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It is not the purpose of this post to critique the religion as a whole but some material should be noted to put things in context.
The Danites were formed in 1838 as a paramilitary, underground organization to fight the "enemies" of the church. Their activities were sanctioned by church leaders. They were also known as the "Daughters of Zion" and "Avenging Angels". For a note of historical importance it should be noted that Sherlock Holmes inventor Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a story in which the Danites featured entitled "A Study in Scarlet".
David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon tells of the founding of this group and his persecution for trying to tell the leaders of the church of their folly in going ahead with this scheme. He eventually left the church and you can read about that here.1857massacre.com...
The sect was sanctioned to commit any treacherous act in defense of the Church including violence, lying and theft. The violence would also include murder as history would show.
Eventually the Church would split into two distinct groups. One of which eventually would find their way to Utah under Brigham Young. There was a lot of friction between the Mormons and state and federal authorities as well as persecution on some level from the people as well.
In 1857 we had the infamous Mountain Meadows massacre, (which occurred on September 11 FYI) largely carried out by the still extant Danites. Some question whether Church leadership and specifically Brigham Young had a direct hand in what happened. It seems clear to me that Young was intimately involved in the massacre.
There was a period of intense pressure being placed upon the Church by federal authorities especially in regards to the polygamous practices of the sect and to the virtual fiefdom ruled by Young in Utah. It is at this point that we see the emigration of some to Mexico including the grandfather of Willard Mitt Romney.
One of the first inclinations of the Mormons to move into the financial realm was with the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-banking Society in Ohio. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon sought to get a charter for the bank but were turned down. This was an "anti-bank" that ran as a bank issuing it's own currency, even though it had no legal sanction to function as a bank.
This 3 dollar bill is believed by many to be the origin of the term; "Phony as a three dollar bill". The "anti-bank" issued currency in exchange for gold and silver. It folded and a large group of suckers were left holding the bag. This also was a blow to the church as most of the victims of the scam were Church members and many would leave the Church, disillusioned, over the fiasco. It seems that Smith had land speculation in mind when he started the "anti-bank". He and Rigdon fled Kirtland by night to avoid angry mobs of the defrauded.
The Mormon church would become one of the richest religious bodies with an incredible amount of land. In this TWENTY YEAR OLD STORY the amount of land and property owned by the Church was well over a billion dollars, and that was a less than thorough investigation. In that article you will notice that this is an issue of great secrecy in the Church as they do not reveal what they own or where, even to Church members. It is my contention that the "Avenging Angels" morphed into the financial wizards of the Church. It is because of the transition to acquisition that much of the real power in the LDS church would be focused in the financial sector. When we move forward in time we have the curious case of Howard Hughes.