The carefully scripted LDS narrative glorifies the tribulations of humble settlers and displaced immigrants. It appears that Mormons themselves were often the aggressors in both action and theology, while the Book of Mormon proposes epic battles , even millions of violent deaths.
Early LDS history and doctrines exhibit a constant theme of militancy and righteous persecution, which fostered frontier violence and doctrines sustaining vengeance, even blood atonement. The strong anti-government philosophies of Joseph and Brigham further propelled a routinely violent Mormon culture. Mormons regularly violated territorial boundaries and peace agreements, championed Zionist ideals in fiery speech, directly threatened non-Mormons and boasted of their regional political power.
Other oddly perceived sects in the region, like the Amish and Shakers, managed to live peacefully within their communities. In later years, the Missourians never bothered the Whitmerites, nor did the people of Illinois ever bother Emma when she remained behind; only Brigham’s group was considered dangerous.
The Mountain Meadows massacre, resulting in the wholesale slaughter of 120 men, women and children by Mormons, was one of the largest losses of life in the westward settlements. Brigham Young appears not to have directly ordered the executions – the Cedar City Stake President did – but played a pivotal role in inciting the massacre with his inflammatory doctrines, and explicitly participated in the elaborate cover up. The frontier environment of paranoia and government mistrust was exacerbated by the prophets’ plans for succeeding from U.S., which was a primary driver in the selection of the distant and largely inaccessible Salt Lake Valley.
Volataire’s words so perfectly fit early Mormon culture in general; “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can also make you commit atrocities.”
- The 1838 Mormon War
- The Mormon Rebellion
- Sunstone: The Culture of Violence in Joseph Smith’s Mormonism, Quinn, Oct 2011
The Book of Mormon revolves around the notion that America is a land of promise for the House of Israel [Indians]. Righteous Gentiles could of course gain adoption into the tribe, but the Lamanites alone were prophesied to “blossom as the rose” (D&C 49:24) prior to Christ’s return and reign from New Jerusalem. Mormonism’s first proselytizing mission was directed toward Native Americans in June 1830.
“…I will establish my church among them, and they shall come in unto the covenant and be numbered among this the remnant of Jacob [Indians], unto whom I have given this land [America] for their inheritance; And they shall assist my people…[to] build a city, which shall be called the New Jerusalem” (3 Nephi 21:22-23).
The role of the American Indian in LDS doctrine is not limited to mere redemption from their fallen state. The Book of Mormon prophesies that the Indians would one day go forth “as a lion” to lay waste to their oppressors and reclaim the land of their inheritance. The Indians were to “go through among them [Gentiles], and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor…to be trodden under foot of my people…” (3 Nephi 16: 14-16).
“I say unto you, that if the Gentiles do not repent…after they have scattered my people- Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob [Indians], go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver. Thy hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off…” (3 Nephi 20: 15-17).
LDS doctrine elaborates on the destruction which would surely befall America at the hands of the Indians. “And my people who are a remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles, yea, in the midst of them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he go through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver. Their hands shall be lifted up upon their adversaries, and all their enemies shall be cut off. Yeah, wo be unto the Gentiles…I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots; And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strongholds… And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee; so will I destroy thy cities… And I will execute vengeance and fury upon them…” (3 Nephi 21:12-21).
Joseph Smith himself prophesied strongly, in the name of the Lord, of America’s pending destruction and rise of Zion. “I am prepared to say by the authority of Jesus Christ, that not many years shall pass away before the United States shall present such a scene of bloodshed as has not a parallel in the history of our nation. Pestilence hail famine and earthquake will sweep the wicked of this generation from off the face of this land to open and prepare the way for the return of the lost tribes of Israel from the north country. …Repent ye and embrace the everlasting covenant and flee to Zion [Missouri] before the overflowing scourge overtake you. For there are those now living upon the earth whose eyes shall not be closed in death until they see all these things which I have spoken fulfilled” (as printed in American Revivalist, also Rochester Observer, Joseph Smith, Jan 4, 1833).
Thus, Mormon doctrine was a very real threat in American frontier towns where Indian relations remained tenuous. While Indian sympathizers were gaining prominence, few other religions were promoting the subversive notion that God himself would soon raise up the Indians to destroy America.
Among the many doctrinal proofs that early Mormons did not great neighbors make, is E.D. Howe’s 1834 reminder that “one of the leading articles of faith is that the Indians of North America, in a very few years, will be converted to Mormonism, and through rivers of blood will again take possession of their ancient inheritance.”
