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LDS Doctrine and Covenants Notes 25: D&C 121-123

LDS Doctrine and Covenants Notes 25: D&C 121-123

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Published by Mike Parker
LDS Doctrine and Covenants Notes 25: D&C 121-123
LDS Doctrine and Covenants Notes 25: D&C 121-123

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Published by: Mike Parker on May 04, 2010
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© 2013, Mike Parker http://bit.ly/ldsarc For personal use only. Not a Church publication.
Doctrine and CovenantsWeek 25: D&C 121
Background: The Mormon War of 1838.
In December 1836 the Missouri legislature created Caldwell and Daviesscounties from Ray County.i)
Since only Caldwell County 
 was designated as a ―Mormon county,‖ many 
Missourians assumed that Daviess and other surrounding counties were to be non-Mormon.ii)
In 1838 as many as 8,000 Mormons migrated to Missouri.(1)
The bulk of them took up residence in Caldwell County in settlements alongShoal Creek.(2)
However, others went to the Mormon settlements of Adam-ondi-Ahman inDaviess County and De Witt in Carroll County.(a)
Mormons soon outnumbered non-Mormons two-to-one in Daviess County and four-to-one in De Witt.iii)
 Very quickly the same animosities and misunderstandings between Mormons andnon-Mormons that occurred in Jackson County began to flare up again.
In addition to Mormon/non-Mormon tensions, there had been a significantnumber of apostasies and excommunications among the Saints, including someprominent leaders.i)
Oliver Cowdery was excommunicated in April 1838,
along with David Whitmer(another of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon and the then-stakepresident in Missouri), Hiram Page and John Whitmer (two of the Eight Witnesses),and Lyman E. Johnson (a member of the Quorum of the Twelve).(1)
Oliver Cowdery and the Whitmers continued to live in and around Far West, where they 
owned a great deal of property. They were referred to as ―thedissenters.‖
 After the fallout and violence at Kirtland, Mormon tolerance for apostates livingamong them was at an all-time low.ii)
On 17 June 1838 Sidney Rigdon, first counselor in the First Presidency,
gave his famous ―Salt Sermon‖ at Far West.
The bulk of this section, unless otherwise noted, is condensed from Alma R. Blair, ―Conflict in Missouri,‖ in
 Historical  Atlas of Mormonism
, S. Kent Brown, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard H. Jackson, eds. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994),46.
As noted in lesson 19, pages 4
5 (
), these included cultural,religious, economic, and political differences between Mormons of largely New England stock and non-Mormons fromSouthern, slaveholding traditions.
Oliver Cowdery disagreed with Joseph‘s integration of church and state, was unwilling to defer to Church authority inpolitical matters on which he disagreed, and accused Joseph of impropriety in his relationship with Fanny Alger. (Joseph‘s
plural marriage to Fanny will be discussed in lesson 28.)
Hurricane Utah Adult Religion Class Doctrine and Covenants Sections 121
123 Week 25, Page 2© 2013, Mike Parker http://bit.ly/ldsarc For personal use only. Not a Church publication.
In this sermon he likened the dissenter
s to the ―salt‖ spoken of by Jesus in theSermon on the Mount: ―If the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted?
It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot
of men.‖ (Matthew 5:13.)
Two days later 83 Latter-day Saints signed a statement warning the dissenters to
depart the area within three days or ―
 vengeance [will] overtake you sooner orlater
The dissenters and their families interpreted these words as threats, and they quickly left Caldwell County.(3)
Sidney Rigdon followed up with a second sermon at the 4 July 1838Far West Temple groundbreaking ceremony, declaring independence against
and anti-Mormon persecution:
We take God and all the holy angels to witness this day, that we warn all menin the name of Jesus Christ, to come on us no more forever. for from this hour,we will bear it no more, our rights shall no more be trampled on with impunity.The man or the set of men, who attempts it, does it at the expense of theirlives. And that mob that comes on us to disturb us; it shall be between us andthem a war of extermination; for we will follow them till the last drop of theirblood is spilled, or else they will have to exterminate us: for we will carry theseat of war to their own houses, and their own families, and one party or theother shall be utterly destroyed.
Remember it then all M
