If the pro-Fancher witnesses, if even the confessions of the masterminds of the Mountain Meadows Massacre are reliable at all, it only illustrates that John D Lee, Isaac C Haight, and their assassinating fellows, rather than acting as the instruments of God under the command of His living prophet, were instead tragically engaged in playing out a scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian called the “Blessed are the Cheesemakers” sketch.
The entire sequence of actions taken by the Mormon contingent at Mountain Meadows was what previous military generations would call, “FUBAR,” or a whopping “SNAFU,” or in current military parlance, an epic “Clusterf–k.”
You can read all you want about “Blood Atonement,” in the Journal of Discourses, and to paraphrase Bruce R McConkie, you’ll find that Brigham Young contradicts Brigham Young rather a lot during this period. You can also never assume the scribblers who jotted it down got it entirely right-something noted LDS historian BH Roberts cautions against repeatedly, in even the material he quotes as reasonably authoritative. The bold assertion that Brigham Young ordered the Fancher Party destroyed however, based upon “Blood Atonement,” is farcical. For one thing, “Blood Atonement,” even as it existed in the form of smoke billowing out the doctrinal hind-end of Brigham Young, could have only ever applied to temple-endowed members who had committed some crime worthy of the death penalty, and then only in some future, imminent Second Coming scenario. It wouldn’t have applied to anyone in the Fancher Party. And for another, without the treacherous butchery at Mountain Meadows, contemporary journalists and eternal historians would have recorded that Brigham Young stood down the combined might of the US military and political machines, won a bloodless war, and pulled off a public relations coup of epic proportions. Mountain Meadows only ruined that boast for Brigham Young. It put his church at greater risk and plagues it to this day.
A few rather critical qualifiers are always omitted in anti-Mormonists’ fanciful claims about widespread, roving “Blood Atoners” in the early Utah period of Mormonism. First of these, is that Joseph Smith only posed the doctrine to the extent that he claimed that the willful shedding of innocent blood was essentially the same as denying the Holy Ghost—the “Unpardonable Sin” in Mormon theology—and thus the universal atonement and resurrection Graced upon all mankind by the shed blood of Christ was not sufficient to compensate for the overtly willful and deliberately evil nature of that particular sin. Joseph Smith’s conception of the principle can also be related to the notion of knowingly participating in the crucifixion of Christ, the ultimate symbol of innocence. Smith’s implication suggested no guarantee of resurrection without some other additional judgment and penance in the hereafter. Secondly, Brigham Young took this concept a step farther, and proposed that willfully surrendering yourself to the justice of the law in mortality, and laying your own life down as penance, was essentially the only true proof of repentance for such a crime. This of course precludes any possibility of some “Danite” revenge squad slitting your throat involuntarily, by force or coercion, having any connection whatsoever to Brigham Young’s concept of “Blood Atonement.” And lastly, while many inflammatory but entirely out-of-context quotes are invariably cited where Brigham Young warns his sinful congregation that it would be better that their blood be spilt than they be allowed to apostatize and turn against the Saints to destroy them, it is never maintained that apostasy is worthy of death in the here-and-now. In fact, omitted from these scandalous harangues in every case, are the sections where Brigham Young qualifies all references to either apostasy, or heinous sex sins, or “Blood Atonement” by clearly explaining that the penalty of death under these “laws” was once practiced in ancient Biblical times (and he cites many specific examples directly from Old Testament Scripture) and at some future date the Lord will return to reinstate these laws and hold the Saints accountable for their immoral conduct.
Young’s point was: Shape up now or pay later. The Lord is a’comin’. Young’s point was not: Shape up now or I’ll have somebody sneak up, hold you down, and cut your balls off or slit your throat.
