Criticism of Mormonism/Books/American Massacre/Chapter 10

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Response to claims made in "Chapter 10: Mountain Meadows, September 7-11, 1857"

A FairMormon Analysis of: American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, a work by author: Sally Denton
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Response to claims made in American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, "Chapter 10: Mountain Meadows, September 7-11, 1857"

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Response to claim: 129 - Will Bagley claimed that Mountain Meadows was known among the Mormons as "a preferred location for the quiet execution of unpleasant tasks"

The author(s) of American Massacre make(s) the following claim:

Will Bagley claimed that Mountain Meadows was known among the Mormons as "a preferred location for the quiet execution of unpleasant tasks."

Author's sources:
  1. Will Bagley, Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows (University of Oklahoma Press, 2002), 121.
  • Compare treatment in Blood of the Prophets: p. 121.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

  •  Quotes another author's opinion as if it were fact
  • Bagley's errors, negative reviews, and bias are discussed on the page dedicated to his book. It becomes obvious that the author of this work simply relies on Bagley's interpretation, and provides no independent evaluation of the evidence.


Response to claim: 131 - The author claims that "numerous apostates" were traveling with the Fancher Train by the time it reached Mountain Meadows

The author(s) of American Massacre make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that "numerous apostates" were traveling with the Fancher Train by the time it reached Mountain Meadows.

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This claim is repeated frequently until the source is revealed later. See below.


Response to claim: 133- The author claims that William Bateman, who had weeks earlier been "threatened with excommunication for apostasy," was given a chance to redeem himself by "carrying out church orders at Mountain Meadows"

The author(s) of American Massacre make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that William Bateman, who had weeks earlier been "threatened with excommunication for apostasy," was given a chance to redeem himself by "carrying out church orders at Mountain Meadows." According to "Prophet Heber Kimball," Bateman was placed "in the front ranks" to be put "to the test."

Author's sources:
  1. Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 4:375.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

The author is making a huge assumption here. Heber says,

Some who have been apostates for years past are beginning to come back to us; and, inasmuch as they did not stand and be valiant for the truth, we are now going to place them in the front ranks, and put them to the test.

This has nothing to do with William Bateman, and nothing to do with Mountain Meadows.


Response to claim: 135 -"The recommendation of the many apostates in the camp would never be known, or whether they considered their fellow Mormons capable of such cold-blooded treachery"

The author(s) of American Massacre make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: The recommendation of the many apostates in the camp would never be known, or whether they considered their fellow Mormons capable of such cold-blooded treachery.

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The author again mentions the numerous "apostates" that she believes were part of the Fancher party, yet she provides no evidence of this.


Response to claim: 136a - The author claims that Joseph Smith "had his first vision in 1820" and then three years later reported that he was "surrounded by 'a pillar of light' during a visitation from the angel Moroni"==

The author(s) of American Massacre make(s) the following claim:

(Photo caption) The author claims that Joseph Smith "had his first vision in 1820" and then three years later reported that he was "surrounded by 'a pillar of light' during a visitation from the angel Moroni."

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided (unsurprisingly).

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

The author appears to have never even studied any of the sources that she used. Any Latter-day Saint knows that the "pillar of light" is associated with Joseph's First Vision.


Response to claim: 136b - The author claims that Brigham Young called his enemies "Christians" and that the Latter-day Saints left Nauvoo, Illinois because they "had been unable to live in peace with their neighbors"

The author(s) of American Massacre make(s) the following claim:

(Photo caption) The author claims that Brigham Young called his enemies "Christians" and that the Latter-day Saints left Nauvoo, Illinois because they "had been unable to live in peace with their neighbors."

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided.

FairMormon Response

{{misinformation|Brigham also regarded himself and the Latter-day Saints as Christians.

  • Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

    The Saints left Nauvoo because they were under threat of armed assault. There would have been no peace, but it was not the LDS who threatened the peace.


Response to claim: 136g - Did Brigham order the rock cairn memorial at the scene of the massacre dismantled?

The author(s) of American Massacre make(s) the following claim:

(Photo caption) Did Brigham order the rock cairn memorial at the scene of the massacre dismantled?

Author's sources:
  1. No source provided

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

There is not evidence at all that Brigham did this.


Question: Did Brigham Young order that the Mount Meadows monument be destroyed?

Neither Wilford Woodruff, nor John D. Lee said anything in their journals about Brigham Young ordering the destruction of the monument

The critical book One Nation Under Gods claims that when Brigham Young visited the Mountain Meadows Massacre site in 1860 and saw the monument, that he "ordered the monument and cross torn down" and demolished. [1]

If Brigham Young had ordered the monument's destruction, this would be an unfortunate example of the fallibility of mortal prophets. The ability of Lee and others to hide their crimes for a time is not unexpected given LDS doctrine (DC 10:37).

