Criticism of Mormonism/Books/American Massacre/Chapter 8

Table of Contents

Response to claims made in "Chapter 8: Deseret, August 3, 1857"

A FairMormon Analysis of: American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, a work by author: Sally Denton
Claim Evaluation
American Massacre
Chart american massacre chapter 8.jpg

Response to claims made in American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, "Chapter 8: Deseret, August 3, 1857"

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Response to claim: 104 - Deaths in the handcart companies caused "most Salt Lake Mormons" to lay the blame "squarely at Young's feet"

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

According to the author, deaths in the handcart companies caused "most Salt Lake Mormons" to lay the blame "squarely at Young's feet."

Author's sources: No source provided.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - 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 has no evidence to support this claim.



Response to claim: 105 - The book discusses the "Mormon Reformation"

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

The book discusses the "Mormon Reformation."

Author's sources: * N/A

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event





Response to claim: 105 - The author claims that Brigham said that "all backsliders should be 'hewn down'"

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

The author claims that Brigham said that "all backsliders should be 'hewn down'".

Author's sources: *Josiah F. Gibbs, 'The Mountain Meadows Massacre, 8ff

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Nobody was ever killed for rejecting Mormonism.

Question: Was "not receiving the Gospel" a crime that was "worthy of death" among 19th century Mormons?

The critics of the Church would like us to believe that Brigham was literally talking about killing those who were opposed to the Gospel

The Tanners use the following quote from Brigham Young to conclude that those who do not receive the gospel should be killed:

The time is coming when justice will be laid to the line and righteousness to the plummet; when we shall ask, 'Are you for God?' and if you are not heartily on the Lord's side, you will be hewn down.[1]

The critics would like us to believe that Brigham was literally talking about killing those who were opposed to the Gospel. The first thing to note is that the Tanner have removed a phrase from the quote without indicating it's absence. The actual quote says:

The time is coming when justice will be laid to the line and righteousness to the plummet; when we shall take the old broad sword and ask, "Are you for God?" and if you are not heartily on the Lord's side, you will be hewn down. (emphasis added)

Brigham is clearly not advocating that anyone who does not receive the gospel should be put to death

One wonders why the critics felt they needed to remove the reference to "the old broad sword"—Perhaps it is because this phrase clearly indicated that Brigham was speaking figuratively rather than literally? Consider also, that just prior to the statement shown above, Brigham said:

I would rather that this people should starve to death in the mountains, than to have the Lord Almighty hand us over to a cursed, infernal mob. I would rather go down to the grave in peace than to fight a mob, unless the Lord would give me enough Saints to fight and kill the poor devils; in such case I wish to live and fight them.[2]

Brigham is clearly not advocating that anyone who does not receive the gospel should be put to death.


Response to claim: 105 - A list of thirteen questions was "conceived by Young and expanded by Grant"

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

A list of thirteen questions was "conceived by Young and expanded by Grant."

Author's sources: *Gustive O. Larson, "The Mormon Reformation," Utah Historical Society Quarterly 26 (January 1958).
  • Hirshson, 155
  • David L. Bigler, Forgotten Kingdom: The Mormon Theocracy in the American West, 1847–1896 (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1998), 127. (bias and errors) Review.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This list of questions sounds very much like a temple recommend interview today. A number of the same questions are still asked.



Response to claim: 106 - Blood atonement

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

Blood atonement

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event





Question: What is "blood atonement"?

If a person thereafter commits a grievous sin such as the shedding of innocent blood, only by voluntarily submitting to whatever penalty the Lord may require can that person benefit from the Atonement of Christ

From the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

The doctrines of the Church affirm that the Atonement wrought by the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is efficacious for the sins of all who believe, repent, are baptized by one having authority, and receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. However, if a person thereafter commits a grievous sin such as the shedding of innocent blood, the Savior's sacrifice alone will not absolve the person of the consequences of the sin. Only by voluntarily submitting to whatever penalty the Lord may require can that person benefit from the Atonement of Christ.

