an archive of unsettling histories, mythistories, and mystories
from U.S. & Mormon settler colonialism, white supremacy, and imperialism
from U.S. & Mormon settler colonialism, white supremacy, and imperialism
Prophet, Priest, King, Judge, Lieutenant General, Mayor, Presidential Candidate, Seer, Astrologist, Capricorn, Treasure Seeker, Scryer, Fraud and Founder of the Mormonism—Joseph Smith. 38years old. Murdered in Carthage Jail. 1844.
This is about Utah Pioneer Day.
I start with Joseph Smith ’s martyr story because the one I learned left out some context and it’s the catalyst for all that is Utah Mormonism.
Mormons are/were a Zionist religion. They gather. So when they move they bring a political and economic power block. Which upsets the settlers who’ve already claimed the areas Mormons try to settle. I don’t know the details to say yea or nay But people with power displacing People in an established area tends to be unjust.
So, it’s so-called 1844, in
Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Sioux),
Sauk and Meskwaki,
and Peoria lands,
or so-called Nauvoo, Ill.
Joseph Smith’s a polygamist. He’s got a town of which he is the Mayor and a militia of which he is Lieutenant General (which ~2/5 the size of the U.S. army at the time).
People joining in from all over, thanks to men he’s sent off on missions (and then often marries [rapes] those mens’ wives). He’s got a U.S Presidential Campaign running with missionaries campaigning for him across the country and plans to settle in Indigenous lands settlers stole and called Oregon and California.
But he upset some of his inner-circle with polygamy (some felt isn’t wasn’t being taken advantage of enough). These men make a printing press to tell all. As Mayor and Lt General Joseph Smith ordered his militia: “Destroy the press”
The Illinois Governor is then like, “Too far!” And with Missouri breathing down his neck to extradite Smith, he orders for Joseph’s arrest
Joseph Smith is about to sneak to the so-called Rocky Mountains with his henchmen Porter Rockwell. But there’s a DM from his wife, Emma urging Smith to return and give himself up, show courage to his friends who accuse him of cowardice.
He’s arrested and murdered in his cell by People angry about things that were true and some things that were not true as none of the (white) men involved were respectable.
Truth in Mormonism has been an amorphous thing from its origins.
Chosen Whiteness and Indigenous Erasure in Mormonism, pt. 3: settler-colonial mythistries of the U.S.
Mormonism was Made In The U.S.A. – made on stolen Indigenous lands. Like the U.S. military, car companies, and the Boy Scouts, Mormonism also loves to Play Indian while attempting to naturalize their whiteness and/or Christianity in this land.
The mythistoric beginnings of life on earth in Mormonism occur in the Garden of Eden. Like other forms of US protestant-Christianity, Mormon-Adam and Eve are depicted as a skinny, cisgender, hetero, abled, white couple surrounded by charismatic megafauna from all over the world. Unlike other forms of US protestant-Christianity, Mormon-Adam and Eve are created on this continent, in so-called Adam-ondi-Ahman, in so-called Missouri, on Osage, Kiikaapoi, and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ lands.
This is also where Joseph Smith planned to build his own settler-State of Zion to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ.
This mythistry serves to both naturalize and deify whiteness and Christianity in this land. And like the Doctrine of Discovery, this narrative attempts to grant the Mormon Church – as the only Church with this supposed knowledge – divine rights to the lands.
My Great Grandma’s genealogy record goes back to Adam and Eve – fabricating hereditary ties to these stolen lands – reifying this settler-mythistry in my family history.
Mormonism teaches that God purified this continent during the Flood of Noah by committing complete genocide on all of its life.
Later, God gives his Promised Land to Lehi’s People – ancient-Israeli migrants who were white and conventionally attractive. God’s People lose the land after all the white Christians in story are killed by the “cursed” brown People.
History is blended with fiction in the Book of Mormon when an ancient white Prophet prophecies Columbus's so-called discovery of God's Promised Land. The Mormon-American history narrative continues, teaching that God guided Columbus to restore white-Christianity to His “Promised Land." This narrative doesn't address the fact that in the 100 years after Columbus's invasion of this land, 90% of its Indigenous People are killed by colonialism.
Continuing with the Mormon-America mythistry: Columbus's restoration of white Christianity to this land laid the foundation for “Our Divine Constitution” to be written and signed by a group of wealthy, white-supremacist, Christian, human-owning men who were supposedly guided by God to lay the religious-freedom-foundations necessary for the Restoration of the Only True Church.
Nineteenth century Indian-fetishes and Indigenous genocide helped Joseph Smith built a religious movement on (mis)appropriation of Indigenous lands and cultures. The Manifest Destiny-era of the U.S. settler project help Brigham Young and my People occupy the “vales of Utah” and build their Zionist State in preparation for the End of Days. This mythistry and history are soaked in the white-supremacist, settler-colonial violence of its time.
