MMM for Youth?

I don’t want to debate the ins and outs of the tragedy at Mountain Meadows. It was horrific no matter how you cut it. My more immediate problem is personal—namely, how I’ve now spent a number of years trying to come to terms with the fact that “we” did it.

The few times I’ve brought up the topic, most LDS members bristle and let me know in no uncertain terms that they were not there, that they personally (and their ancestors) had nothing to do with it, and that they certainly would not have had anything to do with murdering people at Mountain Meadows even if they had been there. Okay. None of my people were there that I know of, either.

But my problem is that I feel linked to our “common” LDS history. We here in Utah have a state holiday celebrating the day the Mormons came, and I know of several non-Utah wards and stakes that celebrate July 24th as well (dressing up like pioneers and the whole bit). It seems to me that the Church has pushed to build and maintain historic sites and museums in dozens of places, so Latter-day Saints can know and feel connected to our history.

In my case it worked well. I feel a connection to the pioneers. I tear up when I think about the deaths at Haun’s Mill or on the Plains or at Martin’s Cove, and I wept the day it finally dawned on me that “rapes and pillages” in Far West and other places probably were not rhetorical flourish, but actual descriptions of horrors suffered by some stalwart LDS ancestors. I cannot turn off the ancestor connection just because some of the LDS settlers committed atrocities.

Thus, I felt betrayed when I stumbled onto Juanita Brooks’s book in my mid-twenties but perhaps not for the reasons most would expect. I was upset because, to the best of my remembrance, I had never heard about the event before. I grew up in Utah’s neighboring state of Wyoming, I’ve been LDS all my life, and I graduated from BYU(granted, it was in Political Science)—all without ever hearing of Mountain Meadows. As a young, stay-at-home mom, I decided I should invigorate my mind and chose to read Brooks’s book off BYU Honor’s “Great Works” list.

I felt like I was shaking internally for weeks. I had no idea how to make sense of the Mountain Meadows bombshell that I’d found in my history and no idea why I had never heard about it before. There was no one to talk to and, since this was a number of years ago, no blog discussions to jump in on. I suppose I could have set up an appointment with an unknown BYU history (or perhaps psychology?) professor to “talk,” but that seemed more intimidating than it was worth. I was left to muddle through Mountain Meadows all alone because no one had the . . . nerve? . . . knowledge? . . . skill? . . . to tell me about it sooner. It took me quite awhile to work through everything, and, even then, I only began to feel a bit grounded again after I tricked my book club into reading it and talking it through with me.

What I am wondering is when, where, and how we talk about Mountain Meadows. After the semester I chose to teach Brooks’s book in my freshman Honors writing class, it was removed from the approved Great Works list (and soon thereafter, the entire “Mormon” section was removed—don’t worry, I don’t take it too personally). Is 18 years old too young? Is BYU the wrong place? Sunday School? Is this even an issue for anyone else? Perhaps all of you had a different experience. Perhaps it is so out in the open that none of this matters now. But I still don’t know what to tell my kids. And when. And how.

67 comments for “MMM for Youth?

  1. Kylie Turley
    August 10, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    For what it’s worth: I’m not bringing MMM up to stir things up, since I’m actually a really controversy-averse person. I am sincere in wanting to understand when and how you learned about Mountain Meadows and what your reaction was.

  2. August 10, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    Kylie, I\’m a direct descendant of John D. Lee. From Agatha, his first wife. I heard MMM referred to very rarely growing up. Once my dad may have explained it briefly. I never really made the connection between my ancestor and MMM until I came home from an LDS history class shocked by it. I went off about it, and then my dad reminded me that I\’m descended from him. Whenever I hear about it, or read of it, I\’m reminded of my relationship to him. I\’m fascinated by it and repelled by it at once.

    I\’ve got a lot of wonderful, non-infamous people in my heritage too–a Mormon Batallion member, a bodyguard of Joseph Smith. But John D. Lee is there too. And I guess I feel about that like I feel about all the warts and wrinkles and also greatness of my heritage: I\’d like to acknowledge all of it, and try to understand and forgive and learn from it, rather than sweep it away. I feel that, in order to claim to nobility, I need to face the shame as well.

    I think BYU is a great place to learn about it. Sunday School, not so much. And I don\’t feel like my dad should necessarily have taught me about it at an early age, despite our relationship with Lee… I think it was good for me to have some maturity before I dealt with it.

  3. August 10, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    I’ll repeat what I’ve said before in earlier iterations of this discussion: I do not understand how anyone can grow up active LDS in the US and reach college age without having heard of MMM. I know that it does happen — many of you have said just what Kylie says here — but I don’t understand it. I can’t remember how I first heard of MMM. It’s just always been a part of my awareness of Utah and Mormon history. I can’t imagine how it could not have come up in a family like mine that told stories about our personal past and that talked about events on the evening news at the dinner table. I don’t think my family was all that unusual. Don’t other families talk to each other?

    No time is too young to bring it up in family talk. As with sex or murder or child abduction, it ought to come up in our family and church talk whenever it is appropriate to do so — discussions of the pioneer era take place at all ages. As with sex or murder or child abduction, you only bring up what is within the child’s understanding, and in a way that won’t terrify or overwhelm him.

    It should definitely find a fixed place in the Seminary year on Church History.

    It may not necessarily be suitable for Sunday School the way our lessons are structured now, where we really don’t study history but instead talk about gospel subjects with a little historical framework. It might be suitable in a lesson about following the spirit, following leaders, making difficult choices, whatever, if the lessons were written to introduce MMM.

    Every family ought to have a copy of Juanita Brooks’ book, and now the new Massacre at Mountain Meadows on the shelf where kids can find it, and parents should be seen reading it.

  4. August 10, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    Read the youth the Ensign article that came out a few months ago on MMM. Don’t add any of your own opinions. Just read excerpts from the good ole officially-approved Ensign.

    I’d like to see any of the parents object too vehemently to that.

  5. August 10, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    Church members studying the Mountain Meadows massacre is a coming-of-age ritual. Just as learning the truth about any other aspect of Church history. True testimony comes from someplace else — not from learning the “truth” about real historic events. Though we entertain naive and romantic views of the past, at some point we all must come to realize that the people of past generations were like us in nearly every respect. They were fallible and human as us.

    A testimony not built on that foundation is bound to be a precarious one.

  6. Brandon woodruff
    August 10, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    You know that just a few months ago one of us shot his wife in one of our church parking lots. I am still coming to terms with that incident. Then I just heard of a Bishop that was convicted of being a pedophile and now I feel so dirty. We do so many bad things. I work with this guy, and he is also one of us, and his niece is in prison for bank robbery. I can\’t help think that in a way we are now all bank robbers. When I was cashing a check the other day I avoided the cameras, even though it was Zions bank. Finally, I am an American and the founding fathers had slaves. I now feel the need to apologize for our part in that.

    The church is perfect the members aren\’t. Your post proves it in a couple of ways.

