Mountain Meadows in LDS consciousness

On the “Mormons” thread, reader Kevinf notes his own surprise and chagrin at the fact that his 29-year-old daughter didn’t know about Mountain Meadows. I’m less shocked; when I was 29, I really didn’t know much about the topic, either.

Here’s a question for our readers: At what age, and through what avenue, did you learn about Mountain Meadows?

I’ll elaborate slightly on my own experience. I don’t recall hearing the term at all while I was growing up. I was raised in the church; attended seminary; served a mission. During this time, I literally had no idea that anything like Mountain Meadows existed.

A few conversations at Institute, after my mission, left me with the vague idea that there was something called the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and that it was mostly a topic used by anti-Mormons to smear the church. I had no idea really what the event involved, except that it was something that people blamed on the church; I also came away with the impression (though perhaps this was just my own interpretation) that the church was being wrongly blamed.

All this was pre-Internet, of course — I’m not sure how this would change for people today.

Then I went to law school, then to a demanding law firm; I had no free time to ponder religion for a while. Eventually, I got some free time and started blogging on religion with some of the folks here.

I came to T&S pretty naive. I still remember seeing Aaron Brown discuss changes in Word of Wisdom interpretation, and thinking, “hmm, that’s different.” I was hit with a wave of new ideas as I entered the bloggernacle — WoW development; Joseph Smith polygamy; limited geography hypothesis. Along the way, I picked up facts about Mountain Meadows from a few blog posts — as I recall, largely from Dave’s, though I could be misrecollecting. Eventually, I ordered a copy each of Brooks and Bagley.

At this point, I’m still no expert. I continue to learn about the event and its significance from some excellent ongoing blog discussions with, among others, Ardis Parshall and Bill MacKinnon. I’m happy to learn about it now.

The history of my own (lack of) knowledge leaves me unsurprised at the gap in Kevinf’s daughter’s understanding, because it’s only been in the last couple of years that I’ve had any real understanding of Mountain Meadows. And my own (limited) observation makes me believe that many members follow a similar trajectory.

How about you, reader? When, and how, did you hear about Mountain Meadows?

136 comments for “Mountain Meadows in LDS consciousness

  1. Doc
    May 1, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    I learned about it from a kind couple who had just watched a documentary when my companion and I knocked on their door on my mission. I was quite puzzled and confuseled about what they were talking about. I think I get it now. Aparrently it is the road our faith will inevitably lead too if we don’t check it. PBS said so.

  2. May 1, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    I was thinking about this yesterday, actually, after my wife told me she’d explained to a friend who’d grown up in Utah and never heard of it, in anticipation of the documentary. I laughed a little that she’d never heard of it, but then realized I was probably 21 before I heard of it. I know I was back from my mission, and I have a vague recollection of Pres. Hinckley rededicating a memorial in ’97 on the 150th anniversary of the MMM. I could be wrong on the dates, but I’m pretty sure my first exposure was post-mission, and I didn’t really dig in and read Juanita Brooks until a year ago or so, when rumors of September Dawn began rising.

  3. Sarah G
    May 1, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    I had never heard of MMM before I stumbled on to a *gasp!* Mormon friendly blog about a year ago. That would make me 25 when I found out. I\’m still not sure what to think about it, but knowledge of the tragedy isn\’t something that will make me ponder leaving the church. Oddly, I\’ve known from a young age, 8 or so, that polygamy was practiced by the early members, including Joesph Smith. My Mother never thought that it was something to be ashamed of, just something I should know about.

  4. May 1, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    I’m pretty certain I arrived as freshman at BYU having never heard of it before. (I think the same can be said for pretty much every “controversy” in our history; the one exception, I think, was arguments over women, the priesthood, Sonia Johnson, etc.; I wasn’t especially well-informed about these things, but for some reason I’d followed the news about the ERA in the early 80s, and so I knew something.)

    Sitting on the floor of the BYU Bookstore as a freshman in 1987, reading through back issues of Sunstone, was a stunning experience for me. I’d heard of Sunstone, even paged through a couple of issues before; I’d first heard of it years before, when during a trip to NYC we attended church, and the gospel doctrine teacher made reference to the magazine after class in response to a question from my 15-year-old self. But I’d never just sat down and read through the magazine before.

  5. Tom
    May 1, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    I probably learned most of what I know about it from being around the blogs the past few years. I’m in my mid-20’s.

    I don’t care one way or the other if my kids made it to their 20’s without learning about MMM. I’m trying to imagine a situation in which I would find it important to teach my kids about it and I can’t really think of one. It’s an interesting historical event, but I don’t consider it anything vital.

  6. RSR
    May 1, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    My parents took the family to Mountain Meadows while we were traveling in Southern Utah. There was a small memorial there. I must have been 11 or 12. I’m sure I didn’t grasp the true nature of what went on, other than that it was a terrible moment in our history.

  7. anothernonymous
    May 1, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    11th grade (91-92) I wrote a bio of B. Young for my history class and my primary source was “The Restored Church” – a Deseret Book volume published in the 60’s (?). It cites the MMM primarily from a standpoint of defending B. Young from being complicit in the events.

  8. Kevin Barney
    May 1, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    I think I learned about it on my mission. I had a nodding acquaintance with Brooks (and always found it amusing that the copies in the BYU Bookstore were tightly wrapped in some sort of plastic so that you couldn’t browse them) when I was at BYU post-mission.

    I don’t consider myself at all knowledgeable on the subject, but I have been reading the periodical literature (reviews of Bagley, preliminary articles from Turley, Walker and Leonard, that sort of thing).

  9. Melanie
    May 1, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    I dated a descendant of John D. Lee when I was 20. As a relatively new convert I was unaffected– but perhaps one gets used to negotiating the quirks of church history. I don’t see why Whitney made it out to be some big trial of every member’s faith.

  10. RCH
    May 1, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    I grew up in Utah, and I think I first learned about it in a 7th grade Utah History class. It feels like something I’ve just always known about, though we never talked about it in our [pioneer stock] family or Seminary or Institute or any church setting…. It’s always bothered me that Mormons, “the persecuted” who ought to have known better, were the perpetrators of something so horrible and unprovoked — so I haven’t gone out of my way to learn more about it, discuss it with friends, or to ponder its ramifications. It’s one of those cultural heritage things I’d rather be left in the closet (along with polygamy, lol, so the latter half of last night’s PBS doc was EXTREMELY uncomfortable for me!).

    My convert husband heard the words Mormon Meadows Massacre for the first time just last night; he’s been in the church 7 years. Maybe because he lacks my Utah Mormon / cultural heritage baggage, he is bothered neither by MMM nor historical polygamy. (I mean, of course he thinks it’s horrible, but he puts it in context and doesn’t feel personally ashamed the way I do.)

  11. May 1, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    I can’t remember when I first heard of it, any more than I can recall the first time I heard the Joseph Smith story, or heard George Washington called “the father of his country,” or learned to make change for a quarter. I was a teenager when I first read Juanita Brooks, but I was aware of some form of the history before that; that awareness is why I hunted up Juanita Brooks.

    It’s hard for me to comprehend lifelong Mormons’ near-universal obliviousness of MM before someone brings it to their attention in a hostile way, although I believe you-all when you say that’s true. If I could remember how I first heard of it, perhaps I would understand how my background or curiosity or opportunity differed from yours.

  12. Brad Kramer
    May 1, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    After my mission, I was taking an upper division Russian course at the BYU. We had an assignment to deliver an oral report on a topic of our choice to the class. A really shy, soft-spoken, conservative, ROTC kid reported in extremely broken Russian on MMM. I guess I was probably 22 at the time, and probably about as naive as any other typical BYU student about the finer (or less fine) points of Mormon history.

  13. May 1, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    I joined the Church 3 months before my 20th birthday in North Carolina. I went on a mission at age 21, then came to BYU. My experience was like RAF’s–sitting on the floor of the BYU Bookstore reading every issue of Sunstone and Dialogue, reading every Mormon history book on the shelves at the HBLLibrary, picking up the 7th East Press every week, then frequenting “Grandpa’s Bookstore.” I was 23, it was fascinating, and I didn’t know I was supposed to be appalled. The only thing that really shook me was Adam/God. I spent about a year trying to force it to make sense, then realized it didn’t make sense, and I let Brigham be Brigham. I read Bagley when it came out, and found it a balanced view. In the book, he really doesn’t promote his view that Brigham was deeply involved. He is more dedicated to exploring what the sources say and what we really know. He makes some conjectures, but identifies them as such.

  14. normie
    May 1, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    22. post-mission, during college. not at BYU. read about it online.

  15. Halcyon
    May 1, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    I first learned about it in 11th grade U.S. History class. I must admit I thought most people learned about it that way, and was surprised to find out many don\’t know about it. Should U.S. History cover that topic in Mormon history?

  16. MCA
    May 1, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    The first time I (life long member from southern Idaho) heard about Mountain Meadows was a couple of years ago on one of the Mormon blogs. I was in my mid-20’s. I’m not sure which one and I read Levi Peterson’s biography of Juanita Brooks because at the time I had access to that through my library and not Brooks’ book.

  17. May 1, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    “I always found it amusing that the copies in the BYU Bookstore were tightly wrapped in some sort of plastic so that you couldn’t browse them.”

    Plastic wrap has never stopped me, Kevin. Slip a sharp pencil in there while your back is to the bookseller, make a smooth single line cut, tear slightly, slide the book out, and when you’re done browsing slide it back in. (Yes, it’s true, I have insufficient respect for corporate property rights.)

  18. John Taber
    May 1, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    I was in 9th grade, a bit short of 14, when I stumbled on it in a CD-Rom encyclopedia. By that point I had by then absorbed whatever “official” church history I could get my hands on, including _The Story of the Latter-day Saints_, _My Kingdom Shall Roll Forth_, _Spencer W. Kimball_, etc. and I had never heard _anything_ about Mountain Meadows.

  19. BBELL
    May 1, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    Heard about it as a teenager.

    Why would we expect people to ahve heard of it? How many among the general population is a history buff?

    By the way John D Lee has gggggrandkids all over the church.

    I know of two families in my current ward who are his relatives and my wifes gggggg was married to him for a while and left right after the massacre and married Daniel H Wells. I wonder what she knew about the massacre……..

  20. Lynne
    May 1, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    I do not remember exactly when I first heard about Mountain Meadows, although I do remember the topic and associated lengthy discussions always seemed to come up on family road trips that took us near Lee\’s Ferry.

  21. Yeechang Lee
    May 1, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    I was about the same age as John Taber (hey, man), or maybe a year younger, flipping through books (including Brooks) at the old Visitor’s Center in the New York NY Stake Center.

    I’ve never been personally troubled by the massacre. It’s always been clear to me that it was a one-off, horrible crime caused by a paranoid populace and its Indian neighbors, already unsettled by the coming US Army, that the incoming migrant party had the misfortune to run into. The reality of the incident’s historicity carries no particular meaning whatsoever to me about the validity of the church’s teachings, or Brigham Young’s prophetic mantle, or the price of tea in China, and the regular attempts to ordain the murders with any such never fail to cause me to roll my eyes.

    (I’ve been reading and enjoying the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels since my preteen years and never had trouble understanding then and now that Conan Doyle–for all of his storytelling brilliance–didn’t really know anything about my church, either.)

  22. May 1, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    Shortly after I turned 12 and shortly before my family moved from Kanab to Provo, I was involved in a two-day Boy Scout hike. We camped for the night near the site of the massacre. Or perhaps it was close to the site, but the site was in the same area. I don’t remember much about what was said. The Mormon Battalion was mixed in there as well somehow. I do have a vague memory of a moment of silence, a mixture of awe and sadness and tragedy.

    It’s hard to know, though, how much I remember from that is colored by later knowledge of MMM.

    The first day we had to carry our packs. I was among those who didn’t manage to make the entire hike [my pack probably weighed half as much as I did]. The second day we were given a cheap day pack with a bottle of water, some biscuits and jerky and hiked through some fairly rugged, steep, forested terrain. At one point the two leaders of our group [there were maybe 20 boys in our squadron or whatever you want to call it] had a difference of opinion on which way to go. So one took a few boys and went the lower route, following the stream. The other took the rest of us on a higher route that became steeper and increasingly more difficult to blaze a trail in — thick underbrush, closely grown trees and no real path.

    At one point I decided to abandon my leader and go find the other group. I worked my way down the mountainside and came out of the brush onto a very steep hill comprised solely of large loose pieces of dried out clay. I had a moment of panic but then slowly made my way down to the bottom of the hill to the stream bed and followed the stream until I hit pasture and then the highway. I was among the first scouts to make it into town. I can’t think now of which town it was. Parowan seems like the most obvious possibility, but I really can’t remember.

  23. Ryan Bell
    May 1, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    You know, I think the more relevant question is “how much should you care about the Mountain Meadows Massacre?” I understand that historians and critics have turned it into a high-profile event, and of course I don’t dismiss how gruesome and egregious the episode was. But the way it is reported on and discussed now, it’s not only an independently interesting event, but an essential chapter in Mormon history, critical to understanding us as a religion and a people. That reading is pure hogwash in my view.

    The treatment of the subject by the PBS documentary seemed pretty fair in its treatment of the subject, but it did not do the work that should be required (but is always taken for granted by everyone discussing it nowadays) to say why this is relevant to a modern understanding of the church and its history. Even more frustrating is how MMM is used as the sole evidence for discussing “Mormonism’s Violent Past.” What violent past? A single episode that is still poorly understood and whose connections to the official church remain shrouded in mystery? Is that really the basis for a Violent Past?

    Again, I don’t think we ought to downplay the atrocity. But frankly, I don’t think we need to own it, in the sense that we as a church own polygamy and the Priesthood ban. Again, it’s an interesting and tragic episode. It has very little to do with understanding the broader church, it’s history, or its culture. Why it should get such enormous billing in the documentary remains as much as mystery to me as the whole topic itself. But then again, if they give five minutes to Terryl Givens to ruminate about why dance is theologically important to Mormons while skipping over much more crucial events, maybe we shouldn’t expect to much from the editing.

