September 11, 1857

Wreath at Mountain MeadowsA significant date in the history of our nation. A date marking tragedy in the history of many families. A day of mourning 150 years ago. A day of sorrowful remembrance in 2007. The Mountain Meadows Massacre is not pleasant to recall, but it should not be forgotten. There are lessons for all of us buried in the horror.

In an August 11th LDS Church News article about the ninth annual conference of the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR), LDS historian Richard Turley’s presentation on the Mountain Meadows Massacre was discussed. Church News said,

“While critics sometimes place broad-brush blame upon Mormonism for the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre, the causes are more complex — and more characteristic of the human condition — than merely being attributable to one’s religious faith.

“Richard E. Turley Jr., managing director of the [LDS] Family and Church History Department, reflected in his FAIR Conference presentation on the setting and causes of the tragedy in which Mormon settlers in southern Utah killed some 120 California-bound emigrants, including women and children…

“‘What we have discovered,’ he said, ‘is that the … massacre is a classic case of mass killing as described by experts who have studied group violence in modern world history.'”

It comes as no surprise that sociologists are able to recognize “conditions and characteristics that contribute to genocide and mass killing.” Of course there was a reason (or reasons) otherwise normal, family-oriented Mormon men murdered seventy adult emigrants and fifty innocent children.

I agree that the “causes are … complex.” Yet I don’t know if it’s really possible to completely separate “the human condition” from “one’s religious faith.” For the point of one’s religious faith, at least in Christianity and Mormonism, is to address the human condition. In Christianity, it is to bring about reconciliation between sinful man and a holy God. In Mormonism, it is to eradicate sin and the desire to sin, to make oneself worthy of Godhood.

Both belief systems agree that humans are sinful. The massacre at Mountain Meadows illustrates the depth of depravity in “the human condition.”

Christian pastor and author John Stott wrote:

“Sin is an unpopular subject, and Christians are often criticized for harping on it too much. But it is only because Christians are realists that they do so. Sin is not a convenient invention of parsons to keep them in their job; it is a fact of human experience.

“The history of the last hundred years or so has convinced many people that the problem of evil is located in man himself, not merely in his society. In the nineteenth century a liberal optimism flourished. It was then widely believed that human nature was fundamentally good, that evil was largely caused by ignorance and bad housing, and that education and social reform would enable men to live together in happiness and goodwill. But this illusion has been shattered by the hard facts of history.” (Basic Christianity, 61-62)

In the southern Utah militia of 1857 were found Latter-day Saints who today would be heralded as Mormon champions. These men had sacrificed much for their faith. They gave their all to follow their prophet into the wilderness, and, through obedience, they served their God faithfully. They lived their religion, they did their best to keep their covenants. Nevertheless, their deceitful and desperately wicked hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) got the best of them. This is not finger-pointing, for I know that there but for the grace of God go I. Therein lies the true unity of humankind: our universal sinfulness.

The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one. (Psalm 14:2-3)

John Stott wrote:

“This exposure of our sin has only one purpose. It is to convince us of our need of Jesus Christ, and to prepare us for an understanding and acceptance of what he offers. Faith is born of need. We shall never put our trust in Christ until we have first despaired of ourselves. He said himself, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’…

“Christianity is a rescue religion. It declares that God has taken the initiative in Jesus Christ to deliver us from our sins. This is the main theme of the Bible…

“Through Jesus Christ the Saviour we can be brought out of exile and reconciled to God; we can be born again, receive a new nature and be set free from our moral bondage; we can have the old discords replaced by a fellowship of love.” (80-81)

The Mountain Meadows Massacre was a demonstration of unchecked evil in the hearts of men. Try as they might, those stalwart Latter-day Saints could not rescue themselves. They could not create within themselves a new nature that would set them free from moral bondage. They couldn’t do it, even as they counted on Christ to make up the difference “after all they could do.” The only hope — for them and for us — is to throw ourselves at the feet of the Savior and plead for His mercy.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)

The “human condition” is an ugly thing that unfailingly leads to death. Therefore,

“We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
This entry was posted in Jesus Christ, Mormon History, Nature of Man, Salvation. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to September 11, 1857

  1. Rick B says:

    Since Mormonism deny’s the original sin, then I would ask, how did these guys become sinners to the point that they could kill all these people? And for the LDS who say, Free Will, then I would ask, why is it Every human since Adam has used their free will to choose Evil? How come not one Mormon to date has used free will to choose to be perfect and with out sin?

