Blood of the Prophets
Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows
Will Bagley

Will Bagley 2002
Brigham Young boasting about Mountain Meadow Massacre.
Presented to the 8th Annual Ex-Mormon Conference
October 5, 2002 Salt Lake City, UT with a September 2007 update by the historian

I'm quite used to publishing a book and just having it quietly disappear. (audience laughter) But I know that this is a story that touches many people quite deeply. And I hope that I've told it honestly and fairly. And I think that the hysteria, or the hysterical tone of some of the criticism reveals that I did do a good job. (audience laughter) And I'll speak about that.

But I'd also like to address the charges that I'm an anti-Mormon. They're preposterous, because I am still a Mormon. I'm a heritage Mormon, and I have a great-great-grandfather, grandfathers and grandmothers on all sides, who crossed the plains, most of them before the railroad, and I'm very proud of that heritage, and very proud of the Mormon people.

That said, I've never believed the theology since I was old enough to think about it. (audience laughter) But at the same time, I don't hold any grudges. I have many dear Mormon friends, and I do not believe that this book will take anyone's testimony away from them. Although I do believe that the book the church is putting out might well shake---might well lose the church any number of people.

But most of you know the general story---how many of you know the story of the Mountain Meadows Massacre? (show of hands) Well, for those of you who don't, I'll give a very brief summary.

In the fall, actually the late summer of 1857, a party of 140 emigrants from Arkansas were attacked by Mormons and Indians in southern Utah at an oasis on the California Trail. They were beseiged for five days, and at the end of five days, the Mormon military, the operation was run by the militia officers, went in, negotiated a surrender, persuaded the people to give up their arms, divide into three groups, promised them protection from the Indians, and an escort back to Cedar City. And about a mile and a half from their camp, the order was given, "Do your duty," or more likely "Do your duty to God," and the Mormon soldiers turned on the men next to them and shot them down. And then the Mormons disguised as Indians hiding in the brush came out and slaughtered the women and children.

Now, I have been challenged by people who say that I provide my interpretation that this was an ideological act. That this was done not as an act of anger, or as an act of "frontier violence," but as a religious act, as an act of religious anger, as an act that was only motivated by deeply held religious beliefs. And I believe that is probably why my book---and I think my book should be disturbing to anybody, no matter what their religious affiliations, or non-religious afiliations, because it asks a very hard question: How can decent men murder in the name of God?

This question I find, as I worked on the book, I thought it was extremely relevant, but as I dealt with these issues of theocracy and fanaticism, I knew they were important human subjects, but I thought, you know, few Americans are really going to relate to this. And last fall, as I was working at the Beinecke Library, it became very very relevant to Americans. [transcriber note: Bagley is apparently speaking of the Yale library, where he was researching when the 9/11/2001 attack occurred.] And I think there are a number of unfortunate parallels between what happened a year ago on September 11 and what happened 145 years ago at Mountain Meadows. Why did these people do it?

I want to read you something that isn't---there's pieces of it, but not much of it, in the book. This is taken from the Cedar Stake journal which is available in the William Palmer collection at Southern Utah University archives. It's a record of the church meetings that were held in southern Utah from about December 1856 until 1858 when the stake was dissolved.

Many of the men---almost all the men I'm quoting here were involved in the massacre in one way or another, although Rufus Allen was replaced as head of the southern Indian mission by Jacob Hamblin, quite obviously because Allen probably wouldn't have taken part in the event, and Hamblin would do what he was told. Hamblin of course wasn't there, but it's very significant that they replaced Rufus Allen.

But on the 19th of December 1856, "President John M. Higbee spoke of the benefits of the Society, and of us not encouraging those blood-sucking Gentiles that bring us their goods."

December 21st, 1856: "Elder Rufus Allen made remarks on the necessity of the Saints being faithful in all circumstances and of doing the will of the Lord in all things. President John M. Higbee made remarks on the necessity of us as Saints living in subjugation unto those who are placed over us in the Lord, and of the Lord not giving us any commandments that we cannot keep. President Elias Morris spoke of the Saints not judging those who are above us, and of minding our own business and doing what we are told."

January 29th, 1857: "Elder Richard Harrison, having returned from the Legislature, arose to address a large assembly of the Saints: 'The time has come that we cannot fool with the Almighty. If we do right, we can get forgiveness. The most damnable sins of this people are disregard unto the authorities. We have tried to get around it, but we cannot.' President Isaac Haight, having also returned from the sitting of the Legislature, arose to address the Saints: 'The chief sins of this people are disrespect to the holy priesthood, and the pruning time has come.' "

February 1st, 1857: "Richard Harrison arose and said 'We have to bring ourselves into subjugation to the proper authorities, and got to reform in everything, and make things right. Then we shall have the spirit of the Lord. Unless we are obedient to the priesthood, we cannot be saved."

This goes on and on and on, and obviously not everybody was happy with this, because there's a new subject introduced about May: "President Elias Morris: 'The people of this place of late are indulging in liquor. The women even take the whiskey jug into their tea party, and must treat a friend. I say let the men, women, and children who indulge in it leave it off, unless you will go down and be condemned.' "

Saturday, July 12, 1857: "President I. C. Haight spoke and said 'Myself and Brother Western will not sell any more liquor unless the people bring a recommend from the bishop.' " (audience laughter)

These people were different from modern Latter-Day Saints.

September 13, 1857: "At ten o'clock a.m. meeting opened by singing. Patriarch Elisha H. Groves spoke upon the principles of the gospel, and of the Lamanites being the battle-axe of the Lord, and of our faithfulness to the gospel. 2 p.m. meeting opened by singing, prayer by I. C. Haight. Haight spoke upon the spirit of the times, and of cousin Lemuel being fired up with the spirit of their fathers. Singing, benediction by P. K. Smith." [Philip Klingensmith.]

That last entry occurred two days after Isaac Haight had viewed the naked remains of 120 men, women, and children, including 80 women and children---the majority of them being children. Now, I'm astonished that I still have people who I would consider friends who argue that this was done because these people basically behaved badly, and made people in southern Utah mad at them, so they just went out and killed them all.

Never in the entire fury and blood of the Civil War did members of one side or another kill children of seven years old. It never happened. These were not crimes of anger. These were crimes of ideology.

Now, it's interesting that I would probably have never decided to tackle this story if I was left to my own devices, because I knew the problems with the evidence. And I knew it was a significant event, because as I dealt with many other areas of Mormonism, I found that it was like Skuyler (sp), the great whirlpool in 'The Odyssey', that draws everything into it. It is such a compelling event, that once it happens, it's like a black hole, and it distorts the rest of Mormon history for the rest of the 19th century. It becomes a millstone around the neck of the church. And although Brigham Young's biographers pretend that it was something that he only learned about twenty years later, and you know, it really wasn't that big a deal, it haunted him, and it never let up on him. I believe he went to his grave knowing exactly what he had done, and knowing that he would have to answer to the consequences.

Although many times he doesn't appear to be of that mindset, as is typical of Brigham Young, he does everything humanly possible to shift the blame onto someone else, including betraying the man who executed the crime, following Brigham Young's orders.

It is an amazing story, and what surprises me is that it's not over. That the same patterns I perceived taking place in Utah Territory in 1859 and 1860 are still happening. The Deseret News has never printed an honest word about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and they still refuse to do it. When they launched an ad hominem attack on this book and me, they chose to lie. There are many ways that you can criticize this book, but they went back to being true to form. Rather than make legitimate criticism, they said, the headline was, "Anti-Mormon Tract Compares Young To Hitler." (audience laughter) [transcriber's note: Bagley is referring to a Deseret News article by Dennis Lythgoe.]

Tracts are seldom 500 pages long, and the last I checked, the University of Oklahoma wasn't into publishing tracts. Also, quite interestingly, the word "Hitler" does not appear in the book. They quoted an alleged quote in which I was supposed to be "attacking Leonard Arrington." It's a misquote. This was literally taken out of context of a comparison between a very anti-Brigham Young biography and Leonard Arrington's cream puff biography, official biography of Brigham Young. And it says in the end, neither of them do justice to Brigham Young. And I believe most historians would agree with that assessment.

But they had to twist it around to make it sound as if I was simply criticizing Leonard Arrington, who ironically did so much for the Mormons and their history, and has been absolutely viciously attacked and his memory has been trashed by ironically, the lead author of their forthcoming apology on the Mountain Meadows Massacre. [Richard Turley?]

And obviously, it aggravates me a little bit, but I do want to say I'm much more entertained, and I really should have sent the author of the review a bouquet of roses, because I'm sure he sold at least five hundred books. (audience laughter) They published a big picture, you know, and I think they published it because it showed me with a beard, and of course, that would demonize me to most of their audience. (audience laughter) But it really wasn't a bad picture, so I just really can't complain about all the publicity anyway. (laughter) But it is fascinating to see these patterns repeat themselves again and again and again.

Kelly asked me to basically---she was quite pleased with the talk I gave several months ago. I'll provide you with some of the basic outline of what that talk was about. It begins by looking at the Mormon kingdom of God, which was formally announced in the spring of 1845, by ironically, apostle Parley P. Pratt.

Pratt wrote in a remarkable pamphlet, "The Kingdom of God is come, even that Kingdom which will fill the whole earth and shall stand forever. The revolutionary purpose of the Kingdom of God and its millenial plan is to reduce all nations and creeds to one political and religious standard, and thus put an end to the battle of forms and names, and to strife and war. The earth's rulers must take a lively interest with the saints of the Most High and the covenant people of the Lord, or you will become their inveterate enemy."

This was the charter that justified for Brigham Young the application of any level of violence necessary in his eyes to further the interests of the Kingdom of God. It is what laid the foundation for Mormon violence in the American West. And I'm sure that if you pay close attention to this subject, you're likely to hear many interpretations that say "Well, the frontier was a very violent place, and this was just another example of frontier violence."

Well, again, it does have some very singular characteristics. And Mormon violence is itself singular. Brigham Young, often in the context of writing letters to the government, denied any responsibility for the Mountain Meadows Massacre. And he says again and again, "We have the most orderly society in the West. We don't have any vigilante movements."

