Continuing Problems with Mountain Meadows

guestbooks, history, Utah 35 Comments

Today’s guest post is by Joe Geisner.  Most bookstores in Utah have sold out of the new book on the Mountain Meadows massacre with a print run of 10,000 copies. Amazingly this happened in less than a week.

The buzz is that the book answers all the questions. This new openness, scholarly approach and availability for the most controversial subject in Mormon history is quite amazing.

I guess Leonard Arrington is looking down with that wonder smile of his and quite proud of the historical department.

What are some of these continuing problem?

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>The Haight letter The authors of the new book say the September 10 letter from Young to Haight (see Brooks 44-45 for letter) could not contain a countermand to the Indians about taking cattle because of the complications with Indian relations. This Young letter has multiple problems. Why couldn’t Young change the policy he had just instituted on Sept. 1 telling the Indians they could have the emigrants cattle? Why did Young swear in 1875 that his September 10th letter to Haight was lost and then the letter resurfaces for the Penrose defense of 1884? Did Young realize this letter implicated him? The letter causes concern over the emigrant’s safety and as Indian agent Young had responsibility to protect the emigrants. When Young gave Haslam the letter Young returned to his office “with a troubled face and bowed head”. Does this indicate Young realized his new Indian policy had gone horribly wrong or did he know Mormon’s had started killing emigrants? Brooks carefully analyzes the letter on pages 45-46. Young also gave the northern Indians all the emigrants’ cattle and horses as they were heading to California. (Huntington August 11 1857 and August 30 1857)


<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>What is the word? Multiple reviewers of “Blood of the Prophets” and the authors of the new book all believe the controversial word in the Huntington journal is “grain”. Does this mean the debate is over? Three other qualified historians read the word differently. Bagley and Lyman in their books bracket the word (Bagley, [allies] and Lyman, [friends]) to identify that they were unsure of their reading. Fielding in his book reads the word “Tutsegavit”. Since the photocopy was made available Bagley has changed [allies] to [grain]. Reviewers were very critical of Bagley for not pointing out the insertion of the word “allies” and suggesting he was “direct violation of the American Historical Association’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct”. In truth Bagley pointed out the insertion when he placed [brackets] around the word. For a photo of the journal entry in question see:

Reviewers also claimed Bagley wrote, “In southern Utah illegitimate children [were] plentiful” (238),”. Actually Bagley writes “but the reality of pioneer life in poverty-stricken southern Utah was that children (including illegitimate children of mysterious origin) were plentiful.” As for illegitimate children one has only to turn to Howard Egan and his wife getting pregnant and giving birth while Egan is in California.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Lost Documents With all the missing primary documents, how can anyone claim the questions have been answered? At best authors and historians can honestly evaluate the remaining documentary evidence and present both their conclusions and the evidence, both contradictory and supporting.

Comments 35

  1. I just found out my figure of 10,000 is incorrect. The number in the first printing is 6500, this is still amazing sales. When one considers this is a historical book discussing a very difficult and complex subject it is even more amazing.

  2. Joe, Welcome aboard?

    Does the book claim to have all the answers?

    To me, it is another historian’s attempt at figuring it out. These historians have a lot of credibility in the community that others do not. But, they have to re-create the situation on the evidence they have and how they interpret it. I don’t think this book was written in the Salt Lake Temple.

  3. The fact that the authors of “Massacre at Mountain Meadows” have chosen to write a follow-up book detailing Brigham Young’s involvement “after the fact” instead of including those details in this work shows that it doesn’t answer all the questions. For me, the real historical significance of Mountain Meadows is how the church, civic leaders and law enforcement acted once news of the massacre came out…

  4. I agree, Doug. I would be VERY interested in a book detailing the responses of Church et al. Wonder how long it will take them to come out with Vol. 2, and if I will still be alive by then?

  5. “For me, the real historical significance of Mountain Meadows is how the church, civic leaders and law enforcement acted once news of the massacre came out…”

    Doug, It is a pretty well established fact that the church leaders, civic leaders and others did not act properly. What do you think you are going to find out that isn’t already known? And once you do, how will your opinion change?

