July 5, 2007

Brother Brigham vs. the Devil and Mr. Walker

Brigham Young July 31, 1853

I told you, six years ago, to build a fort that the Devil could not get into, unless you were disposed to let him in, and that would keep out the Indians. Excuse me for saying devil; I do not often use the old gentleman's name in vain, and if I do it, it is always in the pulpit, where I do all my swearing. I make this apology because it is considered a sin to say devil, and it grates on refined ears.
Chief Colorow Ignacio Ouray Walkara (or as the Saints called him, Chief Walker,) led a band of Ute Indians in raiding ranchers and attacking travelers from the Great Basin all the way to California. He had also pulled off several large horse heists. In 1849 Chief Walker invited Brigham Young to send some colonizers down to the Sanpete valley, so Brigham sent 225 saints down to settle Manti, Utah, hoping to influence the renegade Chief for the better. During the first winter there a measles epidemic broke out and the saints nursed the Indians using their limited medicine. In turn, the Indians helped the saints gather food. A trading relationship began and Chief Walker was baptised in 1850, but relations soon soured. The saints objected to Walker's practice of trading his women and children into slavery. Also, as more non-Mormons passed through the area and traded with the saints Walker grew jealous. His bands started raiding them and the situation grew dangerous. Brigham stood before the congregation in 1853 and chided many members for not following his counsel of colonization; namely, to build a fort first, and then establish a community in a defensive stance. He went on to discuss his policy of dealing with aggressive Indians:
How many times have I been asked in the past week, what I intend to do with Walker. I say, LET HIM ALONE, SEVERELY. I have not made war on the Indians, nor am I calculating to do it. My policy is to give them presents, and be kind to them. Instead of being Walker's enemy, I have sent him a great pile of tobacco to smoke when he is lonely in the mountains. He is now at war with the only friends he has upon this earth, and I want him to have some tobacco to smoke.
He compared the attacks of Indians to the attacks of the mobs of Missouri and Illinois, and gave some reasons for the saints being thus afflicted:
I have been teased and teased by men who will, come to me and say, "Just give me twenty-five, fifty, or a hundred men, and I will go and fetch you Walker's head." I do not want his head, but I wish him to do all the Devil wants him to do, so far as the Lord will suffer him and the Devil to chastise this people for their good... The mob only had power to drive the Saints to their duty, and to remember the Lord their God, and that is all the Indians can do. This people are worldly-minded, they want to get rich in earthly substance, and are apt to forget their God, the pit from which they were dug and the rock from which they were hewn, every man turning to his own way. Seemingly the Lord is chastening us until we turn and do His will.

It wasn't uncommon in those days for a member of the congregation or a leader on the stand to reply to an address, and in this instance, W. W. Phelps chimed in as Brigham spoke:
[W.W. Phelps in the stand: ‘We could not do very well without a devil.’] No, sir, you are quite aware of that; you know we could not do without him. If there had been no devil to tempt Eve, she never would have got her eyes opened. We need a devil to stir up the wicked on the earth to purify the Saints. Therefore let devils howl, let them rage…
This calls to mind some verses from the Book of Mormon where it seems the same principle is advanced:
And the Lord God said unto me: [the Lamanites] shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in remembrance of me; and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge them even unto destruction (2 Nephi 5:25).
And again in Helaman 12:
And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; yea, we can see that the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper who put their trust in him. Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies that they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One—yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity. And thus we see that except the Lord doth his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him (Helaman 12:1-3).
Brigham concluded by telling the saints they may have to kill an Indian in self-defense, but the rule was to let them alone, even try to help them, if possible:
Do you want to run after them to kill them? I say, let them alone, for peradventure God may pour out His Spirit upon them, and show them the error of their ways. We may yet have to fight them, though they are of the house of Israel to whom the message of salvation is sent; for their wickedness is so great, that the Lord Almighty cannot get at the hearts of the older ones to teach them saving principles... Shall we slay them simply because they will not obey the Gospel? No. But they will come to us and try to kill us, and we shall be under the necessity of killing them to save our own lives (Journal of Discourses 1:162-172).
Brother Brigham encouraged the saints to help rather than hurt their enemies. All of us have struggles with others, even with members of our own families and close friends. The principle here is that when troubles come, especially those we believe are caused by others, we ought to be reminded of God, and of the mercy he extends us. We ought to be ready and willing to extend that mercy to others. The chastening can harden or soften us, depending what we do with it. Brigham held a peace council with Chief Walker the following Spring where he sat with him and passed the peace pipe. It helped settle the tense situation, though the relationship was still little strained until Walker died in 1855 at Meadow Creek.

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