Dogpile on the Mormons!!!

September 11th is the anniversary of two terrorist acts: (1) the killing of approximately 3,000 people in the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Pennsylvania, and (2) the killing of 120 westward traveling settlers by Mormons and Indians at Mountain Meadows, Utah. Since I'm a Mormon, with the current re-dredged controversy surrounding the Massacre, I occasionally feel an urge to apologize for my part in the Mountain Meadows conspiracy.

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the most despicable act ever committed by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (unless you believe Fawn Brodie, according to which atrocities by Mormons had by that time become standard fare).

It's clear by now that the Native Americans of the Mountain Meadows area weren't nearly as involved in the murders as the guilt-ridden Mormon participants wanted everyone to believe. But it's also clear--except to the anti-Mormon axe grinders--that the Mountain Meadows Massacre was anything but a large-scale Mormon conspiracy.

A recently released movie places the blame squarely on the shoulders of Brigham Young, although it's not difficult for Michael Medved, a Jew, to identify that allegation as hogwash.

Why would Hollywood release a controversial feature film about alleged Mormon terrorists of 150 years ago while all but ignoring the dangerous Muslim terrorists of today?

The movie industry has pointedly avoided harsh treatment of modern Islamic radicals, but September Dawn (to be released nationally Aug. 24) portrays the 19th century Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a deeply corrupt cult led by an all-powerful, blood-thirsty mass murderer.

The trailer for the film makes clear its hostile point of view, with Terrence Stamp as Brigham Young announcing in portentous and menacing tones: "I am the voice of God. And anyone who doesn't like it will be hewn down."

There's probably some validity to ultimately turning the current Mountain Meadows memorial site over to the Federal Government, but it's a bit over the top to blame the Mormon Church, which actually took the initiative to create the existing memorial several years ago, for holding onto the memorial property at least for the time being.

Mormon basher (and fellow Mormon?) Will Bagley sees no problem in believing the worst about Brigham Young and the Mormon Church.

Historian and author Will Bagley believes Young gave the order and is to blame for the atrocity. The Mormon leader, Bagley says, "acted guilty, lied about it for 20 years and didn't go after the Mormon perpetrators."

The history surrounding the event is much more nuanced, but easy to ferret out, as this article on the LDS Church website describes.

As the troops were making their way west in the summer of 1857, so were thousands of overland emigrants. Some of these emigrants were Latter-day Saint converts en route to Utah, but most westbound emigrants were headed for California, many with large herds of cattle. The emigration season brought many wagon companies to Utah just as Latter-day Saints were preparing for what they believed would be a hostile military invasion. The Saints had been violently driven from Missouri and Illinois in the prior two decades, and they feared history might repeat itself.

Church president and territorial governor Brigham Young and his advisers formed policies based on that perception. They instructed the people to save their grain and prepare to cache it in the mountains in case they needed to flee there when the troops arrived. Not a kernel of grain was to be wasted or sold to merchants or passing emigrants. The people were also to save their ammunition and get their firearms in working order, and the territory’s militiamen were put on alert to defend the territory against the approaching troops if necessary.

These orders and instructions were shared with leaders throughout the territory. Elder George A. Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles carried them to southern Utah. He, Brigham Young, and other leaders preached with fiery rhetoric against the enemy they perceived in the approaching army and sought the alliance of Indians in resisting the troops.

It's interesting that we are so enamored by nice round numbers, such as the 2,000 or 3,000 (soon to be 4,000) American troops that have been killed in Iraq, or the 150 years that have elapsed since the Mountain Meadows Massacre. On such occasions as these, we find a sort of solace by dredging up old memories and old wounds. I'm sure the current holding of the entire Mormon church under the microscope for an atrocity that a handful of its members committed will fairly soon pass back into its more common use as the occasional weapon of the anti-Mormon bigot.

Yes, it's clear that Mormons did it. A handful of them. Just like the descendants of slave holders who didn't hold slaves, I am not to blame for what happened at Mountain Meadows. Gordon B. Hinckley, the current leader of the LDS church, isn't either. And accurate historical research has exonerated Brigham Young as well.


  1. how many wives do you have?

  2. U menya tolko adna zhena.
    Ich habe nur eine frau.
    I have only one wife.

    How about you?

  3. It's interesting that we are so enamored by nice round numbers ...

    Given the fact we live in a base-ten culture, that's not at all surprising.

  4. To be honest, I didn't know much about the Mountain Meadows Massacre until a few weeks back. While it disgusts me, it has given me more insight into where I need to be as a person.

    I'm going to jump around a little now, but somehow Mormons (Excuse the generalization) have developed the opinion that as long as we are doing something "In the name of God" that it's OK. If you take a step back, is it really that different from radical Islam, or the mind-set that fueled the Crusades.

    The other thing is the attitude of Mormons towards other people. Again this is probably a gross generalization, but most seem to have developed an "I'm better than you" type attitude as well. I live in a neighborhood where the Mormons are very exclusive and the only time they will interact with the Less Actives and Non-members is in situation where they can help bring them "the light", and if they reject them, they take it as as a personal attack.

    So where does this put me as a Member of the LDS Church...

    I used to be one of those arrogant, self centered members, but I came across some things last year that made me step back and examine what my faith was based on. I didn't like what I discovered, and it has been an interesting journey trying to redefine who I am, my relationship to God and my fellow men.

    I think ultimately things like the Massacre are important in that they illustrate what can happen when people become religeous zealots, instead of just trying to live as good a life as possible.

    I'll stop my tirade here, but in in conclusion, the idealogy that caused the massacre was dead wrong, and personally rather than apologize, I think I would be more productive in ensuring that I never fall into that way of thinking and encouraging my kids and those around me to avoid it as well.

  5. You're right. We are in a small way like radical Muslims sometimes. In every society, including Mormon society, there seems to be a natural penchant to think others are somehow at least slightly less human than we are. We need to realize that the Harley biker, the smoker, the homosexual, etc. etc. are people just like us, and we should befriend them just as we do active Mormons, although it might put us outside our comfort zone a bit.

    I appreciate and share your sentiment that rather than apologize for what Mormons did at Mountain Meadows 150 years ago, I'd rather ensure that I have enough grace and respect for other peoples that such a thought (the self-justification to commit such an atrocity) would never even enter my mind.


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