Question: What was Brigham Young's attitude toward the Mountain Meadows Massacre in 1861?


Question: What was Brigham Young's attitude toward the Mountain Meadows Massacre in 1861?

it is not known to what extent Brigham Young bought into different versions of the MMM story at different times

It should be kept in mind that it is not known to what extent Brigham Young bought into different versions of the MMM story at different times. The Iron County militia leaders spread a variety of propaganda which ranged from "The Indians did it", to "The Indians made us do it", to the massacred train were part of prior violent mob activity or "They were asking for it", to "They were threatening to bring an army back from California."[1] That sets up the background for an incident that occurred a couple of years later that Alexander covers:

Moreover, as late as 1861, Young still believed the stories of Baker/Fancher crimes which led to the massacre, in spite of his efforts to bring the perpetrators to trial. On visiting the massacre site in May 1861, Woodruff recorded Young's assessment that the plaque Carleton had erected on the mass grave which read: "Vengeance is mine and I will repay saith the Lord:' should read: "Vengence is mine and I (the Lord] have taken a little." Young clearly refused to take responsibility for the massacre. Later, the same month, Young told John D. Lee that the emigrants "Meritd their fate, & the only thing that ever troubled him was the lives of the Women & children, but that under the circumstances [this] could not be avoided."

Juanita Brooks and her co-editor of the John D. Lee diaries find the entry below to be evidence of Brigham Young's complicity in the post massacre cover-up.

Pres. Young Said that the company that was usede up at the Mountain Meadowes were the Fathers, Mothe[rs], Bros., Sisters & connections of those that Muerders the Prophets; they Meritd their fate, & the only thing that ever troubled him was the lives of the Women & children, but that under the circumstances [this] could not be avoided. Although there had been [some?] that wantd to betreyed the Brethrn into the hands of their Enimies, for that thing [they] will be Damned & go down to Hell. I would be Glad to see one of those traitors, though I [don't] Suppose that there is any here now. They have ran away, & when he came to the Monument that contained their Bones, he made this remark, Vengeance is Mine Saith the Lord, & I have taken a little of it.[2]

Brigham was angered that blame for this massacre was being placed on him and the whole church

Since Brigham Young did not know all the details of the massacre at this date, his determination to protect the Church from those who would use the actions of a few—which, because of the lies and half-truths he had been told, he probably believed to have been justified at this point—to attack or prosecute all members in the territory make his decision understandable.

He was angered that blame for this massacre was being placed on him and the whole church. While he did not yet know all of the details, he certainly knew that he and the majority of the Latter-day Saints were innocent. Furthermore, he did not like Carleton as Carleton showed great animosity and contempt toward the Mormons, writing an extremely mean-spirited report about the massacre site. (For more information see: Mountain Meadows: The Aftermath.)

Notes

  1. This section is derived, with permission, from David Keller, "Thomas Alexander’s Arrington Lecture on the MMM," fairblog (16 January 2008). Due to the nature of a wiki project, it may have had alterations and additions since that time.
  2. Robert Glass Cleland and Juanita Brooks, eds., A Mormon Chronicle: The Diaries of John D. Lee 1848-1876, 2 vols. (San Marino, California: The Huntington Library, 1955. Reprinted Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1983), 1:314.(dated May 25th [24th, 1861]).