Several early Church leaders, most notably Brigham Young, taught that in a complete theocracy the Lord could require the voluntary shedding of a murderer's blood-presumably by capital punishment-as part of the process of Atonement for such grievous sin. This was referred to as "blood Atonement." Since such a theocracy has not been operative in modern times, the practical effect of the idea was its use as a rhetorical device to heighten the awareness of Latter-day Saints of the seriousness of murder and other major sins. This view is not a doctrine of the Church and has never been practiced by the Church at any time.

Early anti-Mormon writers charged that under Brigham Young the Church practiced "blood Atonement," by which they meant Church-instigated violence directed at dissenters, enemies, and strangers. This claim distorted the whole idea of blood atonement-which was based on voluntary submission by an offender-into a supposed justification of involuntary punishment. Occasional isolated acts of violence that occurred in areas where Latter-day Saints lived were typical of that period in the history of the American West, but they were not instances of Church-sanctioned blood Atonement.[3]

Reports of "blood atonement" having occurred were exaggerated and sensationalized

As one historian noted,

That the doctrine [of blood atonement] was preached by high officials is a matter of record; the intent of the sermons became a matter of conjecture; and the results therefrom set vivid imaginations working overtime. Blood fairly flowed through the writing of such men as Beadle in Life in Utah or the Mysteries of Mormonism and Polygamy, in Linn's The Story of Mormonism, and even Stenhouse's anonymous chapter on Reformation and Blood Atonement in his Rocky Mountain Saints. Numerous killings, including the Mountain Meadows massacre, were credited as the fruits of the doctrine....

Omitted from quotations used by the anti-Mormons were restraining clauses such as follow from Brigham Young:

. . . The time has been in Israel under the law of God that if a man was found guilty of adultery, he must have his blood shed, and that is near at hand. But now I say, in the name of the Lord, that if this people will sin no more, but faithfully live their religion, their sins will be forgiven them without taking life.

The wickedness and ignorance of the nations forbid this principle's being in full force, but the time will come when the law of God will be in full force.

The doctrine of blood atonement which involved concern for the salvation of those to be subjected to it, could have little meaning in the [p.62] Mountain Meadows massacre, or any other of the murders laid unproved on the Mormon threshold (emphasis added).[4]

There is evidence that some crimes were considered worthy of death, even in the apostolic age among Christians

Despite the critics' claims, there is evidence that some crimes were considered worthy of death, even in the apostolic age among Christians:

Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him....[Chapter 5] If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not" (1 John 3:15; 1 John 5:16-18) (italics added).


Response to claim: 106 - The author claims that "those who dared to flee Zion were hunted down and killed"

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

The author claims that "those who dared to flee Zion were hunted down and killed."

Author's sources: Cannon and Knapp, 268.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - 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 is nonsense, and there is no evidence that this actually happened. This also contradicts what the author said on page 59, where she claims that Brigham said that anyone was "free to leave."



Response to claim: 106 - The killing of William R. Parrish, "an elderly Mormon in high standing"

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

The killing of William R. Parrish, "an elderly Mormon in high standing."

Author's sources: Cannon and Knapp, 268.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event





Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

No guilty parties were ever found.



Question: Were William Parrish and his son murdered as they attempted to leave Utah because leaving Utah was "forbidden"?

No guilty parties were ever found

The Los Angeles Star reported that Indians had supposedly killed Parrish and two others; it noted too that "rumor had it [that Parrish]...'had a difficulty with the authorities about removing property which he had previously 'consecrated' to the church.'" [5] No guilty parties were ever found. [6]

The only "leader" accused was Parrish's bishop. [7] If a local leader did commit an act of murder, this proves nothing about Brigham Young or other general leaders ordering it, or that this is a representative example of how Utah Mormons dealt with apostates.


Response to claim: 106 - Castration of a man by Bishop Warren Snow who was "engaged to a woman Snow wanted to take for a plural wife"

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

Castration of a man by Bishop Warren Snow who was "engaged to a woman Snow wanted to take for a plural wife."

