Massacre at Mountain Meadows and the Mormon Murderers of Utah

Original site where many of the dead were buried.  They were moved in 1999 to the Memorial site.
Original site where many of the dead were buried. They were moved in 1999 to the Memorial site. | Source

When we arrived here in April, 1859, more than a year and a half after the massacre occurred, the ground, for a distance of more than a hundred yards around a central point, was covered with the skeletons and bones of human beings, interspersed with rolls or bunches of tangled or matted hair, which, from its length, evidently belonged to females. In places the bones of small children were lying side by side with those of grown persons, as if parent and child had met death at the same instant and with the same stroke. Small bonnets and dresses, and scraps of female apparel were also to be seen on the ground there, like the bones of those who wore them, bleached from long exposure; but their shape was, in many instances, entire. In a gulch or hole in the ravine by the side of the road, a large number of leg and arm bones, and also of skulls, could be seen sticking above the surface, as if they had been buried there, but the action of the water and digging of the wolves had again exposed them to sight. The entire scene was one too horrible and sickening for language adequately to describe.”

These words were spoken by William H. Rogers describing the panorama that met him as he approached the area of the Mountain Meadow Massacre. The horrid event had taken place on September 11, 1857. One hundred and twenty men, women, and children, emigrants from Arkansas, were murdered by Mormons.

Early persecution of Mormons led to the massacre

Late summer of 1857 was a time of uncertainty for anyone choosing to travel west through Utah territory. The years leading up to that summer had been fraught with growing hostilities between Brigham Young and his clan of Mormons and the Ute Indians to whom the territory had belonged before the United States gained possession in 1848.

When the Mormons first began to settle on the hunting grounds of the Ute, the natives were friendly. They worked out arrangements with the immigrants, inviting Young and his group to send colonists to the Sanpete Valley. Early cooperation gave way to tension as the Mormons attempted to suppress Mexican trade. The Ute had long depended on such trade, especially that of native slaves, a practice highly unacceptable to Mormons. In spite of the trading relationship between Mr. Young and Chief Walkara, other Mormon colonists began to interfere with Ute trade. While tensions were growing, the area was becoming more traveled by settlers moving west. There were a few isolated instances where conflicts gave way to Indian deaths. War broke out between the Mormons and Ute Indians when a relative of the Chief's was killed during a trading session gone wrong.

Eventually, Young and the chief worked out their differences, and the following summer in 1854, about 120 of Chief Walkara's tribe were baptized as Mormons. The end of Indian hostilities between Indians and Mormons didn't mean the end of Brigham Young's troubles. Having been appointed the first territorial governor in 1851, he decided it was time to announce that polygamy was an authorized practice of the LDS Church. From the house he built in 1854, he was serving as both governor and Prophet when the Republican Party's platform denounced the evils of both slavery and polygamy.

James Buchanan became president in 1857 and he replaced Young with a non-Mormon named Alfred Cumming when he declared Utah in open rebellion against Federal authority. An army was sent with Cummintg to force the change in governors. Brigham Young, upon learning of the coming troops, placed Utah under martial law. The result was the Utah War as it has come to be known. Refusing to surrender to federal forces, Young called all Mormons to prepare to defend against the interlopers. They built blockades and dug trenches and the religious leader ordered them to burn everything.

It had been two decades of persecution from the Mormons' perspectives, resulting in the move west to escape. They had been expelled from the state of Missouri during the 1838 Mormon War in which a prominent apostle named David W. Patten had been killed. After the move to Nauvoo, Illinois, Joseph Smith, Jr, founder of the LDS Church, and his brother Hyrum Smith were assassinated in 1844. Trouble had risen with the Ute, and then the United States government. In April of the same year when Young was ousted from the governorship, word reached the sect that apostle Parley P. Pratt had been shot in Arkansas by Hector McLean, the estranged husband of one of Pratt's plural wives. Pratt was immediately conferred the title of martyr by church leaders and many held the people of Arkansas responsible.