Stalin had a pretty orderly society, too. (audience laughter) But he had his prison camps full of political prisoners. But in fact, there was a different kind of violence. And one of the reasons you had a lower level of violence than the typical drunken rampages, looting operations, the violence that was endemic and extensive on the frontier. In Utah you had official violence. You had violence that was sanctioned from the pulpit. And in Utah you had, as they laid out, one standard. You had a government, until 1858, that was essentially also the religion. You had elections in which thousands of votes were cast, and not a single dissenting vote was entered. You didn't have secret ballots, but you had absolutely unanimous elections. And you can interpret that to mean that they were remarkably united and harmonious, or they had a state of terror over these people.

But what to me is most telling is that religious authorities would get up and talk about murder, talk about cutting throats, talk about taking revenge, in the context of providing religious counsel. And of course, Mormon apologists say that "You know, Brigham Young said a lot of things, but often he was joking, or he really didn't mean it." (audience laughter)

I'm sure many of you have looked at the Journal of Discourses, which is absolutely flabbergasting, but remember, the Journal of Discourses was sanitized. It had been cleaned up three times before it was published in Liverpool. First of all, it was cleaned up as the clerks were taking down the messages, the addresses. And it's fascinating because the clerks were all English-trained clerks, often trained in business or legal shops, and they'd go along, and sometimes you can actually see what Brigham Young's saying, and then they'll go back and correct the grammar and eliminate the vulgarities.

Brigham Young spoke much more colorfully than even what appears in the Journal of Discourses. And he loved four-letter words, and in many ways, the cruder the better. "Turd" was another favorite word. And it's amazing, not only in Brigham Young's case, but to see the term "shitass" come out of the minutes of the stake conference. (audience laughter)

And essentially it was because Mormons looked at blasphemy as evil, and it was apparently one of the things that you could get "blood atoned" for. They didn't enforce it that much, because Brigham Young would get up and blaspheme in public. They figured that as long as you didn't take the name of Jesus or God in vain, anything else was fair game.

And it was a way that Brigham Young really connected with the people, because he was a folk preacher, a very powerful folk preacher. And this was a time when they didn't write up all these speeches, send them in to the correlation committee, get them back, read them from the teleprompter, and if necessary, re-tape them. (audience laughter) They got up and spoke from the spirit. And to follow through on the process, after the clerks had taken it down, and then gone through and revised it, it was published in the Deseret News. And at that point, they would often drop out some of the more provocative language.

It was then shipped over to England, where almost certainly it was generally handled by English converts, because the Mormon apostles themselves were not very literate. And it's amazing, if you study Mormon newspapers, that they are so well done. And if you look at the journals of editors like Wilford Woodruff, it's clear that they had only the most passing knowledge of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. But the publications themselves are really quite well done. So in the English versions, they'd go through again and clean up the grammar, and sometimes eliminate more colorful phrases from Deseret News.

So you now have the Journal of Discourses, which is the sanitized published versions of the published talks. And much to my surprise, and I must say that LDS Archives was amazingly open with me, and they did provide me with any number of wonderful sources, and the professional staff was excellent. And the professional staff is all now engaged in researching the Mountain Meadows Massacre, at enormous expense.

I keep getting distracted, but I was actually hired to do this. I spent two years on the bankroll of a California entreprenuer named Frank James Singer. I went all over the country, went to National Archives, Huntington Library, Bancroft Library, BYU Library. I was amazed at what I found in the BYU Library. I spent two years doing basic research. I transcribed 800 pages of original source material. I transcribed a good portion of the Mountain Meadows file at LDS Archives, which is the remnants of the old subject file. And I was able to get at it and get through it before they did another selective purge.

I had John D. Lee descendants come to me and say "You know, you gave me your notes, and I went up and tried to look at it, but they wouldn't let me see this stuff." So I got there, I think, at the right time.

And you know, to their credit, it's a very wise policy, because let's face it, Mormon archives do contain a lot of "embarrassing information", but they were long ago purged---I've been informed, and I've never seen his journal, but Andrew Jenson, long-time assistant church historian, describes "consigning documents to the flames" because they were so embarrassing. So, except for items that only a real specialist would recognize, many of the most incriminating documents have long since been destroyed. And this was even admitted by one of the authors of the forthcoming Mormon version of the book.

But I do want to make clear that as part of the deal, I told Frank Singer that I would deliver him my best work and my professional conclusions as a historian, but that he would not get history made to order, and he might not be happy with what I concluded, but he would get what I considered an absolutely solid professional opinion, and that I would try to publish a book. Frank was going to write a novel, and had already written the screenplay, and he had already written the acceptance speech for the Oscar he was going to get for his movie on Mountain Meadows. (audience laughter.)

After working for Frank for two years, and it was a dream job---he paid me as much as I was making in the computer business, I went everyplace---all together, his company later informed me he spent about $250,000 underwriting this investigation. I only got a small fraction of that (laughing). But the expenses and all the rest of it, overhead, were pretty expensive.

I did have to finance the completion of the book on my own. The book was about half done. But I hadn't really figured it out. I'd collected a huge amount of evidence, but until I sat down to write the book, that final draft to send to the University of Oklahoma, that I had to say, "Okay, here's what happened. Here's what I believe are the facts," and try to sort out the lies from the believable evidence, to look critically as an historian at what we can believe about some of these stories, and what makes sense.

So often, if you're looking at a Mormon historical event, if you step back, and of course, I was raised in all of this---you step back, and say "Wait a minute, nobody could possibly believe that." But, if you're raised in a culture, it's like, "How could anybody NOT believe it?" And what surprised me was how many elements of this atrocious, shoddy cover story that was self-contradictory, and contains any number of challenges to common sense, how ingrained I was in that viewpoint. And I started out very much from where Juanita Brooks started out. I'd seen the Dudley Leavitt journal, which I think is unambiguous evidence that Brigham Young was guilty of at least ten counts of felony murder. I think that is open and shut. I don't think that there was a jury in the west that wouldn't convict Brigham Young on the evidence coming out of a document that's been in church archives since May 1859.

But I didn't think I could find the smoking gun, the piece of evidence that really convinced me WHY did they do it, and WHAT was the motivation. And, do remind me, because I wander around in these talks, to tell you at the end how I found the piece of evidence, quite serendipitously, someplace I never even thought to look at this thing, because I thought it was such a dishonest source, it can't possibly have any relevance. But I'll get back to that.

It was only writing that last draft that I had to sit down and say "Okay, did something happen in Cedar City? Was there a provocation for this massacre?" And I sent a copy of a chapter I'd written, a section called "Explosion in Cedar City", to David Bigler, a dear friend and a great historian of the west. He wrote back after reading it and said, "You make it sound like Cedar Cedar was Dodge City." And he just ridiculed the chapter. And he said, "Look at the evidence you're citing. You know what, you have a moral question here. Are you going to credit these flimsy stories slandering the character of the families that were going through Southern Utah? Would you believe that if you had eleven children with you and your wife, if you were going through a society as explosive as say Kosovo, would you go through Kosovo with your family telling everybody you met that Allah was a fraud and that Mohammed was a scoundrel? Something tells me that you wouldn't do it." As he said, "Let's give these people a break and at least look at common sense."

It was from that challenge to say, "This comes down not to just looking at the evidence and critically examining it as a historian. It comes down to moral choices. If you are going to hang this on somebody, you'd damn well better have good reason! And you can't do it from evidence that suddenly appears twenty years after the crime. You can't do it from affidavits by the murderers taken forty years after the crime. You have to look at the contemporary record and you have to give common sense credit."

And once I began to do that I realized that not one of the atrocity stories told about the purported land pirates from Missouri, which is how the Fancher party's been painted, not one of them is consistent. Not one of them painted an event that looked like another event. It was always somebody else's mother who gets ridden off the street, somebody else's chicken that gets its head popped off with a bullwhip, and sometimes, the chicken's head gets popped off by a FEMALE teamster. So, it was like an enlightment to say "Wait a minute, none of this makes sense. None of it morally makes sense."

And I also felt that if I was going to conclude that Brigham Young did this, and make an argument that he did, that I also better have pretty damn good evidence. But that's one thing I did not set out to do, to prove that Brigham Young ordered the Mountain Meadows Massacre. First of all, I didn't think that it was even possible. And I still don't think, no, I'm sure that if I had a signed confession from Brigham Young, validated as being in his handwriting by Dean Jessee and every other Mormon expert on handwriting, witnessed by all twelve of the apostles, nobody would believe it. It wouldn't make any difference. So I recognized that it was foolish to try to build a polemic, to try to prove something. So what I realized was that no one's ever told this story very well.

This is an incredible story. It is an awful tale, but it is an American tragedy. First of all, it's an American crime, and it is an incredible epic story. So I thought, look, if I can tell this story accurately and fairly, tell what happened and when---and I believe chronology is a key to understanding history. I'm of the school of history that believes one damn thing happens after another, and that chance plays an enormous role in human history. And that if you want to track an event, look at the sequence of events. In many ways, chronology is the key to figuring out the basic parameters about Meadows.

Here's an example: The Fancher party doesn't get to Cedar City until Friday evening, September 4th. On Monday morning, September 7th, they are attacked by a large force of Mormons and Indians. And these Indians are allegedly assembled all the way from the Muddy River, which is 80-90 miles away from Mountain Meadows, all the way up to Cedar City, which is a span of 120 miles.

But guess what? You can't get pissed off on Friday night, and organize and orchestrated military attack on the Fancher train over the weekend! You simply can't get your people there to do it. So what does that tell you? It means that whoever ordered this event did it before the Fancher party got to southern Utah. It was ordered before they got there. Whatever they did in southern Utah was irrelevant. It didn't matter. Their fate had already been determined elsewhere.

So I think there are any number of ways to use these techniques effectively. I also felt that if I didn't write a polemic, if I didn't set out to prove a case, that that would let readers make their own judgments. And I find it ironic that the critics who say that I'm biased, and that I don't like Brigham Young, well, they're probably right---I don't like Brigham Young. But as a professional historian, I believe I gotta give the guy his due, and I've gotta be as fair with him as I would with any other historical figure. And I think that shows through in the work, too.