Author's sources: David L. Bigler, Forgotten Kingdom: The Mormon Theocracy in the American West, 1847–1896 (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1998), 132. (bias and errors) Review

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The castration did occur, but not for the reason stated by the author.

Question: Did Bishop Warren S. Snow forcibly castrate twenty-four-year-old Thomas Lewis?

Bishop Warren S. Snow and a group of men forcibly castrated twenty-four-year-old Thomas Lewis

Bishop Warren S. Snow forcibly castrated twenty-four-year-old Thomas Lewis. The popular story is that Lewis's alleged crime was wanting to marry a young woman that was desired by an older man as a plural wife. It is claimed that Brigham Young wrote in a letter his approval after the fact in 1857. The full story gives a somewhat different picture of these events.

Lewis was being transported to the penitentiary at the time that this event occurred

Lewis was not attacked simply for desiring a marriage. Samuel Pitchforth noted that the attack occurred at night as Lewis was being transported to the penitentiary for an unspecified crime. Pitchforth was the clerk of the Nephi Ward, who knew Bishop Snow well and wrote his account very shortly after the incident. John A. Peterson, in his December 1985 Master's Thesis, notes that "the sermons delivered in the Manti ward, the spirit of the times, the form of punishment itself and the record of Brigham's reaction to it make it clear that Lewis had committed a sexual crime." [8] The attack was aided by the individual who had been transporting Lewis to prison, and it appears to have been in retribution for the crime that Lewis committed. While being transported at night, Snow and his gang secretly intercepted Lewis and carried out the castration.

According to his biographer, Snow's life and experience had given him a "violent and vengeful world view," which helps in understanding his motivation to attack and maim Lewis.

Federal marshals and judges were aware of the Lewis incident, and sought Snow's capture. However, they were eventually instructed by political leaders in Washington to let the matter drop. It was a Gentile political decision not to prosecute Snow for his actions.[9]

Given that in the 19th century there was a common tendency for "frontier justice" to be carried out extra-legally, especially in the case of sexual crimes, its occurrence in areas far from central Church control is not particularly surprising. Castrated males were guilty of sexual assault or incest, not for competing for a woman's affections.

This event occurred during the Mormon Reformation, when inflammatory rhetoric called for harsh punishment for sin and crime

These events occurred during the Mormon Reformation, when inflammatory rhetoric called for harsh punishment for sin and crime. For Brigham the time for the actual implementation of such punishment had not yet actually arrived, and was primarily hyperbole designed to stir a sinful population to improvement. Some listeners like Snow took things literally.


Response to claim: 106 - The author claims that the "bloody regime…ended with" Jedediah "Grant's sudden death, on December 1, 1856"

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

The author claims that the "bloody regime…ended with [Jedediah] Grant's sudden death, on December 1, 1856."

Author's sources: David L. Bigler, Forgotten Kingdom: The Mormon Theocracy in the American West, 1847–1896 (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1998), 133. (bias and errors) Review

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

There is no evidence of Grant implementing "blood atonement."

Response to claim: 108 - Surveyor General David Burr "fled for his life"

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

Surveyor General David Burr "fled for his life."

Author's sources: House Exec. Doc. 71, 118-20.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

Burr did not mention any threats against his life even in his official report to Congress.



Question: Was Surveyor General David H. Burr threatened with death by Mormons while he was in Utah?

Burr did not mention any threats against his life even in his official report to Congress

It is claimed that the Mormons' hostile attitude to the United States is revealed by death threats made against U.S. surveyor general David H. Burr.

Burr did not mention any threats against his life even in his official report to Congress. These claims were made later, and are therefore suspicious. They may well have their roots more in anti-Mormon animus than in the facts. If the Mormons had threatened a federal appointee's life, why would he not report such behavior to the Congress which sent him?

