In the interest of time, we’ll skip the lengthy opener and refer to Part 1 (Religious Royalty) of the series. Warring for President continues examination of the Romney legacy and building the path to Mitt:
In the course of establishing Mormons as an American staple and tracking their migration to Ohio from New York, Joseph Smith founded the Kirtland Safety Society with the help of his associates including business Apostles like Grandpa Parley. It was a quasi bank for Mormons based on stock valuation, with the express intent of helping the brotherhood purchase all surrounding lands. Latter Day Saints were intent on birthing their own sovereignty and that could only begin with a territory to transform religious canon into law.
The mass purchase of property didn’t go over well with previous inhabitants, but the institution’s final demise came at the hands of insider fraud that resembles the current market collapse. The bank made continuous loans to push non-believers out of the area without having the capital to cover disbursements. This may even be where the term “ phony as a $3 bill” originated, as the bank printed exactly these worthless denominations and put all local Mormons in the poor house for holding them.
(Mormon $3 bill, Kirtland Safety Society/Bank)
Inner discord was not enough to plummet the church into shame. It wasn’t until fraud charges were announced that Smith and the Mormons would flee to avoid capture in the middle of the night, January 12, 1838. Along with the Romneys they would attempt to overtake Missouri and lay claim to the purported twin city of Zion, as the new headquarters and rightful place of Saints.
Again this wasn’t well received by Christians or presiding authorities of the new state. Heralding fantastic claims of celestial ownership, concentrating Mormons to elect their own and disapproval of polygamy were a few of the allegations against those of the colonizing faith.
At a midpoint of conflict the Lieutenant Governor attempted to mediate with Mormons and resettled them to what became Far West. In turn Joseph Smith would prophesize the new location to be Adam-ondi-Ahman; the same place Adam and Eve took refuge upon expulsion from the American Garden of Eden.
Unfortunately this effort became futile when Mormons defied the boundaries of their settlement and vigorously spilled into adjacent counties, laying claim to those as well. This swell was enabled by the defection from Ohio and spawned an Election Day skirmish that resulted in Mormons taking Judge Adam Black hostage at gunpoint to do their bidding. Under duress he was forced to sign an allegiance with Smith and once returned to safety, the state responded with criminal charges against the violent band of Latter Day Saints.
Instead of backing down, the Mormon militia torched and pillaged the homes of unfaithful Missourians, also while stealing their businesses for personal gain, committed in the name of the church. According to official entries from Major Joseph McGee,
“For over two weeks we could stand in our door… and see cabins burning. Scarcely one was left standing in the county unless occupied by Mormons.”
Members of the government felt Saints were trying to capture the entire state, as Mormon leaders were preaching to parishioners inciting violence to the bloody end. This resulted in the famous Extermination (eviction) Order commissioned by Governor Boggs, which was levied as a last resort to bring an end to the Missouri Mormon War.
As per terms of that agreement Mormons were found to owe for damage and allowed to leave in peace, if they forfeited their property to foot the bill in yet another ravaged state. There was initial rebellion against the government and only after the church executive put their settlers in harm’s way, did Joseph Smith and the twelve Apostles accept conditions to relocate their people. These circumstances included surrender of self and fellow leaders; on indictment of treason, murder, arson, burglary and larceny. All court documents can be viewed as archives, courtesy of the Secretary of State.
These judiciary pages cite Mitt’s great-great grandpa Parley as a main perpetrator in the town burning (11/12/1838 Witness Ezra Williams), in addition to being one of the few imprisoned for committing murder (3/6/1841 State of Missouri vs. Parley P. Pratt, Maurice Phelps and Lyman Gibbs). Official court record is one of few places to confirm the Romney family’s involvement, as most popular history pages have glossed over this Apostle.
But Parley did indeed play a great role as jailed leader and close partner of Joseph Smith. He was the Prophet to teach all Prophets at the School of Prophets in Missouri, where lesser Apostles were sent for counsel to grasp the doctrine he helped create. During the incarceration, they were also broken out of captivity together and fled to Nauvoo, Illinois. It is here a subsequent Mormon town was colonized and great-great grandpa Miles Romney was graciously waiting to build the next temple.
In just a few short years after the mayhem in Missouri, the Mormons were living semi peacefully in Illinois. It is claimed they sought retribution against Governor Boggs from afar and there was an attempt on his life resulting in 3 gunshot wounds to the head.
But in the shelter of their newest settlement, the Prophets took warring lessons from the past and put them to good use. They immediately sought a city charter that enshrined the right to a bonafide militia, ironically named the Nauvoo Legion – since Nauvoo means “to be beautiful” in Hebrew.
