Why Visit Mountain Meadows?

August 20, 2008 | 46 comments
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A week ago I visited Mountain Meadows for the first time.

I was surprisingly hard to find. While the site does appear on maps of the area, there aren’t any signs until you get within a mile of the entrance. That is a shame.

The site is actually quite beautiful and peaceful. It includes both a memorial site and an overlook, with plaques that include a brief explanation and maps of the area. The valley seems greener and more pleasant than much of the surrounding area. While it seems to be on private land, it is surrounded by a National Forest. You can see a map of the area surrounding the area here. (Note, mountain meadows is not specifically marked on this map. Directions are available here).

So why did I want to see it?

On the whole, curiosity. It seems natural in any tragedy to wonder how the victims might have felt, to be curious about the details of what happened and how. To wonder how much pain they experienced, what they thought, whether they were confused over what happened or whether they saw clearly what was happening. Perhaps its a morbid curiosity, I don’t know.

I feel the same thing about the tragic attacks on the World Trade Center here in New York. For those of us who live here (if I dare speak for most New Yorkers), we feel a kind of disconnect with the rest of the country. The connection of the tragedy with an attack on our nation and the associated patriotism doesn’t make much sense. I don’t see why I should wave the flag because of the attacks. I feel sad, not patriotic. Does this come from how close I am to the experience?

I think that the desire that so many Americans have to see ‘ground zero’ is similar to my own desire to see Mountain Meadows. We want to connect somehow to these victims, to imagine their feelings and understand what they experienced. I think there is even a desire at times to understand the motivations and feelings of the perpetrators of these tragedies.

Place has a role in making these connections. Going to the place of an event makes it that much more real. The connection is that much stronger because of being in the place.

There is, of course, some real differences between what happened at Mountain Meadows and what happened at the World Trade Center. Shame is part of these differences. Just as there aren’t many signs pointing the way to Mountain Meadows (I presume at least in part because of shame), I don’t think many members are comfortable with facing what happened in Mountain Meadows.

For me, I want to face this issue of shame head on. One of my ancestors is accused by some of having a part in the tragedy, and while I don’t feel responsibile, I can understand the embarrassment many feel when the tragedy is mentioned.

Somewhere in all the musings above are my reasons. LDS Church members should visit Mountain Meadows, I think. The opportunity to connect to those involved and face whatever shame or embarrassment remains should help us, I believe.

I’ll see you there.

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46 Responses to Why Visit Mountain Meadows?

  1. Dave on August 20, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Kent, I visited the site four years ago — the valley and the location itself is rather unremarkable. I thought the overlook site on the small hill was informative but sombre. The cairn memorial site down in the valley, the LDS site, was also nice but less emotive. For one who has read the history, the whole experience is rather hushed. I’m not sure what visitors who know little of the history make of the site, but I agree it is worth the visit.

  2. Dan on August 20, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    Why should I visit Mountain Meadows? I have absolutely no connection to the event at all. My ancestors were in Romania at the time, farming away in small remote villages, milking cows and going to the local Romanian Orthodox church. I have no emotional connection to the event, no spiritual connection to the event, nothing at all that touches me, besides the sadness that Mormons aggressively took the lives of innocent people. But why should I carry that baggage on my shoulders upon joining this church? It is not my baggage to carry, not my monkey on my back.

    I think the only thing that would warrant my participation in this is in the pressure to issue an apology from the church to the living relatives of those killed.

  3. Clark on August 21, 2008 at 12:37 am

    I’ve driven by the area numerous times. I’ve never stopped primarily because I don’t find historic markets terribly interesting. (I mean really, if the marker was placed in some other random spot would you know? Would it make a difference?)

    There’s some exception if there are old buildings or something like that. But for MMM it’s just odd.

    It is a pretty area though. I recommend folks traveling there. It’s a part of Utah people often bypass and never see.