  7. E
    August 10, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    FYI, every child in Utah learns a little about MMM in 7th grade (Utah History). That has been true for I don’t know how many decades. I don’t think 18 is “too young”. I think one advantage of being a “Utah mormon” is that you don’t grow up with the expectation that all church members are paragons of righteousness, or even that all church members are decent people. MMM is still shocking and horrifying and incomprehensible, but it didn’t cause me to question my testimony while I was growing up.

  8. Earl B
    August 11, 2008 at 12:03 am

    I first heard about it in Seminary, back in the 60’s. As I recall at the time, the seminary teacher inferred that some of if not many of that wagon train had been persecutors in Missouri, or Illinois, and that they had raped or done something similar in one of the Mormon communities they had passed through. Much of that seems to have been inaccurate, but then my seminary teacher was ex’d a few months later for getting into polygamy….. So I suspect he was flawed in other areas as well.

    What I have understood recently and never made the connection with before, is the context of the “Utah War”. I think if we remember that at that time we didn’t have the instant communication that we have now, that the whole Mormon community was shifting to a “War” footing, that they had been directed to not sell supplies to people passing through because they were going to need them themselves, and the immigrants passing through NEEDING supplies, then I at least can see how there might be anxiety, friction, and bad feelings generated. That doesn’t excuse, but might serve to explain in some small way the why of what happened.

  9. Kylie Turley
    August 11, 2008 at 12:04 am

    E, thanks for the 7th grade info. That’s good to know since my oldest will be taking 7th grade history this fall.

    Ardis, I feel like my family did talk about things. Gospel topics were discussed on probably a daily basis, but we didn’t talk about history–just doctrine and such (my mom was gospel doctrine teacher for all of my teen years). So the idea of historical family discussions is somewhat different for me. I really like how you feel like you always just knew about it–no shocks, no surprises, just part of the whole panorama of the gospel.

  10. August 11, 2008 at 12:05 am

    i am one of the few (or the many, who knows) that had never heard of the MMM until recently. i felt a little, well, betrayed maybe? why wasn’t it brought up in seminary? or sunday school? what else don’t i know? i don’t question my testimony. i just can’t figure out why it was never brought up.

  11. Kylie Turley
    August 11, 2008 at 12:14 am

    Emily M, thank you for sharing. Your story is particularly compelling, given your family background. If only all of us could be so mature in dealing with the ups and downs of family heritage.

  12. Jeremy
    August 11, 2008 at 12:20 am


    I think your dismissive tone does a disservice to Kylie’s sincere question. Let’s raise the bar (of discourse) a bit. Seems to me any discussion of this topic presupposes a certain level of reverence, regardless of one’s thoughts about “connections” to the perpetrators.

    * * *

    My convert ancestors arrived in southern Utah well after MMM, but once I learned of the event it shadowed every one of my trips back home, especially when I’d drive between St. George and Cedar City. It haunted me not because I had any of John D. Lee’s DNA in my cells, but because I grew up in the midst of the “cultural DNA” of the people of southern Utah, including the people who shed blood at Mountain Meadows. I can’t help but still hear echoes of their xenophobia in a racism and insularity that I grew up around, and in the political extremism that draws southern Utah into the news so often. To wit: the former mayor of Virgin, Utah, a direct descendant of John D. Lee, pushed through a city ordinance making gun ownership mandatory; Kanab, somehow paranoid that international forces wanted to lock up their public land, prohibited anyone from the U.N. from conducting business within the borders of the town, despite the complete lack of evidence of anyone’s intention to do so; my home town of Washington, Utah, tried to pass a city ordinance repealing the 17th amendment to the U.S. Constitution; also, a few years later, Washington City commissioned statues of the city’s founders to be placed on the town square, including one of John D. Lee (whose skill at irrigation engineering, they decided, trumped his conviction as a mass murderer — though they later recanted and removed the statue). How can I not look at this culture of extremism that I grew up in — “If X is moral, X*100 is MORE moral — and not see some connection to the attitudes that made MMM possible? I suspect this connection sounds extremely tenuous to anyone who didn’t grow up then and there, but when I first learned of the MMM I couldn’t help but see in it some resonance with the extremism that persists there today. When, for example, I hear of the inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric that has become commonplace in southern Utah, part of me still worries that if the flames were fanned in the right direction some horrible crime might be committed against Hispanics in the name of some warped moral of self-preservation.

    So, when I heard the three authors of the new OUP book on MMM on Radio West the other day as they described in detail what they think happened that Sept. 11 morning, I almost veered off the road I was so overcome with emotion. (And as my wife will attest, I never, ever, ever cry about anything.) They spared little detail in their description. It was horrible.

    And somehow, it was also cathartic. The only way I can describe it is like the curious mix of humility and exhileration one experiences when embarking on the repentance process. I couldn’t help but wonder if this is what “institutional repentance” feels like. Is there such a thing as “institutional repentance?” If so, are the steps the same as that required for personal repentance? At any rate, the bluntness of the description, the transparency, somehow felt very right to me.

  13. Brandon woodruff
    August 11, 2008 at 12:33 am

    Jeremy you can’t repent to others.

    No wonder everyone hates Utah drivers. We almost wreck because of our overzealous need to feel guilt.

  14. August 11, 2008 at 12:46 am

    Gee whiz, Brandon …

    Jeremy, I hadn’t realized until recently how much MMM overshadowed so much of my historical research — I have caught myself mentally noting that *this* happened before MMM, and *that* happened after. I can’t seem to think of anything from around that time without calculating that relationship. I don’t do it consciously; it just happens. And while I don’t feel personal guilt, or family guilt, or even church guilt, I know what you mean about the cathartic experience of hearing it discussed candidly by someone like Rick Turley. We needed it to be told voluntarily, by our own people, by someone we can trust so that we can let down our defenses and understand. It’s that safety to let down my guard and trust the storyteller that I find so unexpectedly freeing.

  15. Kylie Turley
    August 11, 2008 at 1:03 am

    Jeremy, when the church issued a formal apology last year, I felt some of the same resolution. Perhaps the church’s formal apology is part of the “institutional repentance” you are suggesting.

    Brandon, I really don’t feel the need to repent for others, though I admit that I’m pretty good at feeling guilty for all sorts of things. But I’m not sure if the individual acts of specific people make an adequate comparison with the encompassing violence of MMM and the widespread involvement in it.

  16. August 11, 2008 at 1:25 am

    I touched on bery similar issues in a recent post here. I don’t have any answers to your questions (and add a couple questions to the ones you ask), but I think the fact that we, as Latter-day Saints, are engaging this issue and struggling to reconcile MMM to our popular understandings and approaches to 19th-century LDS pioneers is significant. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  17. Peter LLC
    August 11, 2008 at 3:09 am

    I too am a direct descendant of John D. Lee and Mary Leah Groves. I can’t remember when the news broke, but it seems like I’ve always had a vague knowledge of his role in Mountain Meadows and that he’d been executed.

