Video: 1838: The Year the Saints Were Driven Out of Missouri

Note: George Washington Robinson signed the certificate and recorded the ordination of John Mckee Fausett as an Elder in the Church. It must be noted that Mr. Robinson is recorded as being a “Danite Leader” (see Wikipedia record) which could lead one to assume that those he was elevating to higher positions within the church may have also been a means to recruit and establish what would be know as the “Daughters of Zion” or their more common name, the “Danites”

Description of the rank of Sergeant during the Indian Wars of the 1870’s…although not within the exact time-period for when John Mckee Fausett served in the Utah Blackhawk war, it provides a rudimentary understanding of the necessary characteristics and skills qualifying a man for such a job:

The men who effectively ran the company size units were SERGEANTS. The sergeant with by far the greatest power in the unit was the FIRST SERGEANT. His survival instincts, military record, reputation and perhaps physical strength were prime criteria for this lofty and formidable designation. He was aided by as many as five regular sergeants, second, third etc. Most training, discipline, tradition and esprit de corps were these sergeant’s responsibilities, always under close guidance of the First Sergeant.


  • Resource to find: Scriptory Book of Joseph Smith, Jr. , 1838. Archival material.

Danites: <https://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Danites>
Author: Whittaker, David J.
Following the violence in northwestern Missouri in 1838, the Mormon dissident Sampson Avard, star witness in a court of inquiry weighing evidence against LDS leaders, charged that the Church had organized a band of armed men bound by secret oaths who had engaged in illegal activities against non-Mormon neighbors (Document, pp. 97-108). With the 1841 publication of the court proceedings, Avard’s account became the foundation for all subsequent non-Mormon “Danite” accounts. Thus was born the legend of the Danites.

Though no Danite organization was known in Nauvoo or in Utah, the stereotype persisted, becoming a part of national discussion about Utah and the Latter-day Saints and for decades a staple of dime novels (see Mormons, Image of: Fiction). By 1900 at least fifty novels had been published in English using the Avard-type Danite to develop story lines of murder, pillage, and conspiracy against common citizens. Arthur Conan Doyle (A Study in Scarlet ) created Sherlock Holmes to solve a murder committed by Danites. Zane Grey (Riders of the Purple Sage ) and Robert Louis Stevenson (The Dynamiter ) were among the authors who found the image of the evil Danites well suited for popular reading audiences who delighted in sensationalism (Cornwall and Arrington). The image became so pervasive that few readers were willing to question the accuracy of such portrayals.

The reality of Danites in Missouri in 1838 is both less and more than the stereotype. Contemporary records suggest something fundamentally different. In October 1838, Albert Perry Rockwood, an LDS resident of Far West, Missouri, wrote in his journal of a public Danite organization that involved the whole Latter-day Saint community. He described in biblical terms companies of tens, fifties, and hundreds (cf. Ex. 18:13-26)-similar to the organization the pioneers later used during the migration to the Great Basin. Here the Danite organization encompassed the full range of activities of a covenant community that viewed itself as a restoration of ancient Israel. Working in groups, with some assigned to defense, others to securing provisions, and still others to constructing dwellings, these Danites served the interests of the whole. This was not the secret organization Avard spoke of; in fact, Rockwood’s letters to friends and family were even more descriptive than his journal (Jessee and Whittaker).

In the fall of 1838, with old settlers in Missouri swearing to drive the Mormons out rather than permit them to become a political majority and with LDS leaders declaring that they would fight before again seeing their rights trampled, northwestern Missouri was in a state of war (see Missouri Conflict). Sparked by an effort to prevent LDS voting, violence erupted in August and soon spread. On both sides, skirmishes involved members of state-authorized militias. Evidence suggests that during this time of fear, clashes, and confusion, Sampson Avard, probably a captain within the public Danite structure and a militia officer, subverted the ideals of both by persuading his men to undertake the criminal activities he later argued were the authorized actions of the whole community. Encouraged perhaps by the firmly stated intentions of leaders to meet force with force but apparently without their approval, Avard used his Danite and military positions to mold a covert renegade band to avenge anti-Mormon outrages. He succeeded because after weeks of responding to violence with strictly defensive measures, Avard was not alone in feeling that the time for forbearance had passed. Others of the time in late reminiscences recalled that clandestine meetings were held, which were subsequently reported to Joseph Smith, who then denounced Avard, removed him from his official command, and disbanded the maverick body. Though short-lived and unauthorized, this covert organization, thanks to Avard’s distorted and widely publicized testimony, usurped the former usage of “Danites,” and the once honorable appellation became a synonym for officially sanctioned secret lawlessness.

In contrast, when five hundred men in the Caldwell County (Mormon) militia later took the offensive in response to two months of unrelenting violence and depredations, there was nothing secretive about it. In mid-October, with supplies running low, they left defensive positions to forage and to punish enemies-a very public effort to improve security by preemptive forays. Two weeks later, facing increasing numbers of volunteers and a militia emboldened by the governor’s Extermination Order, they surrendered their arms in defeat.