“And behold the whiteness thereof did exceed all the whiteness, yea, even there could be nothing upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof.” - 3 Nephi 19:25
In the early 1800’s, when Joseph Smith was a boy, it was a common for the everyday white-supremacist of the time to believe that some ancient white people emigrated to this land long-ago, but were eventually wiped out by the ancestors of contemporary Indigenous People. This belief is rooted in their white-supremacist ideologies which say that only white people can build the kinds of structures, cultures, and civilizations that Europeans witnessed in the earthworks of the Moundbuilder nations and temples of Maya, Inca, Aztecs, and Olmecs. This white-supremacist logic lives not only in the Book of Mormon but in the popular conspiracy theories of "Ancient Aliens".
In this mythistry, the existence of these structures IS proof that some ancient white people have been here. So the next questions become: What happened to these Peoples? Where are they now?
As a record of its time, the 19th century, the Book of Mormon imagines answers to these questions.
The Book of Mormon introduces itself as "a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas, the [white] Nephites and the [dark] Lamanites." After centuries of war the Nephites are completely wiped out by the Lamanites who "are among the ancestors* of the American Indians." (*until 2007 this text read, “the principle ancestors”)
The main storyline of the Book of Mormon begins with Lehi’s family who are described as a “white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome" people. They are Chosen by God to populate and replenish this Promised Land. This family arrives around 600 B.C. and shortly split into two groups: Nephites and Lamanites. The Nephites “were generally more righteous than” the Lamanites, who rebelled against their God, father, and brothers.
The Lamanites "were led by their evil nature (and) they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness."
To keep the "generally more righteous" Nephites from intermarrying with these evil-natured Lamanites, God cursed the Lamanites. "As they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome that they might not be enticing unto (the Nephites) the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon (the Lamanites)." God went on to warn the Nephites that if any of "the seed of (the Nephites) mixeth with (Lamanite) seed ... they shall be cursed" with the same "skin of blackness" curse.
But this white God is a merciful white-supremacist, so he makes the Lamanites and their posterity, "the American Indians," an “optimistic promise." If the Lamanites or "American Indians" forsake their People’s lifeways and accept the Book of Mormon as their history and Mormonism as their religion then “they shall (become) a pure and a delightsome People," “white like unto the Nephites,” who are “a civil and delightsome People.”
So, basically, Mormonism teaches that contemporary Indigenous Peoples are descendants of ancient white Israelis who lost their rights to this so-called Promised Land when they were cursed with "a skin of blackness" which they still carry. But if they assimilate to Mormonism and stop living their Indigenous lifeways, they will have their curse of dark skin lifted and they'll return to their original state as a pure, white, and attractive people again.
a b o o k o f r e c k o n i n g
in vulnerability and submission
A found-object poem built from the three canonical, sacred, and exclusively Mormon texts: "The Book of Mormon", the "Doctrine and Convenants", and the "Pearl of Great Price". Each text object was chosen to tell a story that would highlight the white-supremacist, racist, and terraphobic language found throughout these texts, so that we may be able to reckon with it.
Warning to readers: Some of this language is violent.
And some of you may need no reminder of this sort of violence.
"The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas... The record gives an account of two great civilizations. One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C. and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites... After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principle* / among the ancestors of the American Indians." - Introduction to the Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith Jr., et al.
1 Wherefore, this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion. | Do not suffer any unclean thing to come into it, that it be not defiled, | that I may reserve unto myself a pure people before me | having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God. | These are made white in the blood of the Lamb | that we may be purified even as he is pure. |
2 And, as I, the Lord, in the beginning cursed the land | and the earth with a sore curse, and was angry. | For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever. |
3 And the Lord cursed the earth with a sore curse, and many of the inhabitants thereof died. |
4 By nature, they fall. | And behold I will destroy all flesh from off the earth. |
5 Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying: Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children. When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me? When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest? |
6 And when Enoch heard the earth mourn, he wept, and cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, wilt thou not have compassion upon the earth? |
7 And the Lord said: I will destroy man whom I have created, from the face of the earth, both man and beast, and the creeping things, and the fowls of the air; | for the presence of the Lord shall be as the melting fire that burneth, and as the fire which causeth the waters to boil | and consume the wicked with unquenchable fire. |
8 And the day cometh that they must be burned. | And the earth shall pass away so as by fire | that I may reserve unto myself a pure people before me. |
9 Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. | | | Touch not that which is unclean. | Save yourselves. | |
10 Be ye clean | | | and chasten her until she overcomes and is clean before me | white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; | a virgin. And she was exceedingly fair and white. | And behold the whiteness thereof did exceed all the whiteness, yea, even there could be nothing upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof. |
11 Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins. | I will curse them even with a sore curse, and they shall have no power. |
12 Wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. |
13 They became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations. |
14 And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them. |
15 This people shall be scattered, and shall become a dark, a filthy, and a loathsome people, beyond the description of that which ever hath been amongst us. |
16 They were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness. | Cursed shall be the land for their sakes. |
17 And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done. |
18 And their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white** / pure and a delightsome people, | white like unto the Nephites, | a civil and a delightsome people. |
19 And the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose | that they may once again be a delightsome people. | For ye shall be a delightsome land, | yea, exceeding of all beauty. |
20 And the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow, | A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins. |
21 I fear that their skins will be whiter than yours. |
22 This is Zion—the pure in heart | have shed innocent blood, which crieth from the ground against them. |
23 And now I ask of you, having your garments stained with blood: Behold, what will these things testify against you? |
*words changed in the 2007 edition of the Book of Mormon
**word changed in 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon
“He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey”
- Deuteronomy 26:9
~44,000-year-old Indonesian cave-paintings of cows
~15,000-year-old Spanish cave-paintings of bees.
