A review of Will Bagley's history of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, "Blood of the Prophets" and what it says about Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney's bid to be President of the United States has made the question, "Who are the Mormons?" fresh and new again. It's not a simple question to answer. One place to start is to understand, "Where did the Mormon culture come from? What is their history?" There's no better source to answer those questions than Will Bagley's monumental history of the Mountain Meadows Massacre and Brigham Young, the man responsible for making the LDS Church what it is today.
If you've never heard of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, you're not alone because the Mormon Church has waged a 150 year, no holds barred campaign to make the whole thing disappear. Their relative success is amazing because it's by far the biggest, worst, most horrific ... pick your own superlative ... tragedy to happen to any group of settlers in the history of the West. Over three times as many members of the Baker-Fancher wagon train died than in the more famous Donner train. Twice as many died as in the second biggest, Martin's Cove. (Also a Mormon event, by the way.) But the way they died makes it almost impossible to believe that Mormons have been so successful in covering it up. Mormons living in the surrounding towns killed every man, woman and child above the age of six in cold blood. Under a flag of truce, they disarmed and shot the men and then shot and bludgeoned the women and children.
These are facts that even Mormon historians don't dispute today. Here's the first paragraph describing the book written by Mormon historians to try to regain control over the world's view of the event:
On September 11, 1857, a band of Mormon militia, under a flag of truce, lured unarmed members of a party of emigrants from their fortified encampment and, with their Paiute allies, killed them. More than 120 men, women, and children perished in the slaughter.
What they do dispute is who, exactly, to blame for the massacre. And for that, there is a lot of disagreement. There are approximately three categories of books written about Mountain Meadows:
- Books written before Juanita Brooks that are generally wildly inaccurate and partisan arguments for one side or the other. These include the various journals of people who were there such as the "confessions" of John D. Lee and anti-Mormon sensational broadsides such as Bishop's "Mormonism Unveiled".
- The three reputable histories that document the event:
- Will Bagley's "Blood of the Prophets"
- "Massacre at Mountain Meadows" by the three Mormon historians Ronald Walker, Richard Turley, and Glen Leonard. This massively researched and footnoted history can be considered the Mormon Church's "official" position on the whole thing, although the authors claim independence.
- Juanita Brooks' The Mountain Meadows Massacre. This is easily the most important book of the three, but it's still not the best. Juanita Brooks, although she is admired and respected by all sides today (Brooks is almost unique because of this universal high regard.), was still a believing Mormon for her entire life and wanted to stay that way. As such, she wrote her groundbreaking history well within the bounds of the available documented proof of the time so as to ensure that she could not be excommunicated as other Mormon historians who still respected the truth have been. (Fawn Brodie, for example.) Accordingly, a lot of good history never made it to the pages of her book. It was also most recently revised by Brooks fifty years ago. Much has been discovered since then.
- And then there are a quite a few inferior books written mostly by amateurs and, in some cases, hacks. "September Dawn" is a good example of a trash novel that was made into a movie. The author is an attractive very young woman living in Hawaii who won the sweepstakes and somehow got picked to write her first screenplay for a sensational movie that, well ..., stinks in it's biased and distorted history. It's anti-Mormon and the movie is dramatic. If you want to find a blood boiling anti-Mormon propaganda piece, "September Dawn" fills the bill quite nicely.
Both Bagley's book and the Mormon book are thoroughly grounded in research and original source documentation. The difference, and this is why learning about Mountain Meadows is important today, is that the Mormon book continues a long standing tradition of almost two centuries now of "lying for the Lord". To quote the Publisher's Weekly review of the Mormon book:
John D. Lee, a fanatical militia leader, receives much of the blame, while church president Brigham Young gets a pass.
But in the concluding chapter of "Blood of the Prophets" Bagley writes:
The Mormon prophet acted with the certainty that he was the instrument of God's will, but he initiated the sequence of events that led to the betrayal and murder of one hundred twenty men, women, and children.
Clearly backing up from their previous strategy of total denial and lies, today's Mormon Church has chosen to surround Mountain Meadows in a smothering embrace instead. They purchased the land and paid for the restoration of the monument where the Massacre took place. I personally attended the 150th anniversary and witnessed the tearful regret of all Mormons there. All this they do, except for one thing: they still deny all official responsibility. Mormon prophet Gordon Hinckley inserted this lawyerly exception into his official dedication in 1999:
That which we have done here must never be construed as an acknowledgment on the part of the church of any complicity in the occurrences of that fateful and tragic day.
That is why we can't trust believing Mormon Mitt Romney with our nation. Mormons do not believe that it's necessary to tell the truth, do what's right for others, or safeguard the nation IF they believe that it's necessary to do otherwise to protect the Mormon Church.