  6. Isn’t Egan the guy who is famous for killing the father of the illegitimate child? That doesn’t make the process seem common.

    Bagley really did write with an axe to grind, that is pretty obvious.

    Anyway, should be interesting to hear what the newest book has to say.

  7. Jeff #2 thank you for the welcome. I have always thought highly of Mormon Matters and feel it a privileged to post.

    The book itself does not explicitly claim to have answered all the questions, though it is written in a way the reader would think that. Bagley and Brooks both make it clear that most questions of what really happened has multiple accounts and/or contradictory sources. The new book has little to none of this kind of analysis. You are correct Jeff that these three historians have a “lot of credibility” in what I would call the hard core believing members. Those who need black and white answers this book will make a big difference. If you have the book read page 146. With one sentence the author’s essential write Young didn’t do and had nothing to do with it. The problem is evidence they cite is taken out of context and manipulated. As for your comment in #5 it is really hard to know what to expect. Maybe there is nothing more to be said than what Brooks and Bagley have said. I have personally discovered nothing new in the new book. I am on page 150 and everything they have written so far can be found in Bagley and Brooks with a few exceptions and those I found in Lee’s “Mormonism Unveiled”.

    Doug and Bored #3 & #4, call me pollyannaish but I think the book will be out in less than seven years it took this one to come out. My understanding is that the draft has been written, I believe the authors have said as much in interviews. One author did say publicly he was done, but then in a interview after this he said he was still a part of the project.

    Stephen #6 really not sure what you are asking about Egan. Yes, he did kill a man that he believed had fathered the child. I am not sure how that changes the fact that the child born was not Egan’s. I hear or read people say Bagley had “an axe to grind” and I am still trying to find that axe. Here is Bagley’s analysis of the condition of the Fancher children when Forney received them for the trip back to Arkansas, it is found on pages 236 -237. After giving various accounts of the children’s condition Bagley then writes the orphaned children “were in better condition than most of the children in the settlements”. This is quite a startling commentary of the treatment of these children even by those who killed their parents.

  8. Frankly, Joe, that’s why I rarely comment on this topic. It’s pretty much been analyzed through every lens possible, imo, and I just don’t see any “new revelations” coming in any upcoming publications.

    I’m generally not much of a cynic, but sometimes pouring more water on already saturated ground simply increases the level of the standing water.

  9. Ray I see your point and for most people within the church I think you share their attitude. Fortunately for people like me the church leaders and the historical department thought just the opposite. This is a monumental work and the forth coming (possibly six volumes in total)volumes will be equally significant.

  10. I really should add, even though I have not learned anything new in the book, I have learned a great deal by reading the book. The book has forced me to check primary sources and reread Bagley and Brooks.

  11. Jeff,
    “Doug, It is a pretty well established fact that the church leaders, civic leaders and others did not act properly. What do you think you are going to find out that isn’t already known? And once you do, how will your opinion change?”

    According to the Ensign article written by Mr. Turley, it took many years for BY to actually figure out what happened at Mountain Meadows and who was to blame. (Indians, Mormons, Church leaders????) I believe the true character of a leader and his people are manifest by the way they deal with atrocities. The Germans in WWII turned their back on the injustices to the Jews and paid for it dearly until they finally came clean and took full responsibility. Obviously those associated with the MMM were in a similar boat with secret oaths and deliberate lies to government officials trying to uncover the facts. Here we are over 150 years later still trying to decide what actually happened, who was responsible, and who covered it up.

    So Jeff, you ask what I think I’m going to find out. What I actually am hoping for is a candid full disclosure of the events after Mountain Meadows including any role played by the prophet to cover it up and or justify the actions of those leaders in Southern Utah.

    Confession is good for the soul. With the second book, the church has the chance of following the same steps of repentance I have always been taught about. Even today, there seems to be a hesitation to step up and accept responsibility. If it hadn’t been for Brooks, we would still be telling the world that Indians did it. Don’t you think it’s about time to finish the repentance process by taking full responsibility and begging the world for forgiveness?

    Would the church end up paying some money to those families? Possible.

