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Brigham Young Bears "a Measure Of Culpability" For Mmm


smac97

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Here:

One hundred and fifty years after the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the biggest question remains: Was Brigham Young involved?

...

Historian and author Will Bagley believes Young gave the order and is to blame for the atrocity. The Mormon leader, Bagley says, "acted guilty, lied about it for 20 years and didn't go after the Mormon perpetrators."

He points to a meeting Young, who also served as an agent of Indian affairs, held in Salt Lake City with a dozen chiefs, during which he encouraged them to attack wagon trains and suggested they had a right to the emigrants' property.

"That's a criminal act," says Bagley, author of Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows.

Note that he didn't point to Dimick Huntington's journal. Here's why.

Bagley believes the Fancher party didn't reach Cedar City until Sept. 4 and on Sept. 7 was attacked by 60 to 70 Mormons and some Paiutes (though both the dates and size of the Mormon contingent are in dispute).

"How long does it take to assemble a force that big stationed in several places? Longer than a long weekend," which suggests to him the attackers already had an order to act.

Bagley is convinced Young offered a kind of confession in May 1861. Stopping at the Meadows with 125 friends, he spied the rock pile the army had raised on the victims' graves, with its inscription, "Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord."

Young reportedly repeated the phrase, then added, "and I have taken a little."

"It reveals the motivation and the authority for the murders," Bagley says.

Mormon historian Ronald W. Walker, co-author of the forthcoming volume Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, says it's not that clear-cut. "Young's statement about vengeance most likely was based on reports to him that emphasized emigrant misconduct [reportedly bragging about killing Mormon founder Joseph Smith]."

It was the "antagonistic" U.S. Army that reported the figure of 60 to 70 Mormons at the first attack, Walker says. Other sources say it was mostly John D. Lee and some Indians. Additional militia members slowly arrived during the five-day siege.

As for the meeting with the Indian leaders, none of the chiefs in attendance participated in the massacre.

To Walker and his co-authors, Richard Turley and Glen Leonard, the most compelling reason for rejecting Young as the instigator is how conditions evolved in southern Utah.

"The day-by-day ebb and flow of events wasn't consistent with an agenda," Walker says. "They were constantly changing their minds, arguing with each other."

If it was ordered by Young, he says, "that had to be one of the best-kept secrets ever. How do you get all these people involved and then, after the fact, telling a consistent story? Conspiracies break down because people spill the beans, he says. "In this case, nobody did."

Does that mean Young was blameless?

Not entirely, Walker says. Young's preaching "tended to inflame emotions. Because of that, he does bear a measure of culpability."

-Smac

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I would agree that brigham young (if what we think we know about the happenings during this time period is actually the truth) would be culpable-but i'm not sure what that means to me exactly.

I see it a little bit like the recent thread about how rarely a victim of a crime does bears a small measure of responsibility for what happened. That doesn't mean they are responsible for the crime, that they sinned, or that they aren't a victim, but just that their actions contributed to what happened.

I think that the people involved with MMM probably used the words and teachings of BY to justify-in their minds-their actions and perhaps BY should have contemplated the possibility of such a thing occuring and spoken out against it more forcefully to ensure, as much as he could, that it didn't.

On the other hand-i don't believe that BY wanted such a thing to happen or that he really thought it would. And i don't know that anyone can fault BY for things that we easily see after the fact, that might not have been so apparant at the time.

It's so easy to judge history by information received in the future. Hindsight is 20/20.

:P

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Culpable for preaching the Bible?

I share your astonishment, Zak. If a leader of a civil population does not prepare that population for the probable bloodshed to come at the hands of an invader, he isn't doing his job right. BY was, by the standards of XIXth Century bombast, quite civil and restrained.

I suspect the person who penned the sentence about BY having some measure of culpability has never read much antebellum bombast from the likes of the nascent Republican Party . . . or their intellectual equals in Dixie.

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If fiery rhetoric, accusations, sword-rattling, and threats constitute culpability...then thousands of Mormons, non-Mormon pioneers, the media of the day, and the government of the United States of America are culpable to some degree.

I think that citing the rhetoric of Brigham Young to establish a measure of responsibility is somewhat simplistic...but understandable. However, if a rhetoric standard is applied it must be applied to all parties in context with the overall military, cultural, social, and political setting.

Regards,

Six

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If fiery rhetoric, accusations, sword-rattling, and threats constitute culpability...then thousands of Mormons, non-Mormon pioneers, the media of the day, and the government of the United States of America are culpable to some degree.

I think that citing the rhetoric of Brigham Young to establish a measure of responsibility is somewhat simplistic...but understandable. However, if a rhetoric standard is applied it must be applied to all parties in context with the overall military, cultural, social, and political setting.

Regards,

Six

I completely agree and it would only make sense, if one was going to assign culpability to BY here that it equally be assigned the U.S. government as well.