  4. quinn on August 21, 2008 at 7:04 am

    i’m with dan on this. the event means almost nothing to me personally. how and when it happened is really unimportant to the gospel, and what ever really happened pales in comparison to the murders that god commanded in the old testament (like numbers chapter 31)

  5. John Mansfield on August 21, 2008 at 8:17 am

    I visited the site for the first time in June. It was a weekend that I was haunting the dead; I also visited four cemeteries where 13 of my direct ancestors’ bodies lie. In particular, I gathered with family in Central and visited Enterprise; the two are about 15 miles apart along Hwy 18, with Mountain Meadows in between.

    Museums and sites like this are helpful to me for think over matters. Looking over the valley put the siege and ambush in more concrete terms, and the memorial with the names of the dead emphasized for me the nature of the crime. Not merely were a large number of people killed; entire families were deliberately obliterated from the face of the earth. It was also interesting that every mention of Paiutes was scratched off the the markers. I need to study the matter to learn who is in greater denial, the marker erecters or the marker defacers?

  6. Zach Derr on August 21, 2008 at 9:49 am

    I am reading the book “Massacre at Mountain Meadows” and would like to visit the site after I’m through. Although none of my ancestors took part in the massacre I really feel that the event is part of our heritage as members of the church. I think we need to know how to talk about it and make some sense of it as members.

    It’s a shame when people are adults and don’t know anything about the MMM or say that the wagon train had it coming. I think the book is definitely a great way to get the information out there and that more people will read it and visit the site.

  7. Kent on August 21, 2008 at 9:52 am

    Dan (2), Quinn (4): I’m not sure why having a connection personally ahead of time is really necessary.

    I’ve also visited Gettysburg (none of my ancestors fought in the Civil War at all) and the sites of ancient events in Portugal, Switzerland, England and South Africa — no real connection there either.

    Last year my wife visited Robben Island in South Africa. Should she not have gone because she has no personal connection to South Africa?

    We should visit historic sites (or anywhere for that matter) not because we have a personal connection, but to MAKE a personal connection. And to get past the shame or embarassment that we as Church members sometimes feel, and to learn what it teaches us today.

    Before you actively decide not to go, ask yourself why. Make sure you aren’t just avoiding the experience because it is uncomfortable.

    We as a people need to overcome the denial and shame and embarassment tied up in Mountain Meadows.

  8. JA Benson on August 21, 2008 at 10:31 am

    I am glad that the monument is there. I am grateful the church issued an apology. Yeah I drove by the exit for MMM this summer on my way from St. George to SLC. Normally I like to stop at historical sites. Why did I drive by? Too uncomfortable, DNA guilt, and SHAME; these are the big reasons and I am not too ashamed to admit it. What I have learned from the hideous tragedy of MMM? Don’t always follow blindly in doing what you are told. Beware of emotion. More importantly, search things out in your mind and decide/choose for yourself. I didn’t need to visit the site or read very much about MMM to learn that lesson.

  9. quinn on August 21, 2008 at 10:53 am

    kent, i understand what you are saying, and while that is what i said, it is not the entire meaning that i wanted to convey. i just get bored with this whole topic.

    ‘uncomfortable”, i hate to sound careless, but i really dont care about the mmm. i grew up in the south, and have been hit with ‘uncomfortable’ mormon history my whole life. the mmm is such a small event. (clearly not to those that died, but for history and mormons as a whole)

    i dont care if b young ordered the deaths or not, its not like it is the first time a prophet has ordered people to die, or killed people himself. what is more uncomfortable is moses telling the isrealites, ‘hey kill everyone but the virgins, you can keep them for yourselves’.

  10. maria on August 21, 2008 at 11:56 am

    My parents took us there several times when I was growing up. Since several of my ancestors were likely involved (I’m probably related to you, Kent) I think it was important to them that we be aware of it. I just remember that it was really green, and really beautiful. I will definitely take my children there someday.

  11. Dan on August 21, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    Kent,

    you say:

    Somewhere in all the musings above are my reasons. LDS Church members should visit Mountain Meadows, I think. The opportunity to connect to those involved and face whatever shame or embarrassment remains should help us, I believe.

    I don’t have any shame or embarrassment that needs assistance from a visit to this site. That’s my point. If I happen to be in the area (unlikely seeing that I doubt I will ever go to Utah again before I die), then I might drop by for a visit. But otherwise, there is no wound to heal by a visit for me.