Church teachings in 1857 were strict. Leaders taught that the Second Coming of Jesus was imminent, and that God would exact a just punishment against the US for the slaughter of Smith, his brother, Patten and Pratt, and for the continued persecution of the Mormons as a whole. The faithful followers took an oath to pray for vengeance against the murderers of their prophets. The terrible result of this oath was in several apostles and leaders believing it was their sworn duty to kill the murderers themselves if ever they chanced upon them.

1875 photo of John D. Lee sitting next to his own coffin as preparation is made for his execution by firing squad.
1875 photo of John D. Lee sitting next to his own coffin as preparation is made for his execution by firing squad. | Source

The 1859 newspaper account:

Modern accounts of the massacre have blamed the Utah Territorial Militia and some local Indians as being the culprits behind the atrocities perpetrated that day, but old newspaper accounts provide a different story.

Earlier that year, several groups of emigrants from northwestern Arkansas looking to make their fortunes in California, joined together to form a group known as the Baker-Fancher party. Colonel Alexander Fancher who had already made the trip to California twice, had been informally charged as the wagon train's leader. As they made their way west, trains from other states joined along the way, including a train from Missouri. The entire group was relatively wealthy and well organized, and planned to restock supplies in Salt Lake City as did most who traveled west.

They had left Salt Lake City, traveling through southern Utah, when in August, Mormon apostle George A. Smith and Jacob Hamblin camped near them at Corn Creek. Hamblin invited the group to rest their cattle at Mountain Meadows, a pasture located adjacent to his homestead. They were happy to do so, being weary and looking forward to a few days rest before attempting the next 40 miles which would take them out of Utah.

After the massacre, an early investigation was conducted by Brigham Young, who sent a report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, stating that the horrors were the work of the natives. The ensuing Utah War delayed any further investigation by the US government until 1859 when Federal Judge John Cradlebaugh was brought into the territory.

When it became known that a more thorough investigation into the massacre was to commence, several people made visits to him under cover of darkness, providing the judge with facts connected to the massacre. The informers all said they were risking their lives if their divulging of secrets became known.

The 153 year old newspaper account makes mention of a man who called on Judge Cradlebaugh and confessed that he had participated in the massacre. The following is his account as reported in the paper:

Previous to the massacre there was a council held at Cedar City, which President Haight an Bishops Higby and Leed attended. At this council they designated or appointed a large number ofmen residing in Cedar City, and in other settlements around, to perform the work of dispatching these emigrants. The men appointed for this purpose were instructed to resort, well armed, at a given time, to a spring or small stream, lying a short distance to the left of the road leading into the Meadows, and not very far from Hamblin's ranch, but concealed from it by intervening hills. This was the place of rendezvous; and here the men, when they arrived, painted and otherwise disguised themselves so as to resemble Indians. From thence they proceeded, early on Monday morning, by a path or trail which leads from this spring directly into the Meadows, and enters the road some distance beyond Hamblin's ranch. By taking this route, they could not be seen by anyone at the ranch.”

The informant goes on to describe how the disguised attackers arrived at a corral built by the traveling party. Men were standing about campfires recently built, and they were the first to be fired upon by the would be Indians. Seven men were killed in he first volley but the rest ran to the inside of the corral. Everyone began preparing for defense. They shoved wagons together and dug beneath them to drop them so as to block any stray bullets from going beneath. Snipers hit and wounded another 46 that day. The assault went on for four days, during which time the emigrants had no way to reach water or food. On the 3rd day, hoping to appeal to their attackers' humanity, two little girls were dressed in white and sent towards the spring with a bucket. Both were shot and killed.

Believing they would not be able to vanquish the party of travelers in the manner first adopted, the attackers returned to the spring where they had rendezvoused earlier. They removed their disguises and redressed themselves in their clothes. Bishop Lee returned to the emigrants' camp with a party of men, waving a white flag in truce. The party met the white flag by dressing up a small girl all in white and placing her at the entrance to the corral as a token of friendliness. Lee and his men were invited inside where the story of the attack was relayed to them, the emigrants not recognizing their attackers out of the phony Indian get-ups.

Lee stated that the Indians had gone off for the time being, but if the emigrants should lay down their weapons and give up their property, he would lead them back to Cedar City and safety. Lee explained that taking up arms again would lead the Indians to attack again. The emigrants trusted Lee and consented to his proposal, leaving their arms and all their property at the corral. Under the escort of Lee and his party, they headed towards Cedar City.

