Miller-Eccles on Mountain Meadows Massacre

This Friday and Saturday, the Miller-Eccles group in southern California will hear a presentation from Rob Briggs on the topic: “Mountain Meadows Massacre: How could this heinous massacre have happened?” Information is as follows:


With the sesquicentennial of the Utah War, including the Mountain Meadows Massacre, there will be considerable attention focused on this chapter of LDS history. The Utah war, its causes and its long-term consequences on the Latter-day Saints are not well-appreciated. With the Hollywood Theatrical release nationwide of “September Dawn” in May 2007 about the Mountain Meadows Massacre to the Commemorations of the Mountain Meadows Massacre in September 2007, the national and world-wide focus on this great tragedy will reach an intensity not seen since the 1870s with the trial and execution of John D. Lee for his part in the Massacre. With Mitt Romney running for the presidential nomination, the press will undoubtedly recount sensationalistic versions of the massacre. The past few years have seen several books published about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, including Will Bagley’s Blood of the Prophets, Sally Denton’s American Massacre: Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, and a book by Ronald W. Walker, Richard Turley and Glen Leonard to be published by Oxford University Press at present in the process of publication.

What explains the behavior of God-fearing Saints in perpetrating such a heinous deed? What factors could so cloud and blind the moral instincts of the leaders of the Southern Utah militia, many of whom also served as ecclesiastical leaders? What peculiar set of circumstances arose at that time and place that precipitated into the Mountain Meadows Massacre? He will treat the fear of invasion in southern Utah in late summer 1857. This created what sociologists call a “moral panic” — wildly proliferating rumors, fears for the stability of the social order, and overreaction against perceived enemies, and so forth.

Robert Briggs is one of the true experts on the circumstances surrounding the Mountain Meadows Massacre. He has examined all of the primary first hand accounts of the participants, all of the trial testimony of both trials in the 19th Century, and many other sources. Although a comprehensive discussion of this topic is impossible in one meeting, Robert Briggs will focus on one aspect contributing to the tragedy. Rob will examine the war hysteria gripping southern Utah, the fear of imminent invasion by federal troops, and other contributing factors.. Rob will sketch the evidence of invasion fears and overreaction.

Rob is also an active participant in the Mountain Meadows Association, which will hold a memorial commemoration at Mountain Meadows in September 2007. If his health permits, Pres. Hinckley is likely to attend. However, the viewpoint fostered by the Mountain Meadows Association is not shared by all, and at least two other associations will also hold commemorations at Mountain Meadows. In addition to his main presentation, Rob will present a brief overview of these three associations, their viewpoints and goals, and future prospects. The politics between and among the current groups is just as fascinating as the events of 150 years ago.

Don’t miss this stimulating evening!


Robert H. Briggs is an attorney in Fullerton, California, with an avid interest in Western history. Recently he has presented his research on the Mountain Meadows massacre at the 2002 Juanita Brooks lecture in St. George, Utah, at the annual conferences of the Utah Historical Society and the Center for Studies of New Religions (CESNUR) and other venues. Rob has examined all of the trial testimony from the two John D. Lee trials, researched other primary accounts, and applied tools developed in the courtroom and in historical inquiry to analyze the testimony to determine the likely most reliable statements about the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Rob is one of the directors of The Miller Eccles Study Group.

For more information, including directions and contact information, go to the Miller-Eccles group homepage.

84 comments for “Miller-Eccles on Mountain Meadows Massacre

  1. Adam Greenwood
    March 21, 2007 at 11:12 am

    “How could this heinous massacre have happened?”

    I blame President Bush.

  2. BBELL
    March 21, 2007 at 11:42 am

    Actually Adam I blame Karl Rove myself.

  3. Adam Greenwood
    March 21, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Speak not the Dark Master’s name.

  4. annegb
    March 21, 2007 at 11:52 am

    The thing about this re-hashing of Mountain Meadows is that the church has made peace with the descendants of those killed. The prophet apologized, we had a big ceremony down here in Cedar City attended by the families from the south and the chief of the Paiute tribe. We had a beautiful choir that sang “There is a Balm in Gilead” and some other beautiful songs and it was lovely.

    Do we have to pay reparations for this to go away?

  5. March 21, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    Sounds like grounds for impeachment to me

  6. March 21, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Are you guys honestly joking about a massacre?

  7. Adam Greenwood
    March 21, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    No, we’re joking about the Grand Canyon.

  8. Ivan Wolfe
    March 21, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    Adam seems to be in a very silly mood lately….

  9. March 21, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    The mood seems more sociopathic than silly, to me.

  10. Adam Greenwood
    March 21, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    I just don’t care what you think, J. Stapley. Absolutely indifferent. Its like you’re not even human, to me.

  11. March 21, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    Only a Sith thinks in absolutes Adam.

  12. DavidH
    March 21, 2007 at 2:12 pm


    I understood that, while President Hinckley had delivered words of reconciliation, there was no apology.

  13. Kaimi Wenger
    March 21, 2007 at 2:29 pm


    Each of us has a path in this life. For some, it is a spiritual path. For some, an intellectual path. And for some, a sociopath.

  14. Adam Greenwood
    March 21, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    But for us, El Guapo.

  15. jjohnsen
    March 21, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    I’m looking forward to the Haun’s Mill Massacre jokes on October 30th. Huh? Huh? Who’s with me?

  16. Adam Greenwood
    March 21, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    Q. Why didn’t the Mormons evacuate Haun’s Mill?
    A. To get to the other side.

  17. Doc
    March 21, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    I think I am finally beginning to understanding what it is that constitutes the “loud laughter” we have been asked to avoid.

  18. Adam Greenwood
    March 21, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    Times and Seasons: illuminating the temple experience since 2004

  19. jjohnsen
    March 21, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    I admit I laughed at that one Adam.

  20. Julie M. Smith
    March 21, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    Kaimi, I assume you were just cut-and-pasting the announcement, but I’m curious about the idea of Rob Briggs as a “true expert.” I have heard not-good opinions of his presentations–something about attributing “naturally violent” tendencies to certain ethnic groups???

  21. Ardis Parshall
    March 21, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    Julie, your question sounds like it relates to Rob’s Mormon History Association paper of last year.

    Rob was considering other influences (besides their Mormonism) that might have brought participants to the point where they were able and willing to participate in the massacre. He looked at the birthplaces of participants, and specified an ethnicity for each participant based on surname, and tried to draw general conclusions from that — i.e., Southerners were raised in a culture of upholding one’s honor through physicial confrontation, and Celts were a warlike race, and so on. Conclusion: The participants at Mountain Meadows inherited violent tendencies that were part of their makeup before they converted to Mormonism.

    Tom Alexander commented in that session. He gave Rob points for creativity and being willing to examine novel angles, but he pointed out that Rob was relying on stereotypes, and had produced zero evidence that someone who may have been born in Virginia but left it as an infant had absorbed any tendency toward violently defending one’s honor (even granting that such was part of the surrounding culture), or that somehow violence was a genetic trait that passed to descendants along with a surname.

    I also heard Rob speak at last year’s Utah State Historical Society meeting about what he perceives as war-hysteria-induced edginess in southern Utah that caused the local militia to investigate countless rumors of possible US invasion of Utah through the south, and I understand (but haven’t heard him) that he has looked at the reliability of MMM witness testimony, applying the same techniques that as a lawyer he uses to evaluate the credibility of witnesses in courtrooms. I suspect his contributions in this last area might be the most useful, given his relative strengths as attorney and as historian.

  22. HP
    March 23, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    Is that the real Adam Greenwood? He seems wholly unlike himself

  23. Adam Greenwood
    March 24, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Its the real Adam Greenwood. He does seem wholly unlike himself. But not, unfortunately, in the way that he had always hoped to be wholly unlike himself. Back to the drawing board.

  24. DKL
    March 24, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    J Stapley: Are you guys honestly joking about a massacre?

    Actually, I envision a series of skits in which, at some point, the lead character expresses in exasperation, “Well I didn’t expect a kind of Mountain Meadows Massacre.” Then John Lee, Isaac Haight, and Philip Klingensmith burst into the room, and John Lees shouts in a high pitched voice, “Nobody expects the Mountain Meadows Massacre!”

  25. Richard O.
    March 25, 2007 at 2:54 am

    Regarding #20 and #21.
    Robert Briggs may have been referencing two rather prominent historians; David Hackett Fischer and Grady McWhiney. Fisher wrote Albion’s Seed (tracing emigrants from the British Isles to America and describing the cultures that they brought with them). He taught history in the U.K.(either Oxford or Cambridge, I can’t remember which). He currently teaches as Brandeis. Grady McWhiney did his Ph.D. at Columbia. His list of publications (books) is huge. Among his areas of focus are the Celtic roots of Southern Culture. He has taught at Univ. of Calif. (Berk.), U. of Alabama, etc., etc. One of the books that outlines some of his Southern/Celtic studies is Cracker Culture. McWiney’s writings are not without controversy.

    From what I know about Briggs, (and Fisher and McWiney) the point about behavior is not genetic, but cultural. And culture casts a very long shadow. A not very precise parallel? We may not have been Brits for a long, long time, but English Common Law still influences us.

    The cultural roots of Mountain Meadows are probably worth exploring. Too many American historians, in their training and in their research, are under informed or discount the European roots of American civilization. Legal studies, hopefully moves beyond this geographical and cultural myopia.

    Albion’s Seed is easily one of the most intellectually expanding history books I’ve read in the last ten years.

  26. Julie M. Smith
    March 25, 2007 at 7:05 pm

    Thanks, Richard O.

  27. Frank McIntyre
    March 26, 2007 at 11:02 am

    I think it would be hard to go through life with the last name of McWhiney.

