The Other 9-11 - Mormon Massacre

by Bonnie_Clyde 11 Replies latest jw friends

  • Bonnie_Clyde

    Probably many of you have heard of this, but I just found out. Interesting how the Mormons reacted to one of their members requesting that they make a "full confession and take the consequences." Also the statement by John D. Lee that they were performing a religious "duty."

    American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 11, 1857
    by Sally Denton. Publisher: Knopf.
    Guide Rating -

    Emigrating from Arkansas to California in September, 1857, a train of wagons had the misfortune to pass through the Utah Territory during a time of violence and heightened tension between the Territorial government (under Brigham Young) and the United States government (under President Buchanan, who was determined to replace Young). The result was the massacre of around 140 men, women, and children - many being killed only after surrendering on the promise of safe conduct. But what really happened and why?
    Why would Mormons be involved in the massacre of a group of travelers in the first place? The answer to that lies in the complex history and theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known as the Mormons. Founded in New York by Joseph Smith, Mormonism became the first "great" religion that was native to the United States of America - and ever since that founding it has played a unique role in this country's development.
    A great deal of this is documented in Sally Denton's recently published "American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 11, 1857." An award-winning investigative reporter, Denton's story is about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, but it is also about the Mormon church itself: its theology, its secrecy, and its efforts to keep the true story behind the massacre hidden from public view for as long as possible.
    These efforts have continued down through the present day. When bones of the victims were unexpectedly uncovered in 1999, then-governer of Utah Mike Leavitt directed state officials to find administrative or other means to make sure that they were reburied as quickly as possible and before they could be studied. Leavitt is himself a direct descendant of one of the Mormon killers who participated in the slaughter at Mountain Meadows.
    The ill-fated Arkansas pioneers were in the wrong place at the wrong time, sadly. LDS Church Apostle Parley P. Pratt had been murdered in Arkansas recently (by the legal husband of his 12th wife, Eleanor McLean). President Buchanan was sending federal troops to help install a new territorial governor to replace Brigham Young and gain some control over "disloyal" Mormons. At the same time, the Mormon community was experiencing what has been called the "Mormon Reformation," a short period of intense religious zealotry which reinforced the commitment of "true" Mormons against outsiders and apostates.
    The fact that this was perhaps the richest wagon train to ever go through the area may or may not have played a role in its being chosen. Even if it wasn't, though, it was certainly plundered with glee:
    Wagons were now dismantled and featherbeds ripped open in search of gold; utensils, tools, and home furnishings that had been strewn about were collected. The plunder proceeded with a strange quiet. Women from Cedar City and nearby settlements arrived to remove the calico dresses and lace pinafores of the women and children, pulling off expensive shoes, and ripping earring, brooches, and rings off of corpses, most to be turned over to the church.
    Later the children who were spared, "human plunder" turned over to be raised by the Mormon families of some of those who participated in the massacre, would be able to identify their mothers' and sisters' dresses on some of the well-to-do Mormon women of the region.
    It wasn't until 20 years later that a single participant, John D. Lee, was tried, convicted, and executed for his role in the slaughter. Both before and after, many Mormons engaged in widespread efforts to conceal their own role and that of other Mormons and to pin all of the blame on the Paiute Indians - who were, it was alleged, provoked by the settlers into their attack. Evidence, however, points to a great deal of Mormon planning, support, encouragement, and participation throughout the assault, but no particular provocation made by the settlers.
    Denton is quite sure that if Brigham Young did not direct the massacre originally, he was an accessory after the fact in order to maintain a positive reputation for himself and Mormons generally:
    Young fully realized that the Mountain Meadows Massacre would continue to plague him until someone was held accountable for the crime. In a calculated and mutually beneficial deal, Young and [U.S. attorney Sumner] Howard came to terms. Young would make available all witnesses and evidence necessary for a conviction of Lee. In exchange, Howard would limit the testimony implicating Young, George Smith, and other church leaders in the affair...
    Many other Mormons refused to aid in the cover-up, and they paid the price for their lack of loyalty:
    It would be part of the larger historical tragedy of Mountain Meadows that the outside world would level collective blame and guilt at Mormons in general. For there were untold numbers of faithful and believing Mormons profoundly disturbed by the church's role in the slaughter and subsequent dissembling, which they termed "lying for the Lord." Hierarchical church leaders were no less appalled than common Stains by what they increasingly saw as the dark blot on their religion. Amasa Lyman, a devout and kindhearted man who had been a high priest, apostle, and Danite since the early days at Kirtland, encouraged the participants in the massacre to "make a full confession and take the consequences." Lyman would be excommunicated.
    The Mountain Meadows Massacre is a sad chapter both in Mormon history and in American history generally. The real consequences of the murders have not been fully felt because those responsible for it were never brought to justice while those responsible for the cover-up have never owned up to their own complicity after the fact. Until that happens, a ghost of a wagon train will continue to haunt the relationship between the Mormon Church and the rest of America.