    I would note, Brandon, that despite your facetiousness and contempt, there are plenty of cultures around the world where individual and collective guilt are not as easily separated as in the US. Following the Virginia Tech shootings, for example, several Korean diplomats I work with (nowhere near the US) apologized to me on behalf of all Koreans.

  18. Jonathan Green
    August 11, 2008 at 4:08 am

    I didn’t grow up in Utah, but Mountain Meadows was also something I always knew about. There was a multi-volume illustrated church history series that my family read for Family Home Evening for a while that included the event. I think there were other sources for me as well, but I can’t remember exactly which ones.

    The attempt to understand how Mormons could have perpetrated the massacre is ill-served by regarding it as unprecedented, unparalleled, or even uniquely Mormon. In the saga of human history, massacring a few hundred civilians is, unfortunately, small potatoes, and “How could this happen here?” is an unfortunately common genre of historical reflection.

    To get a few preliminaries out of the way: First, “small potatoes” is meant only as comparison, not as an excuse or minimization. Second, I’m about to bring up Hitler, not by way of calling Mountain Meadows an act of genocide or comparing Mormons to Nazis or the murder of hundreds to the murder of millions, but because Kylie’s question is about a situation where modern-day Mormons face a rhetorical problem similar to that of contemporary Germans.

    So: if you think it’s difficult to explain to your kids how some people acting without official sanction 150 years ago could have murdered a few hundred people, even though the perpetrators had the Restored Gospel, you might want to consider what it’s like for Germans to explain to their kids how it was possible for wide sections of society, acting under the direction of a government that enjoyed a measure of electoral legitimacy only 65 years ago, to participate in industrialized murder of millions of Jews and others, despite a centuries-long legacy of enlightened culture. Attempts, a la Goldhagen, to explain this as some sort of uniquely German crime may seem appealing at first, but they don’t hold up under historical scrutiny. While there is no single accepted causation, workable explanations are depressingly mundane and reproducible, including widespread human fears and resentments, extreme conditions at a specific historical moment, and instigators who are willing to exploit human weakness and the present conditions. Mountain Meadows was a crime committed by Mormons and a warning to later generations about what we’re capable of if we allow it, but also a crime committed by Americans, and a crime committed by human beings. Mormons and Americans and human beings are capable of committing awful crimes, and it’s wise not to forget it.

  19. Jeremy
    August 11, 2008 at 5:09 am

    I agree, Jonathan, but I think the issue is complicated greatly as it intersects with the particularity of our ideas and our rhetoric about authority and obedience. It doesn’t solve anyone’s problems to simply place the blame on crazy ol’ John D. Lee as one in a long line of horrible humans, because in our rhetorical discourse as it occurs in sunday meetings we often encounter tropes of obedience to local leaders even when their counsel doesn’t seem to make sense. And we have plenty of examples in our pioneer heritage when obedience didn’t amount to murder but did amount to death — sometimes many deaths. Of course we would hope that someone wouldn’t need to have an obvious threshold explicitly articulated as a boundary for our willingness to obey counsel–i.e., “…unless he tells you to kill dozens of innocent people…”–but the horrible precedent of MMM immediately pops into my mind whenever I encounter zealous vows of unerring obedience. Perhaps it’s wrong, but I can’t help it. (And of course you have to wonder if Lee drew, perversely, on Old Testament and even BoM “prededents” for righteous slaughter when he devised the plan.)

    Brandon, I remain taken aback by how impatient you seem with anyone feeling collective remorse or even somber reflection on the MMM. Has the very short period of time since the Church formally recognized its member’s responsibility (and recognized the past dishonesty of blaming the incident on Native Americans) really been long enough that we can just roll our eyes and tell people to get over it?

    (Let me guess: you had the same reaction to the outrage over Chris Buttars’ “black baby” comment and the Obama sock monkey doll…)

  20. Jonovitch
    August 11, 2008 at 5:15 am

    Grew up in Minnesota.

    Found out about polygamy, kinda sorta, sometime around fourth grade, I think. From a Jewish friend. Something about Mormons allowed to have more than one wife, but only in Utah. I didn’t have the foggiest idea what he was talking about.

    First read something about the Danites in high school — some anti-Mormon book in the public library, I think. I remember asking my priest quorum adviser about them, and he didn’t seem to know much about it.

    Found out about MMM sometime at BYU, I think. (Effects of a reverse bubble, maybe? *grin*) I think I might have gotten tidbits before that, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t until college that I really found out and understood what this actually was.

    I like the concept of institutional repentance. Admittance and complete honesty is certainly key to overcoming past mistakes.

    I think the best time to talk about anything with kids is the first time they ask. Sometimes sooner, never later.

    Just some random thoughts on the topic.


  21. August 11, 2008 at 9:36 am

    I am always surprised when people say they learned some salacious or otherwise supposedly upsetting tidbit about Church history at such-and-such time or place. I myself cannot recall when I first was told about MMM. Seems like it was common knowledge from early age. What is the best time to assimilate such information? I think, when one is curious. No need to force it on gospel investigators — it really is anomalous information. The BYU might be a. fine place to study \out such details. I did my own reading of Brook at al. at the LDS Institute at the community college. They had a good library and an Institute director that was helpful.

  22. Porter Rockwell
    August 11, 2008 at 9:43 am

    I am so sick of this MMM stuff. Let me break it down for you:

    Over a hundred years ago a handful of Mormons did a really bad thing. They murdered some innocent folks. They will be punished for it. I will not be punished for their actions (Don’t worry about it, I have plenty of personal sin to account for).

    Why are we still apologizing for it? How about we just stand our our record, as a people seeking & living peace for our entire history.

    If we, as a people, want to feel bad about something how about our current state of way too many adult members who like porn.. not some act of ignorant settlers over a century ago.

    There, I said it.

  23. Kylie Turley
    August 11, 2008 at 9:44 am

    Christopher, I followed your link. I think you said it better than I did–and with pictures. Thank you.

  24. Left Field
    August 11, 2008 at 9:48 am

    I don’t remember when I first heard about MMM, but I was introduced to it gradually while growing up. I remember my father mentioning it when I was in my early teens. He had a copy of Brooks which I read when I was in my teens or twenties. The Ensign in 1977 recommended Brooks as a “balanced appraisal.” I’m pretty sure it was at least mentioned in seminary. I would have read about it as a missionary, because “Story of the Latter-day Saints” was on my required mission reading list. I remember LeGrande Richards making a passing reference in general conference in the early ’80s. It was discussed in my church history class at BYU in the early ’80s. I’m sure I read a number of church history books that discussed it. I visited the site with my parents sometime in my early twenties. I can’t really point to one occasion as the time when I first learned about it; the subject just came up periodically in the normal course of things. I suspect that that is really the best approach. Just tell the story naturally and gradually as kids are old enough to digest the information. Certainly by the time they are in their late teens, they ought to be ready for the full story if they are want to read Brooks and Bagley and Walker et al.