On the other hand, Brigham Young’s rhetoric was often highly over-stated and figurative for purposes of emphasis and drama. His ramblings were usually stream-of-consciousness and if you were not there in the moment a mere transcript accurate though it may or may not be, hardly represents the original effect of delivery to a live audience. Anti-Mormonists and general journalistic idiots deliberately highlight only the most foaming of these statements. But it isn’t the anti-Mormonists and journalistic fools who created the fundamental problem of Brigham Young’s fanatical tone, nor that of his fellow LDS authorities in the heat of the day. But bias and yellow journalism, creative editing and ignorant or deliberately misleading commentary easily exacerbated it. Of course, half of my blushing Utah Mormon readers right there are thinking I’m talking about playing with yourself…which is the other part of the problem. Brigham Young far too often gave the Saints credit for more basic intelligence and discernment than many of them actually possessed. And unlike Joseph Smith, Brigham Young had serious trouble just shutting up and leaving any given topic in its original, pure, simple form:
John Taylor, the third President of the Church, reported: “Some years ago, in Nauvoo, a gentleman in my hearing, a member of the Legislature, asked Joseph Smith how it was that he was enabled to govern so many people, and to preserve such perfect order; remarking at the same time that it was impossible for them to do it anywhere else. Mr. Smith remarked that it was very easy to do that. ‘How?’ responded the gentleman; ‘to us it is very difficult.’ Mr. Smith replied, ‘I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.’ ”3
Brigham Young, the second President of the Church, reported: “The question was asked a great many times of Joseph Smith, by gentlemen who came to see him and his people, ‘How is it that you can control your people so easily? It appears that they do nothing but what you say; how is it that you can govern them so easily?’ Said he, ‘I do not govern them at all. The Lord has revealed certain principles from the heavens by which we are to live in these latter days. The time is drawing near when the Lord is going to gather out His people from the wicked, and He is going to cut short His work in righteousness, and the principles which He has revealed I have taught to the people and they are trying to live according to them, and they control themselves.’ ”4
Joseph Smith’s answer was a single, witty, concise sentence. Brigham Young babbles his way through a foreboding sermon about the End Times and impending doom before he eventually answers the question. But that’s the way Brigham’s mind worked. At any rate, not so witty, not so concise, and a bit foreboding.
But on another occasion Brigham Young did give his short answer to the question of leading the Saints:
“I have had some people ask me how I manage and control the people,” he once remarked. “I do it by telling them the truth and letting them do just as they have a mind to.”…
Concise, yes, but again with a slightly risky spin: Sometimes letting people do just as they have a mind to do is a dangerous proposition. More so, when the “truth” is delivered during perilous times, in a bombastic, frightening rhetorical thunderstorm, that could easily be taken out of context and executed far too immediately and literally than intended. In this respect, Mountain Meadows represents just the sort of total cock-up that arises from Mormonism’s schizophrenic approach to divining what actual Mormon doctrine is or isn’t particularly since the murder of Joseph Smith. The problem at Mountain Meadows was not as often claimed, that the Saints are mind-numbed robots and slaves. Rather, that they really are by-and-large free to do whatever it is they feel the Lord would have them do. Most of the time this leads to moving in big, cumbersome, benign clusters of warm and fuzzy do-gooders. Sometimes, however, individually, or in smaller groups, they simply aren’t singing off the same page as either God or the Brethren.
As Brigham Young put it, regarding his alleged involvement in Mountain Meadows:
There is a gentleman here this afternoon who has said that he knows all about it. If he does, why does he not tell of it; and privately he places the murder upon President Brigham Young? Why do you not testify to what you know before the Courts? If President Young is guilty of any such crime, trace it to him. There are some things that Brigham has said he would do; but has never happened to do them; and that is not all, he prays fervently, to his Father and God that he may never be brought into circumstances to be obliged to shed human blood. He never has yet been brought into such a position. Still, let me find a dog in my bedroom, I would not say that he would be very safe; I hope he will never get there….
I do not care about the outsiders hearing this, as their opinion is neither here nor there to me; the Saints, however, are welcome to my views upon this matter. If the outsiders think that I am guilty of the crime, let them trace it to me and prove it on me. If any man, woman or child that ever lived has said that Brigham Young ever counseled them to commit crime of any description, they are liars in the face of heaven. If I am guilty of any such thing, let it be proved on me, and not go sneaking around insinuating that Brigham knows all about it.16
Or you can read what Brigham Young argued directly, during the peace summit between the incoming Governor Cumming, the Army, and the Saints:
I am a man of peace, and not of war…. But friends, should we throw ourselves in the attitude of defense against the advancing columns of the army, it brings hostilities and bloodshed immediately. Let us drop upon this army and crush it in pieces, and it will not end there…. I was in favor of stopping the army last fall, we gained by that means a winter’s quiet…. And again our religion forbids the shedding of blood, and inspires dread of the consequences; and above all things the shedding of innocent blood. We are informed, upon reliable authority, that there are many in that army that do not thirst for out blood—a portion of the soldiers do not want to kill us, and some of the officers do not desire our destruction; so that in coming in contact with those soldiers we would be compelled to put to death those who do not want to kill us, and in this way we might be brought into a position to shed innocent blood, though in justifiable self-defense. Had the administration sent volunteers, who in their hearts desired to murder us, and who enlisted expressly for that purpose, it would have been far different. Should we be compelled to kill them, we would kill those only, who in their hearts had desired to shed out blood, and voluntarily walked twelve hundred miles to accomplish it.”
