Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Mountain Meadows Massacre

Click Here PBS Frontline-Mountain Meadows Part 1

Click Here PBS Frontline-Mountain Meadows Part 2

In case you are unfamiliar with the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the above videos are the 2 parts produced by PBS Frontline that give an accurate account of what happened in Mountain Meadows.

LDS Church Responds

The LDS church has published an article regarding the tragic event that happened in Mormon history. Although the article is part of the September Ensign in commemoration of the 150th anniversary, the early publication on the website comes as no surprise. I think the timing of the publication on the website is in response to the Living Hope Ministries publication, the PBS Frontline Documentary that dedicated a large portion (that can be viewed here) to the event as well as the upcoming movie "September Dawn".

"On September 11, 1857, some 50 to 60 local militiamen in southern Utah, aided by American Indian allies, massacred about 120 emigrants who were traveling by wagon to California. The horrific crime, which spared only 17 children age six and under, occurred in a highland valley called the Mountain Meadows, roughly 35 miles southwest of Cedar City. The victims, most of them from Arkansas, were on their way to California with dreams of a bright future"

The perpetrators were members of the LDS church at the time including local leaders. The Mormons killed a group of emigrants from Arkansas without any provocation. Under the direction of priesthood leaders, the Mormon members killed the unarmed men first, but didn't stop there. After they killed the men, they went to the wagons that contained the women and children and shot and killed everyone over the age of 6 in cold blood. The reason the Mormon members killed the women and children is because they didn't want witnesses.

I remember being taught a brief lesson about the Mountain Meadows massacre in seminary. I was taught that the incident was initiated by a small group of renegade apostates that were not affiliated with the mainstream church. However, my seminary teacher was lying to me, whether he knew it or not. Dallin H. Oaks has made the first public admission that members of the church including local leaders were behind this terrible event. However, in the same interview, Dallin H. Oaks also said that it is wrong to criticize leaders of the church, even if the criticism is true. So if the members at the time questioned the massacre, would they be in the wrong?

"As is true with any historical episode, comprehending the events of September 11, 1857, requires understanding the conditions of the time"

As stated in the article, it is important to understand the conditions of the time to better comprehend what lead to that atrocity, so I will talk about a few key events that lead up to the massacre.

Events that led up to the atrocity

It is important to point out that Parley P. Pratt, a member of the quorum of the 12 apostles(and happens to be Mitt Romney's great-great grandfather) was killed in Arkansas in 1857, the same year as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Since the Fancher party was from Arkansas, there were rumors that some of the people from the Fancher party were responsible for Pratt's death, even though those rumors were unfounded.

It is even more important to point out exactly why Parley P. Pratt was killed in Arkansas. A woman by the name of Eleanor McLean had converted to the Mormon church, but her husband did not. Elanor McLean left her husband and married Parley P. Pratt in a polygamist marriage. However, Elanor was still legally married to Hector McLean, her original husband, because they never got divorced. When Parley P. Pratt went to Arkansas in 1857 on a preaching mission, Elanor's legal husband killed him because he felt that Parley had taken her away from him.

So Parley P. Pratt was killed by a jealous husband of one of Pratt's plural wives, who was still legally married to Hector in Arkansas. The Fancher party had absolutely nothing to do with the assassination of Pratt, but because they were also from Arkansas, rumors had flied around that members of the party were responsible for Pratt's death. I think it is reasonable to say that Pratt's death could have influenced the tragedy at Mountain Meadows. In the minds of the Mormons at the time, they were in a way avenging the death of their apostle.

Other events that led to the Mountain Meadows massacre included the United States government breathing down their necks. I think that Mormons at the time had a frame of mind that America was the enemy.

Lessons Learned from Mountain Meadows

I think the Mountain Meadows massacre demonstrates the danger that exists when you have an organization that claims divine authority. To say that it is wrong to criticize the leaders of the church even if the criticism is true is exactly the mindset that led to this horrible atrocity. The people that participated in the murders and execution of innocent people were devout Mormon leaders and followers that did what their church leaders told them to do.

Mormon Hypocrisy

The LDS church had publicly denied involvement in the Mountain Meadows Massacre for 150 years. However, now 150 years later, they are making the position that it is in the past and behind us. The big hypocrisy in the LDS church is that they claim to embrace and celebrate the past, but only the history that paints the church in a good light. It is good to learn about the past, but only the past that has been re-written by the LDS church. However, regarding the "little flicks of history" that don't paint the church in a good light, they say "let the book of the past be closed".

Couple that with Dallin H. Oaks comments that Mormons, including local leaders of the church were the prime movers in the Mountain Meadows Massacre and participated in the killing, and yet it is wrong to criticise the leaders of the church even if the criticism is true.

Disillusioned Mormon


Elder Joseph said...


Yes the church is trying to minimise discomfort to the faithfull and negative images after it was revealed on the PBS Documantery that Joseph Smith stuck his face in a hat with a stone and that Mountain Meadows was committed by the Restored Mormon Priesthood afterall ....

But how can they tackle the head in a hat and stone ? Its fave with my poor young missionaries .