But what I think validates that I was able to write a pretty unbiased work is the simple fact that the same critics say "Well you know what? There's no smoking gun there. He doesn't prove that Brigham Young did anything wrong. "And I'm intrigued that people look at this book in many ways like a Rohrsach test. They see in it what they WANT to see in it. And it also intrigues me because I don't think that the evidence is ambiguous. When Brigham Young gives the cattle belonging to these emigrants to the southern Paiutes, and seven days later, they're among the people who attacked these people, and in that first attack, they kill ten people. Are there any attorneys here? What is that? It's felony murder. It's a simple, straight-up case.

But you know what? I don't stop everything and say, "See this? See this? This is what happened, this is the key." I tell it as part of the story. And I believe that readers who are reading intelligently will say, "Yep, that's it."

But also, there's this growing accumulation of circumstantial evidence, which is I think is overwhelming. And not only that, we have Brigham Young telling us why he did it. I---didn't---make---this---up. And it when I began to look, and believe what Brigham Young was saying, that I finally began to understand what happened.

You guys are getting tired of hearing people talk at you, so I'm going to read some of my favorite quotes. Mormon historians love to argue that there were no blood atonements in Utah, and that violence there was very low, that what there was, was frontier violence. But, as Wallace Stegner said, "To pretend that there were no holy murders in Utah and along the trails to California, that there was no saving of the souls of sinners by the shedding of their blood during the blood atonement revival of 1856, that there were no mysterious disappearances of apostates and offensive Gentiles, is simply bad history."

I want to do a quote from Brigham Young, and there are also a couple of great other quotes. But I want to also point to the specific language in some of the quotes. In many ways, this isn't the most telling material. This is out of the Journal of Discourses, and you can go look it up yourself. The most telling stuff comes out of the unpublished sermons, which I was astonished to be able to see, and that, I think, provides the political explanation for what Brigham Young was doing.

But as he was preaching blood atonement early in 1857, Brigham Young asked, "Will you love that man or woman well enough to shed their blood?" He "knew hundreds of people who could have been saved if their lives had been taken, and their blood spilled on the ground as a smoking incense to the Almighty, but who are now angels of the Devil." If a man wanted salvation, and it was "necessary to spill his blood on the earth in order that he might be saved, spill it. That is the way to love mankind."

In private, he was even more explicit. (audience laughter) He told the Council of Fifty in March 1849, "I want their cursed heads cut off that they may atone for their sins." Now this of course was part of the religious doctrine "that the Saints had a right to kill a sinner to save him, when he commits those crimes that can only be atoned for by the shedding of blood."

As Jedediah Grant of the First Presidency insisted, "Grant advised sinners to ask Brigham Young to appoint a committee to attend to their case, and let a place be selected, and let that committee shed their blood. We have those amongst us that are full of all manner of abominations. Those need to have their blood shed, for water will not do, and their sins are of too deep a dye."

Now, we can always listen to Elder Bruce R. McConkie who said "blood atonement was a rhetorical device that has never been practiced by the church at any time," and then he tells you the rules of it, how it actually works. (audience laughter) But it WILL be working when we get to the millenium and that wonderful theocracy that's in all of our futures. (audience laughter) But Juanita Brooks concluded, "Blood atonement was a literal and terrible reality. Brigham Young advocated it and preached it without compromise."

There are one or two other quotes, but now I'm going to get to the punchline of this story, and it is the question, "Why did they do it?" Basically, I believe they did it because they were told to do it. They were ordered to do it. I hope that those quotes that I read at the start of this discussion drive home how relentlessly the notion of obedience was driven home to these people, how this rhetoric didn't only convey these passionate religious beliefs, it conveyed a very real threat, which was "you will obey, or you will be killed." And there were many men at Mountain Meadows who said "I did it because I believed that I myself would be killed."

I do want to point out, though, that that is not a defense of murder. English common law requires that before you shed someone else's blood, you have to die yourself. And I think that given the experience of the men who did this, that was probably far and away the better choice.

Why do I believe this? I believe it because that's what Brigham Young said had it had happened. I want to read the quote. This was stated, I believe, on the 30th of May 1861. The week before, Brigham Young had gone through Mountain Meadows, and he had come to the site of the grave where after two years, the U. S. Army had arrived, and found the bones of these people still littered on the ground.

They found tresses of hair scattered about, found the clothing of women and children, and they gathered up the remains they could find, and they interred them in several different graves. At the site of the wagon siege, they put the bodies in the siege pits they'd dug to defend themselves, gave them a military burial, orienting them as they would fallen soldiers, and then raised a cairn above their grave. At the top, they put a verse from Romans, "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord."

Brigham Young showed up with an entourage of 120 people, riding in his carriage, rode up, looked at the monument with the inscription and said, "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, and I have taken a little." And he raised his arm to the square, and as Dimmick Huntington told his granddaughter Juanita Brooks, "Within five minutes, not one rock was standing on another."

A week later, after preaching at John D. Lee's [?], "President Young said The company that was used up at Mountain Meadows were the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and connections of those that murdered the prophets. They merited their fate, and the only thing that ever troubled him was the lives of the women and children, but that under the circumstances, this could not be avoided."

Sounds like Donald Rumsfeld and his collateral damage. (audience laughter) But that's it. There's the reason the Mountain Meadows Massacre happened.

But as a historian, I still don't think that that answered the question of was it really ordered beforehand. Was Brigham Young's action in giving the cattle to the Paiutes---it was certainly felony murder, but did he really anticipate that it would result in the killing of eighty women and children? Those are questions I thought I'd never really find a definitive answer for.

And ironically, I found it when one of my---I'm an independent historian, I hire out my services, and one of my clients said "I want you to go look at the diary of Elias Smith for 1857." And I said to Bill, "Bill, I've looked at his published diary from the '60s. He's gonna tell you absolutely nothing." Elias Smith's journals---if Pearl Harbor happened, he'd tell you what he had for breakfast. But Bill had looked at every 1857 journal, and he said go down and copy it off. So I copied them off, and I went home and sat down and read them, and when I got to the 23rd of July, I knew what happened.

And it was, and this is another quote that doesn't appear in the book, and it's interesting, because I like to think that I left it out because I didn't think that Ann Gordsley was a very credible witness. Ann Gordsley was the last thirteen-year-old that John D. Lee ever married. And she wrote this amazing autobiography. She has an amazing account ot the Mountain Meadows Massacre. But she explains what the reason was, what people in southern Utah believed was the reason for the massacre.

She said, "Parley P. Pratt was one of the apostles, and was in Kansas at Fort Scott and Fort Smith for the purposes of enlightening people on Mormonism. He unfortunately for himself was murdered by the heathen Gentiles. This emigrant train happened to be from the same section of the country in which Pratt was killed. The Mormons were so insulted and indignant over the death and the murder of Pratt that they wreaked untold vengeance on the poor emigrants. This is supposed to be the cause of the Mountain Meadow Massacre." I think Ann Gordsley is telling us exactly what people in southern Utah knew.

And I had run into a mystery. "Argus", Charles Wandell, an apostate Mormon writer, charged that when the Fancher party came through Salt Lake in August 1857, Parley P. Pratt's widow, Eleanor Pratt, fingered them. She had seen, she had been present---she hadn't seen Pratt killed, but she'd been in Arkansas, and she'd been present and had seen Pratt's body after he was murdered. She was Pratt's twelfth wife. She was also the legal wife of of Hector McLean. Hector McLean killed Parley Pratt after he was freed from a federal jail, and pretty brutally murdered him on the border of Arkansas.

He wrote this incredible letter to the Alta, California newspaper, saying that he considered the murder of Parley P. Pratt "the best act of his life." And he said the people of Arkansas believed the same thing.

I gotta find you this quote, it's just amazing, because it's as good an example of prophecy as you will ever find in Mormon history. Because most of our prophecies, they sorta work, but you gotta leave off the end part, and the starting part, (audience laughter), and sorta get to the exciting part. Okay, we're getting close.

Alta, California, 9 July 1857. So Pratt was murdered in early May, and word's just gotten to Alta, California, in a letter from the murderer. Word has reached Utah on the 23rd of June, and the Alta, California says, "Whether the hot blood which must now be seething and boiling in the veins of Brigham Young and his satellites in Salt Lake is to be cooled by the murder of Gentiles who pass through their territory, whether the destroying angels of Mormondom are to be brought into requisition to make reprisals upon travelers, whether, as has been done before, saints disguised as Indians are to constitute themselves the supposed ministers of God's vengeance in this case, we are not informed, but have no doubt that such intentions are prevalent among those saintly villains, adulterers, and seducers of Salt Lake."

I mean, that's as chilling a prediction of future events as I think you'll come across in western history. But as I was investigating this, I thought there was a mystery here, I said, wait a minute. I knew from Eleanor Pratt's own hysterical account of the murder, and her continual pleas for vengeance, that she hadn't made it to St. Louis until the 18th of June. Now, the Fancher party is through Salt Lake in early August.

That six weeks---I'm an overland trails historian. I'm working on a book about the Oregon and California trails. I knew that she wasn't gonna get from St. Louis to Salt Lake by ox-train in six weeks. She was only going to get there if she'd been expressed. I'd never heard of any express taking Eleanor across the plains, and I thought it's just not possible that she would be there. So I'm going through Wilford Woodruff's journal. First of August, he says, "I took Eleanor Pratt's statement on the murder of Parley P. Pratt." She WAS in Salt Lake. So that extended "Argus's" credibility that much further.

But I still had the mystery of how did Eleanor get from St. Louis to Salt Lake that quickly. I knew it had to be by express. It had to be by some sort of special operation. The apostles who were in St. Louis that she went to don't show up until a week later, on the 7th of August. How did she get across the plains? And if I was any kind of deductive historian, I should have known the obvious, because there was a very famous express across the plains. I knew that express very well, but it just didn't seem possible to me this that could have anything to do with it.

But there it is, on the 23rd of July, 1857, on the eve of the tenth anniversary of Brigham Young's arrival in the Salt Lake valley, Elias Smith, who was probate judge, and cousin of Joseph Smith, and postmaster of Salt Lake, is sitting in town while all the other potentates have gone up into the Big Cottonwood Canyon and camped around Silver Lake, where they will witness one of the most stirring events in the morning of that tenth anniversary.