Rebecca Dunlap Evans, one of the 17 children spared and taken to live at Jacob Hamblin's homestead near the massacre site.
Rebecca Dunlap Evans, one of the 17 children spared and taken to live at Jacob Hamblin's homestead near the massacre site. | Source

John D. Lee was the only one of nine to be convicted and executed

After they proceeded about a mile on their way, a signal given by Bishop Higby, who was one of the party that went to the corral with Lee, the slaughter began. The men were mostly killed or shot down at the first fire, and the women and children who immediately fled in different directions, were quickly pursued and dispatched.”

John Lee approached two teenage girls, asking if they would love and obey him in exchange for their lives. When they consented, they were stripped, raped and murdered. A few small children were spared because they were considered too young to relate the story. These children were taken in by local Mormon families. Later, 6 year old Rebecca Dunlap and her 4 year old sister, were witnesses who reported watching the Mormons washing off their disguises in a stream. During her retelling of their ordeal, she recounted the story of being taken to a ranch with a little boy who had been shot in the leg. He was crying in pain without let up. “The men stopped the wagon. One got out...took the little boy by the feet and knocked his brains out against the wagon wheel.”

Jacob Hamblin and his wife Sarah were said to have adopted the majority of the 17 to 20 children saved from death. Later they were claimed by the US Army and returned to relatives in Arkansas.

Cradlebaugh's investigations were halted in 1861 due to the outbreak of the American Civil War, but proceeded again in 1871 when prosecutors obtained the affidavit of militia member Phillip Klingensmith, who had been a bishop and blacksmith in Cedar City. By the 1870's he had moved to Nevada after leaving the church.

During the 1870's, Maj. John D. Lee, William H. Dame, Phillip Klingensmith, Eliot Willden and George Adair, Jr. were indicted and arrested. Warrants for the arrests of Samuel Jukes, William C. Stewart, Isaac Haight, and Maj. John H. Higby were issued but they had gone into hiding. Lee of the Utah Militia, a constable, judge and Indian Agent was the only one of the nine to be convicted and executed.

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Comments 23 comments

kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 4 years ago from North Carolina, USA

I had read one account of this awful deed. Thanks for your reasearch.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Terri...Well, my friend, despite the fact that I am sick to my stomach and feeling very horrified and angry.....this is an extremely intriguing story, told in your own amazing style with fact and clarity.

History if filled with millions of tales of battles, bloodshed, slavery and oppression.

This particular story confirms the all-too-common practice of using "Religion," as a reason and/or justification to terrorize and brutally murder any and all perceived offenders......and to use deceit, betrayal and thievery in any way necessary to protect and defend their outrageous and misguided beliefs.

I have a tendency to go on and on when something interests me, Terri.......so to save you from my rambling......I will close by voting UP, awesome, interesting!!!!


Terri Meredith profile image

Terri Meredith 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

@kschimmel: I had never heard of it until I came across it in an old newspaper from 1860. Thanks for reading.

@fpherj48: My exact sentiments. At the risk of ticking off a few of the faithful followers, Brigham Young was a nut. There's so much more to the story than I could recount, but he was very much involved and was witnessed by many as tearing down the very first memorial put up to commemorate the victims. He exclaimed that it was what they deserved. Thanks again for your loyalty!


OldWitchcraft profile image

OldWitchcraft 4 years ago from The Atmosphere

I'm linking to you from my hub on "Joseph Smith and the Mormons: Witchcraft and Occultism in Mormonism." I mention the massacre there in the context of the rest of the article, which is about origins of Mormonism and its real nature, which most members don't discover until they're in it for a while.

I think this story of the Mountain Meadows Massacre must have been Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's inspiration for "A Study in Scarlet."

It's very important right now, when we have the second Mormon in U.S. history running for president that people understand the nature of the Mormons - especially their desire to establish a theocracy, which they've already accomplished in the de facto sense in Salt Lake City and other places in the Mormon corridor.

Thanks for this great article!


