This is an archived copy of a post written by Conflict Of Justice ( Used with permission: Conflict Of Justice may not agree with any alterations made.

“…Mormons purchased children as slaves for a variety of reasons: because they wanted children, because they felt they needed to be civilized, because they wanted to convert them. Child slaves soon became a vital source of labor for the settlers, some of whom traded them to other Mormons or even gave them as gifts.”

(by Erin Blakemore,

Fake history

Lies like these are unfortunately dominating the narrative. Utah’s history of abolishing and discouraging slavery has been spun into a pro-slavery narrative by fake historians. The truth is Mormon settlers did everything they could to abolish the deplorable practice, and they had been forced into exodus to Utah because of their anti-slavery positions.

Latter-day Saints repudiated slavery from the very beginning, and Mormon pioneers never ceased to combat slavery to the best of their ability. Popular culture loves to point out that slavery was in fact legal in Utah, but they ignore how the laws were carefully created to reduce and abolish slavery as quickly as possible, as an outright ban on slavery could not be achieved. Historical context shows these pioneers were instrumental in wiping out slavery from America.

The Tricky Problem Of Eliminating Slavery

Ingrained Culturally & Economically – Contrary to the rosy portrayals of racial equality portrayed in modern western films, slavery was ingrained across the western states from the beginning. Native tribes frequently plundered other tribes and took away people as slaves, and poor tribes were often reduced to selling away their children. European colonialists introduced a form of slave-trade that fit rather well in this native culture. Victims of kidnapping continued to be treated as property, though prisoners of war had been either sacrificed to idols or held for ransom. European settlement of the American continent perpetuated the existing slavery: “In the north slavery prevailed everywhere, and was abetted and encouraged by the Hudson’s Bay Company… All through the Rocky Mountains, except in what we have called the north-eastern triangle, this system of human slavery extended, and it had obtained such a root that it was very hard to extirpate.” (Massacres of the Mountains Vol. 2, J. P. Dunn)

Fresh from their expulsion by Antimormon mobs in Nauvoo, it was into this culture of slavery Latter-day Saint pioneers entered as they made their trek to Utah in 1847. One of the first native tribes they met was the Utes, known for raiding Californian ranchers as well as Paiute and Goshute tribes, whose women and children they sold to Mexican elite (of Spanish descent) as domestic slaves. The Paiute and Goshute also often sold their own children for food to survive the harsh winters, as did other poor tribes of the west. No sooner did they arrive than pioneers were confronted with the economy: “One day that winter Mormons learned firsthand about Indian slavery when Ute warriors brought several captured children to Fort Salt Lake. The warriors shoved two of the youngsters toward the Mormon guards at the fort’s gate and said they were for sale. The Mormons, not believing in human slavery of any kind, refused to buy. The warriors were not easily put off. They said the children would be killed unless the Mormons bought them by sunset. Although the Mormons assumed the warriors were bluffing, they bought one child. The other child remained in Ute hands. True to their word, the warriors killed that child in plain sight of the settlers.” (HistoryNet, Robert L. Foster)

Paying Off Utes To Free Slaves – Solomon Kimball and Elder R. Young told of the Utes even torturing little children unless they were bought: “Soon after we moved on to our city lot in the fall of 1847, a band of Indian camped near us. Early one morning we were excited at hearing their shrill, blood curdling war whoop, mingled with occasionally sharp cries of pain… It was Wanship’s band. Some of his braves had just returned from the war path. In a faight with ‘Little Wolf’s’ band, they lost two men, but had succeeded in taking two girls prisoners. One of these they had killed and were torturing the other. To save her life Charley Decker bought her and took her to our house to be washed and clothed… She was the saddest looking piece of humanity I have ever seen. They had shingled her head with butcher knives and fire brands. All the fleshy parts of her body, legs and arms had been hcked with knives, then fire brands had been stuck into the wounds. She was gaunt with hunger and smeared from head to foot with blood and ash.” (Elder R. Young account in Utah Indians and the Indian slave trade: the Mormon adoption program…, Robert M. Muhlestein)

Adopted Not Slaves – It would have been tempting for settlers in this harsh environment to use the extra sets of hands as free labor to plow the fields and feed the oxen. But I have seen zero evidence that any Utah pioneer purchased Native Americans for labor, ever. Non-members who traveled through Utah would have seen Native children running about and assumed they were slaves because that’s what they were in every other White settlement in the west. When they were out plowing the fields they were doing so as adopted sons and daughters alongside all the other sons and daughters. For example, Sally Pidash Young was adopted and fostered by Brigham Young’s wife and then later worked for gainful employment as a servant; historians have incorrectly assumed they treated her as an indentured slave.

Were at least some children between 1847 and 1853 considered indentured servants until the price of their purchase was paid off? Maybe. It would be a tempting thing for a settler in this chaotic time to do. These settlers were coming from various countries and developing a civilization from absolutely nothing, and rules and civil law were not established. The early United States made careful distinction between slavery and indentured servitude: slaves were property their whole lives, as were their children, while indentured servants were free as soon as their labor paid off a debt of money. The ransomed Ute slaves were placed in pioneer families as adopted children and I find no historical evidence that they were considered to be in debt for the price of their purchase.

Redeeming Slaves To Convert Them – Between 1847 and 1851, it doesn’t make sense that pioneers would have bought slaves for the purpose of converting them to Christianity. They were converting Natives anyway. The Ute chief Walker himself was baptized as an act of good will. With prices of $200 per slave, a lot for the first pioneers who had nothing, they wouldn’t have traded the shirts off their back for an Indian child to baptize.