At noon, Orrin Porter Rockwell, Judson Stoddard, and A. O. Smoot will come thundering into camp, and they will deliver a message to the First Presidency. That evening Brigham, and you can still see this rock, it's an amazing rock, will climb to the top of this rock and address the Mormon people, declare independence, and announce that the Army is on its way. That now, the thread is broken, the Kingdom of God is established, and the arrival of the Army in Utah will mark the beginning of the end of days.

All this is exceptionally well known. What is NOT well known is what Elias Smith revealed in his journal. Because on the evening of the 23rd, when Orrin Porter Rockwell came thundering down into Emigration Canyon in that buckboard, sitting beside him was Eleanor Pratt. Now, that may not mean much to you, and I don't make a big deal out of it in this book, but my dear friend Harold Schindler spent forty years investigating every known fact about Porter Rockwell. And my opinion was that if Schindler didn't know about it, it didn't happen. My opinion's been revised as I began to see letters from Rockwell, which were written by other people, and a lot of other evidence that Schindler was simply barred from.

But I knew when I saw that, that this was a calculated act of vengeance---that the orders came from Brigham Young, and they originated when the apostles met on the evening of the 26th of July, 1857, at Salt Lake, and Brigham Young, recording their discussion, and Brigham Young wrote, "We discussed our enemies," and underlined "enemies" three times.

It was at that meeting that they decided to send George A. Smith south with orders to murder everyone in that party from Arkansas. And why do I know that? Because if you can expunge a fact like this from history, you didn't do it because it was just a trivial event. You did it because it told the tale.

And I think you'll probably be surprised as you read the book, you'll think it's just another one of these events, but it was for me a personal epiphany. And I think it gave the book some of the backbone it's got in saying "Here's what happened," and why I think I can peak with some authority. And I do feel that if people can't see the prima facie evidence of murder in this book, that I hadn't done a good job of controlling my own personal biases. Because otherwise, it would be apparent. I could have very clearly said, "Look! See this, this is murder! See, when Eleanor arrives, that's the smoking gun." I didn't use the term 'smoking gun.' I just told the story.

I believe that most of you in this room will have no doubt about what happened, and I hope that it will also act to heal wounds, and to bring acceptance, and to vindicate the role of the Paiute Indians in this affair, and to bring justice to these murdered dead.

Now, having said all that, I do want to remind you again that I am a Latter-day Saint, and they have not taken any action against me, and I don't think that they'd be stupid enough to do it. (audience laughter) If they do want to take action against me, I will fight back, and it will not be pleasant, and it will be very expensive for them. It's like dealing with any bully. What is the way to deal with a bully? Cower before them? They'll just keep pounding on you. Stand up to them, they'll be on their knees. (audience laughter) But that said, I believe that one of the functions of this outfit [the ExMormon Foundation] that's very positive is to take apostasy and rejection, all the powerful emotions that are evoked in leaving Mormonism, and healing that, and taking that bitterness away. And remember that although Boyd K. Packer says "The truth is dangerous," the truth is mighty, and it will set you free. (audience applause)

Question and answer session

Question: Will, you said something early on about the Mountain Meadows Massacre did not reflect on Mormonism as a whole, or something along those lines. When I bought your book, I had hoped that you would start off more into the entire history of blood atonement violence and culture beginning in 1838. Just from my amatuerish studies, I believe that early Mormonism was like the Mafia. That beginning with Joseph Smith, the Salt Sermon in 1838 and the instigation of the Danites, and all that (Bagley interrupts: Support of illegal activities, counterfeiting, there's a long list of crimes), Right, mysterious murders and disappearances in Nauvoo that John D. Lee, William Law, and people talk about, I believe that the Mountain Meadows Massacre was not an anomaly, but that it was basically part of Mormon policy that began in 1838. I was going to beg you that if you write another book, write on the entire blood atonement culture.

Bagley: Well, one of the criticisms David Bigler made about the finished book was that it didn't address the Reformation strongly enough. In fact, I'd written about a hundred---the introductory section on Mormonism was initially twice as long. The book's 500 pages, and that's real long for a tract. (audience laughter) So I had to make cuts in places. I had to cut things like these statements from the Cedar City minutes. So I essenatially had to abbreviate some of the functions.

When I said in the preface that it was one event in Mormon history, I was trying to put it into a broader context, and what my belief is, it doesn't reflect---but I do also state very clearly that I believe that this event was the logical culmination of these doctrines of vengeance and blood atonement, and hatred of outsiders, and chosen people. I think very clearly that this was an ideological crime that came out of these beliefs. But at the same time, you know I'm sure we all still have Mormon friends. They are in many ways, the best people on the planet. And the people of the Mormon Church hated this crime. They couldn't believe it happened at first. And once they knew it happened, they knew they had been betrayed. And who betrayed them? Their leaders.

And I've been criticized by some of my best Mormon friends who say, "You just never give the Mormon people a break." Look at the heroes in this book who ARE Mormons: George A. Hicks, Juanita Brooks, Laban Morrill---Isaac Haight is essentially wanting to get confirmation---they've already given the orders---he wants to get people to sign up for mass murder. So he holds this stake high council meeting and says, "I want to vote that we go out and kill all these people." And they make it unanimous to go kill them all.

A guy shows up late, Laban Morrill, he hasn't heard the first part of the meeting, and he says, "Uhhhhhh, why are we gonna do this? Shouldn't we ask Brigham Young about this first?" So they go "Well.......maybe we should." (audience laughter.) And that leads, of course, to the cover story, and it's interesting, because as Brigham Young's committing this crime, he's building his alibi. You know, it's not a surprise, if you know how criminals operate, to see that as he's directing this horrific massacre, he's also covering his fanny.

And he says it himself, "I'm not a righteous man. I look out for number one."

Question: It always really seemed that the temple ceremony at that time avenged the blood of the prophets. It seems to me that would be real key part of that whole culture of violence for that particular act.

Bagley: Absolutely.

As I recall, it was vengeance on those that murder the prophets unto the fourth generation.

Bagley: Yes, "I will teach my children to obtain vengeance." And in fact, it's also significant that as an apostle, Parley P. Pratt had been sustained as a "prophet, seer and revelator" repeatedly in General Conference. Some place I saw a quote from John D. Lee. It may have been in the trial transcripts. But I can never track it back and cite it, where John D. Lee runs into some people who are going to Mountain Meadows and they say, "Wait a minute. We're thinking about calling this off." And Lee looks at them and says, "I take my vows very seriously."

The oath of vengeance I think was undoubtedly involved when they explained to the men what they going to do. This horrendous act of threchary. Why they had to shoot children looking at them. I think that is the only thing that could possibly have motivated them.

Question: Is there a movie? (audience laughter)

Bagley: No movies. (audience chuckles)

Question: I am serious. Is that something you are thinking about. I know you mentioned it in the book several times that there were attempts at a motion picture.

Bagley: I don't see how you can film Mountain Meadows Massacre. I know there's a documentary by a Univesity of Utah film professor that has been entered in Sundance competition. It's said to be a very powerful film. Nobody's going to pay me a fee to make a movie out of this book. If Steven Spielberg wanted to make a movie, he'd call it "The Bloody Prophets" and steal my book. He'd say, "Well it's just history. You can't copyright history." (audience chuckles)

I think there will be a book about red water. "Red Water" is by my friend Judith Freeman. Amazing novel. It's the most powerful novel, the most powerful piece of writing to ever come out of the Mormon tradition. It brings to life Southern Utah, the life in polygamy, the country, the poverty and the haunting and corrosive effect of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. And I am quite pleased that Judith got much the source material from my research on Mountain Meadows.

Question: Did blood atonement and the endowment, the pledging of revenge tail off after Mountain Meadows? Was Mountain Meadows contibuting to the decline of those doctrinal issues?

Bagley: No. It was only time that made that differences. Juanita Brooks talks about going through the temple when they literally used the sword. The temple ceremonies have been revised repeatedly, of course. Interestingly, the Lee family says that they were first written down by John D. Lee upon his arrival to the Utah Territory. Which might well be the case, but they don't let you see these kinds of things. It was only in 1927 that they removed the sword and began pulling back on some of the other more grotesque elements of it.

It's interesting. The early people, if you'd said, "We're going to change the temple ceremony." They'd of said, "We'll see you in hell first." If Brigham Young could walk in and take over the Mormon Church for ten minutes over at 47 East South Temple, there would be fifteen heads rolling around the streets of Salt Lake before he'd hand back power. (audience laughter) And he'd feel good about it.

I do have some copies of the book. Amazingly it has sold 5,000 copies in eight weeks. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to Richard Turly and his friends at the LDS Church who have done a magnificent job of promoting it. (audience laughter) The first printings are almost gone. My book seller friends tell me it will be a hundred dollar book by Christmas. I'm not banking on that but apparently they will be hard to get. The New York Times is doing an article on the reaction. There is a reprint in the works.

I am astonished that the book jumps off the shelves. I am gratified and quite surprised. Anyway, thank you. You've been a great audience. (sustained applause)

Two Anniversaries - September 2007 Update

Five years ago in 2002, I was honored when Ken Sanders in­vited me to give the first presentation on my new book, Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre Mountain Meadows, at his great rare bookstore. I’m delighted he invited me back this fall to comment on this enduring historical controversy, one week before the 150th anniversary of one of the worst—and saddest—atrocities in American history.

Much water has passed under the bridge in the last half decade, but one thing that has not changed is the refusal of the LDS church to come to terms with the grim legacy of the massacre. As this month’s Ensign makes clear, the church’s historians persist in blaming the crime on drunken victims, John D. Lee and a horde of child-murdering Paiutes, and now, Isaac C. Haight.

The idea of publishing a keepsake for this presentation occurred to us when a mutual friend asked Ken about what prompted me to write the book. He had turned up a talk Gene Sessions, who teaches history and practices gossip at Weber State University, gave to the annual Klanvocation of FAIR, which I believe stands for “Facts Aren’t Important, Really.” Sessions admitted he recommended publication of my book, but characterized it as “an anti-Mormon polemic.”

"(Bagley] was employed by a former Mormon in California who, frankly, wanted to pin the Massacre on Brigham Young. He put an ad in the Salt Lake Tribune asking for applicants to write a new history of the Mountain Meadows Massacre . . . . Will was, by his own words to me—this is first hand words—the only one who said that he could and would pin it on Brigham Young. So Will was hired."

