As I look back on more than ten years of posting on RFM, the single factor that led me to this site was curiosity over LDS History, specifically the Mountain Meadows Massacre. In 1999, the church had financed construction of a new memorial at the site, and the Salt Lake Tribune had run a story about the scandal when some of the victims' remains were uncovered by a back hoe.
At the time I knew very little about MMM even though the late Harold Schindler was a family friend, and he and my grandfather had co-founded a local Western History group. I did know it was a sensitive subject among Mormons, and perhaps it was not having anyone to discuss it with that kept me from exploring the subject further.
That situation has changed substantially, of course; two weeks ago I stopped into Will Bagley's office to share some information with him, and in addition to thanking me for posting links to his material here, he paid me a compliment that still has me blushing (I won't repeat it because the trollish sorts will just take it as a red flag).
Friendships with Will, Steve Benson--I'd followed his troubles with the church as well in the media--Simon Southerton, and a host of others have been among the benefits I've accrued as a member of this community.
Anyway, when I came here, I was probably the furthest thing from an "anti-Mormon" in terms of wanting to vilify the LDS culture. Even though I hated the influence of the LDS Church on Utah politics, I'd just spent a number of years in therapy with a TBM therapist who helped me immensely with issues attendant to sober alcoholism, and he's still a valued friend.
I had read "No Man Knows My History" as well as Taylor's "Nightfall at Nauvoo," and I had little respect for Joseph Smith, but I did regard Brigham Young as a powerful figure in history I felt deserved my grudging admiration.
I offer that as evidence that I came here with essentially an open mind. Bagley's "Blood of the Prophets" hadn't been published yet, so I started by reading Brooks' "The Mountain Meadows Massacre" and "John D. Lee: Zealot, Pioneer Builder, Scapegoat." I followed that with a trip to the Tanners, picking up LeSuer's "The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri" and John D. Lee's "Confessions."
About that time the 2002 Ex-Mormon Convention came up, and Will was featured along with Simon Southerton and Sandra Tanner. I had him sign a first edition of "Blood of the Prophets," and I began devouring everything I could read on the subject.
For the newer sorts, here's Will's presentation at that Conference along with links to all of the books mentioned above.http://www.salamandersociety.com/interviews/willbagley/http://www.amazon.com/John-Doyle-Lee-Pioneer-Scapegoat/dp/087421162Xhttp://www.goodreads.com/book/show/606280.The_Mountain_Meadows_Massacrehttp://www.utlm.org/booklist/titles/confessionsofjohndlee_ub006.htmhttp://www.amazon.com/1838-Mormon-War-Missouri/dp/0826206263http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Prophets-Brigham-Massacre-Mountain/dp/0806134267
Obviously I've made substantial progress since reading these original works, a situation that was probably foreshadowed when I published a modest letter debunking a claim that "It was never proven that any Mormons besides John D. Lee were involved in the Mountain Meadows Massacre." My phone rang the next morning; it was a woman in Southern Utah thanking me for what I'd written. She claimed--and I have every reason to believe her--that she was descended from the Fanchers but had joined the LDS Church. She also said she had some family documents which showed Alexander Fancher had made two trips through Utah--at least one via the "Southern Route"--prior to the doomed 1857 trek. I confirmed the truth of her claim a few months later when I read Will's book.
Moving on, one challenge I've encountered in my research is what I've come to term "Mormon smear." Quite frankly, LDS historians, many of whom I've concluded are only writing badly biased historical fiction, only have to characterize an author as a "rabid anti-Mormon," and they consider their task of dismissing them as accomplished.
Here's a sample involving two prominent 19th century victims of the Mormon libel machine, J.H. Beadle, and Wm. Wyl (Wilhelm Wymetal). The latter interviewed William Law in the following, which appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune in 1887. The Law interview was one I read early on (he was someone I was familiar with), and it's been a favorite link of mine to post because his voice is so credible and authentic.
The William Law Interview: http://mrm.org/topics/documents-speeches/interview-william-law
Now consider the following in what passes for academic scholarship at BYU . . .http://byustudies.byu.edu/showtitle.aspx?title=6272
>Without an introduction or overview, however, the reader knows little of the context or background of the interview. Given the strong antipolygamy sentiment in America, the anti-Mormon bent of interviewer Wilhelm Wyl, Law's bitter opposition to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and publication of the interview in an openly anti-Mormon Salt Lake newspaper, it comes as no surprise that Law's recollections were predominately negative.
And another, quoting no less than Richard Bushman...http://www.josephsmithspolygamy.com/26Accusers/WilhelmWyl.html
>Biographer Richard L. Bushman provided this assessment of Wyl: “[He] introduced a lot of hearsay into his account of Joseph. Personally I found all the assertions about the Prophet's promiscuity pretty feeble. Nothing there [was] worth contending with.” L.D.S. General Authority, B. H. Roberts, assessed: “[Mormon Portraits] follows very much in the style and tone of Bennett's exposé, and severer criticism than this could not be passed upon it."