The bigger issue was keeping peace and commerce with the Natives for the sake of survival. Due to the Utes’ economic trade system being based primarily on slavery and Brigham Young’s eagerness to make peace and commerce with the Natives, he settled upon the convenient solution of purchasing slaves for the purpose of setting them free and converting them. He couldn’t just ban slavery, as there were only a couple hundred pioneers and 12,000 Native Americans living around them. The settlers’ “isolated position as a small Anglo-American group amidst a larger group of Native Americans who, at times, demanded they participate in the slave trade, the Mormons sensed that Mormon-Indian relations depended upon their participation.”

So when Utah became a territory in 1850 and Brigham Young gained the civil authority to enforce policy, he advised the Saints: “To buy up Lamanite (Indian) children as fast as they could, and educate them and teach them the gospel,” according to one second-hand account. The pioneers were eager to accept and integrate with the Natives due to the doctrine that Native Americans were descended from the House of Israel. Non-member Richard F. Burton around this time remarked that, “Mormons treat their step brethren far more humanely than other western men; they feed, clothe, and lodge them, and attach them by good works to their interests.” Historical Juanita Brooks said: “But whereas the Puritans of that time and place approached the challenge of redemption with trepidation, the Mormons, their intellectual heirs, approached it with verve and optimism.” A policy of redeeming slaves to be free and convert them to the Christian gospel seemed like a convenient solution to the Indian slavery problem.

Banning International Slave Trade – The quick result of this policy, unfortunately, was Utes capturing more slaves and making more demands. Brigham Young immediately realized drastic measures had to be taken, and in 1851 he formally banned slave traders from buying and selling in Utah. A group of Mexican traders that were officially licensed by the government of New Mexico was denied business in Utah: “Here they exhibited to the governor their license, and informed him they wished to sell their horses and mules to the Utah Indians, and buy Indian children to be taken to New Mexico. Governor Young then informed them that their license did not authorize them to trade with the Indians in Utah. They then sought one from him, but he refused to give it, for the reason that they wanted to buy Indian children for slaves… the Indian slaves in their possession, a squaw and eight children, were liberated, and the Mexicans sent away.” (via History of Utah: Comprising Preliminary Chapters…, Vol. 1, Orson Ferguson Whitney)

Utah’s Deseret News newspaper then published an editorial blasting new Mexico’s governor for perpetuating slavery: “He has transcended the limits and authority of his office, he has violated his oath, tramped upon the Constitution and laws of the United States, and set at defiance every righteous principle that binds together the states and territories of our Union… Again, the purchase and removal of Indian children from Utah Territory to any other state or territory, or the removal of Indian children from Utah Territory to any other state or territory by any such means or process, as appears to have been contemplated by said me, is kidnapping in the eyes of the U.S. laws, and ought to be treated so in any United States court.” (Deseret News, Richards Nov. 15, 1851)

Brigham Young’s first victory came not much later with the arrest and conviction of trader Pedro Leon. “I have never heard of any successful attempts to buy children afterwards by the Mexicans. If done at all it was done secretly.”

But the Mexican traffickers were well connected (as they seem to be still today) and New Mexico’s government didn’t appreciate getting called out like that. Add to that the existing religious bias against “Mormons” and the pro-slavery Democrat resentment for them in the east, and you can start to see Brigham Young’s precarious situation. There was little Brigham Young could realistically do against such a powerful international cartel. But he tried.

A couple months later, the trafficking of Native Americans was offficially banned by Utah’s legislature, proposed in January and passed on March 7, 1852. The “Act for the Relief of Indian Slaves and Prisoners” declared slavery reprehensible: “Whereas, from time immemorial, the practice of purchasing Indian women and children of the Utah tribe of Indians by Mexican traders has been indulged in and carried on by those respective people, until the Indians consider it an allowable traffic, and frequently offer their prisoners or children for sale; and whereas, it is common practice among these Indians to gamble away their own children and women; and it is a well established fact that women and children thus obtained, or obtained by war, or theft, or in any other manner, are by them frequently carried from place to place packed upon horses or mules; larietted out to subsist upon grass, roots or starve; and are frequently bound with thongs made of raw hide, until their hands and feet become swollen, mutilated, and inflamed with pain and wounded, and when with suffering, cold, hunger and abuse they fall sick so as to become troublesome, are frequently slain by their masters to get rid of them; and whereas they do frequently kill their women and children taken prisoners, either in revenge, or for amusement, or through the influence of tradition, unless they are tempted to exchange them for trade, which they usually do if they have an opportunity; and whereas one family frequently steals the children and women of another family, and such robberies and murders are continually committed, in times of their greatest peace and amity, thus dragging free Indian women and children into Mexican servitude and slavery, or death, to the almost entire extirpation of the whole Indian race; and whereas these inhuman practices are being daily enacted before our eyes in the midst of the white settlements and within the organized counties of the Territory; and when the inhabitants do not purchase or trade for those so offered for sale, they are generally doomed to the most miserable existence, suffering, the tortures of every species of cruelty, until death kindly relieves them and closes the revolting scenery; Wherefore, when all these facts are taken into consideration, it becomes the duty of all humane and Christian people to extend unto this degraded and downtrodden race such relief as can be awarded to them, according to the situation and circumstances… the remedy, or what will be the most conductive to ameliorate their condition, preserve their lives and their liberties, and redeem them…” (Acts, Resolutions, and Memorials Passed at the … Annual, and Special Sessions, of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah, 1866)

Compromise: Indentured Servitude – The 1852 acts of legislation banned trafficking, as slaves had to enter the territory of their own will and choice, and could not be trafficked out. It prohibited rape and physical punishment. Children of slaves were considered free, and all Indian slaves were now indentured servants (for 20 years maximum) rather than property, and therefore slavery would be entirely extinguished within 20 years. The acts also required schooling for the indentured servants to transition them into society as free people.