Whether Blood of the Prophets can be classed as either “anti-Mormon” or a “polemic” is a matter of opinion, but much of what Dr. Sessions said is demonstrably untrue, so I thought we might publish (with minor embellishments) my recollection of the events that led me to write the first serious study of the Mountain Meadows massacre in half a century. The essay originally appeared as "Looking Evil in the Face,” Oklahoma 2:1 (Spring 2002), 2–3.

Looking Evil in the Face

by Will Bagley

Had it not been for a March 1995 help-wanted ad in The Salt Lake Tribune, I never would have written a book about one of the most controversial subjects in the history of the American West, the Mountain Meadows massacre:

"Inquisitive Research Manager needed for 1 to 2 yr. full time project on the Fancher Wagon Train Party of 1859 [sic]. Generous salary plus expenses. High energy, enthu­siasm, resourcefulness, and self-discipline must be proven via a resume of your qualifications."

Having published three books on the history of the American West, I knew that the story of the most violent event in overland trails history would pose enormous challenges to any serious historian. But it was an intriguing proposal and, along with about thirty other historians, I tossed my resume into the ring.

One factor distinguished my resume: unlike all the others, it did not list a Ph.D. among my credentials or include an assurance that Brigham Young had nothing to do with the crime. In 1991 I had transcribed the diary of his Indian interpreter and brother-in-law, Dmick Huntington, at the Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, or the Mormons). Its contents demonstrated that the depth of Young’s involvement was an open question.

Frank James Singer. By May I had quit my job at Evans & Sutherland Com­puter Corporation and was an employee of Frank James Singer and the Eve Insurance Brokerage of Roseville, California. Singer was a swashbuckling entrepreneur, dedicated Republican, and gun-rights advocate who had acquired a consuming interest in western history after he converted to the LDS church. He had built a $100 million business and decided to apply some of his fortune to his passion for history. In particular, he sponsored my two-year investigation of the 1857 massacre of 120 Arkan­sans by Indians and Mormon settlers at Mountain Mead­ows in southwestern Utah, which was supposed to provide material for a novel and eventually a movie.

For the first month on the job, I worked exclusively with Singer’s executive assistant — I did not even speak with him on the phone. The paychecks cleared, but I began to suspect Frank might not exist. In late June we scheduled an all-day meeting at a private terminal at the Salt Lake City airport. Singer arrived on the corporate Lear jet with his wife and assistant and we spent the day outlining the project’s aggressive schedule. I listed the archives and libraries that probably held the most new material. I promised to write a report that would summa­rize and interpret the research and give him my findings as a historian based on the evidence. I told Frank that he might not be happy with my conclusions, but they would represent my best professional opinion.

The project faced two great challenges: mastering the vast array of sources and sorting through a host of con­tradictory primary materials — diaries, reminiscences, sermons, church papers, trial records, survivor and par­ticipant accounts and affidavits, government documents, and newspaper reports. The integrity of virtually every contemporary account could be challenged for one good reason or another. Save for the youngest children, “All were killed who could have had any certain memory of the circumstances,” according to Mormon historian B. H. Roberts. So, the story had to be assembled from the testimony of children, murderers, and passers-by, a difficult problem.

For five decades Juanita Brooks’s masterful 1950 monograph, "The Mountain Meadows Massacre" has been the definitive work on the subject. My first (and last) task was to reread this classic study, which summarized scholarship up to 1970 when the University of Oklahoma Press published the book’s third revision. This led to tracking down the many pointers Brooks provided, which uncovered new sources and items she had been unable to access. Her papers at the Utah State Historical Society and the University of Utah provided additional material and clues.

Much work went into identifying sources that had escaped Brooks. Her book had been told almost exclu­sively from the murderers’ accounts, which were contradictory and self-serving. A trip to Arkansas turned up several survivor narratives and provided the insights of descendants whose family members had been murdered at Mountain Meadows.

Between 1995 and 1997, I visited the Huntington, Bancroft, and California State libraries, the California, Utah, Nevada, and Arkansas historical societies, special collections at the universities of Utah, Arkansas, Brigham Young, Southern Utah, Weber State, and Dixie College. The Library & Archives of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now the Community of Christ) and the Historical Department and Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Archives) provided a wealth of fascinating material, including much that Juanita Brooks had never seen.

During ten days at the National Archives and the Library of Congress, Floyd A. O’Neil, the emeritus director of the American West Center at the University of Utah, shared his invaluable knowledge of these records. O’Neil was an excellent anvil on which to hammer out a consis­tent interpretation of the story’s contradictory sources. When I’d push the evidence too far, Floyd would chide me, “You can’t stretch a rat’s ass over a rain barrel.” He insisted that no matter how fond one might grow of a pet theory, without evidence it was only speculation.

Research surprises included finding the autobiography of Ann Gordge, the last thirteen-year-old John D. Lee ever married; the narratives of James Gemmell, a frontier adventurer who blackmailed Brigham Young; folksinger George A. Hicks’s letters denouncing Lee; the account of the widow of martyred Mormon Apostle Parley P. Pratt, calling on God’s vengeance for the shedding of her hus­band’s innocent blood in Arkansas; Brigham Young’s August 1857 discourses threatening to turn the Indians loose on emigrants to close the overland wagon road; and "Discursive Remarks,” one of the earliest Mormon accounts of the massacre. I was able to survey the “Mountain Meadows Massacre” subject file at the LDS Archives first described in Gene Sessions’s posthumous edition of Donald Moorman’s Camp Floyd and the Mormons. It included much southern Utah lore of little historic worth, but it also documented the LDS church’s struggle to deal with the history of the single most difficult event in its history.

Research is fun, writing is hard. As the end of the project approached in 1997, I had collected dozens of images and maps, assembled roughly one thousand pages of transcribed documents, more than thirteen hundred computer files, and ten draft chapters of a book.

I hoped to meet with Frank in spring 1997 to ask him to extend the project, but the last two years had not been kind to his financial empire. The proposed sale of his insurance business collapsed and his wife divorced him. Rumor said that the FBI and the FCC were investigating him. That spring a Wall Street Journal article chronicled his financial rise and fall.

I had no involvement in Singer’s business enterprises and knew almost nothing about them, but I felt he’d weather the storm. We scheduled many meetings to dis­cuss how to close up or continue the Mountain Meadows project, but Singer cancelled them all. Late in June 1997, Singer walked out of his offices in Roseville one Tuesday afternoon and disappeared without a trace. Two years later, a federal grand jury indicted him on four counts of tax evasion. His present location is unknown. In his defense, Singer met every commitment he made to me. He gave me total independence to pursue the investigation and never sought to direct me toward any particular conclusions. He earned my enduring gratitude for launching my career as an independent historian.

Singer’s disappearance and unresolved issues about who owned the rights to the research and writing I had done as a “work for hire” complicated my ability to publish a book. Ultimately I drew up a contract with the insurance company that took over the ruins of Singer’s financial empire, but in the course of these discussions, the company informed me that they calculated the “burdened cost” of my two years’ work amount to $250,000. It seemed to be a staggering amount, but considering how much Singer paid in salary, benefits, travel, and office expenses, I concluded it was not far from the mark. That figure should be of interest in estimating how much similar private historical investigations might cost.

Now, how to finish the book on my own hook? The job was more complex and time consuming than I’d esti­mated — and I still had any number of difficult questions to resolve. By 1997 I believed the massacre was exactly what Brigham Young said it was—an act of vengeance. In his diary, John D. Lee recorded how Young told him in May 1861 that the “company that was used up at the Mountain Meadowes were the Fathers, Mothe[rs], Bros., Sisters & connections” of the men who had murdered Mormon prophets. Taking the lives of the women and children troubled Young, Lee wrote, but, Young had told him, “under the circumstances [it] could not be avoided.” A tough question remained: was it, as Mormon historians have long argued, an event driven by circumstances, in which one damn thing led to another, or was it a calculated act of revenge?

A significant problem involved the behavior of the Fancher party. Many Utah historians had long blamed the massacre in part on the emigrants’ provocative acts. These stories appeared years after the event, but there were enough of them to support a new branch of folklore studies. After two years of wrestling with the evidence, I concluded that there were any number of enigmas I’d never resolve.

Making a living and editing three volumes for the Ar­thur H. Clark Co. series, “Kingdom in the West: The Mormons and the American Frontier,” occupied much of my time over the next three years. Consulting work added a surprising number of key documents to my quest, and some of them resolved what I’d long consid­ered insolvable mysteries. The inadvertent discovery in 1999 of the remains of twenty-eight victims by a backhoe digging the foundations of a monument at Mountain Meadows provided something never previously available — physical evidence of the massacre.

I completed drafting the book in 1998 and began revising it more times than I can recall. By spring 2000 the submission draft was done. Finishing the book required resolving paradoxes and drawing conclusions. The ambiguity of the surviving evidence still allows a number of alternative interpretations, and I tried to pre­sent that evidence fairly, so that others could draw their own conclusions. In the end, I was surprised to find that I felt that I understood what happened — and why it happened — at Mountain Meadows.

The discovery of a single long-suppressed fact—that Mormon triggerman Orrin Porter Rockwell and a Mormon mail crew whisked Parley P. Pratt’s angry widow across the Plains in near-record time—galvanized my view of what led to mass murder in southern Utah. I later came across an observation attorney Andrew Hamilton made at the trial of printer John Peter Zenger in 1735: “I will beg leave to lay down, as a standing rule in such cases, that the suppressing of evidence ought always to be taken for the strongest evidence; and I hope it will have weight with you.” I have come to believe that the destruction of so much of the evidence about Mountain Meadows speaks for itself.

Despite its harrowing and horrific subject, the project was in many ways an adventure. As any historian knows, the profession’s greatest reward is the people you get to know. As Stan Kimball once said, you don’t meet many lowlifes studying history, and Lord knows nobody’s in it for the money. Many of these new friends have been dead for generations, but it has been a joy to tell the stories of such forgotten heroes as Nancy Saphronia Huff Cates, Sally Baker, Rebecca Dunlap, George Calvin Williams, John Hawley (the Mormon Odysseus), Josiah Gibbs, George A. Hicks, Laban Morrill, and Charles W. Wandell.

The story of Mountain Meadows is an awful tale, drenched in blood. The nature of such history requires looking human evil in the face and asking questions that are unanswerable. But they are questions we must ask that point to lessons we would do well to learn.