  28. larry
    March 26, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    Richard O.,

    Don’t you think Mormon teachings such as Blood Atonement and oaths to avenge the blood of the prophets contributed to this mentality where violence in the name of religion was acceptable? These tendencies were heightened by the reformation– which had a profound impact in Southern Utah. Couple this with news of a coming war and it’s a recipe for an atrocity– the largest in American History prior to Oklahoma City.

  29. Kaimi Wenger
    March 26, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    Largest atrocity in American History? Not really. MMM was bad, but there have been, unfortunately, many other atrocities since then, some of which have been larger in scope.

    For instance, the Wounded Knee massacre (hundreds of Native Americans killed). Or, the Tulsa race riot (1921) which reuslted in 300 dead (mostly Blacks) and thousands homeless.

    MMM was an atrocity, yes. But there’s really no way it’s “the largest in American history” — have a little historical perspective! (For Heaven’s sake — the MMM predated the Civil War, which saw exponentially larger atrocities committed by both sides.)

  30. Richard O.
    March 26, 2007 at 11:00 pm

    Larry you raise some interesting issues, but I think that Kaimi helps bring some needed perspective. My tendancy is to think that fire and brimstone retoric from the pulpit usually far outstripped fire and brimstone behavior.

    Some of the data I would like to see addressed:
    How did the murder rate in pioneer Utah compare with surrounding states and terrritories?
    How did the execution rate compare with surrounding states and territories?
    Per capita statistics for these would be interesting.

    The Was MMM horrible? Yes. But were Mormons universally and consistantly violent or was the MMM an abberation?statistical answers to the above questions might help answer those questions. Do you have those statistics?

  31. SAM
    March 29, 2007 at 5:00 am

    Well, looks like there is a movie on the subject coming out next month:

  32. Mary
    April 3, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    I am a decendent of one of the 17 surviving children and do not feel your group or this Rob should be talking about what you whether “researched” or not my great great grandfather gave an eye whitness statement to the courts (bet it was not researched nor the other childrens), so before it is talked about you ought to think about it–no one knows what really went on in the minds of those mormons, I have the stories passed down to myself I know who my family blames can you or this Rob say you do and why? Ask yourself that as well. It will be interesting to hear what this Rob has to say in September, I’ll be there.

  33. k l h
    April 4, 2007 at 7:33 am

    If Briggs sees John D. Lee\’s Virginia roots, ala \’Albion\’s Seed,\’ in some of Lee\’s generally cavalier behavior is OK; but wouldn\’t such utter cowardice as the massacre of the unarmed men, women, and children (including ancestors of Mary) as diguised to have been perpetrated by \”warring Paiutes\”) better explainable by the factors outlined by larry?

  34. Adam Greenwood
    April 4, 2007 at 10:34 am

    Scots-Irish frontiersmen were not known for their tender mercies towards unarmed Indian men, women, or children.

  35. Kaimi Wenger
    April 4, 2007 at 3:07 pm



    All the major academic sources — Brooks, Bagley, and so on — use accounts of survivors and court records. (Take a look at Bagley’s bibliography, for instance.)

    If you think that Rob Briggs (or any other particular researcher) did not use all available sources and should be made aware of some source he might not be familiar with, you should feel free to let him know. The link to the Miller-Eccles group is in the original post. Rob is a serious scholar, and would be happy to be made aware of some source he was unfamiliar with. (Though as I noted, all of the scholarly treatments of MMM make extensive use of known sources.)

    If you think it’s likely that Rob didn’t look at that account, why don’t you ask him about it, rather than making vague accusations?

  36. Rob Briggs
    April 5, 2007 at 3:04 am

    About 8 years ago, I started looking at MMM through a legal/historical lens. Since then I’ve also reviewed:
    • studies of war, criminology, mass killing, genocide
    • ethnic studies, anthropology
    • cultural studies, particularly as to the role of the ancient culture of honor which can be traced through the Middle Ages to early modern European history, then into the American experience. Some of the studies touching on culture of honor & so-called honor violence are listed below.
    • sociological studies of moral panics (very helpful)
    and a variety of other things.

    The basic idea about violence and culture is that violence is not evenly distributed among and through cultures. Some cultures tend to be more violence-prone, some less. And there is a temporal element too. That is, a culture may become more or less violence over time. Witness the American Civil War as one of the greatest periods of violence in American history.

    Those that pointed out that the connection I’m examining is violence as culturally conditioned are correct. I’m not arguing for a genetic connection (although even that cannot be entirely discounted when studying violence, aggression and criminality.)

    For those looking for an eye-opening view of the American past, I recommend Richard Slotkin’s trilogy: Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860; The Fatal Environment . . . 1800-1890; and Gunfighter Nation [the 20th century]. Gunfighter Nation does not treat Bush in Iraq. But think of Bush in Iraq as a natural extension of Gunfighter Nation.

    #21 – Thanks, Ardis. See you in SLC in May.

    #25 – Richard O – Thanks, Richard. Agree with your assessment of Albion’s Seed. I came at American history from a traditional political perspective, then law school taught me to focus on the legal/constitutional aspects. David Hackett Fischer has provided all of us with a marvelous new perspective. I’ll never see American history the same again.

    # 29 & 35 – Kaimi. Thanks for wading in. I think you’ve explained my take on things.

    # 32 – Mary, I’d be interested in your ancestor’s account. Send to RBriggs2000 at earthlink dot net.

    # 33 – KLH, I don’t believe in single-factor explanations. I’m exploring cultural background/cultures of honor/honor violence as a factor — among many others. It is not the sole factor and probably not even the most important. But it is a factor and it’s never been explored before. It deserves study.

    # 34 – Adam, Bingo!

    Below is a light reading list about violence, particularly in the American past. The only thing I can guarantee you is that your view of American history will NEVER be the same again.

    Best to all, Rob

    Bellesiles, Michael A., ed. Lethal Imagination: Violence & Brutality in American History (1999)
    Brown, Richard Maxwell, ed., American Violence (1970)
    Brown, Richard Maxwell, Strain of Violence: Historical Studies of American Violence and Vigilantism (1975)
    Brown, Richard Maxwell, No Duty to Retreat: Violence & Values in American History & Society (1991)
    Courtwright, David T., Violent Land: Single Men and Social Disorder from the Frontier to the Inner City (1996)
    Demaris, Ovid, America the Violent (1970)
    Dickson, R. J., Ulster Emigration to Colonial America, 1718-1775 (1966)
    Dray, Philip, At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America (2002)
    Fischer, David Hackett, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (1991)
    Gilje, Paul A., Rioting in America (1996)
    Grimsted, David, American Mobbing, 1828-1861: Toward the Civil War (1996)
    Griffin, Patrick, The People with No Name: Ireland’s Ulster Scots, America’s Scots Irish and the Creation of a British Atlantic World, 1689-1764 (2001)
    Hollon, W. Eugene, Frontier Violence: Another Look (1974)
    McWhiney, Grady, Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South (1988)
    Nisbett, Richard E. & Dov Cohen, Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South (1996)
    Rust, Val D., Radical Origins: Early Mormon Converts & Their Colonial Ancestors (2004)
    Szasz, Ferenc Morton, Scots in the North American West, 1790-1917 (2000)
    Waldrep, Christopher, “The Language of Lynching, 1820-1953,” in Bellesiles, ed., Lethal Imagination: Violence & Brutality in American History (1999)
    Webb, James, Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America (2004)
    Wyatt-Brown, Bertram, Southern Honor: Ethics & Behavior in the Old South (1982)
    Wyatt-Brown, The Shaping Of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace and War, 1760s-1880s

  37. Rob Briggs
    April 5, 2007 at 3:14 am

    One other thought.

    #4 Anne and #12 DH — DH is correct. At the rededication at MM in 1999, there was no statement of regret or apology, and it caused a significant backlash among some on the AK side.

    This September on the 150th anniversary, I’m hoping for some official expression of regret. It would be a sign of our honesty, integrity, and maturity.

  38. April 5, 2007 at 10:31 am

    Note Michael Bellesiles was stripped of the Bancroft prize awarded to his book _The Arming of a America_ after it was demonstrated that he had fabricated or misrepresented most of the evidence in support of his thesis. Treat all of his work with extreme caution.

  39. April 5, 2007 at 10:38 am
  40. k l h
    April 7, 2007 at 7:47 am

    Rob: Your depth of research is great. And I’m sure you handle the application of your studies of “honor” and whatever cultural beliefs authorize violence – delicately…just as, when speculating possible causes of Nicole Simpson’s murder, I’m sure you’d emphasize criminological studies and studies of culturally sanctioned violence in general more so than concentrating on generalizations about any particular culture’s ideas about violence in particular?(Or,more applicably, when looking at the seige at Waco I’m sure you’d reference such studies of cultural violence as background while you carefully detailed particularities of the government officers’ honor codes and those of the survivalistic Seventh Sealers/ Branch Davidians.)

  41. k l h
    April 7, 2007 at 7:59 am

    (Hey – sorry about my conjugations!!) Anyway, I think larry’s comment touches on the actual perpetrators’ honor code whereas citing McWhiney’s apparent cultural generalizations might either lend greater understanding or else simply diffuse focus from of the pertinent issues at hand, depending on how it’s handled?

  42. Rob Briggs
    April 7, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    Thanks, Nate. Bellesiles is the editor of Lethal Imagination. Other than the introduction, he makes no other contribution to the book.

    The Waldrep article, “Language of Lynching,” is intriguing. It discusses the changing meaning of “lynching”: from Thomas Lynch to “Lynch Law” to lynching (meaning tarring & feathering) to lynching in the more current sense after some extra-legal killings in Vicksburg in 1835.

    So when JS was tarred & feathered in the early 1830s, the perpetrators were simply carrying out a common practice toward people they didn’t like. In the pre-1835 meaning of the word, JS was “lynched.”

    k l h: The broader topic is violence on the Mormon frontier which is a subset of studies of American violence that have accumulated since the 1960s when the issue was first clearly recognized.

