Criticism of Mormonism/Books/American Massacre/Chapter 11

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Response to claims made in Chapter 11: "Deseret, September 12, 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 11: Deseret, September 12, 1857"

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Response to claim: 152 - The event was referred to as the "blood feast of the Danites"

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

The event was referred to as the "blood feast of the Danites."

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 inflammatory language is unsourced, and provided without evidence.

Response to claim: 152 - It is claimed that it is "inconceivable that a crime of this magnitude could have occurred" without being directly ordered by Brigham Young

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

It is claimed that it is "inconceivable that a crime of this magnitude could have occurred" without being directly ordered by Brigham Young, and that "[v]irtually every federal officer who became involved in future investigations" of the massacre concluded that Brigham "personally ordered" the attack.

Author's sources:
  1. The author notes that Lee "would have carried out no orders which he thought would be contrary to the wishes of Brigham Young," citing Juanita Brooks, The Mountain Meadows Massacre, p. 80.

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

Why is in "inconceivable" that a crime could be committed in southern Utah without Brigham's direct order? The Massacre site was, which required an arduous horseback race of nearly 300 miles, which took from 7–13 September to send and receive a message from Brigham Young. [1] Is Brigham to be held responsible for every crime committed in the territory?
  • The initial prosecution of those responsible for the murders failed because federal officials were so anxious to tie them to Brigham Young—but the evidence to do so did not exist.

Response to claim: 153 - The author claims that the murderers reported that a "divine revelation from Brigham Young" was read aloud which commanded them to attack the "cursed gentiles"

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

The author claims that the murderers reported that a "divine revelation from Brigham Young" was read aloud which commanded them to attack the "cursed gentiles" and "attack them, disguised as Indians" and "leave none to tell the tale."

Author's sources:
  1. C. V. Waite, The Mormon Prophet and His Harem (1866), 66.

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's source is a nineteenth-century anti-Mormon expose–hardly a reliable source. It is unsurprising that the murderers would attempt to claim they were "only following orders." "Her source for this alleged fact is to a sensational exposé common of the era: Catharine Van Valkenburg Waite's The Mormon Prophet and His Harem; Or, An Authentic History of Brigham Young, His Numerous Wives and Children. Waite was an early suffragist married to a federal judge. She did not name names or provide sources in her book. Her stated objective was to reclaim the "suffering women of Utah." She is the sole source for this "revelation," which has no basis in historical fact." [2]

Brigham wrote a letter which commanded those in southern Utah to leave the immigrants alone.

Response to claim: 154-155 - Helen Brockett "was told by her grandmother that her great-grandfather J.J. Davidson had been ordered by Brigham Young to go south to participate in the slaughter"

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

Helen Brockett "was told by her grandmother that her great-grandfather J.J. Davidson had been ordered by Brigham Young to go south to participate in the slaughter." It is claimed that "Young called in the Avenging angels and told them to use bows and arrows to shoot the people in the back after they were already dead to make it look like Indians did it."

Author's sources:
  1. Author's telephone interview with Helen Brockett, October 18, 2002.

FairMormon Response

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

The author here relies on a fourth-hand account—something Brockett's grandmother said that her great-grandfather said that Brigham Young said. This is unpersuasive when contemporary evidence indicates that Brigham ordered the immigrants be allowed to pass unmolested.

Response to claim: 156 - The author claims that the Church invented the myth of "poisoned springs"

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

The author claims that the Church invented the myth of "poisoned springs."

Author's sources:
  1. The author states in an endnote on page 266 that "the poison tale was never told the same way twice," citing Will Bagley, Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows (University of Oklahoma Press, 2002), 119.
  • Compare treatment in Blood of the Prophets: p. 119.
  • The author also cites Forney to Greenwood, August 1859, "The Massacre at Mountain Meadows," Harper's.

FairMormon Response

{{misinformation|

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

"The Church" did not invent the "poisoned spring" myth. Some members of the Church who wished to justify their murders after the fact used claims about poisoning to excuse their deeds. (It may be that some sincerely believed the springs to have been poisoned, when anthrax was instead responsible for the deaths of livestock.) [3] In any case, the sincerity of belief that the springs were poisoned in no way justifies the massacre.


Response to claim: 158 - It is claimed that on September 1, 1857, Brigham enlisted the support of the Indians "against the wagon train"

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

It is claimed that on September 1, 1857, Brigham enlisted the support of the Indians "against the wagon train."

Author's sources:
  1. Journal of Dimick Baker Huntington, September 1, 1857.

FairMormon Response

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

  •  Misrepresentation of source: Huntington's diary indicates that Indians were being recruited to scatter all cattle ahead of the approaching U.S. army and any other wagon trains. This had nothing to do with attacking people.
  •  Quotes another author's opinion as if it were fact: the author here likely follows Will Bagley's Blood of the Prophets which likewise contains a serious misreading of Huntington's journal.

Response to claim: 159 - The author claims that Indians were not involved with the massacre; it was all Mormons

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

The author claims that Indians were not involved with the massacre; it was all Mormons.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

 Misrepresentation of source: "Denton has deceived the reader with the way she uses the Hurt report. The Indians' first report to Hurt, from Indians not affiliated with the Paiutes, was that Indians were not responsible. This is the only quotation Denton uses. But Hurt was suspicious, and he investigated further. He found and reported the truth. Indians and Mormons committed the atrocity. Yet, because Hurt's final conclusions don't square with Denton's thesis, we are not told about them." [4]


Notes

  1. Richard E. Turley Jr., "The Mountain Meadows Massacre," Ensign (September 2007), 14–21. off-site
  2. Robert D. Crockett, "The Denton Debacle (Review of: American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857)," FARMS Review 16/1 (2004): 135–148. off-site
  3. Turley, Walker and Leonard, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, 124–125.
  4. Robert D. Crockett, "The Denton Debacle (Review of: American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857)," FARMS Review 16/1 (2004): 135–148. off-site