Why didn’t Utah just free all slaves? The realities of established trade practices among Native tribes and non-members limited Brigham Young’s ability to realistically ban slavery all at once and necessitated compromise. Brigham Young made his personal contempt for slavery clear: “This trade I have endeavored to prevent, and this fall, happening to encounter a few of them in my travels as superintendent of the Indian affairs, strictly prohibited their further traffic… It is unnecessary perhaps for me to indicate the true policy for Utah in regard to slavery. Restrictions of law and government make all servants, but human flesh to be dealt in as property, is not consistent or compatible with the true principles of government. My own feelings are, that no property can or should be recognized as existing in slaves, either Indian or African. No person can purchase them without their becoming as free, so far as natural rights are concerned as persons of any other color; under the present low and degraded situation of the Indian race… it seems indeed that any transfer would be to them a relief and benefit. Many a life by this means is saved; many a child redeemed from the thraldom of savage barbarity, and placed upon equal footing with the more favored portions of the human race, If in return for favors and expense which may have been incurred on their account, services should be considered due it would become necessary that some law should provide the suitable regulations under which all such indebtedness should be defrayed. This may be said to present a new feature in the traffic of human beings; it is essentially purchasing them into freedom, instead of slavery, but it is not the low, servile drudgery of Mexican slavery, to which I would doom them, not to be raised among beings scarcely superior to themselves, but where they could find that consideration pertaining not only to civilized, but humane and benevolent society… thus will a people be redeemed from servile bondage.” (Brigham Young via Shaped by the West, Vol. 1: A History of North America to 1877, William F. Deverell, Anne F. Hyde)

Within 20 years they would be free and it would no longer be an issue.

Rebellion Erupted From The Ban – We today may think the 1852 laws didn’t go far enough, but widespread rebellion ensued due to the economic consequences of cutting off trafficking. Chief Walker of the Utes declared it Mormons’ responsibility to purchase all their slaves since they cut off their Mexican elite customers. Add to that the immense contemptuous pressure against Utah which would eventually lead to a massive army being sent by the pro-slavery government of the United States to wage war on them, and the undermining from neighboring regions like New Mexico, and the 1852 compromise would have certainly be seen as going too far. Why not wait until things cooled down to tackle slavery? Utah stood on the precipice and all indications were that they could not survive the outrage over their opposition to slavery.

In reprisal for the slavery restrictions, Utes raided Latter-day Saint settlements throughout 1853. Mexican slave traders conspired to whip up rebellions and pressure for the legalization of slavery. On April 23, 1853 Brigham Young dispatched a task force to root out illegal slave traders: “It was thought this would end the trouble, but it did not. Some of the slave-traders felt revengeful, and forthwith went to work stirring up the savages against the Utah settlers. These tactics called forth, early in 1853, the following proclamation from Governor Young: Whereas it is made known to me by reliable information, from affidavits, and various other sources, that there is in this Territory a horde of Mexicans, or outlandish men, who are infesting the settlements, stirring up the Indians to make aggressions upon the inhabitants, and who are also furnishing the Indians with guns, ammunitions, etc., contrary to the laws of this Territory and the laws of the United States: And Whereas it is evident that it is the intention of these Mexicans or foreigners to break the laws of this Territory and the United States, utterly regardless of every restriction, furnishing Indians with guns and powder, whenever and wherever it suits their designs, convenience, and purposes: Therefore, I, Brigham Young, Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Territory of Utah, in order to preserve peace, quell the Indians and secure the lives and property of the citizens of the Territory, hereby order… a small detachment consisting of thirty men, under the charge of Captain Wall, proceed south through the entire extent of the settlements reconnoitering the country and directing the inhabitants to be on their guard against any sudden surprise… hereby authorized and directed to arrest and keep in custody every strolling Mexican party, and those associating with them, and other suspicious persons or parties that they may encounter.” (via History of Utah: Comprising Preliminary Chapters…, Vol. 1, Orson Ferguson Whitney)

The other 1852 legislation historians point to was the earlier Act in Relation to Service. A month before the Relief of Indian Slaves, the legislature had passed this law requiring education, banning rape, banning trafficking, and defining slavery as indentured servitude. While the March 1852 law limited the term of service to 20 years maximum for Indians, this earlier law simply required slaves of any race “to receive a reasonable compensation for his, her, or their services,” and stated that contracts would only remain for so long as “will satisfy the debt due his, her, or their master.” Less than four years had passed since the pioneers first started to enter Utah, and only ten years would remain before Native American slavery would be abolished entirely.

Up to 87 Black slaves ever entered Utah under Brigham Young’s government–few if any Native Americans–and all were considered indentured servants. Within a decade all forms of slavery were officially abolished.

