Joseph Smith reminds me of a chameleon, especially regarding his beliefs about slavery and black people. I wonder if, like a chameleon, he adapted his dogma to what most benefited himself and the church.
Daniel Wood mattered to those who planned his memorial, built a monument, and continued the cemetery’s upkeep. As someone who appreciates history, I was giddy with excitement over the details of Daniel’s funeral, including the details such as the lilac-colored lettering on the banner draping his casket. It made it easy to imagine myself there among my people.
It would be easy to absolve my grandfather of his choice to participate in a religion touting white supremacy by saying he was merely a man of his time. But that is a lie.
In addition to black people tirelessly championing their right to fair treatment, white men and women have fought beside them.
One such white man, John Brown, was born in 1800, like my grandfather Daniel.
In this space, Mormons benefited from the power of the collective. Together they strengthened bonds, experienced joy, and shared knowledge. For those too young to remember the violence and ostracism earlier pioneers faced, I wonder if they took this space for granted.
Lucy, Mary, and Thomas’ stories are not unique. Brigham Young encouraged Mormon families to purchase or barter for native children believing they would be better off in Mormon households. Native Americans, called Lamanites, could lighten their skin, becoming white and delightsome through conversion to the Mormon church. The saints saw bringing native children into their homes as an opportunity to save them while increasing the church roster.
Peninah was said to have been proud of her race. What did that look like in her daily life? What parts of her native culture did she pass on to her children? The family who wrote of her consistently referred to her native roots as “her race” rather than “our race.” She was also called a “true Christian colonizer.” Having native racial pride and the heart of a colonizer seem at odds with one another. Did native identity and pride continue with her lineage or end with her?
“Pioneer’s ownership was made possible by our participation in the genocide and forced removal of the indigenous tribes.
Before Brigham Young’s claim that God wanted us here, these tribes had lived on and stewarded the mountains and valleys. They used bows and arrows to hunt for birds, bison, and mammoths and fished in lakes and rivers.”
“While my grandfather helped a wagon escape because his outrage moved him to take action, others were taking action to end the greed-fueled brutality of enslaved men, women, and children, living their entire lives as someone else’s property.”
“A group of pioneers who traveled together was called a company. Companies took their name from the man responsible for leading them. Some companies established rules to follow while traveling together. There were practical rules, like returning lost property to the Captains for safekeeping, tying dogs to wagons at night, and bringing horses and mules into camp before sundown. Other rules of not leaving camp without permission and pledging implicit obedience to the leaders were attempts to keep order in place.”
“Assassinating a leader is a powerful way to send a message.
The message sent with Prophet Joseph Smith’s murder was, “Mormons are not welcome here.”