FAIR is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of the doctrine, practice, and history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Chapter 15
Response to claims made in "Chapter 15: Making the Transition"
|Claims made in "Chapter 14: The Politics of Compromise"||
A FAIR Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods, a work by author: Richard Abanes
|Claims made in "Chapter 16: Mormon Racism: Black Is Not Beautiful"|
|One Nation Under Gods|
Response to claims made in One Nation Under Gods, "Chapter 15: Making the Transition"
Jump to Subtopic:
- Response to claim: 331, 591n2 (PB) - Did the number of plural marriages jump "nearly five-fold" immediately after Utah gained statehood?
- Response to claim: 332 - Did Reed Smoot take an oath of vengeance against the United States because of their failure to come to the aid of the Saints when they were being persecuted?
- Response to claim: 334 - Did the concept of revenge play a "very prominent role" in early Latter-day Saints' beliefs?
- Response to claim: 334, 592n10 (PB) - In the 1800s, did Latter-day Saints "glorify vengeance" through the singing of hymns?
- Response to claim: 335 - Were Latter-day Saints who served in positions in the U.S. government hindered by having taken an "oath of vengeance"?
- Response to claim: 335-336 - Did the "oath of vengeance" require the Latter-day Saints instruct their descendants to take vengeance upon the U.S. government?
- Response to claim: 336 - Do LDS church authorities believe that "non-Mormons are unfit to rule" and that Latter-day Saints are the only ones fit to rule the world?
- Response to claim: 336, 593n17 - Did Church president Joseph F. Smith defend his "illegal cohabitation with five wives" during Senate testimony?
- Response to claim: 337, 593n20 - Did Joseph F. Smith authorize polygamous marriages in Mexico and request that the records stay there so that they wouldn't be found during a search by U.S. officials?
- Response to claim: 339, 593n32 - Did Joseph F. Smith admit that he had broken the laws of the land and the laws of God?
- Response to claim: 343, 594n54 - What was the "Second Manifesto" issued by Joseph F. Smith?
- Response to claim: 351, n91 - Does the Church teach the the current practice of monogamy is only temporary and that polygamy will be reinstated when Christ returns?
- Response to claim: 353 - Do Latter-day Saints have "underlying white supremacist beliefs"?
Response to claim: 331, 591n2 (PB) - Did the number of plural marriages jump "nearly five-fold" immediately after Utah gained statehood?
Did the number of plural marriages jump "nearly five-fold" immediately after Utah gained statehood?
- Kenneth L. Cannon II, "After the Manifesto: Mormon Polygamy 1890-1906," in D. Michael Quinn, ed., The New Mormon History, 203-204.
A "five-fold" increase sounds like a lot. But, the number of marriages was small, so it doesn't take much to increase "five-fold." The author doesn't disclose that this increase was outside Utah. The author's source should alert him to this, since Cannon mentions "two marriages" being performed per year. These two marriages were not in the United States.
Response to claim: 332 - Did Reed Smoot take an oath of vengeance against the United States because of their failure to come to the aid of the Saints when they were being persecuted?
Did Reed Smoot take an oath of vengeance against the United States because of their failure to come to the aid of the Saints when they were being persecuted?
- No source provided. This is inferred by the book since Smoot had been through the temple.
The oath asked God to take vengeance for wicked acts, it did not bind Senator Smoot to do so.
Question: Was there an oath in a former version of the Mormon temple endowment that required vengeance upon the government of the United States?
It is likely that there was an oath that asked members to pray that God would avenge the blood of the prophets
Until 1927 the temple endowment very likely contained such an oath. The exact wording is not entirely clear, but it appears that it did not call on the Saints themselves to take vengeance on the United States, but that they would continue to pray that God himself might avenge the blood of the prophets.
Although the Oath of Vengeance contains no curses like those in the imprecatory psalms, like the psalmists, the Saints apparently had the wisdom to take directly to God their strong feelings in response to the injustices they had been dealt. By doing so, they turned over to Him the responsibility for both justice and healing.
In nearly every anti-Mormon discussion of the temple, critics raise the issue of the "oath of vengeance" that existed during the 19th century and very early 20th century. These critics often misstate the nature of the oath and try to use its presence in the early temple endowment as evidence that the LDS temple ceremonies are ungodly, violent, and immoral.
The leaders of the Church have modified the endowment from time to time. Prior to changes made in 1927, there was an oath to pray for the Lord's vengeance on those who murdered the prophets. In their sworn testimonies and temple exposes, apostates gave conflicting accounts on who was to do the actual avenging: the Lord or the Saints themselves. Surveying Mormon history for teachings about of vengeance can add perspective and help evaluate which possibility is more likely.
