In September 1857, a wagon train passing through Utah laden with gold was attacked. Approximately 140 people were slaughtered; only 17 children under the age of eight were spared. This incident in an open field called Mountain Meadows has ever since been the focus of passionate debate: Is it possible that official Mormon dignitaries were responsible for the massacre? In her riveting book, Sally Denton makes a fiercely convincing argument that they were.
The author–herself of Mormon descent–first traces the extraordinary emergence of the Mormons and the little-known nineteenth-century intrigues and tensions between their leaders and the U.S. government, fueled by the Mormons’ zealotry and exclusionary practices. We see how by 1857 they were unique as a religious group in ruling an entire American territory, Utah, and commanding their own exclusive government and army.
Denton makes clear that in the immediate aftermath of the massacre, the church began placing the blame on a discredited Mormon, John D. Lee, and on various Native Americans. She cites contemporaneous records and newly discovered documents to support her argument that, in fact, the Mormon leader, Brigham Young, bore significant responsibility–that Young, impelled by the church’s financial crises, facing increasingly intense scrutiny and condemnation by the federal government, incited the crime by both word and deed.
Finally, Denton explains how the rapidly expanding and enormously rich Mormon church of today still struggles to absolve itself of responsibility for what may well be an act of religious fanaticism unparalleled in the annals of American history. American Massacre is totally absorbing in its narrative as it brings to life a tragic moment in our history.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of History eBook: American Massacre|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
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|Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group|
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Joseph Smith knelt in a small upstairs bedroom in rural New York, a farm boy beseeching God to forgive him his sins. Suddenly, he would say later, a light as bright as the midday sun grew around him, and a personage draped in exquisite white robes-"a countenance truly like lightning"-addressed the seventeen-year-old by name. This spirit, Moroni, then delivered the celestial decree: "That God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues."
This "work," Smith said he was told, involved locating a book inscribed on golden plates that Moroni had buried on a mound in nearby Cumorah fourteen hundred years earlier. Contained in the leaves was an account of the aborigines of America, a lost tribe of Israel, which included "the everlasting Gospel . . . as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants." To assist Smith in translating the Egyptian-like symbols on the tablets would be two sacred seer stones, the Urim and Thummim, fastened to a breastplate and deposited with the book.
Quoting numerous biblical prophecies regarding the Second Coming of Christ to earth-"For behold the day cometh that shall burn as an oven"-Moroni, Smith said, conveyed the gravity of Smith's mission. Then, the mysterious light enveloped the angel, who "ascended until he entirely disappeared." Moroni visited Smith two more times that night-for, as Smith biographer Fawn Brodie wrote, "to be authentic, celestial truth must be thrice repeated."
The visitations on that evening of September 21, 1823, were neither the first