Terri Meredith profile image

Terri Meredith 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Oh! I'll have to read that! Thanks for the link. Presently my linking tool isn't working so once it's fixed, I guess I'll try to link back to yours, too.

You're so right about the present day. I'm truly for a complete freedom of religious believes, however, I don't believe anyone should impose them on others. This is what I believe is happening from certain parties, at this time. As for me...I don't subscribe to ANY formal religions. I don't need a third person or persons to interpret my conversations with my God for me. Thanks for the read and the link!


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Brigham Young was a nut...is an understatement. The hard core "reality" is......every single individual who gives birth to 'THEIR OWN PERSONAL IDEA AND OR INTERPRETATION OF RELIGION" and then proceeds to form a cult and collect followers like some people collect coins or stamps.......is a half a bubble off from the start.....

All anyone has to do is CHECK it out......with the TRUTH of the real FACTS......Must I name just a FEW??? Jim Jones of Guyana (Jonestown)...Total Lunatic.........David Koresh? The WHACKO from Waco Texas?.......L. Ron Hubbard....The Scientologist THEIVES!!.......Rev Moonie....Cuckoo bird.......The Child Rapist, Polygomists, Fundamental Church of Latter Day Saints.....and their Skinny, spooky looking so-called "prophet?" WARREN JEFFS, now sitting his ass in prison where he belongs!.........Terri.....I swear, for the life of me, I cannot for one second, understand what the HELL people are thinking when they get sucked into these cults and allow themselves to be brainwashed, controlled and robbed blind. WHERE are their brains and common sense??

Oh...but this is another hub....sorry!


Dexter Yarbrough profile image

Dexter Yarbrough 4 years ago from United States

Hi Terri! Thanks again for sharing this amazing bit of history. Your writing is so good that it makes the reader feel as if he is there - even though this was a horrendous atrocity.


Terri Meredith profile image

Terri Meredith 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

@fpherj48: WOW!!! Did I hit a nerve???? I'm not sure I have anything to add to that. :D Well, I'll say this...I think most who get caught up in cults are people who are searching for something to fill a void. They are in a state of depression and are simply desperate to find some meaning for their suffering. Cults provide the type of comfort they're looking for at the time. Some wake up and realize what's really going on...others remain content to allow another to take responsibility for them no matter what the price. Not condoning...just saying...

@Dexter: You're so good for my ego! Thank you, I need that sometimes. I'm glad you enjoyed the read, if not the subject matter. I have to say, I was totally absorbed in the research but I didn't like what I was reading. Especially the personal accounts of the children. Imagine their horror and fear and loss. Makes me want to cry for them.


Penelope and Sara profile image

Penelope and Sara 4 years ago

How is Mormonism a cult anymore than Lutheranism, or Christianity?

If it's truth that "every single individual who gives birth to 'THEIR OWN PERSONAL IDEA AND OR INTERPRETATION OF RELIGION" and then proceeds to form a cult and collect followers like some people collect coins or stamps.......is a half a bubble off from the start....." wouldn't that have to include Jesus?

It is very logical for atheists (and maybe you are an atheist fpherj48, I of course have no idea) to announce such declarations but there is no way for a religious person, especially not a Christian, to say such things without condmening their own religion as well.

After all, let's not forget that the Romans characterized the small strange Christian cult as insestuous pyromaniac cannibals. Terms which prove how easy it is to spin something you don't understand in a negative way if you want to.


OldWitchcraft profile image

OldWitchcraft 4 years ago from The Atmosphere

You asked, "How is Mormonism a cult anymore than Lutheranism, or Christianity?"

To answer this question, look at the definition and behavior of cults. Margaret Singer did a good job describing the degree to which entities like corporations are cults vs. the degree to which organizations like the Jim Jones Cult and the Mormons are a cult. There is a difference in terms of the degree to which the organization holds power over its members. The Mormon cult is a very insidious mind control cult when compared to Lutheranism or general Christianity, which are both cults, but to a lesser degree of severity.

