CESNUR - Centro Studi sulle Nuove Religioni diretto da Massimo Introvigne


“The Servants of God Will Come Forth to Slay the Wicked”:  Apples and Oranges—What Was Different about Violence in the Mormon West?

by Will Bagley
A paper presented at The 2009 CESNUR Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah, June 11-13, 2009

The chief  sins of this people are disrespect to the holy priesthood and the pruning time has come, and those who hold the priesthood must wake up and magnify their calling and then we shall be saved, every one of us who have got the holy priesthood upon us know these are great sins and you who know most must repent of most & all forsake your sins, and if you do not this when the servants of God will come forth to slay the wicked: who of you can do this? I am for the Lord come life or death. — Cedar Stake of Zion President Isaac C. Haight, Cedar Stake Journal, January 29, 1857, MS 1, Box 89, Folder 12, William Rees Palmer and Kate Vilate Isom Palmer Western History Collection, Special Collections, Gerald R. Sherratt Library, Southern Utah University. Michele Margetts Transcription.

“The Servants of God Will Come Forth to Slay the Wicked”:  Apples and Oranges—What Was Different about Violence in the Mormon West?........... 1

Apples and Oranges........... 2

A Peculiar People: Were Mormons Exceptional?.......... 3

Their Blood Will Surely Be Spilled: Utah’s Exceptional  Violence.......... 6

Swift and Violent Justice: Apologias.......... 9

Bad Bad Bad Apples.......... 10

Something Terrible Always Happens: Farewell.......... 14

Apples and Oranges

Some aspects of radical new religious movements make later, less enthusiastic believers profoundly uncomfortable. The cycle associated with the creation of a new faith is well established: a charismatic leader recruits a band of true believers to revolutionize the sacred status quo. If they succeed and endure, within a generation or two this alterative religion, having renounced virtually everything that made the system vibrant and transformative, will be indistinguishable from the institution it set out to revolutionize. In the process of evolving from a cult to a faith, such movements lose the dynamism and intensity that endowed the first generation of believers with charismatic powers. In the process, their heirs recreate what the original movement set out to overthrow. In modern religions, where the printing press created a detailed record of the this process, the surviving evidence of the institution’s youthful excesses presents a complicated problem, especially when the evidence contradicts the faith’s beloved founding mythology and acts of brutality and violence complicate that past.

Some scholars argue that new faiths are more often the victims of violence than its perpetrators: Eileen Barker points out that what she calls the “deviancy amplification spiral” can cause controversies surrounding new religions to violent, while Massimo Introvigne observes that only a small minority of alternative religions, including millennial movements, employ violence. But a red thread of violence serves as the woof of the fabric of some new faiths,  and martyrdom and revenge played a central role in several apocalyptic religions, notably The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), more commonly known as the Mormons. Violent conflict plays such a central role in LDS history that the religion cannot tell its own story without placing a frontier lynching at the heart of its traditional chronicle of victimization and the persecution of innocence. As Ned Blackhawk has pointed out brilliantly in Violence Over the Land, as a product of an evolving American frontier, Mormonism was born in a world founded on the brutal seizure of land from Native peoples who had held it for centuries.[1] In the ferment of its turbulent environment, the Mormon faith suffered horrific attacks and in turn perpetuated its own acts of ultra-violence.

With the increasing (if limited) openness of LDS Church archives, historians both inside and outside the ranks of this dynamic young tradition have been able to cast new light on the role of violence in Brigham Young’s Utah. A decade ago, historian Michael Quinn published his path-breaking “Post-1844 Theocracy and a Culture of Violence” in his multi-volume study of the faith’s hierarchy. Significant research into specific acts of violence on the Mormon frontier in recent articles and books by Polly Aird, Ardis E. Parshall, David L. Bigler, and William P. MacKinnon has demonstrated that church leaders played an important role in instigating and executing acts of larceny and bloodshed. In contrast to this wave of revisionist history, the Mormon historical establishment has tried to rehabilitate defensive responses first formulated after Young’s death. Last summer, Oxford University Press published a landmark study by three LDS Church employees, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, about the worst act of violence in Mormon history, which casts the atrocity as a typical act of vigilantism in a violent frontier society. Yes, the West was a violent place—your odds of getting murdered on the California Trail in the 1850s were about the same as the ones prevailing in New York City in the 1970s. But trying to hide the orange of Mormon frontier violence in the apple basket of American Western violence is dishonest: the question “faithful historians” must ask is, “What made such violence different?”