The appointment of a U.S. surveyor general raised some problems for the Saints in in Utah:

the Indian title had not yet been extinguished; the sections were not open to preemption, and the saints therefore found themselves merely in the condition of squatters in their land of Zion. They were ready to purchase, but the organic act forbade the primary disposal of the soil, and, as it seems, the government, knowing their ability and their eagerness to purchase, still hesitated to make them its permanent owners. Nevertheless, a few years before, this portion of the public domain had virtually been ceded to them as worthless.[10]

Worried that the government might be trying to use legal maneuvering to dispossess them of the land they had settled and improved, some Mormons may have tried to hamper Burr's work

Worried that the government might be trying to use legal maneuvering to dispossess them of the land they had settled and improved, some Mormons may have tried to hamper Burr's work. In spring 1857, Burr would return to the east, claiming that he could not perform his duties and that his life had been threatened.

However, there is no independent confirmation of these claims, as one non-LDS historian noted:

according to a writer in the Internat. Rev., Feb. 1882, p. 192, [Burr] met with such opposition that he was compelled to flee for his life. I find no confirmation of this statement, nor does Mr Burr mention any disagreement with the Mormon authorities in his report, in House Ex. Doc., 34th Cent. 3d Sess., i. pt i. pp. 542-9.[11]


Response to claim: 110-112 - It is claimed that Parley P. Pratt was killed because he married Elenore McLean when she was not divorced from her husband

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

It is claimed that Parley P. Pratt was killed because he married Elenore McLean when she was not divorced from her husband.

Author's sources:
  • Reva Stanley, The Archer of Paradise: A Biography of Parley Pratt, 163.
  • Steven Pratt, "Eleanor McLean," 227.
  • Fielding, Unsolicited Chronicler, 382.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Eleanor declared herself divorced from Hector, who had been abusing her.

Question: Was Parley P. Pratt murdered because he stole another man's wife?

Parley Pratt is accused of being sealed to Eleanor Mclean without her having divorced her husband

Pratt’s last wife, Eleanor, “was sealed to him without divorcing her legal husband, who fatally shot Parley near Van Buren, Arkansas” (p. 333). There is, however, much that we are not told. Eleanor’s husband was a heavy drinker, which in 1844 resulted in separation. The couple was reconciled, and the family moved to San Francisco. While in California, Eleanor discovered the church. Her husband forbade her to join and “purchased a sword cane and threatened to kill her and the minister who baptized her if she became a Mormon.” [12]

It is therefore claimed by critics of Mormonism that Parley P. Pratt's practice of polygamy was responsible for his murder, partly because he married a woman who hadn't been divorced from her first husband.

  • Was Parley P. Pratt building a "harem" of wives?
  • Did Parley P. Pratt "induce" another man's wife to join the Church simply so that he could add her as a polygamous wife?

Eleanor's husband Hector physically abused her

Eleanor attended LDS meetings, and one Sunday at home, “while Eleanor was singing from a Mormon hymn book she had purchased, Hector tore the book from her hands, threw it into the fire, beat her, cast her out into the street, and locked the door.” [13]

Eleanor declared herself divorced from Hector

Eleanor lodged a complaint of assault and battery against Hector and planned to leave him until prevailed upon by local church members and her physician. At that point, said Eleanor, “I presume McLean himself would not deny that I then declared that I would no more be his wife however many years I might be compelled to appear as such for the sake of my children". [14]

Eleanor was not baptized until 1854, and she had the written permission of her husband to do so. However, he forbade her to read church literature or to sing church hymns at home. It is not clear, then, why G. D. Smith feels Eleanor owed an observance of all the twentieth-century legal niceties to a violent, abusive, tyrannical drunkard. Through it all, as a church leader, Parley Pratt had tried to help the couple reconcile.

Eleanor's husband Hector erupts over baptism of children and tries to have her declared insane

Eleanor had her children baptized, and Hector responded by filing a charge of insanity against his wife so he could have her committed to an asylum. Hector sent her children by steamer to their maternal grandparents’ home, confined Eleanor to the house, and again threatened to have her committed for insanity. Eleanor eventually found her children at her parents’ home, but they refused to let her take them. [15] Eleanor went to Salt Lake City and married Pratt on 14 November 1855. As we have seen, she considered herself divorced from Hector from the time he violently threw her from their home in San Francisco. They never received a civil divorce, however.

