October 30 marks a solemn anniversary in Mormon history: "Haun's Mill." Mormonism was born and lived out its first 80 years in violence, more so than any other American religion. These few quick paragraphs from No Man Knows My History by Fawn M. Brodie retell the incident well:
That night a wounded man stumbled into Far West with news that froze the blood of every Saint. The settlement at Haun's Mill had been attacked by two hundred militiamen. The Mormons had fled into the blacksmith shop, which they thought would make an admirable fort, but it had proved instead to be a slaughterhouse. Great cracks yawned between the logs of the shop, and the Missourians, hiding behind trees, picked off the Mormons at their leisure as if they had been killing cattle in a pen. When the women fled toward the brush, the men shot at them in derision. Old Thomas McBride fell wounded and surrendered his gun, whereupon one of the mob coolly hacked him to pieces with a corn-cutter.
After shooting down every Mormon they could see, the mob entered the blacksmith shop to finish off the wounded. They found nine-year-old Sardius Smith hiding under the bellows. His younger brother, shot through the hip, and pretending to be dead, heard the men drag Sardius out from his hiding-place. "Don't shoot," said one militiaman, "it's just a boy." "It's best to hive them when we can. Nits will make lice," a man replied, and placing his rifle near the boy's head, blew out his brains.
When darkness came, the women crept back to the scene of carnage. Of the thirty-eight men and boys in the camp, seventeen had been slain and fifteen wounded. Fearful that the mob would return, the women lowered the dead into an unfinished well, hid the wounded in the woods, and then, stunned and desolate, made their way toward Far West.
As Reform Mormons entering the final few months of the year, when Daylight Savings Time makes the night seem longer, things get colder, and life seems to wither with winter, Haun's Mill reminds us of the trials and persecution that occurred in our heritage - and the courage of those who persevered.
Did you make resolutions at the beginning of the year? Where do they stand now? Have you completed them? Nothing you are trying to accomplish in your life is likely as challenging as the trails of our Mormon forbearers. We are a people formed and tested in some of the most violent and unjust situations in American history, and we survived and prospered. You have the blood of success in your veins.
When we remember Haun's Mill, we remember that we have been tested, and we have survived. When you light the Sabbath candles this weekend, remember that part of Restoration is completion. To get to completion, you may need to double your efforts, and "gird up your loins, fresh courage take." Remember that after Haun's Mill, the survivors went on to Deseret with the refrain "all is well." It is quintessentially Mormon to demonstrate that courage.