A Peculiar People: Were Mormons Exceptional?

This requires addressing the question of Mormon exceptionalism: were the Latter-day Saints truly peculiar, or were they only marginally different from the American West’s other combative newcomers? An older generation of scholars viewed Mormon exceptionalism as a problem: Chas Peterson argued that Leonard Arrington “devised a promising, but highly specialized, formula for the study of a peculiar people” in Great Basin Kingdom, but like Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis, these exceptionalist schools of history “in time isolated their followers, leaving them outside mainstream [stream studies, subject to various pressures, and without effective direction.”[2] Peterson failed to answer the basic question of whether Mormons were exceptional, but I am not sure that his solution—to cast Mormonism in the context of regional history—is an answer.

So, were Mormons exceptional, and was Brigham Young’s “theodemocracy” exceptionally violent? Let me tell some stories.

In Utah today, when the Fourth of July falls on a Sunday, the state celebrates the holiday on Monday. Southern Utah’s 1858 Harmony Branch record, where mass murderer John D. Lee served as branch president and probate court judge, the Mormons reversed the tactic when July 4 fell on a Saturday by moving the local celebration to Sunday, noting that they “celebrated [on July 5] instead of the 4 by American citizens.” In Brigham Young’s Utah, this is one of hundreds of examples of how Mormons saw themselves as a people apart—and they certainly struck the thousands of Americans who visited the remote territory as exceptional.

In late April 1859, a St. Louis newspaper printed a letter written by a U.S. army officer from the Camp Floyd, Utah: “No longer ago than yesterday, while sitting in the General’s quarters, a knock at his door announced a poor unfortunate young man, about nineteen or twenty years old, a handsome Danish lad, who had been barbarously mutilated, and fled for protection all the way from San Pete Valley, to our camp. He shed tears while telling his story,” the young officer wrote. “The case of this handsome young lad excited our sympathy much. He had, it seems, paid his court to a young Danish girl, who had emigrated here with him, whom he had known from childhood, with a view to marriage. The attachment was mutual, but some hoary-headed scoundrel of a bishop, or other official, wanted the girl for his harem, and jealous of the handsome youth, had him tied, and thus mutilated him, first giving him a chance between that and death!”[3] In his journal, Captain John Wolcott Phelps described the fate of these “two youths” more forthrightly: they had been “castrated by the Mormons,” he wrote. The young man told the captain that the bishop had charged he “committed bestiality and had him castrated.”

When Joseph Young heard that Bishop Warren Snow had performed a similar operation in San Pete Valley in 1857—Snow had taken young Thomas Lewis “into the willows” and castrated him “in a brutal manner Tearing the chords right out,” Brigham Young’s brother expressed his disapproval and told his younger sibling that “he would rather die than to be made a Eunuch.” To this, Brigham Young replied that the day was coming when thousands would be made eunuchs “in order for them to be saved in the kingdom of God.” Referring to aggrieve bishop, the Mormon prophet said, “when a man is trying to do right & do[es] some thing that is not exactly in order I feel to sustain him & we all should.”[4]