During the Missouri conflict, the Saints were instructed through revelation to petition for governmental redress for the outrages they suffered
In 1833, the Mormons were driven out of Jackson County, Missouri, in part due to anti-slavery sentiments that differed from the more established settlers. Through revelation, the Saints were instructed to petition for governmental redress for the outrages they suffered. The Saints were expected to be pacifists, but only up to a point. D&C 98:23-31:
Now, I speak unto you concerning your families—if men will smite you, or your families, once, and ye bear it patiently and revile not against them, neither seek revenge, ye shall be rewarded; But if ye bear it not patiently, it shall be accounted unto you as being meted out as a just measure unto you. And again, if your enemy shall smite you the second time, and you revile not against your enemy, and bear it patiently, your reward shall be an hundredfold. And again, if he shall smite you the third time, and ye bear it patiently, your reward shall be doubled unto you four-fold; And these three testimonies shall stand against your enemy if he repent not, and shall not be blotted out. And now, verily I say unto you, if that enemy shall escape my vengeance, that he be not brought into judgment before me, then ye shall see to it that ye warn him in my name, that he come no more upon you, neither upon your family, even your children’s children unto the third and fourth generation. And then, if he shall come upon you or your children, or your children’s children unto the third and fourth generation, I have delivered thine enemy into thine hands; And then if thou wilt spare him, thou shalt be rewarded for thy righteousness; and also thy children and thy children’s children unto the third and fourth generation. Nevertheless, thine enemy is in thine hands; and if thou rewardest him according to his works thou art justified; if he has sought thy life, and thy life is endangered by him, thine enemy is in thine hands and thou art justified.
The use of violence was condoned only in cases of self-defense or after the Lord had delivered up a previously warned enemy in the Saints hands
Even then mercy towards enemies was encouraged and indications are that the Lord can fight his own battles (see v. 37) to extract his vengeance on the wicked. Note the repeated references to third and fourth generations of children that is added for rhetorical effect despite the impracticality of a single enemy being a menace for the encompassing time span.
The earliest known oath of vengeance in a Mormon temple appears to have been introduced by Joseph Smith in Kirtland
The earliest known oath of vengeance in a Mormon temple appears to have been introduced by Joseph Smith spontaneously at the Kirtland dedication on March 30, 1836:
- The seventies are at liberty to go to Zion if they please or go wheresoever they will and preach the gospel and let the redemption of Zion be our object, and strive to affect it by sending up all the strength of the Lords house whereever we find them, and I want to enter into the following covenant, that if any more of our brethren are slain or driven from their lands in Missouri by the mob that we will give ourselves no rest until we are avenged of our enimies to the uttermost, this covenant was sealed unanimously by a hosanna and Amen.
The Mormons used military force to defend themselves in Missouri, but eventually they were driven out after an exterminating order was issued against them by governor Boggs. Further petitions for redress in Missouri were met with rejection. Martin van Buren remarked "Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you." Enemies in Missouri, including the next governor, conspired to kidnap Joseph in Illinois and bring him to Missouri to face trumped up charges.
Nauvoo Developments: Wilford Woodruff later situated the temple instruction in praying for the Lord's biblical vengeance of blood of the prophets
Perhaps anticipating his death, Joseph met often with apostles and other close associates to restore the temple endowment prior to the completion of the Nauvoo temple. Wilford Woodruff, later situated the temple instruction in praying for the Lord's biblical vengeance of blood of the prophets as follows:
- I have already said that there is nothing [antagonistic to the government in the Mormon endowments] of that kind in any part or phase of Mormonism. I ought to know about that as I am one of the oldest members of the church. A good deal is being made of a form of prayer based upon two verses in the sixth chapter of the revelations of St. John as contained in the New Testament. It relates to praying that God might avenge the blood of the prophets. An attempt has, I see, been made to connect this with avenging the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith and to have reference to this nation. It can have no such application as the endowments were given long before the death of Joseph and Hyrum and have not been changed. This nation and government has never been charged by the Mormon people with the assassination of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. As it is well known the murder was the act of the local mob disguised.
Recent generations of Latter-day Saints, who haven't experienced mob violence, may be surprised at or uncomfortable with such oaths
Recent generations of Latter-day Saints, who haven't experienced mob violence, kidnapping attempts, and death threats, may be surprised at or uncomfortable with the feelings of many earlier saints who were praying for justice instead of praying for their enemies. But we live in kinder, gentler times; and nineteenth-century Mormons—especially those who came out of Nauvoo—saw the hand of God whenever their persecutors suffered misfortune, a feeling common to most powerless, persecuted minority groups.
After Joseph Smith's death, his closest friends continued to meet after his death. This group met to test revelation ("try all things"), pray for the healing of sick members, pray for the success of church projects, and pray for deliverance from their enemies. Heber C. Kimball recalled that after Joseph's death the prayer circle met and prayed for God's vengeance.
