The Generational Curse of Harsh Rhetoric

Mountain Meadows Massacre Memorial

As I wrote previously, Elder Holland’s musket talk may be a modern version of Sidney Rigdon “Salt Sermon” from June 17, 1838. Rigdon’s sermon was a stern condemnation of Mormon dissenters.

“If the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted?
It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”
Matthew 5:13

(See also Rigdon’s July 4th oration where he took a militant stance against Missourians).


Lindsay Hansen Park came up with a better insight and wrote:

Did you know that from 1851 to 1881, capital punishment in Utah allowed for death by beheading? I found that in my research the other day, working on a Mountain Meadows Massacre timeline.

What a wild time early Utah was.

On this day 164 years ago (September 9, 1857), the Baker/Fancher/Dunlap emigrant party were hiding behind their wagons, chained in a half-circle against a hill, fighting off two days of attacks at the hands of my Mormon ancestors.
They’d soon start running out of water. Seven would die in the initial attacks.

Many of the Mormon men who participated in the murders, were traumatized themselves- though we would hardly, if ever, speak of their trauma and only talk about the good aspects of their character- as if our stories and reminiscences could wash the blood off.

In a few days from now, the 120 emigrants would all be butchered, save about 17 or so tiny children believed to be under the age of 8 (in Mormonism this is the age of accountability and massacre participants believed the children were young enough to not recall accurately the details of watching their families slaughtered).

The story is so ghastly, a true tragedy all around-and still haunts us to this day. The culture of violence, the militia spirit, the persecution complex- all of those things that led to such a horrific event, still linger.

I know the massacre is still such a sore point, but if we truly want to move beyond it, have some sort of reconciliation, we as a people, a culture, a faith, a state- need to do the work to move beyond and outside of the attitudes that allowed for this to happen in the first place.

Sadly, this year has shown us that the spirit of 1857 still exists in the hearts of our people with talks of muskets, persecution complex, government paranoia, us versus them, and on and on we go.

Today, the emigrant train, coming down the Spanish trail and looking for a better life, are on my mind. In trying to understand the conditions that allowed for this, historians repeatedly point to the fiery rhetoric used by church leaders, the political atmosphere and the persecution complex and unprocessed trauma and fear of the faithful.

Though some things have changed (thank goodness for change and progress!), some things have not changed and too many people want to keep it that way. That is a tragedy in and of itself.

(End Quote)


“[Juanita Brooks] probably helped the church come to grips with something that all of us wish had never happened.”

Jeffrey R. Holland
LDS Apostle
Transcript from PBS “The Mormons”
March 4, 2006

Juanita Brooks wrote a book “The Mountain Meadows Massacre.” Elder Delbert L. Stapley sought to excommunicate Brooks for this book, but President David O. McKay denied the excommunication. Reference.

– Tom Irvine

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