    I mean, if Kids are sinless till the age of 8 years old, why not stay that way and keep using that free will to stay perfect? they always seem to choose sin. rick b

  2. amanda says:

    God ordained our experience here to be a learning, growing experience, where the redemption was crucial in order for us to live with Him again.

    2 Ne. 2: 25
    “25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”

    2 Ne. 2: 11, 15
    “11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

    15 And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.”

    in terms of original sin, we believe we were born into imperfect mortal bodies, however, we are not punished for Adam’s transgression..we are subject to the consequences of their decision in the garden…but eternally we are only held accountable for OUR sins.

    but Adam’s fall, was part of the plan. others religions believe that BECAUSE adam fell, the savior needed to descend to save us. We believe the fall was ESSENTIAL in order for us to experience joy, and pain…(role of eve!)and because of this necessary stage, we needed a Savior in order for us to live with Him again. it’s a fundamental difference between the restored gospel, and other Christian paradigms. This doctrine is a loving and just answer to the consequences of other Christian beliefs that babies are born in sin (that just doesn’t make any sense).

    i hope that makes sense

  3. Rick B says:

    So when God told Adam and Eve NOT TO EAT THE FRUIT OF THE TREE, But it really was His plan for them to do so, you do not see that as God lying or using Deception? It seems to me if God really wanted Adam and Eve to eat, He would have simply said, You must eat from this tree.

    Even better, if God is all powerful, why not simply create them in a perfect Body and a perfect world already able to experince Joy and pain? But then if your in a perfect world and feel pain and sorrow it is really a perfect world?

    Then Amanda, while I am speaking to you, Are you going to address the Polagamy Issue I put to you under the ( “When I started reading, the spirit left the room”). Me and Jeff are really looking forward to how you handle that serious contrdiction. Rick b

  4. jeff says:

    Yeah, i would still like an answer for that one, Amanda

  5. Ralph says:

    RickB and Jeff,

    As its a different topic, see the original page for a ‘possible’ answer to your question.

  6. amanda says:

    rick, God gave 2 commandments. if God just gave them one commandment and they obeyed that commandment, they wouldn’t have “fallen” and they would still be in the garden today, because it isn’t a sin to obey God’s commandments. and since the whole purpose of the fall was to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, adam and eve staying in the garden would do nothing to advance God’s plan.

    god gave 2 commandments.. and He was clear in giving them, so there was no “deception”..they were commanded to multiply and replenish the earth, but they couldn’t do that without having knowledge from the fruit of the tree…which they were commanded not to eat…so either way, adam and eve would have transgressed ONE of those laws. And those laws that you characterize as deception were given by God in the old testament. –adam fell, that men might be, men are that they might have joy (because they know pain)

    this doctrine makes a lot more sense, when you understand the Plan of Happiness- an essential part of the restored gospel. i’d encourage you to click on this:

    http://www.lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.3933737ad2ff28132eb22a86942826a0/?vgnextoid=bbd508f54922d010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&index=16&sourceId=45af9daac5d98010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____

    this site will lead you to the general doctrinal concept with biblical references, BOM references, and much more. this might enlighten you to what mormons really believe, i think you’ll find yourself more equipped to challenge mormon doctrine when you understand it better 😉

    regarding your polygamy challenge…i honestly do not remember your question…it’s almost impossible to meet every demand of every post. i’m sure you understand. if you want me to answer that, please don’t give me like 50 other challenges because i lack the free time to address everything in a short period of time.

    thanks

  7. Eric Hoffman says:

    Amanda,

    You wrote,

    “This doctrine is a loving and just answer to the consequences of other Christian beliefs that babies are born in sin (that just doesn’t make any sense)”

    May I turn you to Psalm 51:5, which reads:

    “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

    Note here that this was at the time of CONCEPTION not birth. So surely we are sinners from the start.