The Salt Sermon
In June 1838, shortly after he and Smith fled their banking scandal and collapsing church in Kirtland, Sidney Rigdon, First Counselor in the Presidency, delivered his infamous Salt Sermon in Far West, MO. He warned dissenters to depart the territory under threat of harm, providing fuel to an already agitated situation.
Promptly following Rigdon’s salt sermon, a secret vigilante group arose to enforce strict orthodox beliefs on Mormon communities. The Danites played a pivotal role in the destruction of non-Mormon settlements, including Gallatin.
On July 27, 1838, Joseph recorded in his journal that Danites were organized according to revelation to “put right physically that which is not right, and to cleanse the Church of very great evils which hath hitherto existed among us.” This inconvenient portion of his journal was later crossed out and omitted from various official Church histories. While LDS apologists suggest that Joseph did not sanction the secret band, Joseph’s records and intimate involvement in every aspect of early Mormonism indicate that he did.
In 1992, Dean Jessee published a second volume of The Papers of Joseph Smith, including the part of Smith’s diary which had been previously omitted, thereby directly refuting the longstanding claim that Joseph did not sanction the organization (The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol 2, Jessee 1992, 262). “Historians need no longer argue if the Danites existed, or if they did ‘bad things’ to the gentiles. …the answer to both questions was yes” (Michael Riggs.) Today, the Church suggests that “Historians generally concur that Joseph Smith approved of the Danites but that he probably was not briefed on all their plans and likely did not sanction the full range of their activities” (lds.org, Church History Topics, Danites).
Porter Rockwell was Joseph Smith’s bodyguard and spent eight months in jail for the attempted assassination of Governor Boggs, but was ultimately released for lack of evidence. The dates of Rockwell’s temporary absence from Nauvoo coincided neatly with a possible trip to Independence. Many, including Rockwell’s sympathetic biographer, Harold Schindler, suggest he most likely did it (Devil’s Gate, 58).
Governor Lilburn Boggs
On May 6, 1842, a gunman shot the former Governor of Missouri, Lilburn W. Boggs, through a window at his residence in Independence, Missouri. Two bullets penetrated his head and a third lodged in his body; miraculously, he lived. Almost immediately, suspicion fell upon Joseph Smith, who was promptly arrested. Governor of Illinois, Thomas Carlin, wrote Joseph Smith a letter stating that it was common knowledge that he, “had prophesied that Boggs should die a violent death.” The claim that Smith had prophesied in 1841 that Governor Boggs would die violent death within one year remains controversial, yet multiple evidences are available.
On June 27, 1844, the day Joseph Smith was killed, William Law recorded in his diary: “He [Smith] was unscrupulous; no man’s life was safe if he was disposed to hate him. He set the laws of God and men at defiance.” Law believed that Smith played a role in the attempted assassination of Governor Boggs. John C. Bennett and Joseph H. Jackson, both former intimates of Smith, also claimed that Smith confided in them that he ordered the murder.
The Thomas Marsh episode is one of Mormonism’s longest enduring myths. The Church intentionally fostered the notion that Apostle Marsh left the Church because he was offended over a milk sharing arrangement. According to the story, one of the women was skimming more than her share of cream.
This narrative is demonstrably false, as Marsh actually left the Church over his discomfort with the increasing violence of the Saints, while publicly speaking against Smith’s misuse of funds. Marsh himself declared, “I have left the Mormons and Joseph Smith for conscience sake, and that alone, for I have come to the full conclusion that he is a very wicked man; notwithstanding all my efforts to persuade myself to the contrary” (Marsh to Abbots, Oct 25, 1838).
Oath of Vengeance
Soon after Joseph Smith’s death in 1844, the Oath of Vengeance was added to the LDS temple ceremony. “You and each of you do covenant and promise that you will pray and never cease to pray to Almighty God to avenge the blood of the prophets upon this nation, and that you will teach the same to your children and to your children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.”
Such canonized theology amplified the “us vs. them” thinking, which remains a subtle theme in Mormonism today. The sacred practice of covenanting to teach vengeance to children was not eliminated until approximately the early 1930s.
Brigham Young authored the notion that certain sins were so grievous that the Savior’s atoning sacrifice was insufficient; that only the spilling of the individual’s own blood may qualify them for redemption. Brigham’s extreme doctrine and strong theocratic tendencies contributed greatly to a perpetual atmosphere of frontier justice.