    As to Gettysburg, I actually had the opportunity to drive through it last summer. It was pretty cool to see the valley where all that death and destruction occurred, but I was not otherwise impressed. I think that clearly there are Mormons who feel wounded by the MMM. If they feel that way, they should go and visit the site.

  12. previouslyKent on August 21, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Kent,

    It looks as though I’ll have to find a new name for my posts (I concede that you are a better poster than myself). The bloggernacle isn’t big enough for two Kents.

  13. Kent on August 21, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Quinn (9); Dan (11):

    The way my mind works, I’m not always sure if I’m avoiding something because I’m uncomfortable with it, or if I simply don’t care.

    To a degree I have avoided MMM. The emphasis on the details of who did what is more than I can take. Why should I care?

    I’m still not sure if I’ve been or am in denial. Perhaps this connection will help me find out.

  14. Kent on August 21, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    previouslyKent (12) says “The bloggernacle isn’t big enough for two Kents.”

    Well, my father and I share the same name. If I can cope with that in a family, I don’t see why I couldn’t cope with another Kent in the bloggernacle.

  15. quinn on August 21, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    kent,

    i see your point. i feel that lately, mmm has become something (for no real good reason), and in a few more months it will go away. however, if you arent sure, then youre right, you should explore it until find out.

  16. previouslyKent on August 21, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Yes, but people will think that my lame comments are yours, and your prestige and influence will wane. I’ll probably add a last name initial or something like that.

  17. Kent Larsen on August 21, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    I’ve added my last name also. Thx.

  18. Raymond Takashi Swenson on August 21, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    I understand the Church owns the site, and has refused to donate it to the Federal government or to descendants of the victims. I can understand that it would be all to easy for some people to use it as a billboard for expressing hatred toward not just th perpetrators but toward the Church as a whole.

    The undeveloped nature of the location is similar to a lot of the other massacre and battle sites in the West. In some cases, we may not even be sure precisely where some of the worst conflicts occurred.

    As to the guilt and shame and embarrassment angle: I served in the Air Force for 20 years, and share in the military heritage of the US Army of that era, which killed a lot of Indians with about the same measure of mercy as was given to the victims at Mountain Meadows. Those attacks were considered at the time to be acts of heroism. I can’t recall that any of the Army attackers was ever punished. I have no doubt that there were terrible murders committed by some Indians against some white settlers, but the US Army was a technologically superior force representing an organized government that aspired to living by the rule of law, and should have behaved better.

    And that doesn’t even get us to World War II, and events like the imprisonment of Japanese-American families, most of them natural born citizens. Putting 100,000 innocent people into concentration camps for 3 years, with armed guards prepared to shoot them if they tried to escape, surely led to the early deaths of as many people as were killed at Mountain Meadows, but that crime was perpetrated at the direct order of President Franklin Roosevelt, who had indicated his own racist views when he endorsed the 1923 act that barred immigration from Japan. People who practically worship FDR tend to ignore that act of naked tyranny. Do Democrats feel shame and embarrassment about it? Or all Americans?

    In its context, as a local militia action, the attack at Mountain Meadows was very much in a tradition of people deciding that other people were worthy of extermination, and using the trappings of government authority and military organization to give it a mantle of righteousness. What would have been unusual would have been members of the militia, in Missouri or Cedar City, standing up against their commanders and calling on their fellow soldiers to refuse to make such an attack.

  19. Kent Larsen on August 21, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    Raymond, I understand your sentiment regarding guilt/shame/embarrassment.

    I’m certainly not saying that anyone today is responsible for MMM. But still I understand the shame and embarrassment at the association.

    You are right that we all have many events in the histories of our nations and associations that cause or should cause us shame or embarrassment.

    Perhaps my next visit should be to My Lai? [Wry Grin]

  20. Doc on August 21, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    Raymond,
    Perhaps every American should visit Little Big Horn or Wounded Knee as well.

  21. Dan on August 21, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    Maybe Americans should visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  22. meems on August 21, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    Every American should visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  23. John Mansfield on August 22, 2008 at 8:13 am

    I would visit Trinity Site, but it’s open to visitors on exactly two days a year: the first Saturdays of April and October. You see the conflict.