  24. May 1, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    I learned about it after my mission, but left it alone as something I don’t have the research skills to make any sense of. I saw the History Channel program on it recently.

  25. May 1, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    Seems to me it was for me something similar to ‘anotheranonymous’–late teens, probably reading The Restored Church. I don’t recall being surprised by it at BYU (during the Hoffman escapades).

  26. Yeechang Lee
    May 1, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    Seems to me it was for me something similar to ‘anotheranonymous’–late teens, probably reading The Restored Church.

    Coffinberry, was Mountain Meadows mentioned in The Restored Church? In that case, I’d have to move my first time back to six years of age or earlier, when I read the book’s Korean translation before moving to the States. I must’ve forgotten the mention; it’s been years since I (re)read it in the original English.

  27. Yeechang Lee
    May 1, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    But the way it is reported on and discussed now, it’s not only an independently interesting event, but an essential chapter in Mormon history, critical to understanding us as a religion and a people. That reading is pure hogwash in my view.

    Even more frustrating is how MMM is used as the sole evidence for discussing “Mormonism’s Violent Past.” What violent past? A single episode that is still poorly understood and whose connections to the official church remain shrouded in mystery? Is that really the basis for a Violent Past?

    Amen. Ryan said what I was trying to say above much better than I did.

    The Mountain Meadows Massacre, for all its genuine historical import, reached the fetish stage among some interested parties long ago.

  28. Margaret Young
    May 1, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Interesting. Seems like I’ve always known about it. My family was pretty open about hard issues, which was good for me. I was inoculated young. No controversy will ever take me from this Church. The issue for me is how to present controversial issues to others who are grappling with them. Context matters so much.

  29. May 1, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Kaimi, did you just buy Brooks and Bagley to adorn your shelves, or did you actually read them? It isn’t clear from your post. Like you, Bagley and Brooks adorn my shelves. I’ve read Bagley and scanned Brooks.

    I bumped into MMM off and on over the years. I’m certain I knew of it before my mission. I feel pained each time I re-encounter it (most recently while reading Under the Banner of Heaven), though the pain and my interpretation/understanding has evolved over time. Despite knowing the story backwards and forwards, I’m still surprised by the shock I feel each time I delve back into it. Strange. But not unlike 9/11 or any other disaster, I guess. Interested to see Turley/Walker/Leonard’s book.

  30. queuno
    May 1, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    I was 21 and in a Church history class.

    My brother, 19 and about to leave for his mission to AZ, said he’d never heard of it before.

  31. May 1, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    The blogs a couple years ago. I’m 29.

    And I agree exactly with Ryan Bell.

  32. cj douglass
    May 1, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    I heard about it on my mission. Still don’t care.

  33. Kaimi Wenger
    May 1, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    Matt (29) asks,

    Kaimi, did you just buy Brooks and Bagley to adorn your shelves, or did you actually read them?

    Dude, you know you can’t ask that!

    I can’t answer specifics, of course. As a general matter, though, my interactions with my Mormon-themed books should be viewed in the same way that FARMS views Joseph Smith’s interactions with his polyandrous wives. We can show for certain that I acquired them, but there’s no concrete evidence that I’ve done anything else with any of them.

  34. queuno
    May 1, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    My brother was all concerned that he needed to start learning about the Controversies (with a Capital-C) before he goes on his mission. I told him that if confronted on his mission with it, to (symbolically) yawn and ask, “OK, so does that prove that the BoM is not true and that JS is not a prophet?”

    Anyone who lives in AZ who wants to disagree with me? He’ll be serving among you in a couple of months.

  35. spencer
    May 1, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    I think I learned about it pretty young, like 10-12 range. Memories are pretty vague. Is it possible that it was mentioned in some Mormon historical fiction (like the Storm Testaments perhaps, because I read all of those as a pre-teen). I also read a short historical summary of it one book or another.

    Despite that, I don’t actually know much about the incident. I haven’t learned about it as an adult. It is not one of the issues that bothers me about the church. It bothers me in a more general sense.

  36. Jonathan Green
    May 1, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    There was an illustrated church history series that my family bought and read together for family home evening. Mountain Meadows must have been in there, because it’s something I’ve always known about, at least since I was eight or nine or so. It’s one of those things I just assumed everyone knew about, but apparently that’s not the case.

  37. May 1, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    I’m 47. I learned of Mountain Meadows as a child when we visited my relatives in villages south of Cedar City during summer vacations. As with most adult discussion topics, I’d have ignored it entirely, except that when the adults began talking about MM, they’d start using more whispered voices, which is like a beacon light to an otherwise uninterested child.

    I can sympathize with those who find little to care much about MMM, though I’m too old to share those views. I recall when temple covenants were materially different than they are today, and I’m familiar with versions prior to those in place when I was endowed that went even further toward providing context and, to some minds, justification, for the conduct at MMM. Indeed, I suspect that the prominence of MMM in the second half of the 20th century that prompted Church leaders to consider changes to the endowment.

    That the atrocity occurred is profoundly regrettable. That the Church covered it up is historically comprehensible, but morally repugnant. That Elder Oaks expressed his thoughts and sentiments as he did is a grace. Putting it to bed now? I’m reasonably willing to do so.

    But I can’t pretend that the events at MM haven’t shaped my life. Perhaps if I’d been born ten years later, the impact would have been different, but being born in 1962, they clearly did.

  38. Kevin Christensen
    May 1, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    I heard about MMM in seminary while I was atteneding Viewmont High (Centerville, Utah, 1972)…I remember Brother Clark recommending Juanita Brook’s book. Around the same time I was getting to the lowdown on MMM, the My Lai Massacre was being much discussed in the media. A few years later, after my mission, I bought my copy from the Deseret Book closed to the Salt Lake Temple. I’ve talked about it while teaching youth Sunday School classes, High Priest meetings, and informal talks with my children.

    The MMM is unpleasant to be sure, but it has been discussed often and much. including in the Institute Manuals, and B.H. Roberts, Arrington and Davis, Arrington’s Brigham Bio, Brooks’ books, and etc., not to mention the constant stream of hostile accounts, plays, novels, etc. What really shocked me, however, was a few years ago, learning about the Tulsa Massacre in the 1920s, and realizing that I’d never heard a whisper about it, and would not have done had I not clicked a few books links while browsing at Amazon. My introduction to the MMM happened matter of factly in an LDS institutional environment. And I had a vivid memory of the book with a distinctive cover and memorable title, always being displayed and available at Deseret book.

    Kevin Christensen
    Pittsburgh, PA

  39. jethro
    May 1, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    at BYU, that great corrupter of youth.

  40. Katie P.
    May 1, 2007 at 4:44 pm

    In college, from a non-member friend trying to gently persuade me to give up the church.

    It seems to me the focus on MMM is almost a compliment. Thousands, millions of people, almost two hundred years of history, a people with history of persecution and being driven out, a colony alone in the wild, wild west in the midst of the wholesale slaughter of the Native Americans, and there is only the one violent episode? In distant southern Utah during a high-pressure situation? My impression was not shock that it happened (my impression then and now was/is that it was a local decision) but that it didn’t happen earlier or more often.

  41. a random John
    May 1, 2007 at 4:45 pm


    Viewmont is clearly in Bountiful, though now it is mostly Centerville kids that go there.

    I remember being vaguely aware of it for a long time, but Gene Sessions was my uncle and so it came up around the dinner table at his house. I don’t know when I learned the details of it, but it was a while ago.

  42. May 1, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    I was 19 and a student at BYU taking creative writing classes in 1985 and 1986. It may have been my hip friend Zina who introduced me to Levi Peterson’s fiction, so I also learned of the Juanita Brooks biography, (I thought it came out that year, is the 1989 vol. 5 one a reprint??) therefore learned of the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

  43. manaen
    May 1, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    My earliest memory of hearing about MMM is from my seminary years. Also, as I recall, “Essentials in Church History” by JFS, first read on my mission, discusses it. From the beginning, I’ve felt that it was an anomaly and not typical of *anything* preached or practiced in the Church — not even the misunderstanding some have of earlier temple rituals would include this. Having said that, I pondered its horror when I stopped at the site while driving from SoCal to SLC.

  44. CS Eric
    May 1, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    I don’t really remember when I first heard about it, but suspect it was probably in 9th grade seminary. Our teacher talked about most of the controversies, so not much since has been much of a surprise to me.

    The closest it has come to shaping my life was when my in-laws moved to southern Utah, and got to know several of Lee’s descendants. Many of them wear the distinction proudly, and most of them believe he was the fall guy for Brigham. Oddly enough, his being the fall guy is one source of their pride–his faith was such that he would do anything for the Kingdom, including give his life for the prophet.

  45. DavidH
    May 1, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    I first saw mention of MMM as a child when I thumbed through the Church History manual for a seminary class my dad was teaching. I do not recall ever hearing it discussed in my own seminary classes, at BYU, or anytime within a Church-owned building. I first read Brooks’ book in my late 20s to prepare for an job interview with a person who I heard liked to ask Mormon candidates about MMM (the subject never came up).

    I do think MMM is relevant to understanding historical Mormonism, particularly its emphasis on obedience to leaders, who are God’s representatives (I don’t recall hearing the term “perfect obedience” in Church, but it is probably similar to “faith obedience” which I have heard). I think, as Kathleen Flake put it, MMM is, at best, an illustration of when Mormonism’s checks and balances failed. If nothing else, for modern Mormons, MMM should be an illustration that our duty to obey human beings (whether or not we believe them to be God’s representatives) is not unlimited, and that we have no “Nuremberg defense.”

  46. Bryant S.
    May 1, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    I first learned about it in Susan Easton Black’s church history class at BYU. I was probably 23.

    I agree with Ryan Bell that it is not that important an event in understanding Mormonism, but it is one of the most dramatic and probably the most tragic event during a time when the relationship of the Church and the United States government was very much uncertain. Certainly the Utah War and the struggle for statehood for Deseret (and later Utah) are important to an understanding of Mormon history, and the MMM, when considered in that context, is something that anyone interested in the history of the Church should think about.

  47. John Williams
    May 1, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    I have the impression that MMM is not as taboo as polyandry. It’s just not as embarrassing to think that Brigham Young ordered to have some rednecks shot as it is to think that Joseph Smith engaged in physical relations with women married to other men.

    Faithful Mormon history hobbyists seem to be very enthusiastics about MMM, they just might not think Brigham Young ordered the “code red.”

  48. Eric Chambers
    May 1, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    I first learned about it in the late 1970\’s in my early teen years. The MMM probably engenders different feelings in my family than in other LDS families as we are descendants of Rebecca Jane Dunlap, one of the 17 children who survived the massacre. It hurts sometimes to contemplate that members of the church we love so much could have perpetrated such acts against our ancestors.
    We\’re just glad that our LDS pioneer forefathers from my father\’s side of the family were not involved in MMM!

  49. Left Field
    May 1, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    I don’t remember when I first heard about MMM, any more than I remember when I first heard about Babe Ruth. I probably learned gradually. My parents had a copy of Brooks’ book on their shelf as I was growing up. I probably saw the title as a child but had no idea what it was about. Then probably learned more a little at a time over the years whenever something about it happened to come up. I certainly knew the basic story by the time I was a teenager. I’m not sure if I first read Brooks as a teenager, or if it was right after my mission. I’m pretty sure I had at least browsed the book when I was in high school. MMM may have come up in seminary (late ’70s). I visited the site with my parents either right before or soon after my mission.

    John (comment 19), MMM is discussed in _Story of the Latter-day Saints_ (pp. 303-306).

  50. Jordan F.
    May 1, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    I think I learned about it for the first time when I was reading “The Storm Testament” series as a 12 year old boy. “The Storm Testament” was an historical fiction series by Lee Nelson which I enjoyed as a youngster. Almost all of at least one book is devoted to the events surrounding the MMM. MMM was a very interesting topic for me then, and it remains so now.

    I then learned about it in my Utah History class in Seventh or Eighth Grade. Although I grew up in Texas, I spent those years in Utah, where every school child is required to learn Utah History.

    I also learned about it in great detail in Susan Easton Black’s Church History class at BYU, but by then it was old news.

  51. May 1, 2007 at 6:45 pm

    I think it was when I was 17- a nonmember reading “Mormon America”

    Kiami, can you help me find the Aaron Brown changing WoW interpretations link? thanks!

  52. Time Fortimer
    May 1, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    What’s the Mountain Meadows Massacre?

  53. May 1, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    I read Bagley when it came out, and found it a balanced view. In the book, he really doesn’t promote his view that Brigham was deeply involved. He is more dedicated to exploring what the sources say and what we really know. He makes some conjectures, but identifies them as such.

    BiV, you’ve made this claim on two threads this morning. While I don’t relish a fight with either you or Will today, it would be irresponsible of me not to challenge your statements in the interest of other T&S readers who may not have the background to do so.

    I too read Blood of the Prophets when it came out (actually, before it came out, in prepublication form). At that time, Will and I were close friends and participated in the same email discussion groups. I defended him when his statements were misrepresented both online and in an MHA discussion (incurring the wrath of Daniel C. Peterson’s acid keyboard in doing so), and I furnished Will with a few relevant documents. In turn, he encouraged and praised and helped me get started in business, introducing me to everyone and boosting my confidence by speaking as though I had already achieved what he and I only hoped I could achieve. We have serious philosophical differences now and Will no longer considers me a friend, but when BOTP was published, we cared about each other’s good opinion and we were genuine friends.

    I say that not as a name-dropper but as background to this: The first time I saw Will after reading his book, he eagerly asked my reaction. When I hesitated and tried to be noncommittal, he pinned my shoulders against the wall (we were in the hallway at Sunstone) and insisted I answer – “At least you have to admit I was fair!” or words to that effect. He was so sincere, and honestly believed he had been fair, and I hated to give him my own candid evaluation that he had been anything but fair. I know from the look on his face when I replied that he intended to be and believed he had been fair – and I use know with the same gravity I use when I say “I know life continues after death.”