Brigham taught that a person who “has committed a sin that he knows will deprive him of that exaltation which he desires, and that he cannot attain to it without the shedding of his blood, and also knows that by having his blood shed he will atone for that sin, and be saved and exalted with the Gods, is there a man or woman in this house but what would say, ‘shed my blood that I may be saved and exalted with the Gods?’ All mankind love themselves, and let these principles be known by an individual, and he would be glad to have his blood shed. That would be loving themselves, even unto an eternal exaltation. Will you love your brothers or sisters likewise, when they have committed a sin that cannot be atoned for without the shedding of their blood? Will you love that man or woman well enough to shed their blood? That is what Jesus Christ meant.”
“I could refer you to plenty of instances where men have been righteously slain, in order to atone for their sins. I have seen scores and hundreds of people for whom there would have been a chance (in the last resurrection there will be) if their lives had been taken and their blood spilled on the ground as a smoking incense to the Almighty, but who are now angels to the devil… I have known a great many men who have left this Church for whom there is no chance whatever for exaltation, but if their blood had been spilled, it would have been better for them. 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. …and if he wants salvation and it is necessary to spill his blood on the earth in order that he may be saved, spill it. Any of you who understand the principles of eternity, if you have sinned a sin requiring the shedding of blood, except the sin unto death, would not be satisfied nor rest until your blood should be spilled, that you might gain that salvation you desire…” (Journal of Discourses 4:215-21).
Lest the Church attempt to discard blood atonement doctrine to the misguided ramblings of one early prophet, prominent LDS scholar Bruce R. McConkie advocated in 1967 that the doctrine could one day again be practiced. “This doctrine of blood atonement can practice, can operate in a day when church and state are combined” (Calling and Election Made Sure, McConkie, part 3, 4).
As late as the 1990s, blood atonement remained an issue. “In the past decade [1984-1994], potential jurors in every Utah capital homicide were asked whether they believed in the Mormon concept of ‘Blood Atonement’” (Salt Lake Tribune, Nov 5, 1994, D1).
MURDER OF JESSE HARTLEY
The murder of Jesse Hartley illustrates the violent culture of Brigham Young’s unchecked power over Utah Valley. Within eight months of arriving in Utah, the young attorney was murdered in cold blood by Brigham’s confessed enforcer, Bill Hickman.
Arriving in Salt Lake City in Sept 1853, Jesse promptly began representing clients. David Hull, a wealthy non-member client, was poisoned to death under suspicious circumstances before his trial could commence. The following day, Hartley was falsely accused by two separate Mormons of stealing a horse and money. In response to what he had was witnessing during his very brief tenure in the community, Jesse penned an urgent letter to the Secretary of War, warning of a “coming storm…brewing in the Territory,” requesting Federal intervention to restore the rule of law. Hartley’s letter suggested that Hull was “charged with larceny…for no other purpose than to get hold of his property.” Unfortunately, Hartley was unaware that mail departing Utah Valley was screened; his letter was intercepted, ultimately residing in Brigham Young’s possession.
Upon obtaining a hearing on Sept 30, the judge released Hartley, finding insufficient cause to detain him. There is ample documentation and context to suggest that frivolous lawsuits were a common tactic to extract money and property from strangers to the Valley. The following day, despite his acquittal, Deseret News – controlled by the Church – published a statement accusing Hartley of theft. With his reputation tarnished, Jesse relocated near Spanish Fork and accepted a teaching position. Things appeared to settle down, as Hartley joined the Church in January 1854 and restarted his law practice.
Jesse remained in good standing on April 8, receiving a call to serve a mission to Texas on the first day of General Conference. The very next day, Brigham Young stood before the congregation and denounced Jesse, accusing him of being “a vagrant, thief and a robber.” Brigham declared he “…ought to have his throat cut…ought to be baptized in Salt Lake with stones tied to him…to wash away one hundredth part of his sins.” The Prophet then motioned that Hartley be cut off from the Church. Despite protesting his innocence, he was excommunicated. Lacking any evidence, Jesse’s status devolved from missionary to threatened apostate within 24 hours.
On May 3, 1854, less than a month following Brigham’s condemnation and threats, Bill Hickman, Brigham’s enforcer, murdered Jesse Hartley as he fled toward Fort Bridger. Michael Marquardt surmised, “faithful [Mormons] may well object that the chain of evidence connecting the second prophet of their faith to the murder…is circumstantial. The weight of evidence, however, is shifting to support the conclusion that Brigham Young was ready to take whatever steps he felt necessary to defend Mormonism.”