Maybe have Gordon Hinckley putting his face in a hat on the Larry King show !! lol

and it also mentioned Joseph Smith married 11 already married women !
A family church ?

tatabug said...

The fact of the matter is, if you care to be honest, the massacre was not condoned by the leadership of the church. Brigham Young sent a letter trying to stop the tragedy from happening, but it arrived too late, as the attack was premature from the original plan. All those who were responsible, were held accountable, and their leader, John D. Lee, was found guilty and executed under civil authority, and rightly so.

The actions of those responsible are inexcusable. But those are the acts of men, and should not be viewed as being condoned or incited by the church. The members were all too acquainted with persecution and violence against them, which is why they escaped to Utah, and which led to fear and mistrust of outsiders. I can understand that.


There you go again, off topic. Head in the hat again. You just loooove that one, don't you?

Zelph said...


Thank you for your opinion and insight, however, I did not say anything about Brigham Young. His name does not appear anywhere in my post. I said in my post that LOCAL leaders of the church were behind the event, and Dallin H. Oaks backs me up on that.

Those that were responsible were NOT held accountable. John D. Lee was the ONLY one that was excommunicated and put on trial. Nobody else that was involved in the Mountain Meadows Massacre was disciplined by the church.

It is unclear if Brigham Young had any direct involvement with this tragedy, but one thing is clear. Brigham Young denied and covered-up this event after it happened.

tatabug said...

Yes, I know that you didn't mention Brigham Young. But you make it sound as though it was church sanctioned.

Do you have any evidence to refute my statement that those responsible were held accountable?

You are completely wrong that Brigham Young covered it up. You need to stop reading so many anti-mormon propoganda books which are expert at lying, distorting the truth and ignoring important evidence.

Zelph said...

I will provide some sources, but I suggest you watch the PBS Frontline Documentary first. I will be back later as I don't have much time to write right now.


Stance For Truth said...

I understand how people can be disturbed by this event.

Remember that even a prophet of God is not perfect and I think the church's response of denial is a very human emotion. I don't know what was going on at the time that made these people do what they did, but it doesn't make the church untrue.

David in the bible committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed her husband by purposefully throwing him on the front lines of battle and conspiring the other people in battle to fall back so he would die. What this demonstrates is that even a prophet of God can fall.

Although, I do feel great sympathy for those that were killed and the survivors.

However, this has nothing to do with the church today. This event happened 150 years ago and was a mistake.

tatabug said...


I watched the videos and I am wondering if you believe everything in them, including opinion.

Zelph said...


That is an excellent question and the answer is no, I do not believe everything I see or hear. My disillusionment has made me become skeptical of everything. However, I think the key is to hear both sides and draw conclusions based on what people can generally agree on.

I do not agree with Will Bagley that Brigham Young ordered the massacre. There is very little evidence to verify this claim, and really the only source that points fingers at Brigham Young is John D. Lee and only after his trial and he still didn't say that Brigham ordered the massacre. You can see the problem with this theory.

However, the cover-up and blame on the Native Americans is well documented.

If you would like some other sources, I would direct you to Wiki

Or, if you like to read books, I would suggest you read 2:

Juanita Brooks-Mountain Meadows Massacre She was an LDS historian but her honest approach made members very uncomfortable with her book.

Will Bagley's Blood of the Prophets For a more critical view.

As I said before, I don't agree with Will Bagley's assertion that it was ordered from the top, but as I said, it is good to get 2 viewpoints and draw your own conclusion.

Bishop Rick said...

It is also fairly well documented that Brigham Young tolerated (some might say encouraged) indian raids on wagon trains.

Zelph said...

Bishop Rick-

Thank you for drawing that point. I do think that Brigham Young helped set the stage. However, other factors set the stage. Joseph and Hyrum's death, Parley P. Pratt's death, Hauns Mill, the Utah war, the desolate landscape, the oaths of vengeance against the U.S. implemented in the temple endowment all played factors. None of these things excuse the event, but I think these things are what led to it. Yes, Brigham Young may have set the stage, but to convince me that he actually ordered the entire massacre, I would like to see some actual evidence of it, which there is not.

Bishop Rick said...

Once a precedent has been set, an official order is not necessary.

Remember that the massacre was initially supposed to be an Indian raid.

Elder Joseph said...

Mountain Meadows is but another thorn in the side for the LDS church , something they would have liked to keep in the back out of the way .But Truth has a knack of shining forth eventually .

There's one theme which runs throughout the history of the early Mormon church ...

Persecution - Joseph Smith brought nothing but hardship ,persecution and death on his followers . Yes religion is confusing and its natural that people have their own views on what they think the bible is telling them , but is it worth all that death and destruction for what is simple another sect .Worse still a sect who's origins are similar to David Koresh's of Waco Texas Fame ..

Surely Methodists , Shakers , Baptists , Catholics etc weren't all that bad at the time . They weren't practicing the coersed polygamous marriages (callings)of young women to OLD self righteous bigots at least in the name of God .

I think the church has some serious thinking to do . How long will it continue this deception of its followers and potential converts before someone with a good conscience gets a 'revelation' .

Why should I join a church which I know has Leaders who already realise the book is false Historically and Archeologically .

I'll keep my honesty and Integrity .