Journal of Discourses hard copy volumes.

Comments Section

I enjoyed your book Blood of the Prophets. I, also want to thank you for the comments and fill-in of 2007 at the conference. I had come to believe that Young could not have allowed, if he had known, that massacre to take place. I thought he was just too smart to bring that down on his people, and himself. Create the whirl-wind conditions that lead to it, yes, but not give the go-a-head that brought down his church.

Your book was a major piece of my understanding of the time line and 'Vibe' of the local Mormons in Utah and the lashing out of Mormons who thought themselves persecuted

Can a man kill his own family to collect the insurance? Sadly some have done that.

I have Leonard J. Arrington's book on Young on my shelf, can you recommend a better text?

Keep up the good work, even if your books just sit on the book shelf at Amazon. - 11/20/2010 - Ron Veelik, an Episcopalian student of history.

Will Bagley's Response - 11/20/2010:


Your first observation reflects the "too-smart to do dumb things" illusion, which would mean that neither Bonaparte nor Hitler would have invaded Russia, and Robert E. Lee never would have sent Pickett's division across a mile of open ground to attack a fortified position defended by artillery. But they did. Lots of geniuses do stupid, even murderous acts in the belief they can get away with it. When Brigham Young sent George A. Smith south in August 1857 to arrange an Indian "incident," he thought the world was ending and no one would ever call him to account. Like all criminals, the Old Boss thought he could get away with it, and for the most part, he did.

Almost anything is better than Arrington's official biography, which is about as honest as an official biography of the Pope's Rottweiler (aka Joseph Ratzinger aka Benedict). My favorite, oddly enough, is:

M. R. Werner, Brigham Young (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1925).

You can find it on Abebooks for about $7. But Harvard Univ. Press should bring out a new bio soon that will be ever better .

Will Bagley


Why is Parley P. Pratt ....Brigham Young's favorite adopted son......not mentioned in the Journal of Disclosures from the time he was killed, May 13, 1857, to any time after Mountain Meadows Massacre, Sept. 11, 1857?

Not mentioned. Not once. No comment. Please don't say he was "Gone and Forgotten" from May 13, 1857 on.

To Richard Turley and apologist crew: "Help us 'understand' this question."

- 12/23/2008 - dja

Will Bagley's reply - 12/25/2008

Ha! Great question. To me, the answer is obvious: the Brethren saw their duty and they done it. They certainly didn't want to advertise the that fact before or after. Turley et al would probably refer to Brigham Young's slam at Parley in May 1865, when he told a bunch of departing missionaries that "Parley went a'whoring" to show that the Old Boss wouldn't have done anything about the beloved martyr, but a temple vow is a temple vow, even if it involves avenging a fellow prophet you don't particularly like.

dja's response to Bagley -12/25/2008

The research in the comment is sloppy, at best; misguiding, at least. That person’s ‘say-so’ does not get it.

Aug. 5, Brigham Young declared Martial Law. Fancher train rolled into SLC on Aug. 10, to be sure. Not “late July”.

They did not “conclude to break camp and move on”. They were immediately identified as “Arkansans”. They were instructed to leave SLC immediately.

Martial Law – No “permit” was issued for them to “pass” south…..or anywhere else. ( *On 9-14-1857, immediately after-the-fact, Brigham Young issued a letter to “Parowan, Iron County – not wish to shed a drop of blood if it can be avoided.”)

Apostle Charles C. Rich deliberately directed the Fancher Train south, instead of their original choices of the California Trail, Hastings Cutoff or Overland Trail. Fancher had already taken the north route 3 times in the past.

Apostle George A. Smith rides ahead of the Fancher Train and instructs 15 settlements inbetween SLC and MMM to deny provisions to the Fancher Train.

One Mormon sold them some wheat in Parowan. Isaac Laney sold them some onions and was clubbed within inches of his life for such an accommodation to the Fancher train.

Joseph Walker ground the wheat for them in Cedar City and was harassed for that.

The “Massacre by Indians” ruse failed at every level.

JOD is rife with Hate Speech - in sermons from May ’57, forward – on anything non-LDS. Yet there is catgegorical absence of Parley P. Pratt mention in the JOD.

The actual sermons in SLC, WITH Parley P. Pratt mention – from May ‘1857 forward - would be the smoking gun that would certify the Mormons - a.k.a. L.D.S. and Danites - were the First defacto Terrorist Organization the United States History.

Will Bagley lives in SLC. His prose is limited to socially acceptable rhetoric there. He would be crucified and ostracized from Utah society by exposing such revealing events.

Romance an apology to your heart’s content. Blood Atonement. res ipsa loquitur

Happy Holidays. And, yes, "Merry Christmas" is NOT hate speech to non-Agnostics and those of the heterosexual culture.


Dear Mr. Bagley,

I was at the Sherlock Holmes A Study in Scarlet weekend several months ago. Your talk was very interesting and so was Blood of the Prophets which I have just finished reading.

Question: In some of the first-hand descriptions of either participants or witnesses to the Massacre, there are a number of references to the very young, including babies, being killed along with their mothers. Yet in the Appendix, all the dead are either adults or older children. Also the Mormons "spared" the very young.

Please explain this seemingly contradictory evidence.

Sincerely yours,

Paul Herbert - 12/07/2008

Will Bagley's reply - 12/18/2008

The Blood of the Prophets (BOTP) appendix of victims lists "John, infant," the child of Sarah Baker Mitchell, on page 387, and at least three other children without known ages, plus "Others, unknown." So I don't see the "this seemingly contradictory evidence" in the appendix.

Will Bagley


We appreciate your book very much and you....for having the Courage to write it. - 03/04/2008 - Carol aka Liz


I was raised Mormon and the Mountain Meadows Massacre was never a secret. I saw the Juanita Brooks’ book on the shelves of my parents and grandparents. I knew superficial things about the event.

So when I heard about “September Dawn”, I hurried to the library to get all the information I could prior to seeing the movie. I found Will Bagley’s book and started to read it. When he said that anyone wanting to read the “Saints” this and the “Saints” that will be disappointed, I said, “Sweet”. I did not want to read a biased book. I wanted to know the facts. Why and how did the Mountain Meadows Massacre happen?

Not far into the book, I became both disappointed and alarmed. Disappointed because he implied that by not employing the word “Saints”, he would be neutral. However, I noted that he flung around the word “Mormons” in much the same way I observe in the anti-Mormon literature. I said: “Bummer”. I read long enough to get the gist of the grand conspiracy. I was alarmed to find my relative Charles C. Rich wound in the conspiracy.

Now, I have a dog in the fight.

I may not be an active Mormon but I am aware of my heritage and have always been proud of Charles C. Rich. Concerned, I read further. I all but put the book down when I read that Bagley wanted the Church to “repent” of its violent past. In one paragraph he implied that the mobs were justified for what they did to my relatives. Sometimes one passage in a journal tells it all. My relative’s passage said more or less: “Brigham Young recommended today that the Saints move closer to Nauvoo because of increased mob action”. Wow, just a little passage tells it all. And Bagley says they were justified in what they did?

As I thumbed through the rest of the book, I noticed he had an honor role. These were people who he thought had courage. Why isn’t the Judge who let Parley P. Pratt free on that list? He gave Pratt a horse and offered him a gun. Why isn’t he on the list?

Our society is big on conspiracies. There is the Kennedy Assassination. People have a hard time accepting that Oswald acted alone. The most recent book by Vincent Bugliosi reached the same conclusion as the Warren commission that he did indeed act alone. I always hear that it would be too hard for a sniper to shoot Kennedy. Then I saw a program on the history channel. All decent snipers that stand at the books store depository say it is an easy shot. Oswald acted alone. Still people pursue that elusive conspiracy.

Other conspiracy theories will catch innocent people. Think of Dr. Mudd and the Lincoln assignation.

So what is the Bagley conspiracy? From the book I gather:

Mormons observe the wagon train leaving Arkansas.

They report to Brigham Young who must make a plan to avenge the murder of Parley P. Pratt.

The wagon train is allowed to enter the Salt Lake Valley. (The Mormon commandos were great at destroying the U.S. Army before it entered the Valley, but apparently they let the doomed wagon train in)

Are you still with me?

They arrive in the Valley and after a while meets my ancestor Charles C. Rich who shoos them out of Salt Lake. He would have had to of sent them to the predestined ambush site of Mountain Meadows. (Is Mountain Meadows the best ambush site in Utah? Or, should they have been ambushed before entering the Valley. The conspiracy requires knowledge and premeditation) Then Brigham Young give the Cedar City Mormons the job of carrying out the ambush and massacre.

For whom should I feel more sorrow, Dr. Mudd or Brigham Young?

I’m not an historian but I do know one thing about Brigham Young. He was a control freak. Bagley noted that as soon as the telegraph became available, Brigham Young had on put in his office. He was organized and controlled everything he could in Utah.

Does this sound like a Brigham Young plan? The obvious answer is NO. If Brigham Young had planned the Mountain Meadows Massacre, I would not be writing this piece because nobody would ever know what happened to that wagon train. I don’t think they would have even entered the Salt Lake Valley. He never would have left it to the Cedar City Mormons.

The best defense of Brigham Young is that the Mountain Meadows Massacre was disorganized. This crime does not have Brigham Young’s fingerprints on it.

I conclude:

Oswald acted alone in assassinating Kennedy.

Dr. Mudd set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth. He was not part of the big conspiracy. Jimmy Carter agreed and gave Dr. Mudd a pardon. Roger Mudd attended the ceremony.

Brigham Young did not order the Mountain Meadow Massacre. My ancestor Charles C. Rich did nothing wrong.

It was a Mormon Jihad called by the local Mormon’s. Would "Honor Killing" be an appriate classification?

What do I think of Will Bagley? I equate him with Edmund Morris. Morris wrote Dutch the biography of Ronald Regan. The book was much anticipated and was supposed to have a large reading audience. Instead only Democrats will read it. Bagley had a great opportunity which he squandered. I think both are tragic authors.

I have dealt with ex-Mormons. I know them. I think Bagley let his antipathy for the Mormon Church interfere with the opportunity to write a great book about the tragic massacre at Mountain Meadows.