Wilford Woodruff (and John D. Lee) said nothing in his journal about Brigham Young ordering—or desiring— the destruction of the monument. Waite's book reports a rumor, and Leavitt's account is frank to admit that all Brigham did was "raise his arm to the square" (this gesture is used, for example, during LDS baptisms to indicate that the priesthood is being invoked, and a covenant made). Leavitt presumes that Brigham wanted the monument destroyed, but this was his supposition. It is completely unsupported by Woodruff, and it is completely inconsistent with Lorenzo Brown's witness of three years later that the monument was still standing.

The author's claim that Wilford Woodruff's journal supports the destruction of the monument is absolutely unsupportable. It is certainly not a historical certainty that Brigham Young ordered the monument destroyed. The Leavitt account tells us only that some Church members interpreted Brigham's actions in that manner—we thus cannot rule out an intention by Brigham to have the monument destroyed, but historians are less skilled at mind-reading than even Dudley Leavitt would have been.

One Nation Under Gods gets the date and reference to Woodruff's diary wrong—the reference is to 1861, not 1860. But, there are more serious lapses.

Woodruff journal: There is no mention of Brigham Young tearing down the cross or demolishing the monument

The quote from Woodruff's journal reads simply:

25 A vary Cold morning. Much Ice on the Creek. I wore my great Coat & mittens. We visited the Mountain Meadow Monument put up at the burial place of 120 persons killed by Indians in 1857. The pile of stone was about 12 feet high, but begining to tumble down. A wooden Cross was placed on top with the following words: Vengence is mine and I will repay saith the Lord. President Young said it should be Vengence is mine and I have taken a little.

There is no mention of Brigham Young tearing down the cross or demolishing the monument—Woodruff noted that the monument was already "begining [sic] to tumble down," but said nothing about Brigham ordering it torn down.

Brooks: the monument was still standing three years after Brigham's first visit to the monument

The Brooks account is more on point. In favor of the claim that Brigham had something to do with the monument's destruction, Brooks cites:

  1. her grandfather, Dudley Leavitt, to one of his sons, who recorded it: "‘I was with a group of elders that went out with President Young to visit the spot in the spring of ’61. The soldiers had put up a monument, and on top of that a wooden cross with words burned into it, ‘Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I will repay.’ Brother Brigham read that to himself and studied it for a while and then he read it out loud, ‘Vengeance is mine saith the Lord; I have repaid.’ He didn’t say another word. He didn’t give an order. He just lifted his right arm to the square, and in five minutes there wasn’t one stone left upon another. He didn’t have to tell us what he wanted done. We understood.’"
  2. Catherine Waite's book (which has a footnote which quotes from General Carlton) states that "this monument is said to have been destroyed the first time Brigham visited that part of the Territory" (Waite, The Mormon Prophet and his Harem, 71).

Brooks also cites the Lorenzo Brown diary from July 1, 1864 wherein he states that he passed by, and saw the monument still standing. This was three years after Brigham's first visit to the monument. It is possible that this was a rebuilt monument, but the description is strikingly similar:

went past the monument that was erected in commemoration of the Massacre that was committed at that place by officers & men of Company M Calafornia volunteers May 27 & 28 1864 It is built of cobble stone at the bottom and about 3 feet high then rounded up with earth & surmounted by a rough wooden cross the whole 6 or 7 feet high & perhaps 10 feet square On one side of the cross is inscribed Mountain Meadow Massacre and over that in smaller letters is vengeance is mine & I will repay saith the Lord. On the other side Done by officers & men of Co. M Cal. Vol. May 27th & 28th 1864 Some one has written below this in pencil. Remember Hauns mill and Carthage Jail….’[2]

Brigham H. Roberts adopted a similar view, writing, "later was destroyed either by some vandal’s hand or the ruthless ravages of time…. The destruction of this inscription is unjustly connected by the judge with President Young’s first visit to southern Utah after it was erected (1861)."[3]

Uncited material: John D. Lee says nothing about demolishing the monument

One Nation Under Gods does not mention the John D. Lee diary, which contains a second-hand account of Brigham Young proceeding "by way of Mountain Meadows." Lee says nothing about demolishing the monument.[4] He was to record Brigham's words as preserved by Woodruff six days later, so he clearly had an interest in the matter. An order for destruction or the actual event of destruction of the monument would arguably have been something he would have recorded had he heard about it.

Regardless of whether the Mormons actually dismantled the monument, later that same year (1861) there was torrential rain and snow that devastated parts of southern Utah and actually changed some of the landscape. If the monument was still standing prior to the heavy storms, it may not have been after the storms. In the following years, the monument was built up and torn down by various groups of people passing through.[5]


Response to claim: 137 - The author claims that the "Mormon apostate refugees" were "blood atoned"

The author(s) of American Massacre make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that the "Mormon apostate refugees" were "blood atoned."

