One of the seldom talked about members of the early church in Sunday school, is the bodyguard of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It is common knowledge that Joseph himself was a large man who wasn't unfamiliar with physical activity. Smith had an unbelievable amount of fortitude even for his time period, but there was a man in particular who surpassed him in physical strength and from what I gather exercised an unhinged willingness to risk life and limb at any cost for a good cause. The two men knew each other from the age of six when young Rockwell protected Smith from a wild boar by killing it with a knife before it had the chance to attack them.
Porter Rockwell was a United States Marshall, I've seen his life compared to that of Wyatt Earp as he was one of the most notable gun slingers of his day, but one of the interesting things about his physical features is his hair. Usually when one looks through old pictures of Mormons they are for the most part clean cut to a certain extent, or if their hair is long it might not be past the shoulders or even the neck, but not Porter's, it's realy long. This leads into a quite interesting story.
One day after escaping a prison, Porter walked over to the Smith home and barged in, uninvited, to a Christmas party. Joseph took a few moments to recognise him but was then compelled to say; “Orrin Porter Rockwell,so long as ye shall remain true and loyal to thy faith, you need fear no enemy. Cut not thy hair and no bullet or blade can harm thee.”
This statement has many times over been compared to that made by an angel who approached the parents of Sampson. Though Porter was far from taking the oath that a Nazarite makes, none the less he did not cut his hair and his life as a gunslinger, though it was constantly in the path of danger, remained in tact for many years.
It is evident that the man's life is arrayed in folk lore and is therefore difficult to distinguish fact or fiction when doing research on him. There did arise a story where he was shot point blank in the chest and the bullet literally bounced off like he was Superman, but it's a little far fetched in my opinion. I do find it notable that the promise of Joseph held true even to the end, as Porter died in his sleep at the age of 65, and they say he died with his boots on his feet.
The man was hardly what one would characterize as a Mormon when compared to the modern day clean cut, name tag wearing, bicycle riding LDS youth of today. He was a fowl mouthed drunk, a gambler, a rabblerouser, and he killed alot, I mean ALOT of people. Such was the case for his jail time. at the time when Mayor Lilburn Boggs instituted the "Extermination order" which enabled anyone in Missouri to kill a Mormon on sight, Porter was accused of an assassination attempt. Porter's infallible defence was simply the fact that Boggs was still alive and he never shot at a man he didn't kill.
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