  24. Bill MacKinnon on August 22, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Raymond, there were members of the militia in both Missouri and Utah who in one way or another DID refuse orders to commit violence to which they objected. In Missouri, during the so-called Mormon War of 1838-39, Alexander Doniphan, a general officer in the state militia, refused orders to execute Joseph Smith and several other LDS leaders who as prisoners had been condemned to death at a drum-head court martial. Doniphan did so at the peril of his own life for refusing orders, but he made it stick. When the rumor reached Brigham Young in 1852 that Doniphan was to replace him as the next governor of Utah Territory, he commented that if such were the case (it wasn’t, as it turned out), that he would walk to the outskirts of GSLC and greet him. Such was the esteem in which Doniphan was held. In the Utah militia case, I believe “Massacre at Mountain Meadows” contains at least brief allusions to several cases in which Latter-day Saints found a way to opt out of the violence at MM by either directly refusing to go there or by evading such duty in other ways. That took courage at that time in that place under those circumstances.
    Re your opening comment, I think you need to bring yourself up to date on the recent agreement between the church, the owner of part of the MMM site, and one or more of the victim-descendant groups by which the church and they will negotiate with the Dept. of the Interior over various aspects of the control of the site, including, I think, signage. This was announced in Arkansas several months ago at a meeting in which Elder Jensen and Rick Turley took part.
    For those of you commenting on the beauty and greenery of MM, it is a quite different scene than in September 1857. Then it was much more lush with more water. You can understand why, for decades, people had stopped there to “recruit” their animals before the final push west across the desert. Subsequent to the massacre, overgrazing and drought took a tremendous toll on the land, with a lot of erosion. This change lead some people to describe it as a cursed place. physically as well as historically.

  25. Sean on August 24, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    On a recent trip from our home in the South back to Salt Lake City, I took my family to various LDS historical sites, but unfortunately the Mountain Meadow Massacre site was not one of them. One of the common themes of both video and guide presentations at the various sites with visitor centers was of a persecuted and hunted minority driven from their homes by angry mobs who attacked primarily out of hatred for their religion. This theme of persecuted minority was also prevalent in all the many hours of instruction I received in Primary, Sunday, etc…that I received growing up. As a people, we tend to use this story of history to unite us in an us versus them mentality.

    The value of visiting the MMM either physically or in our hearts is that it asks us to reconsider this simplistic version of our history and of ourselves. Because we were the ones doing the killing at MMM, we actually try to understand the motives and assumptions that drove honest, God-fearing Saints to such brutal actions. We begin to understand the power of fear and group-think, the tragedy of fatal misattribution in interpreting rapidly occurring events, and the deep-seated anger over past losses. What would be an important break-through in the re-telling of our own history is if we could apply this more nuanced and consider understanding of human action gained from reflection on MMM to the events in Missouri and Illinois. Could we begin to understand the real fears and misunderstandings of those in Missouri and Illinois and include them in our history? Could we begin to see that their interpretation of events had legitimacy even while identifying the acts to result from these legitimate emotions as wrong? Could we forgive them in the same way we as a people ask forgiveness for Mountain Meadows?

    Certainly, not every member of the Church needs to concern themselves with this. For those who convert to the Church as adults or live for away from the Rocky Mountains, the story of the pioneers is of minor or no importance in their conception of their faith and their church. So neither the events of Haun\’s Mill or Mountain Meadows have much resonance. But to a substantial portion of the intermountain West church, particularly those who pride themselves in their pioneer heritage, I see the value in acknowledging this event by a quiet visit.

  26. Scott Fife on August 26, 2008 at 10:52 am

    When you visit the MMM site, remember there are many unanswered questions, such as: (1) Did the Arkansas-Missouri emigrants themselves contribute to the MMM by arrogant behavior directed toward Indians and Mormons along the route? (Incitement of a riot is a crime.) (2) How much blame does the Federal Government deserve for sending troops to Utah, which contributed to the MMM? (3) What part exactly did the Indians play in the MMM? (4) How many Mormons actually took part in the killing of the emigrants, versus Indians? We simply do not know the answer to these important questions, and probably never will.