Summarizing Willard Richards' activities immediately after the martyrdom, historian Claire Noall wrote:
True, in this  speech Richards finally denounced the actual murderers; but when notifying the Church of Joseph Smith's death at Carthage jail, he wrote to Nauvoo that the people of Carthage expected the Mormons to rise, but he had "promised them no." The next day from the steps of the Prophet's home, he reminded his people that he had pledged his word and his honor for their peaceful conduct. And when writing the news of Smith's death to Brigham Young then near Boston, Willard Richards said the blood of martyrs does not cry from the ground for vengeance; vengeance is the Lord's.
Temple work in general and, more specifically, prayers that God, rather than Mormon members, would avenge Joseph Smith is what was the salvation of the church in Nauvoo. Instead of giving vent to passionate desires for revenge using the impressively-sized Nauvoo Legion, the brethren were able to get members to channel their frustration and anger into petitions to the Almighty for justice. Their actual energy was concentrated on the things of heaven through temple building and service. Temple prayer became a way of ritually memorializing Joseph Smith's martyrdom.
Conflict in Utah: To pray the Father to avenge the blood of the prophets and righteous men that has been shed
After the exodus to Utah, ordinances usually reserved for the temple were performed in the Endowment House, while temple construction was in progress. In a late recollection, David H. Cannon described the instruction at the Endowment House in regards to vengeance:
To pray the Father to avenge the blood of the prophets and righteous men that has been shed, etc. In the endowment house this was given but as persons went there only once, it was not so strongly impressed upon their minds, but in the setting in order [of] the endowments for the dead it was given as it is written in 9 Chapter of Revelations [sic] and in that language we importune our Father, not that we may, but that He, our Father, will avenge the blood of martyrs shed for the testimony of Jesus.
Although the religious stress was on letting God perform the actual vengeance, individuals sometimes imagined they might be called upon to take a more active role. This phenomenon reached a low point after the rhetorical hyperbole of Mormon Reformation and the war time hysteria created by President James Buchanan sending troops against Utah. From the pulpit, many Church leaders held the United States as a nation responsible for letting mobocracy get out of control. As tensions mounted, vengeance motifs surfaced in the apocalyptic language of some patriarchal blessings. The Saints were prepared to fight in a just war.
While the Utah War was nearly a bloodless conflict, tragedy struck some caught in the crossfire. A recent work has examined the way conspiring, local Mormon leaders manipulated others to become complicit in the Mountain Meadows Massacre in part by exploiting their desires for vengeance. However, in their approach to explain how basically good people could commit such an atrocity, the authors found elements in common with vigilantism and mass killings perpetrated everywhere. They agree that these southern Utah Mormons were acting against the principles of their religion. Their oaths of taught them to channel their righteous indignation into petitioning God for justice while they worked constructively to build and defend Zion.
The Reed Smoot Hearings brought to light that the Saints were covenanting to ask God to avenge the blood of Joseph Smith on the nation
Most accounts of the temple oath of vengeance stressed that God, rather than man, would do the actual punishing. For example, August Lundstrom, an apostate Mormon, testified at the Reed Smoot hearings in December 1904:
- Mr. [Robert W.] Tayler [counsel for the protestants]: Can you give us the obligation of retribution?
- Mr. Lundstrom: I can.
- Mr. Tayler: You may give that.
- Mr. Lundstrom: "We and each of us solemnly covenant and promise that we shall ask God to avenge the blood of Joseph Smith upon this nation." There is something more added, but that is all I can remember verbatim. That is the essential part.
- Mr. Tayler: What was there left of it? What else?
- Mr. Lundstrom: It was in regard to teaching our children and children's children to the last generation to the same effect.
One could object that Lundstrom, as an apostate, fabricated the existence of such an oath or, intentionally or unintentionally, distorted its wording. However, others who spoke publicly (such as David H. Cannon above) had similar recollections.
Biblical Perspective: justice is a responsibility reserved for God
The Oath of Vengeance is a vivid reminder that the Saints understood the writings of the Apostle Paul -- that justice is a responsibility reserved for God.
19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
The author asserts that the concept of revenge played a "very prominent role" in early Latter-day Saints' beliefs. Doesn't the Bible condemn revenge?
The oath asked God to take vengeance for wicked acts—this is hardly unbiblical, since the Bible repeatedly promises that he will "avenge the blood of his servants" (Deuteronomy 32:43; see also Psalms 58:10, Psalms 94:, Isaiah 1:24, Jeremiah 46:10, Luke 18:17-18, Revelation 6:10). The Bible also has numerous examples of the righteous pleading for or declaring God's vengeance upon their enemies (e.g., 1 Samuel 24:12, Isaiah 35:4, Jeremiah 11:20, Jeremiah 50:15, Jeremiah 15:, Ezekiel 25:, 2 Thessalonians 1:8).
In the 1800s, the author claims that Latter-day Saints would "glorify vengeance" through the singing of hymns.
