September 26, 2010 by Ron Madson
On August 30, 2010, a very disturbed man entered an LDS building and murdered Bishop Clay Sannar. Hopefully, this tragic and horrific incidence is isolated and will never be repeated. One never knows. This incidence spawned a post and commentary on one Mormon blog entitled “Packing Heat’, wherein the opening post argued that we should consider “Packing Heat” when we come to church to prevent such incidences.
At the same time that I was reading Patrick Q. Mason’s Doctoral Dissertation entitled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Mob: Violence against Religious outsiders in the US South, 1865-1910. Patrick Mason’s dissertations reviews the persecution and murders of blacks, Jews, Catholics and Mormons in the south from 1865 through 1910. About hundred pages chronicles the persecution of the Mormons in the south and in particular the murder of three missionaries and two members (An Elder Standing in once incidence and two Elders and two members at Cane Creek).
And concurrent with reading Patrick Mason’s dissertation, I was reviewing and finishing up a paper that I will be submitting to the “War and Peace Conference” held at Claremont College next spring being sponsored by Richard Bushman and Patrick Mason. My paper focuses focuses on the Missouri Wars of 1833 and 1838–with the 1833 conflict giving rise to Section 98 of the Doctrine and Covenants and the 1838 conflicts being the test to see if the saints would in fact follow the “immutable covenant” that the Lord gave in that section. What has captivated my attention is the wide range of reaction by the Mormon saints during the crucible of the Missouri conflicts.
Here is a an extract from my paper followed by a few questions for which I invite comments from the readers of the Mormon Worker blog. Here is the excerpt:
“The first Bishop of the restored church of Christ was called by revelation on February 4, 1831. The Lord revealed why Edward Partridge was qualified for that sacred Priesthood trust: “And this because his heart is pure before me, for he is like unto Nathaneal of old, in whom there is no guile.” Bishop Partridge’s pureness of heart would be tested in a most acute manner just two and half years later. In July of 1833, Edward Partridge was among the saints in Jackson County, Missouri when angry and violent mobs began forming. Bishop Partridge in his own words recounts how he and George Simpson were taken from their homes by an armed mob to the public square in Independence and there tarred and feathered. They had reason to believe that they would be put to death. Confronted with such unprovoked hostility Bishop Partridge recorded the following:
“I told them that the Saints had suffered persecution in all ages of the world; that I had done nothing which ought to offend anyone; that if they abused me, they would abuse an innocent person; that I was willing to suffer for the sake of Christ…
Until I had spoken, I knew not what they intended to do with me, whether to kill me, or whip me, or what else I knew not. I bore my abuse with so much resignation and meekness, that it appeared to astound the multitude, who permitted me to retire in silence, many looking very solemn, their sympathies having been touched as I thought; and as for myself, I was so filled with the Spirit and love of God, that I had no hatred towards my persecutors or anyone else.” (History of the Church Vol. 1, pg. 391).”
Now, considering Bishop’s Sannar’s murder; the murders such as those chronicled by Patrick Mason if you have taken the time to read his dissertation; the example of Bishop Partridge (not to mention others who emulated his act such as John Whitmer, Isaac Morley, John Corrill to name a few); and considering the reality that we still live in a violent world, I ask (leaving out any church policy issues and/or debate as to 2nd Amendment):
1. What is your opinion about “packing heat” at church or just in general?
2. What is your opinion about others coming to church or in general “packing heat.”?
3. Do you feel that it is safer or less safe to “pack heat” in thwarting violence, ie, is it effectual in stemming violence or do you believe it is more likely to result in more violence?
4. What is your spiritual framework that governs what you do or not do when it comes to direct and personal violence?
I already have a settled opinion as to how we act as groups and nations, but I am still unresolved as to direct, personal assaults and so I would appreciate any and all opinions.