    I became interested in the question of cultural influences from the observations of Sir Richard Burton, Jules Remy and Brenchley when they visited SLC in the 1850s. In 1855, Remy and Brenchley visited SLC and observed 17 “nations” (ethnic groups) on the streets of Salt Lake. (In “A Journey to the Great Salt Lake”) Burton’s observations were in a similar vein about 5 years later.

    These “nations” were clearly unassimilated and had the identifiable traits and characteristics of their native cultures. It’s a small step to recognize that these peoples and groupings brought aspects of their native cultures with them to Mormon Utah. Although assimilation occurred fairly rapidly in Utah, it hadn’t occurred yet. Thus, Cedar City had Americans but English and Scots predominated. Washington was a newly formed town populated by those from the American South. The Indian missionaries at Santa Clara (Fort Clara) were mostly young American frontiersmen from the Midwest. What aspects of these cultures did they bring with them? That’s what I’m trying to explore.

  43. April 7, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    Rob, how do we get past stereotypes to know whether your study has any validity? It hardly seems believable that, say, Scots had such a monolithic culture that you can know how far individual Scots in Cedar City partook of that culture — how do you adjust for the difference between rural and city origins, or for how long those born in Scotland had lived in the U.S., or had been Mormons, or were leaders or followers in Cedar City, or passive or assertive in personality, or had been exposed to the refinements of education, or had participated in earlier violence as perpetrator or victim, or had other relevant personal experience? This is what failed to convince in your MHA presentation — you built your argument then (perhaps modified since) on the premise that you could glance at someone’s ethnic origins and assert that he would therefore behave in a given manner, without knowing anything else about that man, and without allowing for more immediate influences.

    (Your paper was obviously memorable and one I’ve been stewing over ever since. Please don’t take this as a confrontation but rather as a continuation of all the stewing.)

  44. April 7, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    “Rob, how do we get past stereotypes to know whether your study has any validity?…This is what failed to convince in your MHA presentation — you built your argument then (perhaps modified since) on the premise that you could glance at someone’s ethnic origins and assert that he would therefore behave in a given manner, without knowing anything else about that man, and without allowing for more immediate influences.”

    I have no dog in this fight, so don’t misinterpret my comment as a defense of or attack on Briggs, whose paper I am unfamiliar with. That said, I am pretty interested in Albion’s Seed, and the kind of cultural/linguistic/ethnic/religious continuums it and works of scholarship like it try to explore. The work of cultural historians like Fischer (and, perhaps, Briggs) is not, it seems to me, well served by asking it to demonstrate its own validity solely in terms of how certain individuals would or did behave in specific circumstances. Much of history is about documenting stated or observed agendas, intentions, actions, beliefs, etc., with the aim of puting together an explanation of what happened to who and when and how. When cultural history is used that way (and Fischer himself is certainly guilty of doing so), it falls flat. The fact that person X is a product of a particular cultural/ethnic milieu doesn’t tell you anything about person X’s information, self-understanding, decisionmaking process, etc. However, it does tell you a great deal about what does or does not exist within their own worldview. There are many reasons why opponents of Joseph Smith tarred and feathered him on the frontier in the 1830s, but their descendents in California today do not tar and feather missionaries, however much they dislike them; and not all of those reasons are reducible to self-interested calculations about the possible legal consequences of tar-and-feathering. There has been, between the 19th-century frontier and 21st-century California, a significant amount of acculturation; people’s attitudes and worldviews and presumptions have changed. So, the point of research like Fischer’s is to show what was or is “in the air” insofar as the worldview of any particular cultural/ethnic group is concerned. And it is indisputable that violence was accepted as a legitimate option far more readily amongst some 19th-century ethnic groups in America than others.

    Of course, exploring these data points also makes it necessary to think about migration patterns, commercial transactions, inter-marriage, language shift, religious conversion, and all the other ways in which ethnic groups lose their cultural integrity. (This is also something I think Fischer is a little bit sloppy regarding.)

  45. April 7, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    Fair enough, RAF. Let me ask my question this way: What does Rob’s study tell us about Mountain Meadows? He seemed to be saying: “The participants were Southerners and Celts; Southerners and Celts were violent; it was their Southern-ness and Celtic-ness that brought about Mountain Meadows.” The presentation wasn’t convincing because there was no allowance for any influence intervening between origins and the date of the massacre; the presentation seemed motivated not by reason and logic but only by a partisan desire to absolve Mormonism from any connection to the massacre by saying that ethnic origins overrode every other consideration.

    I’d like to have that proved, believe me! I want to believe that the massacre happened *despite* their Mormonness, not *because of* their Mormonness (and I heard a recent presentation by Rick Turley that, for the first time, helped me understand how that could be possible). But looking at the birthplaces of the perpetrators, without allowing for all the dramatic changes that occur in worldview due to religious conversion, geographic migration, and exposure to so many experiences alien to the highlands of Scotland or the hollows of North Carolina, seems all but irrelevant.

    I’m asking whether or how origins are relevant under these circumstances. And again, I’m not insisting that they are not relevant, only that the dots haven’t been connected closely enough for me to see the picture yet.

  46. Rob Briggs
    April 11, 2007 at 4:02 am


    1. There is a curious thing that happens in studies of the 1st & 2nd generation of Mormonism. Examining the 1st generation, many of the faithful see Joseph Smith as a prophet receiving revelation from God. He is thus sui generis. Of course, those with a secular outlook reject this and argue that all of his “gifts” or “contributions” can be traced to various aspects of his surrounding culture. Thus, he is not sui generis at all. While he was unique in some ways, yet he can best be understood through what may broadly be termed cultural studies. Thus, they trace aspects of the surrounding culture in his thought and actions.

    Yet when it comes to studies of the 2nd generation and particularly violence on the Mormon frontier, a strange reversal occurs. Here many with a secular orientation do not explore the broader environment for cultural influences. Rather, the Mormon subculture is a fully adequate explanation for Mormon violence. In fact, Mormon violence, especially manifestations such as MMM, are sui generis. Thus, there is no point in exploring broader studies of violence because Mormon violence in general and MMM in particular were totally unique. Implicitly, Bagley takes this position. Other than general references to “religiously-motivated revenge,” Bagley cites no academic literature to offer insight, theory, background or explanation. And why should he? If MMM was sui generis – totally unique – then any points of contact with other violence patterns will be superficial at best. There can be no meaningful points of contact with other massacres or mass killings.

    Now let’s return to the studies of the 1st generation of Mormonism. Richard Bushman rejects the extreme positions and instead explores a middle-ground position, fully granting that JS was strongly influenced by his cultural environment and that much of it found expression in his thought and action. Yet, Bushman also finds certain aspects of his thought that his cultural matrix can’t adequately explain.

    Many of us think Bushman’s approach of studying both the unique aspects of JS/Mormonism as well as the broader culture to trace its impacts and influences is the best approach, for both the 1st generation but also the 2nd; for studies of JS but also of violence on the Mormon frontier and other subjects.

    2. That said, if you’re looking for someone to “absolve Mormonism from any connection to the massacre” or to show that “ethnic origins overrode every other consideration,” I’m not your guy. Brooks saw several factors in incipient Mormon culture that contributed to the massacre. These included the excessive enthusiasm of the Reformation, blood atonement theologizing, sanguinary patriarchal blessings, and temple rituals emphasizing the notion of revenge. To that I’d add a atmosphere that was tolerate of extralegal violence (as per your study last year.) I accept these as contributory factors.

    Still, we should get over the notion that we were totally unique. We should seek for and explore the ways in which the broader culture impacted JS, Mormonism, violence on the Mormon frontier, MMM, and every other subject. Let’s stop thinking that we’re so special that we were/are beyond the influence of the broader culture(s).

    3. My paper was a preliminary exploration of the possible role of cultural influences beyond those of the Mormon subculture. If in your eyes it failed to treat in a balanced way every cause or contributing factor, that was not my purpose. As you will recognize, that was impossible in a 20-minute time slot anyway.

  47. Ardis Parshall
    April 11, 2007 at 11:05 am

    Thanks for this, Rob. No doubt your study will be clearer to me when you’ve been able to complete and publish it. 20-minute time slots are maddening for anything with the least degree of complexity.

    Since you mention my study of a couple of years ago, I would note that it acknowledged an atmosphere of tolerance for extra-legal violence that allowed the events of what I called a “surreal year” to happen. It also clearly acknowledged the role of Mormonism in shaping the thinking of the people involved — there’s a reason, I very strongly believe, why all the bloodiest and least justifiable incidents of misbehavior ever committed by groups of Mormons occurred in 1857. If broad cultural attitudes were chiefly responsible, you’d expect such events to have occurred more often, or at least not to be clustered so closely together and then to have abruptly ceased. There was a very specific, and thankfully short-lived, “something in the air” that caused or allowed those events that year. If your gaze is too fixed on the long distance view, you don’t even see what’s in the foreground.

  48. Adam Greenwood
    April 11, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    Ardis Parshall,

    is there any particular reason why there can’t be *multiple* causal factors? You’d say that all the unjustified violence occurred in 1857 and see this as significant. Briggs would say that the worst unjustified violence occurred among those of Southern culture. Cannot both be true?

  49. Ardis Parshall
    April 11, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    Adam Greenwood —

    The exchange between Rob and me has been all about recognizing multiple causal factors. I had misinterpreted Rob’s presentation as saying the cause was ethnic culture exclusive of Mormon culture, to which I objected; he corrected my misperception, stating that he was looking at ethnic culture as one, not the exclusive, cause; I acknowledged that, differing only to the extent of my placing more emphasis on more immediate causes where he placed more emphasis on broader background causes.

    We may not quite be singing from the same page, but we’re sitting in the same pew and leafing through the same hymnbook.

  50. Adam Greenwood
    April 11, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    Maybe I’ll look over y’alls shoulder and hum a few bars.