—Comprehensive History of the Church, Volume 4, pg 430
The Mountain Meadows travesty was perpetrated by loyal, well-meaning, devout Latter-day Saints, every one of whom claimed he thought he was doing the Lord’s work according to what they understood of the ramblings of their president, prophet and Governor, Brigham Young. Then again, I guess, you can’t put all of that down to Brigham Young’s poorly organized, extemporaneous sermonizing habits. In fairness, you don’t have to look very hard in the Bible to find God telling Moses to utterly obliterate whole tribes and societies, man, woman, child, dog, cat and livestock. The catch is, did God tell Brigham Young to wipe out the Fanchers, and in Mosaic fashion, did Brigham Young pass on God’s revealed demands to Isaac C Haight, John D Lee and the other Mormon hit-men at Mountain Meadows? No. Not a shred of solid, legal evidence suggests that. Though John Lee is the only man convicted in the crime, not even he claims he was given any orders of any sort from Brigham Young. Lee says that Isaac Haight told him that it was yet another local Mormon stake president, William Dame, who passed on the authorization to kill off the Fanchers. Dame however, said it was down to Haight. It was in fact, Haight and Dame both who instigated the pissing and moaning session that turned into an assassination squad, not either Lee or Brigham Young.
The alleged Mormon “Danite” bands of Mormon “Avenging Angels,” such as they were, amounted to small-time versions of the Warsaw Regulators or any of the other spontaneous, grass-roots American Regulator Movement so-called “folk heroes.” In fact, the whole model of Brigham Young as an omnipotent, omniscient, cultic master is a failed notion. The existence of Mormon “Regulators” only proves this, because both he and Joseph Smith were outspokenly against mob justice or revenge. Brigham Young war notably on record against the entire concept. Just a few years before Mountain Meadows, there was a little feud between the same Utah Saints and the Utes kicked off by a Mormon settler nosing into an Indian domestic dispute, called the “Walker War.”
Instead of following a conciliatory policy as Young had directed, Mormon settlers responded in brutal kind. A militia unit in Utah County assaulted a Ute camp near Goshen, killing four or five people. At Nephi, on October 2, 1853, after eight or nine Utes came to the fort seeking protection, a group of townspeople slaughtered them “like so many dogs” and then reported the murders as deaths during a skirmish.
Undoubtedly, the murders with the greatest long-range consequence occurred on the early morning of October 26, 1853, when Capt. John W. Gunnison of the Corps of Topographical Engineers and a party of seven had camped on the lower Sevier River in Pahvant territory. The murder of Gunnison and his party by the Pahvants may have come in retaliation for the death of a Pahvant killed by members of a passing wagon train. Alternatively, the deaths–like those of settlers working outside in small parties–may have resulted from their distance because of fortified settlements. More seriously for the Utah settlers, however, anti-Mormons attributed the death to Mormons acting under Brigham Young’s instructions.
Brigham Young sitting on his allegedly god-like butt in Salt Lake City clearly did not wield absolute control over his flock. His Saints obviously did not always heed even direct orders. And he certainly had no omnipotent control over the Native Americans. And before there ever was a Utah War or a Massacre at Mountain Meadows, anti-Mormonists were wild and eager to blame even the most unrelated and pointless murders, by Indians or anyone else, upon Brigham Young. It fit their narrative. Young was already billed as a murdering tyrant and there had to be examples to “prove” it. It made no difference to the rabid, popular, politically-aligned press if slaughtering Gunnison’s mapping party was entirely counter-productive to Brigham Young’s interest. It was more important to “prove” the Mormons to be wicked savages.
