I recall the first time I realized the power of history; it was my freshman year of high school. In a discussion on the Puritan’s persecution of the Quakers and the Salem Witch Trials, my teacher had said that it seems that when ever a persecuted religion gains power itself, it begins to persecute those who disagree with it. In the simple faith of my youth, I protested that my religion had never done that. Mr. Nielson assigned me to read Wauneta Brooks, *Mountain Meadows Massacre*. How my eyes were opened.
Wednesday, Sept 20, 2006, I attended the Arrington Lecture at the LDS tabernacle in Logan Utah. There Professor Thomas Alexander of BYU presented his spiel concerning the efforts of Brigham Young and the brethren to investigate and “deal” with the Mountain Meadows Massacre?
The highlight of the evening (for me) was Alexander’s reference to Professor George Ellsworth as his mentor and example as a great teacher. I believe I recall Alexander saying that, George Ellsworth was the greatest teacher he had ever had. The same is true for me!! I don’t believe I ever stand before my students but that George Ellsworth is somewhere in my mind.
Unfortunately Alexander was no Ellsworth. He must have done his best in the crowded hour long power point presentation, but it soon became obvious that his agenda did not agree with the facts or with his knowledge of them.
It comes down to this.
Q – Did Brigham Young order the Mountain Meadows Massacre?
A – We can never know, but he had definitely set the stage in the minds of his fanatic followers necessary to carry out the slaughter. He had sent his minions throughout the territory to preach resistance to the American Army on its way to the Great Basin. He had been preparing the “Saints” for a siege in the mountains and told them that this time they would not retreat but would stand and fight. He had sought and made treaties with Indian tribes to fight against Americans and had even contracted with them to steal the cattle of immigrant companies to run off to the mountain strongholds he planed to build.
Q – Did Brigham Young do every thing he could have done to find out what happened at Mountain Meadows?
A – We can never know, but we do know that what he told, or allowed his surrogates to tell, the world did not describe what actually happened. I believe that Brigham Young knew exactly what happened immediately after the massacre. He promulgated other stories, while he was himself getting different information, the truth. The point here is that if Brigham Young was as deceived as he claimed to be, he was not doing his best to find out the truth, and if he did find out the truth, he intentionally obfuscated. He sent George A. Smith, whose preaching had stirred up the Furies requisite for the massacre in the first place, to investigate it. The details of Smith’s investigation and of the four other investigations Young ordered between 1859 and 1870 are unknown. The official reports did not enlighten the truth. His motives for doing this would be worthy of consideration but that does not alter the fact that he was not telling all he knew or was not finding out all he could. Young was Governor of the Utah Territory at the time of the Massacre and President of the Church. He surly could have mounted an adequate investigation had he wanted to. I believe he did and then covered up his findings.
Q – Were the people responsible for Mountain Meadows adequately dealt with?
A – Absolutely not. The Civil War interrupted the government’s ability and desire to investigate the massacre; which occurred in Sept. 1857 but was not widely know for a year afterwards. When efforts to find the truth were re-initiated in the 1870’s the trail was either cold or well covered.
Although the actual activities of “that terrible day” were well known by 1870, as were the names of the culprits, only one man – Jon D. Lee – was made the scapegoat for the murders, and executed. Case closed?
Professor Alexander Summarized his presentation on four points. Here are my notes on his summation questions and answers:
1. Did the leadership investigate? Yes.
2. Did the leadership try to help the federal government? Yes.
3. Could they have done more? Yes.
4. Did they deal fairly with those involved in the incident? No
Here are Professor Alexander’s summery questions with my answers:
1. Did the leadership investigate? Yes, but they either intentionally chose not to do so properly, highly unlikely, or they found out the whole ugly truth within days and spent a century covering it up.
2. Did the leadership try to help the federal government? They said they had, but they did not help the government as much as they could have had they really wanted the government to know the truth. They then blamed failure on the feds. The truth is that Brigham Young was himself governor until 1859 and neither needed nor wanted the permission or support from other federal officials to discover the truth and punish the perpetrators.
3. Could they have done more? Yes, in fact, I believe they did do more. Brigham Young and Church leaders surely knew the truth, but buried it rather than bring it to light and punish all who committed murder in God’s name. They misled and then hid under the cover provided by the Civil War. When the war was over, they did not bring forth the truth but rather offered up Jon D. Lee as a scapegoat sacrifice for the benefit of the Church and its Leaders.
4. Did the church leadership deal fairly with those involved? [in this mass murder carried out by religious fanatics?] No. The President and Apostles who preaching had instigated the hatred and the circumstances requisite for murder never publicly took responsibility for their actions; in fact they hid the truth from the world for generations. Those who actually took part in the murders (save one) were never brought to trial, and the Stake President and Bishop who ordered the massacre were never punished. Although Haight, the stake president, was excommunicated for a time in 1870, he was eventually reinstated in the church. The bishop, (Lee was not the Bishop!) who had supreme secular authority over the killers, was not disciplined by church or state. The men who did the actual killing were not brought to justice or ever put on trial for their crimes; they hid their secret throughout their lives and died thinking they had gotten away with murder. The only one to pay for his sins, in this life, was Jon D. Lee. His show trial was to end the issue, and once it became clear he no longer intended to go like a lamb to the slaughter; he was taken to Mountain Meadows, forced to sit down on his own coffin, and shot. [It is interesting that Jon D. Lee, excommunicated at the time for mass murder, has had all of his priesthood blessings restored. It gives me hope for Judas.]
NOW WE HAVE ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF OBFICATION AND DECIETE: That Bill Clinton’s cowardice, inaction, and preoccupation with a young girl “working” in his office set the stage for 9/11 is well know. Now comes Clinton claiming he did everything he could to get bin Laden. I heard him today claim that he tried to get bin Laden – and the failure was everybody’s fault but his own.
I have long chuckled at the 9/11 commission. One of the members was Jamie Gorelick, the very Clintonista who put up the wall between the CIA and the FBI that prevented our national intelligence agencies from detecting and stopping the September attacks. Talk about sending George A. Smith to investigate the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
I wonder what answer Fox News would have expected to get from Brigham Young if they had been able to ask him if he had ordered the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The same one they got by asking Bill Clinton if 9/11 was his fault.
I think the “lady” doth protest too much!
10 months ago