Fact checking results: This claim is falseThese hymns are a rather mild Christian apocalyptic, and do not "glorify vengeance" in any way.
Question: In the 1800s, did Latter-day Saints "glorify vengeance" through the singing of hymns?
These hymns are a rather mild Christian apocalyptic, and do not "glorify vengeance" in any way
When we consider that the hymn book cited contains 330 hymns spread over 398 pages, it is difficult to conclude that the Saints' hymns were obsessed with violence or vengeance. Presumably, the critics which put forward this accusation have chosen the most dramatic examples of supposed hymn-endorsed vengeance—and, as we have seen, even these are nothing of the sort.
On page 334 of the critical work One Nation Under Gods, the author presents a table (15.1) with verses from four hymns (marked with an asterisk, '*') that he claims "glorified taking vengeance." Each of these will be examined below, and it will be seen that in every case the author's characterization has distorted the hymn's intent.
The author's source (Quinn) says that "throughout the last half of the nineteenth century, Mormon congregations sang five hymns that mentioned vengeance and violence upon anti-Mormons" (pg 249). The footnotes (162 and 163) list the songs (more than 5) as these:
- The Reformation
- Up, Awake, Ye Defenders of Zion!
- Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Scattered Saints
- Awake, Ye Saints of God, Awake!
- Wake, O Wake, the World from Sleeping!
- O! Ye Mountains High
- Deseret, Deseret!
Though ONUG includes only four songs in its table, all of Quinn's examples are listed below. Italics and emphasis are added in each case.
This song is not listed in the hymnbook scan above. Its omission is not a surprise; it is most like doggerel of the five. The on-line text of this hymn (dated from 1856) reads in part:
To gain these blessings we must try
And do what we are told;
I'll tell you what we ought to do,
If you won't think me bold:
We ought to put down wickedness,
We ought to watch and pray,
We ought to build the kingdom up--
Not loaf our time away.
We ought to have our houses neat,
Our Teachers to obey,
We ought to keep our bodies clean,
Our tithing always pay:
We ought our brother's character
Keep sacred as our own,
Attend to business all we can,
Let other folks alone.
We ought our Bishops to sustain,Likewise from stinking tubs.
Their counsels to abide,
And knock down every dwelling
Where wicked folks reside:
We ought our Teachers to respect,
Not give them looks nor snubs;
And keep our ditches free from pots,
Though the Saints are to "put down wickedness" and "knock down every dwelling where wicked folks reside," they are also to "let other folks alone." There is certainly no call for vengeance. The discussion about dwellings may refer to taverns, grog shops, or houses of ill repute—the absence of which was something which visitors to Utah often remarked upon, in contrast to other frontier settlements.
Up, Awake, Ye Defenders of Zion! (p. 73)
1. Up, awake, ye defenders of Zion!Then let us be faithful and true!
The foe's at the door of your homes;
Let each heart be the heart of a lion
Unyielding and proud as he roams.
Remember the wrongs of Missouri
Forget not the fate of Nauvoo:
When the God-hating foe is before ye,
Stand firm, and be faithful and true...
3 Shall we bear with oppression for ever?
Shall we tamely submit to the foe,
While the ties of our kindred they sever?
Shall the blood of the prophets still flow?
No! The though sets the heart wildly beating;
Our vows at each pulse we renew,
Ne'er rest till our foes are retreating,
While we remain faithful and true.
4 Though, assisted by legions infernal
The plundering wretches advance,
With a host from the regions eternal,
Soon "the Kingdom" will be independent;
In wonder the nations will view
The despised ones in glory resplendent;
This does not call for vengeance. It encourages those who are attacked with "foes at the door of your homes" who seek "plunder" to defend their families, and not to flee if enemies "sever" their kindred or spill the blood of the prophets. The song does not call for extermination of enemies, but only to stand firm until they "are retreating"—that is, until they have protected their homes and families from imminent danger.
* Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Scattered Saints (p. 314)
1 Life up your heads, ye scattered Saints
Redemption draweth nigh;Redemption's at the door.
Our Savior hears the orphan's plaints,
The widow's mournful cry.
2 The blood of those who have been slain
For vengeance cries aloud
Nor shall its cries ascend in vain
For vengeance on the proud
3 The signs in heaven and earth appear
And blood and smoke and fire
Men's hearts are failing them for fear
Redemption's drawing nigher.
4 Earthquakes are bellowing 'neath the ground,
And tempests through the air;
The trumpet's blast, with fearful sound,
Proclaims th' alarm of war.
5 The Saints are scattered to and fro
Through all the earth abroad;
The Gospel trump again to blow,
And then behold their God.
6 Rejoice, ye servants of our Lord,
Who to the end endure;
Rejoice, for great is your reward,
And your defence is sure.