- The Coming Storm: The Murder of Jesse Hartley, H. Michael Marquardt
- Brigham’s Destroying Angel, William Hickman
- Reminiscences of Early Utah, Robert Baskin
MOUNTAIN MEADOWS MASSACRE
September 11, 1857 marks the Mountain Meadows Massacre, a five day siege that culminated in the indiscriminate slaughter of 120 California-bound men, women and children at the hands of Mormon militiamen from Parowan, Utah. The massacre, and the nuanced context surrounding it, provide the sharpest example of the effects of early Mormon ideology in tightly controlled and isolated groups.
Brigham Young is well documented to have taught violent doctrines, coupled with the notion that Mormonism would overthrow the U.S. Government, in partnership with the Indians. Immediately upon being appointed Prophet, Priest and King within the Council of 50, he said, “I tell you in the name of the Lord when we go from here, we will exalt the standard of liberty and make our own laws. When we go from here we don’t calculate to go under any government but the government of God. There are millions of the Lamanites who when they understand the law of God and the designs of the gospel are perfectly capable of using up these united States. They will walk through them and lay them waste from East to West. We mean to go to our brethren in the West & baptise them, and when we get them to give hear to our council the story is told” (Council of 50 Minutes, 1 March 1845).
By March 1849, Brigham Young had escalated his fiery rhetoric, declaring Deseret a “free and independent government.” The U.S. Federal Government remained at odds with Utah Territory, and Brigham Young in particular.
In July 1853, Chief Wa-Kara rode in procession into Salt Lake to lodge a compliant against the Mormons, claiming that they were killing settlers and blaming the Indians, who bore the repercussions. Williams Gunnison’s surveying party of 8 was murdered in October 1853. In typical fashion, the Church blamed the murders on local Indians. On May 3, just weeks after Brigham Young brazenly denounced lawyer Hartley in General Conference “that he ought to have his throat cut,” Bill Hickman murdered Jesse Hartley as he fled toward Fort Bridger. In Spring of 1856, Brigham Young initiated a “reformation,” resulting in increased fanaticism, control and violence.
There remained only one U.S. official in all of Utah in 1857, as the Mormons had driven them out under threat of death. The U.S. Congress declared Utah to be in state of insurrection, sending the U.S. Army to remove Brigham as Governor and re-appoint the scattered judges. Brigham Young declared in Sept 1857 the State of Deseret (Utah) to be a free and independent people, no longer bound by the laws of the U.S., while ordering California and Nevada Saints to sell their property and return to Zion to fight the Government. Young publicly announced that he alone would decide which laws would be obeyed in Utah, an opinion heavily influenced by the sacred and ongoing practice of polygamy.
President James Buchanan appears well justified when he declared Utah Territory to be in a state of rebellion. Repeated diplomatic efforts having failed, he ordered the U.S. Army to Utah Territory, warning the insurrectionists to “expect no further lenity, but look to be rigorously dealt with” (House Executive Document 2, 35th Congress, 2nd Session 72).
By the time the wealthy, California bound Fancher wagon train rolled into Utah Valley in the fall of 1857, tension and paranoia raged. The approaching U.S. Army was stationed to the south in Cedar City, awaiting the passing of winter before advancing to Salt Lake. Complicating matters, a month before the emigrants departed Arkansas on their journey west, Parley P. Pratt (LDS Apostle) was killed by the husband of his twelfth plural wife. Rumors circulated down the Valley, denigrating the emigrants, falsely suggesting that they had participated in Pratt’s demise, and that they’d poisoned an Indian well. Apostate Mormons, desperate to escape the Valley alive, fell in with the caravan for safe passage out of the tightly controlled territory.
Motivated by the approaching army and a desperate need to keep capital in the region, Brigham passed word far down the line, instructing the Saints not to trade with passing emigrants. Denied resupply along the entire Wasatch front, the Fancher caravan pushed farther south, searching for anyone willing to trade and resupply their party. Brigham was later quoted as referring to the emigrants as wicked, and not to let them pass. Joseph Walker disobeyed his local Bishop, grinding the wagon party’s grain, resulting in his excommunication. Brigham also ordered Mormons to stop trading with the Indians, vacated many settlements, consolidated people in key cities while ordering the consecration of all excess animals. Some protested and were excommunicated.
While the Saint’s willingness to follow Brigham into folly may seem difficult to reconcile using modern standards, it is understandable why the Saints would literally interpret his extreme views. Brigham Young regularly pontificated upon his sole authority, even suggesting “I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture” (Journal of Discourses, 13:95).