    The book: Mountan Meadows Massacre, written by Juanita Brooks in 1950, long before PC was in the dictionary, is considered the benchmark on the subject. She sites an enormous amount of evidence that the Indians were willing participants and a major factor in the MMM, from beginning to end, and not simply puppets in the hands of Mormons. It must be remembered that in 1857, Indians outnumbered white setlers in southern Utah by 4 to 1. The Indians had much power, and it was essential for the local Mormons to maintain good relations with them. It could well be that the Indians initiated the attack on the Fancher Company, and then put pressure on the Mormons to help them or else. Certainly the Mormons were key players in devising the final plan causing the emigrants to lay down their weapons and walk away from their wagons, but how many emigrants were killed or executed specifically by Indians versus Mormons, we do not know.

    Today in this PC age, it seems to be in fashion to put all the blame for the MMM on the Mormons. I believe this terrible tragedy is very complex and not as simple as that. Unlike the many crimes committed against Mormons in Missouri and Illinois, the MMM was an anomaly in Utah.

  27. Researcher on August 26, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Scott, have you read the new book on the Mountain Meadows Massacre? If not you can find discussions about it in various places including here

  28. Researcher on August 26, 2008 at 11:10 am

    …and here.

  29. Scott Fife on August 26, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Researcher, yes I have read the new book. It basically dismisses all the evidence and eyewitness accounts showing major Indian involvement in the MMM, as well as accounts of arrogant and even criminal acts done by members of the Fancher Party as they traveled through Utah. This was not done by Brooks. I find this to be an incredible weakness in the new book, and a number of comments in the sources you listed, mention this. To dismiss the enormity of this body of testimony as rumor and lies by the Mormons, I find to be intellectually arrogant, PC, condescending and far too simplistic.

  30. Sonny on August 26, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Scott, I just finished the Turley book on MMM. I think that the authors went to great pains to get it right, and to sift through the testimony and statements in an effort to determine what was after-the-fact justification vs. what actually happened.

    Regardless of what you think about the authors putting enough emphasis on Fancher Party actions/statements, I find this statement in the book the final word in my opinion:

    “..nothing that any of the emigrants purportedly did or said, even if all of it were true, came close to justifying their deaths.”

  31. Sonny on August 26, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Scott, I just finished the Turley book on MMM. I think that the authors went to great pains to get it right, and to sift through the testimony and statements in an effort to determine what was after-the-fact justification vs. what actually happened.

    Regardless of what you think about the authors putting enough emphasis on Fancher Party actions/statements, I find this statement in the book the final word in my opinion:

    “..nothing that any of the emigrants purportedly did or said, even if all of it were true, came close to justifying their deaths.”

  32. Sonny on August 26, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Sorry for the double post.

  33. Scott Fife on August 26, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Sonny, I agree with that statement fully. It was a terrible slaughter of innocent people.

    It helps in understanding how the MMM could have happened, if for example, a portion of the numerous reports of lawless and bigoted acts committed against the Indians and Mormons by some members of the Fancher Party turns out to be true. Could this have been what enraged the Paiutes and caused them to attack the emigrants in the first place? Without the initial Indian assault, there would be no MMM. So it is very important, in my opinion, to determine what caused this first attack.

    Were the Paiutes simply molding clay in the hands of local Mormons, or did the Paiutes have a deep hatred of the Fancher Party, because of foolish acts the emigrants committed, thus causing the Indians to attack them at Mountain Meadows?

  34. Kent Larsen on August 26, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Scott (26 & etc.), I think you may be reading something into what I’m saying that is not there.

    I’m not suggesting that Mormons were right or wrong or trying to delineate any degree of those things. IT DOESN’T MATTER WHO WAS AT FAULT in what I’m saying.

    As I tried to point out, I don’t visit “ground zero” here in New York City to remember that Al Queda was to blame, nor do I visit to emphasize my patriotism or because of what I think about the war. For me, those things are all beside the point.

    To take a longer view, it sure seems futile to visit Pearl Harbor to blame the Japanese. I’m sure we could come up with a hundred other tragedies where blame is similarly anachronistic. Your object shouldn’t be to make yourself a victim or to identify and blame the bullies.