7 Although this body should be slain
By curel wicked hands,
I'll praise my God in higher strains,
And on Mount Zion stand.
8 Glory to God! ye Saints rejoice!
And sigh and groan no more;
But listen to the Spirit's voice—
Here again there is no call for members to take vengeance. They pray only that the cries of widows and orphans (i.e., those killed by the wicked) will ascend to the Savior. Signs appear in the heavens, and earthquakes speak—surely this is no mortal vengeance, but rather the judgments of God come upon the wicked.
The song envisages the Saints "scattered to and fro," and needing to "endure." But, they are promised a reward, though their bodies may "be slain" and they may have cause to "sigh and groan." However, the Saints may look forward to the Lord's redemption and justice when he comes again.
* Awake, Ye Saints of God, Awake! (p. 329)
1 Awake, ye Saints of God, awake!
Call on the Lord in mighty prayer,Let all the Saints in union join.
That he will Zion's bondage break
And bring to naught the fowler's snare.
2 He will regard his people's cry,
The window's tear, the orphan's moan;
The blood of those that slaughtered lie,
Pleads not in vain before His throne!
3 Though Zion's foes have counselled deep,
Although they bind with fetters strong,
The God of Jacob does not sleep;
His vengeance will not slumber long.
4 Then let your souls be stayed on God
A glorious scene is drawing nigh;
Though tempests gather like a flood,
The storm, though fierce, will soon pass by.
5 With constant faith and fervent prayer,
With deep humility of soul,
With steadfast mind and heart prepare
To see th'eternal purpose roll.
6 Our God in judgment will come near,
His mighty arm he will make bare;
For Zion's sake he will appear;
Then O, ye Saints, awake, prepare!
7 Awake to righteousness, be one,
Or saith the Lord, you are not mine!
Yea, like the Father and the Son,
Here again, there is no urge to vengeance. The singers pray again that God "will Zion's bondage break," and that he will hear the cry for justice of blood of the slaughtered and tears of the innocent orphans and widows. God's vengeance is coming, and so what are the Saints to do? Arm themselves? Plot against their enemies? No, they are to have "constant faith and fervent prayer," humility, and strive to be one with the Saints, that they may not likewise be subject to God's punishing justice when He comes.
* Wake, O Wake, the World from Sleeping! (p. 332)
1 Wake, O wake, the world from sleeping!
Watchman, watchman, what's the hour?
Hark ye, only hear him saying
'Tis the last, the eleventh hour!
- We're the true born sons of Zion,
- Who with us that can compare
- We're the royal branch of Joseph,
- The bright and glorious morning star.
Christ will come in very deed.
2 Lo! the Lion's left his thicket;
Up, ye watchmen, be in haste;
The destroyer of the Gentiles
Goes to lay their cities waste....
3 Bring the remnants from their exile,
For the promise is to them;
Japhet's ruled the world his time out;
He must leave the "tents of Shem."
4 Comfort ye the house of Israel;
They are pardoned; gather them;
Hear the watchman's proclamation,—
Jews, rebuild Jerusalem.
5 Soon the Jews will know their error—
How they killed the Holy One,
And they'll mourn and shout Hosannah!
This is "THE BELOVED SON!"
6 Sound the trumpet with the tidings—
Call in all of Abra'm's seed;
Though the Gentiles may reject it,
This song sings of the last days, and God's redemption of Israel. It is he, "the Lion" who is the "destroyer of the Gentiles," who will redeem and gather scattered Israel and reclaim the Jews. This is no call for vengeance; the Saints remain "the watchmen"—witnesses to God's triumph and justice, not the instruments of it.
* O! Ye Mountains High (p. 376)
1 O! ye mountains high, where the clear blue sky
Arches over the vales of the free,And our home shall be ever with thee.
Where the pure breezes blow
And the clear streamlets flow,
HOw I've long to your bosom to flee.
O Zion! dear Zion! home of the free:
My own mountain home now to thee I have come;
All my fond hopes are centred in thee.
2 Though the great and the wise all thy beauties despise,
To the humble and pure thou art dear;
Though the haughty male smile
And the wicked revile,
Yet we love thy glad tidings to hear.
O Zion! dear Zion! home of the free;
Though thou wert forced to fly to thy chambers on high,
Yet we'll share joy or sorrow with thee.
3 In thy mountan retreat, God will strengthen thy feet;
On the necks of thy foes thou shalt tread;
And their silver and gold, as the Prophets have told,
Shall be brought to adorn thy fair head.
O Zion! Dear Zion! home of the free;
Soon thy towers will shine with a splendor divine,
And eternal thy glory shall be.
4 Here our voices we'll raise, and we'll sing to thy praise,
Sacred home of the Prophets of God;
Thy deliverance is nigh, thy oppressors shall die,
And the Gentiles shall bow 'neath thy rod.