The Fancher party eventually obtained shelter in beautiful and lush Mountain Meadows, to the south of Salt Lake. While the party rested and watered their stock, nearby Mormon militia leaders, including Isaac C. Haight (LDS Stake President) and John D. Lee (adopted son, sealed to Brigham Young), joined forces to organize an attack on the wealthy wagon train. Intending to create the appearance of Native American aggression, the militia schemed to arm Southern Paiutes and persuade them to join their larger party of militiamen—disguised as Native Americans—in an attack.
During the militia’s first assault, the well equipped wagon train fought back, incepting a five-day siege. Fear soon spread among the militia’s leaders that some emigrants had caught sight of white men, likely discovering the identity of their attackers. A complicated series of exchanges and communications wound its way on horseback between local Stake leaders and Church headquarters in Salt Lake City. Regardless of whatever disputed narrative one chooses to accept, the irrefutable result was that militia commander William H. Dame ordered his forces to kill all the emigrants. John Lee later claimed that the High Council had met and voted Friday morning to kill all the emigrants.
Following a few days pinned down without water, William Aden volunteered to ride north to find the Dukes Train party of emigrants near Cedar City for help. He managed to sneak out of camp, but was shot by the Mormons whose campfire he approached for help. Three scouts also snuck out at night and headed for California to find help. All were tracked and killed by Mormons. As the emigrants quickly exhausted water and provisions, they allowed some members of the militia—who carried a white flag—to enter their camp. John D. Lee, informed them that the Indians had departed, and if the Arkansans would only lay down their arms, he and his men would escort them to safety. Having no choice, the emigrants conceded.
The wagon party was separated into three distinct groups – the wounded and youngest children led the way in two wagons; the women and older children walking behind; while the men were individually escorted by an armed member of the militia. Lee led his charges three-quarters of a mile to a southern branch of the California Trail. Suddenly, a single shot rang out, followed by an order, “Do your duty!” The Mormon escorts promptly turned and shot the men in cold blood, while painted “Indians” jumped out of the brush and cut down defenseless women and children where they stood.
Lee further directed slitting the throats of disaffected members in blood oath style. That night, John Lee swore all to secrecy, each man standing in circle, hand on his brother’s shoulder, taking the oath of death to any man who talked. Any Mormon who attended the temple prior to 1990 will recognize the penal oath ritual and corresponding hand signals.
Following the massacre, the perpetrators hastily buried the victims in the rocky terrain, exposing the bodies to wild animals and the climate. Local LDS families assimilated the surviving 17 children under 8 years of age, intentionally separating siblings so they couldn’t talk about it together. All wagons, stock, and clothes were divided among local Church members or sent to Salt Lake City. The entire episode was hastily made to disappear. A few days after the massacre, Indian agent Garland Hurt was tipped of a pending attack on his life, even as a large group approached his house. He narrowly escaped east, the last non-Mormon federal official to exit Utah. Hurt’s report of the incident became first account on record.
Initially, the LDS Church denied any involvement and attempted to remain silent on the massacre issue. An early investigation was conducted by Brigham Young, who interviewed John D. Lee on September 29th, 1857. Young sent a report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs declaring the massacre to be the work of Native Americans. The Utah War delayed further investigation within the isolated territory by the U.S. government until 1859, when Jacob Forney and Major James Henry Carleton conducted investigations. Carleton’s investigation found women’s hair tangled in sage brush and the bones of children still in their mothers’ arms. Carleton later said it was “a sight which can never be forgotten.” Carleton’s troops collected the scattered bones and remains, buried them nearby and erected a cairn and cross with the inscription, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay saith the Lord.”
Brigham Young visited the massacre site in May 1861 with a group of some 60 Saints. Viewing the inscription on the cross, Wilford Woodruff recorded President Young as saying, “it should be vengeance is mine and I have taken a little.” The cross was ordered torn down, the cairn dismantled, leaving little to mark the location.
