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.