    Nevertheless, BOTP is not fair or balanced; Will fully lays the blame for the massacre at Brigham Young’s feet, just as he explicitly stated in the program last night; he follows only those sources that tend (sometimes through their ambiguity) to support his view, and he makes countless unsubstantiated allegations without identifying them as such. Because he is one of the most talented storytellers writing in Mormon history today, and because he so beautifully weaves quotations into his narrative, you have the impression that he is using sources appropriately and in context, but I submit that greater familiarity with the sources demonstrates that he uses sources so selectively as to be (even if unintentionally) deceptive.

    Three examples:

    In his writing, and in his appearance last night, Will states that nothing, absolutely nothing, happened in Utah without Brigham Young’s knowledge. In the case of MMM, Will doesn’t limit that to Brigham Young’s post-MMM awareness of what happened; last night he stated that MMM was a deliberate demonstration to the nation that Brigham Young controlled overland travel. Will believes and repeatedly writes/states that nothing happened in Utah without Brigham Young’s knowledge, meaning prior knowledge and approval and direction. Besides that being so patently foolish to anyone who considers time and distance and human nature, it is contradicted by the records. Oh, sure, you can find any number of documents dictated by Brigham Young directing the minutest details of this or that project. To anyone who has read Brigham Young’s fuller record – and I unhesitatingly include myself in that number – this view of “not a sparrow falls but Brigham Young directed it” is demonstrably false. Letter after letter after letter after letter flows out of Brigham Young’s office, pleading and urging and scolding and attempting to drag his wilful and independent flock into following his advice. His sermons – too often cherry-picked for their isolated colorful and inflammatory lines and not studied in full as his congregations heard them – attempt to persuade his people to do something other than what they have been doing. If Brigham Young controlled everything in the absolute way Will insists, there would be no need for the pleading and persuasion shown in the documentary sources, and no need to chastise anyone after the fact.

    BOTP is full of contradictions – Will writes whatever supports his thesis, without regard for how one bit of “evidence” contradicts another. He writes, for example, as part of his effort to paint Mormons as merciless, depraved people, that illegitimate children were “plentiful” in southern Utah (without supporting citation, by the way); he also lists fornication and adultery as crimes falling under the penalty in his explication of blood atonement. He does not explain how fornication or adultery resulting in so many illegitimate children coexists with the terror of being blood-atoned for such crimes. Will writes – and stated last night – that Mountain Meadows was ordered by Brigham Young to threaten the United States by demonstrating his power to close transcontinental travel. I have struggled to reconcile the contradictory ideas of massacre-as-demonstration-of-power with massacre-must-be-concealed. The massacre could only serve as a warning if Mormon direction were publicized, not concealed. And Will can’t backpeddle by saying Brigham Young concealed it only when he realized it was going to work against him because the United States was more powerful than he was, because Will documents the coverup as beginning within hours after the massacre.

    The most egregious problem is the one that has been thoroughly aired in published reviews. Will’s most powerful “proof” of Brigham Young’s direction of the massacre – a proof that was championed last night by Judith Freeman – is Dimick Huntington’s journal, supposedly showing that Brigham Young “encouraged his Indian allies to attack the Fancher Party to make clear to the nation the cost of war with the Mormons.” Forget that nothing in the relevant Huntington entry speaks of killing people, only of taking cattle. Forget that Huntington doesn’t mention either the Fancher train or any other company as brought to the attention of the Indians (yet the Fancher train, according to Will, is specifically targeted because of the presence of Arkansans who had been accused, Will claims, by Parley P. Pratt’s widow of PPP’s assassination). Forget all those gaps in the chain, and realize only that Will misread – unintentionally, I have no doubt, and caused only because he saw what he expected to see rather than what was actually there – the entry in Dimick Huntington’s journal. Instead of the Indians agreeing to go and “raise [allies]” as Will printed it, Huntington writes that the Indians stated they were going to “raise grain.” Far from agreeing to attack the emigrants, as Will needs the entry to say in order to support his claim, the Indians refuse to participate in any trouble, and instead proclaim that they are going home to watch the grass grow. [Later printings correct “allies” to “grain” but the brackets are inexplicably retained.]

    Blood of the Prophets is a beautifully written book, well arranged, with flowing, fascinating prose. Will takes you to the scene of the massacre and forces you to see and feel the horror of it all. He follows the lives of the surviving children and justly evokes pity and compassion. The book has won any number of awards from many kinds of organizations because of its prose, and because people who don’t know any better assume it is a fearless, praiseworthy recitation of historical truth. There is a reason, however, why it has not won awards from the organizations and historians most familiar with relevant Utah history and the sources that must be considered in any rational, balanced examination of the massacre – only those who are familiar with the full spectrum of Mormon-related documents, not the cherry-picked out-of-context excerpts favored by so many historians, realize how badly BOTP fails as history.

  54. Meg
    May 1, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    huh… I don’t even remember. It seems like one of those things that I’ve always sort of known about. In all honestly, thats how I feel about most of the stuff that seems to surprise other people about church history. I’m sure there was a point at which I didn’t know about it, and I’m actually pretty sure that it wasn’t even all that long ago, since I’m just 19, but I can’t actually remember ever not knowing.

    If I had to guess, I’d say I was 14 or 15.

  55. May 1, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    i just learned about it from this show last night. all i know is what they told us. i would be interested to know what books talk about it.

  56. Janet
    May 1, 2007 at 7:49 pm

    I believe I was a senior in High School when I first encountered material on the MMM. I reacted much as I did as a college sophomore discovering My Lai for the first time–I felt betrayed that nobody had told me my church or country had done these things. For whatever reason, I didn’t question the ideals of either as a result; I just felt sad. And annoyed nobody had trusted me enough to mention them. I also spent a lot of time disabusing people at my school of silly notions regarding Mormonism (there are several jokes about “save a goat; kill a mormon” and “naked Morma-weddings” in my senior yearbook and after the missionaries spoke to our “contemporary issues” class the teacher had me follow-up because he feared they got some it wrong, which they had). Here’s the kicker–I thought the stuff about Joseph Smith lying to his wife while sleeping with teenagers was as fallacious as the goat and naked wedding rumors. Thus, I flat-out told everyone it never happened. Which was NOT good when one friend took the discussions 3 times and then launched into massive research. When he uncovered my ignorance, he backed away from the inspiration he felt and never sidled up to the baptismal font. I still wonder if that’s partially my fault, because I made us look like deluded ninnies. Sob.

    I mentioned the MMM to a SIL and BIL a while back. Their response? “There’s no proof that ever actually happened and you shouldn’t listen to anti-Mormons.” This was after their testimony that the Catholics were wrong because hey, look at the Crusades. They are such good and kind people; I wonder how they felt watching the documentary. They’d have been better off, I think, learning that stuff years ago.

  57. Matt W.
    May 1, 2007 at 7:58 pm

    I learned about MMM from reading Mark Twain’s “Roughing It” shortly after I joined the Church. I was surprised, but then I looked it up and studied it out. It was one of those “That Sucks.” kind of things. about two months later, I bought the MMM book by Juanita Brooks at an LDS bookstore and checked that out as well.

  58. TDS
    May 1, 2007 at 7:58 pm

    I learned about it when I was 12 in my Utah History Class in 7th Grade. I’ve looked into it a bit more since then, but I still don’t quite get why the Church gets so much of the blame for it. However, it’s only been 4 years since then, and I still have a lot to learn on almost every church related subject.

  59. John Williams
    May 1, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    re 58

    I thought you had to be 21 to read this blog.

  60. Keith
    May 1, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    You might be interested to read the “Interviews” section at the PBS “The Mormons” website. The full interviews are interesting and Elder Holland has some interesting things to say about MMM and living next door to Juanita Brooks, etc.

  61. May 1, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    Ardis, your considered response to my comment is much appreciated. Thank you for the time you spent giving specific examples. I am especially appreciative of you correction in the reading of Dimick Huntington’s journal. Not many of us have access to these types of things!

    I did get the book back out and perused it for a while. I heard what Bagley said last night about Brigham Young, but I fail to find anything so clearly stated in his book. My reading of Chapter 7 (pp 136-139) is that by the time BY read Isaac Haight’s letter, it was too late for word to get back to Iron County. Young, it is said, wrote a letter instructing the leaders to protect the emigrants. Bagley discusses this, notes that the letter does not survive, and gives the opinion of Juanita Brooks that perhaps the letter contained the operative message to let the Indians “do as they please.” He concludes that “whatever the letter’s intent, it carried a hidden but clear message for Isaac Haight: make sure the Mormons could blame whatever happened on the Paiutes.” In view of later events, do you disagree with this conclusion? This certainly seems a far cry from Brigham ordering the massacre, or even having any effect upon how events played out.

    I may have missed something, but in my view Bagley refrains from presenting in his book the unequivocal statements he made last night. I do trust your opinion, as you certainly have a far greater knowledge of this affair and the primary sources than I. I concede that perhaps the information in the book presents an uneven picture. I am looking forward to reading the Turley/Walker/Leonard take on things.

  62. stephen
    May 1, 2007 at 9:44 pm

    i did a research report on mountain meadows in 7th grade.

  63. May 1, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    BiV, if you find it acceptable for Will to articulate the “hidden but clear message” in a letter he has never seen, you must allow me to recognize that everything in BOTP points inevitably to the conclusion that “Brigham Young ordered the massacre” whether or not Will ever wrote that in so many words. I am not misrepresenting Will or his position; he said “Brigham Young ordered the massacre” in the interview we saw last night. When an author leads his readers to an inescapable conclusion and allows no possibility of another interpretation, he owns that conclusion. Will now claims that conclusion very openly, as you saw last night.

  64. May 1, 2007 at 9:54 pm

    I first heard about it in high school seminary, growing up in Salt Lake. The message I recall was that something horrible happened, it’s impossible to tell exactly what, Mormons were involved, but not B.Y.

  65. Eric E.
    May 1, 2007 at 10:01 pm

    I’m a convert of 5 years and knew of it. My wife has grown up in the church all of her life and hadn’t heard a peep about it. Obviously not brought up in YW / RS as a topic of discussion. She was almost incredulous.

  66. KyleM
    May 1, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    I vaguely recall seeing Mountain Medows Massacre in some of my dad’s books growing up. The first time I recall being really impacted by the story was the Internet in 1994. I was 21.

    I wonder if many converts have an easier time with MMM because they have less invested in the old pioneer heriatage. My ancestors were sent north instead of south, or they might have been a trigger man. Maybe, maybe not.

    I don’t think we should own MMM, but I do think we need to remember these kinds of things so we won’t ever repeat them.

  67. Sally
    May 2, 2007 at 3:18 am

    The program mentioned, as part of the “violent past” that the Mormons in Missour also burned the homes of Missourians. That was one that I hadn’t heard before. Any info on that?

  68. Rob Briggs
    May 2, 2007 at 3:23 am

    Ardis, I appreciate your post at #53. I think it’s spot-on.

    BiV, the preface to BOTP establishes its central question or concern:

    “This book answers what may be the most frequently asked question about Mountain Meadows: What did Brigham Young know, and when did he know it?”

    At the close of the epilogue (pp. 376-382) BOTP draws conclusions about its main question. Among them:

    “. . . a ruthless commitment to revenge as a religious principle, ritualized in the temple ceremony’s Oath of Vengeance as a personal vow to avenge the blood of the prophets, played a larger role than did mere happenstance.” (p. 378)

    “Brooks never saw Dimick Huntington’s journal and its evidence that the atrocity was not a tragedy but a premeditated criminal act initiated in Great Salt Lake City.” (Ibid.)

    “He [Young] encouraged his Indian allies to attack the Fancher party to make clear to the nation the cost of war with the Mormons. Young had already sent George A. Smith south to make sure local leaders provided the Paiutes with the encouragement and support needed to crated a violent incident.” (p. 379)

    “For Brigham Young and his religion, the haunting consequences of mass murder at Mountain Meadows are undeniable. Like many great crimes of power, the criminals expected to get away with it.” (p. 380)

    “Brigham Young could not change the past. He knew the full truth of his complicity in the crime.” (Ibid.)

    “The party from Arkansas was probably doomed from the moment the Mormons learned of the death of Parley Pratt and the approach of an American army. The emigrants fell victim to Brigham Young’s decision to stage a violent incident that would demonstrate his power to control the Indians of the Great Basin and to stop travel on the most important overland roads.” (Ibid.)

    BOTP reflects one of Will’s great strengh: finding new documents. It also reflects one of his major weaknesses: interpreting them.

  69. May 2, 2007 at 6:37 am

    What CraigB wrote in # 67 seems consistent with my own observations about Will Bagley as a pointedly unobjective source with relation to the the Church. One example that comes to mind is from Doug Fabrizio’s radio show. In a show on July 27, 2005, Will Bagley assured Doug Fabrizio’s listeners that corrupt individuals in the Church Office Building are misappropriating and misusing/pocketing tithing money. Like his conclusion about the hidden message sent by Brigham Young in a letter that Bagley has never read, this statement about tithing is unsubstantiated — and Bagley didn’t even try to cite a source other than that it was his view that Brigham Young had a practice of inflating membership numbers for the purpose of making himself seem a powerful governor to people outside the United States.

    As with Rusty in # 31, I fully agree with Ryan Bell’s assessment in # 23, although, like Jordan in # 50, I learned about MMM as a young boy, 10 or 11 years old, first from the Storm Testaments series of Mormon historical fiction (where I also learned about the Danites), and then from my dad’s books. Like Tom in # 5 and B Bell in # 19, I wonder why we should be talking about MMM or why it is supposed to be a factor in defining who we are as Latter-day Saints. If Brigham Young ordered it, then that might be a different matter and we would own it like the policy withholding the priesthood from people of African descent. But as it is, it is a historical event that was tragic but doesn’t have any relevance to our worship, beliefs, or values as Latter-day Saints. That documentaries such as this make it out to be something definitional about Latter-day Saints only perpetuates stereotypes and does nothing to “shatter” them.

    As with Jonathan Green in # 36, I just thought it was something that everyone knew about, sort of like some of the injustices that have been done by the United States during its history. I haven’t learned about MMM through the blogs; rather, what I have learned through the blogs is that many people had never heard of MMM until the blogs were around and that many see this as evidence that the Church had “covered up” information on the MMM.