    Interestingly, I was in the same ward with Juanita Brooks’ son for several years. I knew him fairly well without realizing that Juanita was his mother. Somehow, I just never made the connection and the subject never came up. I didn’t realize who he was until several years after I left the ward, when his mother died and I read an account of the funeral. I did have a high school friend whose first name was Brooks. I don’t know the exact relationship, but he referred to JB as “Aunt Juanita.”

    I didn’t think my family had any connection to MMM until last year when I reread Brooks. Although all of my people lived in northern Utah at the time, there is a footnote indicating that one of my direct ancestors bartered with JD Lee for a few sheep. The time frame makes it likely that the livestock was from the spoils of Mountain Meadows, although there is no way to know if my ancestor knew or suspected the provenance of the sheep.

  25. Jonathan Green
    August 11, 2008 at 9:54 am

    Jeremy, actually, the cultural of obedience to authorities, local and otherwise, is another parallel we could draw between the German and the Mormon experience. It’s an additional similarity in what you rightly point out are complicated issues. Do we need an anti-authoritarian Primary? I don’t know, but we could probably profit from a look at Germans’ and others’ attempts to come to explain their situation with respect to historical crimes. (By the way, I hope that “It doesn’t solve anyone’s problems to simply place the blame on crazy ol’ John D. Lee” was not a response to anything I wrote, since I didn’t suggest anything of the sort. If you’re just making a general point, though, I’m fine with that.)

  26. August 11, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Re #8 Earl B – My seminary class in California in the early 80’s spent a day on it. The instructors also passed on some inaccurate details, such as the immigrant train being made up of former persecutors from Missouri, but the effort was good. I suspect my instructors were using the same source as yours.

  27. bbell
    August 11, 2008 at 10:22 am

    I have been aware of MMM since I was about 10 years old. I am also not sure how you can pass into young adulthood in the church without hearing at least something about it.

    FWIW my wife’s gggrandmother was married to JD Lee when the massacre took place. She left the year of the massacre and moved to SLC where she married DH lls. The family believes she left JD Lee because of his role in the massacre.

  28. Researcher
    August 11, 2008 at 10:22 am

    I’m not sure when I heard about the MMM, but it was probably while grappling with the entire existential crisis of being that is the teenage experience.

    Somehow it has not been important to me that every member of the church be perfect in order for us to believe in prophets or in continuing revelation or in the truth of scriptures. I don’t know; perhaps it was reading the Old Testament and history and literature heavily during these formative years. Once you’ve read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, the story of American history is no longer a simple tale of happy or raucous or noble people.

    If all you knew about the pioneers was that they were religious people who wore interesting hats and happily “picked berries for food,” the MMM might be a weird incomprehensible historical anomaly.

    What can I say? There’s no cure for ignorance if you’re not willing to admit that you’re ignorant.

    By the way, I particularly liked Jonathan Green’s comment in 18. From time to time after reading a book I say, “That’s a book I would have liked to have written.” Well, #18 is a comment I would have liked to have written. :-)

  29. August 11, 2008 at 10:24 am

    I’ve brought it up and spent 10 minutes or so on it in a few Institute classes I’ve taught, usually spontaneously because it seems pertinent or because someone asks.

  30. Ray
    August 11, 2008 at 10:43 am

    I spent about 45 seconds talking about it with my 10-year-old daughter yesterday – when she was sitting with me and asked what MMM meant. I got as far as, “It was a case in the 1800’s when some Mormons murdered the people in a wagon train.” She said, “Oh. OK.” Then she walked away.

  31. August 11, 2008 at 10:46 am

    I copied Jonathan’s 18 into my commonplace book where I can find and quote it easily. It’s that good.

  32. Steve Jones
    August 11, 2008 at 10:46 am

    I grew up in Utah. My g-grandfather was in the Utah war and went to Wyoming burning feed to slow Johnson’s army. I learned about MMM in 7th grade Utah history. Our teacher spent quite a bit of time on it.

  33. Gerald Smith
    August 11, 2008 at 10:57 am

    I joined the Church in 1975 at the age of 16. I first learned of MMM in seminary. While the full story was still not there, and much of what they taught was incomplete, it was still covered in Church history back then.

    I have no responsibility for what people did 150 years ago. I also did not have ancestors who were slave owners. While I am a strong proponent for Civil Rights, I do not feel responsible for what ancestors did. They will have to stand before God for themselves and answer for their actions and views. I do feel it was a tragic and terrible event, and we should learn from our past, so we do not repeat it.

  34. StillConfused
    August 11, 2008 at 10:57 am

    I only heard about this on one of the blogs. I never heard about it in Church. But then again, it wasn’t until I moved from Virginia to Utah when I was 17 that I heard of polygamy. I only recently learned about the extent of Joseph Smith’s polygamy/polyandry. Hearing about the warts of the Church has been an eye opening and thought provoking experience for me. While I appreciate that those things happened in a “different time”, I still consider them wrong and bad. And I don’t see anything wrong with feeling that they are wrong or bad. Jesus didn’t do those things, people did.

  35. Ray
    August 11, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Just a “liken all things unto ourselves” comment – and the tail end of how I have chosen to explain MMM to my older kids recently:

    When the movie “September Dawn” was released, then when the newspaper articles were written about the 150th anniversary of the MMM, I read a few of them – and the comments about them. I quickly stopped doing so, specifically because of what I saw on both sides – the vitriol that came from those who use any excuse to spew bile about the Church, but also the reactions of the Mormons who tried to defend the Church. What I saw disturbed me deeply.

    Each side was lashing out at a perceived threat – one side swinging verbal hay-makers at the Church, and the other side swinging just as energetically back at them. There were no dead bodies – no bullets or other tangible weapons, but these people were reacting essentially in the exact same way that the local members had with the Mountain Meadows Massacre. There really wasn’t a life-threatening attack on the Church occurring, and there really wasn’t a need for a “counterattack” on the perceived attackers.

    I loath the tactics of the bitter, anti-Mormon crowd, but I am saddened much more over the members who were lashing out in defensiveness over an attack that really wasn’t a serious threat to themselves. When all is said and done, if we don’t learn from history we are destined to repeat it – even if there are no tangible weapons involved in our own “battles”.

  36. Visorstuff
    August 11, 2008 at 11:07 am

    I also learned about it in 7th Grade Utah history. It fascinated me in some respects, but at the time it was all part of the past. I did learn from it the importance of balance and over-zealousness in religious furvor – and to ensure that i don’t just go along with the crowd. It was a good lesson for me, and the balance lesson was one of a few reasons i didn’t pursue CES teaching farther than i did (not that i wouldn’t entertain the idea now).

    Now, i’m married to a desendant of John D. Lee and Jacob Hamblin. At a high level we’ve taught our kids about the actions of both of their ancestors in regard to the MMM (one good but not present but did the right thing when he came back to find the remains on his land, one bad and very involved in the affair). They don’t understand it yet, but hopefully they can learn lessons they need from it. I do think that this is the approach we should take to help introduce the youth to it, while still teaching faith-promoting stories. But others are much wiser than I.