If you stroll over to Main Street and go two blocks north, you can see where an audacious act of violence took place on August 11, 1859, near today’s Lamb’s Restaurant. Before a crowd of onlookers, Howard O. Spencer shot and mortally wounded U.S. Army First Sergeant Ralph Pike, who had clubbed the young Mormon when he threatened Pike with a pitchfork. Pike made his escape with the help of the Salt Lake police and Mormon triggerite Bill Hickman. This was not merely the public assassination of a distinguished American soldier: the “blessing” Brigham Young gave to Pike’s murderer on May 12, 1861 made it more remarkable: “President Young set [Spencer] apart to kill every poor devil that should seek to take his life and gave him permission when he came across a poor mobocrat to use him up.”[5]

As his setting apart of Howard Spencer shows, Young, who often expressed his contempt for “man’s law,” preferred to ignore the admonition of Buchanan’s pardon, and a string of violent actions such as the murder of Myron Brewer indicate Mormon leaders resorted to violence whenever they considered it necessary. By encouraging criminal acts and then covering them up or blaming them on the Indians, Mormon leaders lied, betraying both the Mormon people and Utah’s native peoples.

Their Blood Will Surely Be Spilled: Utah’s Exceptional  Violence

Before an audience assembled in the Old Tabernacle in Great Salt Lake City on November 8, 1857, Heber C. Kimball, Brigham Young’s second-in-command, gave homily on “Truth, Life, and Light”: “When it is necessary that blood should be shed, we should be as ready to do that as to eat an apple.” By any standard, for religious leaders to use such rough language and show such a casual acceptance of blood letting is extraordinary, especially when such words inspire crimes against humanity ranging from assassination to castration, and to dismiss such remarks as mere rhetoric is a transparent attempt to justify the unjustifiable.

Remember that the old time version of the Latter-day Saint religion I’m describing is now long gone. But that history still makes the Corporation of the President very nervous, and justifiably so. Brigham Young publicly endorsed violence, including sermons promoting “Blood Atonement,” a form of ritual murder. Apologists insist this was a “rhetorical device” never “practiced by the Church at any time,” but historian Juanita Brooks concluded that in Utah, blood atonement was “a literal and terrible reality. Brigham Young advocated and preached it without compromise.”[6] The appearance in 1859 of the decapitated heads of two Mormon women at Camp Floyd—documented in army sources and in the Church Historian’s journal—puts the lie to claims that is it impossible to show that blood atonement ever happened. By encouraging such criminal acts and then covering them up or blaming them on the Indians, Mormon leaders lied, betraying both the Mormon people and Utah’s native peoples.

In the Kingdom of Deseret, the worst acts of violence were top down— Brigham Young inspired and demonstrably sanctioned acts of religious violence, ranging from murder for profit to the castration of young men or political figures who objected to polygamy or threatened his power. For almost two decades, Governor/Superintendent/President Young reigned as the single most powerful man in the American West, until Tecumseh Sherman arrived with a battle-tested army in 1866. Even during his service as governor of a federal territory, the Mormon prophet ignored his sworn duty and enforced what Heber C. Kimball called “the law of the kingdom,”—God’s law, administered by His earthly regent. Young’s dedication to completing the work of Joseph Smith created what D. Michael Quinn called a “culture of violence,” which “encouraged Mormons to consider it their religious right to kill antagonistic outsiders, common criminals, LDS apostates, and even faithful Mormons who committed sins ‘worthy of death.’”[7]