Author's sources:
  1. Anna Jean Backus, Mountain Meadows Witness: The Life and Times of Bishop Philip Klingensmith (Arthur H. Clark Co, 1996), 136.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The author finally provides a source for her comments about "Mormon apostates" being part of the Fancher party.
  • Backus' book was noted by at least two reviews to suffer from a key flaw. As one review put it, the
survivor recollections used as source material is a serious flaw in the book. Sarah Baker [one witness] was 3 when the massacre claimed her parents. Trial testimony showed that participants in the crime had been ordered never to speak of it, even among themselves. Surviving children were parceled out to Mormon families. The two Baker girls went to John D. Lee's home. What opportunity was there to learn anything of the massacre?
Baker's own statement that her information came from reading and from discussion with contemporaries only confirms that she had no special knowledge. One would expect a child to be traumatized by the massacre and incapable of adequately understanding what was happening around her. [6]
  • Reports of apostates joining the wagon train did not appear until many years after the Massacre. [7] For the author to be persuasive on this point, more information (e.g., identity of the supposed murdered apostates) is needed.


Response to claim: 141 - "Neither that tally nor any later count would include the Mormon "backouts" murdered that day"

The author(s) of American Massacre make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: Neither that tally nor any later count would include the Mormon "backouts" murdered that day.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

Yet another reference to Mormon "apostates" being part of the Fancher party, which is based on dubious evidence. Since no later counts (even those made by those hostile to the Church) mention the supposed apostates, this is probably good evidence that such apostate victims never existed.


Response to claim: 141 - John D. Lee claimed that Brigham Young advised them to claim that the massacre was performed by Indians alone

The author(s) of American Massacre make(s) the following claim:

John D. Lee claimed that Brigham Young advised them to claim that the massacre was performed by Indians alone.

Author's sources:
  1. Lee, 251.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

It is unsurprising that Lee, one of the ringleaders, would wish to blame the murders or cover-up on his ecclesiastical superiors.

Response to claim: 142 - The "scheme to blame the atrocity on the Indians" is claimed to have been conceived and crafted "with the characteristic meticulousness for which Brigham Young was famous"

The author(s) of American Massacre make(s) the following claim:

The "scheme to blame the atrocity on the Indians" is claimed to have been conceived and crafted "with the characteristic meticulousness for which Brigham Young was famous."

Author's sources:
  1. Author's opinion.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Leaders in southern Utah were already planning to blame the Massacre on Indians before Brigham Young had even heard of it. After an initial skirmish with the party, one of the immigrants was killed and another wounded. "A witness of white involvement had now shared the news within the emigrant corral. If the surviving emigrants were freed and continued on to California, word would quickly spread that Mormons had been involved in the attack....Despite plans to pin the massacre on the Paiutes—and persistent subsequent efforts to do so—Nephi Johnson later maintained that his fellow militiamen did most of the killing." [8]
  • Jacob Hamblin testified that he told Brigham the facts soon after the massacre. Hamblin reported that Brigham said that "as soon as we can get a court of justice, we will ferret this thing out, but till then don't say anything about it." Hamblin said that Lee's trial was "the first time I ever felt that any good would come of it [telling the story]. I kept it to myself until it was called for in the proper place." [9]

Notes

  1. Richard Abanes, One Nation Under Gods, Endnote 103, page 567 (hardback); page 565 (paperback)
  2. Typescript of the Lorenzo Brown Journals is at Brigham Young University, page 294 of transcript; cited by Turley, Walker and Leonard, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, ?..
  3. {CHC1|vol=4|pages=176, note}}; also cited by Turley, Walker and Leonard, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, [citation needed]..
  4. Robert Glass Cleland and Juanita Brooks, eds., A Mormon Chronicle: The Diaries of John D. Lee 1848-1876, 2 vols. (San Marino, California: The Huntington Library, 1955. Reprinted Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1983), 1:311-312.(dated May 25th [24th, 1861]).
  5. James G. Bleak, Annals of the Southern Utah Mission (25 December 1861 and January-February 1862), 113-114.
  6. Harold Schindler, "'Mountain Meadows' Account Lacks Substantiation (review of Mountain Meadows Witness: The Life and Times of Bishop Philip Klingensmith by Anna Jean Backus)," Salt Lake Tribune (17 March 1996). See similar remarks in Lawrence Coates, "review of Anna Jean Backus "Mountain Meadows Witness: The Life and Times of Bishop Philip Klingensmith," Brigham Young University Studies 36 no. 4 (1996–97), 225–. off-site
  7. Turley, Walker and Leonard, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, 109-110.
  8. Richard E. Turley Jr., "The Mountain Meadows Massacre," Ensign (September 2007), 14–21. off-site
  9. Jacob Hamblin, (September 1876), "Testimony of Jacob Hamblin" off-site