Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows/Omissions/Total submission to Brigham Young

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Total submission to Brigham Young?

A FairMormon Analysis of: Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows, a work by author: Will Bagley

The author insists that members gave "total submission to a leader they considered ordained by God...."

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

The author's contention cannot be sustained by the evidence—only by picking and choosing evidence selectively can his model hold up.

As one reviewer noted, the author does not provide the many counter-examples which demonstrate that Brigham's influence was not as powerful or absolute as he would have us believe:

Young actually removed Col. Peter Conover from command in central Utah because Conover refused to follow the conciliatory strategy that the governor dictated. Moreover, Young appointed in Conover's stead Col. George A. Smith, who promoted defense and conciliation. We have ample evidence that Smith followed Young's conciliatory policy. In Bagley's treatment, however, Smith becomes—without direct evidence—Brigham Young's agent, "to arrange their [the Fancher-Baker party's] destruction at a remote and lonely spot" (381).

Conover's actions show that Utahns did not (contrary to general belief) comply with all directives given by Brigham Young and other Church leaders in the 1850s. Such evidences are not hard to find: for example, most Saints did not send cattle to Salt Lake City during the 1853–54 Walker War as they were instructed, and settlers in some places never built the forts Brigham ordered. [1]

Brigham's statements

Brigham's teachings on obedience and "submission" also receive little treatment, since they contradict the author's picture.

  • I have known many times I have preached wrong. [2]
  • Ladies and gentlemen, I exhort you to think for yourselves, and read your Bibles for yourselves, get the Holy Spirit for yourselves, and pray for yourselves. [3]
  • The great masses of the people neither think nor act for themselves. . . . I see too much of this gross ignorance among this chosen people of God. [4]
  • What a pity it would be if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.
Brother Joseph W. Young remarked this morning that he wished the people to receive the word of the Lord through his servants, be dictated by them, and have no will of their own. I would express it in this wise: God has placed within us a will, and we should be satisfied to have it controlled by the will of the Almighty. Let the human will be indomitable for right....
Let all persons be fervent in prayer, until they know the things of God for themselves and become certain that they are walking in the path that leads to everlasting life; then will envy, the child of ignorance, vanish, and there will be no disposition in any man to place himself above another; for such a feeling meets no countenance in the order of heaven. Jesus Christ never wanted to be different from his father: they were and are one. If a people are led by the revelations of Jesus Christ, and they are cognizant of the fact through their faithfulness, there is no fear but they will be one in Christ Jesus, and see eye to eye. [5]
  • How often has it been taught that if you depend entirely upon the voice, judgment and sagacity of those appointed to lead you, and neglect to enjoy the Spirit for yourselves, how easily you may be led into error, and finally be cast off to the left hand? [6]
  • I do not wish any Latter–day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. [7]
  • I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self–security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. [8]
  • Seek diligently to know the will of God. How can you know it? In matters pertaining to yourselves as individuals, you can obtain it directly from the Lord; but in matters pertaining to public affairs, his will is ascertained through the proper channel, and may be known by the general counsel that is given you from the proper source. [9]
  • It is your privilege and duty to live so that you know when the word of the Lord is spoken to you and when the mind of the Lord is revealed to you. . . . Suppose I were to teach you a false doctrine, how are you to know it if you do not possess the Spirit of God? [10]
  • "Live so that you will know whether I teach you truth or not." Suppose you are careless and unconcerned, and give way to the spirit of the world, and I am led, likewise, to preach the things of this world and to accept things that are not of God, how easy it would be for me to lead you astray! But I say to you, live so that you will know for yourselves whether I tell the truth or not. That is the way we want all Saints to live. Will you do it? Yes, I hope you will, every one of you. [11]
  • The First Presidency have of right a great influence over this people; and if we should get out of the way and lead this people to destruction, what a pity it would be! How can you know whether we lead you correctly or not? Can you know by any other power than that of the Holy Ghost? I have uniformly exhorted the people to obtain this living witness each for themselves; then no man on earth can lead them astray. [12]
  • How do you know but I am teaching false doctrine? How do you know that I am not counseling you wrong? How do you know but I will lead you to destruction? And this is what I wish to urge upon you—live so that you can discern between the truth and error, between light and darkness, between the things of God and those not of God, for by the revelations of the Lord, and these alone, can you and I understand the things of God. . . . But to return to my question to the Saints, "How are you going to know about the will and commands of heaven?" By the Spirit of revelation; that is the only way you can know. How do I know but what I am doing wrong? How do I know but what we will take a course for our utter ruin? I sometimes say to my brethren, "I have been your dictator for twenty–seven years"—over a quarter of a century I have dictated this people; that ought to be some evidence that my course is onward and upward. But how do you know that I may not yet do wrong? How do you know but I will bring in false doctrine and teach the people lies that they may be damned? [13]


Notes

  1. Thomas G. Alexander, "Review of Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows," Brigham Young University Studies 31 no. 1 (January 2003), 167–. off-site
  2. Brigham Young, in Thomas Bullock minutes, 8 May 1854, Church Historical Department.
  3. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:107.
  4. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 9:295.
  5. Brigham Young, (12 January 1862) Journal of Discourses 9:150.
  6. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 8:59.
  7. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 3:45.
  8. Brigham Young, (12 January 1862) Journal of Discourses 9:150.
  9. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 1:78.
  10. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 18:72.
  11. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 18:248.
  12. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 6:100.
  13. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 14:204-205.