LDS Church spokesman Myron Brunchmeyer has announced that the BYU Media Department will produce an historically accurate film on the life of Thomas B. Marsh, an original member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Thomas B. Marsh is often used in Church Sunday School lessons as an example of someone who became offended and left the Church over something trivial. George A. Smith claimed in an 1864 sermon that Marsh had left the church because of a dispute between his wife and other Mormon women over a milk cow (milk strippings).
Brunchmeyer said that the film will show that the reasons were more complex. He gave the following overview.
By early June 1838, some of the more zealous Mormons in Far West, Missouri, led by Sampson Avard, formed a society which came to be known as the “Danites.” According to Marsh, these men swore oaths to “support the heads of the church in all things that they say or do, whether right or wrong.”
Two of these Danites, Jared Carter and Dimick B. Huntington, proposed at a meeting that the society should kill dissenters. Marsh and fellow moderate, John Corrill, spoke vigorously against the motion.
Sidney Rigdon issued his “Salt Sermon” on the following Sunday, in which he likened the dissenters to salt that had lost its savor and was “good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” Within a week the dissenters had fled the county.
Although concerned about these events, Marsh remained in the church until late October. According to his sworn testimony, Marsh claimed that a Mormon invasion of Daviess County and the subsequent looting and burning of non-Mormon settlements, including Gallatin, the county seat, were the acts that caused him to leave. Marsh stated:
“A company of about eighty of the Mormons, commanded by a man fictitiously named Captain Fearnot [David W. Patten], marched to Gallatin. They returned and said they had run off from Gallatin twenty or thirty men and had taken Gallatin, had taken one prisoner and another had joined the company. I afterwards learned from the Mormons that they had burned Gallatin, and that it was done by the aforesaid company that marched there. The Mormons informed me that they had hauled away all the goods from the store in Gallatin, and deposited them at the Bishop’s storehouses at Adam-on-diahmon”
On October 19, 1838, the day after Gallatin was burned, Thomas B. Marsh and fellow apostle Orson Hyde left the association of the Church. Marsh drafted and signed a legal affidavit against Joseph Smith on October 24, 1838, which Hyde also signed. In addition to reporting on the organization of the Danites and on the events in Daviess County, Marsh reported rumors that the Danites had set up a “destroying company” and that “if the people of Clay & Ray made any movement against them, this destroying company was to burn Liberty & Richmond.” He further stated his belief that Joseph Smith planned “to take the State, & he professes to his people to intend taking the U.S. & ultimately the whole world.”
Marsh was rebaptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City in 1857.
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– Tom Irvine