Criticism of Mormonism/Books/American Massacre/Chapter 4

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Response to claims made in "Chapter Four: Winter Quarters—Council Bluffs, 1846"

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 Four: Winter Quarters—Council Bluffs, 1846"

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Response to claim: 42 - The author blames Col. Thomas Kane for helping to cover up the Massacre

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

The author blames Col. Thomas Kane for helping to cover up the Massacre.

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

This claim by the author is nonsense.


Question: Did Colonel Thomas Kane attempt to cover up the Mountain Meadows Massacre?

The claim that Kane was responsible for covering up the massacre finds no support in history

Critics who use the Mountain Meadows Massacre to attack the Church often mention non-LDS Col. Thomas Kane. Kane was a good friend to the Mormons prior to Joseph Smith's death, and he was also briefly involved in the Massacre issue. There are two issues raised by critics in conjunction with Kane:

  1. some blame Kane for helping Brigham Young to cover up the Massacre
  2. some paint Kane as ridiculous, vain, or foolish—this is apparently done on the theory that anyone who likes or helps the Mormons must either be evil or a dupe.

Noted one reviewer:

The claim that Kane was responsible for covering up the massacre (p. 47) finds no support in history, nor does Denton cite primary sources for her view other than Kane's participation in advising Young to respond to federal inquiries in 1858 (p. 208). As I point out in my review of Bagley's Blood of the Prophets, the massacre investigation spanned decades and involved sitting presidents, cabinet members, attorneys general, federal district attorneys, federal marshals, territorial marshals, and more. Kane was out of the picture shortly after the massacre." [1]

Negative portrayal

Denton's American Massacre portrays Kane as arrogant, effeminate, a hypochondriac, and with delusions of fame. Wrote one reviewer of her portrait:

Denton's discussion of Kane is mercilessly out of context. Biographies and journals of nineteenth-century 'Renaissance' men reveal that many accomplished men adopted what appear today to be affectations of self-importance and prolixity. Stenhouse, no advocate of Brigham Young nor necessarily fair with his sources when discussing Mormonism, treated Kane respectfully in his nineteenth-century work, Rocky Mountain Saints. Stenhouse tells us that 'in the relations of Col. Kane with the Mormons at that time, there was exhibited evidence of the highest Christian charity and personal heroism of character.'" [2]


Response to claim: 53 - The author claims that John D. Lee was sent by Brigham to intercept the payroll from the Mormon battalion in order to consecrate it to the Church

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

The author claims that John D. Lee was sent by Brigham to intercept the payroll from the Mormon battalion in order to consecrate it to the Church.

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 puts an ominous spin on something benign. Members joined the Mormon battalion in part to provide needed funds for the Church and their families (most of whom remained with the church) to help with the migration west. According to the cited source:

On August 28, about dark, President Young visited John D. Lee in his tent. "I have a very dangerous but responsible mission for you to perform," he said. "I want you to to follow up the Mormon Batallion and be at Santa Fe when they receive their payment. Can you go?" "I am willing to do whatever I can to further the cause," Lee answered without hesitation. . . . "Go, and God will protect you," Brother Brigham said, laying a firm hand on his shoulder. "I shall see that your families do not want. It is most important that we have what money we can get if we are to have food to survive this winter. Even then I have a heavy heart when I think of what is ahead.."

Then Lee accepted one of the most important assignments of his career.

It should be noted that there is no use of the words "intercept" or "consecrate it" anywhere in the chapter.


Response to claim: 54 - he author claims that Brigham declared "his own death and resurrection"

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

The author claims that Brigham declared "his own death and resurrection."

FairMormon Response

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

On page 454 of Year of Decision: 1846, DeVoto writes that Brigham Young fell into a trance, which took him to where Joseph and Hyrum were. "It is hard," he told the Saints next Sunday, "it is hard coming to life again. But I know that I went to the world of spirits but what I saw I know not, for the vision went away from me, as a dream which you lose when you awake."

There is no mention of a declaration of "his own death and resurrection" anywhere in the chapter. Brigham is reporting a vision or spiritual experience with the deceased Joseph and Hyrum. At most, one might call it an "out of body experience"—Brigham is not claiming to have been "resurrected" in any sense used by Latter-day Saints.


Response to claim: 55 - The author claims that Brigham "overcame resistance" from the Council of the Twelve and "finalized his own ascendancy" in order to be "elevated to a deity"

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

The author claims that Brigham "overcame resistance" from the Council of the Twelve and "finalized his own ascendancy" in order to be "elevated to a deity."

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

This claim is absurd: no LDS leader is thought of as "a deity." Brigham certainly was aware of his own shortcomings.


Response to claim: 59 - The author claims that Brigham Young "gave an ominous warning to all who had come. From this point forward, anyone who refused to live the laws about to be set forth was free to leave"

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

The author claims that in Brigham's very first address to the Saints after arriving in the Salt Lake valley that he "gave an ominous warning to all who had come. From this point forward, anyone who refused to live the laws about to be set forth was free to leave."

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

 Internal contradiction: This contradicts what the author states on page 106, where she says that anyone that wanted to leave was "hunted down and killed"


Notes

  1. 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
  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