I hope Turley does not squander his opportunity with his forthcoming book on the massacre. If he uses the word “Saints” as described by Bagley then the anti-Mormon type will not read it.

I was even more disappointed in the trailers for “September Dawn”. I did not see the movie. Most Mormons I spoke with did not see it either. A tragic director!

I was on vacation and visited Mountain Meadows, Utah. It really is out in the middle of nowhere. Lee and others had a long time to think as they rode out there.

Hopefully you will send my criticism to Will Bagley.


Will Bagley's Response - 03/05/2008

It would be nice if he'd actually read my book. Much of what he says is simply untrue: for example, I use the word "Saints" repeatedly to refer to Mormons--oh, I'm sorry. I understand that may be the way the word is used in anti-Mormon literature.

It's pointless to debate the issue of Brigham Youngs's involvement: as my friend Ken Sanders says “no faithful, believing Mormon will ever accept that Brigham Young had anything to do with the Mountain Meadows massacre.” At the same time, Ken is certain no non-Mormon “will ever believe otherwise.”

Two notes, though: I didn't include the judge who gave Pratt the horse because others have concluded he was setting Parley up. And as for C. C. Rich, here's what I actually say:

Some of the First Presidency’s new [1877] stories were contradictory or highly unlikely. Brigham Young revealed a surprisingly detailed knowledge of the company’s supposed travels in Utah. He recalled that Apostle Charles C. Rich “advised them to go north, and he believed they went as far north as Bear River. They returned, saying they would take the southern road.” Given the distance and their rate of travel, it would be geographically impossible for the Fancher party to have made a 150-mile detour to Bear River. Young said the emigrants “lay idle for six weeks, when they should have been travelling, and when they moved they moved slowly.”

Before 1877, no one mentions General Rich, who had arrived in SLC with a load of gunpowder and rifles in June. I think BY made up the whole story. And if our friend believes BY's various "hits" would have all been a big success, he should look at the Aiken Massacre.

Will Bagley

MDD's Response to Bagley's reply - 06/22/2008

To Will Bagley,

I was surprised that you replied to my criticism on 3/5/2008. Thank you!

I did start eagerly reading your book but found bias and could only thumb through the rest. However, I started out giving you the benefit of the doubt. I really wanted to read the whole book and was so disappointed.

Reply and respond are two different words. You replied but only partially responded. I wanted your response to the elaborate conspiracy that I see in your book. It is insufficient and dodges the issue when you say: "It's pointless to debate the issue of Brigham Young's involvement." And, don't include me in the "faithful, believing Mormon". I'm from a different demographic. You are going to have to prove it to me. I like you have Mormon heritage but I'm not bitter and have no chip on my shoulder. I perceive you to have the both the former and the latter. I have observed this in other disaffected Mormons. Interesting.

My criticism of your book and your partial response is that you are dodging the direct questions.

Did Brigham Young order the slaughter?

Why would he? They were almost out of the territory and the most politically expedient thing would be to let them go. It doesn't make sense. As type A as Brigham Young was, if he had ordered the killing we would never have even know about it. The wagon train would have been like a ship lost at sea.

Your book outlines a conspiracy. This conspiracy starts with the two Mormon men observing the train leaving and ends with Lee organizing the eventual slaughter. Some conspiracy. For a religious based conspiracy it sure didn't last long.

You stated "Brigham Young revealed a surprisingly detailed knowledge of the company's supposed travels in Utah." As my daughter would say, "Duh". Brigham Young was a type A personality. It wouldn't surprise me if he knew the names of everyone on the train, how many horses, wagons, etc. This seems to be a major part of your argument: Brigham Young knew so much that he had to have ordered it. Brigham Young probably knew more than he revealed.

Would a Judge setting up Parley P. Pratt offer him a gun? He may need to be on your list.

Your book did not take these issues straight on and neither did your partial response.


Will Bagley replies again - 12/29/30

Well, McDuff, sorry to disappoint you, but reading the whole book might help. Why should I feel obliged to respond to your slams?

I wasted a lot of time last week going over this very ground on the Yahoo "Mormon Library" group. If you're really interested, go look at the recent Bagley and Edlund comments. And if you want to know more, read "Innocent Blood." Or thumb it.

The "Mormon Library" is an Email list for those who appreciate books by Mormons or about Mormonism. . . . Most of us are opinionated on one or more aspects of Mormonism. Some of us are opinionated on all aspects of Mormonism. We have Liberal Mormons and Conservative Mormons. We have Republican Mormons, Democrat Mormons and Libertarian Mormons. We have obedient Mormons as well as disobedient Mormons. We have TBM Mormons (I know that is redundant) as well as Fundamentalist Mormons. FARMS, Sunstone, Dialogue, Ensign, Truth-- whatever your favorite periodical--we will be happy to discuss it here as well!

If you want to copy this discussion to the list go ahead. But I'm writing other books now.



Bagley's book is not history. It is just another anti-Mormon book and his mission is to destroy the image of the church to fulfill his own agenda as an apostate thereof - 09/16/2005 by


Though it is true the militia was under orders at the Mountain Meadows, those orders came from local leaders, namely William Dame and Isaac Haight.

Bagley's "smoking gun" is an entry in Dimick Huntington's journal, wherein he tells of 12 Indian chiefs meeting with Brigham Young (Brigham Young is not named, but only two persons identifed only as "B&D). They had come to ask what they should do in regard to the SOLDIERS (The Army under the command of Col. (soon to be general) Albert Sidney Johnson). (As a side note, Bagley says in another place the Army was intially under the command of Winfield Scott. In fact the Army was first commanded by General Harney, famed for wiping out an entire Sioux village at Ash Hollow as revenge for the massacre of an Army patrol in 1855.) The chiefs were told they could scatter and take their (the soldiers) cattle. No mention whatsoever is made of the Fancher wagon train. Only two of the Indian chiefs were from down south and could be in any position to carry out any orders regarding the wagon train.

The date of this meeting was September 1, 1857, six days before the massacre. It must be noted that James Haslam, the man who carried the message from the Cedar City high council to Salt Lake was able to accomplish this in three days ONLY by changing horses at every settlement he came to. It would have been logistically impossible for these two chiefs to have made the journey in six days without fresh horses, and organize the Paiutes to make the initial attack on September 7, 1857. Also, not one account of the massacre mentions either of these two chiefs.

Bagley himself admits in this piece that he set out to "prove a case". Only someone incapable of rational would think that he did not start with the premise that Brigham Young ordered the massacre. Thus, Bagley, through jumps to conclusions so high that he could win the world championship in the high jump, uses secondary sources, heresay, and anti-Mormon books with no documentation to build his case. He does use primary sources in some cases, but uses secondary sources that enforce his thesis, while ignoring primary sources that do not.

His claim that the Fancher wagon train arrived at Cedar City on Friday evening, September 4, 1857, and were attacked at Mountain Meadows on Monday the 7th, defies logic. Their rate of travel can be calculated by the documented dates of their location on the trail. It is documented that the George A. Smith party, on their way to Salt Lake City camped at Corn Creek (Kanosh) on August 25. Those persons still alive to testify at Lee's second trial all verify the date, and all say the Fancher train moved out the following morning. They are next placed at Beaver. At Lee's trial a man named Robert Kershaw reported seeing the Arkansas emigrants passing through Beaver a few days later: "The emigrants came here about ten or eleven o'clock on Saturday, left Sunday about two o'clock." Those dates would have to be August 29 and 30, because it is the only weekend between their documented departure from Corn Creek and their arrival at Cedar City. That is a distance of only 50 miles.

Simple arithmetic gives you an average of 16 miles per day travel time. The distance from Beaver to Cedar City is 53 miles. That would put them in Cedar City no later than September 2. How long they stayed at Cedar City is unknown. But the claim of their arrival on September 4 is not supported by the facts. However, they likely left the following morning, because they were seen to pass Hamblin's ranch at the north end of Mountain Meadows on Friday, September 4, by no less than three witnesses at Lee's second trial. The distance to Mountain Meadows from Cedar City is roughly 36 miles, doable by a wagon train in two days.

A message was carried to Pinto by Philip Klingensmith and Joel White, and they passed the Fancher wagon train on the way out, stayed over night and encountered them the following morning roughly 5 miles from Pinto. The distance from Pinto to Hamblin's ranch is only 7 miles. Considering the distance travelled from Cedar City, their rate of travel, give or take a couple miles a day, all fits with the scenario of the Fancher wagon train arriving in Cedar City on September 2.

If citing the date of the Fancher arrival as September 4, the very date that witnesses put them at Hamblin's ranch at Mountain Meadows, is any example of Bagley's research and analytical skills, then his conclusions are suspect at the very least. Even a cursory examination of wagon travel during the period reveals that rates of travel varied from 12 to 20 miles per day, depending on the weather. Bagley's implied travel rates would put the Fancher party traveling at a snail's pace until reaching Cedar City, then burning up the trail to Mountain Meadows. Anyone who has traveled to both places knows the terrain was much better from Corn Creek to Cedar City, than it was to Mountain Meadows. Bagley's date of September 4 is totally ridiculous.

If you want to see a scholarly review of Bagley's book, instead of just going by his own self-serving statements, go to There you will find a review of the book by a trial lawyer, who shoots Bagley's claims full of holes.

Even stranger is Bagley's not so vague threats of legal action against the LDS church if they should cut him off. To my knowledge, no one who ever tried that ever succeeded. His own words convict him. Being on the rolls of the church does not make you a Latter-day Saint. Bagley says, "I've never believed the theology since I was old enough to think about it." That makes him an apostate. And that is sufficient enough to excommunicate anyone from the church.

There are lots of members who are non-believers, just like Bagley. But he has gone way beyond that. As one who researched the Mountain Meadows Massacre for 12 years, from 1977 to 1989, I can state unequivocally that Bagley is a "historian" in the same vein as Fawn Brody. In her "No Man Knows My History", it is easy to see that she is writing a novel, not a history book. When I read it, I was struck by her psychic powers where she wrote what Eliza Snow was thinking as she stood at the top of the stairs at the Mansion House in Nauvoo. The other such departures from objective history are so many, that I have forgotten most of them. But read her book on Thomas Jefferson, and you will see he gets the same treatment; speculation and innuendo.