    As an example of this, we have our own greenfrog in # 37: That the atrocity occurred is profoundly regrettable. That the Church covered it up is historically comprehensible, but morally repugnant. It is unclear why greenfrog and others think that the Church has covered it up. Presumably this is because they haven’t sat in a Sunday School lesson specifically devoted to it. But my guess is that they haven’t sat in a Sunday School lesson specifically devoted to the failure of the southern Utah mining missions or to the experiences of Latter-day Saints in the Mexican colonies during the Mexican Revolution. In other words, Sunday School lessons are not history lessons nor should they be. They provide time to discuss the scriptures directly and our reaction to them.

    In any event, many of the comments on this thread, if nothing else, should provide a view that the Church has not been covering up the MMM. After all, a number of people stated they first learned about it at BYU; others mentioned seminary and other Church-related venues. That a General Conference talk has not centered on it should not be a shocker — only the outside media seems to want MMM to be a factor in defining who members of the Church are.

    Re # 53, that was an excellent comment, Ardis. Thank you. I was especially struck by your statement about the inconsistencies in Bagley’s treatment of the MMM. You stated I have struggled to reconcile the contradictory ideas of massacre-as-demonstration-of-power with massacre-must-be-concealed. I think this is an extremely strong point — thank you for making it. It is entirely inconsistent for Bagley to want the MMM to be a message BY was intentionally sending to the US that he was in control of intercontinental travel and at the same time to claim there was a cover up deflecting any knowledge or blame from BY or leaders of the Church.

    In the end, I think that Matt W. in # 57 expresses about the right approach in encountering the MMM — it is a “that sucks that some Mormons did that” moment that should not have further effect in self-reference or self-definition.

  70. May 2, 2007 at 8:35 am

    I learned about MMM in a BYU class required of all history majors called “Historian and his Craft.” Each instructor chose an event about which there were documents from multiple perspectives for us to read and analyze and my instructor choose MMM.

    I would guess that maybe 2 other people in my branch had heard of it before the documentary came out. I will be interested to see the reactions to this and a few other issues.

  71. May 2, 2007 at 10:17 am

    Commenters, please be careful to direct criticisms, if you write them, to MMM-related writings/speeches and not to the personal character or worth of anyone who has tackled this subject. I very much appreciate the cooperation of one who thought better of his personal remarks and had them removed; a few other comments skirt uncomfortably close to the line; if anyone else cares to edit their own remarks, let me know (AEParshall at aol dot com)

  72. Matt W.
    May 2, 2007 at 10:39 am

    Regardless of who’s fault it is, the only message I think that really matters coming from Mountain Meadows are those screaming two words of indictment. “Never Again.”

  73. CS Eric
    May 2, 2007 at 10:55 am

    To address your last point, one of the great things for me about the bloggernacle is that it gives those of us in the hinterlands a chance to get behind the scenes, like your description of your encounters with Bagley on the publication of his book. I don’t know him, but from the show I got the impression that he is very sincere in his belief that Brigham was behind the whole thing. Yet his focus is such that he doesn’t see the contradictions inherent in his position that Brigham was both behind the massacre as a display of his power and behind the coverup to hide his complicity. Which is it? How could that have happened the way he describes with the communication systems available at the time?

    I guess I was lucky to grow up where I was exposed to a lot of the controversial things without realizing the controversy. I mentioned in an earlier comment that my first seminary teacher told us about Mountain Meadows, and put it in a context where we could both be appalled that members of the Church committed the atrocity, and yet understand part of what may have led them to it–Haun’s Mill, Parley Pratt among possible factors. He also taught us about Joseph’s polygamy and polyandry, about the Danites, and several other of those early issues.

  74. Mike
    May 2, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    My wife is descended from Isaac Haight, Raymond Higbee and possibly John Lee, not sure about that connection because his family was so thoroughly scattered. This is not so much a coincidence when you realize these men who perpetrated the MMM were eventually shunned and their kids were socially isolated. Hence they tended to marry each other.

    I made certain that my children know quite a bit about the MMM from an early age. Sort of an Innoculation Effect. So when things like this PBS documentary come along, it will not rock them.

    My daughter, who is a fireball, had a rather self-righteous Sunday School teacher straight out of BYU when she was about 10 years old. One day he asked the students if they had any faith promoting stories about their pioneer ancestors. None of the other students in her class were more than 2 generations in the church. My daughter knew they had no such stories and furthermore, they were all sick and tired of all the attention that the pioneers get. So she piped up with a tween age shortened and exaggerated version of the MMM including the fact that the victims were from Arkansas. Then she asked the teacher if he was from Arkansas?

    He looked shocked like he had never heard of the MMM and then he asked why they wanted to know if he was from Arkansas. And my daughter told him that if he was, he had better watch his back side.

    With apologies to Eric Chambers # 48. I do not mean to make light of the suffering of the victims of the MMM. My hope is that sometimes humor can help healing .

  75. Mike
    May 2, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Another question for Artis, Bagley, et. al:

    I don’t get it, why the obsession with whether Brigham Young knew about it or not? Why does that even matter? As the head of a strongly authoritarian organization, he is ultimately responsible. He rightfully gets much credit for the success of the Pioneer era. Why is he absolved from responsibility for the failures?

    How does it matter if the Stake President (who was as fine a man as pioneer Mormonism produced and much like his grandson David B. Haight) ordered it or if the Prophet Brigham Young ordered it? The 120 or more people are just as dead. The reputation of the church is just as tarnished. The subsequent cover-up is just as inexcuseable. Our critics mock and laugh just as loudly.

    Does it only matter if you think The Prophet is somehow fundamentally different and above the rest of the Saints? If you subscribe to the old pablum that “The Prophet will never lead us astray”? Have you made The Prophet into some kind of cult celebrity?

    I think all of our church leaders make mistakes. For me it depends on how far astray they lead us, not whether they do or not. The Prophet Mormon admits to the probabililty of mistakes in the most foundational document of our revealed religion; on the cover page of the Book of Mormon. Are we to expect any better from Brigham Young? I personally think a great essay question on a church history graduate class exam would be something like this: Pick a decade between 1830 and the present; then describe the most serious mistake that the church leaders made during that decade and describe why you think this mistake was worse than others.

    I have heard some Mormons say that if you are told to do something wrong by a church leader, (such as kill a bunch of rich and annoying gentiles) you will be blessed for your obedience. Were the rank and file members who went up to the meadow and killed people blessed? I think this illustrates one of my favorite J. Golden Kimball quotes: If you follow your church leaders to hell, you will go through hell.”

    For me the greater question is this: If I was living in Southern Utah in the 1850’s, would I have had the moral sense to know that this Masacre was fundamentally wrong? And if so would I have had the courage to defy church leaders and not participate? Even worse, would I have had the courage to perhaps warn the Fanchers and helped rescue a few of them? What am I teaching my children about right and wrong in connection to obedience to church leaders?

    The honest answers to these questions haunt me. I know if I was young and all souped up with religious zeal like I was while on my mission, I would have been up there in that meadow in the first rank. But as I get older and more skeptical of some of the things I hear at church, I would like to think I might have done something else. Judging from some of the T&S defensive remarks, I doubt that President Haight would have had any shortage of participants if most of those on this blog were in his Stake. This is why the MMM is not an obscure and irrelevant event.

    I might point out that the pioneers had more elaborate temple ceremonies than we do now and one included having your calling and election made sure. (I am certain that I can not possibly know what that meant in the context of the time.) Isaac Haight was quietly excommunicated for his part in the MMM and then later allowed to come back in the church and eventually had his calling and election made sure in a temple ceremony we no longer do. And this was under the approval of the highest church leaders. I think this was called repentance. We have clear evidence that Isaac Haight tried to repent. Maybe he could have done more, I won’t argue that point.

    What about Brigham Young? What about the 19th century institution of the church? Whatever the involvement; do we see any evidence of: recognition, admission, remorse, restitution, and repeat-never-again in connection with these events? What I see is:
    1- It didn’t happen.
    2- If it did it was the Indians.
    3- If Mormons were involved it was just apostates acting on their own.
    4- If church leaders were involved it was only one, so shoot him and be done with it.
    5- I certainly had nothing to do with it.
    6- Even if it did happen, it was so long ago, it doesn’t matter.
    7- Just forget about it.

    Call that repentance? Of course, the Prophets and Pioneers are perfect and repentance applies to us normal sinful people, not to them.

    For me the actions and the attitude of Brigham Young and the church as an institution in the years following the MMM is almost as disturbing as what Grandpa Haight and the Priesthood boys did up in the meadow.

  76. Mike
    May 2, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    One correction. The pioneers did not have access to temples most of the time. They did what I think of as “temple ceremonies” in other places. So I use the term “temple ceremonies” to refer to sacred religious ordinances that today are confined to the temple. This is not my main point; call it what you may.

  77. May 2, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    Mike, I’ll credit you with sincerity despite some evidence to the contrary.

    I cannot, however, feel obliged to write a detailed and time-consuming response to this jumbled query. I reply at all only because you addressed me (or at least I assume you address me — perhaps there is an “Artis” for whom this “Ardis” is unnecessarily speaking).

    Perhaps you could find an answer to your own query by making the effort to think through and demonstrate your assertion that “Brigham Young is ultimately responsible” for what other parties did, because you mistake him for Der Fuhrer. Would you, for instance, hold an American president responsible when a drunken private in Okinawa rapes a local girl? It’s a handy little formula you parrot, but can you explain to me why I should accept it as valid?

    And for the record, for the umpteenth time, David B. Haight is not the grandson (or great, or great-great, or any other form of grandson) of the Isaac Haight associated with Mountain Meadows. David. B. Haight’s grandfather was Horton David Haight, who was the son of Hector Caleb Haight, who was the son of Caleb Haight, who was the son of Isaac Haight — but that Isaac Haight was born about 1730 and died in 1792, lived his entire life in Dutchess County, New York, and of course is not the Isaac Haight you (or the website you found) mistakes him for.

    Perhaps details like that “don’t even matter,” either. But if not, neither could my response to any of the other flippant parts of your query matter.

    Thanks for playing. We have some lovely parting gifts.

  78. DavidH
    May 2, 2007 at 4:34 pm


    I largely agree with your post. However, I ran a familysearch check on Elder David B. Haight, and it does not show Isaac Haight as an ancestor. Perhaps Isaac was a great uncle or great great uncle?

    As I understand it, Haight and Lee were the only ones ever disciplined formally by the Church, Bishop Klingensmith was released as his involvement became known to higher Church leaders.

    No formal discipline, or even informal discipline, was ever imposed on the many other participants in the murders. The Church’s general leadership knew that others were involved, and bear responsibility for not taking action in this respect. The Church’s general leadership also bears responsibility for continuing to deny participation of members and local leaders long after those leaders knew otherwise. [Note: I have not passed judgment on whether it was right or wrong not to discipline the others or to deny LDS involvement when the Brethren knew otherwise.]

    What does the failure of the Church to discipline the many men who participated in the murders mean?

  79. DavidH
    May 2, 2007 at 4:40 pm


    I should have posed my statements as questions to you.

    Is it correct that only Lee and Haight were excommunicated and that Klingensmith was released, but no one else was ever disciplined? Is it correct that Church leaders knew that others were involved? If the Church did not know who they were, what types of investigations were undertaken to find out?

    And is it true that the Church continued to deny involvement of members even after the Brethren knew otherwise?

  80. May 2, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    DavidH, I drafted a reply, but it wasn’t very clear or satisfactory so I deleted it.

    I think these are not quite the right questions to ask under the circumstances. They might be the right ones to ask if a large crime were committed by church members today — who was released, and when? who was excommunicated, and when? what support, or lack of support, did the church extend in a legal capacity? as pastors ministering to accused or convicted criminals? and so on.

    But in 1857 and the years immediately after, those questions never seem to be as black and white as you expect from your familiarity with today’s system. Local church leaders were also militia commanders and civil authorities. The civil law Utah Mormonism operated under may have looked on the surface like the civil law elsewhere in the United States, but it didn’t come from the same sources and did not always follow the same patterns.

    As hard as it is to understand — and I’m sorry, it’s too much to try to put into a comment — there was an undeniable silence from Brigham Young following Mountain Meadows, just as there was following the other indisputable acts of Mormon-perpetrated violence during the months before and after MM. How much he knew and when he knew it can be — is — debated hotly, but you can’t look very closely at the records without being forced to admit that Brigham Young knew something about Mormon involvement very soon after these events occurred. Yet there was apparently no official (either church-official or civil-official) investigation into any of these events, and the men involved retained their church, territorial, and military positions as if nothing had happened, until they died, moved away, or leaders were forced by outside pressures to take action.

    The reasons for that silence are debated just as hotly. There was always a lot going on in and around Utah, and yes, there was even a war brewing that required a lot of Brigham Young’s attention at the time of MM. Not so much that he *couldn’t* have paid some serious attention to MM, though, had it been any kind of a priority with him. Why it wasn’t a priority is — you guessed it — debated as hotly as the other issues. That’s why it’s all too much to go into in a comment, even if I had all the answers, which I don’t.

    I’m sorry if my answer is unsatisfactory. It’s the best I can do when the questions don’t quite fit the circumstances.

  81. It's Not Me
    May 2, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    Mike tries to equate mistakes Moroni says the BOM contains and BY ordering the slaughter of 120 innocent people. This just doesn’t work for me. The “pablum”, as you call it, that the Lord will never allow a prophet to lead the people astray, has a little stronger hold with me, I suppose, than it does for others. I do not expect prophets to be perfect, and that includes BY. But ordering the murder of 120 people? You can’t be serious. That would not be a “mistake,” and that would definitely fall into the category of “leading the members astray.”

  82. John Taber
    May 2, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    “John (comment 19), MMM is discussed in _Story of the Latter-day Saints_ (pp. 303-306). ”

    Which edition? It was revised around 1992. I’m not saying it wasn’t in the edition that was on my parents’ shelf in 1985, just that I don’t remember seeing anything about it there. Seriously, I never heard of the incident _at all_ until November 1, 1986 when I found it on a CD-ROM encyclopedia that was being tested.