    Regardless of what you think happened at Mountain Meadows, it was a tragedy. When you visit the site, remembering is enough — connecting emotionally with the place and the history is more important than arguing about who was right and who was wrong and who is responsible to some degree.

  35. Sonny on August 26, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Scott,

    Yes, I agree with you completely that placing the tragedy in a proper environmental context is vital.

    I am no expert on MMM, so I really do not know for sure to what extent the Paiutes were enraged on their own accord, or to what extent they were ‘enticed’ to be enraged by John D. Lee and possibly others. The Turley book seems to conclude that the Paiutes would not have attacked the emigrant train without the active participation and leadership of local Mormons, and that after-the-fact statements pointing the finger at the Paiutes as the initial and primary cause of the Monday attack cannot be supported after looking at all the statements, especially statements that Turley had access to that were not previously known to Brooks and others.

    I don’t think anyone will ever know for sure. However, my opinion is that the Turley book is an honest effort to find out what actually happened and why. They had the greatest amount of primary and secondary sources available to them than any other published work (that I am aware of) and they took a long, long time researching the book and having it reviewed. Given that, I do not agree that their conclusions are an effort to be PC.

  36. Bill MacKinnon on August 27, 2008 at 2:40 am

    I’m stunned by the asseerttion that we don’t know what the Paiute role was. I believe that first Elder Eyring and then the Walker, Turley, Leonard book addressed this subject earlier this year and did so quite directly. The Paiute role was minor and it was under the leadership of the Caucasian Nauvoo Legionnaires involved. My recollection is that Elder Eyring publicly and explicitly expressed regret that the Paiutes had been inviegled to participate as they were and that the tribe had been subsequently scapegoated in the years subsequent to the massacre. As for the suggestion that the victims brought this all on themselves through bad behavior is equally stunning — a perpetuation of the very worst of the rationalizations and excuses that have welled up to envelope this monstrous event. I find such assertions unbelievably damaging to the attempts to move beyond this event.

  37. mike on August 27, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Sonny #35:

    I am stunned that you do not “agree that their conclusions are an effort to be PC. ”

    Who butters their bread?? Of course it is.

    I think that there is an enormous amount of grey concerning the MMM. Pres. Hinckley made the point that we may never know all of what really happened. Hence the historian is relatively free to push conclusions in one direction or another depending on how they see the incomplete historical evidence. Bro. Turley is defending the LDS church and he is not going to give any ground that the record does not force him to give. Some people might think Bro. Bagley’s MMM book “is an honest effort to find out what actually happened and why.” He had access to quite a bit of material and makes every effort to be courageous… blah blah blah. He doesn’t cut the LDS church any slack that the evidence doesn’t force him to, kicking and bucking. In my mind these two books establish the margins of the vast but shrinking grey area from that which is agreed upon, in the early 21st century .

    I think Bro.Turley’s book (and Bro. Bushman’s book and many others) tells us more about the LDS church today than it does about what happened in the past. Bro. Turley’s book describes how far as we are willing to go in admitting wrong doing in one of our worst moments, which I might add is quite far and much further than we have been willing to admit in the past. It also tells us that the LDS church will now support and listen to legitimate historical research. They don’t have to, you know. They could just paint all uninspiring historians as subversive heretics and dismiss them without further consideration. Juanita Brooks comes to mind, even though she turned out to be a champion defending much truth to later generations.

    An entirely objective honest account of the MMM that answers all the important questions to the satisfaction of all interested parties is never going to be written. All accouts will be PC from some viewpoint or another. We gave that possibility of honest objectivity up when we didn’t begin aggressively investigating it the day after it happened because much crucial information was lost forever. We further compromised it when we spend decades covering it up and doing everything we could to minimize it. Bro. Turley’s book is probably about as honest and objective as we are going to get it, but from the perspective of a faithful LDS at this time.

  38. mike on August 27, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    One question we have not considered is the timing of this book and especially the Ensign article about a year ago. Timing and context seem so important to the actual events in 1857. Why not the release of the book and the article about them? Did the Lord Omnipotent instruct his servants the prophets to write this material at this time for reasons known only in heaven?