    Is restitution part of the repentance process? Sure it is.

    Would the church finally be able to put this behind us and move on? Yep.

  12. Be honest, Joe. Was there ever really the slightest possibility that anything you thought about Mountain Meadows would be changed by ANY new book? Yes, you might learn a biographical detail here or there, or learn the symptoms of anthrax, or something like that, but would it have been possible to have changed your basic view — whatever that is — of the underlying causes or the development of events? We’ve all pretty much made up our minds long ago, I believe, wherever on the spectrum any given person’s beliefs fall.

    You also quote from — fault — the review published by Reeve and Parshall. Why not be honest and admit that you are parroting Bagley’s ongoing anger over that review, as voiced so vitriolically in another forum this week, instead of reasoning through the arguments yourself and presenting your own conclusions?

  13. Doug G.

    firstly, it was the whole world who turned their back on the Jews, not just Germans, and, it is hardly a comparison between WWII and the MMM.

    The MMM was an isolated incident in which some over zealous folks did a very heinous thing to THOSE people. Monetary restitution, is a ridiculous idea anymore than the saints gaining restitution for all that was done to them.

  14. I get really peeved when I hear people slamming Bagley’s treatment of MMM. I have heard him speak in person, and he makes no secret of his conclusions about Brigham Young’s and other church leaders’ responsibilities in the affair. At times he can be an abrasive individual. However, his book is a balanced, scholarly and evenhanded treatment of the evidence. Comb through it as you will, you will find little blaming of Brigham Young for the fiasco. Stephen, you said, “Bagley really did write with an axe to grind, that is pretty obvious.” What??? Did you even read the book? Can anyone give a quotation from it that shows an example of this?

  15. Jeff,

    I respectfully disagree. The German people were mostly responsible for the holocaust and good men did nothing to stop it. They also worked very hard to cover-up the atrocities afterward. That sounds a lot like what happened in this massacre. Sure the numbers are fewer, but if your family was the ones being butchered, it wouldn’t matter to you. The example of what Germany eventually did to take responsibility could be a great lesson for the church. Or we can keep trying to minimize this event and keep the blood in the water for years to come.

    I think that’s my point. Perhaps if Turley and the rest do their job, we will get there. That’s why this book and the one to follow are important. Instead of heretics or apostates writing about the events, we have church employed historians who can publish this with the full blessing of the leaders. Of course, I’m assuming the second book will confirm what you seem to already believe about the cover-up. If it does and the church steps up and does the right thing, I believe MMM will fade away into the history books…

  16. Doug:

    Just as a quibbling point…that position about “the German people” brought on the Holocaust is the position taken by Daniel Goldhagen…the good ole’ Sonderweg model (special path) of German history…as though the Holocaust was a wholly German experience. His position has been THOROUGHLY disputed by fellow academic scholars, such as Christopher Browning (see Ordinary Men). And frankly, I would be quite surprised if the authors didn’t use his book as a model of sorts about their own. His focuses more on the Milton sociological experiment of conformity and submission to authority.

    I am just as reticent to blame “the German people” as I am to blame “the Mormon people.” Utah was not an integrated community with easy communication, so to believe that all parts of the colonies shared similar war spirit would be incorrect (there was but ONE massacre in spite of numerous wagon trains…this was not a statewide phenomenon, except for some tensions that never exploded into full out war with the emigrants). This is not collective guilt; frankly, this research, I believe, is mostly there because of lingering doubts, not because of some kind of ghost that continues to haunt us.

  17. Doug,

    “The German people were mostly responsible for the holocaust and good men did nothing to stop it.”

    German people were responsible for the Holocaust, true, but not THE GERMAN PEOPLE as a whole. Many of them were just as much victims of the war as anyone. I agree with Russell that you cannot hang MMM on the Mormons because those who did it were members.

    It appears you WANT evidence that BY was responsible.