  83. Space Chick
    May 2, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    My introduction into that part of our history is like Katie’s (40), except it was in college, from a non-member ex-boyfriend trying to persuade me to give up the church. I felt betrayed that he would ambush me by using it as proof that the Church could not be true, and then I wished that I had been better prepared by a discussion of it in seminary or institute. I reacted badly, and he and I pretty much stopped talking after that…

  84. Kiskilili
    May 2, 2007 at 7:25 pm

    I first heard about it at the age of 12–we discussed it at some length in my 7th-grade Utah history course.

  85. DavidH
    May 2, 2007 at 7:56 pm


    Let me pose this question as gently as I can–as a person who has read Brooks’ book many years ago, but none of the recent books. Suppose, for a moment, that I were a nonbelieving outsider trying to understand the values of Mormonism in practice.

    Why should not the Church’s actions and nonactions in the 19th century after MMM be interpreted to mean that the Church considers obedience and loyalty to the institution and its leaders more important than honesty or the commandment against killing? What evidence is there against the proposition that the reason no action (civil or ecclesiastical) was taken against the perpetrators (except three) was (1) that Brigham implicitly endorsed MMM (see Brigham’s comment about God’s having taken a little vengeance there) or (2) that the rank and file perpetrators’ conduct was excuseable because they were following the direction of their leaders?

  86. It's Not Me
    May 2, 2007 at 8:13 pm


    I suppose I would pose this question to you: How many times since MMM have we had a mass killing by active members of the church, including local leaders?

    Moreover, if the leaders of the church have difficulty getting more than 45% attendance at sacrament meeting and 30% home teaching by the elders, how could we ever realistically expect these same people to commit murder merely because their leaders ask them to do it? I recognize that the question does not go to the possibility of church leaders asking . . . oh, actually I reread your question and the way it’s written it actually does seem to imply that the same kind of action could occur today (the Church “considers”–present tense).

    I guess my response to the nonbelieving outsider is that MMM was so long ago, difficult to understand, and not going to be repeated. For those reasons, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the values of Mormonism in practice.

  87. It's Not Me
    May 2, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    I should add “Mormonism in practice today.”

  88. May 2, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    DavidH, I’ve written so much today that our spam filter is catching my comments. That, and the sheer volume of words I’ve written on Mountain Meadows in the last week or two is making me weary of repeating myself. I will therefore ask you to read a few of those prior comments here (you’ll have to search through the comments to find mine and those I responded to) and here (not a recent post but very much related to the question you ask) for more extended answers. I’ve done a lot of the work — since it’s your question, I’ll ask you to do a little homework, too.

    In short, terrible things happened in what I have repeatedly described as the surreal year of 1857, Mountain Meadows being only the most widely known. We are facing those events and studying them. As you must understand, acts of violence are usually covert, not often well documented at the time and hidden afterwards, and it is a major scholarly chore to find and analyze the traces of those events. We are doing that, patiently and, if I do say so myself, rather fearlessly.

    These acts are terrible. They need to be studied and understood. But — and it’s a “but” I suspect you won’t like but will need to accept unless you can disprove it — these acts are very narrowly limited in time, as discussed in the comments of the first link I gave you. Something different was happening in 1857, and we are trying to identify and understand exactly what that was.

    That brief period was different. That’s really the answer you demand. To whatever extent the ugly charges you make are true, they are an anomaly. If these things are so central to the practice of Mormonism as you seem to believe, you would find them more or less constantly practiced. I know of nothing to support that idea. The evidence you are looking for is the absence of evidence to support those charges.

  89. May 2, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    It’s Not Me, your reply to DavidH is really quite good — maybe I think so because I echoed you. :-) Your comments were published while I was writing mine and then rescuing it from spam filter oblivion, else I might just have referred DavidH to you.

    Thanks for your assistance with this question.

  90. May 2, 2007 at 11:25 pm

    I learned about it because my Dad (the most faithful, humble, active, compassionate, orthodox, etc. man I know) has a gift from Mr. Bagley: a leather-bound copy of “Blood of the Prophets” with an inscription, written by the author, in the front, which reads, “Brigham did it.”

  91. Ugly Mahana
    May 3, 2007 at 12:35 am

    High-school age while reading B.H.Robert’s Comprehensive History.

  92. DavidH
    May 3, 2007 at 1:39 am

    “To whatever extent the ugly charges you make are true, they are an anomaly. If these things are so central to the practice of Mormonism as you seem to believe,”


    I apologize for allowing you to think I am some sort of anti-Mormon by asking questions about MMM. I do not “believe” the “ugly charges,” but I am looking for explanations why outsiders should not believe such charges.

    While the threads to which you refer me (which I had previously read, and read again at your suggestion) contextualize MMM within the unusual year of 1857, I did not see them contextualizing the actions and nonactions of the Church post-MMM for decades.

    It’s Not Me,

    As I responded to Ardis, my questions relate to the Church’s actions and nonactions after MMM–the alleged “coverup”, and the failure to take any action (civil or ecclesiastical) against almost all the perpetrators. While the central Church may not have ownership of MMM itself, it seems reasonable that it take ownership for what it did once it learned of it and its members participation.

    It’s Not Me and Ardis,

    Let me see if I can construe a response to the “ugly charges” based on your posts:

    The actions and nonactions of the Church (really, BY) after MMM are difficult to understand with 21st century sensibilities. Perhaps they can be contextualized as the best reaction BY thought he could make after the fact. Or, BY’s actions and nonactions may have been just plain wrong.

    But whatever of the “checks and balances” went awry to allow MMM and the Church’s alleged “coverup” for many years thereafter, nothing like it has occurred in modern times, and therefore, MMM, the violent acts of 1857 and their aftermath are not relevant to modern Mormonism.

    Moreover, because such terrible deeds have not reoccurred, it is improper to attribute the atrocity (and other violent acts in 1857) and coverup to Mormonism’s strong emphasis on loyalty and obedience to the institution and its leaders.

    Do I have that right? Or do I still sound like an anti-Mormon?

  93. maria
    May 3, 2007 at 1:40 am

    I was 6 or 7. My parents took us to see the MMM site. We ate a picnic in the car after walking around the meadow for a bit. Back then I don’t think there was a monument–I just remember a big grassy field. I remember my dad explaining to us what had happened in a very matter-of-fact fashion (he left out most of the gory details). Later, when I was 12 or 13, I brought it up in Sunday School. I thought everyone knew about it and it was something we could talk about. I quickly found out I was wrong.

    I heard lots of stories about my distant cousin Juanita Brooks while growing up. And the consensus among the relatives is that some of our ancestors were involved. I hope to be able to talk to them about it when we’re on the other side.

  94. Bill MacKinnon
    May 3, 2007 at 10:31 am

    This morning’s Washington “Post” carries a column by Robert Novak, the title of which is “A 19th-Century 9/11,” prompted by his April 11 attendance at an advance screening of Jon Vought’s “September Dawn” about MMM. My guess is that (unstated) his column was also prompted by the PBS program. After summarizing what MMM was, Novak opines that the only question open to debate is whether Brigham Young ordered the massacre. He then goes on to discuss various views of that issue. At the heart of Novak’s column is Mitt Romney’s candidacy and religious affiliation relative to the new (forthcoming) film. He emphasizes that MR will not see the film and declined to be interviewed three times for his column. He also quotes a church spokesperson as saying that the LDS Church has not comment on “September Dawn.” Novak comments that MR’s candidacy will be impacted by how the public reacts to “September Dawn” and opines that it will not be helped. (The implication is that it will be damaged.) It’s amazing to me that Novak would write such a column immediately after a national broadcast of four hours of Helen Whitney’s “The Mormons” and make no reference to it, even in connection with his key issue, the Romney candidacy. I thought T&Sers should be aware of Novak’s column since presumably some people not reading this blog will first become of MMM through Novak’s piece and may ask you about it. The column was sent to me by the director of the rare book and manuscript library of one of the world’s leading universities.

  95. Mike
    May 3, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    David H #78:

    Let me correct my remarks about the Haight geneology to the degree that I can.

    A man named Caleb Haight was born in New York in 1778, and died in Salt Lake in 1851. He had three wives and 9 children by the second wife Keturah Horton, who died in Nauvoo in 1843, including four sons.

    Their 4 sons were Oscar Haight born in 1800, David Bateman Haight (not the apostle) born in 1808, Hector Caleb Haight born in 1810 and Isaac Chauncey Haight of MMM fame born in 1813. All born in New York. I am neglecting their 5 daughters sprinkled in among them.

    Hector Caleb Haight had a son, Horton Caleb Haight born in New York in 1832. Horton had a son he named apparently after his father, Hector Caleb Haight born in 1869 in Farmington Utah. So we have two Hector Calebs in the line. Hector Caleb Haight, born in Farmington, is the father of David B. Haight born in 1906 in Oakley Idaho, who became the apostle we all remember.

    Isaac Chauncey Haight had a bunch of wives and children. One son named David (yet another) Synder Haight married Charlottie Higbee, daughter of the Raymond Higbee who was at MMM. One of their sons was named Raymond Higbee Haight. He married the daughter of Josiah Rogerson. My wife is from this line.

    This is according to the ancestoral file today when I looked it up. But as anyone who works with this file knows, there is no way for it to be corrected by rank and file submitters. All submitted truths and errors are perpetuated equally without much quality control or independent verification. And it would be easy for a couple of deletions or additions to be made to tie or untie Apostle Haight into the line. (For example, make Horton the son of Isaac instead of Hector Caleb his brother. His mother could be another wife not listed in the ancestoral file or it could really be Eliza Ann Synder who was 17 at the time and they were not married yet). Alternatively, sometimes cousins married and it is much more difficult to follow the lies through the sisters when the names change every generation. There was some shame and taboo against these marriages which would motivate people to delete them in the family tree. There are huge holes in this family tree and for several of the women not much is known about who married who and what kids they had and when they died. You can go through this kind of mental exercises and the possibilities multiply each generation.

    Showing that Apostle David B. Haight is descended from Hector Caleb Haight, the brother of Isaac Chauncey Haight does not prove he is not also descended from Isaac Chauncey Haight. It is a matter of my wife’s family lore that Apostle Haight is but they don’t remember exactly how. (And we could be wrong). At least this version in the ancestoral file makes sense in that there are no flagrant age or place discrepancies. (Like having people born with Anglo names in Utah in the 1700’s). I would guess the chance of it being accurate and complete enough to answer the question is greater than 50%.

    What is interesting is that some of these people, who seem not to be as closely related as I thought, maintained close kinship associations and it is difficult to remember how they are related just going to their family events. Apostle David B. Haight spoke at some of the funerals of my wife’s relatives and I think they probably recorded what he said. It seemed he was more closely related to them than third cousins.

    Anther interesting note is that David B. Haight is a grandfather to Utah governor John Huntsman Jr and father-in-law to the oil billionaire John Huntsman Sr who married one of his daughters. The Huntsman family are avid geneologists and have spared no expenses. They have hired teams of experts who have pushed their lines deep into the middle ages and tied some of them into various European royal families.These are connected back through the dark ages (probably by myth and fable more than fact) into Biblcal geneologies that extend all the way back to Adam. When my 13 year old son worked on the boy scout Geneology merit badge, one of the requirements was to list his ancestors back as far as he could. It took him all summer, but he has made a list of names that connects himself to Adam through Isaac Chauncey Haight.

    If people are capable of that kind of effort, then making a minor adjustment in the last couple centuries to get them out of the line of a historical villian and avoid any political fall-out would seem to be a small thing. But as it stands now, Apostle David B. Haight is descended from the brother of Isaac Chauncey Haight.

  96. May 3, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    are connected back through the dark ages (probably by myth and fable more than fact) into Biblcal geneologies that extend all the way back to Adam.


  97. May 3, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    David B. Haight is shown on the 1910 US census as a 3-year-old living with a man identified as his father and named Hector, in Oakley, Cassia, Idaho.

    Hector Haight is enumerated in 1880 as a 10-year-old living with a man identified as his father and named Horton, in Farmington, Davis, Utah; Hector is enumerated in 1870 as an infant living with Horton, in Kaysville, Davis, Utah.

    Is the US census bureau a party to your conspiracy, too? Or maybe the church managed to alter these census records filed in Washington sometime after we realized that David B. Haight was going to “be somebody,” thereby avoiding “political fall-out”? (I know! I know! Reed Smoot did it!) Or maybe the Haight family was so prescient that baby Hector was hidden in his uncle’s family in order to give Hector’s own son David a safer lineage?

    Do tell. I absolutely adore conspiracy fantasies, and I can hardly wait for your next installment!

  98. k l h
    May 3, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    As with Maria, I’m a Brooks’ relation, and as did Lynne, I’d hear a discussion of a (perhaps slightly white-washed) version of the MMM whenever my family would drive by Lee’s Ferry in Arizona. Although I choose to believe BY didn’t order, I’d still echo those commenters who think its details relevant, in light of general LDS veneration of stalwart leaders/pioneers, as a cautionary tale of such individuals’ human-ness. Yet I also think Mike’s suggestion about the ultimate culpability of highly regimented organizations’ commanders-in-chief for actions of underlings shouldn’t be brushed aside with too much hubris – especially as this guilt would be supported by any directives of the command as would establish certain types of violence under certain circumstances as normative or else is mitigated by these leaders’ attempted to investigate and appropriately deal with irresponsible violent behavior, thereby defining them as deviant; however, from what I understand partially from discussions hereabouts, BY/ HC Kimball et al’s human-ness is supported by their theoretical ledgers of this sort probably being quite complicated things showing credits in their favor in some areas being offset with charges against them in others? :^)

  99. Ardis Parshall
    May 3, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    k l h — Uh, yes? no? maybe? Sorry — I got lost about word number 115 in that last sentence …

  100. May 3, 2007 at 3:36 pm


    You wrote:

    As I responded to Ardis, my questions relate to the Church’s actions and nonactions after MMM–the alleged “coverup”, and the failure to take any action (civil or ecclesiastical) against almost all the perpetrators. While the central Church may not have ownership of MMM itself, it seems reasonable that it take ownership for what it did once it learned of it and its members participation.