Captain James Lynch, who visited the site of the massacre in 1859, recorded his impressions: “The scene of the fearful murder still bears evidence of the atrocious crime, charged by the Mormons and their friends to have been perpetrated by Indians but really by Mormons disguised as Indians, who in their headlong zeal, bigotry and fanaticism deemed this a favorable opportunity of at once wreaking their vengeance on the hated people of Arkansas, and of making another of these iniquitious “Blood offerings” to God so often recommended by Brigham Young and their other leaders. For more than two square miles the ground is strewn with the skulls, bones and other remains of the victims. In places water has washed many of these remains together, forming little mounds, raising monuments as it were to the cruelty of man to his fellow man. Here and there may be found the remains of an innocent infant beside those of some devoted mother, ruthlessly slain by men worse than demons; their bones lie bleaching in the noon day sun a mute but eloquent appeal to a just but offended God for vengeance. I have witnessed many harrowing sights on the fields of battle, but never did my heart thrill with such horrible emotions, as when standing on that silent plain contemplating the remains of the innocent victims of Mormon avarice, fanaticism and cruelty.”
Wilford Woodruff’s official Church version of the massacre is full of lies, accusing “mobbers” of damning Brigham Young and other Church leaders, of wanting to do evil, and poisoning an Indian well. He further denied that the Church had seized the wagon party’s property, while blaming it as usual on local Indian tribes.
Only John D. Lee was tried in a court of law. Executed by firing squad on March 23, 1877, nearly twenty years after the massacre, Lee cited the following oath in his confession shortly before his execution: “I believed then as I do now, that it was the will of every true Mormon in Utah, at that time, that the enemies of the Church should be killed as fast as possible, and that as this lot of people had men amongst them that were supposed to have helped kill the Prophets in the Carthage jail, the killing of all of them would be keeping our oaths and avenging the blood of the Prophets.”
It is worth noting that Philip Klingensmith’s body was found dead in a prospector’s hole in Mexico in August 1881. A former LDS Bishop, he was the first to publicly expose the Mountain Meadows Massacre and feared he would be killed for his testimony in John D. Lee’s trial.
MORMON JESUS ANGER ISSUES
The Book of Mormon is essentially a nonstop tale of epic battles and massive destructions, culminating in the annihilation of millions of people in a single battle. The reader doesn’t make it four chapters before Jesus commands the decapitation of an unconscious man, enabling the lead character to relieve him of his property. Numerous righteous decapitations and dismemberments are described throughout the book.
If one’s beliefs influence their judgments and actions, it seems appropriate to consider the role violence plays in Mormon doctrine. The Jesus portrayed in the Book of Mormon remains an Old Testament vengeful type, despite his followers supposedly adhering to the New Covenant of baptism and repentance.
In 3 Nephi 9 we learn, “…that great city Zarahemla have I burned with fire, and the inhabitants thereof. And behold, that great city Moroni have I caused to be sunk in the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof to be drowned…” He apparently burned with fire, sunk in the depths, covered with earth, drowned or buried 15 other great cities while he was at it. “And many great destructions have I caused to come upon this land, and upon this people…because of their wickedness in casting out the prophets.”
While the notion of God’s annihilation of numerous great cities without leaving a trace merits further consideration, the most critical assault on the narrative’s credibility is found in the Lord’s own words just a few days prior (see Luke 9:53-56).
After the transfiguration on the Mount, Jesus set out towards Jerusalem, sending disciples ahead to secure accommodation for the night. When refused, James and John became enraged, inquiring of the Lord, “wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven…” to destroy the village. Jesus rebuked them, reminding “The Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.” The Book of Mormon asserts that mere days later, Jesus changed his mind and killed millions of innocent people. One may be left to wonder why the Lord enforced no such vengeance upon those half way around the world – the ones that heard his words and still put him to death.
Omnipresent instruction to follow the prophets is not taken lightly in Mormon culture. “Safety lies in loving the Brethren”, members were encouraged in October 1987 General Conference. “To follow them is to build one’s house on a rock… Read the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon… Do as the prophets request…pray for the prophets… Declare in quiet tones that you love the Brethren and you are going to follow them. Add exclamation marks to your words as you quietly and faithfully follow the Brethren.”
- Mountain Meadows Massacre
- Massacre at Mountain Meadows, Walker, Turley, Leonard
- Blood of the Prophets – Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows, Will Bagley
- Shining New Light on Mountain Meadows Massacre, Gene Sessions, 2003
- LDS Gospel Topic Essay – Violence Among Latter Day Saints
- The William Law interview
- Arrest and Release of Joseph Smith – 1843
- Year in Polygamy, Mountain Meadows Massacre (podcast)
- Salt Lake Tribune, Mormon Church Mourns 1857 Tragedy
- HistoryNet: Mountain Meadows Massacre
- Last Confession and Statement of John D. Lee
- Affidavit of James Lynch