O Zion! dear Zion! home of the free
In thy temples we'll bend, all thy rights we'll defend
There is no mention of vengeance at all in this hymn. Verse two describes the Zion of Enoch, forced to flee by the world's wickedness (compare Moses 7:69). The song has a strong Millenarian flavor, and uses some apocalyptic imagery. Isaiah promises that
- I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders. (Isaiah 14:25; see also 2 Nephi 24:25)
This calls to mind the third verse, where foes will be tread underfoot when God strengthens the mountain retreat.
Apart from Isaiah, this is not an uncommon image. For example, the "necks of foes" are "tread" on, in the same vein as Psalms 60:12 ("Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies") or Psalms 44:4-8:
- 4 Thou art my King, O God: command deliverances for Jacob.
- 5 Through thee will we push down our enemies: through thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us.
- 6 For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me.
- 7 But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us.
- 8 In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever.
In the hymn—as in the Psalms—the righteous will tread down the wicked—but, not through weapons (bows or swords) but by God's judgments and deliverance (see also Psalms 91:9-16 and Psalms 1081:11-13). This imagery anticipates the second coming of Christ (see DC 133:51), who will "arise with healing in his wings,"and ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts" (Malachi 4:3; see also 3 Nephi 25:3).
That the "oppressors shall die/And the Gentiles shall bow 'neath thy rod" is also a common scriptural image. In this case, it probably derives from Isaiah 9:4-6, which testifies of the Messiah's coming:
- For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor...For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (see also 2 Nephi 19:4-6)
Yet, despite this potentially violent image, we do not charge all Christians with vengeance fantasies. It is understood in the symbolic and eschalogical context in which we find it, in which during the Millennial reign of Christ,
- ...the LORD will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob. And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the LORD for servants and handmaids: and they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors. (Isaiah 14:1-2; 2 Nephi 14:1-2)
We note, too, that these Isaiah scriptures are all included in the Book of Mormon—further evidence that they would have been treasured and appreciated by the Saints, besides being classic texts in Christian Millennial thinking.
Thus, to argue that this hymn urges the Saints to take vengeance is a gross misrepresentation of the hymn, and ignores clear precedent for use of such language in the Old Testament and Christian apocalyptic generally.
Deseret, Deseret! (p. 383)
1 Deseret, Desret! 'tis the home of the free,
And dearer than all other lands 'tis to me;And Jesus as King of the nations will stand.
Where the Saints are secure from oppression and strife,
And enjoy to the full the rich blessings of life....
2 Deseret, Desret! she has long been opprest,
But now, for a while, she is taking her rest,
She feels like a giant, refreshed with new wine
And enjoys from Jehovah his blessings benign.
There are hearts that can feel for another's deep woe,
And with charity, blessings on others bestow;
Return good for evil to those who oppress,
And await the time coming to give them redress....
4 Deseret, Deseret! she's the pride of the world,
Where the banner of freedom is widely unfurled;
Where oppression is hated and liberty loved,
And truth and sincerity highly approved;
Where labor is honored, nor workman oppressed;
Where youth is instructed and age finds a rest;
Where society frowns upon vice and deceit,
And adulterers find Heaven's laws they must meet.
5 Deseret, Deseret shows the pattern to all
That all may take warning ere Bab'lon shall fall
And flee to the mountains when trouble shall come,
To be free from the plagues in this beautiful home.
O, how my heart yearns for the time to draw near
When earth will be freed from oppression and fear,
And the truth rule triumphant o'er sea and o'er land,
Far from advocating violence or vengeance, this hymn encourages the Saints to "Return good for evil to those who oppress," while awaiting the time when "Jesus as King of the nations will stand," which is the time when "the time coming to give them redress" will be here. Those oppressed are not encouraged to fight or war with the world, but to flee out of it to Zion. There is nothing here about vengeance, save God's eventual justice in the Millennium.
Some critics of the Church may not like the idea of the Saints awaiting God's vengeance and judgment upon the wicked; however, the idea is thoroughly biblical, and has been a comfort to many oppressed believers through the ages. See, for example, Matthew 16:27, Romans 12:19, Isaiah 59:18, Leviticus 19:18, Proverbs 20:22.
This may explain why Quinn's Mormon Hierarchy, later concludes, "the historical evidence indicates that most early Mormons avoided violence and were saddened by the news of such incidents" (260).
Response to claim: 335 - Latter-day Saints who served in positions in the U.S. government were hindered by having taken an "oath of vengeance"
Latter-day Saints who served in positions in the U.S. government were hindered by having taken an "oath of vengeance"Author's quote: "One can only wonder how these persons have reconciled their sacred oath with their pledge of allegiance to America."
- Main text mentions Ezra Taft Benson and Daken K. Broadhead.
Since many members of the Church have had distinguished service in government and apparently felt no conflict between their Church covenants and government service, this should perhaps alert the author (and his readers) the fact that he has misunderstood or misrepresented LDS doctrine and belief on this point.