    Statement by John D. Lee
    Who was executed as scapegoat for the massacre
    "I had many to assist me at the Mountain Meadows. I believe that most of those who were connected with the Massacre, and took part in the lamentable transaction that has blackened the character of all who were aiders or abettors in the same, were acting under the impression that they were performing a religious duty. I know all were acting under the orders and by the command of their Church leaders; and I firmly believe that the most of those who took part in the proceedings, considered it a religious duty to unquestioningly obey the orders which they had received. That they acted from a sense of duty to the Mormon Church." (...Life and Confessions of John D. Lee..., p. 213)

  • CaptainSchmideo

    In case you are interested, in the past year, the movie "September Dawn" was released, which dramatizes the events of The Mountain Meadows Massacre.

    Naturally, the Mormon Church wasn't real thrilled about the movie.

  • Bonnie_Clyde

    Yes, I am interested. The Mormons in our area are real interested in getting Clyde and I involved. They know we are disillusioned with the JW's. Clyde and I have often said, the Witnesses would stone people if they thought they could get away with it. The Mormons thought they could get away with what they did--and were pretty much successful. It didn't seem to stop their growth.

  • Wordly Andre
    Wordly Andre

    that movie is on my netflix list

  • momzcrazy

    The Mormon church has more secrets in their closet.

    My great grandpa cared for the financial books and found a discrepency. He was going to tell all, but had to run to Idaho to get away from their "avenging angels". They have resorted to violence more often than they will ever admit.

    I am glad this horrible thing was brought out in the open. I am surprised the movie made it to completion. A must see for us.


  • Qcmbr

    Hopefully someone will also make a movie about how the LDS were evicted from two cities - all their land and property stolen, women raped and children killed, had an extermination order placed against them as a people, had many members killed while the authorities looked the other way or instigated violence, had the US declare war on them...

    Anyone wanting the untold story of ethnic cleansing carried out by the US government and populace against its own people who were LDS should have a look at our history.

  • rekless
    Anyone wanting the untold story of ethnic cleansing carried out by the US government and populace against its own people who were LDS should have a look at our history.

    Yeah, at one time England was called the country that the sun never sets in.

    Every country has it dirty laundry,going back to Jehovah giving everything to his people. I don't want to get into bibical crap, but civalization marches on.

  • Double Edge
    Double Edge


    I think you're referring to the Haun's Mill Massacre which happened in Missouri almost 20 years BEFORE the Mountain Meadow's Massacre - long before the mormons moved to the Utah territory. It's an interesting read at Wikipedia:'s_Mill_massacre

    here's an excerpt:

    On October 30 at approximately 4 p.m., the militia rode into the community. David Evans, a leader in the community, ran towards the militia, waving his hat and calling for peace. Alerted to the militia's approach, most of the Latter Day Saint women and children fled into the woods to the south, while most of the men stayed behind to fight, entrenching themselves in the blacksmith shop. Unfortunately, the building was a particularly vulnerable structure as the widely-spaced logs made it easy for the attackers to fire inside. The shop became a deathtrap, since the militia gave no quarter, firing about one hundred rifles and muskets into the building.