  18. Jeff and Russell,

    I think you’re both missing my point. Had the church (who actually was the government at the time) taken appropriate action to hold those who committed these heinous crimes responsible, we wouldn’t have a problem now. The whole point is the cover-up after the fact. Now granted, the whole of Mormonism wasn’t complicit in the massacre and therefore doesn’t need to bear responsibility. I haven’t said that individual members need to pay these descendants; I’m saying the church as an organization has some financial responsibility to the families. If the church today has evidence of wrong doing by Brigham Young and members of the “Quorum of Twelve” regarding years of preventing justice to be done, then they have a responsibility to try and make amends. Despite what you guys think about this, they may be headed that very direction in promoting the release of the second book on the aftermath. If the church does admit to its highest leaders being complicit after the fact, there will almost certainly be legal action taken by some of those families.

    P.S. Russell, your point in #16 is well taken. Thanks for your perspective and a very well thought out answer. We don’t see that a lot here… 🙂

  19. Jeff writes,

    “It appears you WANT evidence that BY was responsible.”

    I know this was not directed at me, but I would like to comment. I don’t think any one who serious evaluates the evidence whether from the new book, Bagley or Brooks can find this “evidence” with absolute certainty. At the same time the author’s of the new book should not give any serious student of this subject comfort. I know what I said before, but if one really digs in to the sources and subject matter there is major problems.

    Some questions the author’s don’t even attempt to answer or deal with.

    Where in the American experience do you find a case where settlers send an rider with one horse on a round trip with a ride of five hundred miles to ask the governor what to do about Indians attacking a wagon train full of women and children?

    Where do you find a governor taking all day to write back and say, in effect, Indian are prone to do what Indians do, but you and the local militia stay out of it?

    Where is a similar case that the rider gets back and to find the militia had joined the Indians in killing the women and children?

    Where do you find in American history a governor who publicly says he will steal from the U.S. army/federal government and stop all transit across the country out side of the Civil War?

    Where does one find a federal Indian agent who says publicly that with a word he can have the Indians kill all emigrants who try to travel across the U.S. and will use that power?

    Where do you find emigrants with mostly women and children who would turn over all their weapons and peacefully walk with whites who the emigrants had seen kill one of their own and wound another?

    The whole episode is so bizarre it speaks for itself about the guilt of the parties involved.

  20. Bizarre, my friend? “Speaks for itself?” Incidents NEVER speak for themselves when you don’t have smoking guns. That’s just historical methodology. As far as BY’s “bizarre” decision to stay out of Indian affairs, this was a new decision made in light of the coming Johnston’s Army. And it’s not good history for us to assume Brigham Young’s guilt when the only evidence we have provides evidence in favor of his innocence. It requires conspiracy-theory history otherwise…and conspiracy theories are not falsifiable and therefore not good for solid conclusions sans real evidence. Heaven help me if my descendants apply that kind of historical method to me…

    ANY war produces bizarre circumstances…while I am loathe to view the situation as indicative of Mormonism, nor am I inclined to think that it was utterly outside the human experience. By saying that this incident is SO bizarre (not unheard of in the human experience), we overly demonize the killers. We needn’t make them into devils incarnate to believe that great evil was committed.

    You might seriously want to look at Ordinary Men…ordinary folks doing VERY bizarre things. Yet it’s hardly conscious decision-making–a simple snowballing convergence of authority and conformity.

  21. 19. Joe –

    Where do you find a governor that does all those things?

    Answer: In 1850-60’s America where we had mail carrier riders, an impending war that looked in every bit to be a larger replication on the Missiouri War of 1848, and a scattered colony of provincials were all thrown into a big sack of confusion and hysteria and lit with gun powder.

    Look, I commute to Orem from Cedar City all the time. Two things are certain: It’s still a nasty, torturous commute, and Cedar citizens still like to do religious things their own way. They don’t take orders from the prophet NOW, when wrist-slapping is a sattelite away.

    I think most of those unanswered questions are yours alone to ponder, because to me the answers are mostly inherent. We can’t answer every graveyard-shift historian’s questions.

    That being said, read Juanita’s book and would like to read this one. Does anyone know where there is a good book review on it? Not to diss, but I was expecting a more pedestrian review of the book in this post, instead it was picking at scabs.

