"The truth will set you free...
but first it will piss you off."
"I define fundamentalism as a group of invariably male leaders who consider themselves superior to other believers. The fundamentalists believe they have a special relationship with God. Therefore their beliefs are inherently correct, being those of God, and anyone who disagrees with them are first of all wrong, and second inferior, and in extreme cases even subhuman. Also, fundamentalists don't relish any challenge to their positions ... It makes a great exhibition of rigidity and superiority and exclusion." President Jimmy Carter
So the Mormons have never had to face their dark past, and now 150 years later the truth comes to light and they are being blindsided, and are unprepared to to deal with something they didn't learn about in school, why? Because it was not taught in school! Less than 1% of the population are aware of the past. If you find this statistic hard to believe conduct your own pole. Now as the truth is being shoved in their face they are screaming "it's not true, it's not true!" Sadly they are unconscious of the facts and they are being victimized for something they didn't know about. So taking out your anger on the filmmakers is wrong, don't shoot the messenger when the real culprit is the Church for covering it up. But don't take my word for it, or anyone else's, I would suggest that first, we read the historical accounts, then second, ask why we have never been told the truth?
The irony in this Mormon community is that the historic record can easily be found in nearly every library throughout the state, in bookstores and here on this website are nearly 54 books for sale, yet very few take the time to read. We assume that whatever the Church does or doesn't tells us is true, so we don't need to question anything or anyone! Fact, historians say that less than 1% of the population of Utah know of their past. Why? Because the fact is events such as the Mountain Meadow Massacre, the Black Hawk War, Circleville Massacre, Grass Valley Massacre, Bear River Massacre and over a hundred other bloody events have been glossed over, left out school curriculum and Church cannon, consequently people like you and me have been made to think that anything else is pure bunk! And what is as interesting is that if we are Mormon we feel guilt should we be found guilty of discussing these accounts. For doing so it may bring into question our allegiance to the Church. Well now the cat is out of the bag, and the cover-up has been uncovered. So the filmmakers are being beat up for uncovering the cover-up, and the Church is supposed to be exonerated for being deceitful? What's wrong with this picture here?
As Mormons we are taught that we should never question the authority of the Church. To follow with blind faith those who are the chosen mouth piece of God. This is the very dilemma the members face both individually and collectively. We are damned if we do and damned if we don't.
The following e-mail I copied from a blog by The Mainstream Iowan wherein a viewer posted the following:
You said: "Mormons were taught to obey the orders of their priesthood leaders, as long as they coincided with gospel principles."
I'm not sure where that's documented but, even today, Mormons are taught that they should obey the Prophet, even if he is wrong. The following quotes from Mormon leaders illustrate the mindset:
"I remember years ago when I was a Bishop I had President (Heber J.) Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home . . . Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: 'My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.' Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, 'But you don't need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.'" (CR, October 1960, p. 78.)
"Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith. For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you." (D&C 21:4-6)
"It is wrong to criticize the leaders of the Church -- even when that criticism is true." -- Apostle Dallin H. Oaks
If you judge September Dawn against the Church's sanitized, or shall I say "accommodation history" it is a lie, exaggerated truth, bashing at it's worst, an insult to every Mormon on earth! Church Historian D. Michael Quinn in 1981 spoke to an assembly of Church members and had this to say: "The Accommodation History advocated by Elders Benson and Packer and actually practiced by some LDS writers is intended to protect the Saints, but actually disillusions them and makes them vulnerable... The tragic reality is that there have been occasions when Church leaders, teachers, and writers have not told the truth they knew about difficulties of the Mormon past, but have offered to the Saints instead a mixture of platitudes, half-truths, omissions, and plausible denials..." I read where brother Quinn was excommunicated for his taking a stand for truth in education. (Google D, Michael Quinn.)
However, if you judge September Dawn against the official historic record, government accounts, Utah State archives, firsthand accounts, family journals, and those written by objective Church historians i.e. John Alton Peterson, it was spot on the truth! Professional historians and noted scholars like Will Bagley, Juanita Brooks, and a plethora of others who have studied these events in depth, well it's all there my friends, seek and ye shall find! It is what it is, and I think the Mountain Meadow Massacre has been long over due coming to light. But whether you accept it or not, that's your choice, but your opinion doesn't change the facts. What matters is that we take the time to learn and openly discuss these issues and events before we go out and verbally massacre innocent people... again!
It is obvious that the harshest critics of the film are Mormons who are simply shocked, stunned, hurt and haven't read a damn thing. Okay, they being blindsided by a truth they have not been told about, it is natural why there is so much anger being expressed. But you know what? I think these people are being very hypocritical, just think a minute about the victims, and the descendants of the victims who have endured generations of pain and anger than expressed by those who watched a hour long film.
Speaking of Lee, John D. Lee, the one who led the attack on the Fancher party, I have personal contact with one of the descendants of Lee, and while they don't deny his involvement in the massacre at all, they have publicly stated that the film is accurate, again there is far more to his story than the film depicted. But lets be real, to tell the complete story and cover every detail of those times would take hours upon hours of film to do so. My point being that we should be respectful to those who are descendents of these people like Lee whose lives are affected everyday for their ancestors past. And have the critics of the film addressed their sufferings? Hell no! They are to arrogant to do that right now.
Regarding the movie critics, they talk about truth, hell I congratulate the efforts and convictions of those who have spent many long years and have had to move mountains to stand up and tell the truth. That is far more than I could say for Mormon Church leaders, and Church owned media, that continue to deny that this event ever happened. Because of my own Mormon background I'll be honest, I can tell you there were more truths than exaggerations in the September Dawn. You and I have seen far worse films believe me, and they have not been dealt with such contempt and harsh criticism as this has been. Most all of the criticism is just sour grapes and one-sided.