But, yes, of course the Danites existed brother and sister Mormon! They weren’t much to brag about, were hit-and-miss, didn’t last long, and neither Joseph Smith nor Brigham Young ever had any particular involvement in these clandestine vigilante operations because they both preferred to organize avenging squads of Mormon defenders out in the open with horses, grand hats, ceremonial swords and nifty uniforms. When the mostly hyperbolic, mostly mythical Mormon “Danites” ever really were out avenging the blood of the Saints, there was nothing very clandestine about them at all. The were shooting at mobs in full view, telling the bastards just who was doing the shooting and why.
Every settlement of any size all across the United States of America in the early Mormon era had some group of lunk-heads who tagged themselves with some dangerous-sounding gang name, put flour-bags on their heads or dressed like Indians or snuck around and took revenge or put down whatever social ills their local clergy or elected officials told them was threatening their little world. Jackasses in every society inevitably do that sort of thing all on their own. Mountain Meadows was just a variation of the theme, and though the culprits in that vile butchery may have all thought they were doing the Lord’s work, Haight and Lee and Dame and company, were just wingin’ it on the spur of the moment.
The simple, self-interested truth is, Mountain Meadows is a debacle entirely uncharacteristic of Brigham Young’s machinations. If Mountain Meadows had been a Brigham Young operation, and the point was to keep it a secret, I wouldn’t be writing about it today because none of us would have ever heard of Mountain Meadows.
Mountain who? What?
Perry Brocchus, a comrade of the later infamous liar and detested whoremonger, Judge WW Drummond, was a partner with the several “run away officials” who returned to Washington in 1851 to complain about their treatment in Utah Territory. Brocchus in particular, claimed Brigham Young had ordered his assassination. Somehow, in spite of Brigham Young’s orders to kill him, he, and then a few years later Drummond, along with the celebrated fired mail contractor William MF Magraw, and many others in-between, all eluded the allegedly bloodthirsty Mormons surrounding them all the way back to the East to make their protests. Brigham Young referenced Brocchus’ charge, in speaking about press accounts of the judge’s “escape” to the East:
It is true, as it is said in the Report of these officers, if I had crooked my little finger, he would have been used up, but I did not bend it. If I had, the sisters alone felt indignant enough to have chopped him in pieces. I did not, however, do it, but suffered him to fill up the measure of his shame and iniquity until his cup is running over. He was not hurt in the least.19
–Brigham Young, June 19, 1853. Journal of Discourses 1:186-187.
Brigham Young probably had a twinkle in his eye that was returned with a grin from his immediate congregation, all knowing full well he was merely poking fun of his marveled omnipotence as boasted by the Eastern press. But you don’t see that in the transcript. It doesn’t read so whimsically years later in naked print. Many other innocent but highly sarcastic comments have come back to haunt his church over the years.
For instance, it is claimed that Young warned Utah Expedition representatives that if it sent an Army to repress his people he would cease to hold back the hand of the Native population, and Mountain Meadows was the execution of this threat. That’s a preposterous interpretation. Rather, Brigham Young had fought for years to establish a peaceful coexistence with the Indians and all he meant by this warning was that belligerent emigrant trains and an inflammatory army presence would make it impossible for him to continue to justify and defend hostile American Christian incursions into Indian territory. To do so would be endangering his own people. He made this warning two days before the slaughter at Mountain Meadows. The conflict by then had already been engaged for days. Mountain Meadows is over three-hundred miles down the trail from Brigham Young’s office. It is in the middle of nowhere even today. There were no cell towers in 1857. It was a three-day ride one-way with a fast horse and mount-changing stations. Yet reading Young’s warning in 20/20 hindsight, unaware of timelines and distances, it may seem incriminating. He couldn’t however, have possibly known what was going on with the Fancher Party the local Indians or his Mormon satellites in southern Utah, or even that the Fanchers were still in the territory.
The rider who had been dispatched to Brigham Young for specific instructions about the Fanchers, returned two days after the atrocity with this:
President Young’s express message of reply to Haight, dated September 10, arrived in Cedar City two days after the massacre. His letter reported recent news that no U.S. troops would be able to reach the territory before winter. “So you see that the Lord has answered our prayers and again averted the blow designed for our heads,” he wrote.