Falsehoods In History Channel’s Article

Mormon settlers ‘ended up encouraging’ native slavery – The realities of established slave practices from before settlers arrived required a compromise, which was a limit of 20 years of indentured servitude. This and other restrictions discouraged slavery, no encouraged it. Slave traders revolted due to those restrictions. ‘Children … soon became a vital source of labor for early Mormon settlers. – There is zero evidence any children were used by pioneer settlers as slave labor, though the possibility for this was available for a short time with the 1852 indentured servitude laws. ‘When Brigham Young and his band of Mormon settlers marched into Utah…’ – These were poor men, women, and children who had next to nothing because Antiormon mobs stole everything from them, and they were pushing handcarts step by step across hundreds of miles. They were not soldiers on the “march.” Next to this deceptive claim in the History Channel article is a drawing which had this original caption: “Brigham Young pointing to his company.” History Channel clips out the part of the drawing that shows the wagon company and shows only Brigham Young with his scouters, who are all men holding rifles. They then caption it: “Brigham Young leading the expedition to the Mormon land of Salt Lake City, Utah.” History Channel thus provides a false portrayal of military-style men as Mormon settlers instead of poor immigrant men, women, and children. Cropping and misportraying an image is fake news 101, come on! ‘Salt Lake City would soon become the bustling center of life in the Church… But that life would rest in part on the backs of people who were not Mormon…’ – This claim contradicts that article’s later claim that Mormons bought slaves in order to convert them. Which is it? There is no evidence of servants or slaves being barred from entering the church or race being a barrier. They are incorrectly suggesting they couldn’t be church members because they were a non-White race, but notice also how it portrays the city as some kind of slave-trading hub, an Instanbul-like metropolis where foreigners performed the city’s labor as slaves. Not true. …and who weren’t even voluntarily in Salt Lake.’ – This is the opposite of the truth. The 1852 legislation required the full consent of any servant or slave to enter Utah, thus prohibiting human trafficking. ‘They were Native and black slaves…’ – To equate slavery as it was experienced in America at this time with the system of indentured servitude in Utah is deceptive. They were not property and they were destined for freedom. ‘…their story is an often forgotten part of the Mormon settlement of Utah.’ – Not really. There are hundreds of Antimormon trolls on Twitter and Facebook that scream about it every Pioneer Day–which is fine, I think it is important to tell the story of these people. But please do so honestly and not because of some political agenda or Antimormon bias. ‘Mormon pioneers had long been on the hunt for a permanent home.’ – True, but noticed the charged emotional language: “hunt.” The insinuation is that Mormons came to hunt for a sanctuary but ended up hunting for human victims of slavery instead, which is false. ‘The sect…’ – The church is not a sect. It is a restored church. ‘The sect had experienced conflict with its neighbors in Ohio, Illinois and Missouri.’ – You mean the genocidal extermination order by Missouri’s government that was issued because “Mormons” were trying to free Missouri’s slaves? That conflict?? I think we can all guess why History Channel airbrushed over this one–church members were killed and raped by state-sanctioned mobs for opposing slavery. Saying it for what it is would defeat the entire Antimormon narrative of History Channel’s article because it would be glaringly obvious that Latter-day Saints were anti-slavery. So they reduce it to “experienced conflict.” Unbelievable. ‘The last straw came in 1844, when the religion’s founder, Joseph Smith, was assassinated by an angry mob…’ – That certainly had a lot to do with it but the decision to move west did not come until September 24, 1845, over a year later and it was “because of increasing persecution of the Saints and threats from the Church’s enemies” since the assassination. You know, “conflict”. …his fearful followers began to migrate west.’ – Fearful followers? Departing into the unknown wilderness never to return seems like a rather brave to do, not fearful. ‘…they entered territory owned not by the United States, but by Mexico.’ – Technically, the very first pioneers entered Mexican territory, but Alta California was occupied by the United States and officially purchased just a few months later with the end of the Mexican-American war. It was United States land before most pioneers arrived, and Mexico’s ownership is irrelevant to this issue. ‘Mexican colonists in the area enslaved Native people and used their labor…’ – This is a deceptive narrative. Most slaves were taken by other native tribes, not colonialists, and traded by international Mexican businesses, not colonialists, and purchased by elite Mexican rulers, not colonialists. It is popular to blame colonialism for everything, and Mexican colonialists certainly took some part in the slave problem, but to insinuate that “Mormon” settlers adopted any of this is false. ‘…used their labor to work their lands and tend their children.’ – This evokes scenes from ‘Gone with the Wind’, but were Native American slaves primarily used to tend children? With such a culture and language barrier I don’t know why they would be. ‘Some groups of Native people, including the Utes, participated in the slave trade…’ – Participated in? It was going on before the Spaniards arrived. History Channel makes it sound like something the “colonialists” ran and those tribes were pressured into it. ‘By positioning themselves as slave traders, not potential slaves themselves, people like Ute Chief Walkara, or Walker, could evade the enslavement of their own people while maintaining a powerful status relative to other bands and tribes.’ – Well, History Channel earlier defined the Mormon settlers as a “band”, remember. So this is essentially insinuating Utes participated in the slave trade to avoid being enslaved by White people like Mormons. This is false and a slap in the face of Latter-day Saint pioneers who stood up to slavery. The Utes didn’t have to torture little girls to avoid becoming slaves themselves. ‘For Mormons, Native Americans… represented an economic and religious opportunity.’ – No, their slave trade represented an existential threat. They didn’t compromise with the slave practice because of money–and all they did was lose money out of it–but because they expected they would have been killed otherwise.   Also, it is “who” not “whom.” It was a subjective noun not an object. Don’t throw “whom” in there to sound smart. ‘According to a prophecy in the original text of the Book of Mormon, the Lamanites were destined to become “white and delightsome”…’ – The link History Channel provides here points out that it was changed to “pure and delightsome” by Joseph Smith to avoid the mistake of thinking it is talking about skin color–a misreading which History Channel perpetuates here. This change was made in 1840, well before the trek to Utah. Therefore, the settlers should not have considered it as having to do with skin color. ‘Many Mormons believed slavery was immoral…’ – No, all Mormons believed slavery was immoral. It was a tenant of the faith and the reason they were expelled from Missouri. ‘But once they reached Utah’s Salt Lake Valley, they were initiated into the slave trade… into the role of slave owners.’ – Nope. When they purchase the Native American children they made them free. ‘“Early one morning we were excited at hearing their shrill…” wrote John R. Young, who was camped with the Mormons in what would become Salt Lake. – No, John R. Young was one of the Mormon pioneers, not just some guy camped with them. It already was Salt Lake by this time. By incorrectly suggesting it was a non-member who witnessed the Ute torture of slaves, History Channel reduces the pioneers’ role in confronting the issue. ‘This amounted to a green light for participating in the slave trade.’ – No. This amounted to ransoming slaves to set them free, although later for a short time they permitted indentured servitude. ‘In 1852, the Utah territorial legislature passed a law that allowed the trade…’ – False. It allowed indentured servitude for up to 20 years and banned slave trafficking. History Channel repeats this falsehood over and over. ‘Whatever their intentions, though, their purchase of indigenous children disrupted Native American tribes whose livelihoods, food sources and lifestyles had been sundered by the arrival of the Mormons – Here is another real whopper from History Channel. Two big lies. The Mormons redeeming and freeing slaves did not disrupt the Utes’ livelihood. THEIR BAN ON SLAVERY DID! Slave trade was part of their livelihood and their economy struggled when it got taken away. It is very slimy for History Channel to twist this around and say it was because Mormons ‘owned slaves.’ The opposite is true. And just as History Channel earlier reduced the Latter-day Saint opposition to slavery to “conflict with their neighbors,” here they reduce the Ute slave practice to “livelihood” and “lifestyle.” The second lie here is that their “food sources” were sundered by by the arrival of the pioneers. The pioneers settled in an open buffer zone between the Utes and Shoshone, which if anything further diminished the practice of kidnapping people for slaves–you know, their “livelihood” and “lifestyle.” So is History Channel complaining now that “Mormons” erased slave trading? ‘As more and more children were enslaved, local Native populations began to die out.’ – True, but the pioneers were not behind this. It was trade with Mexican slave businesses that wiped out populations. The 1852 legislation very clearly pointed out the reduction in native populations and addressed how to stop it. ‘…Mormons purchased children as slaves for a variety of reasons…’ – The reasons listed here are true–except to make them “civilized” carries the wrong connotation, as it was to eliminate poverty. But the main reason was to free them. Pioneers did not keep them as slaves, not matter how many times History Channel repeats this claim. ‘Child slaves soon became a vital source of labor for the settlers…’ – 100% false. ‘…some of whom traded them to other Mormons or even gave them as gifts.’ – I have seen no evidence to substantiate this claim. They were adopted into families. Why would someone give away an adopted child for a birthday gift? ‘Ute Indians, many of whom were starving, sold their children to Mormon people in order to ensure their survival.’ – Another slimy spin by History Channel. I have seen no evidence to substantiate this. The opposite is true–other tribes sold their children to the Utes because they were starving. The pioneers only tolerated indentured servitude for a short time to ensure their survival.   The History Channel accompanies this claim with an illustration of “Mormon men baptizing a large group of Native Americans,” insinuating that the choice was convert or starve, which is absolutely false. ‘Within a decade of settlement, at least 400 Native American children lived in Mormon households.’ – History Channel’s own source for this claim tells a different story: “Around four hundred Indians lived in Mormon households in the nineteenth century, mostly in the first decade of settlement.” Not necessarily children, not all in the first decade, and not “at least” 400. Their source’s source for this is Richard Kitchen, who doesn’t really say where he got this figure from. Even if true, they were adopted family and fostered members not slaves. ‘ At least one of them, Sally Pidash Young, was indentured by Brigham Young himself.’ – False. She was a foster daughter and later employed servant. Brigham Young had no slaves or indentured servants. ‘At least three black slaves came along with the original Mormon settlers, and with an 1852 law legalizing slavery in Utah, other Mormons followed suit… even more slave owners entered the state.’ – False. Firstly, you got to love how they again make it “at least” three. Inflate their narrative. No, it was three. That’s it: three. But there are official government records that debunk this claim that slavery increased. The 1850 census listed 26 slaves and the 1860 census listed 29. That is a difference of 3 people from about the time the pioneers showed up to about the time slavery was totally banned, which means no the rate of slavery did not increase. Either the slaves finished their servitude and became free with more slaves entering, or the same slaves were there a decade later. Either way History Channel’s narrative is wrong. ‘By 1850, two-thirds of the around 100 black people in Utah were slaves.’ – History Channel’s own source tells a slightly different story: “Perhaps 100 blacks reached Utah by 1850, two-thirds as slaves.” Perhaps 100. And they didn’t necessarily remain slaves, as it was a system of indentured servitude that allowed them to become free. They cite no source for this figure, and it is contradicted by their very next sentence: “the 1850 Utah census listed twenty-six.” How did 26 become 100? Well, maybe the census didn’t find them–maybe. Remember, 1850 was at the beginning of the territory’s history before the government had a chance to address the issue and everything was chaotic. But the claim that two-thirds of African-Americans were slaves is definitely false, as the census found only half were slaves in 1850 and less than half in 1860. ‘The same paternalistic attitudes that drove indigenous slavery among the Mormons were applied to black slaves’ – This is another repeat of the lie that they have indigenous slaves. But notice how now History Channel blames “paternalistic attitudes.” Now suddenly having foster children causes slavery? ‘Native American slaves were “indentured” for 20 years’ – No, they were considered indenturedup to 20 years. Realistically, any debt should have been paid off within just a few years of service. A price of $200, the highest rate for a slave at the time, is equal to $6,584 today. ‘Slave owners were also required to educate and punish their slaves.’ – This is why you shouldn’t go to Wikipedia for your information; you get a wrong impression. That’s not really what the law was saying. It was the debtor’s duty to discipline servants instead of the government’s. In other states punishments were stipulated by law for various infractions, but this Utah law was saying the government would not regulate any of the servants’ behavior. If the law dictated no punishment it couldn’t dictate how the servants had to behave. Thus, the servants were less restricted by the government. But the law did leave it to the court’s discretion to free a servants of their debt if it deemed any discipline as being abusive. ‘The laws held a double standard; black slaves were handled more harshly than Native American ones.’ – The second 1852 act was all about Native Americans but the first 1852 act was for servants of any race. The second act explained that it sought to “redeem them from a worse than African bondage.” They considered the indigenous slaves to be a a worse condition and in more need of protections. After all, Indian children were being hacked up and tortured with fire brands. Other than the 20 year limit, though, I don’t see how it could be deemed less “harsh” than the first 1852 act, or that there was any double standard. ‘Then, in 1862, Congress outlawed slavery in all United States territories, including Utah… many Native people stayed with the families they had lived with during slavery.’ – That’s because it wasn’t slavery. People tend to stay with their adopted families. ‘But intentions are not outcomes, and the consequences of Mormons’ willingness to tolerate slavery in Utah can still be felt today.’ – Consider the argument pro-choice people make for allowing abortion: I don’t support abortion but I want to allow it to happen because it’s unrealistic to ban it in every case. We would all be happy if Utah had flat-out banned all forms of servitude, but unfortunately that was unrealistic at that time, and if you look at the real consequences of what the pioneers did you will find they severely squelched the inter-state slave trade, put an end to countless years of horrible traditions, and established peace and integration between the pioneers and Natives. It’s so easy for today’s sociology students to lecture us about what Brigham Young should have done and to treat it as some kind of original sin that “Mormons” can never be absolved from. But I suspect if writer Erin Blakemore had lived in that time she would have been complaining that Brigham Young was damaging the Utes’ “livelihood” and “lifestyle” by curbing the slave trade. In later years while governments in the Untied States continued to victimize indigenous peoples all the way up to the 1980’s, Utah was leading the way in treating them respectfully and as equals. That’s what the consequences are of Brigham Young’s decisions. ‘Though slavery technically ended in Utah in 1862, the church’s attempt to convert Native Americans did not.’ – History Channel slides into outright religious bigotry here. The suggestion is that missionary work is a form of slavery though not technically slavery, which is an absolutely disgusting thing to say. It not only attacks Christianity, it cheapens the experience of America’s slaves who endured hardship and it twists the issue into a cheap gotcha game. Latter-day Saints have always spread the gospel to all the world regardless of race or national origin. Once again, History Channel flips the narrative to the opposite of reality; the truth is the gospel is liberating like nothing else. ‘Between the 1950s and 1970s, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints fostered roughly 50,000 Native American students… the repercussions of slavery still reverberates in the lives of the Native people and African Americans…’ – Well, it’s nice of History Channel to finally get the name of the church right and stop using the pejorative “Mormon.” That’s nice. And yes, a foster program encouraged disadvantaged Native American students to spend a year studying in a Latter-day Saint homes, and that is a legacy of cooperation and integration between indigenous people and pioneer immigrants. Is that a bad thing? It is obviously not a repercussion of slavery, as being fostered and adopted into a pioneer family was never slavery. ‘…the lives of the Native people and African Americans the church once helped subjugate’ – Again, false. ‘…even if few people remember that a slave trade once existed in Utah.’ – Utah’s leaders helped irradiate, not encourage, the slave trade that existed when they got here.