See, for example, this checklist of cult qualities: http://www.csj.org/infoserv_cult101/checklis.htm

The Lutherans and general Christianity don't qualify for a lot of them, but the Mormons qualify for all of them. They tell people what underwear to wear! They tell little children how to dress. They tell you what you can and can't eat or drink. They take up a lot of your time with activities and hours of indoctrination. They are preoccupied with finding new members (the Mormon missionary sales team) and with getting money (10% of gross income of members). Members who fall out of lockstep are excluded from the group - you can read my article on this subject. I was harassed to the point that I had to leave the state and leave my family when I discovered the fraud and wanted out - back then there was no procedure for leaving. I have a long article here at HP on the occult origins of Mormonism where I talk about this - and this is the hallmark of a true cult.


Penelope and Sara profile image

Penelope and Sara 4 years ago

I have looked over the list and the Mormons don't qualify for all of them and the ones they do qualify for, Christianity qualifies for as well.

In fact, I read nothing in the list that would apply only to Mormonism.

They don't tell people what underwear to wear. Temple garmets are a choice that members make-not all members wear them and yet the ones that don't are included in church activities and sunday meetings and most members would not even be aware that they don't wear them. Obviously, that could not be the case if the church was as much in control of people's underwear as you are trying to make them seem.

Teaching children to dress modestly is the only teaching about dress that primary children are given. That is no different than many churches teach.

Having a law of health which prohibits certain things being eaten at specific times is not unique to Mormonism.

Mormons are no more preoccupied with sharing their beliefs than many other Christian religions (the mandate does come from the Bible afterall and is referred to by other Christian religions as 'The Great Commission")

A Mormon is generally involved in church activities 3 hours a week, though it could be more if the member is in a leadership position or involved in a special group (like Boy Scouts, for example). I don't think any reasonable person would consider that 'inordinate'.

Because tithing is in the Bible, many Christian churches have it (and for Mormons, it's not 10% of a person's gross income-it's 10% of a person's 'increase.' How to define that term is decided by each person individually and privately.)

Members who are not fully active are most definitely not excluded from the group (I read your article, where you said that it's almost impossible for someone to 'escape this religion.' Which is it-do Mormons refuse to let you leave, or do they shun all who disagree with them? You can't accuse them of both actions.)

Also, now there is a procedure for 'getting out'. In the interested of honesty and truthfulness, if you are aware of the procedure, you should put it in your article. Otherwise, you are knowingly misrepresenting this issue.


OldWitchcraft profile image

OldWitchcraft 4 years ago from The Atmosphere

You are obviously a cult member, so there's not point in talking to you about reality. You can read my experience. I know it's long and there are other points in there. The church had to be sued before there was a legitimate procedure in place for leaving the cult. I left before that time. I mentioned this in the article. You remain in denial, but you do so at your own peril and at that of your family.

They do harass and shun. I nearly lost my family, except they woke up a few years later and got out, too. If lies are easier for you to live than the truth, that's just too bad for you. I can't help you and I won't try.


OldWitchcraft profile image

OldWitchcraft 4 years ago from The Atmosphere

The procedure for getting out is included at the end of my article. There is an official procedure, now. I, also, recommend that those who are experiencing harassment, immediately send a cease and desist to their bishop, which is what I did before the procedure I give in the article was in place.


OldWitchcraft profile image

OldWitchcraft 4 years ago from The Atmosphere

I see I did not include in my article any information about the 1991 lawsuit for ex-communication of a member on false pretenses. I'd have to look up the details on that, but afterward the organization put a procedure in place for people who wanted out, but who had not committed any "transgressions." I left years before that and so did my family. Sometime maybe I'll go back and add that. But, there is a clear procedure in place now. You can even send them an e-mail and ask to be removed. They're supposed to do this and send you correspondence confirming they have done so. After that, all of the harassment should stop, but if it doesn't, keep records. Because they're not allowed to harass you after you resign. This info. is at the end of my article.

The LDS is a very coercive organization. It is disingenuous, if not an outright lie, to say that they do not control completely what their members wear. You lied about some other things, too - but this is typical cult member stuff. You know the truth, but choose to ignore it.

People wonder why Mitt Romney is such a liar, but anyone who is familiar with the Mormons understands that mendacity is a fundamental part of being a Mormon. He was taught to lie to himself and others his whole life. Within the church, you can tell big whoppers and people will accept it. The real world doesn't usually work that way.