Their actions greatly led to the environment that fostered such fear of non-mormons in some circles.

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Does that mean Young was blameless?

Not entirely, Walker says. Young's preaching "tended to inflame emotions. Because of that, he does bear a measure of culpability."

This is an awfully modest claim. Ron Walker is a scholar of unimpeachable standing, among many other accomplishments co-authoring the standard work on Mormon historiography, Mormon History. I can't claim any privileged insight into his faith or character, but I sat next to him at a Sunday-morning devotional in Sharon, Vermont, following the 2005 MHA Conference, and he was entirely gracious and friendly to me. (Of course, I had just delivered an extravagant compliment on his book, so that might have colored his response!)

Are any of you prepared to defend the logical inversion of Walker's modest claim, that Brigham Young bears absolutely no measure of culpability? That is a startlingly strong claim, one that calls for concomitantly strong evidence. Personally, I doubt that even Brother Brigham would defend it.

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Are any of you prepared to defend the logical inversion of Walker's modest claim, that Brigham Young bears absolutely no measure of culpability?

I expect that BY would say "The buck stops here". He was, in that sense, culpable for anything and everything that happened within 500 miles of SLC. And that is indeed an astonishing claim.

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I expect that BY would say "The buck stops here". He was, in that sense, culpable for anything and everything that happened within 500 miles of SLC. And that is indeed an astonishing claim.

And one that nobody here has made. Can you see the difference between "culpable" and "bearing a measure of culpability?"

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Yeah, one is said differently then the other...

. . . because one has a different meaning than the other. "Culpable" is how you describe someone who bears all or most of the blame for something. "Bearing a measure of culpability" is how a faithful historian frankly acknowledges that the tapestry of guilt for a tragedy of the Mountain Meadows Massacre's complexity might well include some small thread of responsibility by a fallible leader of a well-intentioned people.

Honestly, it's reactions like these that prompt threads like this.

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I believe that Brigham Young gave the order for the siege/raids on the Fancher party just as long as all the blame could be put on the Indians in order to protect the church's reputation from the Fancher party telling people in California that the Mormons participated in the raids. I don't believe that Brigham Young gave any order to have them all massacred. I do think he was too obsessed in the aftermath with protecting the Mormons' reputation. As a result Brigham Young and the church obstructed justice on the investigation into this mass murder. And that's why we'll certainly never hear the Arkansas descendants ever shut up until after the NPS (not the LDS church) has stewardship over the historic site.

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I believe that Brigham Young gave the order for the siege/raids on the Fancher party just as long as all the blame could be put on the Indians in order to protect the church's reputation from the Fancher party telling people in California that the Mormons participated in the raids. I don't believe that Brigham Young gave any order to have them all massacred. I do think he was too obsessed in the aftermath with protecting the Mormons' reputation. As a result Brigham Young and the church obstructed justice on the investigation into this mass murder. And that's why we'll certainly never hear the Arkansas descendants ever shut up until after the NPS (not the LDS church) has stewardship over the historic site.

To bad this delightful little supposition either has no evidence to support it or simply ignores what evidence there is.

But, if it helps you sleep at night, who are we to rob you of your preconceptions?

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  • 2 weeks later...
I believe that Brigham Young gave the order for the siege/raids on the Fancher party just as long as all the blame could be put on the Indians in order to protect the church's reputation from the Fancher party telling people in California that the Mormons participated in the raids.

And you are entitled to your beliefs, however baseless they may be.

The Saints in the 19th century weren't that concerned about "reputation." They were concerned with survival.

I don't believe that Brigham Young gave any order to have them all massacred. I do think he was too obsessed in the aftermath with protecting the Mormons' reputation. As a result Brigham Young and the church obstructed justice on the investigation into this mass murder.

Justice? And what justice was to be had from the likes of Cradlebaugh, Baskin and their ilk?

We hear this refrain constantly and unceasingly. Here, for the benefit of those who have enough empathy to put themselves in the other fellow's shoes, is a parallel case.

Suppose that in 1939 some innocent German civilians were murdered in France. Suppose that, in 1941, the occupying authorities started an investigation to bring the guilty parties to justice. How do we expect the French civilians to react? Who, if anyone, would dare to criticise them for not becoming collaborators?

And how is this situation materially different from that of the Saints in Utah in the aftermath of the Utah War?

And that's why we'll certainly never hear the Arkansas descendants ever shut up until after the NPS (not the LDS church) has stewardship over the historic site.

Not quite.

The faction of Fancher descendants who are making this song and dance are doing so because they've swallowed the "Brigham did it" propaganda, hook line and sinker.

Which doesn't seem to bother any of the Church's "critics" at all.

Incidentally, the Church owns the land. In plausibly free societies, landowners don't get "stewardship" wrenched away from them because some interest group has an axe to grind about what happened on it 150 years ago.

Regards,

Pahoran

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