~7,000-year-old fermented Mesopotamian milk and Chinese honey
~4,000-year-old hieroglyphs of dairying and apiculture in Egypt.
~21 “milk and honey” 's in the Old Testament
and 2 “golden calves”s
Human interdependence with honeybees and cows is very old. Just not in this land.*
(*Maya do have a beekeeping practice with Indigenous stingless that's at least 2000 years old bees.)
“The honeybee is not a native of our continent. The bees have [gone] a little in advance of white settlers. Indians call them ‘white man's fly,’ and consider their approach as indicating the approach of settlements of whites.”
- Thomas Jefferson
Colonists imported honeybees and cows were into the colonies in 1622 and 1624, respectively. Euro-bees went feral and migrated inland pollinating Euro-grasses which Euro-cows then fed on. European-settlers imported their multi-species relationships to this land which devastated the indigenous ecologies and Indigenous life ways. In addition to military and biological warfare, settlers also practiced the "destroy and replace" logic of settler colonialism ecologically.
Through colonization, the Holstein cow (most common dairy cow) and the European honeybee are now on every continent expect Antarctica.
The first Mormons settlers imported 13 bee hives, 887 cows, and many seeds into Indigenous lands intent to make this “wilderness blossom” into a land of milk and honey.
Like the Mormon population, the cow population exponentially grew in the early decades of invasion. By 1850 Utah had ~12,000 cattle. Forty years later, ~280,000 cattle helped colonize this land. Today there are over 1 million cows in so-called Utah, with ~ a million of acres of land covered by monoculture cattle-feed crops, limiting land for biodiversity.
Symbolically, the beehive also spread over the land. It’s all over church and state owned stuff as when Mormons were forced to name the lands they’d stolen “Utah” instead of “Deseret,” a Book of Mormon word for “honeybee,” they kept the Beehive, a symbol of their secularized Kingdom of God.
We treated this land like we imagined it: pure, virgin, untouched, empty. (The first step is to white-out.) Then we/they imported plants and animals and the symbolic meanings we/they attach to them.
We destroyed Indigenous peoples, plants and animals, and their interdependent ecologies and manifest destinied an industrialized monoculture in our Land of Milk and Honey.
There are ~20,000 bee species in the world.
~4,000 of them are native to the so-called U.S.
~10% of these bees have yet to be described.
~1,100 species are native to so-called Utah.
~1 in 6 bee species is endangered.
No cattle are Indigenous to this land.
Native bees pollinate ~80% of the world’s flowering plants . Many of those plants evolved a specialized relationship with a specific bee species. The tiny “Perdita meconis” is one for a native white poppy which grows only in the gypsum-rich soils in Nuwu lands (Wash Co., UT).
After millenia of interdependence, both are endangered after a few decades of mining, off-roading, urban development, and bee keeping.
Euro honeybees escape their hives and go feral. Feral bees, as generalist, out-compete native pollinators, especially Indigenous specialists. Native plants, without their bees, die off.
Native bees pollinate about 80% of the world's flowering plants.
About one-third of our food is dependent on trucking honeybees to pollinate monocultures, like almond, cherry, apple, raspberry, or avocado orchards (worth ~$3 billion in services) which increasingly spreads feral honeybee populations across the land.
Ongoing domestication of this bee and cow (to increase the milk and honey we get from them) has had negative impacts on their lives, too. Modern dairying is a quotidian horror and our pesticide use created a Colony Collapse Disorder epidemic
Simultaneously, the global number of beehives has doubled since 1960 and cows occupy about 60% of the biomass of mammals (humans, 36%. wild mammals, 4%). And about 23% of native bees here have died off due to habitat loss and pesticide use (amid a 75% global decline in insects).
Indigenous Peoples as only 5% of the world's human population protect 80% of the planet's remaining biodiversity on about 25% of the land.
Human relations with cattle in the arid west is a source of Indigenous genocide, catalyst for the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the leading cause of species endangerment and environmental devastation and directly responsible for the ongoing massacre of wolves, bear, coyotes, foxes, snakes and on and on and on
In our pursuit of happiness, as we attempt(ed) to white-out multiplicities of Indigenous lives to build our Land of Milk and Honey on stolen lands. We spread our milk and honey all over the world creating extinction-level biodiversity imbalances, while erasing interconnected cultural, linguistic, and ecological diversity / relationships.
I am nicholas b jacobsen, an artist, researcher, historian, educator, and organizer. I am a trans-non binary Euro-settler raised in the Nuwu lands of so-called Utah. My family has been Mormon and Utahn for as long as either of those concepts have existed. My ancestors sacrificed everything--their identities, homelands, jobs, health, & safety to become Mormon, Utahn, U.S. American, & white--to settler their Zion. I take it as my personal responsibility to unsettle what my ancestors settled. and to help my fellow settlers do the same through writing, art, and community building.