A day of massacres, in 2001 . . . and 1857


MMM memorial cairn
The principal memorial at the site of the Mountain Meadows Massacre  (Wikimedia Commons)


As has been noted, today is the sixteenth anniversary of al-Qa‘ida’s lethal attacks on the Pentagon in Washington DC and the World Trade Center in New York City and of its failed attempt to use United Flight 93 for an attack on either the White House or the United States Capitol.


Oddly, I have a particular song going through my mind — Nanci Griffith’s rendition of “From a Distance.”  Bette Midler had a hit with the same song and I like her version, but, for some reason, it’s the Nanci Griffith cover of the song that sticks with me most.  Perhaps because it was the Nanci Griffith version that I first saw and heard.  This is the very performance (although I don’t recall the Portuguese subtitles!):



Of course, while dreaming of peace I realize all too well that there are evil people out there who wish to do harm to us and to others.  So, sadly, it’s necessary even for those who love peace — and perhaps especially for them — to prepare for war.


“To be prepared for war,” George Washington correctly said of this fallen world, “is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.”

With that in mind, I pass on this article by David French, with which I agree:


“The ‘Idiots’ Were Right, Mr. Bannon”


God is indeed watching us “from a distance,” and he cannot be pleased.  And when we’ve left this twisted world behind and remember where we came from originally and what we were really here to do, there will be few of us, I think, who won’t be appalled at how often and how thoroughly we fundamentally messed up, losing sight of what actually mattered and who we all actually are.




I’ve tried to steer a middle course between pacifistic isolationism, on the one hand, and hyper-militarism, on the other.  The latter is not only immoral but counterproductive.  The former, however, seems to me completely unrealistic and a recipe for disaster, an invitation to attack.


Likewise, I’ve found myself positioned between those who effectively see no problems in the Islamic world and no significant threat originating there (and who sometimes seem to prefer to blame everything on the United States and the West) and the very vocal anti-Islamic bigots who have been so loud and so visible over the past few years.  The latter seem, to me, to be cooperating, if only inadvertently, with the extremists of al-Qa‘ida and Daesh (aka “ISIS” or “ISIL” or the “Islamic State”) and other such groups, who yearn for an apocalyptic war to the death between the Islamic world and the West.


Representing such bigoted ignorance is a Canadian woman named “Jennifer,” who didn’t exactly cover herself with glory with her antics at a recent political meeting in Brampton, Ontario:


“Sikh Canadian Politician Brilliantly Foils Racist Woman During Event”




Unfortunately, today is also the 160th anniversary of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, which is almost certainly to be regarded as the worst blot on the history of Mormonism.


There are a number of good books on the subject, including The Mountain Meadows Massacre and John Doyle Lee, both by Juanita Brooks, as well as a large number of bad and very bad books.


Probably the best single volume on the subject now is the Oxford University Press volume Massacre at Mountain Meadows, by Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley, and Glen M. Leonard.


As I read it when it was first published, it reminded me of a Greek tragedy.  I thought, if I were a playwright, that I could have built something Sophoclean on the story.  The worst thing, of course, is what happened to the innocent victims of the massacre.  But, especially since I knew what was going to happen, there was a sense of doomed inevitability to the story.  I kept wanting to scream out “Stop!”  But the logic of the events was, in a way, inexorable, each step flowing more or less reasonably from the one before, until everything culminated in a bloody horror.  How, one might ask, could good people have committed such an act?  (It would have been easier to understand had they simply been thugs and villains.  But they weren’t.)  Reading the story, to my shock, I understood more or less how and why it happened.  And that was chilling in itself.


We are fallen.  We desperately need the Atonement.  It’s our only hope.



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