Nineteenth century marriages did not always end in a formal divorce

It is assumed that nineteenth century marriages always ended in a formal divorce. They did not--this was often impossible. From which authority, exactly, would G. D. Smith prefer that Eleanor receive a divorce? She was in Utah; Hector was in San Francisco. He had abused, beaten, confined, and threatened to institutionalize her. As we have seen, notions of divorce were also more fluid in the mid-nineteenth century, especially on the frontier. It is unlikely that most contemporaries would have insisted that Eleanor required a formal divorce.

After Eleanor married Parley, Hector pursued and shot him six times and stabbed him twice

Pratt was arrested on trumped-up charges, freed by a non-Mormon judge, and pursued by Hector, who shot the unarmed apostle six times and stabbed him twice. He was left to bleed to death over the course of two hours. [16] In G. D. Smith’s worldview, are men like Hector entitled to hold women emotionally or martially hostage, civil divorce or no? One suspects not. But in his zeal to condemn the church, he does not provide his readers with the facts necessary to understand the Pratts’ choices.


Response to claim: 112-113 - In Brigham's speech on July 24, 1857, he said that "This American Continent will be Zion..."

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

In Brigham's speech on July 24, 1857, he said that "This American Continent will be Zion...for it is so spoken of by the Prophets." The author interprets this to mean that the "godless American government's moving against them signaled the beginning of their Armageddon scenario" and would result in Brigham's "ascendancy" to rule the Kingdom of God on earth.

Author's sources: Fielding, Unsolicited Chronicler, 383.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

There was nothing anti-American or threatening in Brigham's speech.

Question: Did Brigham Young indicate in a speech in 1857 that the American government would fall to the Mormons?

There is nothing of the violent apocalyptic or animus targeted at the United States in general in this address

In Brigham's speech on July 24, 1857, he said that "This American Continent will be Zion...for it is so spoken of by the Prophets." It is claimed that this means that the "godless American government's moving against them signaled the beginning of their Armageddon scenario" and would result in Brigham's "ascendancy" to rule the Kingdom of God on earth. However, there is nothing of the violent apocalyptic or animus targeted at the United States in general in this address.

As is often the case, the critics provide only a small snippet of text, which distorts what is being said. A more complete section shows Brigham's intent (italics represent the material quoted by Denton):

I am decidedly in favour of practical religion—of every-day useful life. And if I to-day attend to what devolves upon me to do, and then do that which presents itself to-morrow, and so on, when eternity comes I will be prepared to enter on the things of [p.4] eternity. But I would not be prepared for that sphere of action, unless I could manage the things that are now within my reach. You must all learn to do this....

You hear brethren talk of coming to Zion to enjoy the blessings of this land; but do you not see that it is the shortsightedness of men which causes their disappointment when they arrive here? They read in the Bible, in the Book of Mormon, and Book of Doctrine and Covenants, about Zion, and what it is to be; but brother Park and others could not realize, before they came here, that they were the ones to help to build up Zion. They gather here with the spirit of Zion resting upon them, and expecting to find Zion in its glory, whereas their own doctrine should teach them that they are coming here to make Zion.

We can make Zion, or we can make Babylon, just as we please. We can make just what we please of this place. The people can make Zion: they can make a heaven within themselves. When people gather here, they should come with a determination to make Zion within themselves, with the resolution that "I will carry myself full of the Spirit of Zion wherever I go; and this is the way in which I will control evil spirits; for I mean that my spirit shall have control over evil:" and do you not see that such a course will make Zion?