“In regard to emigration trains passing through our settlements,” Young continued, “we must not interfere with them until they are first notified to keep away. You must not meddle with them. The Indians we expect will do as they please but you should try and preserve good feelings with them. There are no other trains going south that I know of[.] [I]f those who are there will leave let them go in peace. While we should be on the alert, on hand and always ready we should also possess ourselves in patience, preserving ourselves and property ever remembering that God rules.”6
Mormonism’s greatest sin in this business, Christianity’s deepest condemnation of the Latter-day Saints in this offense, if the whole truth were told, is that these white Mormons chose to side with the ”red” race over fellow whites. And why not? It makes perfect sense to both Indian and Mormon alike, to team up to eliminate mutual enemies who have sworn to destroy both their ways of life, and repeatedly demonstrated the power and means to do so. Brigham Young, in his 1857 declaration of martial law, noted prominently that the Mormons had found more help and friendship amongst the “savage” Native Americans than they ever found amongst their “own.” This friendly relationship with Native America is one of the first things the entrance of the Utah Expedition deliberately destroyed. The army eventually removed all the local Indians to a system of reservations. Plainly speaking, Mormons, unlike “white” or “Christian” America, counted atrocities committed against the Indians as no less a crime than the abuse of any other human being:
I spoke a harsh word here yesterday with regard to a man who professes to be a Latter-day Saint who has been guilty of killing an innocent Indian. I say today that he is just as much a murderer through killing that Indian, as he would have been had he shot down a white man. To slay an innocent person is murder according to the law of Moses. Not that we believe that the law of Moses should, in all its bearings, be observed by us; but we believe that it has been fulfilled in a great measure with regard to the law of sacrifice. The Lord said to Noah, before the law was given to Moses: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man.” Those who shed the blood of the innocent at the present day will have to pay the penalty here, or come short of receiving the glory and the peace which they anticipate receiving hereafter. This may appear very hard and unreasonable to some.70
–Brigham Young, July 28, 1866. Journal of Discourses 11:263-264
If forced to choose between the forces of “Christian America” and the Native American “savages”—even given small feuds occasionally fought between isolated groups of Mormon settlers and Native parties—the Mormons would likely choose the Native Americans every time:
There came a captain with troops into this city: they were a specimen of the virtue and morality of the United States. They came here and began to insult the people, and then tried to cover up their wickedness by the dignity of Uncle Samdom. Passing along, they came to a lone house, and there undertook to ravish a woman in open daylight; and the brother who interfered to prevent this villainous outrage was most shamefully maltreated by them, and got some of his bones broken. After this outrage, the officers of the company were soon told that if they did not take their troops out of the city, the “Mormons” would cut all their damned throats; and that was the last we had of them here.69
–George A. Smith, August 2, 1857. Journal of Discourses 5:109
Now, all this tough, vigilante talk from Mormon leadership was nothing to do with “Blood Atonement.” It was the wild west. And for all of it, there was really only one clearly documentable case of “vigilante” retribution attributable to significant LDS authority apart from the Mountain Meadows Massacre. That was the case of Bishop Warren S. Snow and his admitted victim, twenty-four-year-old Thomas Lewis. His champions claim he was only guilty of wanting to marry a young woman that was desired by this older bishop as a plural wife. What really happened however, was that a party of highly offended Mormons, led by a rather bitter local bishop, intercepted this convicted rapist while being transported to prison, and aided by friends and family of his victim, performed a rather unpleasant surgical castration. But again, that was pretty much a standard practice in the old west. There is a rumor of another similar incident later on, but it is only vaguely documented, and may be the same incident repeated with a later date tacked on as an urban legend. In that case the victim was alleged to have been convicted of incest, resulting in a similar response from friends and relatives. These friends and relatives on both cases of course, are retold as “Danites” under orders of Brigham Young. Castrating sexual criminals however, has not the slightest thing to do with “Blood Atonement.” Not even vaguely. It’s just good old vengeance.
John D Lee of course, gave reams of testimony in court, and combined with his journal, proceeded to attribute every single unsolved murder in the territory for years to Mormon “Blood Atonement,” including the incidents alleged above. He and his fellow paranoids consistently allude to disappearances, and people who may have just left the state, as victims of Danite death squads.
