Your posterity shall “avenge the blood of the Prophets and Patriarchs” with the help of savage Indian warriors

John HamerCulture, Mormon 19 Comments

I’ve finally finished my review of Michael Marquardt’s Early Patriarchal Blessings volume for the next JWHA Journal. This fascinating new resource is a compilation of patriarchal blessings given by Joseph Smith Jr., Joseph Smith Sr., Hyrum Smith, and William Smith. I’ve posted previously about how Joseph Sr.’s blessings illustrate his continuing preoccupation with buried treasure and spiritual gifts that we today would consider magical.

When Hyrum succeeds his father, promises of the ability to “translate” oneself from planet to planet end. Hyrum is more likely to promise wisdom than earthly treasures and his superior education (he attended a free school associated with Dartmouth) is highlighted through more sophisticated biblical references.

William is the first presiding patriarch in the LDS tradition in the period after the end of the early church. Because of his wife’s ill health, he did not return to Nauvoo for his ordination for nearly a year after Joseph and Hyrum’s martrydom. Six months later he broke with Brigham Young, but in the meantime he recorded almost as many blessings as his father had in six years, and nearly five times as many blessings as Hyrum had in four years.

William’s blessings are different from his father’s and from his brother’s. His strong interests are in the cause of Zion, the blessings of the temple, and the power and authority of blood descent from the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and especially Joseph, and then through Ephraim to the Saints. Although Joseph Sr. and Hyrum spoke of this literal blood inheritance, William almost invariably emphasizes the “royal” nature of this “seed.” For example, he promised Anna Ballantyne: “thou art truly one of the seed of Israel a full blooded Josephite for the blood of the Prophets and of the Royal seed runs in thy veins” (p. 262).

Interestingly, unlike Joseph Sr. and Hyrum, William will also prophecy in a way that almost feels like he is revealing new scripture. I was particularly fascinated by a revelation given in Abigail Abbott’s patriarchal blessing:

One of thy posterity named after the name of his father, and after the name of his Great Grandfather, who was a descendant from the tribe of Judah, and of the household of David, shall be a mighty warrior, and be led on to avenge the blood of the Prophets and Patriarchs, he shall lead a mighty people from the wilderness

and one mighty among them who shall be also a mighty warrior by the name of Nishcosh, he shall be a descendent of one of the name of Nimrod, who was also a descendent of that Nimrod, who was a mighty hunter in the days of old, by way of the Jaredites upon this country, who founded a city and called it the city of Gnoalum, this city now lying in ruins the wreck of which only appears as the last descriptive monument of a people that has fallen, and the remnants of whom have become barbarous, wild and uncultivated,

this shall be in a day when the judgements of God are abroad among the Gentiles, and by his hot displeasure the almighty God is vexing the nations of the earth and when the time of Zion’s deliverance has come, and thy seed shall behold it for it is not far distant (p. 244).

If the contents of patriarchal blessings are an indication of the expectations and beliefs of early members, how shall we read this blessing given just one year after the martyrdom?

Comments 19

  1. It’s too bad that this work was released in a limited pricey edition – which mean only a small number of people will encounter it. I hope it will find it’s way into a trade form someday, but I doubt it.

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    Dallas (#1) I couldn’t agree more. Last fall in Kirtland when I saw Tom Kimball with this book and learned there were only 500, I ran to Bill Russell (book review editor of the JWHA Journal) and quickly volunteered to be the reviewer. Tom then gave Bill the copy that’s now in my hands. The contents of these blessings are so fascinating that my review blossomed into a “review essay” about 4,700 words long — so I don’t feel guilty.

    Ray (#2) Definitely an editorial addition by me to make a flashy title. I’m interpreting the “barbarous, wild and uncultivated” people in the wilderness who are descended from the Jaredites to mean a group of “savage Indians”. I think it’s a sensible interpretation, but it’s only an interpretation.

  3. I figured so.

    As an aside, it is interesting to me to place “savage Indians” in a PB as descendants of *Jaredites*, particularly with what I just wrote on the BofM thread before reading this post.

  4. It was actually a bargain compared to previous volumes in the publication series. ($70 compared to $125 for Lisle Brown’s volume). Still, the printing sold out in just a couple of weeks. This volume’s impact is vast and wide ranging.

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    Ray (#4): I agree that it’s fascinating. To me, the implication is that William believed that at least a remnant of the Jaredites survived in the wilderness and that not all Indians are Lamanites — but that some are Jaredites.