    After the initial attack, several of those who had been wounded or had surrendered were shot dead. Members of the militia entered the shop and found ten-year-old Sardius Smith hiding under the blacksmith's bellows. William Reynolds put his musket against the boy's skull and blew off the top of his head. Reynolds later explained, "Nits will make lice, and if he had lived he would have become a Mormon." [4]Seventy-eight year old Thomas McBride surrendered his musket to militiaman Jacob Rogers, who then shot McBride and hacked his body apart with a corn knife. Several other bodies were mutilated or clothing stolen, while many women were assaulted. Houses were robbed, wagons, tents and clothing were stolen, and horses and livestock were driven off, leaving the surviving women and children destitute.

    By the end of the skirmish at least eighteen Mormons were dead: Hiram Abbott, Elias Benner, John Byers, Alexander Campbell, Simon Cox, Josiah Fuller, Austin Hammer, John Lee, Benjamin Lewis, Thomas McBride (78), Charley Merrick (9), Levin Merrick, William Napier, George S. Richards, Sardius Smith (10), Warren Smith, and John York. Thirteen more had been injured, including a woman and nine-year-old child. A non-Mormon sympathizer was also killed. Three of the 250 militiamen were wounded, but none fatally. After the fighting, the dead were thrown in an unfinished well and covered with dirt and straw. The survivors and their wounded gathered at Far West for protection. [2]

  • SirNose586
    Mormons profoundly disturbed by the church's role in the slaughter and subsequent dissembling, which they termed "lying for the Lord."

    Now that sounds more fun than "theocratic warfare!" Bonus for alliteration too!

    I'd be interested in seeing the movie. And yes, I am aware that Mormons were attacked too. It's all tragic. The point is whether we can accept the ugliness of the past and deal with it like adults.

  • SusanHere

    The MMM was hardly a hidden event from an historical point of view. Nine men were indicted for their role in the massacre. Most of them were eventually arrested, though only Lee was executed for the crime, as he had been the one who actually led the attack.

    At no time did Lee have the backing of Brigham Young or any other of the Church leadership. When Cedar City's Stake President Isaac Haight sent an urgent dispatch to Pres. Young explaining the situation with the approaching wagon train and asking for direction on how to handle it, Brigham Young responded immediately.

    Brigham Young's reply was to leave the train alone, harm none of them, let them pass.

    Pres. Young's letter reached Haight two days after the massacre. When Haight read Young's words, he sobbed like a child and could only manage the words, "Too late, too late."

    It has been said by some that nothing happened in the Utah Territory that BY didn't know about. Maybe there is some truth to that. But the distance was four days by fast horse. There were no telegraph lines, no phones, no cell phones. Brigham Young did know about the massacre of the wagan train, but not until after it happened. How can he be held accountable for that?

    Nor can the Church as a whole be blamed for what a few men chose to do, without the authority or direction of the leadership. Throughout Church history up to that point, the Mormons had not fought back, but had only defended themselves when attacked, and not even always that. Many times they were forced by armed mobs to simply abandon the communities, farms, and homes they had built up out of nothing, such as the beautiful brick city of Nauvoo which had been created out of swamp land nobody wanted and which still stands today.

    The Mormons had been driven from state to state, had suffered many murders, rapes, beatings of men, women, and children. Even the Haun's Mill massacre, described above by DoubleEdge, went totally unavenged. None of the murderers were ever brought to justice. Children were in that mill when the mob opened fire. One child was shot point blank. That was just one horrific, monsterous act perpetrated against the Mormons for which justice has never been done, and retribution never made. One of many, spread out over decades.

    The Mormons are the only religious group EVER in the history of the United States to have an Extermination Order issued against them making it legal to murder any member of the LDS Church who was found within the borders of that state, for no reason at all other than that they were LDS. That order was not rescinded until recently, when Missouri issued a formal apology.