    Interesting post.

  37. sscenter
    August 11, 2008 at 11:11 am

    The first time I ever heard of the MMM I was very sad to think of how a group of believers in our gospel could so such a thing. As I have grown older I have taken a very different opinion.

    While tragic, the MMM pales in comparison of other atrosities committed in the name of religion. Augustine sent soldiers to North Africa and killed hundreds of thousands of people for not converting and to conquer their land, the inqusitions, the crusades, Martin Luther’s war where something like eighty percent of the people on both sides were killed trying to prove that the protestant reformation was God inspired, 9-11. Every religion has this. Generally, the participants do not represent the mainstream of that religion but do represent a worldview that had begun to permiate the general membership.

    I think this is like so many other issues. Yes, a black mark against the LDS church. However, most other religions are allowed to drop their black marks and go on we are told to hold on to them, come to grips with what it means and they are attempted as means to place doubt in the goodness of our history and our leaders. I’ll apologize for the MMM when the Catholic guy sitting next to me at work apologizes for the crusades. Until then I’ll continue to think it was a bad thing other people did nearly 150 years ago.

  38. Visorstuff
    August 11, 2008 at 11:15 am

    sscenter – very different things. Killing unless one converts to a religion is very different than killing people due to other religous furvor. I’m not sure which is worse, but very different things.

  39. Researcher
    August 11, 2008 at 11:20 am

    “Killing unless one converts to a religion is very different than killing people due to other religous furvor.”

    Not sure how they’re different. In both cases, the victim’s dead and the perpetrator is a murderer.

  40. August 11, 2008 at 11:32 am

    In the past I have had feelings similar to Ardis’–how can a young adult grow up in the Church and not hear about these things? But this week I am spending some time with my daughter and she tells me that she didn’t really know the extent of Joseph’s polygamy until she came to BYU. Since I recall many times discussing these difficult issues in detail in our home, I wonder if these things sometimes just float right over their heads until they are intellectually and emotionally ready to confront them.

    As we were having this discussion, she asked her BIC, RM boyfriend when he found out that Joseph lived polygamy. By the silence and the furrowed brow, we deduced that he was hearing about this for the first time. That was painful for me. Its hard to see anyone move from a simple, pure faith to having to wrestle with difficult, ambiguous issues.

    In short, I think we should be quite open about talking about difficult historical issues in the home and at Church when they appropriately come up in Church classes. But we should realize that they might not come to the forefront of individuals’ consciousness for quite some time. At that point, I hope those of us who have integrated the hard issues into our belief system will be willing to spend some time providing information, support, and a sounding board for others.

  41. sscenter
    August 11, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Visorstuff –

    I am not really trying to compare one to another just pointing out that the history of religion since, what Cain, is full of terrible things done by various believers. Seems odd to me that we keep getting hammered on this one issue when far greater instances are forgotten or simply thought of as part of the past and let go.

  42. Rechabite
    August 11, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    MMM was introduced in my life early enough that I can’t remember when. Of course, it’s also part of my family history–a great-uncle was one of the mid-level Cedar City militiamen carrying the orders—and my family history encompasses several of the most spectacular misdeeds of Mormonism. My parents were always matter-of-fact about it: “These people did this. That was bad. We are related to some of them. Any questions?”

    We stopped at Mountain Meadows on a family trip through southern Utah one time, in the late 70’s or early 80’s. I was young, but my recollections were that the place was beautiful, lonely, and sad. I probably learned about MMM in Utah history class sometime after that. I don’t think you’re ever too young to learn that sometimes people who are mostly good do really bad things.

  43. Rechabite
    August 11, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    MMM was introduced in my life early enough that I can’t remember when. Of course, it’s also part of my family history–a great-uncle was one of the mid-level Cedar City militiamen carrying the orders—and my family history encompasses several of the most spectacular misdeeds of Mormonism. My parents were always matter-of-fact about it: “These people did this. That was bad. We are related to some of them. Any questions?”

    We made a point of stopping at Mountain Meadows on a family trip through southern Utah one time, in the late 70’s or early 80’s. I was young, but my recollections were that the place was beautiful, lonely, and sad. I probably learned more about MMM in Utah history class sometime after that. I don’t think you’re ever too young to learn that sometimes people who are mostly good do really bad things.

  44. Bill MacKinnon
    August 11, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    At the risk of intruding as a non-member, I must say that this has for me been one of the most interesting, civil, and enlightening threads on MMM that I’ve ever encountered, perhaps because, like Ray (#35), I’ve been turned off by the vitriolic back-and-forth on both extremes (see for example the 300+ on-line reactions to Peggy Fletcher Stack’s recent feature article in the “Salt Lake Tribune” about “Massacre at Mountain Meadows”). There is much wisdom in most of the comments above, which I appreciate. I’m especially appreciative of the wisdom in Ardis’s #3, and I think Seth R.’s advice (#4) about a parent reading to a child the September 2007 “Ensign” article by Rick Turley, Jr. makes good sense as it is essentially a condensation of the book and does carry a certain church endorsement because of where it was published. One slight correction to Kylie’s reference to a church “apology.” I think what Elder Eyring did last year was to express extreme “regret” over certain aspects of MMM, including the scapegoating of the Paiutes. That’s a different behavior than apologizing. Some historians and commentators have called for a church apology and feel strongly that this must be done if MMM is ever to be put away as an active issue of debate. But I think there’s a legitimate case to be made that apology for atrocious acts/bad behavior in the distant past by people unconnected to the present is unnecessary and, at times, a bit gratuitous if not presumptuous. (See debate in past years, in a different arena, over the excesses of President Clinton’s “I feel your pain” proclivities.) We are seeing that debate unfold today in Congress over the matter of responsibility for chattel slavery in the early centuries of American history. There’s a movement afoot in the House for a full-blown “apology” if not for compensation. How will the Senate react? What would the President do if confronted by legislation or a joint resolution of both houses? What does a non-binding resolution in the House alone accomplish? All thorny philosophical as well as practical and emotional questions not unlike many of those associated with MMM.
    This issue gets very complex in connection with MMM because of the lack of agreement on what the atrocity “was.” For example, was MMM a church-sponsored incident (and if so, sponsored by which leaders at what level of the church’s hierarchy), a military action directed by Nauvoo Legion officers and executed by rank and file troops, or (because of the often hopeless intertwining of affairs in UT) was it both? Did Philip Klingensmith, one of those present and involved, act as an LDS bishop or did he act as A Nauvoo Legion private taking orders from his military superiors who may or may not have been his ecclestiastical superiors? Awfully difficult to get into this with a child, and so I like Ardis’s suggestion re the seminary year in which Church History is taught. But then what of kids in the inter-mountain West who aren’t LDS and don’t go to seminary?
    One aspect of MMM that I think should be taught at some point/place (probably the equivalent of high school [seminary)]or college) is the fact that apparently some LDS men in southern UT opted out of the program for MM at great peril to themselves. As I recall the manuscript of “Massacre at Mountain Meadows” that i read a year ago, there was some brief mention made of several of these cases in the Walker-Turley-Leonard ms. I hope these survived the cuts on the way to becoming a published book, as I’ve seen this subject nowhere else, and I think that this “opting out” behavior by Mormon men confronted by this impending great evil constitutes a great teaching point re personal free agency. I think it also says something redemptive about the community in southern UT at the time.
    Finally, I’d just make one comment about John D. Lee. He’s not been my favorite character in territorial UT history since I read of how he traveled to Santa Fe to ham-handedly extract the advance pay from the Mormon Battalion’s troops waiting there to take up the march to California, following which Lee returned to Iowa and promptly besmirched the reputation of some if not all of these boys/men in front of their left-behind families with tales of drinking, gambling, and perhaps worse. Having said that, though, I think there’s a more benevolent view of Lee than what appears in Juanita Brook’s “MMM” alone, and it’s written by Brooks herself as Lee’s biography published by The Arthur H. Clark Co. in the 1960s. It’s been a long time since I’ve read this, but my recollection is that in that biography, written from research done by brooks after “MMM,” she presents John D. Lee as something other than a monster.