    J (#5): They’re apparently selling for between $195 and $385 on Amazon now. In terms of impact, I agree & I’ve hardly scratched the surface of the potential in these two blog posts.

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    John (#7): She was born Abigail Smith on 11 Sept. 1806 in Williamson, (Ontario Co.) Wayne Co., New York, the daughter of James Smith and Lydia Lucina Harding Smith, and she died 23 July 1889 in Willard, Box Elder Co., Utah. She apparently had 8 children who lived to adulthood: Abigail Abbott Zundel, Lydia Lucina Abbott Squires, Phebe Abigail Abbott Brown Fife, Charilla Abbott Browning, Abiel Abbott, Emily Abbott Bunker, Myron Abbott, and Cynthia Abbott Fife.

    Anybody here related to those folks? And, if so, do you have a friend named Nishcosh?

  7. Some great quotes John from Mike’s book. I want to second J.’s comment that the book really is a steal with the original price of $70.00 and Amazon had a few copies in the $45.00 range early on. When one considers it took Mike 30 + years to gather all these blessings and how well the book is put together it may have been the best deal for a book in the last decade. As I tell folks this is it if one wants to glimpse into the religious mind of Joseph Smith Sr. and really one could say the same about Hyrum and William as you point out. As Lythgoe said in his review this is a precious book.

    As for your question. I see this as part of the millennial ideology much like Uncle John and John Smith’s blessings. It seems to have been a theme for the nineteenth century when it comes to blessings. It spilled over into the twentieth, but clearly not as militant. It has been many years since I read Irene’s essay on blessing. I think we aught to crack open the old Dialogue and see what Irene says about these differences and timing. Thank you for bring up Mike’s book again, I think it will be one of the books people will turn to for understanding the charismatic side of Mormonism for many many years. It will be one of the most sought after by those who want to feel this charisma.

  8. Abigal Abbott’s daughter, Charilla, married into the Browning family. The Brownings were inventors and gunsmiths. John Browning invented the 45 cal. machine gun and the Browning automatic rifle. These weapons greatly influenced the outcome of WWI and subsequent wars. Some might be able to bend the Browning connection to partial fulfillment of prophesy, but alas, Charilla married John Browning’s brother, David, and their decendants weren’t involved in the firearms business.

  9. Great post, John; I am looking forward to your full review.

    I agree with the rest of you: this book has some great implications. I am actually preparing a paper for JWHA on a topic found while perusing early patriarchal blessings.

  10. John,

    I came across your name during an internet search for images of LDS temples. I found a diagram of LDS temples on wikipedia that was attributed to you and wondered about it. It looks like a collection of Google sketchup models. Did you create these or take them from Google Earth? Do you know if they are to scale? I could not find an email address for you online so I hope that you get this and respond. My email is

    Thanks so much,

  11. I came accross this site, and felt I needed to respond. Abigail Smith Abbott is my husbands great, great grandmother. Abigail Abbott Zundel is his great grandmother. We own the home (that still stands), where Abigail and Abraham Zundel lived. It is also the home where Abigail Smith Abbott, passed away. Within this home were many letters, pictures, journal, and other documents of interest from the families, including Abigail Smith Abbott and her children. As far as I know no one has a friend named Nishkosh. I can tell you from reading the letters they very much loved the Mormon church and were very faithfull to the religion. Please let me know if you would like me to look up anything in particular about the family.


  12. My great,great,great,grandmother is Abigail Smith Abbott through my paternal grandmother. Through the years I have gathered information about her. Her history is remarkable. I feel that I know her and have great admiration for her. So far, I have no knowledge of her unusual patriarchal blessingg being fulfilled as writen. It is possible that some of my decendants will live to fulfill the blessing, for they are Hawaiian, and etc. I would love to see the letters that Sherry Zundel has. I have visited the home of Abraham and Abigail Zundel. Perhaps I talked to you. i will try to contact you.

  13. Had I stayed in the family, and not been adopted into the Beckstead family as an infant (the son of Karl Richard Josephson), another great pioneer family in Utah, my last name would have been  Josephson, a great grandson of Joseph Josephson and Sarah Zundel, a great-great-grandson of Abigail Abbot Zundel.  So far I don’t seem to have been chosen for this task :-}.

  14. Sherry, I am also a descendent of Abigail Smith Abbott through the Zundels and would love to hear more about Abraham and Abigail. I found information on another site that made it sound like this blessing was for Abigail Abbott Zundel, but saw that the blessing was given only three years after her birth, so I am glad to see it clarified as Abigail Smith Abbott. Please email me at

    Mary Ellen

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