Response to claim: 335-336 - Did the "oath of vengeance" require the Latter-day Saints instruct their descendants to take vengeance upon the U.S. government?
- Did the "oath of vengeance" require the Latter-day Saints instruct their descendants to take vengeance upon the U.S. government?
- Author's quote: "Exactly how many of today's Saints continue to harbor within their hearts this vow to take vengeance on the U.S. remains unclear, since it would be a secret not to be shared with outsiders. At the very least it may mean that when push comes to shove, every Mormon acquainted with the oath and taught to follow it will choose loyalty to the church (whatever form that may take) over loyalty to the United States."
This claim is simply absurd.
Do LDS church authorities believe that "non-Mormons are unfit to rule" and that Latter-day Saints are the only ones fit to rule the world?
- No source provided.
Fact checking results: This claim is falseThis claim is contradicted by LDS scripture: DC 98:10-11, DC 101:80, DC 134:1-12.
Response to claim: 336, 593n17 - Did Church president Joseph F. Smith defend his "illegal cohabitation with five wives" during Senate testimony?
Did Church president Joseph F. Smith defend his "illegal cohabitation with five wives" during Senate testimony.
- Proceedings, vol. 1, 129.
The author provides his own spin to this claim. President Smith was quite frank that to cohabitate violated the "rule" of the Church and the "law of the land," but refused to say that doing so violated the "law of the Church" (p. 128-129) He then explained:
...I was placed in this position. I had a plural family, if you please; that is, my first wife was married to me over thirty-eight years ago, my last wife was married to me over twenty years ago, and with these wives I had children, and I simply took my chances, preferring to meet the consequences of the law rather than to abandon my children and their mothers; and I have cohabited with my wives—not openly, that is, not in a manner that I thought would be offensive to my neighbors—but I have acknowledged them; I have visited them....I would have been willing to submit to the penalty of the law, whatever it might have been. (p. 129-130)
- Illegality and civil disobedience (non-wiki)
- Internal contradiction: Despite quoting this material, the author then claims (p. 339 that 200 pages later in the testimony that Pres. Smith "finally admits" he has broken the law. Yet, he frankly admitted it right up front.
Did Joseph F. Smith authorize polygamous marriages in Mexico and request that the records stay there so that they wouldn't be found during a search by U.S. officials?
- Cannon II, 207.
U.S. law does not apply to Mexico. Federal marshals have no jurisdiction over events which happened abroad.
Response to claim: 339, 593n32 - Did Joseph F. Smith admit that he had broken the laws of the land and the laws of God?
Did Joseph F. Smith admit that he had broken the laws of the land and the laws of God?
- Multiple preceding citations regarding Joseph F. Smith either sanctioning or denying plural marriage.
- Proceedings, vol. 1, 334-335
President Smith did not "finally admit" anything: He had been straightforward about it from the beginning. Two legal and moral demands were in conflict, and Pres. Smith chose to obey that which he saw as the higher, and was willing to suffer the penalty.
- Internal contradiction: The author has already cited material (p. 336) more than 200 pages earlier in the testimony that had Pres. Smith admitting that by cohabitation he violated the "law of the land" and the "rule of the Church."
- Use of sources: Joseph F. Smith finally admits?
Gospel Topics: "Church President Joseph F. Smith took the stand in the Senate chamber in March 1904. When asked, he defended his family relationships"
"The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage," Gospel Topics on LDS.org:
The Senate called on many witnesses to testify. Church President Joseph F. Smith took the stand in the Senate chamber in March 1904. When asked, he defended his family relationships, telling the committee that he had cohabited with his wives and fathered children with them since 1890. He said it would be dishonorable of him to break the sacred covenants he had made with his wives and with God. When questioned about new plural marriages performed since 1890, President Smith carefully distinguished between actions sanctioned by the Church and ratified in Church councils and conferences, and the actions undertaken by individual members of the Church. “There never has been a plural marriage by the consent or sanction or knowledge or approval of the church since the manifesto,” he testified.43
In this legal setting, President Smith sought to protect the Church while stating the truth. His testimony conveyed a distinction Church leaders had long understood: the Manifesto removed the divine command for the Church collectively to sustain and defend plural marriage; it had not, up to this time, prohibited individuals from continuing to practice or perform plural marriage as a matter of religious conscience.—(Click here to continue)
Response to claim: 343, 594n54 - A "Second Manifesto" was issued by Joseph F. Smith
A "Second Manifesto" was issued by Joseph F. Smith
- Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, April 6, 1904, 74-75.
This is correct.
