Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Porter Rockwell's Birthday

Today is Owen Porter Rockwell’s 203rd birthday. Much of what has been written about Porter Rockwell was written by anti-Mormons and enemies of the Church. Port did not read or write so he could not write about himself or keep a journal. Those against the Church seem to be against anything and everything to do with the Church. It goes along with my theory that most who leave the Church, can’t leave the Church alone. Just as the worst enemies of the righteous Nephites were the Lamanites who were Nephites! Things never change.
After Porter died in 1878 the Salt Lake Tribune wrote some nasty things about Port. Yet Apostles and Prophets had mostly good to say about him. Who do you believe? I choose to believe those who actually knew him and knew him well. The Salt Lake Tribune is still the rag it’s always been and it still paints the Church in the worst possible light.

At Porter’s funeral the young Apostle Joseph F. Smith, son of Hyrum Smith and nephew of the Prophet Joseph Smith, painted a very different picture of Porter when he said, “He had his little faults, but Porter’s life on earth, taken altogether, was one worthy of example, and reflected honor upon the Church. Through all the trials he has never once forgotten his obligations to his brethren and his God.”

Porter Rockwell at times resorted to violence. We know of approximately twenty-four men who lost their lives to his gun. In the majority of these instances, he was bringing outlaws to justice in his lawfully appointed role as deputy marshal. In other cases he was defending his own life. After dispatching his would-be murderers, Rockwell always dutifully turned himself in to be tried in the appropriate court of law. For each of these trials he was exonerated as having acted in self-defense.

Porter Rockwell was connected to the founding of the Church since the beginning. As the ninth person to be baptized into the Church on April 6, 1830, no one was more directly involved in the growth of the Church in its infancy than Porter Rockwell, and the life he led was crucial to its survival.
Porter was the man who rowed Joseph Smith across the river on the night that he hoped to find refuge in the West, and it was Porter who rowed him back across the river to face his death at Carthage.
It was Porter who served as the lead scout for the original Brigham Young wagon train when it first entered the Great Salt Lake valley. Porter was one of those who successfully harassed the invading Johnston’s army, slowing their arrival to the outskirts of Salt Lake City long enough that the residents could abandon their homes in preparation for a final war. These are just a handful of the meaningful moments that Porter Rockwell participated in throughout the early history of the Church.

Although more than seven years younger than Joseph Smith, Porter Rockwell was great friends with Joseph from childhood. Porter told Joseph Smith III after his father’s death that “they have killed the only friend I have.” Joseph Smith had no more loyal and devoted friend and defender than Porter Rockwell. He depended on him for his life.
Porter was extremely skilled in handling firearms. After his home was literally torn apart by mobs (the roof, the walls, and the floorboards torn apart by marauders on horseback while his terrified wife stood looking on), Porter resolved that he would never be unarmed again, and he went into the woods to practice his shooting skills until no one was his equal with a weapon.
He was relatively short – 5’6″ tall, which was ordinary for the day even though short by today’s standards. He was very powerfully built with muscular arms and chest. Porter wore his hair and beard long and uncut for a reason. After a very difficult imprisonment on false charges, Joseph Smith blessed him that as long as he didn’t cut his hair, no bullet or knife could harm him. Porter believed this to be a literal blessing, which he put to the test on numerous occasions. That is why he is often called a “modern-day Sampson.”
There is much to admire in Porter Rockwell. There are also events that make us uncomfortable.
In my estimation he was a defender of the faith. Many in and out of the Church are uncomfortable with Porter Rockwell. It is my guess that those who are uncomfortable with him are uncomfortable with violence. Some people are squeamish with any type of contention and are equally squeamish with violence. I’m not saying we should like violence and contention but like Porter, we should stand and defend and not shrink. Owen Porter Rockwell defended the Prophet at a time when some of his friends would not. He defended the Church to the very end. I choose to remember him with reverence and honor.

Semper Paratus
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