Book Research, Western Life

Mormonism and Violence

Many religions have faced persecution, and many have brought abuse on others. Mormonism is no different, perhaps we just don’t hear about Mormon ties with violence as often as this religion is mainly centered in the US and today the church does not condone widespread use of corporal punishment.

The history of brutality and Mormonism begins where all violence and religions start their journey together, in sacred texts. The Church of Latter Day Saints has their own holy writings, as well as considering the Old Testament of the Christian Bible hallowed.

Both of these texts carry not only stories of violence, perpetrated by men of God and required by God on occasion, but also the admonition that bloodshed is the due and correct punishment for certain crimes.

Beginning early in the 19th century, members of the LDS church faced persecution at the hands of the citizens of Missouri after some political unrest which resulted from the Mormons tendency to vote as a unified group. This type of voting caused hostilities (after unseating a favorite politician at the time) and was followed by an executive order by the governor of Missouri stating that the Mormons should be treated as enemies.

Following this, there were multiple attacks on members of the church, and they retaliated in kind. The LDS decided to move west and eventually settled in Utah, becoming a force of power in that territory. Along the way and after their settlement, there are documented cases of the Mormons victimizing others. Even blaming some of their attacks on Native Americans.

The most notable of these ambushes, called the Mountain Meadows Massacre, left between 120 and 130 settlers dead. Only some very young children were spared, as they were thought to not be old enough to bear witness to the events; these children were later adopted by families in the church.

Brigham Young was the leader of the LDS at that time and was later tried but not convicted of his involvement in the massacre. The attack was said to have been carried out on the basis that some of the settlers in the wagon train had originally been persecutors of the Mormons.

Image: PD-US

Bound by their codified religious laws to exact vengeance on those who had caused harm to others, the Mormons of that time had no compunctions about killing, in cold blood, to vindicate their own abuse by others. This ‘Law of Vengeance’ was set by Brigham Young and added to the endowment ritual; anyone taking part in the ritual took an oath that bound them to seek God’s retaliation on those who had harmed prophets of this country (the US).

Furthermore, anyone divulging secrets of the endowment ritual were bound by a Blood Oath and the consequences of disclosing these ritual secrets was to have their blood let upon the ground.

The LDS church, later in the 20th century, repealed their violent ways, claiming to have no desire to harm anyone and fought for LGBT rights in the arenas of healthcare and employment. However, the church still distributes copies of a sermon detailing how young Mormon males should defend and protect themselves (physically) from unwanted sexual advances by other men.

All in all, there have been many acts of violence committed on behalf of the Mormon religion. Many of them forgotten in today’s world. But perhaps the blame for violence lies not in the religion itself, but in a choice by some of it’s members to uphold the original Mormon scripture and bring about victimization of others.

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