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Remarkable Rockwell: Danite part 4

In 1838 Rockwell signed a document that would be tauted as proof of his membership in a violent secretive band called Danites. The document does not assert that the signatories were part of any group other than the Far West community, but the nature of the document inspired the imaginations of the enemies of the church. The document was presented to some former members of the church that were bitterly critical of Joseph Smith yet were still residing among the Saints. This created resentments in the faithful members of the community. They wanted these “apostates” to leave and go elsewhere so as not to poison their covenant community. A document was drawn up telling them they must leave the community and contained veiled threats of retribution if they did not leave. Though semi-illiterate, Rockwell’s X was included in the eighty three signatures.
This list is commonly believed to be a list of the legendary Danites. The term Danites is understood completely differently by the two opposing sides of the debate, so as to make the debate unnecessarily complicated. The Saints used the term to refer to the Book of Daniel in which Daniel interprets Nebachadnezzar’s dream of the statues made of various metals and then smashed by a rock cut without hands. Detailed in the letters and journals of A.P. rookwood, the community organized a public group whose task it was to provide for the destitute victims of the violence. Their task was to help the victims find, repair or build homes, acquire and distribute food and provide protection from the random mob violence.
Encouraged by former Mormon Simpson Avaard, the would-be-leader of this Danite band, the enemies of the church imagined a violent bloodthirsty and powerful band of men bound by secret oaths and vowing retribution upon apostates and those who exposed the group’s dark secrets. Temporarily trusted by church leaders, Avaard did try to organize such an order with promises that the church leadership approved of his actions. However, his success was short lived when members began to question his tactics of murder, robbery and intimidation, and members began to revolt. Exposed for his treachery, he then fled the church and joined the Missourians who persecuted the Saints. He exposed the bloody acts he envisioned for the band while conveniently shifting all blame to Joseph Smith. Even the vengeful Missourians saw through his self serving tales. In the end, Avaard was not even credible enough to help in the eventual legal case against Joseph Smith. However, they were exactly what the gossips needed to build up a fantastic reputation for Porter Rockwell. Newspapers and rumors would carry these tales far and wide chasing Rockwell until his death. Fear of the Danites was rampant among the non-Mormon population and the Saints capitalized on this fear for their self defense.
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