This American continent will be Zion; for it is so spoken of by the prophets. Jerusalem will be rebuilt and will be the place of gathering, and the tribe of Judah will gather there; but this continent of America is the land of Zion.[17]

Clearly, Brigham is not talking about an apocalyptic confrontation with the U.S. government. He is insisting that the western hemisphere's destiny is to be "Zion," which can only come when people "make Zion in [them]selves," "control evil spirits," "control over evil." Their individual choices govern the kind of society which they will have.

That Brigham is not speaking in an anti-American vein is clear, given his attitude toward Americans in the same speech:

It is an ignorant excitement which causes some people in the States to feel and act as they do. Who is there, of all who are really acquainted with our proceedings and will let good reason and good sense operate, that has one word to say against us? No one....

There is not an honest man in the United States or in the world but what, if he could hear this doctrine taught without knowing that it was a "Mormon" who was teaching it, would drink down these principles....

As I have said before, I have often gone incog., and taught persons the Gospel, and they would drink down its principles as eagerly as a thirsty ox would drink water; but an ignorant prejudice causes all the trouble. The excitement among the priests, and directed by politicians, raises this erroneous prejudice and hue-and-cry....

In regard to troops coming here, as has been rumored, should 1,500 or 2,000 come, what will you see? You will see that they will ask us to make their soldiers behave themselves, until they can get out of this place, which they will do as soon as possible. They are not coming here to fight us; though, if they were to, I should pray that the Lord would bring those here that mobbed us in days gone by, and just let us look at them. But no; the priests, and some editors and politicians wish to have innocent soldiers sent here to fight us. Let [p.6] them bring those priests, editors, and politicians who have howled so long about us, and we will attend to their cases. But I pray that I may never witness such scenes as I have in the midst of this people. If they will let us alone, we will preach the Gospel; and if they do not, we will do it, and we will build up Zion, if all the devils in hell howl. Let us know that we have to build up Zion until the Spirit of peace shall overrule our country.

Brigham is not fond of corrupt politicians or religious leaders who feel threatened by his doctrine and visited violent persecution on the Saints. But he is hardly hostile and expecting an apocalyptic confrontation between the Mormons and the United States—in this speech, he suspects that there will be no violence and the army will soon leave. He prays that he will never see scenes of violence again—a strange wish if he is anticipating an apocalyptic final battle with the evil United States.

Brigham's solution is to "build up Zion" so that there may be peace, and (as he indicated earlier) this starts with an internal control and reformation of the self. He makes clear the type of society he hopes to have:

Look at St. Louis. More murders have been committed there in almost any few days than have been committed in this Territory since it was organized. It is customary there to have murders committed almost daily; but we, above all other people, ought never to have such a crime committed in our midst; and we never have had, so far as the Latter-day Saints are concerned.


Response to claim: 115 - The author claims that "Indian" massacres that occurred in Utah Territory were actually carried out by "white-faced Indians who used Mormon slang"

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

The author claims that "Indian" massacres that occurred in Utah Territory were actually carried out by "white-faced Indians who used Mormon slang."

Author's sources: No source provided.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - 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 needs evidence beside her assertion to prove this point.



Response to claim: 115 - Brigham instructed the people to "hoard their grain" and not sell to any gentiles

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

Brigham instructed the people to "hoard their grain," according to the author. People were told to "report without delay any person in your District that disposes of a Kernel of grain to any Gentile merchant or temporary sojourner."

Author's sources: Brooks, Mountain Meadows Massacre, xvii-xviii.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Counsel and advice were given to the citizens not to sell grain to the emigrants to feed their stock, but to let them have sufficient for themselves if they were out.

Question: Did Brigham Young issue orders that no food or grain should be sold to "Gentiles" that were passing through Utah?

