“The Science of Anti-Mormon Suckerology”: Parley P. Pratt and Early Mormon Apologetics

By April 14, 2009

I came across the following article while looking for something else in Samuel Brannan’s The Prophet yesterday.  It was authored by Parley P. Pratt and published in May 1845. I had never heard of it or come across it anywhere else [1], and thought readers might find it useful (or at least entertaining). Entitled, “The Science of Anti-Mormon Suckerology—Its Learned Terms, and their Significations,” (perhaps the best title ever for a piece in a Mormon periodical) the article is written in response to the increasing number of articles on the Mormons that had begun to appear in popular and significant newspapers in America following the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. It provides (often humorous, always polemical) definitions for various terms that Pratt feels the general reader may not be familiar with. Perhaps more significantly for interested researchers, it speaks to early Mormon understandings of their place in America as true patriots and sincere religionists. It also probably deserves a closer reading through the lens of gender, race, and ethnicity. I’m interested in any and all reactions to what stands out to readers. Enjoy.

The Science of Anti-Mormon Suckerology—Its Learned Terms, and their Significations.

The foregoing article, which appeared in the New York Tribune last week, as well as other articles which are some times seem in the Warsaw Signal, Quincy Whig, and Alton Telegraph, and some othor papers contain terms peculiar to anti Mormon Suckerism.

Or rather, some of the terms in use in these articles have a meaning peculiar to those singular people, and therefore not rightly understood abroad without an Anti Mormon Sucker Dictionary.

The following list of terms and their significance, will aid the general reader, in some measure and give him the key to the better understanding of the Anti Mormon Sucker communications, which have, or may hereafter appear in the Tribune, and other like papers.

The significations here given, however, may not be perfect, as we only form out judgment of their meaning from our knowledge of the circumstances to which they refer, or from a careful examination of the sense of th sentences, with which they stand connected.

Mormon.—A believer in revealed religion; a patriot, who stands firmly for the laws of his country, and for equal rights and protection.

Jack Mormon.—One who may not be a member of a church, but makes common cause with the Mormons and all other good citizens, for the maintainance of right, and a just and equitable administration of the law.

Anti-Mormon.—A mobber. A man opposed to the laws of his country; an instigator and justifier of murder, and of driving men, women, and children from their homes and plundering them of their property.

The Whites.—Artificial black men. Murderers who paint themselves black in order that they may not be know when they commit a crime.—This term is also sometimes applied to men who neither paint nor murder in person, but who justify and approve of those who do.

Old Citizens.—Early settlers of the county of Hancock, who disapprove of law and order, and who have combined in a mob to murder, drive, and plunder the Mormons, or to justify and defend those who do murder. The term old citizens also applies to all of the mob party, no matter whether they are citizens at all or whether they have been in the county three days or one.

New Comers, (or Intruders.)—The oldest citizens of the county, who first settled it, and who were the farmers and office holders before the Mormons settled there, but who have since either joined them in religious fellowship, or united with them in endeavoring to preserve the peace, and put down mobs. To such characters, even if they were the pioneers of the country, the Anti Mormon Suckerology never allows the term old citizens to be applied.

Gentlemen of High Respectability.—Those who have been indicted by an impartial Grand Jury of their country, for the most cruel, cold blooded and cowardly murder known upon the annals of history, and those who justify and defend them.

Mormon Fortifications.—A garden fence; a common city enclosure of public grounds.

Mormon Fanatics.—Those who believe the Scriptures, and endeavor to practice the worship of God according to the rules therein contained.

Mormon Despotism.—Church government after the Scriptural patterns, as exemplified in the fourth chapter of Ephesians, and throughout the New Testament.

Mormon Tyrant.—A civil magistrate, or other office, elected by the people, but who happens to belong to the church.

Mormon Tyranny.—Any attempt on the part of civil officers to bring mobbers to justice, according to law and their oath of office.

Mormon Treason.—To emigrate to the west; to settle in one place or neighborhood; to build a city or temple; to fence a field; to buy a powder horn; to possess, to purchase or make arms; to do military duty according to law, or even to refuse to do it; to defend ones house, property, wife, children, or even his own life, when attacked by mobs! or even to be united in politics.