Almost every sentence of Erin Blakemore’s article is a lie. A shocking example of fake history. Because History Channel is run by a big corporation, it can push this article to the top of Google search results and make it the popular narrative. Other top Google results like Wikipedia likewise spin history and cover up the church’s consistent opposition to slavery. Not only does this attack and discredit the church, it also excuses the true perpetrators of slavery which were Antimormons on the same side these media corporations fall on. We become the whipping boy for their transgressions.

History Channel’s Associations – History Channel is owned by A&E which is owned by Disney Corp. and Hearst Communications. Disney has a long history of negative racial stereotyping in its films, including Mickey Mouse dressing in blackface and Blacks doting as servants in Fantasia. Song of the South glorified the slavery culture with an idealized image of Blacks happy to work on the plantations. As for Hearst, William Randolph Hearst was on of the inventors of yellow journalism which sensationalized and appealed to emotion rather than intellect. These corporations should really look at the beam in their own eye before they start accusing us of bad history. It’s easy to make up a negative narrative to attack your enemies; but it’s because they have the money and power to rank high on Google search and few will ever read my fact-checking they probably won’t need to be worried about it.

The Same Logic With Modern Vices – Remember when progressive media corporations were going on a tear to legalize marijuana in Utah–finally getting their way? They argued that a ban on marijuana encourages criminality because people would get it anyway. The old alcohol prohibition argument–if you ban something people want you become responsible for the organized crime they turn to. This same logic was used by media corporations back in the day to defend slavery. Human trafficking is still happening, after all. But there are additional reasons to legalize pot, argues Disney-owned ABC News: “African American communities… disproportionately face arrest and jail time.” One might think this would be a reason to crack down on pot if racial minorities are more frequent users of the drug, but instead they say it’s not fair that people get arrested for selling it. Could the same thing have been said for Mexican slave traders? Was it racist that Brigham Young’s jails were filling up with Mexican businessmen? Disney-owned ABC News points out the pot sales “could help people get housing loans, fix schools, roads, give kids something to do…” Could the same thing have been said for the slave trade? They complain that Brigham Young did not stand unblinkingly by moral principle yet weasel in drug use for all these reasons. In 200 years will media corporations be complaining that “Mormons” didn’t fight harder to ban vices like the vile drug trade?

