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Danite Pledges:

“In the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, I do solemnly obligate myself ever to conceal, and never to reveal, the secret purposes of this society called the Daughters of Zion. Should I ever do the same, I hold my life as the forfeiture.”

- Portion of the Danite Constitution, as quoted in Senate Document 189 of the 2nd session of the 26th Congress

“I from this day declare myself the Avenger of the blood of those innocent men, and the innocent cause of Zion.”

- Danite pledge to the Prophet, Alanson Ripley to “Dear brethren in Christ Jesus,” with Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Caleb Baldwin, Alexander McRae, and Lyman Wight identified by initials at end of letter, April 10, 1839, see Hill, Quest for Refuge, p. 100 and Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, p. 113

Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. (1805 - 1844):

“We have a company of Danites in these times, to put to right physically that which is not right, and to cleanse the Church of very great evils which hath hitherto existed among us inasmuch as they cannot be put to right by teachings & persuasions.”

- Joseph Smith diary, Missouri Journal, 1838, March to September, under July 27, 1838; also Dean Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith, 1992, v. 2, p. 262 (this quote is crossed out in this book); also in Faulring, An American Prophet's Record, p. 198

“I sent [Orrin] Rockwell [leader of the Danites] to kill Boggs, but he missed him, it was a failure; he wounded him instead of sending him to Hell.”

- Joseph Smith, Jr. as quoted by William Law in a statement on July 31, 1887, in William Law: Biographical Essay, Nauvoo Diary, Correspondence, Interview, 1994, pp. 166-117

More Primary Source Quotes

“The first presidency did not seem to have much to do with it at first: they would, however, go into their [Danite] meetings occasionally, and sanction their doings.”

- John Corrill, A Brief History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, p. 31
“ was the imperative duty of the Church to obey the word of Joseph Smith, or the presidency, without question or inquiry, and that if there were any that would not, they should have their throats cut from ear [to] ear.”

- Sidney Rigdon letter to Orson Hyde, October 21, 1844, in Nauvoo Neighbor, December 4, 1844; see also Quinn, Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, p. 94; online at Link is here.

“While we were gone Jo. & Rigdon & their band of gadiantons kept up a guard and watched our houses and abused our families and threatened them if they were not gone by morning they would be drove out & threatened our lives if they [the Danites] ever saw us in Far West.”

- John Whitmer, McKiernan and Launius, The Book of John Whitmer, p. 165

“My sympathies were drawn toward the women and children, but I would in no degree let them deter me from duty. So while others were pillaging for something to carry away, I was doing my best to protect, as far as possible, the lives and comfort of the [non-Mormon] families who were dependent on getting away upon horseback.... While others were doing the burning and plunder, my mission was of mercy so far as duty would permit. But of course I made enemies at home [among fellow Mormons], and became more known by those who were our avowed enemies. Before noon we had set all [houses and barns] on fire and left upon a circuitous route towards home.”

- Benjamin Johnson, My Life's Review, 1947, p. 39

“Some of the [Danite] brethren did things they should not have done, such as appropriating to their own use things that did not belong to them.”

- James B. Bracken, Sr., statement, in They Knew the Prophet, 1974, p. 79

“Dear Sister,… I will tell you the reason why we could not leave this blood-stained land, I mean ten or twelve years ago. In the first place, we were a thousand miles from the nearest town East, eight hundred miles from the nearest settlement West, and God only knows how far to any place north and south. On all this vast tract of land no white man dwelt. No civilization was known, none but the red men roamed the dreary solitudes. To travel such a space required considerable food, a good wagon and team, in fact, everything necessary for a three month's pilgrimage. Nor was it safe for a few men to go together, unless they were well-armed. Again, every Bishop knew your business and was always on the lookout. If you started they would send men to drive off your stock, and thus you would be compelled to return. Then if you did not behave and act the hypocrite, the bishop would send the Danites to use you up and send you across lots to that bright brimstone home we read about. Thus you see it was almost impossible to get away.”

- Aaron DeWitt, letter online at Link is here.; see Abanes, One Nation Under Gods, p. 239

“I married Jesse Hartly, knowing he was a ‘Gentile' in fact, but he passed for a Mormon, but that made no difference with me, although I was a Mormon, because he was a noble man, and sought only the right. By being my husband, he was brought into closer contact with the members of the Church, and was thus soon enabled to learn many things about us, and about the Heads of the Church, that he did not approve, and of which I was ignorant, although I had been brought up among the Saints; and which, if known among the Gentiles, would have greatly damaged us. I do not understand all he discovered, or all he did; but they found he had written against the Church, and he was cut off, and the Prophet required as an atonement for his sins, that he should lay down his life. That he should be sacrificed in the endowment rooms; where human sacrifices are sometimes made in this way. This I never knew until my husband told me, but it is true. They kill those there who have committed sins too great to be atoned for in any other way. The Prophet says, if they submit to this he can save them; otherwise they are lost. Oh! that is horrible. But my husband refused to be sacrificed, and so set out alone for the United States: thinking there might be at least a hope of success. I told him when he left me, and left his child, that he would be killed, and so he was. William Hickman and another Danite, shot him in the canyons; and I have often since been obliged to cook for this man, when he passed this way, knowing all the while, he had killed my husband. My child soon followed after its father, and I hope to die also; for why should I live? They have brought me here, where I wish to remain, rather than to return to Salt Lake where the murderers of my husband curse the earth, and roll in affluence unpunished.”