The movie left me thinking far more about the victims than and the impact this will have on the viewer than anything else. And that should be noted, as I am only being honest as to how I reacted. But thinking about the way the Paiute were depicted, I have a lot of concern. I listened very intently to that segment, perhaps more than most would because of where my head is at at this time. They should have given more explanation and time to this, instead it was like a drive by shooting. And the way they hurried over that controversial aspect regarding the Paiute bothered me very much and really did a disservice to the Paiute who have in fact been found innocent by history scholars and researcher's. They should have given less attention to the romance story and used that time to explore the Paiute's side of the story. The fact it was down-played as it was, may have been the only redemption leaving the viewer with doubt more than being conclusive or altogether misleading. But critics are bound to grab that and milk it for all it worth, unfortunately, again demoralizing the Native Indian without any remorse.
When I walked out of the theater I was thinking about how religious fanatics can be so damn destructive to life. I thought about how the Fancher and Baker family has suffered so much over these years and have had to fight like hell to bring the truth to light. And of coarse I am waiting to see what happens next as the Church searches for just the right blend of platitudes and plausible denials to navigate around this. Which brings me to comment, critics of the film are so quick to lash out and expressed their rage for the film, but they have not said one word of kindness or regret to address those who were the victims of this heinous crime. They are more concerned about the reputation of their Church than the feelings of the descendents of those victims.
In the September Dawn movie they show some of the LDS temple ceremony. "Throats cut" is a common method of killing throughout Mormon history of both Indian and white victims. What is significant about this is that it is related to the temple ceremony. I went through the temple several times when I was preparing for my mission for the church in 1963. During the ceremony each person makes an oath never to divulge the details of the ceremony. We are made to swear that should we speak of it that we agree we will "suffer our lives to be taken." At that moment when we swear this oath, we make a sign that suggests our throats will be cut from ear to ear, and our stomachs be cut open. In my g-grandfathers book are numerous accounts of people having their throats cut.
There is far more to the dark side of the Mormon history than just Mountain meadows, i.e. the Black Hawk War. This is just the tip of a much bigger story. Keep in mind that in 1850 the Mormon militia had murdered the family of Black Hawke
"Black Hawk" and beheaded 50 of his kin and placed the heads in front of captured Black Hawk
for two weeks at Fort Utah. Black Hawk
was just in his early twenties. From 1850 to 1866 there were approximately 150 bloody confrontations with the Indian people, and in 1866 a Mormon bishop by the name of Jackson Allred ordered that 26 Indians, men, women and children have their throats cut which became known as the Circleville Massacre. They spared children under the age of eight, and they covered it up. But as news of the murders reached Brigham he did nothing but verbally criticize them. Sound familiar?
I often think of those days. Killing was a common occurrence. I try to grasp what kind of atmosphere it created for all who were living here in Utah at the time. It had to be a place where people lived in fear and depression daily. I mean come on, how could you not be affected by death and dying all about you? I have accounts of church members that wanted to leave Utah because it was just too much for them, but were threatened by Church leaders if they did. Brigham Young had his militia take control of all the mail coming and going from Utah. The mail was intercepted, opened and read to make sure that news of the circumstances did not reach the outside world. People lived in total fear and near isolation until the railroad was completed in 1867. Then the population exploded going from approximately 80,000 to nearly 160,000 in just over a year, and doubled again by 1873. By then I think people for the most part choose not to talk about their dark past and focused on the future. For at last they were liberated from the evil carnage and found relief in replacing their fears and disgust, with the intoxicating future of progress as they embraced the American dream with open arms. And the more distance they could put between themselves and the past the better. They embraced with joy any and all attempts to cover up the past, setting the stage for the sanitized versions of how the west was won. Movies and stories that exonerated the whites however far fetched they may have been, became the medicine to heal their burning consciousness of wrong doing, and vindicated their actions. Hence the birth of slogans such as "That's all in the past, we should just forget about it and move on." A slogan that continues to roll off the tongues of modern Mormon society today.
When I first entered the theater I couldn't help but notice that there were no posters or signs, no advertising of any kind about the September Dawn. TV ads have run here in Utah, but they do not say where the movie is being shown. This is censorship! In a small way much the same attitude that was shown the Fancher and Baker wagon train, like yes the movie is being shown, but we are not going to tell you where.
In a theater of 200 seats I was one of 23, but it was the first showing at 1:20, and three got up and left before it was half way through. The look on the faces of people after the show was very sober, as if on the verge of tears or anger. No one said anything. Many sat still after the lights came up, like me I guess they were some what paralyzed with thought and emotion as I was. And what was even more curious, everyone seemed to avoid eye contact looking down at the floor.
I couldn't help but think of all who have worked so hard to bring this story to light, a lot of courage and conviction to have done so. It's a miracle they got it on the big screen. And there is no doubt in my mind all will be criticized and slandered without mercy. But I for one have a great admiration that they followed their convictions and stood up for the truth, as any good Christian should. This is a golden opportunity for the LDS Church to show the world the true meaning of repentance. It's time to walk your talk!
Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have expressed sympathy. "My heart has gone out to the descendants," Elder Dallin Oaks said in a recent PBS documentary. "What a terrible thing to contemplate, that the barbarity of the frontier and the conditions of the Utah war, whatever provocations were perceived to have been given, would have led to ... such an extreme atrocity perpetrated by members of my faith." - Christian Science Monitor