The Latter-Day Saint Legacy Of Opposing Slavery

In July 1833, Antimormons in Jackson County published the Secret Constitution which demanded that Mormons be expelled for opposing slavery of Black people. These Antimormons accused Mormons of “tampering with our slaves, and endeavoring to sow dissension and raise seditions amongst them.” This signed declaration led to the Missouri government’s extermination order and state-led genocide of Mormon communities. Thousands died, were raped, and were stolen from.

In 1844, Joseph Smith ran for President of the United States on a political platform based primarily on abolishing slavery. Joseph Smith declared: “The wisdom which ought to characterize the freest, wisest, and most noble nation of the nineteenth century, should, like the sun in his meridian splendor, warm every object beneath its rays; and the main efforts of her officers, who are nothing more nor less than the servants of the people, ought to be directed to ameliorate the condition of all, black or white, bond or free.”

After pro-slavery Antimormons had expelled Mormons to Utah, their racist persecution of Mormons continued. The attacked Mormons in nationwide newspapers for their opposition to racism. They ridiculed the saints for adopting Native American children into their homes and being friendly with the tribes. The newspapers whipped up a hysteria because Mormons were importing immigrant converts from around the world and mixing races into a single society. The newspapers published political cartoons ridiculing Mormons for being inclusive and living with other races. Mormons believed all races were equally children of God.

The prophet Joseph Smith’s views on race were ahead of their time: My cogitations, like Daniel’s, have for a long time troubled me, when I viewed… two or three millions of people are held as slaves for life, because the spirit in them is covered with a darker skin than ours…

The wisdom which ought to characterize the freest, wisest, and most noble nation of the nineteenth century, should, like the sun in his meridian splendor, warm every object beneath its rays; and the main efforts of her officers, who are nothing more nor less than the servants of the people, ought to be directed to ameliorate the condition of all, black or white, bond or free; for the best of books says, “God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the earth.”(Joseph Smith’s Presidential Platform)

See also:Was Racial Priesthood Ban Based On Racist Doctrine?

Brigham Young’s Defense For Allowing Servitude – Most incorrectly assume that the snippets of quotes they see from Brigham Young were him arguing in favor of slavery. This is false. He was arguing in favor of tolerating servitude’s existence for the sake of not getting destroyed by hostile neighbors. Slavery was permitted by the United State’s Constitution, after all, and the Saints believed the Constitution to be divinely inspired. The nation was founded on compromise with slave-owners, and that didn’t make slavery good but it did make allowing it acceptable if that meant it would eventually be abolished by more peaceful means. If slavery must exist, he argued, laws could at least be crafted to raise the condition of servants through mandatory education and protections from abuse, and be treating it as indentured servitude so that they would become free.

It was much like Paul’s sitution in the bible where he abhorred slavery but did not realistically have the power to get rid of it. “Instead of a frontal attack on the culturally pervasive institution in his day, Paul took another approach… Paul does at least 11 things that work together to undermine slavery… 1. Paul draws attention to Philemon’s love for all the saints… This puts Philemon’s relation with Onesimus (now one of the saints) under the banner of love, not just commerce. 2. Paul models for Philemon the superiority of appeals over commands when it comes to relationships governed by love… Acting out of freedom from a heart of love is the goal in the relationship. 3. Paul heightens the sense of Onesimus being in the family of God by calling him his child… 4. Paul raises the stakes again by saying… “I am deeply bound emotionally to this man.” Treat him that way. 5. Paul again emphasized that he wanted to avoid force or coercion… he was instructing Philemon how to deal with Onesimus so he too would act ‘of his own accord.’ 6. … Onesimus would not be coming back to any ordinary, secular relationship but a forever relationship. 7. Paul said that Philemon’s relationship would no longer be the usual master-slave relationship… ‘No longer as a slave’ did not lose its force when Paul added ‘more than a slave.’ 8. In that same verse (v. 16), Paul referred to Onesimus as Philemon’s ‘beloved brother.’ This is the relationship that takes the place of slave… 9. Paul made clear that Onesimus was with Philemon in the Lord… Union with Christ is the great barrier-demolishing reality. 10. Paul told Philemon to receive Onesimus the way he would receive Paul… 11. Paul said to Philemon that he would cover all of Onesimus’s debts… (The Satisfied Soul: Showing the Supremacy of God in All of Life, John Piper)

We see Brigham Young undermine slavery in much the same ways. He put the slaves on the same level as the settlers, urged people to liberate ransomed children rather than enforcing it with law, called them children of God and even fostered one as his own child, sought a social accord with the Indian tribes with the House of Israel relationship uniting them, considered them no longer property but instead literal family, emphasized his concern for their welfare and education, turned to union with Christ as the means to demolish barriers, and encouraged the forgiveness of debts for the price of ransoming.