Penelope and Sara profile image

Penelope and Sara 4 years ago

I agree that sometimes there just is no reasoning with people and all we can do is try to be as loving as we can, without engaging them on issues they have no desire to be engaged on.

I am sorry for the experience that you had in the Mormon church, and wish you well. As a Mormon myself, I really can't relate. Most of my family is no longer active in the church (one has been excommunicated) and there has been no shunning or harrassment. I am very close to all of them. I can admit though that my experiences aren't everyone's, and just because it didn't happen to me, doesn't it mean it didn't happen (I'd be a pretty self-centered person if that's how I looked at life).

I'm fine though with you completely ignoring any further comments that I make. Like you said, it's probably for the best, since you obviously have nothing of worth to share with me, and you don't believe I have anything of worth to share with you.

To anyone else, my only desire in commenting on this hub in the first place, was to help reasonable people understand that anyone can spin anything in a negative direction if they want to. Believe whatever you want about Mormonism, but make sure it's actually true first. Even good people spread rumors and myths, when it helps them to justify negative feelings they already have.

Anyone who is part of a belief system that has been ridiculed, or called 'evil' and 'of the devil' (which pretty much includes every belief system in existence at one point or another in history) should be more willing to tread lightly when trying to understand the beliefs of others.


OldWitchcraft profile image

OldWitchcraft 4 years ago from The Atmosphere

I have had a lot of experience dealing with cult members, especially online. As long as a person is in the cult, it is impossible to reason with them. The choice to leave the cult is an individual one and can only be arrived at after long consideration. There's nothing I can say that would help such a person. It's hard to leave a cult and this ability is either in the person or it isn't.

I absolutely agree that it is important to thoroughly check out any organization you may be interested in joining. Look at outside information and look at its history. Don't be to anxious to join any organization. This is the message I try to give people at every opportunity - don't give your mind and your energy away.


Penelope and Sara profile image

Penelope and Sara 4 years ago

Having never been a member of a cult, I can't speak to how easy or hard it is to leave one.

I second what you said about checking out organizations before joinging them. That's always good advice, no matter what belief system a person espouses. :)


OldWitchcraft profile image

OldWitchcraft 4 years ago from The Atmosphere

Yes, Penelope and Sara, and even secular organizations often seem to have an inner core that differs from what it appears to be outwardly. The stated objective - what they tell their members and outsiders - is one thing, but what goes on in the organization's inner circle is very different and often insidious or, at least, selfish.

This goes for a lot of social and political organizations, too. Once you begin to see how organizations function, how they take manipulate their members, you begin to see the same dynamic at work almost everywhere. It varies by degrees and if you are part of an organization, you have to decide what degree of of manipulation is acceptable to you. For me it is zero.


Terri Meredith profile image

Terri Meredith 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Well, Penelope & Sara, and OldWitchcraft: That was some conversation you had going there!

My only reason for writing the article was in the interest of showcasing yet another moment in history that blights our country's lifespan. If there are followers of the Mormon faith who are offended by the story, they will have to get over it. I understand that history is often rewritten to be more palatable to those who come in later years, but this was not rewritten. The information came directly from a newspaper account of that time, written just following the massacre. I'm more inclined to believe the accounts written in later decades are simply an attempt to remove attention from such evil deeds. After all, incidents like this simply aren't good for business.


Penelope and Sara profile image

Penelope and Sara 4 years ago

As an actual historian, I understand a tiny bit about how history get's written, and also how the bias of the writer affects the outcome of the story.

I'm not the least offended by what you wrote. The historian in me is more offended than the mormon.

Just an FYI, newspaper accounts from this period of time are sometimes much more likely to be biased against mormonism, especially in some areas (think about how the Jews were treated in the news prior to WWII for example, and you'll understand what I mean by that. At certain times it was/is fashionable and acceptable to speak ill of specific belief systems. Those are times when news about them is least likely to be truthful).

As far as the topic goes though, you might be interested to know that many actual historians (those with advanced degrees in history and who know how to study it), who have gone over all of the evidence available, do not believe that BY had anything to do with the massacre. These include non-mormon scholars.