Gospel Topics: "The Second Manifesto. At first, the performance of new plural marriages after the Manifesto was largely unknown to people outside the Church"
"The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage," Gospel Topics on LDS.org:
At first, the performance of new plural marriages after the Manifesto was largely unknown to people outside the Church. When discovered, these marriages troubled many Americans, especially after President George Q. Cannon stated in an 1899 interview with the New York Herald that new plural marriages might be performed in Canada and Mexico.40 After the election of B. H. Roberts, a member of the First Council of the Seventy, to the U.S. Congress, it became known that Roberts had three wives, one of whom he married after the Manifesto. A petition of 7 million signatures demanded that Roberts not be seated. Congress complied, and Roberts was barred from his office.41
The exclusion of B. H. Roberts opened Mormon marital practices to renewed scrutiny. Church President Lorenzo Snow issued a statement clarifying that new plural marriages had ceased in the Church and that the Manifesto extended to all parts of the world, counsel he repeated in private. Even so, a small number of new plural marriages continued to be performed, probably without President Snow’s knowledge or approval. After Joseph F. Smith became Church President in 1901, a small number of new plural marriages were also performed during the early years of his administration.—(Click here to continue)
Response to claim: 351, n91 - Does the Church teach the the current practice of monogamy is only temporary and that polygamy will be reinstated when Christ returns?
Does the Church teach the the current practice of monogamy is only temporary and that polygamy will be reinstated when Christ returns?
- The author quotes Bruce R. McConkie in Mormon Doctrine: "[T]he holy practice will commence again after the Second Coming of the Son of Man and the ushering in of the millennium." Citation given is McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City:Bookcraft, 1958; second edition, 1966), 578.
Fact checking results: This claim is falseThe Church has no position on whether polygamy will ever be reinstated.
Question: Why did Bruce R. McConkie say that polygamy would be practiced again before the Second Coming?
The Church has no position on whether polygamy will ever be reinstated
Bruce R. McConkie in Mormon Doctrine said "The holy practice will commence again after the Second Coming of the Son of Man and the ushering in of the millennium."  Elder Bruce R. McConkie, therefore, believed that it would. Others believe not. In any case, the book Mormon Doctrine is not an official publication of the Church.
The Church official website responded to the question, "Is polygamy gone forever from the Church?" by saying:
We only know what the Lord has revealed through His prophets, that plural marriage has been stopped in the Church. Anything else is speculative and unwarranted. 
Response to claim: 353 - Do Latter-day Saints have "underlying white supremacist beliefs"?
Do Latter-day Saints have "underlying white supremacist beliefs"?
- No source provided. Author's opinion.
The author is claiming that the Church is white supremacist? This is an absurd claim.
- Internal contradiction: p. 370 tells us that 'Mormons, by and large, were pleased that God had changed his mind at such a convenient time in history.' So, why were the Mormons happy about the revelation if their faith was composed of "underlying white supremacist beliefs"?
- Absurd claims
- Loaded and prejudicial language
- See Chapter 16 for much more of the same nonsense.
- Van Hale, "The Alleged Oath of Vengeance," recorded 1 July 2007 during the Mormon Miscellaneous Worldwide Talk Show, off-site
- See 30 March 1836 Jesse Hitchcock record in "MS Joseph Smith Journal, 1835-36," 193 pp., Joseph Smith Collection, LDS Church Archives cited in Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2002).
- Wilford Woodruff interview, Deseret News 22 November 1889
- For a history of prayer circles, see D. Michael Quinn, "Latter-day Saint Prayer Circles," Brigham Young University Studies 19 no. 1 (Fall 1978), 79–105. PDF link
- See his 21 December 1845 diary entry in The Nauvoo Endowment Companies, 1845–1846: A Documentary History, Richard Van Wagoner, Devery Scott Anderson, and Gary James Bergera, eds. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2005).
- Claire Noall, "The Plains of Warsaw," Utah Historical Quarterly 25/1 (January 1957): 47–51.
- David John Buerger, "The Development of the Mormon Temple Endowment Ceremony," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 34 no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2001), 103.
- Paul H. Peterson, "The Mormon Reformation of 1856–1857: The Rhetoric and the Reality," Journal of Mormon History 15/1 (1989): 59–88.
- Richard Turley, Ron Walker and Glen Leonard, Massacre at Mountain Meadows (Oxford University Press, 2008), 13–14,92,135,181,286n48.
- Turley, Walker and Leonard, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, xiii–xiv.
- Testimony of August W. Lundstrom, Proceedings before the Committee on Privileges and Elections of the United States Senate in the Matter of the Protests Against the Right of Hon. Reed Smoot, a Senator from the State of Utah, to Hold His Seat (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1906), 2:153. PDF link
- "The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage," Gospel Topics on LDS.org
- "The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage," Gospel Topics on LDS.org
- Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City:Bookcraft, 1958; second edition, 1966), 578.
- "Polygamy: Questions and Answers With the Los Angeles Times," (31 May 2006) off-site (last accessed 15 January 2009).