That said, it is important not to paint the Latter-day Saint people with a broad-brush. As historian Daniel Herman observed, “Mormons believed they were a people of peace and order despite the Utah War, despite the occasional attack on apostates, despite the Mountain Meadows Massacre, despite the doctrine of blood atonement.”[8] This is certainly true: “The spirit of our politics is peace,” Brigham Young himself said in 1863. “If we could have our choice, it would be to continually walk in the path of peace; and had we the power, we would direct the feet of all men to walk in the same path. We wish to live in peace with our God, with our neighbors and with all men. I am not aware that we have ever been guilty of inaugurating any difficulty whatever.”[9] While Young no doubt knew more than he was letting on, the Mormon people had established a society that was noted throughout the West for its good order and rectitude. “I am very much surprised at the good order and regulation of the city, and evident satisfaction with their peculiar institutions and religion, as I had been led to believe in a very different state of things,” stagecoach passenger John R. Robinson wrote as an American bloodbath was beginning in 1861. “Apparently a more orderly, quiet, sober, industrious, and thriving people I have never seen.”[10] Yankee trader Franklin Buck found life in the mining town of Pioche, Nevada, rough and tumble: “There is a fight every day and a man killed about every week. About half the town is whisky shops and houses of ill fame.” In contrast, the southern Utah Mormon towns he visited in 1871 had “no courts, no prisons, no saloons, no bad women; but there is a large brick Church and they keep the Sabbath—a fine schoolhouse and all the children go to school. All difficulties between each other are settled by the Elders and the Bishop. Instead of every man trying to hang his neighbor, they all pull together.”[11]

But all this pulling together came at a cost. “I am watching you,” Brigham Young told a congregation in 1855. “Do you know that I have my threads strung all through the Territory, that I may know what individuals do?”[12] Mormon leaders used fear to control dissent: “The best way to sanctify ourselves, and please God our heavenly Father in these days, is to rid ourselves of every thief, and sanctify the people from every vile character,” Apostle Orson Hyde said in 1853. “It would have a tendency to place a terror on those who leave these parts, that may prove their salvation when they see the heads of thieves taken off, or shot down before the public.”[13] In an August 1857 sermon with the title, “Limits of Forbearance—Apostates,” Heber C. Kimball said, “I have no doubt there will be hundreds who will leave us, and go away to our enemies. I wish they would this fall; it might save us much trouble; and if men turn traitors to God and His servants, their blood will surely be spilled, or else they will be damned, and that, too, according to their covenants.”[14]

What made Utah’s violence unique was that it occurred in a settled, well-organized community whose leaders, a growing body of recent scholarship reveals, publicly directed and sanctioned acts of violence. Virtually everywhere else in the West, legal authorities enforced the law, often at great personal and political cost. When Samuel Brannan pulled the rope in San Francisco’s first vigilante lynching in 1851, he divided the community into vigilantes and a “Law-and-Order party” consisting of “a few lawyers, two judges, some policemen, and David C. Broderick.” Broderick denounced Brannan as notorious “for his violence and contempt of law. He is widely known as a turbulent man, ready to trample upon all laws that oppose his private opinions or private ends.” Brigham Young shared Brannan’s contempt for man’s law: “I live above the law, and so do this people,” he proclaimed in 1852.[15]

As access to long-suppressed Mormon records becomes more open, it is increasingly obvious that Brigham Young and the religious oligarchy he headed used violence and the threat of violence as instruments of power. In the face of a wealth of evidence to the contrary, faithful Mormon historians cling to the myth of their “persecuted innocence.” As James Buchanan made clear in his 1858 pardon of Utah citizens for acts of treason and violence against the government, he simply expected them to respect and obey American law, as did later federal officers in their crusade to destroy polygamy. “Do not deceive yourselves, nor try to mislead others by propagating the idea that this is a crusade against your religion. The Constitution and laws of this country can take no notice of your creed, whether it be true or false. That is a question between your God and yourselves, in which I disclaim all right to interfere.”

As a side note, it is worth pointing out that basically the point of the long crusade against polygamy was not to persecute or exterminate the Mormons: it was to get them to follow the law.

Swift and Violent Justice: Apologias

The subject of violence in the Mormon West has recently seen an avalanche of apologetic works seeking to deny the conclusions a growing body of revisionist scholarship based on better access to long-suppressed sources.