If you really want to showcase this horrible moment, then showcasing it more accurately and with less bias could never be a bad thing.

:)


Terri Meredith profile image

Terri Meredith 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

There may be many who believe BY had nothing to do with it, but there are just as many who believe the opposite, especially those who wrote eyewitness accounts. I know how biases at certain times through history can put different spins on stories...it's prevalent in today's news "reporting". However, all we have to go on from the past are the written documents by those who lived during the times. What they lived, saw, experienced, and were taught...all these things make up the "facts" of history. Everything else is just guess work, no matter how educated the guessing. And sometimes it's just wishful thinking. And while it's interesting to know that some scholars may not believe BY had anything to do with the massacre, I have to wonder why the LDS decided to issue their "regrets" they claim was meant as an apology. I understand that they have been very careful about placing responsibility on only the local church leaders, and have refrained from alluding to BY as being involved in any way. They have also posthumously readmitted John D. Lee into the church and restored his priesthood. I find that very act questionable for people who are "regretful" of the events.

When you speak of historians, you don't mention Will Bagley. He was raised in the Mormon faith and has written quite a few books regarding Mormonism. He also quite frankly claims he's never believed the doctrines and is straightforward when presenting historical narrative regarding Mormon involvement in the Move Westward. This man is considered the top authority on the West and western expansion as well as all the events that shaped the western territories. When he wrote "Blood of the Prophets" he, like all other Mormons who dared to question the sanitized church version of Mountain Meadows, was put under attack. It's these types of retaliation that only serve to underscore the story as presented through the years.

As for showcasing with less bias: I don't have any bias one way or another. I couldn't care less what religion people choose to practice or why they do it. I'm one of those people who lives by the rule.."to each, his own". However, I'm not going to present information that is sketchy at best without any solid evidence that it's not a piece of pure fiction, just to appear politically correct. History is history. That's it, plain and simple. Show me the documented proof that BY couldn't possibly be involved. So far most evidence and accounts of his attitude towards the massacre would say otherwise. For gosh sake, the guy helped tear down the monument erected on the site! Not something a horrified and apologetic person would do if he was truly concerned over the event. What an insult to the survivors and families of the murdered.


Penelope and Sara profile image

Penelope and Sara 4 years ago

No one who knows anything about history would demand proof. History doesn't work that way. (It does seem ironic though that you spend the first part of this comment telling me why you don't need proof to know that BY did it, and then demand proof of me to know that he didn't. I believe that's called a double-standard).

Anyway, you put to much faith in Will Bagley (and I don't say that to mean that his book isn't well researched, sincere, or beneficial. I say it because you don't seem to understand how he got the job of writing the book in the first place). He was hired to write the book by a former Mormon who wanted a book which would pin the blame on BY. Out of all the authors this man interviewed, Will was the only one who said that he could do it, so he got the job. That alone doesn't mean the book isn't trustworthy, but it does mean it would be stupid to just accept every conclusion printed in the book as fact. It was written with an agenda, and that needs to be acknowledged.

As for BY's alleged destruction of the cairn, once again, you have failed to do any real research on the issue.

There is no proof either way (again, there is never proof in history). If he did do it, then it shows the weakness and infalibility of mortal men, whether prophet of God or not. However, the evidence on him having done it is very sketchy.

Basically, the only evidence in favor of him having done it is a journal entry by Dudley Leavitt, which says nothing about BY ordering it to be torn down, or helping to tear it down. It says that everyone present knew he wanted it torn down and so that's what they did.

There is slightly more evidence supporting the idea that BY had nothing to do with the destruction of the first cairn. Another journal article by Wilford Woodruff mentions this same visit to the cairn but says nothing about it being torn down. Lorenzo Brown's diary claims he visited the cairn, three years after it's supposed destruction, it still being intact. Brigham H. Roberts claims that it was a rumor that BY had anything to do with the destruction of the monument and that it was later destroyed by either vandals or the elements.

Like I said, it's not proof either way, but I hope it helps you to understand how easy it is for emotion to rule when it comes to interpreting history and why that's such a dangerous thing.