Such entitlements afforded Saints their own municipal court, police and university, from which they would construct the ultimate goal of theocracy as directed by the Book. They also made headway by assuming prominent positions within the Freemasons, to bolster community allies in their mission.
However, when harsh feelings from non-Mormons arose about that pesky issue of polygamy, Joseph Smith headed every level of the law and there was no recourse for outsiders. They had effectively taken control of a city from all possible positions. Smith was the mayor, judge, church president and commander of the militia.
Amongst the dissatisfaction Illinoisans took to founding their own newspaper the Nauvoo Expositor, but it only lasted one printing and was deemed a public nuisance by the church. Smith accordingly ordered it to be destroyed and the presses were smashed along with burning everything in sight. The only free speech in a theocratic domain would belong to Joseph Smith and the Apostles, with capable Romney editors to filter the news. This act was considered outrageous and the dissenters of heretical prophecy brought their complaints to law enforcement, but Smith was empowered as the sheriff and judge so the charges were dismissed. In fact any complaints against Mormons in the town of Nauvoo were dismissed.
At the same time the almighty Quorum of Twelve Apostles congregated to create the Council of Fifty, whose task was campaigning on the Prophet’s behalf to become the President of America. The local order they currently enjoyed was only the beginning of the true Mormon mission; to establish the government of God that was ready to rule the world upon His Second Coming. The long name of this council is The Kingdom of God and His Laws with the Keys and Power thereof, and Judgment in the Hands of His Servant (pdf study file) – but it was shortened to “The Fifty” by the number of prophets who would be given these keys to ensure a Mormon God was controlling the US government. They would only toil to get their Prophets elected and have continued these pursuits with Mitt Romney, his father George Romney and all Mormon politicians running for Governor or President before them. This is a pillar in the Latter Day Saint’s Doctrine and Covenants.
Feeling oppressed themselves, Christians approached the Illinois legislature that was compelled to incarcerate Joseph and his marauders, due to contravening matters of free speech and persecuting others with unabashed personal use of Mormon police. They were accused of employing arbitrary violence in an effort to silence their critics, apprehended by the state and placed in Carthage Jail to await trial.
Still afraid of his connections and flagrant abuse of theo-democracy through other church members, there was a backlash from non-Mormons all around. Anti Latter Day Saints finally had enough and believed there was little chance of convicting Smith or his entourage. A band of community vigilantes then decided to take assassination into their own hands. Joseph Smith died on June 27, 1844, to be worshiped forevermore as the martyr of Mormon, after that mob laid siege to his jail cell.
Apostle Brigham Young stepped in to fill the leadership; with Parley, Orson and Miles at his immediate side. Although the Book of Mormon was created by Smith’s revelation, it is Young who would become the greatest father of the clan. He set out to preach polygamy and theo-democracy even more so than his predecessor. Brigham and (fellow Apostle) Uncle Orson christened these theories into doctrine and had it reported through the church newspaper the very next day.
This created a split of sorts and Mormons who were shy about plural marriage ended up going their separate way. Politically there was still much discord and the Saints holding strong in Nauvoo were eventually stripped of their city charter by the state legislature. That action gave rise to the third confrontation known as the Illinois Mormon War and despite the dressing down, they continued to run a covert arm of religious police and government. Eventually they had to come to terms that without the legal backing, their rebellion was fairly futile.
Instead of repeating quite the mayhem that took place in Missouri, Brigham Young and company negotiated their departure and set out to build the Mormon Trail all the way to Utah, where no faithless federal government could condemn their way of rule. This is where Uncle Orson would demonstrate his own leadership by carving that path and claiming Salt Lake City in the name of Latter Day Saints (see Mathematician and Scientist).
On the paternal plane, Mitt’s great-grandpa Miles Park Romney was born in Nauvoo of polygamous parentage and he followed in his father’s footsteps. A church editor, chief of theocratic police, builder of Mormon religious temples and a studious attorney; he attempted to challenge congressional anti polygamy laws on behalf of his prophetic underlings as a young man in Utah.
Maternally, Mitt’s other great-grandpa Helaman Pratt was born somewhere on the trek between Nauvoo and Salt Lake in the winter crossing the plains of Iowa. At the age of twenty-three he would depart for Nevada and settle the Mormon religion there, in addition to performing the first baptisms in Mexico as that president as well. Miles Park Romney went with him, since both were interested in protecting their right to plural wives while the federal government of America was clamping down. They continued to chart new lands and bring the doctrine with them as leaders of the church.
Mitt Romney commands an identical post, as stake president of the Boston area. He doesn’t possess polygamous wives, but in part three of the series we’ll examine why. We’ll also take a look at the true accomplishment of the first theocratic state government, upon Mormons capturing Utah from the Indians. There’s only one more war to go before we arrive at the immediate family and the exact nature of Mitt’s inheritance.