    Did it have anything to do with that stupid movie called September Dawn? It was supposed to be such a great movie; one that would capture the interest of the nation and flog the Mormons harder than they had been for over a century. Can you imagine watching a film about 19th century folks sort of like Mitt Romney shooting and maybe raping children? It only played here for one day so I didn’t get to see it and the newspaper gave it an F+ rating recommending that it was not worth the time to watch.

    But what if someone did succeed in making a memorable movie about the MMM and it became an emotional event for the entire nation at our expense? It would be wise for our leaders to bring all of the faithful members up to speed and ready them for an onslaught of difficult questions from their friends. I think the Ensign article was an effort to do that. Our critics can laugh now and say our prophets are uninspired because it wasn’t necessary, the movie was a flop. I can say that the September Ensign article on the MMM really disturbed some of my “blue-haired aunts” and uncles and other assorted relatives who spend most of their time doing temple work and such. They will not likely read Bro. Turley’s book.

    I wonder if Bro. Turley had a fire lit under him when it became known that this horrible movie was about to be released or for some other reason? (It would only take one phone call to light a fire under me from the right person). I have wondered if this book would ever make it in print, they have been threatening to publish it for what seems like almost a decade. Alas, it is finally here.

  39. Sonny on August 27, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Mike,

    I think we have a problem defining what is “PC”. When I said that it is my opinion that Turley was not being PC, it was in reference to how I interpreted the word “PC” as used by Scott in comment 29. He seemed to be implying (correct me if I am wrong) that Turley intentionally downplayed the extent of Paiute involvement in the Monday attack, as well as intentionally downplayed “accounts of arrogant and even criminal acts done by members of the Fancher Party” in an effort to implicate, unjustly according to Scott, local Mormon leadership. So if I am interpreting this comment correctly, then Scott feels Turley’s book is PC because it is too hard on the local LDS leadership.

    You, on the other hand, seem to feel it is PC because Turley works for the church: “Bro. Turley is defending the LDS church and he is not going to give any ground that the record does not force him to give.” If that were the case, it certainly would seem easier for him to implicate the Paiutes more than he did in the first attack. It would certainly make the church look better in some people’s eyes.

    So is Brother Turley PC because he is too hard on fellow Saints or is he PC because he is not hard enough? It looks like Scott and you are at opposite sides of the PC sectrum.

    Here is how I answer: Is Turley bias free? No. Is Bagley bias free? No. Do I feel Turley is unfairly implicating Lee, Haight, and other settlers for involvement in the first attack? No, however that is my opinion. Scott’s is different. Do I feel that the General Authorities or the First Presidency tried to influence Turley to come to certain conclusions? No. Turley and the other authors are on record saying they were not asked at all to come to any predefined conclusions. They are either telling the truth or are lying. I choose to think they are telling the truth.

  40. Scott Fife on August 28, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Sonny, I do not question the integrity of Turley. I am sure he was not asked by a General Authority to reach a predefined conclusion. I agree. But the fact is that Turley, unlike Brooks, chose to discount virtually all the enormous amount of diverse testimony that supports major involvement by the Indians and the negative actions of some members of the Fancher Party directed against the Indians and Mormons. Why did Turley do this?

    The Church has made great efforts over the past 20 years to smooth relationships with the descendants of the 17 emigrant children who survived the MMM. Turley might have been influenced by this. It would not look good and not be PC, for a Church sponsored book to conclude that the emigrants themselves were partially to blame for inciting the Indians and Mormons. I believe this would have set-off an uproar from the survivor family organizations.

    Also, today it is clearly not PC to say anything negative about American Indians, regardless of what the facts may be in a particular historical event. It is never the fault of Native Americans, even in sharing the blame.

    No, I do not feel Turley was too hard on the local LDS leadership. I think he was too easy on the Fancher Party and the Paiutes.

    #36. What if a car load of unarmed white people drove into a black neighborhood, and began yelling bigoted and threatening remarks, and then were attacked and killed by a group of blacks who lived there. The blacks who did the killing would be prosecuted, but I am sure no one would say that the white people in the car did not share in the blame. No one would write an account of this story, leaving out the ill advised, bigoted actions of the white people who provoked the attack. Even though you could say the white people’s actions did not justify their deaths, it certainly was a contributing factor. Inciting a riot is a crime. This story could not be understood without knowing all the facts, including what caused the blacks to be so outraged.

