Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Religion Kills - Mormon Massacre

The Mountain Meadow Massacre
To illustrate how readily and easily religions turn their followers into killers in the name of their gods, here is a little bit of history of the new kid on the religious block, the Mormons, or Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) as they style themselves.

The LDS was invented in the early nineteenth century by convicted fraudster Joseph Smith and is based on a novel, written in a pastiche of the same seventeenth century English that the King James translation from Latin of the Christian Bible was written in. It is thought that Smith either believed God spoke this form of English and personally wrote the Bible in it, so naturally, any novel purporting to be written by God would be written in the language God spoke, or that, correctly as it turned out, the people he was aiming to con with it would believe God spoke and wrote like that, and were so more likely to believe his scam.

I have mentioned this particular faith-enabled massacre for money before in Religion Kills where I list many such massacres, but this adds the detail.

The event takes place some time after Joseph Smith had been shot by outraged citizens and had been replaced as autocratic leader of the LDS by serial polygamist and habitual adulterer, Brigham Young, who moved the faithful to Utah. This account is taken from Victor J. Stenger's excellent book, The New Atheism - Taking a Stand for Science and Reason and was itself based on a book by Jon Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven.


Brigham Young took over the leadership of the LDS and moved the faithful to the territory of Utah. He ruled with an iron hand and officially sanctioned polygamy in 1852. He reportedly had dozens of wives, sixteen of which gave birth to his fifty-seven children. Needless to say, he has many descendants, including pro-football hall-of-famer Steve Young. Although appointed governor of the territory, Brigham Young ruled a theocracy that ignored federal laws such as those against polygamy in the territories. His militia, the Nauvoo Legion, harassed federal agents working in Utah. When President James Buchanan installed a new governor for the territory, Young declared martial law and a federal army headed for Utah to wrest control of the territory from Young.

Krakauer tells the story of the Mountain Meadows massacre, which took place in Washington County at this time, in 1857. Unaware of the tense situation in Utah, an unusually large and wealthy wagon train from Arkansas with 140 individuals, nine hundred head of cattle, and a prize racehorse worth many hundreds of thousands of today's dollars crossed into Utah on its way to California. They were also rumored to be carrying a strongbox filled with thousands of dollars in coins. It was known as the Francher Party. They entered into desperate country. A plague of crickets and drought had put many Saints on the edge of starvation. Their religion taught that stealing from the godless was righteous, so the wagon train looked ripe for picking. Furthermore, an important Mormon apostle, Parley Pratt, had just been savagely killed in Arkansas, near where the Francher train originated, and the Mormons were seeking revenge.

As the wagon train entered Utah, Apostle George A. Smith, first cousin to Joseph and general in the Nauvoo Legion, held a powwow with hundreds of Paiute Indians about twenty miles from Mountain Meadows. He told the Indians that the Americans had a large army just to the east of the mountains and intended to kill all of the Mormons and Indians in the Utah territory. Smith urged the Indians to get ready for war against all of the Americans and to "obey what the Mormons told them to do-that this was the will of the Great Spirit."

The Indian agent and interpreter at the powwow, Mormon John D. Lee, said twenty years later that he always believed General Smith had been sent there to incite the Indians to exterminate the wagon train and "was sent from that purpose by the direct command of Brigham Young."

After a five-day battle with Indians and, it is believed, Mormon militiamen dressed as Indians, Lee approached the wagon train with a proposal that they give up their weapons in return for safe passage. Having little other choice, they agreed and the women and children were sent ahead. The men of the party were led away by militiamen and each one was shot or clubbed to death. The militiamen guarding the women and children, disguised as Indians, killed all but seventeen children under age five - too young to be able to witness against the Saints. These were taken in by Mormon families. All told, about fifty men, twenty women, and fifty children or adolescents were killed.

After a minimal burial in shallow graves that scavengers easily uncovered in days, the Saints gathered round and offered "thanks to God for delivering our enemies into our hands." After twenty years of cover-ups in which attempts were made to pin the blame on the Indians, John D. Lee, who had become the wealthiest man in southern Utah with several homes and eighteen wives, was eventually hunted down and placed on trial in Beaver, Utah. No other participant was ever brought to justice. In what Krakauer likens to the 0. J. Simpson verdict, the jury deadlocked and Lee was not convicted.