  45. Laura
    August 11, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Discussions like this just irritate me—I don\’t think they are brought up with sincerity, but rather to add doubt and concerns to sincere believers. I thought Brandon\’s comments were priceless and I was rolling with laughter. (Comments #6 and #13). Sometimes religious blogs and the bloggers on them take themselves and their SUPPOSED deep thoughts a bit seriously. Often it takes me less than a minute on these websites to feel aggravation which is why I usually avoid them. Anyone else feel this way too? Or do you enjoy these types of discussions?

    Brandon and I are just \”meat and potatoes\” types of people. We really don\’t enjoy theorizing on the deep end of the pool on random, tangential religious issues. I don\’t feel like it ever really gets anywhere—usually people (on these blogs) pretend to ask sincere, deep questions, but in reality, are very closed minded and stuck on a certain point. They are just trying to bring their incredibly brilliant observations to light through a supposed \”question\” they are struggling with. Just call a spade a spade, and tell people your \”brilliant\” point of view without the false questions for the blog world.

  46. Laura
    August 11, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    My favorite is how people are trying to remember where they were when they first heard about this. This was not the freakin’ shooting of JFK people—-

  47. Laura
    August 11, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    This is one portion of a history, let’s remember the big picture, and where this sits in relation to the BIG picture.

  48. August 11, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    Laura, there’s a name for commenters like you and your husband. It’s “trolls.” Go away.

  49. Craig H.
    August 11, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Laura, the attitude of putting this in the context of the big picture is fine, as long as people remember to do that for the history of other churches as well. Somehow when others have a serious problem it’s easy to read it as a sign of the untruthfulness of another church, but somehow in LDS history it’s just an insignificant blip on the screen. Actually it was a big deal, murder is rarely tangential (that would be what kind of tea is permissible under the Word of Wisdom), and claiming to know what the motives of other people “on these blogs” are is as presumptuous as anything anyone has said so far.

  50. Kylie Turley
    August 11, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Bill McKinnon, you are right about the actual wording of the statement. I vaguely remembered that all the headlines of the papers around here called it an “apology,” and they did. Here is a quote from the SL Tribune:

    “The words, “we’re sorry,” were not part of the statement, but Richard Turley Jr., the LDS Church’s managing director of family and church history and co-author of the forthcoming book, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, insisted after the ceremony that the statement was meant to be an apology.
    ”[The church] is deeply, deeply sorry,” he said. ”What happened here was horrific.”
    The apology went out to descendants of victims, but also to those of survivors and perpetrators.
    “Many of those who carried out the massacre were haunted all their lives by what they did and saw on that unforgettable day. They and their relatives have also suffered under a heavy burden of guilt,” Eyring said.”

  51. Eric Chambers
    August 11, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    I\’m usually a lurker on the blog only posting on the rare occasion. The Mountain Meadows Massacre has been something that we have been aware of in my family since we were children. Of course for my family it is an important part of Church history and family history for that matter too. From our perspective (speaking for my family) it is part of the \”big picture\” in our relationship with the restored gospel.

    Some of you may already be aware of this but I am the great-great grandson of Rebecca Jane Dunlap, one of the 17 children who survived the massacre. Her grand-daughter (my grandmother) Helen Marks was introduced to the gospel in the late 1940\’s as a young married mother in Arkansas. Despite opposition from some members of her extended family, she, and two her young children, subsequently joined the church in 1949. Obviously, you will have guessed by now that one of those children was my mother. In my family when we speak of the power of the Spirit to dispell fear, or anger or doubt it is not just empty rhetoric. To us the teachings of the gospel have the power to overcome a tragic tale of death and destruction and despair.

    Now, I don\’t believe that anyone here needs to apologize for the events of September 11, 1857. I\’m not sure that I subscribe to any theory of collective guilt (if I did I might need therapy as I\’m a descendant of stalwart Mormon pioneers on my fathers\’ side). But I don\’t believe that increased discussion of the MMM is a bad thing. I believe that it is healthy to understand how it occurred and to perhaps learn that whether we are members of the Church or not, all of us must wrestle to put down and control the \”natural man\”. And I must add here that I certainly do not believe that this dicussion is meant to \”add doubt and concerns to sincere believers\”. True, some might use the MMM to do this but that does not mean that all discussion of the topic must then be terminated. For my part the MMM is more than just an event of which one can say \”move along folks, nothing to see here\”. To me the MMM demonstrates the miraculous power of the gospel–and that is never a trivial thing.

  52. Kylie Turley
    August 11, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Well said, Eric. You have a fascinating and faithful perspective. I personally would never bring up MMM in order to increase doubt or threaten someone’s testimony, an issue I had to face head on when I decided to teach it at BYU for a semester. I understand I’m biased by the baggage of my personal experience, but I feel like I would have been greatly helped by an open, frank, and faithful discussion sometime when I was growing up. Maybe I missed that day in Seminary?

    That being said, I can understand why others might feel it’s time to “move along folks.” I assume that most everyone has something at sometime that trips them up in the gospel–and probably many others can’t understand why that thing is difficult. For example, evolution just doesn’t get me too wound up, though I know people who’ve lost testimonies over it.

  53. Lin Platt
    August 11, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    Those of you that are stressing out over the Mountain Meadows and the new book need to step back abit and remember the atonement. Leave it up to the Savior to judge, particularly, as enlightening as the recent book is, it is still judgemental. That is not our job. Don\’t try and judge something you can’t fully understand. The atonement will heal for those that want & seek that blessing.