  51. Rob Briggs
    April 11, 2007 at 6:51 pm

    “We may not quite be singing from the same page, but we’re sitting in the same pew and leafing through the same hymnbook.”

    “Maybe I’ll look over y’alls shoulder and hum a few bars.”

    Well said, both of you.

    I’m in agreement on placing “more emphasis” on “more immediate causes.” Here, very briefly, is how I assess some of these causal factors.

    I’m inclined to put broader cultural influences (such as the national, regional & ethnic culture of honor & its associated concept of violence in defense of honor) in the background and simply observe that the actions of the combatants (Mormons and emigrants alike) were generally consistent with this cultural background.

    In the middle ground, I would put the so-called “Mormon” causes (“itch” for revenge [altho this is far from uniquely Mormon], reformation enthusiasm, ritual emphasis on revenge, sanguinary patriarchal blessings, blood atonement theologizing, tolerance for extralegal violence, etc.).

    But I save the foreground for the most proximate of causes: the announcement of war and invasion, the exaggerated reports of an actual physical invasion into southern Utah, some extreme or provocative behavior among a small but significant group of emigrant men toward southern Utahns, the spread of a Stanley Cohen-style moral panic in Cedar City and environs involving exaggerated perception of the danger posed by the emigrants, overreaction, overreporting, demonization, and grossly excessive response out of all proportion to the “objective” threat (i.e., the threat observed with the dispassion of hindsight).

    That is a restatement of what Juanita Brooks termed “war hysteria.” She assessed war and war hysteria as among the primary and most immediate causes. I agree.

    Ardis, I’m interested in your view on the “explosion” in 1857 Utah and why it was concentrated in that year.

    Here is a possibly related item. It deals with an admittedly “background” factor: the national/sectional mood of the country and its impacts on the Mormons in Utah. At the regional/national level, the 1850s were marked by virulence, hostility and bellicosity over slavery and its train of related issues. That hostility and bellicosity frequently reached the level of “fighting words” — a significant signpost on the road to violence. And of course, those fighting words, expressive of the pent-up hostility and aggression of the 1850s, spilled over into actual fighting and full-blown civil war several short years later. It is by far the greatest explosion of violence that American society has ever experienced.

    I agree that its hard to assess the impact of that on the Mormons in Utah but I’m inclined to think that some Mormons in the 1850s were not immune to these rising hostile emotions. I certainly don’t think that you can rule it out and conclude that the Mormons were entirely immune to this rising spirit of violence and hostility. Your thots?

  52. April 12, 2007 at 12:18 am

    Rob, I don’t yet have a theory that really satisfies me as to what was going on 1857, but something was happening then that didn’t happen before or after. There was a rash of Mormon-perpetrated violent incidents that share at least these characteristics: They were carried out by groups of Mormon men rather than individuals with private motives; they were premeditated rather than spontaneous emotional outbursts; they have a quasi-official character in that they were instigated by community leaders exercising their authority as leaders; they were personal in that actions were directed against specific people, usually hands on, where perpetrators had to face their victims and know without doubt that they were shedding blood.

    These include at least the Santa Clara ambush, the Parrish-Potter murders, the murders of the Aiken party, the Mountain Meadow massacre, the murder of Henry Jones and his mother, and a couple of incidents I’m tracking where potential victims were followed, not even knowing they were threatened, but where bloodshed was avoided so that today these incidents (thankfully) don’t appear in the catalog of atrocities. Mountain Meadows was different in scale but not in essential quality from the other incidents. These all occur in 1857. Why?

    My friends Will Bagley and Dave Bigler would say 1857 was not all that much different, that Mormons were such indiscriminate killers and thugs and all-around bad guys that similar incidents were occurring throughout the 1850s, maybe beyond. I don’t accept that – rumors and unsubstantiated accusations don’t count. Mike Quinn would say – has said, in a 2001 Sunstone panel – that the vagueness of the charges and absence of evidence is the very proof that the Mormons really did kill these anonymous victims, because it shows how good we were at erasing the evidence. Hogwash. There are so many traces of these 1857 actions in the records everywhere I look that I am convinced it is impossible to so thoroughly scrub the records that nothing remains. (I include this paragraph to guard against the accusation that for some reason I’m willing to believe any old charge against the Mormons – I’m not; the incidents I’ve listed for 1857 are ones for which there is significant evidence from multiple contemporary Mormon sources, evidence overwhelming enough to overpower my natural prejudice in favor of my people and my longing to be able to say that such things are nothing more than anti-Mormon bigotry.)

    War hysteria may be a factor in some of the incidents, but it isn’t one of the common denominators. The Santa Clara ambush and the Parrish-Potter murders occurred months before there was any expectation of United States action against Mormondom.

    A general cultural (whether Mormon, Southern, Celtic, or otherwise) tolerance for violence in defense of honor may also be a factor, but it doesn’t explain why these incidents were grouped in 1857 – those cultural factors would have been just as strong before and after 1857.

    Juanita Brooks writes about the “overzealous South”; she and others point to the ethnic roots, Missouri experiences, and isolated leadership of Parowan and Cedar City as major factors in Mountain Meadows (and, in my case, in the Santa Clara ambush). However, my list of 1857 atrocities includes incidents in Cache, Utah, and Juab Counties, so the “overzealous South” explanation isn’t any more encompassing than the war hysteria explanation.

    All the incidents have Mormonism in common. Did something blossom in Mormonism in 1857 to cause these atrocities? Maybe – I think Reformation rhetoric had to have played a significant role. But since all of these actions violate Mormon teaching on so many levels, only a very lazy historian could stop with asserting the Reformation as the cause.

    I don’t have a satisfactory explanation yet. I’m working on it.

  53. Ugly Mahana
    April 12, 2007 at 12:05 pm


    I have nothing to add, but would like to comment that your questions and comments above have shown more light on the MMM than anything else I have read on the subject (I admit I have not read much). Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Please continue to let us know if you find some answers or more questions.

  54. Ardis Parshall
    April 12, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    Thanks, Ugly (what a great handle!). There are topics in Mormon history that attract me far more than violence, but as long as our critics keep putting forth half- or un-truths and shallow studies, I keep being drawn to figure out what really happened and how and why. I hope to contribute something by looking at patterns as well as the details of individual incidents. Mountain Meadows didn’t happen in isolation — what can these other incidents tell us about the big one?

  55. Paul R.
    April 12, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    Ardis and Rob,
    Thanks for this great exchange. I’m a lurker who is impressed with the thoughtful and even handed dialogue taking place here.

    I’m curious at Ardis’s zeroing in on 1857 and Rob’s notion of broader cultural forces at work. I couldn’t help but wonder if either of you have read Kenneth M. Stampp’s America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink (Oxford, 1990). Stampp is a major historian of the antebellum era, and in this case he focuses upon what Ardis has called the “surreal” year of 1857. He does so for America as a whole, not Utah specifically, although he includes the Utah War and MMM in his examination. It has been a while since I looked at the book and I’ve never read it cover to cover, but if I recall, Bleeding Kansas gets considerable attention, the financial panic of 1857, the Dred Scott Decision, and more lead Stampp to conclude that 1857 marked the point of no return in the growing sectionalism dividing the country, north v south.

    It may be worth considering Stampp’s work as broader context for what is happening in Utah. I must say that I don’t put too much weight on these broader cultural factors, but as Rob has suggested they have been under explored for the MMM.

    Robb’s bib on violence is impressive, but when I talk about violence in the American West in the classroom I always try to qualify it and locate it: studies seem to suggest that the west was violent where there were a lot of single men and alcohol (read mining camps and cattle towns). No one really studies the homesteading frontier as a site of violence. Also, personal violence was rarest (Hollywood’s duels in the middle of the street rarely occurred), collective violence most typical (vigilante type action), and Indian hunting most common (official US military action is in a different category, but citizen violence against Indians far outstrips any other type of violence in the American West, especially on the California mining frontier). All of that said, I always assign my students a great little essay by Robert Dykstra, “Overdosing on Dodge City,” from the Western Historical Quarterly 27 (Winter 1996): 505-514. Dykstra’s book, Cattle Towns, demonstrates that the cattle towns he studied found effective ways to control violence (they passed local ordinances outlawing guns in town—alert the NRA). He says the major tension for these cattle towns was how to attract the cattle drives to town and earn the business of the young single men, while not allowing those same young single men to destroy the town during cattle season. The cattle towns regulated guns, prostitution and alcohol and effectively controlled the violence. The towns he studied averaged only 1.5 (if I recall correctly) violent deaths per year. Dykstra ends his “Overdosing on Dodge City” essay this way: “Regeneration through violence? The fatal environment? Gunfighter nation? Oh, please. Let’s get a grip on ourselves.” It serves as a wonderful corrective to some of the studies on western violence.

    All of this brings us back to Utah in 1857. The broader cultural context is important, no doubt, but something seems to be going on in Mormonism too. Like I said above, the family oriented settler frontier of Utah does not fit the typical model of a-lot-of-young-single-men-mixed-with-alcohol-equals-violence. I have to lay considerable blame at the feet of the Reformation and blood atonement, but even more so at the feet of the deafening silence that followed the various incidents that Ardis mentions. How might things have been different at MM if punishment had been swift and severe for Parrish-Potter and the Santa Clara Ambush? The silence seemed to imply approval. And so the year continued to grow more bloody.

    Let me add, Rob, that your recent UHQ article on MMM is top notch. I plan to assign it to my students.

  56. April 12, 2007 at 8:49 pm

    Paul, I haven’t read Stampp, but Bill MacKinnon cites him all through his Utah War manuscript. I guess I’d better take a look, with recommendations from BOTH of you. And since you mention blood atonement as well as the Reformation …

    I recently came across a little jewel in the ward records of a settlement Somewhere in Zion, which should technically be restricted because they contain the records of disciplinary courts; apparently no one has noticed yet. This event takes place during the Reformation, on the last day of 1856:

    “Next come the confession of [name] a man that was at work for [name] who had been tried before the council for Stealing & his Sentence was to confess at meeting & make restoration to the satisfaction of those that he has injured & do the things no more. The council had a hard job of it to mak[e] him confess at all, as we could get no positive proof against him. The power of the Lord was upon the council & they knew by the Spirit that he was a guilty man & we had to just make him believe his days were few, if he would not confess. So when he Saw that death was at the door he confessed to the council & as the offence was against the public we decided that he Should make acknowledgement there before we would baptise him.” [emphasis in original]

    The council leaders knew they were not going to kill the recalcitrant ward member, but they deliberately made him believe they would. For this to work, they couldn’t let it be known that their threats were exaggerated, so it is likely that some, many, most, or all of the other ward members believed that the man would be killed unless he confessed. In this atmosphere, is it any wonder that here and there men actually thought that bloody deeds were righteous?

    We have to make the distinction between the Reformation teaching on blood atonement (regardless of whether or not it was ever put into practice) and the killing of outsiders — MMM , for instance, cannot legitimately be considered blood atonement, According to the rhetoric, only chrch members knowingly and willingly submitting could win atonement by the shedding of their blood. Outsiders didn’t qualify. Still, if you’re willing to kill a brother to save his soul, how much of a stretch is it to kill an outsider to protect Zion?

    I don’t think the Reformation is the only (maybe not even the direct) cause of 1857 bloodshed. It was, however, such a powerful and immediate factor that I think the more distant memories of ethnic culture — even when old culture and recent sermons tended to the same tolerance for violence — are vastly overshadowed. Maybe that’s splitting hairs. It seems to matter, to me at least, in understanding how those things happened.

  57. April 12, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    the vagueness of the charges and absence of evidence is the very proof that the Mormons really did kill these anonymous victims, because it shows how good we were at erasing the evidence.

    That’s classic Conspiracy Theory rhetoric – I refuse to take anyone seriously who holds to such unfalsifiable views.

    People who say 9/11 was an inside job, the ILLUMINATI are behind everything, or that the Tri-lateral comission secretly rules the world use very similar reasoning/rhetoric.

    When all evidence against something becomes evidence for it, there’s something seriously screwed up in your thought process…..

  58. April 13, 2007 at 10:48 am

    Ardis: I am trying to udnerstand your 1857-was-special thesis, which is facinating. Wasn’t there a fair amount of “Mormon” violence after 1857. For example, the Robinson murder was post-1857. From what little I know, I think that case makes most sense in terms of claim jumping, although given the way in which the Church and Mormon theocratic ambitions were tied up in early title disputes, one cannot disentangle claim jumping from Mormonism. Are you claiming that there was some sort of dramatic turning toward violence in 1857 followed by a turning away from violence thereafter?

  59. April 13, 2007 at 10:58 am

    One interesting note on the broader context for the 1857-was-special-thesis: I recall reading someplace (can’t remember where) that in the years immediately before the Civil War the abolitionist movement, which was overwhelmingly religiously motivated shifted from a primarily New Testament hermeneutic to an Old Testament hermeneutic. Genteel New England abolitionists in Concord were thinking about Jesus and Emerson and universal love. Then comes John Brown and his sons hacking pro-slavery settlers up with cutlesses and trying to lead slave revolts in Virginia. He’s talking in Old Testament terms of the wrath of God upon the nations.

    (Interestingly, there is a sense in which Lincoln captures both hermeneutics in his second innaugural, which sees the war in Old Testament terms as God’s wrath upon the nation but sees the duty of citizens in New Testament terms of binding up wounds and caring for widows and orphans.)

  60. Paul R.
    April 13, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    Nate wrote: “Ardis: I am trying to understand your 1857-was-special thesis, which is fascinating. Wasn’t there a fair amount of “Mormon” violence after 1857.”

    Nate, while we are waiting for Ardis’ reply, I’m going to jump in here. What we need for Utah is a table like that produced by Dykstra for his Cattle Towns book which lists the number of violent deaths by year and also averages them over a given time period. MM alone would produce a significant bulge at 1857 for a Utah chart. I don’t know that anybody has attempted such a thing for Utah, but it needs to be done (I nominate Ardis) before we toss around too freely, I believe, the notion that Utah/Mormonism was a violent society/religion. At how many violent deaths does a society/religion become violent? Who gets to decide that number? Some of the studies, like Krakauer’s, talk about a few violent episodes and then conclude that Mormonism was a violent faith. I’d guess that the vast majority of Mormons in 19th century Utah lived out their day to day lives in relative peace. One study of lynching between 1882 and 1903 places Utah as third lowest of 19 western states and territories with 7. Nevada had 5, Minnesota 6. Montana had 85, Colorado, 65, New Mexico, 34 and Arizona 28.

    This is why I like Dykstra’s work so much. Someone needs to study Utah, using his methodology (Ardis?). He makes a compelling case that the cattle towns he studied, Dodge City included, had an average of 1.5 victims of homicide/year. Other historians who write of the violent West (Richard White, Roger McGrath) have used the FBI’s index which calculates a ratio for murders per every 100,000 of population. It works well for large 20th century cities, but when used on the small mining and cattle towns of the nineteenth century it is subject to the fallacy of small numbers. He gives one example: in 1880 Dodge City had one homicide in a resident population of 1,275. Using the FBI index “this single killing yields a statistically huge homicide ratio of 78.4,” a rate twice that of violence ridden Miami a century later. Had the bullet missed its target the ratio would have been zero.

    Dykstra points out, “The late nineteenth-century scholar looking for true mayhem and big body counts should forget Little Bighorn, forget Wild Bill and Wyatt Earp, forget Dodge City. Instead, consider the lethal character of simply working on the railroad. In the single year 1893 no fewer than 433 men died violently while attempting to couple railway cars. Now that would have made a blood-spattered epic worthy of Sam Peckinpah.”

    In short we need to qualify, quantify, and use responsible scholarship to understand violence in Utah and among Mormons. It certainly did not begin and end in 1857, but if I’m reading Ardis correctly, it does seem to be an unusual year. Using Dykstra as a model we could test Ardis’s thesis.

  61. April 13, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Nate and Paul R., the events I’ve been looking at in 1857 are different in nature from Dr. Robinson’s 1866 murder, random violent murders in Utah at any time, or even the 1857 murder of Richard Yates while a prisoner of the Nauvoo Legion during the Utah War. Those events are the “normal” murders committed by individuals (even individual Mormons — although I’m not so sure Robinson was killed by a Mormon; the court ruled in favor of the city/Mormondom and against Robinson on the very morning of his death, removing claim jumping as a plausible motive for his murder) for the usual reasons of drunkenness, lust, jealousy, or greed.

    One essential characteristic of the incidents I’m studying is that local Mormon leadership planned and orchestrated the atrocities, which were carried out by organized groups of Mormons — these were ward service projects, if you will. (Oh, I know I’m gonna get in trouble for that one.) The incidents I’ve identified in this way seem to have occurred ONLY in 1857; if there are other such incidents either earlier or later, I haven’t found enough evidence yet to include them in my list.

    Perhaps this period of violence was sparked by the Reformation (although that doesn’t really account for everything), and perhaps the massive upheaval that occurred at the end of the Utah War (including the Move South, the disruption in preaching meetings, the loss of the governorship and other territorial offices to outsiders, the arrival of the army and the economic boon it proved to be, the investigations of Cradlebaugh and others into recent Mormon actions, and so many other major events) relieved the pressures, or at least turned them into new channels that didn’t include organized murder. Something happened; the Reformation and the end of the Utah War make nice brackets for the bloody months, but I don’t know yet that they explain enough.

    It would be an interesting related but different project to study individual acts of violence by Mormons as a way of looking at whether Mormons were any more or less violent than other frontier societies. I’ll read these last comments more carefully and respond again if I have anything to offer. (Paul, are you nominating me for this project to get even with me for piling so much on YOUR plate this summer?)

  62. April 13, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    “I recall reading someplace (can’t remember where) that in the years immediately before the Civil War the abolitionist movement, which was overwhelmingly religiously motivated shifted from a primarily New Testament hermeneutic to an Old Testament hermeneutic. Genteel New England abolitionists in Concord were thinking about Jesus and Emerson and universal love. Then comes John Brown and his sons hacking pro-slavery settlers up with cutlesses and trying to lead slave revolts in Virginia. He’s talking in Old Testament terms of the wrath of God upon the nations.”

    I made this point in my Kansas History class this year, Nate. The violence which the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act kicked off had an awesome affect on the abolitionist movement; for the first time since the Missouri Compromise, there was actually a real territorial dimension to the slavery question (the addition of California in 1850, along with the disposition of other lands taken from Mexico, was a muddled compromise), and it led many abolitionists to begin thinking very seriously about how to fight “slave power” on the ground rather than in the newspapers. Eastern settlers sent constant reports back home about the violence, pilgrimages were made to Kansas to see things first hand, and the whole movement grew more accepting of the possibility that there could be no resolution apart from war. (Though, as regards the 1857 thesis, the real violence in Kansas began in 1855, and peaked, with John Brown’s massacres and the burning of Lawrence, in 1856.)

  63. Edje
    April 13, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    The Salem witchcraft crisis might provide a useful analogy for the 1857 exceptionalism thesis in that 1857 and 1692 were both years when the “normal” pattern of relatively low-level, recurring and/or episodic violence went off the rails.

    (Disclaimer: I am almost perfectly ignorant of the primary and secondary literature on Utah in the 1850s.)

    I think explications of Salem that focus on the settler/native conflicts, such as MB Norton’s In the Devil’s Snare, might be particularly useful because there are possible parallels with the Mormon siege mentality/reality, the focus on unity and identity, the Post Traumatic Stress symptoms, and the timing between traumatic events. In short, the analogy is merely a re-packaging of the war-hysteria/reformation-ideology theory, except for the Post Traumatic Stress component.

