Joseph F. Smith and the 'Ruffians': 'True Blue, Through and Through' Depending on Who’s Telling the Story

It’s a powerful story. The young Joseph F. Smith, fresh off his mission to the Sandwich Islands, is traveling through Southern California on his way home to Utah in late 1857/early 1858. The Mormons are viewed with mistrust and hostility: rumors surrounding the Mountain Meadows Massacre are fresh on everyone’s lips as Johnston’s Army converges on Utah. Joseph F.’s party is confronted by a band of rough and tumble men on horseback, looking to pick a fight with any Mormons they can find. Joseph F.’s fellow travelers scatter, and when one burly ruffian pointedly asks Joseph F. if he is a Mormon, the young returned missionary responds, “Yes, siree, dyed-in-the-wool; true blue, through and through,” diffusing the tense confrontation by staying true to his identity.

But was he really “dyed-in-the-wool, true blue, through and through”?

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