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“All Those Opposed by the same sign”

In what ever way you choose to observe or remember the lives that were lost and the tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2001, I hope that while you are doing it you will pause to remember the other 9/11.  On September 11, 1857 members of the Mormon Militia from Cedar City, Utah and the surrounding areas killed approximately 120 members of the Baker-Fancher wagon train.  17 children, under the age of eight, considered “innocent blood” under Mormon doctrine were the only ones spared.

Many books have been written trying to assign blame to either Brigham Young or the local Mormon leaders.  I will not enter that debate.  I will just say this.  AS I remember BOTH 9/11’s I will remember that most of those who perpetrated bot acts were probably otherwise good men who loved their families and their God.  They were men who most of the time were harmless and when playing with their children and caring for their loved ones could, in all likelihood be gentle, kind and loving.  BUT at some point they surrendered their agency.  They surrendered their ability to think.  They gave so much control to their religious leaders that when someone said, “I need you to go murder a bunch of men, women, and children” these otherwise good men said “okay.”  I wonder how different Mormon history would be if just a few of the men in Cedar City who were called upon to go kill the members of the Baker-Fancher wagon train had the fortitude to stand up and say, “No, killing people sounds like a really bad idea.  I don’t care if you are my leader, I don’t care if you do claim to talk to God, I won’t do it”.

Maybe things would have been different if something like this had happened, maybe the questioners would have been killed too.  I will not judge those young men who were only following orders that day, I was not there, I cannot say what I would have done if I feared for the safety of my family.  But I have learned a lesson.  It is a lesson that was repeated in Nazi Germany, on September 11, 2001, in the FLDS community, and in so many others where a strong leader was allowed to exercise too much control.  If I ever surrender my agency to a leader, If I stop asking questions, If I reach a point where I am afraid to go to my leaders and ask questions and when necessary say, “I think that you are wrong,” then I am facilitating history repeating itself. I will do my part to not let that happen.  I will question until the day I die.

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Comments

  1. Not to justify the tragedy of 1857. But the victims of 2001 did not intentionally enter into a War Zone on 9/11. You forgot to mention why there was a Mormon Militia in Cedar City. The Utah war was from March 1857–July 1858.

    • One really needs to avoid blaming the Fancher party. They were one of many passing through Utah at the time. They did nothing to justify their murder by the LDS leadership of Cedar City. For years, that was the technique used by the Church to redirect blame. It was claimed that the Fancher party had 1) antagonized the Indians by poisoning their water, 2) some had been involved with the death of Parley Pratt or Joseph Smith, etc. None of it was true. I would hope we’ve moved beyond that. Bluntly put, our people murdered 120 +/- men, women and children in cold blood. There is no valid excuse.

  2. Obviously we know now that the Fanchers were uninvolved with the “poisoning” (I think it’s now attributed to a cholera outbreak), or the Pratt/Smith murders, or what-have-you; and we know that the Utah War was resolved by diplomacy rather than by bloodshed. But, did the individual militiamen know that at the time of the massacre? I rather don’t think they did. And, much is said about how Haight, Dame, Lee, et al. ordered the actions of their underlings–but to what degree were the leadership’s decisions in turn influenced by the mass hysteria and collective will of the people they led?

    Seems to me that maybe the problem isn’t that the Iron County Militiamen weren’t thinking at all; but rather that a) they did think–but reached wrong conclusions due to faulty assumptions/bad information; b) they would not or could not distinguish between their own wills/emotions versus the promptings of the Holy Ghost; and c) they fell into the trap of believing that they had to Do Something Now™ rather than standing still and waiting for instructions from the prophet that at least some of them knew had already been solicited.

  3. Thank you for this reminder. I think that the long, and artless campaign to hide what happened that day is a taint on the church, because so much was done to try to cover up what happened.

    Just as in so many political scandals, the lies used to try and “control the story, ” and try to push the blame on others, is often the most damning evidence of wrong doing. That church leaders thought they could lie, to the world and to their members, for decades, is what makes this a truly shameful event.

  4. In order for Congress dispatch in a war effort they would have to declare war?

    Since Utah was a territory of the United States how does declair war on its own territory?

    a military escort to install a new governoror put down civil disobedience is very different than the declairing war one’s own citizens.

    Mormons drew first blood by attacking supply trains

    I learned this information years ago at BYU religion classes.

    Sunday school is not a good place to learn accurate history.

  5. In point of fact, Congress never declared war on the Confederacy, either. The American Civil War was launched by Presidential proclamation. Congress certainly went along with Lincoln and funded the war, but they never made a formal declaration.

    The Mormon experience with state troops would have been limited to Missouri and Illinois; along with second-hand tales of what their parents had endured during the Revolution and War of 1812 through–say–the British occupations of Boston and New York, and later Washington. They had absolutely no reason to believe that the Utah Expedition would end well for them. Occupying armies and civilians didn’t mix any better in 1857 than they do in 2014.

    “Drawing blood” seems to be a matter of perspective–throughout the campaign the Mormons made it a point not to harm the troops themselves.

  6. “If I ever surrender my agency to a leader, If I stop asking questions, If I reach a point where I am afraid to go to my leaders and ask questions and when necessary say, “I think that you are wrong,” then I am facilitating history repeating itself. I will do my part to not let that happen. I will question until the day I die.”

    This seems slightly ambiguous since there is more than one way of questioning in a way that constrains authority. For example, I would agree that we should never stop questioning God about what we should do in our individual lives. This is a kind of questioning and constraining of authority that I think the church is fully on board with. But asking questions to any person other than God like unto a reporter at a press conference a cop interrogating a witness. or any other form of asking questions for the public does not seem to find the same endorsement within Mormon doctrine at all.

    This is why I’m a little suspicious of church members who are merely “asking questions” on their blogs or through other forms of broadcast media. They are not putting their question to God on behalf of themselves. Rather, they are asking questions to church authorities on behalf of some public which they are striving to represent.

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