John Doyle Lee and Adoption

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John D. Lee, a Mormon who was executed in 1877



Doyle was born in the Illinois Territory, His mother died when he was three, and his father was an alcoholic. At seven he went to live with an uncle's family, and stayed with them until he was sixteen.

In 1837 he and his wife were converted to the new Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and this soon became the driving force in his life. They moved to a Mormon settlement in Missouri and he was drawn into the Danite Band, the Mormon self-defense militia, as well as being promoted within the church's religious system. From 1839 to 1844 he was a missionary, and then became a guard of the prophet Joseph Smith's home. Smith's martyrdom in 1844 only strengthened Lee's commitment. He took another five wives following the 1843 promulgation of the doctrine of plural marriage, and was part of the flight to Winter Quarters and then to Utah.

He played a major role in settling the Utah lands and in the process became a prosperous farmer and businessman, with church mining, milling and manufacturing enterprises under his direction. He was a local bishop and US Indian agent to the Paiute people. In 1857 the US government attempted to crush the growing economic and political power of the Mormons in Utah. Lee led a band of Mormon militia who ambushed and massacred 120 non-Mormon immigrants, suspecting them of anti-Mormon hostility - the Mountain Meadows Massacre, although Lee blamed the Paiute tribe.

The next 20 years became increasingly difficult, as he lost the support of the church's leaders and his neighbors, and he was exiled and excommunicated by Brigham Young in 1870. Illness and bad weather also contributed to his decline, and in 1874 he was finally arrested for his part in the massacre. His first trial resulted in a hung jury, but he was convicted in the second, and he was executed at Mountain Meadows, still professing his innocence.

Lee was the second of 38 men sealed to Brigham Young in an early LDS form of adult adoption (see: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). In turn, Lee had 18 or 19 such sealed sons, including George Laub (Lee), W.R. Owens (Lee), Miles Anderson (Lee), James Pace (Lee), Allen Weeks (Lee) and William Swap (Lee).


Brooks, Juanita. John Doyle Lee: Zealot, Pioneer, Builder, Scapegoat. (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1992) Lee, John D. Mormonism Unveiled; or, The Life and Confessions of the Late Mormon Bishop John D. Lee .... (St. Louis: Bryan Brand, 1877) Lee, John D. Journal of John D. Lee, 1846-47 and 1859, edited by Charles Kelly. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1984) Haymond, Jay M. "John D. Lee." available at:,JOHN.html