Mormon scholars, many of them LDS Church employees such as Craig Foster, seek to justify the organized religious terror meted out in Utah Territory as simply another manifestation of the American frontier’s “culture of violence built upon the notion of individuality, self-redress, and a ‘somewhat primitive code of honor.’” In Foster’s view, “community members met violence with violence,” and “although the use of extralegal justice was perhaps extreme in one sense, it was viewed as necessary and was representative of its time—at least in the western United States—as an acceptable means by which a community could punish a perpetrator of a violent crime.”[16] Without mentioning that Spencer had “seized a pitch fork and presenting it at the Sergeant in a menacing attitude defied him and his men” when Pike attempted to arrest him, Foster characterized Howard O. Spencer as one of the “victims of such crimes, [who] sent a message to would-be felons. Those who committed such crimes could expect one thing in return—swift and deadly punishment.” Even though Spencer’s threat meant Pike “would have been justified in shooting him down,” as a local paper noted, based on Foster’s logic, the sergeant deserved “swift and deadly punishment” for carrying out his lawful orders.[17]

Pointing to David Fischer’s work in Albion’s Seed, Foster uses a creative argument to trace Western violence to “backcountry” culture in Appalachia the Ozarks” “strongly influenced by descendants of the Scots and Irish as well as by other groups from the traditional Celtic fringe of Great Britain” who created “a climate of violence” where “accepted violence and retaliation was taught within the community and among the families,” creating such Li’l Abner phenomena as “Ozark vengeance.”  Foster argues, “This tradition of violence extended to Missouri, where it . . . most certainly influenced the early Latter-day Saints.”[18] I’m sorry, but as an almost purebred “son of Albion,” I find this logic silly: after all, my aggressive ancestors, the Britains and the Anglo-Saxons, whose fantastic birthrate supported a record of international violence and brutality in the nineteenth century unmatched since the glory days of Imperial Rome, created the Scots-Irish.

Bad Bad Bad Apples

More problematic for the LDS Church is its recent sponsorship of an officially unofficial reinterpretation of the Mountain Meadows massacre. (Anyone who thought official history ended with the Soviet Union should think again.) Since at least October 2001, the religion deployed its historical establishment to frame a rebuttal to my book on the massacre, Blood of the Prophets, intended, as its author, who was recently appointed to the office of Assistant Church Historian, told historian David Roberts, “to refute Bagley at every turn.”[19] In a pretentious survey of academic studies of American violence, three church historians gravely conclude that the American West was a violent place, and the Mountain Meadows massacre was a typical manifestation of such violence—nothing more than the awful acts of a few very, very, very bad men. To anyone familiar with the actual history of Utah, this sounds strikingly similar to the official story that only a few “bad apples” in Iraq—none of them commissioned officers—were responsible for systematic and vicious acts of torture. If the books’ reviews are any indication, historians are underwhelmed. They express skepticism of the LDS authors’ use of “one new interpretive lens—the sociology of group violence,” observed Jared Farmer, winner of this year’s Parkman Prize. “More than once, when their narrative demands a statement of causation or culpability, Walker, Turley, and Leonard simply quote a generalized point from a study on violence. . . . With the exception of the half-formed sections on group violence, Massacre at Mountain Meadows simply does not engage with current scholarly trends.”[20]

More seriously, the church’s Massacre provides a series of easy if unconvincing answers to softball questions about the West’s most exceptional act of white-on-white violence. The question the church’s book refuses to address is, might religion help explain what made decent nineteenth-century men defy their social conditioning and murder some eighty helpless women and children?

Seventeen children between the ages of two and eight years old arrived in Salt Lake City 150 years ago: they were the orphans who had survived the Mountain Meadows massacre. Late last month I attended a commemoration of the burial of their parents and their rescue by federal agents and the U.S. Army. At a dinner, LDS Church Historian Marlin Jensen, an attorney who is an authority on intellectual property, explained to their relatives why his faith could not apologize for the crime but could only express its deep regrets. The church’s historians, including another very good attorney who is an authority on intellectual property, had examined all the evidenced, and they had proven that the massacre was the crime of a few very bad men in Southern Utah: the atrocity was their fault and the mass-murder was in no way an institutional crime. How convenient. They must not have considered the conclusion Juanita Brooks reached almost sixty years ago: “While Brigham Young and George A. Smith, the church authorities chiefly responsible, did not specially order the massacre, they did preach sermons and set up social conditions which made it possible.”