    Have you been following the developments from the upcoming Turley/Leonard/Walker book 2? I wrote a summary of a lecture from Thomas Alexander, who has collaborated on the project on M* . Brigham Young’s culpability after the fact is being revisited, and I think it premature to issue judgment on him. My thread has quotes from him publicly condemning the massacre and inviting perpetrators to submit to court justice or better yet, hang themselves. It is also clear that he offered to help federal officials, at an early stage, to help prosecute them, but his offers were turned down.

  101. Bill MacKinnon
    May 3, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    Ardis, you’re again displaying (#100) your unbecoming hostility to run-on sentences. Bet you don’t care for the opening paragraph of William Faulkner’s “The Bear” either. Suggest that you buff up your entry for next year’s Bulwer-Lytton Contest and learn to be more tolerant of others’, uh, stylistic distinctions. OK now, k l h, back to our double-entry bookkeeping for the reputational accounts of Presidents Young and Kimball…

  102. DavidH
    May 3, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    David Keller,

    Thanks for reminding me of the Millennial Star thread. The comment there about the withholding of ecclesiastical action against the rank and file participants because they were under duress and under the orders of their leaders is understandable, but troubling nonetheless.

  103. Jayneedoe
    May 4, 2007 at 6:25 am


    Can you tell me why the perpetrators of the massacre asked BY what to do? If they were acting without his authority, why contact him?

    Wouldn’t the obvious answer be NOT to murder anyone?

    You seem to comprehend the incomprehensible, so I hope you have some insight, or can direct me where to find it; I know you’ve written thorough and taxing responses.


  104. catherine baker
    May 4, 2007 at 7:17 am

    As an \”outsider,\” I wanted to comment on what I have read here in this discussion. I teach English at the college level and I\’m impressed with the level of honesty, intelligence and patience that you give to the discussion and each other. I should also add upfront that I am a descendent of Captain Jack Baker of the Baker-Fancher train, and I attended the 3-day dedication ceremony in Cedar City in 1990 – \”forgiveness and reconciliation.\” In the auditorium/gymnasium at the university, President Hinkley spoke at length. It was very moving and almost ethereal. The descendents were seated on the floor of the gym, while members of the church were seated in the stands surrounding us. At one point, President Hinkley asked all those in attendance to stand if they had a relative, or knew someone who participated in the Mountain Meadows Massacre to stand – about 2/3 of the people stood (as a humorous aside: I was sitting next to my 86 year old uncle, Bill Baker ( a man of few words that are always dry and monotone) and he poked me in the side and whispered out of the side of his mouth to me, \”eek gad – maybe they called us all here just to finish us off.\” But I digress . . . at this ceremony, President Hinkley spoke eloquently on the subject and he said he was there \”to take responsiblity for what happened at Mountain Meadow and ask our [the descendents] forgiveness. He also exonerated all members of the Piute nation – in the presence of their current Chief. The Piute Chief sang/recited an old Piute prayer at the end of the ceremony and we all left with tears in our eyes. Needless to say, it was an emotional couple of days. I\’m curious if any of you had any knowledge of this 3-day event? We were not allowed to take cameras, recorders or cam-corders into the gym; but, we were told that the proceedings would be recorded by the church and we would all receive copies if desired. I have written the church directly and have never been able to get a copy – many of us have to no avail. Then, in 1997 some of you might be aware of the excavation at one of the grave sites when some bodies were mistakenly uncovered . . . at the re-burial, President Hinkley spoke again and he stated, \”That which we have done here must never be construed as an acknowledgment of the part of the church of any complicity in the occurrences of that fateful day.\” It was so very disheartening to many of the descendents who read his words. It negated everything that we thought we had accomplished in 1990. So . . . I have two questions that I would like to ask you to open for discussion; 1. How does the success of the \”truth and reconciliation\” movement of ArchBishop Desmond Tutu compare to the attempts of \”reconciliation\” between the Church of Latter-Day Saints and the descendents of the Baker-Fancher train? . . . other than it being on a much smaller scale. My second question is . . . can anyone get me a tape of Gordon B. Hinkley\’s (then First Counselor in the LDS Church First Presidency) speech in Cedar City in 1990? Thank you all very much for allowing my post – and again, I am most appreciative of your open and honest discussions – except, of course, item 47 by John Williams\’ \”It’s just not as embarrassing to think that Brigham Young ordered to have some rednecks shot as it is to think that Joseph Smith engaged in physical relations with women married to other men.\” It does my heart good to know that is only one negative remark among 103 posts – an actuary would call it irrelevant – as do I.
    catherine baker
    [email protected]

  105. May 4, 2007 at 9:00 am

    Jaynee (#104) — They only decided to ask BY for instructions on what to do after passions had risen to such a furor that powerful voices in the Parowan/Cedar City area were demanding slaughter, while a very few moderate but persuasive voices were calling for calm. The decision to appeal to BY was sort of a tie-breaker, or at least a recognition that “we’d better be sure we’re right.”

    We want the answer to have been obvious, and cannot imagine that if we ourselves had been there that there could possibly have been any question at all — but that goes to the heart of the matter of how MMM could ever have happened in the first place. There is virtually no debate about details of what happened, or who was there, or when or where — all the hurricane of debate goes straight to *why*, and nobody is going to be able to offer a complete and satisfactory and utterly convincing answer in the space of a comment — all the books and articles written to date don’t come close to that!

    Will’s explanation for why the men in Parowan/Cedar City sent for instructions is, in part, that Brigham Young had first ordered them to slaughter the company — why tell them to let the company pass in peace unless he was countermanding earlier instructions to kill them? My reply to that is that until they asked him for instructions, he didn’t know they were contemplating slaughter — when you shout urgently to a child not to run into traffic, or to put the scissors down, it does not mean that you have previously told that child to play in the street or to run with scissors.

    Catherine Baker (#105) — I have to admit that when I started reading your comment, I tensed up — “oh, no, she’s going to rail at us as if those reading her remarks were personally and individually to blame” (we’ve had more than a little of that before, in various venues). Instead, what a welcome and thoughtful and charitable comment you sent! Thank you.

    Many of us have heard of the meeting you describe, but I’ve never heard some of the details, including the clever “oh, no …” before. I’ve also never heard of the offer to send tapes to those who wanted them. I can start asking around for information on that, but I have no idea what the response will be, or how long it will take to find a person who can give an authoritative answer or explanation. If you don’t mind, I’ll look behind the scenes of the blog for your email address so that we can stay more easily in touch after this thread gets buried deeper beneath new discussions on new posts.

    As for your other question, I think the greatest difference between Bishop Tutu’s “truth and reconciliation” movement and what we’re going through with MMM is primarily the matter of time. In Africa, they’re dealing with living parties who actually committed crimes with their own hands and who bear a direct and personal guilt, and with survivors who personally suffered. With Mountain Meadows, there are no living witnesses or perpetrators, any guilt is inherited, and we’re still struggling to understand what happened and why. On the victims’ side, descendants undeniably have a sense of loss and having suffered wrong, but even recognizing their (your) legitimate claim to sorrow and indignation, the losses are of a vastly different quality than, say, those of the surviving 17 children. That doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t all benefit from knowing the truth, admitting the wrong, and extending forgiveness, but it does mean that there is a legitimate place for debate as to just what needs to be admitted, and to what extent the church (and by extension living church members) bears responsibility, and what an adequate apology consists of. We’re all in the midst of resolving that.

    I, for one, am cheered to see that except among all but the most uninformed and defensive of Mormons, there is no longer any denial that the massacre did in fact occur, led by Mormons, and that none but those uninformed/defensive few cling to the idea that your ancestors and their companions somehow “deserved” what happened to them because of anything they said or did while traveling through Utah. Although it hasn’t gone far enough and doesn’t satisfy your questions, it’s progress.

  106. Mike
    May 4, 2007 at 5:23 pm


    The last sentence I wrote states what I think about the geneology of David B. Haight. I don’t know how to access as much historical information as you do, but I still managed to rule against family tradition in favor of the ancestral file, flakey as it is. We are on the same side on this question. I am just not as 100% certain because of a few unsettling hints that it might not be so, as I described.

    ” I absolutely adore conspiracy fantasies, and I can hardly wait for your next installment! ”

    I think you are being sarcastic, but since you brought it up….

    First most conspiracy theories have only a slight chance of actually being correct. They are at the fringe of plausibility. The bar of admissibility of evidence is low for them; on the ground. I think the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of JFK provide sort of a benchmark, since they are widely believed and without any scientific foundation.

    Here we go with my favorite MMM conspiracy theory: John D. Lee was not actually executed.

    First, Brigham Young promised JDL that he would not be harmed. The execution of JDL makes BY a liar and a false prophet in this one aspect. And BY delivered on his word during the first trial when JDL was acquitted, by I think it was 8 of 12 jurors. But the public uproar was so great that BY and the court was forced into doing something else in order to avoid a worse fate.

    BY loved JDL like his own son. It is hard to believe that he just made him a scapegoat and let the others get off scot free. JDL pretended to be dead once before, but couldn’t keep his mouth shut and resurfaced. The idea was not foreign to them. I think JDL remained loyal to the church until the end and his negative comments about BY sacrificing him were insincere and part of the ruse. This is based on intuition more than anything objective. JDL was filled with fire and brimstone. His comments against BY just don’t have the teeth in them that I would expect. BY was a very shrewd man and this is worthy of one of his better ploys.

    Lets move to the time of execution. It was preceded by a very long exhausting ride up to the meadows the day before. It was supposed to be a secret but hundreds showed up. The audience was varied but probably 80% Mormon. Why didn’t they rescue JDL? (Try executing a Muslim leader in front of hundreds of Muslims today in certain parts of the world). JDL got up, and had breakfast. He was facing death in less than 4 hours, so what does he do? He takes a nap! Hundreds of people have been executed in this country and almost all of them can not sleep the night before their death, unless they are mentally infirm. JDL takes a nap because he knows he faces, not a firing squad, but another very long hard ride, some of it in a pine box.

    The US Army refused to shoot him because they do not execute civilians as a matter of principle. What were the religious preferences of the men in the firing squad who pulled the triggers? They were loyal Mormons. They were the same kind of men who obeyed orders about 20 years before and went up to the meadow in the first place. And JDL was beloved by them. At worst he had the same kind of reputation that Paul Dunn has for my generation. Can you imagine a dozen missionaries recruited out of the LTM shooting PHD?

    Some of them were firing blanks and others live rounds to mask who actually delivered the fatal shots and lessen the chance for vengence by his relatives. Help me out with the numbers but I am guessing that 12-16 men were in the firing squad and 6-8 of them had live rounds.

    JDL gave a final short sermon, but I thought it just didn’t sound right. JDL’s last words were something like “center on my heart, boys.” What he really was saying was exactly the opposite, reminding those in the firing squad to aim over his head and not forget that this is not just target practice. Just in case some of them were such numbskulls that they might forget what they were supposed to be doing, or not doing.

    Now we get to the best part of the theory. JDL is sitting comfortably on the edge of his coffin and he is hit in the chest by multiple simultaneous rifle shots at close range and he slowly falls back into the coffin with his feet still hanging over the edge. If you have ever shot a deer, you know this: That many rifle shots should have knocked him a few feet back and sprayed blood everywhere. Look it up. It is called high velocity blood spatter and it is characteristic of rifle shots and it makes a terrible mess. Then with bullets passing through his heart, lungs, liver, aorta and whatever else, we would expect him to bleed out. Quarts of it. What is the volume of blood in a big guy like JDL? Over a gallon? At least 5-6 liters?

    How long does it take a man to die of rifle shots to the chest? Several minutes? Long enough for JDL to give another little sermon? Rifle shots to the head usually result in instant unconsciousness but they also blow the head apart and that is not evident in the picture. (Also easier to miss the head, so it is not recommended).

    Then get this: They took a picture of JDL lying dead in his coffin. Why did they do that? To prove something that hundreds of witnesses could not verify? And if you look at those pictures, they prove the opposite.You will see the complete lack of any blood spatter of any velocity, high medium or low, on the coffin and no blood soaking through his clothing! If you had just drained all the oil out of your SUV on top of him, wouldn’t you think you could see at least some of it? And the rifle bullets should have passed through him to damage the coffin. The firing squad was up a few feet in the air, standing in wagons. JDL was sitting with his feet on the ground. The trajectory would be slightly downward and right into the back of the coffin. The pictures show no damage there. None.

    Then they nailed the coffin shut and pitched it into a wagon and drove off. It was September and the elevation there is almost 7000 feet? It was colder (global warming) than it is now. The wagon trip lasted the rest of that day, that night and the next day before they got his body back to his loyal wives. And by the time it arrived it had decomposed to the point of not even being recognizeable!

    His wives didn’t even try and dress him for burial. They just layed his temple cloths on top of the stinking rotting corpse. Now that is too much decompition for only a couple three days, especially if it was cool at night. Even in the heat we have around here in Georgia, bodies do not decompose that fast. Joseph Smith’s corpse lasted longer than that in a very hot humid midwestern summer late in June.

    (In fairness, one possible flaw in the theory; If the coffin was exposed to the direct sun all day and it us much warmer than average so that the temperature in the coffin went up above 120 degrees, then maybe we could explain this rapid decomposition. So in my theory we have the coffin in a covered wagon in the shade, which is most reasonable.)

    It was believed by people in the 19th century that evil bodies decomposed faster than righteous ones. Notice the word “corruption.” It means wickedness. But it also decribes physical decomposition of the body. “This corruption puts on incorruption.” A verse of scripture that describes the physical resurrection and the spiritual renewal of our character through the Atonement.

    This fit perfectly with what they did. People in that time killed their own animals and they knew exactly how long it took for meat to turn rancid and how long bodies take to rot, far better than we do. (And what would happen if you kept a dead body in the back of a wagon a couple days in the direct sun; it would stink like hell.) But the supposed rapid decomposition of JDL would be proof for them that he was truely wicked and deserved his fate. How clever to bring his wives a body too rotten, instead of one not rotten enough.

