The Mountain Meadows Massacre (now in Technicolor!)

There’s a new movie (sort of- it was completed more than a year ago but is about to come into release) entitled September Dawn and about the events of September 11, 1857, known to history as The Mountain Meadows Massacre. Approximately 120 non Mormon men, women and children were murdered in what is now southern Utah led by a coalition of Indians and Mormons under the leadership of John Doyle Lee, a friend and adopted son (though he was only a few years younger) of Brigham Young. The movie’s great controversy (and I have not seen it, I’ve just been reading the reviews) is that it claims Brigham Young played an active role in the murders.

YouTube clip

I used to read a lot of Mormon history. Official version is that Young did not have a direct role in the attacks. I tend to believe that one, not because I think he was incapable of murder (what powerful man is?) but because he was a brilliant statesman. There was absolutely nothing that could be gained by the murders and one helluva lot that could be lost- namely, Salt Lake City and everything else in Deseret in an act of Federal vengeance if he was discovered to have ordered the attacks.

The most damning piece of evidence against Young, imo, is that he never disavowed or condemned Lee, even performing ceremonies at some of Lee’s marriages long after the event (Lee had about 17 wives and over 60 children). He did excommunicate and condemn Lee (and reassign his wives) after his trial and conviction almost 20 years after the murders, but not until. Some see this as Lee having blackmail material over Young or as him having Young’s approbation, but I see it as Young being an extremely pragmatic man who had a use for violent underlings (Lee as Young’s Luca Brasi) and probably a real fear of going after a violent man with a huge family. I don’t absolve him: he definitely incited hatred of non-Mormons (though hard to blame- he’d lost members of his family to violence against Mormons) and he definitely covered up some of the worst aspects of the killings and Mormon involvement, but I don’t think he ordered it or wanted it to happen.

Anyway, to other Mormon and or western history enthusiasts, what’s your take?

And one hair related nitpick: Having written a large chunk of a biography of Young over the past 25 years [uncompleted and unpublished], I was annoyed at the lack of resemblance twixt Terence Stamp and BY as seen in this YouTube clip. In addition to a complete lack of natural resemblance, Young didn’t grow that famous beard until a couple of years after the Massacre. Nitpick admittedly, but still shows a lack of fidelity to research [I’d previously complained about R.E. Lee having a full gray beard in an 1860 scene of Gods and Generals when he was neither all-gray nor bearded at the time.

Nothing much to add except I saw this on TV, probably the History Channel. The re-enactment totally disgusted me, especially when Lee shouted "GENTLEMEN DO YOUR DUTY!! and murdered 120 trusting men.
Those were the days. :frowning:

There is now also a growing body of opinion that the two lost members of Powells Grand Canyon exped were also murdered by Mormons.

FWIW, IIRC, Krakauer’s take on this subject in Under The Banner Of Heaven was that Young intended for the Utes to attack the convoy. This theory doesn’t reflect well on Young, of course, but it does suggest he didn’t order (or even authorize) Lee to make the attack.

Could you provide a cite for this? I’m just curious to read a bit more about the theory.


wiki:"One man (Goodman) quit after the first month and another three (Dunn and the Howland brothers) left at Separation Rapid in the third, only two days before the group reached the mouth of the Virgin River on August 30, after traversing almost 1,500 km. The three who left the group late in the trip were later killed—probably by Indians. However, exactly how and why they died remains a mystery debated by Powell biographers; some, including Jon Krakauer in his Under the Banner of Heaven, have raised the possibility of a Jack Mormon ambush. "
While researchers and historians are agreed that O.G. and Seneca Howland and William Dunn were murdered during their attempt to hike out to the Mormon settlements, Powell’s account of their deaths and who done it is also debated and controversial. One theory holds that the men were simply killed by Shi’vwits Indians who took advantage of their weakened state to rob them of their possessions. Another theory holds the men were killed not by Shi’vwits but the Mormon settlers they were trying to reach, perhaps as a result of the Mormons mistakenly believing them to be Federal agents.

The Right Stuff came out in 1983, allegedly just in time to aid the 1984 presidential ambitions of John Glenn.

September Dawn was released in May at the Cannes Film festival. It’s US release date is scheduled for August 24. Mitt Romney is is Mormon and running for the 2008 presidential election. YMMV.

He claims to have an alibi for the morning of 9/11/1857, though.
(His grandfather was one of 40+ children, which has actually been used in some propaganda against him- I think when you have to go back a century to find a scandal you’re doing really good and that’s how he should play it.)

Sorry to resurrect this, but you might find the following article illuminating. Seems to be historically accurate and give some further details in the situation:

Seems the flick’s a major flop.

Deseret Morning News printed excerpts from a number of reviews of September Dawn

Review from The Salt Lake Tribune

Meant to post this when the thread was young, but a server timeout ate it.

The Wikipedia article is exceptionally throughoughly supported by citations. Anyone with more than a casual interest in these events should read Juanita Brooks’ The Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Thats too bad, I think a pretty good movie could be made about the Massacre, but it doesn’t sound like this is it.

As to this being made to prejudice the electorate against Romney, I’m pretty skeptical.

It would be equivalent to releasing a movie about the St Bartholomew’s day massacre to prejudice people against Kerry or another Catholic candidate. I don’t think most people would even draw the connection between the candidate and what a group of his co-religionists did more then a hundred years ago.

A good movie can be made on any subject whatsoever. This movie, obviously, is not the good movie to be made on the Mountain Meadows Massacre. I’m not all that skeptical about the reason for this movie’s production, given the lines in the previews. You apparently have met some of the bigots I have. A few of them still have no problem stretching blame back for two thousand plus years. It’s really sad.

And since many, if not most, LDS in the US and Canada won’t watch R rated movies, the potential audience for this flick is lacking a large group of people who could–or maybe should–watch it to refute their neighbors who “learn” from the movie. Well, given that the movie’s such a dog, I guess the LDS don’t have to worry about that.