I suggested to Elder Jensen he might do well to read the concluding paragraph in my Mountain Meadows opus:

As a religion claiming direct divine inspiration, the LDS church is caught on the horns of an insoluble dilemma. Its leaders cannot admit that the Lord’s anointed inspired, executed, and covered up a mass murder, and as long as modern prophets deny that the Mormon church had “any complicity in the occurrences of that fateful day,” they can never come to terms with the truth. The church’s doctrine of repentance dictates that without acknowledging sin, there can be no forgiveness. There is, ultimately, no easy way for the Latter-day Saints to resolve the problems posed by this awful tale until they admit their historic responsibility for a terrible crime. The faith must accept its role, open all of its records on the subject, acknowledge its accountability, and repent--or simply learn to live with the guilt. Church leaders might wish till the end of time that the matter could simply be forgotten, but history bears witness that only the truth will lay to rest the ghosts of Mountain Meadows.

In his brilliant study of Silencing the Past in histories of the Haitian Revolution, Michel-Rolph Trouillot identified how what he called formulas of erasure and formulas of banalization that combine to create formulas of silence. “At the level of generalities, some narratives cancel what happened through direct erasure of facts or their relevance. ‘It’ did not really happen; it was not that bad, or that important,” Trouillot observed. “On a seemingly different plane, other narratives sweeten the horror or banalize the uniqueness of a situation by focusing on details,” certainly a strategy employed in the LDS Church’s Massacre. “The joint effect of these two types of formulas is a powerful silencing: whatever has not been cancelled out in the generalities dies in the cumulative irrelevance of a heap of details.”[21] As anthropologists Lars Rodseth and Shannon A. Novak observed, Walker et al attempt to render the largest slaughter of American citizens in the thirty-year history of the Oregon-California Trail “abstract and unsurprising—just another case of ‘frontier violence,’ for example, in a less civilized time and place.”[22]

Historians must ask this critical question: “What was different about violence in the Mormon West?” The answer: except in Utah Territory, Western violence was a “bottom up” phenomenon: both criminal and vigilante acts consistently occurred in defiance of legal authority. Trying to hide the orange of Mormon violence in the apple barrel of Western violence is simply legerdemain that ignores reality. As Wallace Stegner wrote: “it would be bad history 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.”[23]

I would like to recommend a new course of action to my Mormon friends: instead of dissembling about the religion’s colorful past or trying to hide it, embrace it as my friend Hal Schindler did in his classic biography, Orrin Porter Rockwell: Man of God, Son of Thunder. Hal was completely enamored of the mythical history of the State of Deseret, but while he steadfastly defended the old time Mormon religion, when it came to the bloody facts, he let them speak for themselves. It is long past time for Mormon historians to quit playing games with the truth. They need to put their persecution complex behind them, admit that the leaders who established a thoroughly remarkable and enduring new religious movement were not the embodiment of human perfection, and embrace their colorful if sometimes profoundly disturbing past.

Something Terrible Always Happens: Farewell

There are faithful Latter-day Saints in this room who grasp the threat evildoers such as I pose to the progress of the Kingdom of God: they understand intimately the “dreadful stories about those who oppose the Prophet;” and how “something terrible always happens to them.” As it will to me, no doubt: but I trust I will end my days with Jefferson Hope, hero of Conan Doyle’s magnificent A Study in Scarlet. Like Hope, I too will be “summoned before a tribunal where strict justice would be meted out.” I too expect to be found one “morning stretched upon the floor of [my] cell, with a placid smile upon [my] face, as though [I] had been able in [my] dying moments to look back upon a useful life, and on work well done.”

[1] Blackhawk, Violence Over the Land: Indians and Empires in the Early American West (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 2006).