    In Him,
    -Eric

  8. Robert says:

    Rick B,
    I gotta side with Amanda here…yes, God commanded them to not eat of this tree, and YES, it was God’s prearranged plan…the fall, sin, redemption, every bit of it.

    None of this is a surprise to a Sovereign God. It’s all for His glory.

  9. Cully says:

    Robert wrote,

    “YES, it was God’s prearranged plan…the fall, sin, redemption, every bit of it.”

    Scripture compells me to question that line of thought. God is most certainly omniscient; but to assert that God created Lucifer in order that he rebel and Adam in order that man would sin and thus, allow Him to implement a plan of salvation is to assert that God’s creation was purposefully flawed. Creation itself glorifies God.

    Genesis 1:31, “And God saw that everything He made was good. Evening came and then morning – the sixth day.”

    1 Tim. 4:4, “Everything God created is good. We shouldn’t reject any of it but take it and thank God for it.

    Gnosticism holds that the material world is intrinsically evil, but the Genesis account of creation affirms seven times in its first chapter that what God saw in creation was good – as it came from His creative activity. Whatever evil came into creation subsequently (evil angels rebelling, Satan being permitted to corrupt God’s creation, Adam & Eve being tempted to sin and the result of the fall) was not a result of an imperfect creation but one of free will, which God most certainly in His omniscience was aware of, but did not purposefully place into motion.

    Adam and Eve, even before the Fall, did not live without the law, for the law of God was written into their hearts when they were created in the image of God (Gen. 2:16; 3:3).

    Here’s where I totally agree with you, Amen! Even when Adam and Eve fell into sin, God did not abandon the world or turn against its people. The Father’s promise to send His Son as Savior (Gen. 3:15), the plan of redemption, is certainly all for His glory.

    Why did God permit Satan to tempt Adam & Eve? As Job says, God cannot be called to account for or compelled to give us the reason for all the things He does or permits.

  10. Rick B says:

    Robert said

    Rick B,
    I gotta side with Amanda here…yes, God commanded them to not eat of this tree, and YES, it was God’s prearranged plan…the fall, sin, redemption, every bit of it.

    None of this is a surprise to a Sovereign God. It’s all for His glory.

    Since God knows everything He knew they would fall, that I agree on, But to say it was God’s plan for them to purposly fall I do not agree. Like I told amanda, if God wanted them to fall, why did He lie to them, by saying Do not eat of the tree, but really wanted them to.

    Then the Bible tells us Hell was created for the devil and his angels not Man, and the Bible tells us, It is not Gods will that ANY MAN PERISH. The Bible also teaches God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked. So if that is true. and it was really Gods plan for this to happen, then that also means it is part of Gods plan for some to go to Hell for all of eterinty, that makes those verses and God a liar. Rick b

  11. Rick B says:

    Amanda said regarding your polygamy challenge…i honestly do not remember your question…it’s almost impossible to meet every demand of every post. i’m sure you understand. if you want me to answer that, please don’t give me like 50 other challenges because i lack the free time to address everything in a short period of time.

    I really find what you say hard to believe, I clearly stated the topic you spoke under and the verses I supplied, Then I offer no challanges, I simple reply to what you guys say and wait for replys. Then, You were replying to a topic even later than the one I asked about, so that tells me your following them. So let me refresh your memory, The topic is called (When I started reading, the spirit left the room”)

    Please go their and look at my reply, that should not be to hard since you know exactly where to go. Rick b

  12. Seth R. says:

    Back on topic, Elder Henry B. Eyring of the LDS Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has given an address commemorating the anniversary of the massacre here.

    I think it’s a good beginning. It does pin the entire blame on local leadership, which I think is too bad, since inflammatory rhetoric from top LDS officials, including Brigham Young, certainly must have contributed to the tragedy. I would have liked to have seen a general apology for any role top LDS leaders may have played in the events. But it’s a start.

  13. I echo your thoughts, