Thank you for publishing this story. As I have recently begun working with
family genealogy I learned my ancestors were murdered, without explanation,
during the time frame discussed in the essay. It has been impossible for me to
reconcile the fact that they must have been murdered by fellow Mormons. I have
found it difficult to locate balanced source materials discussing the subject to
provide context to my search for understanding. 30 years ago none of this was
ever discussed. It seems like only in the past few years the church has opened
the door to allow open discussions about this terrible history.I
can’t help but notice parallels to today’s current events while
reading through the essay. For example: “…American tradition of
extralegal vigilantism, in which citizens organized to take justice into their
own hands when they believed government was either oppressive or lacking.”
Sounds a bit like the confrontation reported from Nevada between Cliven Bundy
and BLM or the protest in Utah organized by San Juan County Commissioner Phil
Lyman. These individuals describe themselves as a militia. I wonder how they
reconcile their religious teachings to their actions.
Violent response to undesirable events were common throughout this continent in
the 1800's. There was as much lawlessness in the south as there was in the
west. Family History has brought that to our awareness. I imagine there are
skeletons in the closets of many Americans that include murder and other
tragedies. I'm glad that the Church has seen fit to publish what
historical records reveal. I regret things done by my ancestors and to them as
well. We have grown as a civilization in the area of law and order.
You say: "One example of context in the essay is the explanation of the
existence of community militias, like the Mormon Battalion in Nauvoo, Ill., and
those of cities and counties in Missouri." I think you actually mean the
Vigilantism in early America filled a vacuum on the frontier where government
institutions struggled to get onto a sound footing. In under-policed locales
where settlers were at the mercy of a vicious criminal element, the only basic
law enforcement might be what settlers were able to provide for themselves. This
was the rationale of decent and ordinarily non-violent men with families to
protect. In some instances, vigilantism was quite literally the precursor to
"....Another example is the context of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, when
Latter-day Saints in southern Utah slaughtered 120 men, women and children on a
wagon train emigrating from Arkansas to California in September 1857...."______________________________Juanita Brooks, in her superb study,
attributed the tragedy to an atmosphere of war. A large contingent of the U.S.
Army was on the march to Utah with intentions that were unknown to the Mormons.
That naturally left every man to imagine the worst. Throughout the territory,
everyone was on edge late that summer. Some writers cite religious fanaticism as
the trigger. I lean towards Brooks’ explanation of war hysteria as the
greater cause of a tragedy that shouldn’t have happened.The
Army expedition to Utah was ill-considered in Washington. That of course
doesn’t excuse rash decisions made by local Church leaders in Southern
It is laudable for the LDS church to put these atrocities into context on all
sides: Haun's Mill, Mormon extermination orders, and the Mountain Meadow
Massacre. It is impossible to understand the era completely from our
perspective, but we need to understand these acts in context with the Missouri
compromise resulting in armed militias of slavers and freemen trying to reduce
each others population, then moving to "Bleeding Kansas," and finally to
the biggest atrocity of the century, the Civil War. But it is also
important to learn from these lessons. Religious intolerance is unacceptable.
Fear is not a reason for violence against innocents. Neither is
self-preservation.But maybe most of all--whether your commander is
William Quantrill before Lawrence, Kansas, Colonel William Jennings before
Haun's Mill, or Isaac C. Haight and John D Lee before the final day of the
massacre outside of Cedar City--when the order comes down to "Do your
duty," it does not mean slaughtering innocent men, women, and children. The
answer to "Do your Duty," would be to step off your horse and die with
them. Christianity, on all sides, is about sacrifice.
I want to see a list of all of the murders in the NAME of god and religion. That
list would be quite lengthy in my estimation. At the very least, religions
aren't innocent regarding violence toward non-believers.
If you want context... read the Nauvoo Expositor. Just Google it. Easier to
find than this essay on LDS.org.
Good grief! Another thing I didn't believe until now. Why does it take
these things being released by others on the internet to push the Church to talk
about them? So frustrating.
Glad to see an honest discussion about these events now happening. People are
people, and they will do things out of emotion, far too often. which often lead
to tragic outcomes. It happened then, and continues to happen today.The romanticized view of the "good old days" only takes away from the
true sacrifice and struggle these people endured to ensure that future
generations had a better chance at life.
@ BrahmabullNeither is Science. How many people died when the
atomic bombs were dropped on Japan during WWII?How much harm is
caused by HFCS? Are these not scientific inventions?Science has
facilitated more death and destruction in recent history (last 100 years) than
religion has.That being said I don't want anyone to think that
I am in any way, shape, or form a science hater.I just think that
the argument that religion has caused so much harm in recent history is
Religion can bring a lot of good to people's lives, but sometimes it causes
serious problems. I think that the people who use God as an excuse to kill know
within that it is wrong. I can not imagine taking the life of another person!
History is what it is and we shouldn't be afraid to learn the truth.
I think the known saying, "it takes two to dance" when it comes to wrong
doing applies here. The two sides aren't perfect and they clashed in the
middle of a "violent arena" committing deplorable acts because of
mistrust and lack of understanding.
@ OneWifeOnly - San Diego, CA - "Thank you for publishing this story. As I
have recently begun working with family genealogy I learned my ancestors were
murdered, without explanation, during the time frame discussed in the essay. It
has been impossible for me to reconcile the fact that they must have been
murdered by fellow Mormons....."Whoa! Whoa! So how do you make
the jump from "murdred" to "must" have been "murdered by
fellow Mormons"?That's a heavy accusation to throw around
(Mormon or not) so please expound, logically, or don't point that
accusatory finger at all. Thank you.
@J.D. - Aurora, CO - "Good grief! Another thing I didn't believe until
now. Why does it take these things being released by others on the internet to
push the Church to talk about them? So frustrating."J.D.:1) Mountain Meadows has been known before the internet. If one wanted
to know, it would not have taken much research to verify that it actually
occured. The big debate is who, on the LDS-leadership side, directed the tragic
slaughter? That would have been harder to verify but not the reality of the
tragedy as a whole.2) Why is this frustrating to have the Church put
this on their website now? There are things in everone one's life we
wouldn't want broadcast. Do think that Peter announced anywhere and
everywhere he went that he once denied the Savior, not once but THREE times?
I'm betting "no". This incident is the same type in that it does
not reflect highly on the Church and I don't blame the Church for not
making it at center front for the last 100+ yrs. If one has a solid testimony
of the gospel of Jesus Christ, this will not rattle you.