    Does this part of American history make you proud to be an American?

    How many of you who are so bitter against the JWs would support an extermination order against all JWs living in your state? How many of you would eagerly take up guns, clubs, stones, or even use your bare hands to murder the JWs living on your street? "Nits make lice" said the man who stared into the terrified eyes of the Mormon child at Haun's Mill, then pulled the trigger in cold blood. Maybe you could say "Nits make lice" as you shoot your neighbor's JW young child, and then sleep peacefully, knowing you'd done your "God-given duty".

    Is that the America you'd like to live in?

    There is no defense for the Mountain Meadows Massacre. None. It was a tragedy that Brigham Young did not know about in advance and did not authorize. It was committed by a few local men who had no authority. They acted on their own.

    They had also, along with almost all other LDS, left the United States to find refuge in Mexico, which is what Utah was at that time. Again they built a community where nobody else wanted the land, only this time they were free of persecution, for the first time ever.

    In 1957, the year of MMM, the US Army marched 1,500 troops towards what had become Utah Territory, to put down what they perceived as treason in Utah from the Saints who had good reason not to support the US government interferring in their lives. The Saints believed, with good cause given past history, that the Army was coming to oppress them, to drive them from their lands and community, or even to destroy them.

    At the same time, immigrant trains were going westward from Missouri and Illinois, with many of the same men who had previously participated in violently driving the Saints from their homes in those states.

    Given the history, it was an explosive situation, with a tragic outcome all but certain.

    So why isn't this part in the movie some find to be so enjoyable? Because the movie wasn't intended to be factual, though of course it advertised itself as telling, for the first time ever in the history of the world, the "long-hidden secret cannot-be-told-under-penalty-of death-by-the -Danite's-avenging-angels" story of the MMM.

    Some people just cannot get enough of supposedly "dark hidden secrets revealed for the first time" and will gladly part with their money to go see the movie or read the book. They really prefer that version to the plain truth. It's so much more fun.

    In truth, the MMM is well-known. There have been many books written about it from many different perspectives, some more accurate and factual than others. More will be printed in the future. For a secret, it's sure out there. The Extermination Order and its recscinding in our own time is a far bigger secret. Funny nobody knows about that. Even more strange that nobody cares. But after all, it was only Mormons being killed. Who cares about them? It's not like they were part of YOUR religion.

    During the past two decades, descendants and other relatives of the MMM emigrants and the perpetrators of the tragedy have at times worked together to memorialize the victims. Has anyone done that for Haun's Mill victims? No.

    The MMM efforts have had the support of President Gordon B. Hinkley (LDS President), officials of the state of Utah, and other inistitutions and individuals. Among the products of this cooperation have been the construction of two memorials at the massacre site and the placing of plaques commemorating the immigrants. Descendant groups, Church leaders and members, and civic officials continue to work toward reconcilliation and participated in various memorial services in September, 2007, the 150th anniversery of the MMM.

    There are some massacre victim's descendants and collateral relatives who are LDS today. They have given interviews of late, wanting people to understand how they can be both descended from the victims and LDS Church members. While they feel sorrow for what happened to their ancestors or relatives, they refuse to blame the Church, the LDS people, or the state for the acts of a few men who had been pushed beyond their ability to cope other than with the same savagery that had been shown to them and their families for so many years.

    This entire chapter of American History is tragic. It all could have been handled so much better. We can not undo the past, but we can learn from it. One crucial lesson to take from all this is to refuse to act as a mob against our neighbors because of the color of their skin, their religion, their accent, or any other reason weak-minded men think up on dark nights when fueled by liquid courage and spurred on by those who preach hate, intolerance and vengence.

    We all like to think we are above such actions, that we would never be party to them. Can you be so sure? Can you really?

    Maybe you just haven't been pushed far enough yet. Pray that you never are.


Share this