Wyl, whose real name was Wilhelm Wymetal, published "Joseph Smith, The Prophet, His Family and Friends," and excerpts are available here.http://olivercowdery.com/smithhome/1886WWyl.htm
A brief biography of Wymetal is available on Wiki in German, but more significant are the following character references from, among others, the Territorial governor of Utah, and Chauncey G. Webb, who oversaw the construction of handcarts during that infamous episode in LDS history.
>Dr. W. Wyl, a representative of the Berliner Tageblatt, and who is commended to me from a high personal and official source as a "highly cultivated and thoroughly reliable gentleman," has for four months assiduously labored in the investigation of the questions involved in Mormonism. I am satisfied that he has given the subject careful study, and is therefore qualified to write advisedly of the situation, past and present.
>ELI H. MURRAY,
>"I have been thoroughly acquainted with the Mormon Church for over fifty years. I attended grammar school with Joseph Smith in Kirtland, Ohio, in the winter of 1834 and 1835, and assisted in teaching Joseph Smith, the prophet, English grammar. I witnessed the history of the Church in Kirtland, Ohio, in Caldwell and Davies counties, Mo., in Nauvoo, Ill., and in Salt Lake City. I was intimately acquainted with Joseph Smith and his family for eleven years, also with all the leading men of the Church down to the present time. I have been thoroughly acquainted with the system and all the important facts of the history of the Mormon Church. In many interviews during March, April and May, 1885, I have given all the facts within my knowledge to Dr. W. Wyl, who wrote them down in shorthand. I think Dr. Wyl has enjoyed the best facilities for obtaining a thorough knowledge of Mormon History, and I look forward to his intended publication with great interest."
>C. G. WEBB.
>SALT LAKE CITY, May 14, 1885,
One "anti" did offer his testimony as well, none other than William Godbe, founder of the "Godbeites" Movement.
>We, the undersigned, hereby certify that we know that Dr. W. Wyl, a German author and correspondent, has worked very earnestly for months to collect facts from a number of witnesses living in Salt Lake City, relating to the history of Mormonism. We believe that Dr. Wyl has done his work in a thoroughly honest and truth-loving spirit, and that his Book will be a valuable addition to the material collected by other reliable writers.
>W. S. GODBE, H. W. LAWRENCE, E. L. T. HARRISON. SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH TER., April 28, 1886.
Dr. Wyl's own introduction can be read by scrolling down to page 10, where he takes his critics to task for characterizing him as being in league with Satan, and I think he makes a persuasive case for his claims.
J.H. Beadle suffers similarly at the hands of Mormon detractors. It was Beadle who arranged for William Hickman to make his confessions that became the basis for "Brigham's Destroying Angel."http://www.amazon.com/Brighams-Destroying-Angel-Confession-Disclosures/dp/0766163385
A number of individuals, including one LDS attorney who also doubles as an apologist as well as a descendant of Hickman's who maintains a website, have insisted Beadle "fabricated" the murder charges that Hickman laid at Brigham Young's feet. However, one of the books Bagley and I discussed in the conversation that began this treatise was Robert N. Baskin's "Reminiscences of Early Utah." Baskin would later rise to become Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court after statehood was achieved.http://signaturebooks.com/?p=444
My copy has become dog-eared from late night re-reading sessions, but the following is noteworthy:
>"Hickman confessed to me that he personally knew of thirteen persons having been murdered, some by him, and others by various Danites; that at one time he murdered a man by the name of Buck at Brigham Young's behest. Hickman's statement of this affair is substantially the same as given to me, in fuller detail..."
I think this adequately debunks the following that Jeff Lindsay attributes to Hugh Nibley...http://www.jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/wildbill.shtml
>"Nobody had been able to pin anything on the Mormons until 14 years later, when Bill Hickman came to the rescue with his thrice-welcome 'confessions'... a long and lurid catalogue of blood in which every major crime committed in Utah is mechanically and unimaginatively pinned on Brigham Young.... Hickman, as we shall see, never dreamed of such a thing until Beadle put him up to it... Beadle was a professional purveyor of scandal... we believe that those tales are Beadle's invention... The patent absurdity of the 'Confessions' becomes apparent on the most superficial investigation and grows with every monotonous episode.... The Hickman stories were not true." (Sounding Brass, 1963, pp. 254, 256, 263-65)
As I said, very bad and biased historical fiction... Lindsay also quotes Nibley as wondering why, if the Danites actually existed, they never killed Hickman for violating his oaths...
Nibley's deserved reputation for scurrilous scholarship is untarnished with this one. There were few men in Utah willing to take on Bill Hickman if firearms were involved.
A last link to one of Beadle's pieces describing events at Mountain Meadows clearly demonstrates that any claims of "anti-Mormon" bias are thoroughly unwarranted. The following, written in 1870, gives an accounting of the attack on the Fancher/Baker party that is entirely consistent with Brooks and Bagley's accounts. Yet it even suggests Brigham Young probably didn't give the order to destroy the emigrants wagon train.http://etext.virginia.edu/railton/roughingit/map/morbeadle.html
>"One question remains: Did Brigham Young know aught of, or give command for this massacre? The strong probability of course, is, that he did not."
On that one, I disagree (as does Will Bagley), but then Beadle erroneously has Brigham Young crying when he heard the news of the emigrants fate; in fact, it was probably William Dame.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/28/2010 04:00AM by SL Cabbie.