    Norton demonstrates that traumatized individuals (e.g., girls whose families had been tortured by Indians, men who had fought in the battles, etc) were disproportionately represented among participants (including victims) of the anti-malefic campaign. Their presence and actions, together with anti-Indian rhetoric and symbology in the teeth of an Indian war, helped move a “normal” witch hunt past the tipping point into a runaway crisis. Individuals with PTS-like symptoms acted as extra leaven in a loaf that was already close to running over the edge.

    Participants in the Martin/Willie disaster of 1856 could have played a similar role. The 700 or so MW survivors would have been about 2% of the total population of Utah in 1857 (which reached 40k in the 1860 census); with the extensive relief efforts the number of individuals with direct involvement in the traumatic event could easily have reached 5% of the population. MW participants as the extra leaven might account for the geographic and the temporal issues (Why all over Utah? Why 1857?). A PTS/leaven theory has many of the advantages of the cultural/background ideas but is much more temporally focused.

    Even in the absence of a demonstrable leaven effect, the collective response to the large-scale MW mobilization might have provided sufficient traumatic stress for the collective psyche to be postly disordered about. As a leaven effect or as collective PTS effect or both, MW might have contributed significantly to a violence-friendly climate well before any clear and present invasion expectations. At any rate, it is a possible enhancement to the “nice brackets” Ardis cites above—and I have not noticed anyone mentioning it in connection with MM.

    I have no clear ideas about how to test either hypothesis.

    [For overview and critique of In the Devil’s Snare see John M Murrin, “The Infernal Conspiracy of Indians and Grandmothers,” Reviews in American History 31, no. 4 (Dec 2003): 485-494; and Richard Godbeer, The New England Quarterly 76, no. 3 (Sep 2003): 484-487.]

  64. Edje
    April 13, 2007 at 3:15 pm
  65. Bill MacKinnon
    April 14, 2007 at 11:27 am

    I\’ve just stumbled out of the cold and into this wonderful discussion prompted by Rob Briggs\’ talk at the Miller-Eccles Study group and want to add a few quick comments if I might on several of the posts. But let me start by saying that you\’ve got some really good minds at work on this subject such as Rob\’s and those of Ardis Parshall (tops on any subject on which she focuses) and Paul R., among others.
    First, re Kaimi\’s plea (in #29) for a little \”historical perspective\” and his comment that surely MMM wasn\’t \”the largest atrocity in American history,\” I\’d say that he\’s right. The fatalities in incidents such as those he cited (Wounded Knee and the Tulsa race riot) and others exceeded the 120 at MM. But terminology is important. Killing is certainly \”atrocious\” behavior, but I\’ve reserved the word \”atrocity\” for a special context and define it to mean violence by military forces — regulars and militia as well as their auxiliaries such as Indians — against noncombatants or unarmed prisoners. With respect to MMM, then, I consider it an atrocity and different than the individual homicides in the cattle towns like Dodge City. I have described it as \”the greatest incident of organized mass murder against unarmed civilians in American history until the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.\” What distinguished MMM from Tulsa is the \”organized\” and the military part, and a way in which MMM differs from the Bear River massacre of 1863 is the word \”civilian\” or \”noncombatant.\” (I think there were more fatalities at Bear River than in any other army-Indian clash of the 19th century, and it\’s interesting that it too took place in Utah Territory and that the army used Porter Rockwell as its principal guide, although he was functioning as a civilian rather than as a Nauvoo Legion officer.) The slaughters that were part of the Indian wars were complicated by the fact that the Native American women present were often, if not usually, armed and were combatants. At MM, all of the members of the Fancher party had been disarmed before the last round of killing by Legionnaires and Indians began on September 11th.
    In #48 Ardis kicked off a discussion of what she aptly calls \”the surreal year 1857\” in Utah, and she and Rob (and others) have been back and forth about why violence spiked then and there. I think that the explanation is not unrelated to the \”tone\” and Reformation factors that have been mentioned, but that the overwhelming factor to consider is that the Utah War was underway. Surely MMM was a part of the Utah War and would not have happened were it not for that conflict. Then there are the \”other\” killings. The murder of Richard E. Yates around18 October 1857 (not in southern UT but in Echo Canyon far to the northeast) by Nauvoo Legion Lieut. Bill Hickman was a direct result of the fact that Yates had refused to sell his stock of gunpowder to the Legion and had instead sold it (as well as a herd of cattle) to the approaching U.S. Army\’s Utah Expedition a few days earlier. The lynching at about the same time of Utah Expedition deserter Pvt. George W. Clark on Smiths Fork was clearly \”of\” the Utah War in that his Tenth U.S. Infantry regiment wouldn\’t have been in that area otherwise. Five (and maybe six) of the members of the civilian Aiken party were killed near Nephi by Nauvoo Legion officers and enlisted men in late November 1857 because they had arrived in UT from California heavily laden with cash and expensive rigs and were suspected of attempting to reach the army in an effort to set up a gambling den or worse. If one drifts across UT\’s northern border into Oregon Territory and stretches 1857 to 25 February 1858, one finds a raid on Mormon Fort Limhi by 200 Bannocks and northern Shoshones in which two Nauvoo Legion farmer-missionaries were killed and five wounded at the probable instigation of a party that the Utah Expedition had sent north to buy animals from the Flatheads. Beyond these actual killings, there were authorizations which either ordered or would have permitted far more killings which, fortunately, did not take place. So, in my mind what made the difference re 1857 was the Utah War. For that reason, I am amazed that so many people (and even the church website) still call the Utah War \”bloodless\” (as I did mistakenly in 1998). The number of fatalities was pretty close to that over the period 1854-1861 that earned Utah\’s neighbor to the east the enduring label \”Bleeding Kansas.\”
    Finally, I think in #64 Edje has steered you to a very interesting piece of scholarship (Norton\’s book about the Salem witch trials of 1692) that helps one to understand MMM. I haven\’t read the book yet, but all of the reviews that I\’ve seen describe some very interesting circumstances worth considering as context for what happened in UT, including the stress of an Indian War and the arrival of outsiders to Salem.

  66. Will Bagley
    April 14, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    The Bear River Massacre was not the largest slaughter
    of Indians by the army in the 19th century. From the NPS Horseshoe Bend National Military Site web site:

    In the spring of 1814, General Andrew Jackson and an army of 3,300 men attacked 1,000 Upper Creek warriors on the Tallapoosa River. Over 800 Upper Creeks died defending their homeland. Never before or since in the history of our country have so many American Indians lost their lives in a single battle.

  67. Kaimi Wenger
    April 14, 2007 at 4:21 pm


    It’s great to see you commenting here. I enjoyed your recent Dialogue article, and I’ve heard very good things about you from Ardis Parshall, whose recommendation carries great weight.

    Given your definition of atrocity, I’m not aware of any incidents that would surpass MMM in scope. I have my doubts about the usefulness of that hard definition, though. Is Tulsa — where local police joined state National Guard in disarming Blacks who resisted the violence, and where the killing and burning was done by an unholy mix of mob, vigilante, police, and National Guard (including several incidents of shooting disarmed Blacks who had surrendered to the military authorities) — really different in substance from MMM, just because not _all_ of the perpetrators had official government or military status?

    The term “race riot” brings to mind images of Rodney King, Watts, Los Angeles, unorganized violence and looting by individuals or mobs. That’s a misperception when it comes to Tulsa, where much of what happened was substantially more organized and tied to official action. There was a coordinated attack (a train whistle was the signal); some sophisticated advance planning, including installation of machine guns at strategic points; shooting of disarmed prisoners; and heavy participation by local police and militia.

    (There are some great sources on Tulsa, including a good book written by my friend, the legal historian Al Brophy. Also, the report of the Tulsa Commission is available online, at ).

    I agree with you, that MMM was a serious tragedy, and one of the great atrocities of the nation’s past. I’m less sure that it deserves a category of its own — I’d place it in the context of Tulsa, several Native American slaughters, and possibly other incidents of mass violence (such as the Thibodaux union massacre).

    And I’d personally rate all of these incidents (individually, or in combination) as several orders of magnitude less serious than the initial Native American genocide on this continent (largely by disease), or the mass atrocity of slavery, the transatlantic slave trade, and the related horrors.

  68. Bill MacKinnon
    April 14, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    Thanks for your warm welcome. I know so little about about the Tulsa riot — other than that it was essentially a race riot with a horrific body count — that I shouldn’t get into a comparison of that tragedy and MMM, although it strikes me that the one event was certainly more organized than the other. I’ll leave that comparative analysis in your capable hands. I think you raise a legitimate point in asking whether I’ve categorized MMM too narrowly, but then I think that’s one on which reasonable men and women can differ. I would, however, raise one note of caution. Often when I mention MMM in terms of its size or scope the immediate reaction is often for someone to point out that there was something even more deadly that took place somewhere else. It’s an interesting reaction that could be prompted by a number of things, but it always leaves me wondering about the meaning of the response. For me, MMM is unprecedented, and the important thing is that approximately 120 people were killed after entrusting their lives to military officers, following which they were stripped of ALL their possessions (cattle, horses, wagons, carriages, cash, jewelry, camp equipment, household goods, and even blood-soaked, bullet-punctured clothing), not even given a decent burial, and then demeaned after the burial cairn erected in 1859 (by a group of hapless U.S. dragoon privates who constitiuted a decent burial detail) was willfully destroyed in 1861. That whole tableau strikes me as being in a class by itself, although I could be wrong.

  69. Kaimi Wenger
    April 15, 2007 at 12:09 am


    I can’t say what the reason for others’ quibbles are. As for myself, I’m a legal academic and a former lawyer, so quibbling is kind of like breathing to me, except more natural.

