Mitt Romney and the Mountain Meadows Massacre

Mitt Romney and his family open fire on defenseless non-Mormon voters in 1857

I don’t think that the New York Times (new motto:  “All the Nineteenth-Century News That’s Fit to Print”) is going to win any prizes for subtlety with this piece.  Apparently, it wasn’t enough when the Washington Post dredged up a possibly somewhat dubious prank from Mitt Romney’s teenage years.  Now, we’re going to hear about his premortal crimes.

David Axelrod says that criticizing Governor Romney’s religion will be out of bounds for the Obama campaign.  But it’s rather obvious that the campaign’s surrogates intend to bring his faith up whenever possible, very likely hoping that its Otherness will be sufficiently repellent to depress the vote for Romney.  Typically, I expect, this will be done in tones of concern and/or curiosity about whether purported Mormon racism or nineteenth-century Mormon violence or alleged Mormon sexism or reputed Mormon economic power or other such potentially inflammatory examples of arguable Mormon misdeeds or seeming Mormon weirdness will, should anybody ever happen (cough cough) to bring them up, have any impact on the presidential election.

Incidentally, the best scholarly treatment of the actual history of the Mountain Meadows Massacre is Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley, and Glen M. Leonard, Massacre at Mountain Meadows (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).  Reading it, I’m convinced that religion as such had virtually nothing directly to do with the tragic events of September 1857 in southern Utah.

Prior to that book, the works of Juanita Brooks represented the best scholarship on the subject, and they’re still very much worth reading.

There are other discussions of the subject, too, of varying quality and reliability.  Some relatively recent books sensationalize and seriously distort the historical record.

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  • George P Webster

    Juanita Brooks believed Brigham Young ordered the attack on the Fancher party at Mountain Meadows. She established that Young was definitely an accessory after the fact in covering up the massacre and protecting the murderers. The LDS Church has denied involvement of the Prophet Brigham Young for 155 years and continues to do so. The church historians propagate the same lies as their ancestors, by qualifying their statements of “fact”. Forensic analysis of some 28 victims remains established that Indians had little to do with the murderers. The forensic analysis was cut short by Utah’s governor (a descendant of massacre perpetrators. – polygamous fathers with 50 children have many 21st Century progeny) in violation of Utah law, so the remains could be reinterred in time for the monument dedication. The majority of the victims lie in land adjacent to the monument site, on private property.
    The Mountain Meadows Massacre accounted for more western immigrant deaths than any attack launched by Native Americans. The entire site should be excavated, mapped and documented by forensic archeologists. As many remains as possible should be identified through DNA matching with relatives. The victims should be reinterred where they fell with markers placed. View the Little Bighorn Battlefield for comparison; just don’t build visitor centers and paved roads in the middle of the archeology.
    The truth has been deliberately hidden for 155 years. How can the LDS Church truly repent if the truth is not revealed?
    If nothing else the Mountain Meadows Massacre establishes that the Mormons are a Christian denomination like any other: they massacred innocents in the name of their God and their Church, just like other Christian denominations . Given the persecution of the Mormons in their early history, there is a logic to it all, especially if you read some of Brigham Young’s fiery sermons.. It is the secrecy and deceptions through time that taint the Church and its legacy.

    • danpeterson

      Seriously? Juanita Brooks believed that Brigham Young ordered the massacre? It’s been years since I’ve read Brooks, but that’s not at all how I remember her argument. Can you cite specific page references? I”m genuinely curious.

      As for the rest of your comments, I think the Oxford University Press volume “Massacre at Mountain Meadows” has dealt adequately with what happened, and I expect the forthcoming Oxford sequel to treat the aftermath (including the alleged cover-up) forthrightly and well.

      • c baker

        Mr. Webster… as for excavation – it may happen sooner than you think. A Record of Decision (route selection) was made this past week to build a high-power transmission line right through the middle of the area where bodies have been left at Mountain Meadow. We (descendants of victims) continue our fight to stop it even though it appears hopeless considering the fact that the history department of the LDS church referred to it in writing as a “victory.”

      • c baker

        to danpeterson… page 219.

  • Carolyn Ugolini

    Drawing from personal experience, I recall (when I was in my teens forty years ago) learning about the Mountain Meadow Massacre as a terrible tragedy . I learn about this in church-sponsored classes (seminary) and different points of view were presented. My experience is that the LDS Church has never tried to hide the involvement of many Church members in that horrible event.

    • c baker

      In fairness, I should let you know that I’m a descendant of Captain John Twitty Baker killed at Mountain Meadow. I would like to encourage you to read Will Bagley’s book, “Blood of the Prophets.” LDS historian and author, Richard Turley (mentioned above) wrote after Bagley’s book… it’s an interesting comparison. would also recommend the 25 page bibliography in Bagley’s book as a jumping off place for research. It covers just about everything ever written about the Massacre at Mountain Meadow. Aside: I’ve met Mr. Turley – he’s a nice person and very dedicated to his church.