Mormon Notions.—Of these there seems in the science of Anti Mormon Suckerology, to be a great variety, too many to mention in a dictionary. We will only give a few of the most [p. 3] queer and singular ones. First, this singular people seem to have a notion to purchase land and settle in the west, and many of them have actually done so. Second. They have a notion to build houses, and to cultivate their land, and get a living. Third. They have a notion to build cities, public halls and houses of worship, and to organize schools and meetings, for the edification and instruction of themselves and children.

Fourth. They have a notion that they are American citizens and have a right to vote, and to share in public offices.

Fifth. They have some how or other got it into their heads lately—according to a correspondent of the Tribune, that lands once purchased, and houses, cities and temples built by them, rightly belong to them, and that themselves, their wives and children have a right to occupy them.

Sixth. They have a notion not to relinquish these supposed rights, at the suggestion of their peaceable and well disposed neighbors, who boldly tell them they shall do it, or be killed. How strange it is that poor deluded ignorant Mormons are not willing to make so reasonable and just a sacrifice, for the sake of peace with the ‘Good peaceable, quiet, inoffensive old citizens’ of the county, who only ask them to either hold still, and let them kill them by just touching a little fire to powder, in an easy, quiet, peaceable and pious manner, and gently blowing their brains out, as they have already done to their leaders.—Or else to let them touch them softly, and gently set them on yon shore, the other side of the Mississippi, while they posses their lands and property. [2]


[1] If anyone has seen this printed (or reprinted) anywhere else, please point it out to me. I’ve put forth no effort to look for it elsewhere.

[2] P.P. Pratt, ?The Science of Anti-Mormon Suckerology,? The Prophet, Vol. 1, No. 51 (May 1845): [pp. 2-3]. I’ve omitted the concluding paragraphs for purposes of brevity and relevance.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. I heart PPP.

    I’ll come back and list some more of my observations later, but I especially enjoy Pratt’s rhetorical shift of placing anti-mormons as anti-america as well.

    Comment by Ben — April 14, 2009 @ 12:46 pm

  2. Priceless! I’ve never seen it before. Most of the definitions were still applicable 30 years later in Utah, and some are still applicable today.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — April 14, 2009 @ 1:26 pm

  3. Nice find, Chris. The portion about Mormon Treason stands out to me. First and foremost is to move out West, which turns the familiar notion of moving West on its head by framing it as Treason rather than as quintessentially American. I wonder whether this type of characterization was, perhaps, more common for the time and evolved into more of a celebratory anthem after Turner.

    Comment by Jared T — April 14, 2009 @ 1:38 pm

  4. gently blowing their brains out….

    I wonder if we could get PPP a guest post for a police beat round table. This guy is funnier than I thought.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — April 14, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

  5. Nice find, Chris. This is a nice distillation of many of the themes PPP had been exploring since 1838. I especially like this one:

    The Whites.?Artificial black men. Murderers who paint themselves black in order that they may not be know when they commit a crime.?This term is also sometimes applied to men who neither paint nor murder in person, but who justify and approve of those who do.

    I also chuckle at the Mormon Treason entry, since it reminds me of an earlier writing where Pratt refers to himself as a “treasoner.”

    Comment by David G. — April 14, 2009 @ 2:21 pm

  6. Probably the most sarcastic apostle ever. It makes his tracts a joy to read.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 14, 2009 @ 2:30 pm

  7. Jared, take a look at Henry Nash Smith’s dated but hugely influential Virgin Land, which traces the place of the West in the nineteenth century and argues that Turner was very much part of a long tradition of defining Americanness through the westward movement.

    Comment by David G. — April 14, 2009 @ 2:59 pm

  8. Wow! I don’t recall ever hearing of this. Thanks a bunch, Chris.

    Those Mormons with their wacky Notions.

    Comment by Ben Pratt — April 14, 2009 @ 3:13 pm

  9. Is there a carpology?

    Comment by smb — April 14, 2009 @ 7:51 pm

  10. Is everyone comfortable with Pratt’s definition of treason, without analyzing it a little? – without at least wondering for a moment what the anti-Mormons might have been referring to? Pratt’s definition strikes me as hopelessly simplistic, and unworthy of serious historical acceptance at face value. I know it’s great fun to laugh at those whom we don’t like, but just to play devil’s advocate, I can surely see some problems there. But this is a room full of hopeful scholars, so that’s all I’ll say. If no one else sees a problem, then, well, OK!