[2] C. S. Peterson, “Beyond Exceptionalist History,” in Thomas G. Alexander, ed., Great Basin Kingdom Revisited: Contemporary Perspectives (Logan: Utah State University Press,  1991) 133–34.

[3] “Mormon Cruelties,” 23 March 1859, St. Louis Republican, 26 April 1859, reprinted in The Schoharie Republican and County Democrat (New York), 12 May 1859, 2/5.

[4] Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 5:55.

[5] Historian’s Office Journal, 12 May 1861, LDS Archives.

[6] Brooks and Cleland, eds., Mormon Chronicle, 1:129n143.

[7] Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, 260.

[8] Daniel Herman, email to  H-Net Western History List, 9 July 2009.

[9] “Remarks by President BRIGHAM YOUNG, made on the Public Square, Great Salt Lake City, July 8, 1863. Advice to California Emigrants. The Principles of the Gospel, Etc.,” Journal of Discourses, 10:230.

[10] Robinson, Diary of John R. Robinson, 30 August 1861, HM 62476, Huntington Library, 74–75.

[11] Franklin Augustus Buck, A Yankee Trader in the Gold Rush; The Letters of Franklin A. Buck, edited by Katherine A. White (Boston, New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1930), 235.

[12] Brigham Young, 8 October 1855, Journal of Discourses, 3:122.

[13] Orson Hyde, Journal of Discourses, 9 April 1853, 1:73.

[14] “Remarks, by President Heber C. Kimball, Delivered in the Bowery, Great Salt Lake City, Sunday Morning, August 16, 1857,” Journal of Discourses, 4: 375.

[15] Brigham Young, 1 August 1852, in Journal of Discourses, 1:361. As my friend Kenneth N. Owens has commented during a session on “’Holy Murder’ Revisited: Violence in Utah Territory” at the October 2008 Western History Association conference, the American West offers other examples of officials, including Governor Isaac Stevens of Washington Territory, who ignored and broke the law with abandon. But Stevens, however devoted he might have been to manifest destiny, was not the leader of a religious movement.

[16] Craig Foster. “The Butler Murder of April 1869: A Look at Extralegal Punishment in Utah,” Mormon Historical Studies 2 (Fall 2001), 105–14, citing Charles Phillips and Bill O’Neal, “Violence: Historical Overview,” Encyclopedia of the American West, 4 vols., Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod, eds. (New York: Macmillan, 1996), 4:1688–94.

[17] Foster. “The Butler Murder,”; and “Another Assassination,” The Valley Tan, 17 August 1859, 3/2.

[18] Foster, Craig L. “Doing Violence to Journalistic Integrity,” FARMS Review (Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute) 16:1 (2004).

[19] David Roberts, Devil’s Gate: Brigham Young and the Mormon Handcart Tragedy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008), 316, 371.

[20] Jared Farmer, Review of Ronald Walker, Richard E. Turley Jr., and Glen M. Leonard, Massacre at Mountain Meadows: An American Tragedy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), BYU Studies, digital copy at http://byustudies.byu.edu/reviews/pages/reviewdetail.aspx?reviewID=678. Among the “current scholarly trends” Massacre at Mountain Meadows refuses to engage are questions about how race relates to this startling incident of white-on-white violence, or how the gender and age of the two-thirds of the victims who were children or female might set the crime apart. For another dismissive review of the church’s book, see Melvin T. Smith,  Utah Historical Quarterly (Spring 2009).

[21] Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), 95–97.

[22] Rodseth and Novak, “Placing the Dead at Mountain Meadows,” a chapter from Ron Wetherington, ed., Frontier Engagements, forthcoming, the University of Oklahoma Press, citing Walker et al., Massacre at Mountain Meadows, xiii-xiv.

[23] Wallace Stegner, Mormon Country, (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1942. Reprinted with an introduction by Richard W. Etulain, University of Nebraska Press, 1981), 96.