- Miss Bullock of Provo, Utah, quoted by Mary Ettie V. Smith, in Nelson Winch Green, Mormonism: its rise, progress, and present condition…, 1858, 1870 ed., p. 273

“In the excavations made within the limits of Salt Lake City during the time I have resided there, many human skeletons have been exhumed in various parts of the city…. I have never heard that it was ever the custom to bury the dead promiscuously throughout the city; and as no coffins were ever found in connection with any of these skeletons, it is evident that the death of the persons to whom they once belonged did not result from natural causes, but from the use of criminal means.”

- R.N. Baskin, Reminiscences of Early Utah, 1914, pp. 154-155

“… the disposition manifested in J. Smith and S. Rigdon to pillage, rob, plunder, assassinate and murder, was never equaled in my estimation, unless by some desperate Bandit.”

- Thomas B. Marsh, letter to Brother and Sister Abbot, October 25, 1838, in Joseph Smith Letterbook, v. 2, p. 18, Smith Papers, in RLDS archives, Lee Library and Marriott Library; see also Abanes, One Nation Under Gods, p. 541, footnote 67


“He [Brigham Young] uttered this sentiment with such a wicked working of the lower jaw and lip, and such an almost demon spirit in his whole face, that quite disposed to be incredulous on those matters. I could not help thinking of the Mountain Meadows massacre, of Danites and Avenging Angels, and their reported achievements.”

- New York Tribune, July 15, 1865

[There is] “... only [one] known visit of Joseph or Hyrum Smith to Danite meetings... evidence indicates that Rigdon was present on more than one occasion, perhaps several.”

- Leland H. Gentry, “The Danite Band of 1838,” BYU Studies, v. 14, Summer 1974, p. 443

“The method chosen by the Latter-day Saints to rid themselves of their dissenting Brethren was unfortunate since it furnished the dissenters with further proof that the Saints were inimical to law and order.”

- Gentry, “History of the Latter-day Saints In Northern Missouri From 1836 to 1839,” Ph. D. dissertation, Brigham Young University, 1965, p. 171; see also LeSueur, The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri, p. 46

“There is no question that Latter-day Saint rangers burned buildings at Millport and Gallatin... It is certain that some Danites played the thief, and it is possible, although unproven, that one or two were murderers.”

- William G. Hartley, BYU professor, My Best For the Kingdom, p. 69, 42


Quotes From Danites

“The Church [at Far West] organized under captains... They called our organization ‘THE DANITE BAND' [-] I belonged to the 3rd Fifty led by Reynolds Cahoon.”

- Elder Allen J. Stout journal, Danite, p. 7; see Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, p. 95

“Punishment by death is the penalty for refusing to obey the orders of the Priesthood. I knew of many men being killed in Nauvoo by the Danites. It was then the rule that all enemies of the Prophet Joseph should be killed, and I knew of many a man who was quietly put out of the way by the orders of Joseph and his apostles while the church was there.”

- Elder John D. Lee (1812 – 1877), Danite and adopted son of Brigham Young, John D. Lee Diaries

"I always feel that it is my duty to look to myself, for I am in as much danger of apostatizing as any in the Church. If I ever do get led astray and depart from the principles of the gospel of salvation, it will be because I led myself off from the path; it was not my brethren who led me away, it was my own doing."

- Elder Hosea Stout (1810 - 1889), Danite, General Conference, 1858; online at Link is here.

“I shot through the window and thought I had killed him [Boggs], but I had only wounded him; I was damned sorry that I had not killed the son of a bitch.”

- Orrin Porter Rockwell, in Orrin Porter Rockwell: Man of God, Son of Thunder, by Harold Schindler, 1966, p. 80

“As the Lord had raised up a prophet in these last days like unto Moses, it shall be the duty of this band [Danites] to obey him in all things, and whatever he requires, you shall perform, being ready to give up life and property for the advancement of the cause. When any thing is to be performed no member shall have the privilege of judging whether it would be right or wrong, but shall engage in its accomplishment and trust God for the result.”

- Danite commander Sampson Avard, in Reed Peck, Reed Peck Manuscript, p. 3

“If Joseph should tell me to kill [U.S. President Martin] Van Buren... I would immediately start and do my best to assassinate him [and] let the consequences be as they would.”

- Alexander McRae, in Reed Peck, Reed Peck Manuscript, p. 3

“He [Joseph A. Young, one of Brigham's sons] hailed me (I being behind) and said his father wanted that man [non-Mormon trader Richard] Yates killed, and that I would know all about it when I got to Jones' camp….
“Col. Jones and two others, Hosea Stout and another man whose name I do not recollect, came to my camp-fire and asked if Yates was asleep. I told them he was, upon which his brains were knocked out with an ax. He was covered up with his blankets… and a grave dug some three feet deep near the camp by the fire-light, all hands assisting. Flack and Meacham were asleep when the man was killed, but woke up and saw the grave digging. The body was put in and the dirt well packed on it.”

- William Hickman, Brigham Young's Destroying Angel, 1964, pp. 124-125. Brigham Young suspected Yates of “spying.” This murder is documented (along with many others) by Hickman in R.N. Baskin, Reminiscences of Early Utah, 1914

“It was one of the hot-beds of fanaticism, and I expect that more men were killed there, in proportion to population, than in any other part of Utah. In that settlement it was certain death to say a word against the authorities, high or low.”

- William Hickman, Brigham Young's Destroying Angel, 1964, p. 284

“If you want me to do anything, just let me know it…. If you want this or that, or whatever you may think, I will try. Or if you want my life you can have it without a murmur or a groan, just let me know late or early. I will be there, and there will be no tale left behind… I am on hand.”

- William Hickman, Letter to Brigham Young, April 25, 1865, in Hope A. Hilton, “Wild Bill” Hickman and the Mormon Frontier, 1988, p. 113