  54. Will Bagley
    August 11, 2008 at 5:35 pm


    There is an earlier source on men who refused to join in the mass killing at MMM: BOTP. Look up “John Bradshaw” and “William Hawley.” Even Lee admitted, “some would not act and some would not.”

  55. kevinf
    August 11, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    I had heard about the MMM as a teenager some 30 years ago, but mostly remembered some of the apologist rhetoric. I only think in the last few years I really got a better understanding of the full context. Finally, this week I read the new Massacre at Mountain Meadows, for the full story. I came away very shaken by what the authors describe as otherwise decent people, descending into a horrible situation.

    I kind of always knew that it was a bad thing, but understanding how it came about frightens me a bit, as I don’t think that we are completely free of those kinds of pressures and prejudices today. We see victimization of “others” such as Hispanics over illegal immigration, Muslims over the war on terror, and even Mormons by Krakauer and others, and we see that the potential is still there.

    God help us to learn these lessons so we don’t perpetuate the mistakes.

  56. August 11, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Laura is my sister and Brandon is my bro-in-law.

    I fall somewhere between them and those they are criticizing. I find it hard to feel any kind of personal agony over the issues of MMM. I first heard about MMM many years ago and it never once had any kind of impact on my faith in the church. These events are far enough back in history and as far as I know, I have no personal relation to anyone who was involved. My main concern is polemical. I know that some claim that Brigham Young was behind these actions and others deny that this was the case. That question is a serious matter. Otherwise, I see the events merely as a display of the baser human instincts. Some people will actively seek out revenge. The LDS people went through some very rough stuff and some of them became rough people.

    In recent years I found out about a report that one of my ancestors (one of the initial settlers of Springville, Utah) had a bishop who tried to kill him. Because I am a descendant of the man who was almost killed, the story concerned me. I was grateful this ancestor managed to still stay active in the church.

    Some commenters in this thread have revealed their direct connection to John D. Lee or to one of the victims of MMM. I can completely understand that they would have strong(er) feelings about what happened (than I do).

  57. Jeremy
    August 11, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    It occurs to me, as I further reflect on this post and the subsequent comments (including my own), that the “institutional repentance” that I speculated about (again, in an effort to sort out my own uncharacteristically overhwhelming feelings when I heard Richard Turley on the radio) is perhaps not primarily the directly attributable crime that took place in Mountain Meadows, but the subsequent and more ambiguously attributable “crime” of institutional opaqueness in discussing it. It’s one thing to blame he murders on some aberrant saints from a century and a half ago and not feel personally tainted by it; it’s quite another to dismiss the Church’s institutional or at least culturally pervasive obfuscation of the events, which was going on until very, very recently. If we can acknowledge the culpability of specific aberrant members of the church in the crime, why did it take us so long to come out and do so?

    Let me echo the words of others by saying that I don’t intend these questions as a stumbling block to anyone’s faith. I’m just trying to sort out why it made me feel so much better about the whole thing when I heard someone officially connected with the church speak with such forthrightness about it.

  58. August 12, 2008 at 8:22 am

    I want to revisit this thread and make a particular point that is on my mind.

    I think there are times when members of the church engage in excessive hand-wringing over particular issues – Mountain Meadows Massacre being one of these kinds of issues . Some of this is no doubt sincere. But there are certainly some who claim to be pained by problematic issues in church history – but seem to actually enjoy dwelling overmuch on these things. It’s not always easy to tell the difference.

    The Book of Mormon, as scripture, should have prepared us better to deal with these kinds of issues. The BoM proclaims the truth of the Gospel Plan, the atonement of Jesus Christ, prophecy, gifts of the spirit, etc. At the same time, the BoM does not fail at all to proclaim the excesses, debauchery and outright brutality of human beings – even human beings who have been taught the truth. The Book of Mormon doesn’t just concede that atrocities happen but practically pushes our faces into it and demands that we be aware that these kind of things happen and that due to wickedness, multiple times in history, entire nations are annihilated.

    I’m not saying that MMM wasn’t genuinely terrible or that it shouldn’t give us pause or cause us to think – but considering the scope and breadth of the record that Joseph Smith presented us with, MMM shouldn’t make us quiver so much.

  59. Kylie Turley
    August 12, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Jeremy, I wondered some of the same things the last day or so.

    #58–great comment. I’m going off the cuff, here, but I wonder if one of the reasons the BoM brutality/wars/”strategem” (I’m reading in Alma right now) seem easier to handle is because of the prophet-narrators and prophet-editor. When the Nephites are being wicked, the narration gives us clues. I’m running through the book in my mind, but don’t we pretty much always know and have the choices “evaluated” for us? Have I ever read the BoM and wondered whether I had a “trustworthy narrator”? Not really. Maybe that’s what we need for MMM. I haven’t received the new MMM book in the mail, yet. Does the new book do that?

  60. Velska
    August 12, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    As a European white male, I feel some “collective” guilt over what my kind have done in Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Middle East (oh, and Australia and Oceania). Did I miss anything? And I don’t mean to be flippant! I really do feel terrible for how much the European male has looked down upon people, starting from their wives and daughters and continuing well into the 20th century.

    That said, I was a fairly new member when I read a book about Church history where MMM was treated superficially. I pretty much figured there’s more to it, but I didn’t feel it’s part of *my* history so I didn’t dwell on it. Along the years it’s come up every now and then and I’ve learned more. Last September Ensign was welcome, since our detractors try to hold the tragedy over our heads.

    But my point is that, for some reason, I never expected the LDS members to be perfect. We are just as likely to second-guess even the best-intentioned advise or take suggested actions to the extreme without realizing we’re overdoing it. And, by extension, it serves no purpose to say that the Church is perfect but the members aren’t. Because the church *is* the members. Without us it’s just an empty organization chart.

    And to Kylie in #59: The BoM is not a history book, it’s purpose is to point out what’s right and what’s wrong. I would hope that Turley have not tried to make the book a morality lesson. That’s for the Church leadership to do, if they choose – and they’ve done to some extent, if you can look at it from a little distance.

  61. Velska
    August 12, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Oh, I forgot one thing. The head-in-the-sand approach is universal. We tend to ignore uncomfortable things. And I mean us human beings. I guess it makes it much easier to pick up the pieces and go on.

  62. Raymond Takashi Swenson
    August 12, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    Let me offer some context for how I view the Mountain Meadows Massacre. My mother grew up in Japan before and during World War II, when the Japanese Imperial Army was committing atrocity upon massacre as it subjugated Korea, Manchuria, China, and then Southeast Asia and the Philippines. Japan has a long history of brutal feudalism, in which men went to their deaths in obedience to their feudal lord or killed themselves ritually to atone for some dishonor.

