In 1838 Missouri, certain Mormons organized in a secret paramilitary organization called the Danites, led by Sampson Avard, who later left the Church. Many Mormons then disavowed the Danite movement, portraying it as lies concocted by Avard. When Leland Gentry wrote his groundbreaking 1965 thesis about the 1838 Mormon War, however, he reported that irrefutable evidence showed loyal Mormons had been involved in the group. One crucial issue at stake is the question of whether Joseph Smith was involved in the Danite movement. He certainly attended Danite meetings and possibly knew Danite passwords, though the evidence for this from Luman Shurtliff’s diary is ambiguous.
TODD COMPTON, D. MICHAEL QUINN