  22. Russell,

    Thanks for your comments. As far as I know there is no smoking gun. None of the three books we have talked about write about a “smoking gun”. I am not sure what “guilt” you are assuming Young has, could you please elaborate? Please explain the evidence that provides for Young’s innocence and what is he innocent of? I am not sure who you are suggesting is making “conspiracy-theory history” please explain? The questions I asked are hard questions and should have been asked by the author’s of the new book.

    I realize I asked very difficult questions for those who want to defend Young’s actions and words. What I find most interesting is Young himself never felt the need to defend his words and actions. Young was under a considerable amount of pressure and criticism by people within and without the church over the massacre at the meadows. As far as I know Young said the “only thing that ever troubled him was the lives of the Women & children, but that under the circumstances [this] could not be avoided”. I believe he was quite sincere about this. I think this was quite troubling for Young. I have always thought quite highly of Young for his courage in the face of criticism and I am surprised at people today needing to make excuses and rationalizations.

    One clarification Russell, it was the U.S. Army, it was not a private army run by Johnston or a militia. This was regular army and I believe a volunteer detachment.

  23. I just got the book a few days ago… and signed! (Thanks to my father who frequents Benchmark). It will be my first book on MMM, but I am excited to read it. I do appreciate that it is clear on the jacket that the authors are LDS.

  24. I have not been able to get a copy of the Walker, Turley,and Leonard book yet (this printing sold out), but my question is about the atmosphere President Young established during the ten years leading up to the massacre about non-Mormons and others the Saints considered evil-doers. A smattering of statements:

    September 12, 1846: “If we allow men to come here and set up their own plans, three years will not roll around before we will have cutting of throats here.”

    May 8, 1853: “If you want to know what to do with a thief that you may find stealing, I say kill him on the spot, and never suffer him to commit another iniquity.”

    March 2, 1856: “Do you not know that Jesus told the truth when he said, ‘They that are not for us are against us’?… The time is coming when justice will be laid to the line and righteousness to the plummet; when we shall take the old broad sword and ask, ‘Are you for God?’ and if you are not heartily on the Lord’s side, you will be hewn down.”

    October 30, 1856: “Let the sinner be afraid, and the hypocrite fear, and tremble, and let the fire of the Almighty consume the wicked and ungodly, that their place may be no more known upon the earth.”

    February 7, 1857: “Will you love your brothers or sisters likewise, when they have committed a sin that cannot be atoned for without the sheding [sic] of their blood? Will you love that man or woman well enough to shed their blood? That is what Jesus Christ meant…. This is loving our neighbour as ourselves; if he needs help, help him.”

    June 29, 1857: “The day is nigh at hand when the Lord will mete out a reward to the wicked according to their deserts, when the day of strife comes he will fight our Battles and cleanse this goodly land from its polution [sic].”

    Many others might be added, as well as equally vitriolic statements by Orson Hyde and Heber C. Kimball. Is it surprising that years of this type of preaching from the Church’s highest leaders led some faithful to believe they were helping to carry out God’s judgments?

  25. Adam,

    It’s a post like yours that excite me and proves my point that the new book on the massacre is very important. The massacre is the worst incident of whites killing whites in the overland migration of America. It is the second worst loss of life for whites in the overland migration and it completely eclipses the Donner Party tragedy yet as a boy growing up in the church and in school I never heard of Mountain Meadows Massacre until my last year in seminary. Another student brought it up and the teacher dismissed it. This new book will and I believe has allowed this subject to be discussed in the open at church, by the church and I hope in schools. The Donner party tragedy was talked about as early as I can remember both in school and at church.

    Today as I started reading the book again and I got bogged down. I had to read Gibbs’ “The MMM”, McGlashan’s “MMM” and Carleton’s “Report on the Subject of the M at the MM” so I could understand the context the authors of the current book are using these works. These three books/articles all are used quiet extensively in the new book by the authors. I have heard at least one of the author’s of the new book say something similar to Russell’s comment “the only evidence we have provides evidence in favor of his [Young’s] innocence”. What is interesting is each of the author’s that are used as primary sources in the new book all conclude the evidence is over whelming that Young played a major role in the massacre. Two of the author’s even have witnesses who told them Young ordered the massacre. I am not convinced that Young ordered the massacre. I think there is these early documents, recollections and participants who believed Young gave orders. To dismiss them out of hand or to ignore them is not good history. Again, I am not convinced, but it does make for a sticky situation.

