Monday, October 5, 2009

On Mountain Meadows

Monument at Mountain Meadows ca 1900
  I have recently finished reading a new book,  "The Massacre at Mountain Meadows".  It was written by the Assistant Church Historian and the Director of the Latter-Day Church Museum of History and Art.  It gave me new insight in the the thinking of John D. Lee.  What does a man do who is commanded by his bishop and his stake president to slaughter 120 men, woman and children.  His bishop and stake president are his military commanders.

 We are told that if our L.D.S. Church Leaders ask to do something wrong and we follow their direction,  God will bless our actions.  Some men chose to follow their orders and participate and some men chose not to participate at the peril of their lives.   I wonder choice I would have made.

 The massacre was initiated by a misapplication of Brigham Young's Indian policy.  Due to the approach of the United States Army 1857 and the need to create a defense policy, Brigham Young had determined to use the Indians as hammer to smash the invading Federal Army.  The local Iron County militia, on its own initiative, determined to use this policy to rid themselves of a troublesome immigrant train headed to California.  It was hoped that the Indian's would be able to trap the immigrants and kill them quickly at The Mountain Meadows, in the southern portion of the Utah Territory.  This course of action failed, leaving the immigrant company entombed in a fort assembled of their wagons, forming a make shift corral. At the failure of the Indian's to massacre the immigrant party, a council was called at Parawon .  The council, formed of local citizen's, church and military leaders, advised that no further actions be taken and that an express rider be dispatched to Brigham Young for additional instruction.  Later that night contrary to instruction from the council, the bishop and stake president called out the local militia, under a pretense to bury dead, to kill the immigrant company.  Additional Militia forces were ordered to a neighboring valley to kill some immigrant's who has gone to retrieve grease to maintain their wagons.  The immigrant party was lead from their makeshift fort, under a white flag and murdered.  The men went out first, followed by the woman and children.  They were lead single file to an ambush. Their was roughly one militia member per immigrant

  In the 1870's the U.S. Government investigated the massacre.  The bishop and stake president went into hiding and were not located.  John D. Lee was placed on trial twice.  The first trial ended in a hung jury.  John was taken to the meadows placed on his coffin and shot.  Thus becoming a scapegoat.  (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scapegoat)

  John was the only one to surrender and face trial.  All three men were excommunicated for their participation in the crime.  The 1870's were a difficult time for the L.D.S. Church and The Utah Territorial Government.  John's successful prosecution reduced some of this pressure.

  In the 1960's Juanita Brooks ground breaking biography of John D. Lee lead the leadership of the L.D.S Church to restore his membership.

  I keep think of King David cry, "will though leave my soul in hell".  John D. Lee  took upon himself the sins of his community.