    I suspect that there are numerous reasons one might quibble with MMM characterizations. Some are undoubtedly apologetic, and I’m sure that you’ve fielded quibbles before (and will field them again) from Mormons upset by the characterization because it disturbs their view of the church. I don’t perceive myself as motivated by that reaction (though self-diagnosis is inherently subject to problems), and so I don’t have too much to say about that approach, though I should note at least, that

    (1) it seems to me that one can continue to draw spiritual sustenance from this (or some other) church, even if church members and leadership did horrible things in the past (and it strikes me as evidence of an impoverished spirituality to suggest otherwise);

    (2) it seems awfully strange to me for any member to fixate on your ordinal ranking for apologetic reasons — that seems like saying they’re okay with an organization that was #2 in the atrocity rankings, but not #1, which seems decidedly odd;

    (3) I think that principles of honesty and integrity demand that the details of the story be told, and I applaud the efforts of people — Juanita Brooks, Will Bagley, Ardis, Paul Reeve, Turley, Leonard, Walker, yourself, Rob Briggs, and many others — who have contributed to our understanding of the event, and who continue to do so. In my own area of research and writing, I’ve come to the conclusion that storytelling (in the sense of telling narratives, not in the sense of fiction) is one of the great ways to address past wrongs. I have the greatest respect for people who dedicate time and talent to telling the untold stories that need to be told.

    I suspect that much of my own quibbling reaction to the characterization (such as “the greatest incident of organized mass murder against unarmed civilians in American history until the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing”) stem from a motivation that is really similar to your own motivation in researching and telling the MMM narrative to begin with.

    My own major area of research and writing relates to slavery and compensation. Some of my friends are slavery historians, and I’ve spent much of my career so far writing about slavery and reparations. Many reparationists, myself included, subscribe to the idea that some post-1865 events — among them the Tulsa riot, as well as possibly other race harms — should also give rise to compensation. My friend Al Brophy has been involved in the lawsuit seeking compensation for descendants of the Tulsa violence.

    As someone who spends time researching the topic, I am always amazed by the way it inhabits such a blind spot in historical memory. Dozens of smart, articulate, progressive people I’ve talked to have _no idea_ what the Tulsa race riot was, or that it even existed. It is a source of agitation, sometimes — I want to shake people by the shoulders and say, “What do you mean, you’ve never heard of it? Hundreds dead. Thousands homeless. Official complicity and planning. And it happened barely 85 years ago!” Yet despite a half dozen books on the topic and the occasional news article mentioning it, it is essentially unknown to anyone but experts and enthusiasts.

    A number of reparationists — Brophy, Roy Brooks, and myself, among others — have emphasized the importance of storytelling. The narratives are powerful, and they’re true. To the extent that they enter the public consciousness, they honor the dead, and they allow for better examination of the factors that led to such events in the first place. I was thrilled with the movie Rosewood (which highlighted another neglected historical event). On a less corporate level, filmmaker Katrina Browne’s recent documentary told about learning her own family’s role in the slave trade. The more these stories are told, the more that people everywhere can learn and understand the past.

    (In fact, strangely enough, I really appreciate the fact that this thread has given me a chance to talk a little about Tulsa. I need very little excuse!)

    From your comments, I’ve gotten the sense that you’ve had somewhat the same reaction. You speak to many groups, including Mormons, and few seem to understand or appreciate the real importance of MMM. Most Mormons want to forget about it, downplay it, pawn it off on a few individuals, make it Not a Big Deal. Some anti-Mormons want to sensationalize it, turn it into some smoking gun for their own ends. Neither group seems to prioritize telling the story for what it is. And your statement on the importance of MMM (about which I’ve disagreed some on details) seems to be a perfectly reasonable attempt to get the attention of a public that is unfortunately more interested in Anna Nicole Smith than in learning about past atrocities.

    So I suppose I should set aside my lawyer’s instincts and stop quibbling about definitions and ordinal rankings. The reality is that there are a number of real tragedies in the country’s past, and many of them have been downplayed and almost completely ignored for an incredibly long time. I have nothing but respect for any efforts to learn more about such events, and tell the stories that need to be told.

    I tend to focus on the events that I know most about, and I’ll defer to others in areas of their own expertise. I’ve learned more about MMM from this thread’s discussion — for instance, your characterization underscores the real importance of MMM in perspective. I’ll avoid quibbling about ordinal rankings or definitions, which are notoriously subjective (cf. endless discussions about who is the “best president” or “best basketball player” or whatever else), and instead thank you — and Ardis, Will, Paul, Rob, Nate, and other discussants — for helping me learn more about MMM, in this thread and elsewhere.

  70. Bill MacKinnon
    April 15, 2007 at 6:22 am

    I really like your post and couldn’t agree more. In the process, I’ve also learned about Tulsa. I’m especially attracted to your thought about telling stories accurately about the important but unknown milestones in our national past.
    One last point. My real interest isn’t in the story of MMM, important as it is. It’s in the Utah War in which that sad event was embedded. There has been a lot of work done re MMM by Juanita Brooks, Will Bagley, Sally Denton, and soon Rick Turley, Glen Leonard, and Ron Walker. Between all that, I think something pretty close to the truth will triangulate and become apparent. My interest has been primarily in telling stories about the massive undertaking of which MMM was part — the Utah War. Later this month the Spring 2007 issue of the “Journal of Mormon History” will run an article that I’ve done titled ” ‘Lonely Bones’: Leadership and Utah War Violence” that barely touches on MMM. When Helen Whitney’s writers contacted me in 2003-04 about her pending documentary and I discovered that they wanted to treat MMM as more or less a stand-alone event rather than as part of the Utah War’s fabric, I took a pass on being involved. So I’m not a talking head in what will emerge on PBS on April 30 and don’t really know what will emerge on the air, although like some of you I’ve heard stories of arguments among the producers, writers et al. on matters of fact and emphasis . There’s much more than violence to think about re the Utah War as we enter its sesquicentennial year. It was an event that was the nation’s most extensive and extensive military undertaking during the fateful period between the Mexican and Civil wars. It was a conflict that pitted nearly one-third of the U.S. Army against what was arguably the country’s largest, most experienced militia. (When Lincoln took office less than four years later the largest army garrison in the country was in the desert forty miles southwest of GSLC and the national Treasury was empty. It was a campaign that was instrumental in the Anglo (army) rediscovery of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, Russia’s willingness to sell Alaska, and the English organization of the Province of British Columbia during the summer of 1858 to keep Vancouver’s Island and/or the coastal possessions out of Brigham Young’s hands. The Utah War was one of the factors leading to the reduction of Utah Territory and its 600-mile-wide counties in six bites to form or enlarge Nevada, Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming. It was part of the scene that delayed Utah’s statehood for as long as it did, and kept Utah out of the immediately following Civil War while forcing Lincoln to divert California troops to the reoccupation of Utah during 1862 after the remnants of the Utah Expedition marched off to Virginia in 1861. And then there are the individual stories — literally thousands of them — like Ardis’s of Charles H. Wilcken, Mitt Romney’s ancestor. (I’m not sure that Ardis mentioned that when Wilcken deserted the Utah Expedition’s Fourth U.S. Artillery that he carried with him a Prussian Iron Cross decoration awarded for his earlier European army service or that, after converting, he became the driver, bodyguard, nurse and pallbearer for Presidents Taylor and Woodruff, that he was one of the witnesses to President Taylor’s divine visitation from Christ and Joseph Smith while “on the underground” and that he was an adopted son of Apostle George Q. Cannon.) And Wilcken’s was just one of the participants!
    And with that, I realize that, as the late American League pitcher Dizzy Dean would have put it, I’ve “slud” Wenger-like into your mode of indulging an excuse to talk about a favorite subject…

  71. Rob Briggs
    April 17, 2007 at 3:21 am

    #53 – Ardis, I appreciate your observations in #53 & #62 re violence in 1857. You’re making me reconsider some of that in a new light. Remind me, please, about Henry Jones & his mother – who, what, when, where, why?

    #56 – Paul R, yes, I have Stampp’s America in 1857; it’s one of the reasons why I ask about the broader culture’s influence on the Mormons in the 1850s. Thanks for the observations about Dykstra; those are important observations. However, I’m inclined to give some credit to the “strain of violence” theory, at least as to the 1850-60s in American history.

    Was the Civil War “inevitable”? Setting aside the philosophical questions about inevitability, I’m inclined to think that it was only inevitable because of the American cultural matrix which prized honor, despised disgrace and justified violence in defense of wounded honor & perceived slights; which justified violent rebellion on one side and violent suppression of rebellion on the other; and which made violence rather than political compromise the preferred option for both sides. In other words I refuse to grant that it was inevitable.

    The sectional/slavery crisis could have been politically resolved by compromise just like every other major political conflict has been resolved in the past 225 years without having to resort to civil war. To say there was “violence in the grain” during the 1850s-60s is an oversimplification, but it tends toward the truth and is a useful shorthand.

    Russell Alben Fox in #63 raises interesting points about the mid-1850s – “they [abolitionists] grew more accepting of the possibility that there could be no resolution apart from war.” The South was not a monoculture and the South’s aristocratic planter class and its small white farmers had some differences in political & cultural views, but they reached the same conclusion as their abolitionist adversaries: there was no solution apart from war. Wyatt-Brown’s “The Shaping of Southern Culture” explores three Southern values: honor, grace and war and how they contributed to Southern identity.

  72. Rob Briggs
    April 17, 2007 at 3:24 am

    #60 – Good point, Nate, about Old Testament vs. New Testament orientation. Some have observed that Mormons seemed to harken back to the OT, not realizing that there was nothing unique about that; it was a common American orientation.

    #61 – Good point again, Paul. Sound like it would be a useful study if there are sufficient data. Re Dykstra’s conclusion equating railroad accidental deaths with “violent deaths” and observing that in 1893, they far outnumbered homicides – I think there’s a twisted logic there. It is a disgraceful statistic, but also an apple-and-oranges comparison.