Terri Meredith profile image

Terri Meredith 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

"...to understand how easy it is for emotion to rule..."

One more time: I DON'T CARE one way or the other! I don't subscribe to ANY organized religion. I think it's all a bunch of rules designed to control and manipulate people to a certain prescribed way of living. The mortal men (and women) who head these organizations may be wonderful human beings...or they may also be weak and/or selfish manipulative human beings. Either way, they have no hold on me or my mind. I prefer to deal directly with God/Spirit/Jehovah or whatever other name one wishes to hang on Him. I don't need anyone else to tell me how to live or think or act. So let's just leave religion out of this, because frankly, I think you tend to be the emotional one who is affronted by the telling of the story since it puts the spotlight on a rather unpleasant episode in the history of the Mormon church.

The fact that BY was the leader of the Mormon church just happens to be an incidental fact that doesn't really matter. He was a mortal man who had come to power in an organization that held great sway over a great many people. Whether it's a religious organization or a social club or a crime family, any leader who condones certain actions perpetrated by his/her followers is just as culpable as those committing the actions.

"It says that everyone present knew he wanted it torn down and so that's what they did."

If Sam Giancana told his followers that he wanted so-and-so dead, and one of his underlings decided to take care of his wants, Sam Giancana would have been convicted of a conspiracy to commit murder. Why???? Because a leader carries great responsibility for the folks he is leading. When a leader makes known his wishes, the followers know they are charged with carrying through what's been commanded of them.

"(It does seem ironic though that you spend the first part of this comment telling me why you don't need proof to know that BY did it, and then demand proof of me to know that he didn't. I believe that's called a double-standard)."

I simply reiterated the ACCEPTED known facts about BY. You are the one arguing with the written documents of the time. I wasn't looking for a debate but apparently you feel the need to change what is accepted. That's fine. All I did was ask for some proof that change is warranted. That is NOT a double-standard. It's called asking for evidence to be considered.

"Anyway, you put to much faith in Will Bagley."

No, my faith is in the eyewitness accounts such as those given by Rebecca Dunlap, a surviving child. My faith is in the eyewitness accounts of those who rode up to the site following the massacre, such as William H. Rogers. My faith is in the personal accounts of Philip Klingensmith who took part in the massacre. My faith is in Will Bagley only to the extent of his professional credentials. I find it a bit of a reach to imply that the writing of his book was simply to fulfill someone else's agenda. A professional of his calibre isn't likely to risk his reputation for accuracy and knowledge by writing an account that can be easily disproved.

While we're talking about agendas...let's take a look at those you've mentioned as saying something different: Brigham H. Roberts was a Mormon church leader and relatively high in church circles. He wrote a 6 volume series about the history of LDS. Lorenzo Brown was a Mormon missionary.

As for Wilford Woodruff: He gives account in his diary regarding the visit by BY, himself and about 60 others. At the base of the cairn was a granite slab inscribed with "Vengeance is mine; I will repay saith the Lord". Woodruff wrote that BY said "it should say, Vengeance is mine and I have taken a little." He then wrote that the cairn was torn down.

Woodruff was both an Assistant Church Historian and an official Church Historian, as well as the 4th President of the LDS. So, about those agendas.....???

On my failing to do any research: perhaps you should stop assuming that anyone who doesn't hold the accepted Mormon view of what happened, needs to be admonished. I do extensive research on everything I write about. However, research wasn't really necessary as I was simply relaying an old newspaper account. All I did was to give information regarding what had been written 150 years ago. Perhaps you should take your arguments up with the newspaper editor's ghosts.

For one last and final time: this was written in regards to sharing my discovery of a 150 year old newspaper account of the massacre. I'm not interested in further arguments for or against what may or may not have really happened. Your insistence that there is never proof in history is rather funny. I suppose then all documents such as letters written by generals and soldiers detailing war accounts, should be viewed with a jaundiced eye. And all records written in church annals such as baptisms, marriages, deaths, etc. should be dismissed as not necessarily true. Perhaps Henry VIII didn't really behead Anne Bolyn, nor did he have so many wives... We should simply forget about looking into the past since there's no proof it ever happened. And then YOU should stop saying you're an historian by training.

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