The full context of the letter from Brigham is totally and utterly lost in an effort to cast Brigham in the worst light possible

The critical book One Nation Under Gods mentions "Brigham's prohibition on trading with Gentiles." The author states that "on August 2, 1857, Young wrote a letter telling church leaders to make sure no one sold as much as 'one kernal' of grain to their enemies. The author cites "Brigham Young letter to Bronson and Haight, August 2, 1857, MS 1234 LDSCA." [18]

In attempting to identify reasons for conflict between Utah Mormons and non-Mormon emigrants and travelers, the author uses a letter from Brigham Young out of context and insert words into the text that don't exist. All this, without even having a complete copy of the text of the letter the he used as documentation. The author has twisted and contorted this letter to serve the purpose of placing Brigham in the light of being a ruthless governor, attempting to starve the "Gentiles," while stocking up on weapons and ammunition. The full context is totally and utterly lost in an effort to cast Brigham in the worst light possible. It is simply misleading to omit the underlying reasons for Brigham's instructions.

The critics' version of the letter from Brigham Young

When asked for a copy of the text of the letter from Young to Bronson, the author provided the following:

Bishop Bronson, Dear Brother,

I wish you to notify all Presiding elders within Millard County to have the Brethren in their district to save all their grain, nor let a kernal [sic] go to waste or be sold to our enemies. And those who persist in selling grain to the gentiles, or suffer their stock to trample it into the earth I wish you to note as such. Let the Bishops get all the grain not necessary for immediate use, into their hands, if possible…. Save your ammunition, keep your Guns and Pistols in order, and prepare yourselves in all things-particularly by living your religion-for that which may hereafter come to pass. Praying that God may add to you his blessing.

I am your Brother in Christ

Copy sent to president I.C. Haight for the Bishops and presiding Elders in and south of Iron County.

The author did not have a copy of the actual letter. He only had an abbreviated and incomplete copy obtained by someone else

Here is the complete letter (The author didn't know the contents of the omitted portion) from the Church Archives (with the omitted portion in ellipsis, above, written in BOLD ALL CAPS, below):

I wish you to notify all Presiding elders within Millard County to have the Brethren in their districts to save all their grain; nor let a kernal [sic] go to waste or be sold to our enemies. And those who persist in selling grain to the gentiles, or suffer their stock to trample it into the earth I wish you to note as such. Let the Bishops get all the grain not necessary for immediate use, into their hands, if possible; AND BY HAVING GOOD STOREAGES, TAKE MEASURES TO PRESERVE IT AS LONG AS MAY BE NECESSARY.

LET EVERY POUND OF WOOL BE USED TO THE BEST ADVANTAGE IN MANUFACTURING COMFORTABLE CLOTHING AS IT MAY HEREAFTER BE HIGHLY IMPORTANT TO US. Save your ammunition, keep your Guns and Pistols in order, and prepare yourselves in all things-particularly by living your religion-for that which may hereafter come to pass. Praying that God may add to you his blessing.

First, the intent of Brigham's orders was not to "starve" the travelers by withholding food. There was absolutely no malice involved, using this source as a reference. The obvious purpose was conservation and having the bishops store all the grain they could and not let "one kernal" go to waste, period. Of course, the reader wouldn't get this from the selective quoting the author uses or without the entire context and the omitted section about storing and preserving it as long as possible.

Second, there is no mention of "food." The author's assertion that food was implied by Brigham, as an item not to sell or trade with the emigrants, has no basis. This letter only mentions grain, which was used for feeding livestock or could be turned into flour for obvious food purposes. It has been pointed out by others that traveling emigrants would have had no use for grain as food. They didn't have mobile wheat grinders. The grain would have only been used for livestock. Had Brigham meant food, he would have included many other food items that were in the possession of the Utah residents. Brigham's deposition in John D. Lee's trial also demonstrates that was exactly what he was talking about.

Counsel and advice were given to the citizens not to sell grain to the emigrants to feed their stock, but to let them have sufficient for themselves if they were out

Was any counsel or instructions given by any person to the citizens of Utah not to sell grain or trade with the emigrant trains passing through Utah at that time? If so, what were those instructions and counsel?

