Book Research, Western Life

Mountain Meadows Massacre and Mormon Theology

Beginning on September 7th of 1857 and ending four days later on the 11th, the deaths of 120 men, women and children at the hands of Mormon church members, is now known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Despite the attempts of church members to pass off the massacre as an attack by Native Americans from that region, we now know that leaders of the LDS had perpetuated an attitude of violence towards those who had persecuted them, and then used this rhetoric of ruthless brutality to avenge their persecution.

The Oath of Vengeance was taken by members of the Mormon church (as part of their Endowment Ceremony), promising to exact revenge on the people and groups who had been responsible for the martyrdom of the Mormon ‘prophets’:  Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, David W. Patten, and Parley P. Pratt. This oath caused many Mormons to consider it their religious duty to kill the murderers of said prophets.

After the Mormon War in the south of the US, and the Extermination Order issued by the state of Missouri, which declared that Mormons should be treated as the enemy and either eliminated or driven from the state, there was hostility in the hearts of the Mormons toward those whom they believed had unjustly oppressed them.

Besides these acts against the Church of Latter Day Saints, there existed at that time many ideas in the Mormon theology that directed capital punishment as the appropriate response to a variety of crimes. Even thievery was to be met by death, although there is little evidence that death was enforced as a means of chastisement.

According to historical reports, Mormon leaders in Utah in 1857 began to preach, both in public sermons and by private counsel, for church members to undertake the revenge of God at their own hands.

Image: US-PD

The church leader who led the massacre, William Dame, was ‘blessed’ by the church in June of that year, being told that he would lead a company of his brothers to take vengeance on those who had caused the blood of the prophets to be spilled.

The Baker-Franche party, coming from Arkansas and headed to California, carried with them many who were believed to have been instigators of the Mormon War. When Brigham Young discovered that they would be traveling through Utah, which at the time was ruled by a Mormon theocracy, he decided to not waste what he saw as an opportunity to right the wrongs that had been committed against the LDS.

By incorporating the Mormon theology into the conversations and sermons being laid out to the church members at large, the leaders of the church were able to capitalize on the ‘religious duty’ of their members, resulting in the annihilation of settlers who likely did not have anything to do with the murders of their ‘prophets’, and certainly had nothing to do with their prosecution in the state of Missouri.

In fact, it seems more likely that the Mormons merciless religious beliefs regarding capital punishment had more to do with the massacre of so many innocents, especially considering that there was no evidence that any of these settlers had a hand in violence towards the LDS church.

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