Bagley's book falls in the same category. Anything that can be twisted and distorted to point the finger at Brigham Young is used, while anything that is exculpatory is totally ignored.

I am sure that those of you who might read this, and are not LDS or were and left, will find my analysis disturbing. All I can say to you is this. Get the Lee trial transcripts like I did. They are available on microfilm at the University of Utah. I checked them out and had them duplicated. Then spend the better part of a year making trips to place where you can get xerox copies of every single page. Then spend ever free moment at the Utah State Historical Society and at the Church Historical Library for twelve years obtaining copies of every document available. Get copies of relevant documents from the National Archives. Make more than two dozen trips to Mountain Meadows, with evidence in hand and a USGS map to locate the graves and the massacre site. Attach dates to the events in the testimony and the documents. Put them in chronological order, and see what you get. You will get a story that in no way resembles the hatchet job Bagley did on Brigham Young.

Instead you will see the history of events driven by genuine fear of the approaching Army, said to be coming to "subdue the rebellious Mormons." The events of the Haun's Mill massacre, by Missouri militia and the murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith by the Carthage Greys, another militia, was fresh in their minds. In the so-called Mormon War, the Nauvoo Legion under the command of Lot Smith never fired a shot. They burned Ft. Bridger, which the church had bought from Jim Bridger, and Ft. Supply, built and owned by the church. Read the account of a man from Iowa, who in later years was the mayor of his town, who, along with a friend, went to obtain jobs with the firm of Russell, Major, and Waddell, which had the government contract to carry the Army's supplies to Utah.

Their camp was raided by Mormons who merely burned the wagons, depriving the Army of much needed supplies. Porter Rockwell led a raid of an Army camp, where the tents were set our in two rows facing each other. The soldiers couldn't shoot because there were soldiers just in front of them. Porter drove off all their mules needed for hauling supplies. Read "To Utah with the Second Dragoons", and you will see the results of those raids. No lives were taken. The two men from Iowa were taken prisoner after they deserted their wagon train, and taken to Salt Lake. They had the run of the town, and were given their leave the following spring. Where are all these bloodthirsty acts that Bagley claims, based on the anti-Mormon propaganda of the day?

Lot Smith and the Legion built campfires along the northern rim of Echo Canyon, and the men could easily be seen by the passing Army at night in the spring of 1858. Then the men would pull out and ride to the next fire, and so on, to try to show the Army that they were up against a huge force; a kind of psychological war.

All of Salt Lake was evacuated to Provo and its surrounds, and men were prepared to fire the town if the Army took any violent action. Are these the actions of crazed killers, as Bagley would have you believe?

The Army made a show of force by parading through Salt Lake in June 1858, and camped along the Jordan River in the vicinity of present-day Redwood Road and 21st South. They moved then to Fairfield on the west side of the mountain to the west of Utah Lake and set up the largest military post ever to that date.

The Army was severely outnumbered by the Mormon Nauvoo Legion. When push came to shove, no one can say who would have prevailed had there been shooting. Again, I ask, are these the actions of bloodthirsty men?

Bagley also errs about the rock near Silver Lake that Brigham Young allegedly stood on to preach to the Saints on July 24. Drive up to the Brighton ski resort, and you see the location for yourself. There is a sign that shows the location of Brigham Young's tent. The facts are, when Rockwell, Smoot and Stoddard arrived, Brigham Young called a hasty meeting of all the church leaders present, and discussed the newly arrived news that an Army was on its way to Utah. There is no record that says Brigham Young stood on any rock and made a "war speech". More of Bagley's fiction. Instead, as reported shortly thereafter, Daniel H. Wells spoke to the gathering at the close of the day's festivities, not Brigham Young. A complete text of his speech follows.

"Brethren and sisters, I feel there has been a good spirit with us here today. It rejoices and makes glad my heart to see that righteousness predominates here in the midst of the Saints of the living God. Ten years ago we came here to the valleys of the mountains to establish peace and righteousness here upon the earth. We have come here because the Lord wanted us and all His people to form a nucleus where his chosen ones could rally round and build up a kingdom. We came here stripped of every-thing, as the poor among men. We can now lift up our hearts and rejoice in God who has wrought out His salvation, temporal as well as spiritual.

"Now it appears to have fallen to my lot to report on the news brought to us by the messengers who arrived at mid-day. When we were driven from Nauvoo, the disposition of our enemies was to destroy every vestige of the Holy Priesthood from the face of the earth. That disposition still exists in the hearts of a great many people. Our enemies have persuaded President Buchanan, through lies and deceptions, to usurp our right to self-government. A new governor, new judges, and other officials are now on their way to Utah. To enforce our subjection to their will, President Buchanan is sending an army of twenty-five hundred men.

"We have resolved today in council to resist this threat to our liberty. We are all familiar with what armies can do. We remember the Carthage Greys, charged with protecting the lives of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. No! We will not quietly submit, either to be treacherously murdered, as was Brother Joseph by the Carthage Greys after meekly surrendering himself, or to see an armed force, steeped in prejudice and hatred, and sustained by the sentiment of hostility prevalent throughout the nation, turned loose to work its will upon a disarmed and helpless community. (A close reading of Major Carleton's Report gives a clear example of the hatred and prejudice Wells describes here.)

"In the days and weeks to come we will prepare against the day when we are forced to defend our homes. We will use every resource to convince the Government of its error; that we seek only to live in peace and have the opportunity to live our religion.

"Let us then, my brethren and sisters, take comfort in the knowledge that God lives. He rules in heaven and presides over his covenant people here upon the earth. To that degree of righteousness we attain, He will hide us up and protect us from the evil designs of our enemies. The Lord and one good man, we are told, are a great majority. How much stronger then are we when we stand together in living the great principles revealed to us in this, the Dispensation of the Fullness of Time. That we may do so and preserve ourselves in integrity before high heaven, and be united together as the heart and voice of one man, is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen."

I ask again, are these the words of bloodthirsty men, as Bagley would have us believe them to be?

Bagley is a man of single-minded purpose, and the truth be damned. That anyone who has spent the time to study the source material regarding the massacre, as I have, could come to the conclusions Bagley did, is, in my opinion, impossible.

Finally, I find it ironic that Bagley mentions his background in computer work. I myself have had a career as a computer programmer for 30 years. My supervisor said to me a couple years ago that he wished the rest of his programmers had my logic skills. After assessing Bagley's conclusions, I seriously doubt that anyone could say the same of his logic skills. Small wonder that he left the world of computers for something else.

In summation, Bagley's book is not history. It is just another anti-Mormon book and his mission is to destroy the image of the church to fulfill his own agenda as an apostate thereof.

If these comments ever appear on what appears to be an anti-Mormon web site, I will frankly be surprised. But, I am hopeful.


Mr. Bagley,

I have not as yet read your book on MMM. I will be reading it over the next week as part of a bibliography requirement for my West seminar. I noticed in your comments that the murder of Parley Pratt may form a part of your thesis. I have heard this before, in the late sixties, by Baptist preacher Walter Martin. Are there earlier works that try to tie in the murder of Pratt with the Mountain Meadows Massacre?

rcfulkerson - 11/24/2007

The Mormon Church santions every avenue of intellectual inquiry into most everything -- with the notable exception of the TRUTH about themselves and their own history. Yet the church continues to grow -- built on a foundation of fear and lies and deceit.

sail4free - 09/20/2003

What prompted Will Bagley to write this book. I truly enjoyed it after having read all the others on the subject and on Mormonism.

Thanks, Carl - 09/15/2007

You have courage and integrity and are very brave. To stand up and say "I am a Mormon, but I hate this terrible thing which Mormons did in God's name", I admire that. I wish more people could look inward and truthfully examine what is in their hearts and say the same about what and who they believe in.

It is easy to say afterwards "we did this terrible thing to save them". The fact is, no matter how many facts you give them, many Mormons will simply deny the truth of what happened and will say the Fancher party deserved what happened to them because they offended the "true believers" or stole from them or blasphemed or, perhaps scariest of all, "were saved" by Mormons who "helped" them get to Heaven.

To accept the facts of the case is to deny that Brigham Young and his men were saints and prophets; how can a liar and murderer be the person my church esteems/someone I believe in? If all these years I prayed to a God these men believed in, is it a false God I pray to? Were these false saints?

If I must re-examine my beliefs about this event, must I also question other tenets of my faith? And what if I find them false, too? I think it's that kind of fear that causes most Mormons to turn away from this and many other truths about their founders and their church. Easier to be mad at you for telling what they think is a lie, than to know for certain what their church tells them is a lie. - 07/12/2005 - anon

You claim to be a Latter-day Saint historian. Since "it takes one to know one," I can state unequivocally that you are neither a Latter-day Saint NOR an historian. But you weave quite an imaginative tale. Try a novel next time. 03/27/2005 - anon

Mr. Bagley,

I have not as yet read your book on MMM. I will be reading it over the next week as part of a bibliography requirement for my West seminar. I noticed in your comments that the murder of Parley Pratt may form a part of your thesis. I have heard this before, in the late sixties, by Baptist preacher Walter Martin. Are there earlier works that try to tie in the murder of Pratt with the Mountain Meadows Massacre? - 01/02/2005 - from rcfulkerson

I found this to be very interesting. I think Bagley has found and put together the critical pieces of the puzzle on MMM. I first questioned B.Y. and the divinity of "THE" church when I heard as an LDS seminary student that Young called for Mormon volunteers to fight in the Mexican American War. Mormon claims of persecution based on their lofty degrees of righteousness are so delusional, convoluted, self serving and pathetic. I was Mormon for 30 years and I just couldn't swallow the BS stories anymore. I am not a Mormon anymore. B.Y. was an unholy tyrant. - 02/12/2003 - anon

How can you still be mormon? What is the honor in that? I find the mormon doctrine evil. - 02/11/2003 - anon

Sorry I don't find your remarks very compelling. So what if Brigham Young swore. You can never even understand the stituation they were in when the MMM occured. I am not trying to defend the actions, but to just say that it was something other than a isolated group who took the law into their own hands is silly. I have read so many differing accounts. The most important is that you do not know what was in their minds. They had been pushed and pushed and pushed. Anyone who is left alone with their own selves will act when attacked, whether it was just perceived or not. - 02/10/2003 - anon

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