    #64 – Thanks, Edje, for raising the witch trials. Stanley Cohen’s classic, “Folk Devils & Moral Panics,” develops the notion of “moral panic.” Erich Goode & Nachman Ben-Yehuda’s “Moral Panics: The Social Construction of Deviance” apply the concept of moral panics to the Renaissance witch craze. By extension, it would also seem to apply to the Salem witch craze. The amazing thing about the European witch craze is that it reoccurred periodically over several hundred years!

    I don’t know what to make of the Willie Martin disaster and post-traumatic stress syndrome. There’s an amazing story about an Indian woman (actually I think she may have been British living in India) who was converted to Mormonism, emigrated to Utah and was caught up in the handcart disaster. I believe she ended up in southern Utah. And there may have been several others. But aside from that I’m not sure there’s much connection.

  73. Rob Briggs
    April 17, 2007 at 3:31 am

    #66 – Hi, Bill, great to hear from you. I think you’re dead-on about the pervasive influence of the Utah War on MM and some of these other violent episodes.

    About the question of how we categorize MM. I see the point of narrowing the definition of “atrocity” but I also see an unintended and unfortunate result. Using the narrow definition, it eliminates from consideration such major events as slaveholder campaigns against slaves, (quasi) military campaigns against Eastern, Plains and California Indians, and southern and western lynching of Afro-Americans. Outside of the Civil War, these are the worse episodes of violence in American history, with many thousands of victims.

    Some of the literature on violence, genocide, etc., focuses instead on “mass killings” as a broader concept. For me, that’s a more useful approach: It doesn’t unconsciously slip into placing greater value on the lives of whites than of people of color. And lest it be said that this is merely an annoying example of Political Correctness, it’s not. What happened to many people of color in 19th century was especially appalling. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we shouldn’t disguise that fact by narrowing the definition of atrocity. Anyway, that’s my thought.

    #66 – Will cites the example of the Andrew Jackson against the Creeks in 1814 which is a good example and one I couldn’t have brought to mind.

    #68 – Kaimi’s example of the Tulsa “race riots” is another good example. It seems to me that the broader category of “mass killings” allows us to consider all of these.

    (I think what’s implicitly in play here is whether we’re going to accept or reject the 19th-century notion that a White life counted for more than a Black life or an Indian life. From the standpoint of 21st-century ethics, that is an atrocious thought.)

    In #69, Bill, you very effectively point out the particular heinousness of MM. You’re right, it does have a heinousness all its own. And #71, as always I love all the rich details you bring to your studies. I’m very interested in your take on the Helen Whitney-PBS issue which are current now. We’ll all find out, I suppose, in a couple of weeks.

  74. Bill MacKinnon
    April 17, 2007 at 9:21 am

    Hi Robb,
    A very good discussion in the Briggs tradition. I think an understanding of all of these mass killings IS useful to our understanding of American history, and I certainly don’t sign up for the notion that they should be dismissed in any way or that the life of a person of one background is “worth” more than that of another. Having said that, though, the Utah War killings (not just those at MM in the south but those in the north near the Green River district and Nephi) have intrigued me because of the very unusual circumstances: ordered and/or executed by military officers during a period of martial law proclaimed improperly (in Feb. 1857 — just before the Utah War — the president and secretary of state supported by a formal opinion of the U.S. attorney general ruled that a territorial governor was not authorized to declare martial law, as in the 1856 Washington Territory cases) with the victims unarmed or disarmed. Today there are very specific U.S. Army regulations against such behavior (the Law of Land Warfare), although in 1857 there weren’t — the American military was still about five years away from the issuance of General Sherman’s Order No. 100 on this subject. As hard-hearted as Sherman was — by the way during the Utah War he and George B. McClellan tried mightily to leave civilian life to reenter the army for the big show in Utah — during the Civil War and after, he worked hard to define prohibitions to the atrocious behavior that I’ve called “atrocities” (perhaps too narrowly). In the 1880s Sherman wrote a very interesting unpublished letter to a lady in San Francisco commenting on the behavior of a U.S. Army private named Mason who was then under military arrest for trying to kill an unarmed prisoner in his charge, Charles Guiteau, the assassin of President Garfield. Sherman graphically characterized Guiteau’s crime as the most heinous possible and commented that personally he could justify tearing him apart limb by limb. But he went on to say that Pvt. Mason’s duty as a soldier was not to seek personal vengeance but rather to guard his prisoner so that he could be brought to trial and dealt with in proper manner. (Perhaps the fact that Sherman took out a law license at Fort Leavenworth while vainly waiting for the call to Utah comes through here.) I’ve thought about Sherman’s view in thinking about Lieut. Bill Hickman’s fatal bludgeoning of the hated Richard E. Yates, a civilian prisoner in his charge, in Echo Canyon a month after MMM while Yates was manacled and asleep.
    What’s not so important to me is that MMM be properly pigeon-holed in the hierarchy of body-count. What is important is that it be understood that an event of such enormity took place and that it did so during a broader event that is poorly understood in American history (the Utah War) or is understood not at all. Back in the late 1960s I noted that when the atrocities at Mylai 4 were under discussion in the press that there were comparisons drawn to the troop misconduct in the 1864 Sand Creek massacre, at Wounded Knee in 1890, and during the following Philippine Insurrection, but no discussion or even awareness of MMM.
    As for the Helen Whitney program, I agree that we will just have to wait. All I know is that a substantial number people have been interviewed from various perspectives (Elder Jensen, Will Bagley, Rick Turley, etc.) but I have no insight into who will appear as a “talking head” when the editing is done. What I do know from multiple breathless phone calls from Helen’s writer and fact-checkers is that she is trying to be even-handed and that there have been tussles within her shop and with the broadcasting types over matters of accuracy or balance. We’ll see what comes out of that process on April 30. One thing I’m a little confused about. I’ve heard that the program is a two-parter, with one part being shown as part of the “Frontline” series and the second under the “American Experience” banner. Does anyone know if this is so? If true, it strikes me as odd because the concept of the two approaches seems quite different. “Frontline” features perhaps the most funereal narrator in television, and each segment seems to be dealing with either the end of the world or an expose of the most horrific conspiracy imaginable. In the past Helen’s work has appeared as part of the “American Experience” series, which often uses the wonderful (non-funereal) David McCullough as narrator.

  75. Nato
    April 23, 2007 at 7:58 pm

    If as so many of the early posters joked about the the mountain meadows murders, when can we start joking about the Virginia tech killings? Is it to soon now? or is it only OK to kill infidels?
    Thank you to all those that took the time to honestly and openly discuss as opposed to mocking those that died.

  76. k l h
    May 20, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    annegb expands on her comment # 4 above here:

    Although I suppose I often criticize societal structures, such as the church, this meeting sponsored by the church in 1990 that annegb attended in Cedar City – and at which had Pres. Hinckley, then in the First Presidency, present along with family members of those slain in the massacre and some members of the Paiute nation, along with their chief, as guests – really inspires me!

  77. k l h
    May 20, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    annegb expands on her comment # 4 above here:

    Although I suppose I often criticize societal structures, such as the church, this meeting sponsored by the church in 1990 that annegb attended in Cedar City – and at which had Pres. Hinckley, then in the First Presidency, present along with family members of those slain in the massacre and some members of the Paiute nation, along with their chief, as guests – really inspires me!

  78. k l h
    May 20, 2007 at 10:41 pm

    (sorry – poor proofreading above)

  79. Adam Greenwood
    August 27, 2007 at 1:38 pm
  80. October 27, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    I\’m a lot late to be making a comment. However, I have read much, including Juanita Brook\’s books which I feel are fairly accurate as well as objective. Being the GGGG grandaughter of John D. Lee and having received some information from my Great Aunt on this subject, as well as an \”anti-Mormon,\” book written by Josiah F. Gibbs in 1910 which on many points is fairly ludicrous but on the MMM agrees quite a bit with Juanita\’s account as well, I have come to the conclusion that the MMM took place largely because of Haun\’s Mill and the fear that was still in the hearts of the settlers in Southern Utah at that time. Many of the settlers in Southern Utah were at Haun\’s Mill, including John D. Lee\’s wife, Agatha Ann Woolsey. There was a John Lee who was killed at Haun\’s Mill. Whether there was any relation I do not know, but after reading the accounts at Haun\’s Mill, you can\’t help but know that these people were traumatized and fearful and yes probably wanted to avenge their bretheren, right or wrong. John D. Lee never blamed Brigham Young, even unto his execution for what took place at MMM. He never stated that Brigham Young knew anything. No one can know the state of mind any of these settlers were in after watching their family die at Haun\’s Mill, including a nine and ten year old boy and a 78-year-old man who had surrendered. It does not justify their actions, but it does I hope explain the state of mind they may have been in, and how if we don\’t keep ourselves in check, those things can really affect us in the worst kinds of ways.

  81. JA Benson
    October 27, 2007 at 10:31 pm

    Kris this is also my belief as my ancestor(s) who were involved at MMM were in Missouri at the time of Hauns MIll. One branch of the family narrowly missed being at Hauns Mill. All were traumatized by the mobs in Jackson. I think that their actions were caused by post-tramatic disorder. It doesn’t excuse them, just perhaps explains why.

  82. JA Benson
    October 28, 2007 at 12:49 am

    Oh Kris and BTW your ancestor saved my ancestor’s butt, by lying on testimony that my ancestor was dead, but was in fact quite alive and would stay that way for another 20 or so years. I do not know if hiding him was a good idea or not. It might have been better for him if he had to pay for his sin here in this life rather than the next. Anyway it would have forced our family to deal with it as well as John D Lee’s family apparently did. Anyway just my two cents. Thanks.

  83. October 28, 2007 at 5:00 am

Comments are closed.