    Turley’s book is well-written, interesting, and worth reading, but it leaves out half of the story, in my opinion. What caused the outrage? What was it that caused the Fancher Party alone to be attacked and massacred? The only emigrant wagon train to suffer such a fate, among all the hundreds and hundreds of emigrant groups who traveled through Utah, including many in 1857? Why the Fancher Party? And why were they attacked on the outskirts of the territory, ready to leave Utah?

    The questions I asked in the first paragraph of #26 are all valid. We do not know the answers, including who actually did the killing. Was it 50-50, Indian and Mormon? Was it 90 percent Indian or was it 90 percent Mormon? We do not know, regardless of what Turley asserts. Remember a very important fact that is made by Brooks, that Mormons in southern Utah in 1857 were outnumbered by the Paiutes by 4 to 1. If anything, the Indians dictated to the Mormons what went on, not the other way around.

  41. Kent Larsen on August 28, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Scott (40), I really wish you and Sonny would stop hijacking the thread. The questions asked in (26) were all OFF TOPIC!! This thread is not about who was right and who was wrong or the historical details.

    Please stop!

  42. Sonny on August 28, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    Kent,

    Agreed.

    My apologies.

  43. James on August 29, 2008 at 12:29 am

    I’m another person that really doesn’t care much about MMM. The breastbeating over it bothers me. Where I grew up in the midwest, church history is more of a tour of all the places where bad things happened to the saints and there were no consequences for the perps. At least the commander of the militia force at MMM was executed. That’s far more than the commander of the Carthage Grays, or the leader of the murderers at Haun’s Mill got from the courts. I’ll even go so far as to say that I don’t think that organizational ‘apologies’ for the past acts of long dead members are productive. They just draw negative attention from one’s enemies. MMM is just another example of how vicious small communities can get when they have been pushed to their limit by persecution from larger groups.

    If Brigham Young had wanted to give the U.S. a little payback for the shelling of Nauvoo, the assasination of Joseph, the extermination order, Haun’s Mill, and the whole laundry list of offenses by americans against the Saints, Albert Sidney Johnston would have gotten a radically different reception in Echo Canyon. A reception that could have resulted in a different cast of characters in the Civil War.

  44. Bill MacKinnon on August 29, 2008 at 1:02 am

    James (#43), as you fantasize about who could have done what to whom in Echo Canyon during the fall of 1857, think about what two of the Nauvoo Legion’s toughest cavalry commanders, Cols. Robert Taylor Burton and Benjamin Franklin Cummings, wrote to Brigham Young on September 27, 1857 as they fell back to Echo Canyon from South Pass after leading the Legion’s failed raid on the Tenth U.S. Infantry’s mule herd at Pacific Springs They reported to B.Y.: “Those that entertain the idea that our Enemies will be prevented from coming into Salt Lake City without a Severe contest we fear will be Saddly disappointed.” (letter in LDS Church Archives). It was at this point that B.Y. changed the operative policy from one of “shed no blood” to “kill the officers and mountaineers first” if the army passed Fort Bridger.

  45. Scott Fife on August 29, 2008 at 1:16 am

    Kent: Very sorry. Silly me, I thought it was starting to get interesting. Maybe next time you could make it more clear up front what the boundaries are, especially when the general subject is something quite explosive like the MMM.

    Again, sorry I detracted from what you wanted your thread to be about.

  46. Kent Larsen on August 29, 2008 at 1:28 am

    Scott (45):

    Sorry, but I thought it was quite clear. The post was only about whether or not to visit Mountain Meadows. I specifically said several times that it wasn’t a question of who was right or exactly what happened.

    Did you actually read the post and comments?

    Believe me, there are plenty of other posts on the bloggernacle that have covered MMM and even the new book you are talking about, to say nothing of email lists that discuss Mormon history. I doubt I’m throttling any necessary discussion by suggesting that the details of what happened can be discussed elsewhere.