. Anyone who isn’t OK with that is asked to leave. It’s happened time, and time, and time again.

  53. Yes, it’s like Battlestar Galactica that way.

  54. djinn, 49: reusing names within families and across generations is common in French, German, and English ancestry (that I know of), going back hundreds of years. In the uncertain world of European peasantry, keeping a name “alive” gave continuity and structure.

    An interesting read on the topic (and valuable, IMHO, to family historians) is Lost Worlds: How Our European Ancestors Coped with Everyday Life and Why Life is So Hard Today by Arthur Erwin Imhof (University of Virginia Press, 1996, 199 pages). http://books.google.com/books?id=fvSbMRBWfzoC

  55. Ardis, thank you for comment number 15.

    Just a quick note about Winter Quarters. I was in Omaha for two days this week and made a point of stopping at the temple and cemetery on my way to the airport. Their is a strong spirit that permeates that sacred and hallowed ground. I am grateful for my pioneer ancestors and the sacrifices they made.

  56. Thomas Parkin says:

    Stupidest. BCC discussion. Ever. ~

    P.S. However, it has convinced to become Jewish.
    P.P.S. I measure persecution not in deaths but in number of ugly comments on the Salt Lake Tribune website.

  57. Thomas Parkin says:

    I’ve changed my mind about the Jewish thing.

    I’ve just finished reading very spiffy little book about the Donner Party. Something like 35 of them died. Martyrs to the cause of Getting Rich in California! (And a good part of the dead went on to live in the bowels of their compatriots – just to add a religious note.) Those thirty dead immigrants probably outnumber the Mormon dead, and therefore my new religion is going to be Money Grabbing in California. Anything to redeem me from this long miserable Utah winter. ~

  58. TP, you really want to bestow the laurels on this thread? We’ve had far worse here.

  59. Thomas Parkin says:

    Steve,

    No. Just blowing off steam. Hope no one minds. ~

  60. Rainn Wilson (The Office) talks about persecution, past and present of Baha’i faith members at CNN:

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/02/17/wilson.faith/index.html

  61. These early martyrdom play an important role in the story of the Mormon faith. I agree that the it is not the numbers that are important, but the stories of endurance and holding fast to the truth.

    I gained a interesting perspective in reading Geoffrey Howe’s “What Hath God Wrought”, a widely-praised overview of US history from 1820-1848. One of the key themes of the book was the pervasiveness of mob violence in American society as a whole. As David Frum pointed out in his recent lengthy post about Mormons, there was actually much more anti-Catholic violence (and deaths) during this time period. That doesn’t lessen the horror that Mormons endured or the sacrifice of early Mormon martyrs, but in the context of the times, our experience was not the outlier (everyone in America v. Mormons) that we sometimes perceive it to be.

  62. MadChemist says:

    Warno.
    One question that I have is,
    How do the numbers compare to percentages. That is, if there were 100 Mormons and 1 of them was martyered, and there were 1000 Catholics but only 5 were martyred, statistically, Mormons would have been “more persecuted” than the Catholics. We have to remember the statistical significance and not just mere numbers. I think in both cases the horrors committed against the Jewish peoples, yet only 5 people died in the Boston Massacre out of 400 Bostonians (very low percentage), yet all the men and some children were killed at Hans mill (higher percentage).

  63. Although our numbers are fuzzy, there were perhaps 8,000 Mormons in Missouri in late 1838. 17 killed at Haun’s Mill, 3 at Crooked River, and a handful of others that are more difficult to identify. I’ll let someone else more interested in figures calculate the percentage.

    As to the point of the post, yes, the numbers of our martyrs are small, but we remember them as a means to define who we are. I think it’s also important to note that remembering martyrs and persecution has a dark side, that we borrowed for the most part uncritically from earlier biblical, Catholic, and Protestant discourses. It’s one thing to promote group solidarity by remembering a violent past, but part of that has involved defining (and in some cases demonizing) non-Mormons as “other,” which produced in the 19th-century a rhetoric that lead in extreme moments to violence justified in the name of divine vengeance. Any positive appraisal of our martyrologies needs to be counterbalanced by that, I think.

  64. Steve Evans says:

    David, I think that’s an excellent point; martyrdom is in its very nature establishing the religion against the world. The ‘other-ness’ that results unifies and strengthens the religion, but yes there is a cost.

  65. I hate the idea that someone who gets shot after a few years of faith is somehow more spiritual than someone who dies in old age after a lifetime of faith.

    I was reading Anson Calls history and he bought a mob drinks and joined them to hunt the Mormons so that he could redirect them away from his family and others so they could flee without getting shot. He was no martyr but that seems like a better tact than broadcasting that he was Mormon and getting shot and having the group of families shot up. I could do without martyrs completely who needs em? I see too many people today that want the respect and worship that we give martyrs. And this seems kind of ridiculous to me.

  66. DavidG, thanks for stating in 63 much more articulately my reservations about what, in my opinion, sometimes is an undue and healthy focus on “wrongs” in the past.

  67. The Catholic Church considers “The Holy Innocents” to be martyrs and saints. These are defined as the babies and children killed by Herod and his soldiers in an attempt to rid the area of the Christ child. It is not that they died because of Christ, but rather that they died in His place. They are nameless and without number, but known only by God.

    I have an ancestor who was killed at Haun’s Mill. Martyr? Yes. Joseph Smith, shot by mob members while incarcerated? No doubt there. A missionary stabbed on the streets of Sao Paulo? Of course. A Southern States missionary shot and buried in a shallow grave? Naturally. The people who were forced out of their homes during the dead of winter and huddled on the Iowa plains? They may not have died at the hands of persecutors, but they suffered and died because of their beliefs. The implict threat was that if one believed in Mormonism, then one would be forced from Missouri, forced from Nauvoo, forced beyond the borders of the United States. It would have been easy to quit, settle down, and deny ever having heard of Joseph Smith and the Mormon Gold Bible. Many did – the area around Winter Quarters still has descendants of people who were forced from Nauvoo but decided not to continue across the plains.

    Those early Saints died in our place – died to build the society they wanted. They are martyrs for the faith, because they suffered death rather than giving in.

  68. Marjorie Conder says:

    Two thoughts–
    When I was working on the Mormon Trail Center (Winter Quarters) the most common question (often asked in breathless tones) was “how many pioneers died?” I found this to be the wrong question and quite irritating. Obviously they wanted a “big” number. One time I heard it just pop out of my mouth–“all of them”. The biggest number possible, absolutely true and absolutely useless information.

    I haven’t seen any mention on this post of post pioneer era genuine martyrs, and or events that occurred outside of the USA and there have been at least a few. The Mexican branch leaders who were killed by a firing squad, in the early 20th century, apparently for no other reason than being LDS. Even more recent was the son of Emmuael and Elizabeth Kissi from Ghana in the late 1980s. The government rounded up the Church leadership and detained them. Bro. Kissi always picked up his sevenyear old son from school, but this day since he was locked up he never came. After waiting a long time the little boy started to walk home and was accosted by a mob who killed him as an LDS child. I remember both hearing about this and then several years later actually talking to Sister Elizabeth Kissi in person about it. Absolutely heart wrenching.

    Undoubtedly there are other such more contemporary examples.

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