    As soon as the wagon with the coffin got out of sight (or perhaps they waited for darkness) they let JDL out of his coffin and provided him with a fast horse and a few supplies. They replaced him with a guy who had been dead for a couple of days. They could have dug most anyone up from a cemetery in the area. Or blood-atoned a local apostate if you really want to make it gruesome.

    There never was an autopsy. There never was anything done to independently verify who was dead and how many times he was shot. I think we know where he was apparently buried and I guess we could dig up his bones and do DNA if any of his bones lasted this long. Just don’t use any of the descendents of Harold B.Lee for comparison.

    So how did JDL manage to keep his mouth shut the second time he was supposed to have died? Well, he didn’t. He learned how to speak from the grave. His last “true confessions” (Was it the fourth?) seems to have been composed rather rapidly right before his death with few notes and a miraculous memory of events. Actually JDL had several weeks to write it after his execution and publish it through one of his attorneys. And the 1870-1880 time frame was a period when almost all of the church leaders were in hiding at one time or another. JDL would have fit right in with them and proved to be valuable. He may be part of the reason why they never could catch up with John Taylor even though his health wasn’t much better than Ezra Taft Benson’s was the last few years of his life. I think if you looked, you might find folk legends about people who met JDL hiding up in the mountains.

    He would have eventually gone to Mexico and maybe lived to fight against Pancho Villa. (Hey, look at how good President Hinckley is doing at nearly 100 years old.) Wasn’t PV the guy who was shooting Mormons in Mexico, among others? Anywhay have a nice Cinco de Mayo. I hope you find this conspiracy theory amusing.

    You have to admit it is better than most?

  107. Jayneedoe
    May 4, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    Ardis (#106) Thank you for your well-written reply to my query.

    You wrote: “. . . and nobody is going to be able to offer a complete and satisfactory and utterly convincing answer in the space of a comment — all the books and articles written to date don’t come close to that!”

    So, is there anywhere I can go to better understand what really happened? Though my original question may not have given you this impression, I really am only interested in the truth.

    You seem to have a comprehensive grasp of the tragedy. I have a lot of time on my hands. Do you have a suggested reading list posted anywhere?

    Thanks so much,

  108. May 4, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    Mike, oh great, now there will be JDL sightings in addition to 3 Nephite sightings and Elvis sightings.
    PS–I am interested in buying the movie rights.

  109. May 4, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    Jaynee, the standard account of MMM, still the best available, is Juanita Brooks’ The Mountain Meadows Massacre which is still in print after more than 50 years and available from online sources like Amazon, and can often be found in large or scholarly bookstores (university bookstores, not your usual Barnes and Noble, although they could get it for you). Richard Turley, Ronald Walker, and Glen Leonard, associated with the church’s historical department and BYU, have been working on a book taking advantage of every scrap of relevant material held by the church, as well as the fruit of the enormous resources poured into scouring libraries and archives elsewhere, but their book won’t be in print until next year.

    Although other books have been published in the past few years, I can’t give any of them an unqualified recommendation:

    Will Bagley’s Blood of the Prophets includes some important source material that he was the first to discover, and his description of the Arkansas families is particularly moving and sympathetic, while his description of the massacre itself will help you understand its horror; his conclusions and especially the motives he imputes to the Mormons are not convincing or acceptable, in my opinion. Still, if you want to examine a more recent book than Brooks’, Bagley’s is the one to look at.

    Ignore Sally Denton’s wildly unreliable and sensational yet still uninteresting account — she doesn’t have a clue about much of anything, and if she hadn’t had Will’s book to borrow so heavily from she wouldn’t have been able to fill many pages. The other recent publications are novels rather than histories and aren’t enlightening.

    I wish the Turley/Walker/Leonard book were available now; I expect it will be pretty much what you need, when it finally comes out.

  110. Costanza
    May 4, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    When the Turley/Walker/Leonard book does finally come out, the MHA will have to scramble to fill the spots that those guys have occupied for years at the annual conference :)

  111. May 4, 2007 at 8:59 pm

    No kidding, Costanza! At least the rest of us will then be spared that moment of terror when we open the conference program, hoping against hope that we aren’t scheduled opposite their session.

  112. Jayneedoe
    May 4, 2007 at 9:22 pm

    HI Ardis,

    I’ve read both Brooks’ and Bagley’s books; I agree that Bagley’s chapters devoted to the victims were especially informative.

    I really appreciate your perspective; as I said, I sincerely am looking for the truth.

    I also look forward to the Turley/Walker/Leonard book. I hope to see more documentation and clarity.

    I have one last question and then I will leave you alone, I promise. :-)

    Bagley writes:

    On a cold May morning in 1961, the Mormon prophet . . . stopped at Mountain Meadows. . . . They viewed Carleton’s monument at the site of the wagon battle, “put up at the burial place of 120 persons killed by Indians in 1857.” The monument was beginning to tumble down, but the wooden cross and its inscription, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord,” still stood above the rock cairn.

    Brigham Young read the verse aloud, altering the text to fit his mood: “Vengeance is mine saith the Lord; I HAVE repaid.” Dudley Leavitt recalled how Young directed the destruction of the monument so that all present could deny that he had ordered it. “He didn’t say another word. He didnt’t give an order. He just lifted his right arm to the square, and in five minutes there wasn’t one stone left upon another. He didn’t have to tell us what he wanted done. We understood.”

    My question for you is is this actually what happened? Bagley’s notes just refer to Brooks, MMM, pg. 283. Unfortunately I do not own a copy of Brooks book.

    And if this IS what happened, what do you think BY meant?

    I promise, this is my last question.

    Thanks again,

  113. DavidH
    May 4, 2007 at 11:04 pm

    According to Richard Poll, the vengeance quote by Brigham Young is from Wilford Woodruff’s journals. (fn.3)

  114. May 4, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    Jaynee, here comes another wordy reply – jump to the last paragraph if you’re short on patience.

    I keep having to buy new copies of Brooks’ MMM when somebody borrows mine and doesn’t return it. That’s the case right now — my most recent copy went home with a man when he finished his mission. At this moment I can’t look up the citation to remind myself how much of this image comes from Brooks, and how much is mood and interpretation created by Bagley.

    Sometimes I find that an incident as described by Will is so powerfully drawn that his interpretation colors any competing image I might have. I know Will believes his accounts are complete and accurate and fair; yet I have been unconvinced or dissatisfied enough with his views that I have more than once actively sought a fuller understanding. Occasionally I have found that while Will’s version can be justified by a jaundiced look at the evidence, his interpretation is not the only nor always the most persuasive view.

    Example: “Early Mormonism’s peculiar obsession with blood and vengeance created the society that made the massacre possible if not inevitable. These obsessions had devastating consequences for Young’s own family. In New York in 1902, William Hooper Young, the prophet’s grandson, slit the abdomen of an alleged prostitute and wrote the words “Blood Atonement” in his father’s apartment.” (Bagley, BOTP. 379) I had never heard of this supposed blood atonement murder, committed so long after and so far away from the scene of any other such accusation. His sources were Michael Quinn (who understood the incident so little that he didn’t even know the murderer’s name), and a couple of articles from the New York Times about the discovery of a body, but ending before the murderer had even been arrested, much less tried. I couldn’t believe it, saw that Will hadn’t cited enough evidence to justify his assertions, and wondered what had really happened. You can compare the impression created in BOTP with the facts I uncovered here, here, here, and here and judge for yourself whether a Mormon “obsession with blood and vengeance” had even the most remote connection to the 1902 murder.

    That’s a very long way of saying this: I trust that Will had adequate facts to justify his description of this event, according to his personal understanding of Brigham Young’s character and motives. I am not comfortable endorsing Will’s views of Brigham Young’s character and motives. Yet because I have not researched this episode independently, I have no justification for saying he was wrong or incomplete. I can’t give a reliable answer to your question, sorry.

  115. May 4, 2007 at 11:22 pm

    DavidH (#114) — Poll quotes Woodruff accurately; good find. However, while Woodruff’s account describes the physical appearance of the cairn, he doesn’t say one word about its being destroyed, much less destroyed by Brigham Young’s desire. He doesn’t tell us what he (Woodruff) thought of it. He gives us no clue to Brigham Young’s demeanor or tone of voice or mood, no report of what they had been talking about, or indication that this was the full statement, or any clue to BY’s thoughts or intentions beyond the bald record of the words. In other words, he doesn’t help us understand what BY meant at all.

  116. Jayneedoe
    May 4, 2007 at 11:57 pm


    Thank you so much for your time and efforts. I truly appreciate your perspective. You’ve given me much to think about as things I thought were a given I am now not so sure about.

    I look forward to the new book by Turley et. al., as well as your thoughts on it. (You’re going to be very popular!)


  117. Tonya Nichols
    May 5, 2007 at 7:57 am

    I grew up hearing about the Massacre at Mountain Meadows from age four on. It was an expected topic at every Thanksgiving, Easter, Valentine\’s Day, summer potluck, fall harvest, winter hearth fire, and spring fling. My six siblings and I, along with a pack of cousins, drew straws for who would have to stay and listen while the others snuck off to play. We were drilled with the details so we would never forget. But then, I\’m a Fancher descendant with blood ties to 29 of the massacre victims. My grandfather (who held court) grew up in Arkansas with memories of the aging surviving children. His life has been a quest to resolve the dispute of blame and extract an open apology from the Mormon Church.

    My generation has wrestled with the question of respecting the dead, who can not rest peacefully under a banner of truth until the church admits to an orchestrated crime and cover up; while at the same time wanting to have a life and devote ourselves to our own families and future. We wanted to play soccer, ride horses, eat ice cream, fall in love, get married, and snuggle our babies. I grew up frustrated that the issues of the dead stole joy from the living, and frustrated that a church that claimed to seek and share the truth couldn\’t just TELL THE TRUTH, however ugly, and let the little bird that told it fly us all to freedom from the shadow of evil.

    I was in New York (age 30) during 911. I served at Ground Zero for six weeks and my perspective about my grandfather shifted. I was separated from my close net family (living on the West Coast) by a huge gulf, in that; they thought they knew what I knew because they \”saw it on the news.\” I was often speechless to explain but driven to try. They could not know. I went to places no cameras dared desecrate. I breathed in the very dust of the people we were looking for, and felt the horror of guilt when I coughed them up again in blackened spittle.

    Then I began to better understand my grandfather. He heard first hand testimony from surviving victims, as I did. I now shared his burden to help others to know and to remember. I also realized how impossible it would have been for Americans to get past this event and heal from 911, if a lone pilot had been blamed and Osama bin Laden built a University of higher moral education. And how would any of us move on if the very earth at Ground Zero were owned by followers of bin Laden? How would we ever get closure?

    When Hinkley stated at the memorial service in 1999, \”\”That which we have done here must never be construed as an acknowledgment of the part of the church of any complicity in the occurrences of that fateful day,\” my heart sank. Better described here in a clip of my PBS interview

    Why is it so hard to own this one??? There is too much evidence that points to compounded cover ups. I used to be frustrated at a historical church. But this issue remains because the follow on years have not produced a leader strong enough to stand up and be publicly repugnated by that which is repugnant for fear the stench will stick if openly named.

    Dallin Oaks\’ quote, at the end of the above PBS bonus video, offered the strongest apology and ownership I\’ve read, heard, or seen anywhere from a church official. He disarmed me. If more Mormons, including Hinkley, approached the topic in that tone, what would be left to be angry about? Nothing. If Mountain Meadows was surrendered by the church to be a National Monument in Federal Trust as the descendants continue to request, this history would fade into a teaching topic like so many other human events that have no direct hold over us because they are past.

    The issue of Mountain Meadows persists for lack of Mormon humility and humanity. After reading this blog page, I found this group of writers does not strike me as the kind of people who glory in that perception so I thought I would pass my thoughts along.

    I\’ll also leave some links for those who, like Jaynee, want to ponder the outsider takes in search for the truth. These sites also have original memoirs and findings as well as some reference material for Ardis and others looking for info on the blood atonement.

    I think so much can be done in this generation to bring a rest to this divide and I glimpsed this in your sincere thread. I was most encouraged by #106 as I feared the members were still caught in evil monkey hands (hear no/see no/speak no) Until now, I\’ve had an unchallenged perception that Mormons do not know about, or do not want to talk about MMM, and they certainly will not admit anything was amiss save for a kooky JDL. Mike\’s conspiracy theory #107 gave me a hearty laugh, and we know that does a heart good!

    general history MMM

    blood atonement

    online MMM articles and sources

    I welcome, in return, the information you feel would benefit me in a search for closure and peace for the living and the dead.

  118. Left Field
    May 5, 2007 at 9:04 am


    The reference is on page 183, not 283, and if Bagely refers to the events in 1961, that’s obviously incorrect also. I was confused at first thinking I was reading about a visit of David O. McKay to the site. The correct date is 1861.

    WW’s journal, quoted on p. 182, mentions the comment about vengeance. In a lengthy footnote on the facing page, Brooks writes, ” By a strange coincidence, the story is verified by a legend in the writer’s [i.e., Brooks’] own family. My grandfather, Dudley Leavitt, was present, and he told the incident repeatedly, so that it has been verified by three of is sons. One preserved it in these words, quoting his father:…”

    Then follows the account referenced by Bagley, including the quote about Brigham raising his hand to the square. Apparently Bagley does not mention that there is some question about the validity of Leavitt’s account. Brooks’ footnote continues…

    “The story of the destruction of the monument has been occasion for discussion among scholars because some later travelers refer to it as standing. On July 1, 1864, Lorenzo Brown wrote: ‘…went past the monument that was erected in commemoration of the Massacre that was committed at that place by officers & men of Company M Calafornia [sic] volunteers May 27th and 28th 1864 It is built of cobble stone at the bottom and about 3 feet high then rounded up with earth & surmounted by a rough wooded cross the whole 6 or 7 feet high & perhaps 10 feet square On one side of the cross is inscribed Mountain Meadow Massacre and over that in smaller letters is vengeance is mine & I will repay saith the Lord. On the other side Done by officers & men of Co. M Cal. Vol. May 27th & 28th 1864 Some one has written below this in pencil. Remember Hauns mill and Carthage Jail…’ Typescript of the Lorenzo Brown Journals is at Brigham Young University.”