The reality, then, behind the supposed secretive, lawless Danites of legend was this renegade band formed briefly in 1838 in the midst of war. There is no evidence of any such band later, and even in 1838, the Latter-day Saint community as a whole did not deserve blame for the unauthorized actions of a few. As Parley P. Pratt, an apostle, wrote to his family after hearing Avard’s court testimony, “They accuse us of things that never entered into our hearts.” From Liberty Jail on December 16, 1838, Joseph Smith summarized the situation as he then understood it: “We have learned also since we have been in prison that many false and pernicious things which were calculated to lead the saints far astray and to do great injury have been taught by Dr. Avard as coming from the Presidency…which the presidency never knew of being taught in the church by any body untill after they were made prisoners…the presidency were ignorant as well as innocent of these things” (PWJS, p. 380).

Unfortunately, in an age when Latter-day Saints were hated and persecuted, Avard’s story provided a ready explanation for anyone who wanted to believe the worst. The reality was far less sensational.

Cornwall, Rebecca Foster, and Leonard J. Arrington. “Perpetuation of a Myth: Mormon Danites in Five Western Novels, 1840-90.” BYU Studies 23 (Spring 1983):147-65.
Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders, Etc. in Relation to the Disturbances with the Mormons; and the Evidence Given before the Hon. Austin A. King. Fayette, Mo., 1841.
Gentry, Leland H. “The Danite Band of 1838.” BYU Studies 14 (Summer 1974):421-50.
Jessee, Dean C., and David J. Whittaker, eds. “The Last Months of Mormonism in Missouri: The Albert Perry Rockwood Journal.” BYU Studies 28 (Winter 1988):5-41.
Whittaker, David J. “The Book of Daniel in Early Mormon Thought.” In By Study and Also by Faith: Essays in Honor of Hugh W. Nibley on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday, Vol. 1, pp. 155-201. Salt Lake City, 1990.

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


A partial list of the Mormon Danites in 1838. excerpt from Quinn: Origins of Power
Parkin, M. H. (1992). Missouri Conflict – The Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Retrieved July 19, 2018, from http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Missouri_Conflict

Whereas, in all bodies laws are necessary for the permanency, safety and well-being of society, we, the members of the society of the Daughter of Zion, do agree to regulate ourselves under such laws as, in righteousness shall be deemed necessary for the preservation of our holy religion, and of our most sacred rights, and the rights of our wives and children. But, to be explicit on the subject, it is especially our object to support and defend the rights conferred on us by our venerable sires, who purchased them with the pledges of their lives and fortunes, and their sacred honors. And now, to prove ourselves worthy of the liberty conferred on us by them, in the providence of God, we do agree to be governed by such laws as shall perpetuate these high privileges, of which we know ourselves to be the rightful possessors, and of which privileges wicked and designing men have tried to deprive us, by all manner of evil, and that purely in consequence of the tenacity we have manifested in the discharge of our duty towards our God, who had given us [those] rights and privileges, and a right in common with others, to dwell on this land. But we, not having the privileges of others allowed unto us, have determined like unto our fathers, to resist tyranny, whether it be in kings or in the people. It is all alike unto us. Our rights we must have, and our rights we shall have, in the name of Israel’s God.

“ART. 1st. All power belongs originally and legitimately to the people, and they have a right to dispose of it as they shall deem fit. But as it is inconvenient and impossible to convince the peo-[p. 102 ] ple in all cases, the legislative powers have been given by them from time to time, into the hands of a representation composed of delegates from the people themselves. This is and has been the law in both civil and religious bodies, and is the true principle.

“ART. 2d. The executive power shall be vested in the president of the whole church and his counsellors.

“ART. 3d. The legislative powers shall reside in the president and his counsellors, together with the generals and colonels of the society. By them all laws shall be made regulating the society.

“ART. 4th. All offices shall be during the life and good behaviour, or to be regulated by the law of God.

“ART. 5th. The society reserves the power of electing all its officers with the exception of the aides and clerks which the officers may need in the various stations. The nomination to go from the presidency to his second, and from the second to the third in rank, and so down through all the various grades, branch or department retains the power of electing its own particular officers.

“ART.6th. Punishment shall be administered to the guilty in accordance to the offense, and no member shall be punished without law, or by any others than those appointed by law for that purpose. The Legislature shall have power to make laws regulating punishments as in their judgment shall be wisdom and righteousness.

“ART. 7th. There shall be a secretary whose business it shall be to keep all the legislative records of the society, and also to keep a register of the names of the members of the society, also the rank of the officers. He shall also communicate the laws to the generals, as directed by laws made for the regulation of such business by the Legislature.

“ART. 8th. All officers shall be subject to the commands of the Captain General given through the Secretary of War. And so all officers shall be subject to their superiors in rank, according to laws made for that purpose.

Constitution of the Society of the Daughter of Zion, circa Late June 1838 Pg 1
Constitution of the Society of the Daughter of Zion, circa Late June 1838 – Page 2
Constitution of the Society of the Daughter of Zion, circa Late June 1838 – Page 3

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