  26. Agreed! I have been pleased with the trends of a more open approach to history. I don’t know when it started, but when I first saw Rough Stone Rolling for sale at Deseret Book I was really excited. We kind of took a few steps backwards after Arrington was axed, but things are looking up now.

  27. Two words. Richard Turley. You really have to look at what he has done and say wow. I realize there are lots of other players but I believe he has made a great deal of difference.

  28. I don’t really care whether Brigham ordered the massacre for the simple fact that, whether he did or not, he was responsible for it.

    He was the head of the Church and issued inflammatory rhetoric. People under his leadership acted on that rhetoric and committed murder within the official Church structure.

    That makes him responsible the way any leader is responsible for his followers.

    Best just come to terms with that fact rather than continuing this “snipe-hunt” for legally sufficient evidence.

  29. Joe:

    First, when I call it Johnston’s Army, I use the common colloquial for the U.S. Army referred to in scholarly literature of the Utah War…it was led by Albert Johnston after all.

    Second, I ask sincere pardon for being suspicious when I hear of individuals saying, “I realize I asked very difficult questions for those who want to defend Young’s actions and words.” I have found that when critics talk about “difficult questions,” the implication is that those who answer them are actually being forced into a corner of kneejerk apologia. I see this often with some critics (not sure if you fit in that camp); they tend to delight in viewing themselves as the investigative journalist, the interrogator.

    As far as the assumed guilt, that was your issue…you said: “The whole episode is so bizarre it speaks for itself about the guilt of the parties involved.” I do not assume guilt; you do. And the evidence of Brigham’s innocence…read at face value…is the letter he delivered to James Haslam where he told the militia to stay clear of and to maintain good relations with the Fancher-Baker party. To believe that this evidence really means that BY was seeking “plausible deniability” requires that we concoct “might haves” and “would haves.” We have to assume that BY didn’t really mean what he said and therefore must project as whole slieu of other conjectures for which we have zero evidence.

    Finally, regarding the questions that “should have been asked,” this is an old trope of scholarly reviews that are generally avoided in academia (I’ve seen a few come across my desk during my time in graduate school). You shouldn’t criticize authors for the book you wish they had written. And honestly, every massacre, as I said, is going to have its particularities. If you think those particularities make the Mormons particularly bloodthirsty, then we must conclude that all perpetrators of atrocities are particularly vile. And thus we are left with little more insight…everyone is just as bloodthirsty as before.

    And let’s be honest, the “excuses” and “rationalizations” are often negative buzz words for simple scholarship. Historians seek to find the causes of things…a “rationale” for action, right or wrong. The term, “excuses” is even a less apropo choice, as it suggests that by finding the rationales, we are therefore seeking to excuse them. Otherwise, one might as well condemn every scholarly work written on the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide for being apologists. Just because scholars exonerate BY doesn’t make them less credible unless one insists on sticking to the old-school image of BY, the Tyrant of the West instead of BY of the documentary record.

    Spinoza’s axiom that “to understand all is to excuse all” is simply wrong.

  30. “The massacre is the worst incident of whites killing whites in the overland migration of America.”

    Come on, Joe. I have NEVER tried to excuse or explain away the MMM. However, if you want to define a category so narrowly that anything on which you are focusing is “the worst”, it is easy to do. I really hate to be so blunt, but the statement above is so narrowly focused as to be absolutely useless. If one of my high school students had typed it in a report, I would have criticized it directly and quite harshly.

    “The massacre” comes nowhere close to being the worst incident of whites killing non-whites in America; it comes nowhere close to being the worst incident of non-whites killing whites in America; it comes nowhere close to being the worst incident of whites killing whites in America; it comes nowhere close to being the worst incident of whites killing whites in an environment of active or impending war; etc. “The overland migration of America” as a separate category, devoid of any war implications, had no organized conflict between large groups of people; of course, the MMM is the worst incident. It’s practically the ONLY “incident” in the category you created that included a group large enough to qualify legitimately as a massacre.

