Question: Was condemning Joseph Smith a crime that was "worthy of death" among 19th century Mormons?


Question: Was condemning Joseph Smith a crime that was "worthy of death" among 19th century Mormons?

If everyone who condemned Joseph Smith were "worthy of death," there would have been few critics left

Critics Jerald and Sandra Tanner really have to stretch on this one, since if everyone who condemned Joseph Smith were "worthy of death," there would have been few critics left! This was obviously not the case during the 19th century, and the only support that the critics can gather for such a far-fetched idea is a second-hand quote from Brigham Young and a single entry in Apostle Abraham H. Cannon's journal. Cannon's journal says:

Bro. Joseph F. Smith was traveling some years ago near Carthage when he met a man who said he had just arrived five minutes too late to see the Smiths killed. Instantly a dark cloud seemed to overshadow Bro. Smith and he asked how this man looked upon the deed. Bro. S. was oppressed by a most horrible feeling as he waited for a reply. After a brief pause the man answered, "Just as I have always looked upon it—that it was a d—d cold-blooded murder." The cloud immediately lifted from Bro. Smith and he found that he had his open pocket knife grasped in his hand in his pocket, and he believes that had this man given his approval to that murder of the prophets he would have immediately struck him to the heart.[1]

The only other evidence offered by the Tanners is a second hand quote said to have come from Brigham Young. Norton Jacob claims that Brigham said:

A man may live here with us and worship what God he pleases or none at all, but he must not blaspheme the God of Israel or damn old Jo Smith or his religion, for we will salt him down in the lake.[2]

The Tanners take the story about Joseph F. Smith's emotional reaction to hearing of the death of Joseph and Hyrum, along with an alleged quote from Brigham Young from a second hand source, and ridiculously expand this to mean that "blood atonement" requires death for anyone who condemns Joseph Smith. The evidence for such an assertion by the critics is practically non-existent, and one must assume that they added this for the simple reason that they wanted to make the list of "crimes" that they relate to "blood atonement" more impressive.

Notes

  1. "Daily journal of Abraham H. Cannon," December 6, 1889, pp.205-6.
  2. Klaus J. Hansen, Quest for Empire—The Political Kingdom of God and the Council of Fifty in Mormon History, (1967), p.127; Hansen in turn quotes Dale Morgan, The Great Salt Lake (New York 1947) p. 202.