Keep this in mind as you read Brigham Young defend Utah allowing slavery to exist: “I will remark with regard to slavery, inasmuch as we believe in the bible, inasmuch as we believe in the ordinances of God, in the priesthood and order and decrees of God, we must believe in slavery. This colored race have been subjected to severe curses, which they have in their families and their classes and in their various capacities brought upon themselves. And until the curse is removed by Him who placed it upon them, they must suffer under its consequences; I am not authorized to remove it. I am a firm believer in slavery… I go in for making just such laws as we want upon that matter, independent of any other nation under the heavens; let us do that [which will bring about what] we want to be done regardless of the abuses of despotic government. Whether they deem it to be right or wrong, is no matter to me, but to do the thing we ought to do, to secure those blessings we are in pursuit of, ought to be the first, and most weighty consideration with us… The African enjoys the right of receiving the first principles of the Gospel, this liberty is held out to all these servants, they enjoy the liberty of being baptized for the remission of sins, and of receiving the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands… as far as the common comforts of life, salvation, light, truth, enjoyment, and understanding is concerned, the black African has precisely the same privilege as the white man. But they cannot hold the priesthood, and inasmuch as they cannot bear any share in the priesthood, they cannot bear rule, they cannot bear rule in any place until the curse is removed from them, they are a ‘servant of servants.’ We are servants, as Counselor George Smith has stated, he says he is a slave, he has been driven from his home, and his rights–we are all servants; now suppose that we should have a servants, and he should be a Negro, it is all right, it is perfectly reasonable, and strictly according to the holy priesthood.” (The Teachings of President Brigham Young Vol. 3, p. 26)

As far as permitting it to happen for the sake of survival and stability, the unfortunate situation Native Americans found themselves after to the slaughter and subjugation of conquistadors and other European conquerors was not something to be encouraged or perpetuated, but it was a reality that he could not snap his fingers and change through legislation, and so policies must be put in place to encourage the end of servitude as soon as possible. Considering them “servants of servants” was meant to break the master-slave relationship in a similar way to Paul’s letter, and is a reference to an old admonition from the Catholic St. Gregory for masters to “acknowledge themselves to be fellow servants of servants.” The difference, of course, was the indentured servants didn’t get a choice about working. Otherwise, they were compensated and legally protected. The situation was far from good but it was a whole lot better than things were before–which was underscored in January 29, 1855 when Latter-day Saints discovered slave women and children ritually sacrificed at the funeral of Chief Walker of the Utes.

Of course we wish the Utah legislature and Brigham Young had taken a hard line against slavery and let the consequences come as they may. It would have been heroic. But let’s not pretend like Brigham Young was encouraging it.

My ancestor freed his slaves so that he could join the church, travel to Utah, and be with the Saints. I am proud that my ancestor recognized the evil practice for what it was and did the right thing. I am also very proud of another ancestor of mine who was taken in as a child by a Latter-day Saint household and bravely made a life as a Native American in a strange new society. This history of expunging popular society’s evils, integrating and working hard to be successful is my legacy as a Latter-day Saint.

Staying Out Of Debt Today – I believe one reason media corporations write hit pieces like this is because we are bad for business for some very powerful people. Just as the political leaders of the 1830’s United States hated us for opposing the slave business, certain political leaders and economic powers hate us today for opposing modern vices. One of these vices is the burgeoning credit system.

Think about it. Around 65% of Americans believe they are unable to get out of debt. About 37% have a revolving credit card balance that they cannot pay off. Indentured servitude is a worker bound by contract to perform labor to pay off a debt. The difference today is we get to choose what labor we perform, but other than that we only think we are “free” because we don’t carry the label “servant.” But when the reality is that many of those in debt will carry that debt to the grave, what do you call that? Racial minority communities find themselves unable to lift out of the cycle of poverty, though the statics per race is actually even across the board, which is encouraging. Still, as far as age Millennials have it the worst. I expect the next generation will have it even worse than them, as tuition for school has spiraled to the point where college isn’t even worth it a lot of times because the students spend the rest of their lives paying it back.

Before today’s wave of crushing Millennial debt hit, the prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints warned members to stay out of debt and told of “stormy weather” ahead. “Self-reliance cannot obtain when there is serious debt hanging over a household. One has neither independence nor freedom from bondage when he is obligated to others.” “Pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from bondage.” They urged church members to try to avoid debt for any reason except for a house and maybe education. This wasn’t just some typical financial advice you would get at a typical church; I recall a persistent emphasis on the subject as if we were living in the Great Depression, and I remember thinking (this was in the 1990’s) “The economy is fine, what’s the problem?” Well, luckily their words stuck with me and have helped me throughout my life. But many others who grew up through the 1990’s are stuck in a terrible situation of servitude.

It wasn’t just the anti-debt teachings that made big corporate America be against the church, it was all the other grandpa-like advice discouraging a consumerist/materialistic culture: save up, don’t replace what can be fixed, grow your own food, do not drink alcohol, focus on family, no coffee, etc. Around the time of Mitt Romney’s run for president, they started noticing the massive financial investments being made by the church and church members. Then their newspapers and TV shows started containing Antimormon bigotry, because they were afraid we would disrupt the business-friendly American culture they had groomed.

See also:Did Mormon Pioneers Poison Native Americans With Crushed Glass?

I find it truly ironic that the same big corporate types and same Anti-Mormon community that practiced genocide on us from our very genesis as a restored church for opposing slavery is now blaming us for slavery. It’s ironic that their motive for doing so is likely that we oppose a modern kind of slavery today. The propaganda from the mainstream media would turn everyone into dutiful workers for corporate masters–that is why they discourage family, community, religion, gender roles, etc. I am proud to disrupt their narratives. I am proud of my pioneer ancestors who disrupted the millenia-old evil practice of slavery. I understand that living in a totally different age and context made this hard to do. It’s easy to imagine what I would have done, but breaking out of a world bound by racism is not easy, and they were the pioneers who made it happen.

Categories: Apologetics