    Otoh, and this is critical to your classification, if you take the persecution of the Mormons from their arrival in Missouri to their settling of the Utah Territory, and if you attribute to that persecution every death in that period that would not have occurred naturally without that persecution, the MMM flat-out PALES in comparison to the “incident” of whites killing whites in “the overland migration of America” as a whole. As stretched as that might appear at first glance, it is every bit as legitimate as focusing on how many settlers the Mormons killed at the MMM – since they killed FAR fewer than the number of white Mormons who were killed during the same general time frame by the actions of other white Americans.

    Again, I am not trying to excuse the MMM in any way whatsoever. I mean that seriously. Your classification is what I am criticizing, since it essentially is meaningless as constructed.

  31. Russell,

    The scholars I read including those who wrote “Massacre At Mountain Meadows” specifically call the troops U.S. army and are quite critical of your colloquial use.

    As for “guilt of parties”. I wrote in another post I don’t know if Young ordered an attack. I do know that as governor of the territory of Utah and Indian agent he did not do what he had sworn to do and that is protect U.S. citizens. In fact he encouraged Indian violence and did not act to protect American citizens. So yes he is guilty of this. Even the author’s of the new book say that Young was guilty of statements that created this environment for the massacre. So Russell there is guilt. The Young to Haight letter is anything but a source of evidence for Young’s innocence. Young himself saw that and did not want it used at Lee’s trial.

    The rest of your comments come across as callused. These were real people who were murdered. Again going back to the authors of the new book; they said sleep was often allusive while researching this book. So yes questions have to be asked. When I read the following I have plenty of questions. This is Wm Roger’s experience at the meadows in April 1859: When we arrived here in April, 1859, more than a year and a half after the massacre occurred, the ground for a distance more than a hundred yards around a central point, was covered with the skeletons and bones of human beings, interspersed in places 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 bonets and dresses, and scraps of female apparel were also to be seen in places 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.


    I continually hear and read people say this but they never are able to give figures. When I read LeSueur’s book on the Mormon War in Missouri and Backman’s book “The Heaven’s Resound” I was actually quite shocked at how few death’s occurred. Kirtland had little violence and I don’t think any deaths caused directly by violence. The Mormon’s left Kirtland of their own free will. Missouri really was the place that Mormon’s were persecuted and the early Mormon’s knew this. That is why you constantly read the early saints praying for the destruction of Missouri. I know Mel Tungate has done research in this area but I am not sure if he has come up with solid numbers. Nauvoo is difficult because there still is no good treatment for the Mormon Nauvoo period. Launius and Hallwas “Culture’s in Conflict” is one of the best sources but numbers of people killed is allusive. I really did not want to go in this direction because of the importance of the new book and the historical importance of the massacre.

    I constantly learned at church about the violence and killing of Mormon’s in Ohio, Missouri and Illinois. This was never off limits, but was constantly re-enforced that we are a persecuted people. Not so about the massacre.

  32. Joe, I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say, so I will rephrase it:

    It was persecution that drove the early Mormons from Missouri and Illinois. That is indisputable. Without that persecution, the Church HQ would be in Missouri (or, subsequently, Illinois) right now, not Utah. Therefore, the early immigrants would have congregated in Illinois and never have crossed the plains. This means that the deaths that occurred directly as a result of violence AND indirectly as a result of the need to cross the plains as a result of previous violence that did not allow them to stay in Missouri and/or Illinois can be attributed to “whites killing whites in the overland migration of America” – since the “overland migration” of Mormons west of Missouri and Illinois only occurred because of that persecution.

    Add the direct “murders” and the indirect “manslaughters” that occurred as a result of violence against the early saints and NOBODY who understands the history would claim that MMM was the worst incident of whites killing whites in the overland migration of America. If they used your general classification, they would conclude that it was the second worst incident – and that the first incident goes a long way to explain the second one. In fact, any objective researcher would conclude that it shows something of the overall character of the Mormons that the MMM was the only such incident – that it obviously is NOT characteristic in ANY way of most Mormons of the time.