One alleged incident that may have some merit:
“Rasmos Anderson was a Danish man who came to Utah… He had married a widow lady somewhat older than himself… At one of the meetings during the reformation Anderson and his step-daughter confessed that they had committed adultery… they were rebaptized and received into full membership. They were then placed under covenant that if they again committed adultery, Anderson should suffer death. Soon after this a charge was laid against Anderson before the Council, accusing him of adultery with his step-daughter. This Council was composed of Klingensmith and his two counselors; it was the Bishop’s Council. Without giving Anderson any chance to defend himself or make a statement, the Council voted that Anderson must die for violating his covenants. Klingensmith went to Anderson and notified him that the orders were that he must die by having his throat cut, so that the running of his blood would atone for his sins. Anderson, being a firm believer in the doctrines and teachings of the Mormon Church, made no objections… His wife was ordered to prepare a suit of clean clothing, in which to have her husband buried… she being directed to tell those who should inquire after her husband that he had gone to California.
“Klingensmith, James Haslem, Daniel McFarland and John M. Higbee dug a grave in the field near Cedar City, and that night, about 12 o’clock, went to Anderson’s house and ordered him to make ready to obey Council. Anderson got up… and without a word of remonstrance accompanied those that he believed were carrying out the will of the “Almighty God.” They went to the place where the grave was prepared; Anderson knelt upon the side of the grave and prayed. Klingensmith and his company then cut Anderson’s throat from ear to ear and held him so that his blood ran into the grave.
“As soon as he was dead they dressed him in his clean clothes, threw him into the grave and buried him. They then carried his bloody clothing back to his family, and gave them to his wife to wash… She obeyed their orders…. Anderson was killed just before the Mountain Meadows massacre. The killing of Anderson was then considered a religious duty and a just act. It was justified by all the people, for they were bound by the same covenants, and the least word of objection to thus treating the man who had broken his covenant would have brought the same fate upon the person who was so foolish as to raise his voice against any act committed by order of the Church authorities.”
As a point of order, a local Mormon bishop is not the ranking ecclesiastical authority relative to any endowed or “covenanted” member. In fact, the church is lousy with bishops. They practically sweep them up off the streets, shovel them into a suit and tie, work them a while, and then trade them out every few years for another. A bishop’s court has no authority even to disfellowship or excommunicate a Melchizedek Priesthood holder as Anderson would have to have been. A bishop is merely an entirely untrained, unpaid parish priest in the Mormon system of church government who largely administers the temporal functions of a local meetinghouse and attendant “ward” or district. A stake president, also unpaid and uneducated by any accredited religious regimen, something of a orthodox “bishop,” as the presiding high priest in the equivalent of a Mormon “diocese,” or a collection of parishes or Mormon “wards,” and a court of the stake’s High Council would have to be called to put any Melchizedek priesthood holder on trial for anything, much less incest, adultery, or slitting his throat. And of course, testimony and witnesses are required unless the accused refuses them. The whole system is run by volunteers in any case.
When investigated, stories like these always sound a bit “off” and start with a few internal irregularities. In the end they usually reveal that the evidence is always in the possession of someone else at some other location, or “stifled” by the “Danites” and thus unavailable. In this case, the whole “court” procedure and order is wrong, and no other witness, no grave, no rotted corpse was ever found or dug up. Anderson may have simply just “R-U-N-N-O-F-T” to California after repeatedly committing incest with his wife’s daughter—perhaps to avoid a castration, ball-busting, or similar testicular retribution from friends or relatives of the bride. Or, as Lee insists, he and his friends in southern Utah may have just been that stupid and they actually did slit his incestuous throat with his own permission. But it remains inescapably, that John Lee told and wrote and spread this and many other stories for years and years and remained remarkably un-murdered by Danite assassins. A host of other witnesses at his two trials also exposed the whole messy business of Mountain Meadows and much more, and also remained notably un-“Blood Atoned.”
Multiple generations of anti-Mormonists have “exposed” every “secret” plot, scheme, murder, treachery and intrigue of the LDS faith and the Mormon church. Why is it then, that none of these prime subjects for summary “Blood Atonement,” revenge and Danite silencing, ever get silenced? Why does it always turn out to be some rapist, or flim-flam artist, or serial adulterist and fornicator who ends up with his balls hacked off or his throat slit instead? Why is it always some cad with gambling debts, a severe drinking problem, a police jacket for felonious and usually violent crimes, who gets pointed to as the “victim” of Mormon assassination? Seems like the Danites and the Avenging Angels over these many generations have wasted a lot of time and energy on singular arseholes and strictly personal issues that don’t really matter a damn to the church or nation as a whole. Seems like Danites ironically go out of their way to ignore all the very mouthiest, secret-spilling, slander and libel masters of the nation’s anti-Mormonist trade. It seems like Mormon Avenging Angels just have no interest in the prime enemies of Mormonism–culprits you would think that any good Danite assassin would be happily murdering on a regular basis.