    After wresting islands like Tinian and Saipan from Japan, and building the B-29 long range bomber, the US Army Air Forces began a campaign of mass raids of over a hundred aircraft at a time. They progressively attacked the major cities of Japan. While they first targeted specific military targets (like the Mitsubishi aircraft factory where my mother and her friends worked making Zeros), the US moved on to dropping incendiaries, napalm that set Japanese homes on fire (they were made of thin wood and paper) and generated firestorms that killed as many as a hundred thousand people in a few hours. My mother’s family survived the raid on Nagoya only because they ran to the nearby park, which provided some security from the fires. By the time August, 1945 arrived, the US had obliterated all but a handful of Japanese cities up to a hundred miles north of Tokyo. The atomic bombs became available at a time when there were few targets that were big enough to justify it use. While the weapon itself was new, the extent of the devastation it rained on a city was not. The Air Force had already crossed the moral line that divided military and civilian targets.

    This is not a post to discuss the military and strategic justification for using nuclear weapons, or for mass bombing raids. I simply wanted to point out that, when people of any race or culture think that they have justification to treat other people as less deserving of life than their own nation, they are quite capable of applying all of their human ingenuity to making people suffer and die with industrial efficiency. One of the observations I had read about the Mountain Meadows Massacre was how efficiently it killed so many people in a few minutes. The non-Mormon history of the West is replete with battles by American militias and regular Army against Indians, including in several cases the slaughter of women and children in an encampment. One of them was perpetrated by Colonel Johnston’s Army troops within a year of their arrival in Utah. Another massacre took place at Bear Lake. The only people who commemorate those specific massacres are survivors of the tribes. Modern residents of Utah and the other former territories, along with modern Army soldiers, generally know little about them, and are not taught to feel an obligation to know more.

    I have no doubt that, had there not been a reconciliation between Brigham Young and the new governor, brokered by Thomas Kane, Colonel Johnston’s troops would have been just as happy attacking Mormon settlements. The fear felt by Mormon settlers all over the territory was not without foundation.

    To a certain extent, the training to kill other people when given an order to do so is at the foundation of any soldier’s indoctrination. The difference between a modern American soldier and those of 150 years ago (and many modern armies around the world) is that modern American service members are indoctrinated in their duties to obey the law and use restraint around noncombatants. Those who fail to do so are prosecuted in military courts.

    The other lesson of World War II for me is that my father was a member of the US Air Force (he was in the 5th Air Force band) when he met my mother, who was working on the US air base, at an MIA meeting held by LDS servicemen. In their case, the LDS Church was a means of reconciliation on a personal scale. Later, he and many other LDS servicemen became the first missionaries called to Japan since the US had closed its doors to Japanese immigration in 1923 and the Church had closed its mission in 1924 because of anti-American hostility.

  63. Kylie Turley
    August 12, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Velska, I’m not sure if I got out what I was trying to say very clearly. #58 spoke about the BofM preparing us to know that horrific events happen because of the debauchery of humans. I agree. I just wonder if it seems easier to handle the atrocities in the BofM because of the narrator/editor’s “voice.” We always know who is right and who is wrong, as seen through omniscient eyes. Maybe part of the “hard” part of MMM is not knowing exactly what did happen and how it all happened, how it could happen. I’m not suggesting that the modern MMM historians should turn their book into a lesson, not at all; I was just wondering about why I don’t get so upset by the BofM when it clearly has shocking atrocities in it.

    Obviously another reason the BofM violence may be easier to handle is because we get used to it. I remember when my boys first understood the story of Ammon and the arms. Yikes! Their reaction to the newness and violence made me realize how casually callous I’d become after reading that story dozens of times. And there is always the time factor. 150 years doesn’t seem that long ago to me, since I like to study settlement Utah and spend a lot of time there in my mind.

  64. Dave Gardner
    August 12, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    \”The church is perfect the members aren\\’t. Your post proves it in a couple of ways.\” Simply isn\’t true. One only needs to look at how the church treated Steve Benson for his remarks about his grandfather\’s senility.

    Brigham Young was an accomplice to MMM after the fact. The fact that only Lee was executed for the crime after many years hiding in plain sight proves that fact. Higbee and many others were just as if not more guilty for hte crime.

    The pages removed from John D Lee\’s journal may have proven that BY was an accomplice before the fact.

    The childish notion that one\’s faith cannot stand up face to face with unpleasant facts show\’s only the immaturity of one\’s faith.

    I am a fifth generation decedent of John Banks who broke with the church and joined the Morrisite community near Ogden. He was murdered under a flag of truce in the 1860\’s by members of the Nauvoo legion sent by Brigham Young to put things back in order.

  65. Eric Boysen
    August 12, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    I first learned about the massacre when I was a twenty year old investigator reading the entire mormon collection of the University of Colorado. That short shelf included a BoM, PoGP and an “unusual names” edition of the D&C. There was a youth history called _Mormon Country_, some anti books mostly on polygyny, and Jaunita Brooks book on Mountain Medows. I read everything there. None of it troubled me very much. (Treating the anti material as doctrinal works in reverse led me to expound on spiritual wivery to bemused members of the student ward, but that is a different story. . .)

    Mountain Medows was a very sad story from any perspective I could imagine, but it did not challenge the testimony that came to me directly from the Spirit. As people we have a whole spectrum of choices, and no matter how far up the rope we are spiritually we have the opportunity to let go and fall. Even at the bottom of the pit, however, we can grab hold and begin the climb back out.

  66. Allie
    August 13, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    As a fellow Wyomingite, I didn\’t hear about this growing up either. It seems more common to the Utah-grown members commenting here.
    In some places and circles, it might have been taught or mentioned more because of locality, relationships, etc. as mentioned above, but it wasn\’t a big deal in the area and times I was in.

    I felt and still feel bad for the victims and I dislike having to answer questions about this from non-members. However, it\’s just one of those things to be prepared for and not to let hurt your testimony. It\’s like having a ward or stake priesthood leader go astray, it can really hurt but you have to look past it to the Savior and not let it become your stumblingblock.

    The anti-Mormon crowd has really hung their hat on this incident in the last several years when they ran out of ammo on other targets.
    Remember that Satan likes to put a crowbar in every cranny he can to divide us from one another and others from us. This particular incident lends him and his minions a particularly nice place to put a wedge in.

    It WAS a tragedy and should not have happened. In no way would I downplay those aspects. I am glad that Juanita Brooks researched and wrote her book. I thank the posters above who gave some 1970\’s articles that I missed as a child.

  67. queuno
    September 1, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    I’ll repeat what I’ve said before in earlier iterations of this discussion: I do not understand how anyone can grow up active LDS in the US and reach college age without having heard of MMM.

    It should be noted that many of us didn’t grow up in Utah, and while we may have heard of MMM once or twice, we forgot about it, since we and our seminary teachers treated it as a case of Utah history and not “Church” history.. Not every “crisis” in Utah history qualifies for importance in Utah history. We have our own cool controversial murders to deal with…

    (And as Ardis says in #3, we heard about it in seminary and then a week or two later, moved on. We already learned our leaders were fallible and human.)

    As with many other “controversies”, those of us from outside Utah yawned and moved on.

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