    Comment by Rick Grunder — April 14, 2009 @ 8:18 pm

  11. I’m a hopeless scholar, Rick, so go ahead and explain your point for my benefit, please.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — April 14, 2009 @ 8:23 pm

  12. Rick: I think most see the glaring problems with PPP’s logic here, but I suppose we are all just enjoying his fun rhetoric while at the same time appreciating this insight into their late-nauvoo mindset.

    There are a lot of things I don’t agree with PPP on a personal level–most notably his polemics, since I can barely stomach FARMS today–but I really love reading him ‘cuz it brings a smile to my face.

    Comment by Ben — April 14, 2009 @ 8:37 pm

  13. Thanks, Ben –

    I choose your answer, and I like it.

    Comment by Rick Grunder — April 14, 2009 @ 9:19 pm

  14. Rick, I don’t think any of us who have commented on the treason portion “buy” his definition at face value, etc, etc, what Ben said 🙂

    That having been said (you see, we all agree after all :), please tell us what you bring from that part.

    Comment by Jared T — April 14, 2009 @ 9:46 pm

  15. Thanks everyone for the responses. I’m glad that Pratt was able to provide us all with a humorous mid-week diversion.

    Comment by Christopher — April 15, 2009 @ 1:34 am

  16. Here’s another word for the list: mobocrat. First column of page 114 in the 1899 Latter Day Saints Southern Star; for example:

    …as soon as the mobocrats discovered that the Elders were armed and befriended by many of the people and were prepared for the attack, they became intimidated and skulked away.

    Comment by Researcher — April 15, 2009 @ 11:57 am

  17. Thanks for this — new for me.
    A PPP quip I enjoy is his response to one of the triune creeds he’s just cited in “Key to the Science of Theology”
    It is painful for the mind to be compelled to admit that such wonderful inconsistencies could exist in any human thought or language.

    Comment by manaen — April 15, 2009 @ 2:46 pm

  18. What is particularly interesting to me is the inclusion of the term “Jack Mormon.” I had no idea that it had come into use so early!!

    I’ll have to reference this in Mormon Terms entry on “Jack Mormon.”

    Comment by Kent Larsen — April 20, 2009 @ 6:20 am

  19. Jack Mormon referred to Mormon sympathizers in the pre-Utah period. I’ve seen it in the Missouri period. Gradually it morphed into non-practicing Mormon in the Utah period, probably in the pejorative sense of “you’re no more a Mormon than these non-Mormons who hang about sympathetically.” I’d be interested if the Utah period people know when that change occurred.

    Comment by smb — April 20, 2009 @ 8:30 am

  20. Ben – You’re a little harsh with FARMS aren’t you? Can I send you an antacid?

    Comment by Yrag — April 20, 2009 @ 10:29 am

  21. No need, Yrag; avoidance is always the best remedy! 😉

    but thanks for asking.

    Comment by Ben — April 20, 2009 @ 10:57 am

  22. Scoundrel?s Tale: The Samuel Brannan Papers (Spokane, Washington: The Arthur H. Clark Co., 1999) notes that the 10 May 1845 issue of The Prophet “contained an interesting look at ‘The Science of Anti-Mormon Suckerology?Its Learned Terms, and their Significance.'”

    Comment by Will Bagley — April 20, 2009 @ 4:45 pm

  23. […] than Parley P. Pratt, and his Nauvoo-era pamphlets are as revealing as they are entertaining (see here for an example). In his pamphlet “The Regeneration and Eternal Duration of Matter,” for […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » Turning the World Upside Down: Baconian Logic, Scottish Common-Sense Realism, and Parley Pratt — April 26, 2009 @ 10:12 pm

  24. […] the Juvenile Instructor, Christopher’s discovery of Parley P. Pratt’s […]

    Pingback by The Science of Anti-Mormon Suckerology « The Contrarian Mormon — May 2, 2009 @ 12:15 pm


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