13 Strange Facts About The Early Days Of Mormonism
There are many crazy things that happened to the first Mormons. After Joseph Smith organized the first meeting of his religious followers in 1830, they were kicked out of numerous states in a violent manner. The early days of the Mormon Church were quite tumultuous. Before the group settled in Utah, they moved around quite a bit. They would get to a new location, build a church, and then be forced to leave when locals turned against them.
However, early Mormon Church history involves more than just fleeing from one place to another, or even the creation of interesting Mormon sex practices. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints also joined the Sierra Nevada gold rush and massacred a group of emigrants from Arkansas, proving that they could dish it out as well as they could take it. These stories of early Mormonism are quite bloody indeed!
Brigham Young Had 55 WivesPhoto: F.H. Lieb / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Brigham Young, who took over as leader of the Mormon religion after Smith's death, had 55 wives. He married Miriam Angeline Works in 1824, but she died in 1832. His second wife was Mary Ann Angell, whom he married in 1834. In 1842, he wrote in his diary how much he enjoyed being married to her alone. Two months after that entry, he proposed to Martha Brotherton, who was only 17. She turned him down.
He wasn't discouraged. He quickly gained a second wife, then continued down a polygamist path, picking up 53 other wives. Some of these women were already married to other prominent members of the Mormon church, but that didn't stop Young - he married them anyway. He purchased homes for his wives in settlements surrounding Utah, and reportedly had little time for their grievances.
Joseph Smith Attempted To Run For President In 1844Photo: Bathsheba W. Smith / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
The presidential election of 1844 was a battle between James K. Polk, the Democratic candidate (and winner) and Henry Clay, a member of the Whig party. Joseph Smith, then leader of the Mormon church, entered the race as an independent candidate. He ran on a platform of religious and civil rights protections, mainly to defend his Mormon followers against attacks. Smith also wanted to create a national bank, end slavery, and even make Texas and Oregon official states. He campaigned with the help of a written pamphlet and with missionaries representing his church and his political views. Unfortunately, Smith died in June, 1844, several months before the election took place.
Joseph Smith And His Brother Died Like Action Movie CharactersPhoto: G.W. Fasel / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Regardless of your feelings about Joseph Smith or Mormonism, you have to admit the man went down fighting like a post-2008 Liam Neeson character. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, here’s the gist: charged with treason and inciting a riot, Smith was locked up with his brother, Hyrum, and another Mormon named John Taylor. According to Taylor’s eyewitness account, a mob stormed the jail and started shooting at the prisoners through a locked wooden door.
After Hyrum was shot in the face and killed, Joseph Smith used a smuggled six-shooter to kill two of the assailants and wound another. As Taylor beat back the mob with a long walking stick, Smith tried to escape through a nearby second story window, but was shot twice in the back, sending him through the window to the ground below.
Joseph Smith Claimed To Have Been Visited By "Heavenly Beings" Multiple TimesPhoto: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
As the story goes, Smith saw his first heavenly vision at the age of 14, when both God and Jesus Christ appeared before him while he was praying in the woods. Since that point, he received many visits from various heavenly beings. These include visits from 24 angels such as Moroni, Adam, Abraham, and John the Baptist.
Some Of The Eleven Witnesses To The Gold Plates Never Laid Eyes On ThemPhoto: Edward Stevenson / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
According to the Book of Mormon, Smith received word of a series of golden plates buried by the angel Moroni. These plates contained the text that became the Book of Mormon, which founded the entire religion. He "translated by the gift and power of God" the words into English.
Initially, Smith was not supposed to show the plates to anyone. However, the Book of Mormon lists eleven people who saw them besides Smith. They are supposed to be proof that the golden plates did indeed exist. Latter Day Saints believe all eleven accounts to be tried and true. However, some non-believers argue that a few of those witnesses later said that they only saw the plates with their "spiritual eyes," not their physical ones.
Smith Was Almost Assassinated By Mormon Apostate William LawPhoto: Adrian Volkov / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Mormon apostate William Law is attributed with causing dissension in the church prior to Joseph Smith's death in 1844. As one of the stout believers who suddenly disagreed with the religion, Law's espoused beliefs were hurting the Mormon church. Smith reacted by calling him a "Judas" in 1843, which resulted in more bad blood between the two. Law planned to kill Smith and even held secret gatherings to plan Smith's assassination that following spring. However, the plot was discovered in time, though Smith ended up dying in June that same year.