This caused a national outcry that led Brigham Young to cynically stop blaming the Indians and put the fall onus on Lee as a scapegoat. At a second trial in 1876, Young screened the jurors and Lee was found guilty of first-degree murder. Lee spent his last days awaiting execution writing his life story, Mormonism Unveiled, which posthumously became a national best seller. Lee was executed by firing squad on March 23, 1877.[My emphasis]

Victor J. Stenger. The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason
(Kindle Locations 1337-1361). Kindle Edition.

So, the next time you see a grinning, open-handed Mormon with perfect teeth and hair looking to sign you up to his novel-based superstition, created for money by a convicted confidence trickster, in return for a tenth of your future earnings, bear in mind what his religion can be used for, just like any other religion which the unscrupulous use to control people for their own self-aggrandizement and power.

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  1. I saw a documentary on PBS that went into the facts of the massacre. Absolutely disgusting.

  2. thanks for share.

  3. I just review your every single blog post..and it was awesome..will be back to read this blog soon.

  4. Ha ha! The atheists I know are a bit more honest in their criticisms. This article is a joke, taking a murderous historical event, combined with many ridiculously false details and tries to connect it to a much larger group for who-knows-what purpose. Whatever floats your boat, I suppose.

    1. Just going straight for the abuse and insults, eh?

      At least readers don't have to suffer the insult to their intelligence of an attempt to pretend to be honest and reasonable first, so thanks for not wasting too much time.

    2. A few important points to consider:
      "abuse and insults"!? Your whole article implies that I, my family, and many friends support murder. Accusing me of abuse and and insults screams irony.

      Your first sentence and thesis statement for the article is so inflammatory and baseless, it would get somebody fired at my place if it was said it in public.

      You got the name of the church wrong.

      "Convicted fraudster" - Joseph Smith was arrested and accused dozens of times, but always found innocent (with one exception where he was fined a few dollars for a minor offense and dismissed). At the time he was murdered he was awaiting trial for something he had already been arrested, tried, and found innocent of TWICE before (double jeopardy is illegal today, and was illegal then). Those that were spreading the "convicted fraudster" rumors 180 years ago were the same people that orchestrated his murder.

      Many of Krakauer's claims have been long debunked. For some historical accuracy, might I recommend "Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling."

      Many anti-Mormons would love to believe that Brigham Young orchestrated the MMM, but unfortunately for them, there's no credible evidence to support it. The only evidence you state came from the murderer himself. Are you really basing your whole argument on the testimony of killers?

      If you'd like, I can continue...

      I presume your next article will detail how atheism leads to massacres? (It would be just as rational as this one)

    3. I haven't implied your family and friends support anything, but thank you for volunteering the information, if it's true.

      Are you not able to do any better that insults, abuse, and now waving the strawman of phoney indignation and false martyrdom when people tell the truth about the history of your cult?

      How about trying to explain why massacre and theft were good things, or telling us that your ancestors did something wrong and distancing yourself from them even though that would be admitting your cult was founded by a band of criminals and murdering bandits living a piratical existence in a lawless country, and having no regard for the dignity of human life?

      You know, like honest, decent people would.

    4. "I haven't implied your family and friends support anything"...I refer you to your own comment... "To illustrate how readily and easily religions turn their followers into killers"
      (Obviously not true)
      "truth about the history of your cult" - you didn't even get the name right!
      "How about trying to explain why massacre and theft were good things" How about you explain why you eat babies! Don't try to be manipulative. Obviously I condemn murder and theft, as do other Mormons.

      Please, where's your honesty and decency. You haven't shown either in any of your posts.

    5. The events I described happened. No amount of phoney indignation and attempts to make me feel guilty by associating yourself, your friends and your family with them, will change that.

      But my compliments on they way you've done what you are trained to do in these situations, and have played the victim.

      Why do you think you weren't trained to just be honest and agree that the founders of your cult were criminals who had no regard for human life and human dignity when it stood in the way of their lust for power and control? Aren't we all expected to think that your cult has reformed itself and no longer behaves like amoral barbarians, using a trashy novel as its excuse?

      >How about you explain why you eat babies! <

      I think you've just lost any right to be taken seriously. You need to tell your cult they need someone more grown up to take over this one. You're obviously not up to the task.

  5. Ha ha! You do realize that the baby comment was pure sarcasm, right? It was an attempt to show you how ridiculous your claims appear.

    1. No. It was clearly an infantile ploy to divert the conversation away from a documented incident which actually happened and which your cult is obviously too embarrassed about still to face up to.

      You've blown it. You need to report back and see if someone else can be assigned to this little disinformation project.

  6. Well done. Great article. I love reading them, keep up the good work.

  7. Great informative article. next time mormons come down my street I will put the dogs on them! Viva the truth!


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