  119. Left Field
    May 5, 2007 at 9:09 am

    Sorry,”wooded cross” is my typo, not Brown’s. That should be “wooden cross.”

  120. May 5, 2007 at 9:00 am

    Tonya, your comment landed in the limbo of our spam filter, from which I have just freed it.

    The spam filter is unable to exercise judgment – it is an indiscriminate thing, identifying as spam every comment meeting the criteria we have carefully programmed into its “thinking.” Our programming was done with a laudable goal in view, yet the program’s “training” leads inevitably to unfortunate consequences: Any comment with a link is automatically suspect; the more links, the stronger the filter’s conviction that the comment is spam.

    Our filter, having such a knee-jerk allergy to spam, cannot distinguish between a long list of porn and drug links on the one hand, and the carefully chosen electronic bibliography of a highly respected scholar on the other hand. That kind of enlightened discrimination takes the work of a rational mind, one willing to reject a simplistic “link = bad” mentality and to examine the evidence itself fairly and fully: Does this particular link point to a site calculated to excite the lusts of a base mind for the site promoter’s personal enlargement? Does that other link peddle a drug to pervert the gullible buyer’s clarity of thinking? Or do the links point to the genuine article, treasures of legitimate knowledge that will enrich a visitor’s comprehension?

    Sometimes it’s hard to tell at a glance whether any given link offers anything of real value – some sites are clever counterfeits and phish for the gullible. Some poisonous sites snatch content from legitimate sources, abbreviating, distorting and unconscionably amending in the process. With experience, though, someone checking the spam filter can recognize the oft-linked garbage dump and will delete the thing for the filth it is.

    So much for my commentary on the shortcomings of early programming, crippling adherence to an inadequate judgment scale, and the benefits of an enlightened, discriminating mind. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

    You write, “I think so much can be done in this generation to bring a rest to this divide.” Thank you for this. This concession has been a very long time coming. An earlier generation of Mormons, those who grew up with memories of the aging survivors of victims of the Missouri persecutions, used to pile those stories on younger generations as if to instill in us an exaggerated sense of victimhood. We loved our ancestors, respected their lives, wept for their afflictions, venerated their sacrifices, imitated their virtues, perpetuated their memory, and resented for their sakes the Missouri and Missourians of the 1830s. We did not, fortunately, demand that we be personally held as martyrs because of their sufferings. It was frustrating to discover that modern Missourians either were unaware or had a grossly distorted perception of the events of those days. Most were oblivious; barely anyone who knew really cared; almost no one was willing to admit to the orchestrated crimes and cover ups that had occurred. I am pleased to be able to say, however, that our frustration did not result in a blanket condemnation of Missourian humility and humanity, or a demand to extract a very specifically-worded apology from living Missourians who had had no hand in the crimes against our ancestors. We were disarmed by Governor Kit Bond’s 1976 rescission of the Extermination Order against us. We recognized his gesture for what it was, an acknowledgment of past wrongs and a reaffirmation of what had in reality already become a longstanding history of friendship and cooperation between Mormon and Missourian. What more could we have asked? that Gov. Bond prove his strong leadership by getting on his knees and tearfully begging personal forgiveness from the descendants of the Mormon victims? that the townsites of Haun’s Mill, Independence, Far West, Richmond, Liberty, and other scenes of anti-Mormon violence be surrendered as public shrines? No – we recognized the good will gesture for what it was, did not demand that it be more, and have since gone about our lives without the gnawing resentment that a refusal to accept that apology would have done to our emotional wellbeing.

    Oh, how I do ramble on and on. Nevertheless, I am pleased to see that you evince a recognition that healing requires an accurate understanding of what happened, realism in our demands, and fairness from all sides.

    And how grateful I am that I have a mind with greater discernment than our spam filter, one capable of discriminating between worthy sources and those that lie in wait to deceive.

  121. May 5, 2007 at 10:00 am

    Left Field, you are now in my pantheon of heroes for tipping me off to the fact that there really is something more to investigate in this story. I may not get to it for months, but this episode is definitely on my radar. Thanks.

  122. Anonymous and Interested Person
    May 5, 2007 at 10:44 am

    But Ardis, what about this point? :

    “I also realized how impossible it would have been for Americans to get past this event and heal from 911, if a lone pilot had been blamed and Osama bin Laden built a University of higher moral education.”

    Unlike the church, Missouri does not hold itself up as a spiritual, moral paragon. Missouri does not blame the atrocities committed against Mormons on a single Missourian. Missouri’s governor has never said, “Our apology should never be construed as an acknowledgement that Missouri had any complicity in the violence committed against Mormons.”

    The way I read Tonya’s post, she simply desires an unqualified admission of church involvement in the massacre, not that descendants of MMM should “be personally held as martyrs because of their sufferings.”

    Your comment looks like a consciously unfair interpretation of her remarks.

    As for the “lack of humility and humanity” remark, it’s harsh. But in the following sentence Tonya acknowledges that it is only a “perception,” and she invites you to disabuse her of it. Have you?

  123. May 5, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Catherine and Tonya, I read the comments you made on the Times and Seasons blog and I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated them. It was heartening to read of the 1990 Cedar City event and the apologies made by President Hinckley, though I wish they could have been made more public. It also dismayed me that the apology was more or less rescinded at the memorial service in 1999. I am not a descendant of the early Mormons, but I did write an essay back in October with my apology in behalf of the rank and file member of the LDS Church. I would like you to know that there are Mormons who feel a deep sense of regret and responsibility for the events of that day.

  124. May 5, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Anonymous and Interested, my comment was apparently too subtle for you. Please accept my apologies for not taking the time this morning to repeat it in plainer terms.

  125. Mark B.
    May 5, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    Lorenzo Brown was my great-great-great grandfather–I have a typescript of his journal, nearly 450 pages.

    I reread this morning the entry from July 1, 1864, which Brooks cites in her book. It reads, typos and all, as Brooks quoted it and Left Field typed it above.

    My father had this typescript prepared–I believe from the original handwritten journal. Which, by the way, are in the Special Collections at the HBL Library at BYU.

    Also noteworthy (more for what it says about Lorenzo Brown than anything else) is his entry on March 24, 1877–the day after John D Lee’s execution:

    John D Lee was shot at the Mountain Meadows I have not full particulars but it seems strange a new thing under the sun for a convict to be taken 100 miles from his place of trial and imprisonment to be executed where he had committed the murder for which he had to atone & of which he was no doubt strictly guilty but why he should be held in duress so many years harassed & perplexed while in prison tormented with continual anxiety little less than torment a broken down old man by his enemies & finally to wind up & to add if possible to his mental and bodily afflictions taken to the place of the [space] and in the Republican government & all in the cause of humanity [punctuation (or lack thereof) as in my typescript].

  126. May 5, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    Mark B., I use Lorenzo Brown’s journal all the time — if it was your father who had the typescript prepared, I owe him a huge thank you. LB had a knack of recording what so often appears to be a throwaway comment, but which provides the key to solving some difficult question of chronology and location. He was uncanny that way. He helped me figure out the timing and settle the question of Isaac Haight’s credibility in the Santa Clara ambush story, and his few words on a Utah War-era disciplinary action brought other people’s comments into focus, and he’s also helping me in a project on the Los Vegas Mission. He may not be as widely known as some others, but I’ll bet LB appears in more footnotes than most of his generation.

  127. DavidH
    May 5, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    Catherine and Tonya,

    I am a descendent of early Mormon pioneers and of at least one man who may or may not have been there among the perpetrators (I do not know for sure). And I am an active and believing member of the Church today.

    I completely concur with Bored in Vernal’s sentiments. The perpetrators’ actions were inexcusable and they were completely inconsistent with what I believe to be Mormonism’s core values. But they were our people, there were a significant number of them, and they were acting under the direction of leaders to whom our Church had delegated leadership responsibility. Moreover, as I have stated above, the central Church bears responsibity for its own actions and nonactions thereafter.

    I, too, appreciated Elder Oaks nondefensive attempt at apology. When it comes to an apology for such a heinous act, I think it is more important to express it, and express it clearly and nondefensively, than it is to be concerned that we “calibrate” the apology precisely. Borrowing quasi-legal terminology, in such heinous cases, I think it is better to be over-inclusive, if anything, than under-inclusive.

    As a member of the Church and a descendent of a possible perpetrator, I am sorry for the massacre; I am sorry for the coverup; I am sorry for any role that correct or incorrect understanding or implementation of Church doctrine and procedures contributed to the massacre and coverup; I am sorry for whatever role leaders at any level, high or low, played in the massacre and coverup; and I am sorry for the apparent lack of contrition, and for the defensiveness, insensitivity and even denial, evidenced by so many Mormons over the years.

    I join in Elder Oaks’ sincere prayer for healing and mending for those, who to this day, experience hurt because of the actions of those days, and prayer for forgiveness, if possible, of those involved (including possibly one of my ancestors). I extend the same prayer and wish for all involved, and their descendents, on both sides of Haun’s Mill, Carthage, Jackson County, and other places of early violence perpetrated by one side or the other.

  128. Mark B.
    May 5, 2007 at 1:50 pm


    I think that there was an earlier typescript than the one that our family has–I don’t know for certain–but I’m glad you find it useful.

    I too have found remarkable insights in his comments–I read his comments about the disciplinary action during the Utah War this morning as I searched for comments on MMM, and was moved again by his humanity.

  129. Jayneedoe
    May 5, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    Left Field (#120)

    Thank you so much for your corrections to my typos and sorry for the confusion.

    Additionally thank you for providing Brooks’ continuing footnote. With all this new information I would have to say I think Bagley’s description of the scene is not proven to be fact. I wish there were a way to know what really happened.

    Thanks again.


  130. Jayneedoe
    May 6, 2007 at 12:51 am


    I’ve been to Mountain Meadows. I sobbed as I read the names of those murdered. My knees buckled as I scanned the meadows, picturing in my mind’s eye the terror, the blood, the horror. My heart raged as I searched the memorial for signs of an apology and found none.

    Your post breaks my heart, and you have my deep-felt apology for your family’s pain.


  131. Jayneedoe
    May 6, 2007 at 1:02 am

    Ardis (#119)

    Why so cryptic? If you disagree with Tonya, why not just say so? If her references are biased or innacurate, I’d like to know.

    I will never understand Mormons’ collective insistence that their ancetor’s experienced atrocities negate the atrocities committed at MMM. If you don’t want an apology for yours, fine. This does not mean they don’t deserve one for theirs.

    I found your letter unecessarily cruel with a touch of martyrdom thrown in. Is that really what you want to convey?

    If so, at least be honesty about it and tell it like it is.


  132. Jonathan Green
    May 6, 2007 at 2:18 am

    Jayneedoe, I think you promised that #113 was your last question. I’m sure Ardis had good reasons for responding to someone else’s questions the way she did. I’ve learned a lot from this thread, but I don’t think a discussion of Mormons’ collective problems or requiring Ardis to explain herself would be productive. It’s probably time to move on.

  133. Jayneedoe
    May 6, 2007 at 3:36 am

    Ahhh, Jonathan. So, I did.

    I disagree with you about a disussion of the Mormons’ collective problems re: MMM. In fact, I think it’s a vital topic.

    But you’re correct. I did essentially say I would shut up.


  134. catherine baker
    May 6, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    To Ardis re #119. I read your response to Tonya several times (Fancher descendent). I want to understand what you are stating. Please . . . Is this how you see us (Bakers and Fanchers
    1. assigning blanket condemnation of Mormon humility and humanity,
    2. demanding that we be personally held as martyrs because of their sufferings,
    3. demanding to extract a very specifically worded apology from living Mormons who
    had no hand in the crimes against our ancestors,
    4. wanting you to get on your knees and tearfully beg personal forgiveness from [us] the
    descendents of the Mormon perpetrators,
    5. do you interpret our wish to take ownership, guardianship of the Mountain Meadows
    Memorial property from the Mormon Church as an attempt to force Mormons to
    “surrender”it to us for “a public shrine.”
    6. Do you truly see us as meeting any good will with demands for more, as people who
    are failing to go on about our lives, as people with a gnawing resentment and a refusal
    to accept an apology if it were given?

    I reference your posting below so there is no need to scroll up and down . . . catherine baker [email protected]

    “We did not, fortunately, demand that we be personally held as martyrs because of their sufferings… I am pleased to be able to say, however, that our frustration did not result in a blanket condemnation of Missourian humility and humanity, or a demand to extract a very specifically-worded apology from living Missourians who had had no hand in the crimes against our ancestors. . . . We were disarmed by Governor Kit Bond’s 1976 rescission of the Extermination Order against us. We recognized his gesture for what it was, an acknowledgment of past wrongs and a reaffirmation of what had in reality already become a longstanding history of friendship and cooperation between Mormon and Missourian. What more could we have asked? that Gov. Bond prove his strong leadership by getting on his knees and tearfully begging personal forgiveness from the descendants of the Mormon victims? that the townsites of Haun’s Mill, Independence, Far West, Richmond, Liberty, and other scenes of anti-Mormon violence be surrendered as public shrines? No – we recognized the good will gesture for what it was, did not demand that it be more, and have since gone about our lives without the gnawing resentment that a refusal to accept that apology would have done to our emotional wellbeing.”

  135. catherine baker
    May 6, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    . . . to continue with my post at #135 . . . ah, bummer “build me up buttercup, just to let me down.” I felt positive about the first hundred or so posts; now back to apathy.. How can we possibly have an emotion-less exchange without being ultimately massacred. One voice can have a powerful effect, so powerful it negates the sounds of many. catherine baker

  136. May 6, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    To all concerned: thanks for making this such a strong thread. We’re closing it down now; Ardis and a few others that have participated over the past several days are already in the process of corresponding by e-mail off the blog, and those who want to continue the conversation are welcome to go that route. But from the blog’s point of view, the converage of MMM thusfar has been pretty exhaustive, and we’d like to leave it that way for others who may discover it later.

    Thanks again.

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