[Brigham Young] Answer -- Yes, counsel and advice were given to the citizens not to sell grain to the emigrants to feed their stock, but to let them have sufficient for themselves if they were out. The simple reason for this was that for several years our crops had been short, and the prospect was at that time that we might have trouble with the United States army, then enroute for this place, and we wanted to preserve the grain for food. The citizens of the Territory were counseled not to feed grain to their own stock. No person was ever punished or called in question for furnishing supplies to the emigrants, within my knowledge." (The Mountain Meadows Massacre by Juanita Brooks, p. 286)

Third, this conservation and preparation effort was not limited to "food" and "weapons" as the author would have his readers believe. In the context of the letter, wool and clothing and storage of grain are also mentioned, giving us a larger picture that malice toward the "Gentiles" was not the intent; preparing for battle with and deprivation of the "Gentiles" was not the purpose. Conservation, preparing for hard times, and the imminent arrival of the Army were the purposes.


Response to claim: 120 - The author claims that "it seem most likely that" Charles "Rich advised the Fancher train to take the Southern Trail"

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

The author claims that "it seem most likely that [Charles] Rich advised the Fancher train to take the Southern Trail."

Author's sources: Author's opinion.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Jacob Hamblin would testify that the Fancher train "being of southern people had preferred to take the southern route." [19]

Response to claim: 121 - Will Bagley claims that "all information about the emigrants' conduct came from men involved in their murder or cover-up"

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

Will Bagley claims that "all information about the emigrants' conduct came from men involved in their murder or cover-up."

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Junaita Brooks pointed out that accounts of provocation from the immigrants appeared within days as far away California, and from |multiple sources.

Notes

  1. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 3:226.
  2. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 3:224.
  3. Lowell M. Snow, "Blood atonement," Encyclopedia of Mormonism.
  4. Gustave O. Larson, "The Mormon Reformation," Utah Historical Quarterly 26/1 (January 1958): 60-62.
  5. Edward Leo Lyman, San Bernadino: The Rise and Fall of a California Community (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1996), 342–343.
  6. Thomas G. Alexander, "Wilford Woodruff and the Mormon Reformation of 1855-57," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 25 no. 2 (Summer 1992), 27–28.
  7. Lyman, 343 n. 37.
  8. John A. Peterson, "Warren Stone Snow, a man in between: the biography of a Mormon defender," Master's Thesis, BYU (1985), 115; citing Samuel Pitchforth Diary of Samuel Pitchforth 1857-1868,typescript CHD. The author notes that "no minutes of any civil or church trial for Thomas Lewis' crime have been found but Pitchforth makes it clear that Lewis was under arrest and on the way to the city salt lake city to be taken to the penetentiionary (sic)."
  9. John A. Peterson, "Warren Stone Snow, a man in between: the biography of a Mormon defender," Master's Thesis, BYU (1985), 112.
  10. Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Utah, 1540–1886 (1889), 485. off-site
  11. Howe, 485 n. 12, also citing U. S. Public Laws, 33d Cong. 2d Sess., 611; House Ex. Doc., 46th Cong. 3d Sess., xxvi. p. 971.
  12. Steven Pratt, “Eleanor Mclean and the Murder of Parley P. Pratt,” BYU Studies (Winter 1975): 226.
  13. Steven Pratt, “Eleanor Mclean and the Murder of Parley P. Pratt,” 226.
  14. Pratt, “Eleanor Mclean and the Murder of Parley P. Pratt,” 226, emphasis in original, citing Millennial Star 19:432. (italics in original)
  15. Pratt, “Eleanor Mclean and the Murder of Parley P. Pratt,” 228–31.
  16. Pratt, “Eleanor Mclean and the Murder of Parley P. Pratt,” 241–48.
  17. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 5:3-4.
  18. Richard Abanes, One Nation Under Gods, Endnote 82, page 566 (hardback)
  19. Jacob Hamblin statement in James Henry Carleton, Report on the Subject of the Massacre at the Mountain Meadows, in Utah Territory, in September, 1857 of One Hundred and Twenty Men, women and Children, Who Were from Arkansas (Little Rock, AR: True Democrat Steam press, 1860), 6; cited by Turley, Walker and Leonard, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, 101.