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.