    I know few historians classify it that way, but it certainly is no less reasonable than your very narrow classification.

  33. Joe:

    As the quibble d’jour, certainly, at least, I hope it is recognized that my initial use of the term “Johnston’s Army” was not a sign of the ignorance it was thought to be. In any case, which scholarly works are you referring to? Both Norman Furniss and Juanita make plentiful references to “Johnston’s Army” (though they also often refer to the U.S. army).

    I am puzzled at which of my remarks were “calloused.” Is it where I insist on fairness when discussing even the horrific Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust? Or when I say that understanding an event does not require that we that excuse it?

    Ray is right; we needn’t MAKE the massacre so heinous that people pay attention. It already does that…what is needed is a hard-driving discipline for the evidence. Analysis of these things require that we not always dwell on the horrors of the events but instead focus on what the documents say and what they say alone. When we deal with the history of an atrocity, it’s very easy and sometimes necessary to engage in advocacy research. But doing so for me has often led to a blurring of what the documents actually say for themselves. To me, it appears that if anyone dare question BY’s culpability, they immediately fall into the category of being “callous.”

    As far as Young using the Haight letter, I would not be willing to say that we know Young refused to use it; he cited it directly in the deposition for the Lee trial in 1875. While he tells us that he could not find the letter, I am not sure it would be reasonable for us to expect him to have a copy. Do we have Do we know that BY kept copies of all his letters?

    That said, was he a minimalist in what he told? Certainly, but then again, he saw the government officials as his enemies, so he would not be willing to fully cooperate when he feared that even a stray phrase or a nuance of meaning might be wrongly used against him.

    And Young’s new Indian policy was a reaction to the real war he was facing…generally, if you are at war with another sovereign nation, you no longer serve in the capacity as the enemy’s government official.

    It’s odd; why do you insist that we indict BY more than the evidence warrants?

  34. As an Historian and educator let me assure you we teach about Mountain Meadows in secondary Education classes specifically Utah Studies (7th Grade). Obviously these young people are not equipped to deal with all aspects of this story but we dive right in. We cover other tragedies like the Circleville Massacre which is relatively unknown in most circles. We cover the Bear River Massacre in which 250 Shoshones were slain including 90 women & children. This was a winter encampment attack of extreme aggression by Colonel Connors. The Sandcreek Massacre was another example of good men gone way bad in acts of rage. Mountain Meadows cannot be looked at in isolation. Just as those good men of Cedar City acted in unthinkable slaughter so did others of the time given the breaches of communication and the fatalistic oppression that these men faced. Rumor, fear, retribution, an approaching Army, speeches filled with metaphoric angst, saints pushed to the walls of wilderness and poverty….men broke, common sense wilted and blood was had. Does this excuse them? No!!! Can we understand it? Yes!!! These men were not alone in their sins. May I mention Columbus, Kit Carson, Andrew Jackson, General Sherman and Colonel Shivington, May I mention the Long Walk, the Trail of Tears, the My Lai Massacre, Waco and the torture of enemy combatants. Don’t be so arrogant to assume that you and I are not culpable. Read about Bishop Klingensmith, Isaac Haigh, William Dame and John D. Lee. These were great courageous men who made a fateful tragic mistake in the air of paranoia. This event ended their lives if not as John D. Lee did as he sat on his own coffin then as a living death that raged each day they toiled. From that day forth they lived tragic lives some having died in dubious circumstances.
    As to Brigham Young, there is enough already compelling evidence to acquit him of direct connection. Bagley and others would have us follow their worn out dusty trails of refuge. We do clearly see that Brigham Young did spout, “blood Atonement,” that added to the toxicity of the time. We clearly see that he was part of a strategic attempt to distance the church from the incident. We also clearly see that Brigham Young acted first as the Mormon leader and second as the Governor obviously to the detriment of that other duty. We clearly see that John D. Lee was a scapegoat. Take it further if you will but bring the evidence and not the garbage of prejudice and bitterness.

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