.We will never be the agressors, we will infringe on the rights of no people; butshall stand for our own until death. We claim our own rights, and are willingthat all others shall enjoy theirs.No man shall be at liberty to come into our streets, to threaten us with mobs,for if he does, he shall attone for it before he leaves the place, neither shall hebe at liberty, to villify and slander any of us, for suffer it we will not in thisplace.
Rigdon‘s sermon expressed the frustration and resolve of many of the Saints
 who had suffered persecution in Jackson County and Ohio, but his appeal to vigilantism alarmed local non-Mormons and further stoked anti-Mormonsentiment throughout northwestern Missouri.(i)
Brigham Young later referred to this sermon as ―
the prime cause of ourtroubles in Missouri
 About this same time, a group of around 300 Latter-day Saints organized under thedirection of Sampson Avard into a paramilitary group called the
Letter to Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, John Whitmer, William W. Phelps, and Lyman E, Johnson; June 1838.
Oration Delivered by Mr. S. Rigdon. On the 4th of July, 1838. At Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri.
(Far West,
Missouri: The [Elders‘] Journal Office
, 1838), 12 (
Remarks by Brigham Young, September 1844. ―Continuation of Elder Rigdon‘s Trial,‖
Times and Seasons
5/18 (1October 1844), 667 (
For a brief treatment of the Danites, see
 Encyclopedia of Mormonism
(New York, New York: Macmillan, 1992), s.v.
―Danites,‖ 1:3
57 (
). For a longer, more comprehensive history see Leland H.
Gentry, ―The Danite Band of 1838,‖
 BYU Studies
14/4 (Summer 1974), 421
Hurricane Utah Adult Religion Class Doctrine and Covenants Sections 121
123 Week 25, Page 3© 2013, Mike Parker http://bit.ly/ldsarc For personal use only. Not a Church publication.
They were a secret group that operated parallel to, but separate from, theregularly organized militia in Caldwell County.(2)
name was derived from a prophecy by the prophet Daniel that ―
the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess [it] for ever
‖ (Daniel 7:18).
 According to Avard, the original purpose of the band was to drive dissenters fromCaldwell County.(a)
Once that had been accomplished, the Danites turned their attention todefending the Saints from mobs.(b)
 Avard, however, went one step further by including retaliation against those who persecuted the Saints, including stealing and plundering from those whostole and plundered from the Saints.(4)
It‘s unclear how much knowledge and direction the First Presidency had over theDanites‘ activities, but once Joseph Smith found out the extremes they weregoing to, he denounced them as a ―secret combination‖
and Avard wasexcommunicated.
Even though the Danite organization began and ended in Missouri, rumors thatthey were carrying out secret assassinations in Utah became the stuff of legendand dime-store novels.c)
Tensions in Missouri lead to violence.i)
The war began on 6 August 1838, when non-Mormons in Gallatin, the DaviessCounty seat, attempted to prevent Mormons from voting.(1)
Joseph Smith went with 150 men from Far West to protect Adam-ondi- Ahman from rumored attacks.ii)
On 19 August members of the Carroll County militia took up arms as vigilantesand ordered the Mormons in De Witt to leave the county.(1)
After several weeks of violence and a lengthy siege, Mormon leadersabandoned the settlement on 11 October and fled to Far West.iii)
Vigilante militia members from Carroll County then joined others fromClinton, Platte and other counties and attacked LDS settlements in Daviess County.(1)
The state militia was called in to restore order, but many in the militia weresympathetic to the non-Mormons.(2)
Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon led 400 Saints to Daviess County, wherethey retaliated against non-Mormons. They burned Gallatin and Millport andexpelled all non-Mormons from the county.
See Joseph Smith‘s comments on Avard‘s activities in
 History of the Church
). In his letter of 25 March 1838 (portions of which were canonized as D&C 121,122, and 123; see below), Joseph Smith condemned
Sampson Avard and organizations like the Danites: ―
 And again, I wouldfurther suggest the impropriety of the organization of bands or companies, by covenant or oaths, by penalties or secrecies; butlet the time past of our experience and sufferings by the wickedness of Doctor Avard suffice and let our covenant be that of theEverlasting Covenant, as is contained in the Holy Writ and the things that God hath revealed unto us. Pure friendship always becomes weakened the very moment you undertake to make it stronger by penal oaths and secrecy.
 Avard‘s excommunication was carried out
in absentia
 by a conference presided over by Brigham Young at Quincy,Illinois, 17 March 1839.
3:284 (

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