From Dave Sudweeks: I have been reading, with interest, the information about the LDS Saints in Mexico as my Great-Grandfather is Joseph C. Bentley. In reviewing his biography, I would like to provide a little information about him that is slightly different from the tone of some of the stories.
In about 1918, Joseph C. Bentley wrote a letter to George D. Piper, believed to be connected with the Deseret News. Part of that letter is as follows:
"The going out of our people, from Mexico, is often referred to and spoken of as our having been driven from our homes and out of Mexico and is sometimes likened to the expulsion of the early saints from Missouri and Kirtland. Such is not the case. The Latter-day Saints have never been driven from their homes in Mexico, nor from the country. True, some of them received harsh treatment and were robbed and dispoiled of a great deal of their property, but this was not because they were Latter-day Saints, nor because of any special hatred toward our people, but was due to banditry and a state of lawlessness existing in which all the people suffered, Mexicans as well as our people, in fact when these bandits found any of their own people who had means and property, they were often much more severe on them than they were on our colonists."
The lawlessness, beginning in 1913, primarily consisted of raids by bands of men. Bishop Bentley's counsel is as follows:
"Bishop Bentley urged the people to continue unafraid, to withhold property if possible but to comply in the end with grace, to remain calm even when prodded and pushed about. As a result there were few acts of violence and no casualties. The colonists became inured to meeting unheralded approaches of large or small bands of insurgents, at any hour of the day or night, whether renagades doing a little foraging on their own, detached bands of Red Flaggers seeking munitions or organized troops. . . . . . During all this trouble no victim felt the heavy hand of the extortioner, no hapless colonist faced extreme alternatives without having Bishop Bentley by his side. Many a serious situation was mitigated, many a cruel demand was modified by his persistant admonition to meet force with gentleness, to bend with the storm rather than be snapped off. He saved many a casualty and changed fate in many a critical situation. No beligerant but was calmed and no vicitm but was helped by his timely interference and was impressed by his peaceful tactics."
In March of 1919, President Joseph C. Bentley was taken captive by Poncho Villa's men. General Villa made the following statement: "I know all about the Mormons and their doctrine. I have been in their colonies many times; they are a good and peaceful people. It is alright for them to do what they are doing, but this is no time to be doing missionary work. They should go home where they will not be in any danger. Nobody knows what will happen to them around here during times like this.
"President Bentley finally had an opportunity to talk with Villa and learn that he had once lived with a Mormon family in Sonora and had heard a great deal about the gospel. Villa said, 'Many times I might have entirely cleaned up on all of your Mormons, and destroyed the colonies, but I have never had any desire at all to do you any harm. I would like to help you, and I will help you all I can, but during times of trouble there is no guarantee of safety. You gentlemen should return to your homes and stay there until we get these things settled. Then will be the time for you to do the thing that you are doing now.'"