Criticism of Mormonism/Books/American Massacre/Chapter 15

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Response to claims made in Chapter 15: "Mountain Meadows, March 23, 1877"

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 15: Mountain Meadows, March 23, 1877"

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Response to claim: 222 - The author claims that a "Jack Mormon" is one "who is not devout but not apostate"

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

The author claims that a "Jack Mormon" is one "who is not devout but not apostate."

Author's sources:
  1. No source given.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

In modern usage, a "Jack Mormon" may sometimes refer to a less-active or less-observant Latter-day Saint. [1]

In the nineteenth century, however, a "Jack Mormon" was a non-Mormon who was nevertheless sympathetic or friendly to Mormons. [2]


Response to claim: 224 - The "Mormon euphemism for blood-atoning murders" was to be "put away"

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

The "Mormon euphemism for blood-atoning murders" was to be "put away."

Author's sources:
  • Klingensmith testimony, Brooks, Mountain Meadows Witness, 191.
  • Lee, 339
  • Fielding, Tribune Reports, 109.

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 here relies only on the testimony of convicted murderer Lee, and self-confessed murderer Klingensmith (who turned state's evidence for immunity).


Response to claim: 227 - John D. Lee denied that Brigham Young ordered the massacre because he believed that Brigham "would protect him from harm"

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

John D. Lee denied that Brigham Young ordered the massacre because he believed that Brigham "would protect him from harm."

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

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

Lee had the chance for immunity if he would turn evidence against Brigham: "both Orson F. Whitney and the New York Herald reported that Howard offered Lee a full pardon in exchange for evidence against Brigham Young." [3] That he never did so strongly suggests he had no such evidence.


Response to claim: 228 - Young fully realized that the Mountain Meadows Massacre would continue to plague him until someone was held accountable for the crime

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

 Author's quote: Young fully realized that the Mountain Meadows Massacre would continue to plague him until someone was held accountable for the crime. In a calculated and mutually beneficial deal, Young and Howard came to terms. Young would make available all witnesses and evidence necessary for a conviction of Lee. In exchange, Howard would limit the testimony implicating Young, George Smith, and other church leaders in the affair, and drop charges against Dame. It was an extraordinary quid pro quo that neither side apparently committed to writing.

Author's sources:

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

If it was never committed to writing, how does the author know about it? The author here again follows Bagley uncritically.

Response to claim: 230 - John D. Lee chose to be shot rather than beheaded as "a clear signal to the faithful that he rejected a spiritual need to atone for any sins"

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

John D. Lee chose to be shot rather than beheaded as "a clear signal to the faithful that he rejected a spiritual need to atone for any sins."

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

How do we know this signal was clear? How do we know what he intended? How do we know how others understood it? Evidence is needed. It is not clear why a convicted murderer's insistence that he had done nothing wrong tells us anything except that which we already knew—the murderer is callous with no regard for moral laws.


Response to claim: 233 - Before he is executed, Lee makes a statement against Brigham Young, saying that "I do not agree with him. I believe he is leading the people astray..."

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

Before he is executed, Lee makes a statement against Brigham Young, saying that "I do not agree with him. I believe he is leading the people astray..."

Author's sources:
  1. No source is provided for any of the lengthy quoted comments on page 233.

FairMormon Response

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

This quotation argues against the posthumous claims made in Lee's "confession," upon which Denton bases her case. If Lee was about to be executed, why would he only claim Brigham was leading the people astray—why would he write an expose of Brigham's complicity in the Massacre, and then not announce at his execution (or before) that Brigham was guilty of ordering the murders?


Notes

  1. The modern usage of "jack mormon" can be seen in the user-edited Urban Dictionary (accessed 17 June 2009). See also Pat Bagley, "'Jack Mormon' once meant something else" Salt Lake Tribune (13 January 2008): B4.
  2. See Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 2:332 note. GospeLink (requires subscrip.) Thomas Sharp (hostile editor of the Warsaw Signal) is the first known to have used the term in print (see Illinois State Register [1 Nov 1844]; reprinted in Nauvoo Neighbor [13 Nov 1844].)
  3. 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