Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Violent Mormons?

A popular theme of anti-Mormons these days is to repaint the history of the Church in violent hues. The Mountain Meadow Massacre is a focal point for some critics, using creative editing of history to implicate Brigham Young in that horrible crime. Useful reviews of the faulty arguments used by some critics are now available. For example, FARMS, an extensive site of Mormon scholarship, has an article that I highly recommend: Robert D. Crockett, "A Trial Lawyer Reviews Will Bagley's Blood of the Prophets," FARMS Review of Books, Vol. 15, No. 2, 2003, pp. 199—254.


FAIRLDS.org, one of my favorite Mormon information sites, has a helpful review of Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith.


I've also compiled some information on the Mormon Danites.


Some critics and misinformed novelists have painted the early Church and Salt Lake City as a scary place, where murder was rampant and non-Mormons lived in fear. That just doesn't make any sense to me. Non-Mormons were treated well and co-existed peacefully. Their right to worship was protected, in Salt Lake and other Mormon cities like St. George. One of my ancestors, Luther Peet Lyon, who practiced law in New York state and then went to California looking for gold during the gold rush era, stopped in Salt Lake City on his was back home. If this was such a hostile and frightening place for non-Mormons, it's amazing that he was able to safely meet with Brigham Young, walk safely through the streets, and like what he saw enough to stay and be baptized in 1865.


There have been violent Mormons, of course, as there have been violent people of all faiths. But it is usually wrong to blame the religion for the abuses of a few evil people.

2 comments:

Kim Siever said...

Reminds me of the "Mennonite Mob" article reported in the Saturday Night magazine here in Canada. It gave a lot of people the impression that all Mennonites were drug smugglers.

http://www.saturdaynight.ca/html/04cover_april.php
http://www.mennoweekly.org/MAY/05-10-04/OLDCOLONY05-10.html

Clark Goble said...

While I largely agree that violence is blown out of proportion (and little comparison is made to other communities in the frontier at the time) I do think there was more violence than you suggest. That one "prophet" who broke off from the church had a canon fired at their settlement after a Wako like seige. I forget the name. But several people were killled. There also were other attacks beside the MMM such as the one presumably by Porter Rockwell on that guy bring prostitutes through the region.

I think overall that the Mormons were remarkably non-violent relative to a lot of other places. But it was the wild west for sure.