Now, John Lee is a cold blooded mass-murderer by his own confession. Anti-Mormonists somehow have no end of affection for anything he has to say however. They say he’s just a scapegoat. Did I mention that John Lee was not convicted by Brigham Young’s High Council? It was the United States Judicial System that nailed him. It was a very biased, anti-Mormon, US Army-protected and enforced Federal Court. It was run by federally appointed Christians, not Mormons. It was a court Washington had initially been perfectly happy never to convene and would not have ever done so had Brigham Young not repeatedly encouraged the investigation. Did I mention that in spite of Lee and many others, including the entire panel of federal judges, the army, and every Gentile in the territory, desperately wanting to incriminate Brigham Young, they succeeded in doing nothing of the sort by any shred of legal standard. And did I mention that this was due to Lee in particular testifying that Brigham Young could not have known anything about the Mountain Meadows Massacre or any Mormon involvement in it before-the fact?
Sure, there were probably vigilante justice squads and lynch mobs and plenty of Mormons who wreaked homespun justice upon the convicted guilty and even the very suspected guilty of Utah territory. But only at a rate 10% of what was going on in the surrounding frontier West. Some years later, at a time when Mormons had essentially no vote or office or any role in civil government or the court systems by federal legislation, Mormons under empirical analysis, were found to have committed only a fraction of the demonstrable crimes that were being committed wholesale by “civilized” and “Christian” America in the same territory:
We are, as I have said, represented as a very bad people, and I want to show a comparison between us and our reformers, or those that profess to be our reformers in relation to these matters…”At the above estimate of population the ratio or percentage would be one prisoner to every 10,000 Mormons, or one hundredth of one per cent, and of the Gentiles one convict in every 909, or about one ninth of one per cent.” So that the actual proportion of criminals is more than ten times greater among the Gentiles of Utah, with the above very liberal estimate, than among the Mormons. It is urged that these non-Mormon prisoners are not a fair representation of the average of crime throughout the country, but are the result of the flow of the desperate classes westward to the borders of civilization; with greater truth we reply that the Mormon prisoners are not representatives of Mormonism, nor the results of Mormonism, but of the consequences of a departure from Mormon principles; and of the 13 prisoners classed as “Mormons,” the greater portion were only so by family connection or association…As I have said before, if we were not on the defensive in this case, I would say nothing about these things; but it ill becomes men who have got ten criminals to our one to come here as our reformers, and try to disfranchise men who are ten times as good as they are. These are facts that are not of my getting up. They come from the public records and can be verified by the prison and other statistics. And the question is, how much of that rule do we want here?52
–John Taylor, October 6, 1884. Journal of Discourses 25:314
The looking glass of history indeed, exposes Mormonism’s Christian “civilizers” as Utah Territory’s primary evildoers:
James Buchanan did all he could do, and when he found he could do nothing, he sent a pardon here. What did he pardon us for? He was the man that had transgressed the laws, and had trampled the Constitution of the United States under his feet. We had neither transgressed against the one nor violated the other. But we did receive his pardon, you know, and when they find out they can do nothing they will be sending on their pardons again… There is not much danger, however, from that quarter. But are they not sending troops on here? Yes; and they will have plenty for them to do. Eleven thousand were ordered here by James Buchanan; seven thousand arrived, and about ten thousand hangers on—gamblers, thieves, and so forth. It made a pretty good army, but what did they accomplish? They used one another up. I recollect in the days of Camp Floyd it was thought nothing of to hear every morning to two or three men being killed; but now, if one is killed about once in six months all hell is on the move. If the whisky drinkers and gamblers who were here to winter, were to go to work, and kill off a few of themselves every night, it would stop all excitement about killing. What would be said if the United States mail were robbed in this neighborhood, as it is east, west, and north of this city every few weeks? It would be thought that we were becoming civilized; but in the absence of frequent deeds of this character, whenever a scoundrel meets with his just deserts here, there is a great outcry raised.74
–Brigham Young, February 10, 1867. Journal of Discourses 11:323