Porter Rockwell was a frontiersman, Utah pioneer and plainsman, and
reputed Mormon "Destroying Angel." This controversial and colorful figure
was characterized in newspapers and journals of his day as a notorious
gunman and religious zealot. He was born in Belcher, Hampshire County,
Massachusetts, in 1813 and was one of the early converts to the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
a settler in Jackson County, Missouri, in the mid-1830s, he was caught
up in the so-called Mormon War of 1838, in which Missourians acting
under an "extermination order" issued by Governor Lilburn W. Boggs drove
the Mormons from the state. It was during this turbulent period that
Rockwell became identified with the "Danites," a band of Mormon stalwarts
who organized for the defense of fellow church members against their
antagonists. In 1842 Rockwell was accused of the attempted assassination
of Boggs, the man who had ordered the expulsion of the Mormons four
years earlier. Boggs survived the shooting, and after months in Missouri
jails Rockwell was freed when no indictment was brought against him.
It was on his return to Nauvoo, Illinois, where the church had relocated,
that Rockwell became the subject of an astonishing prophecy by Mormon
leader Joseph Smith on Christmas day of 1843. Smith said that as long
as Rockwell remained loyal and true to his faith, he need fear no enemy:
"Cut not thy hair and no bullet or blade can harm thee!"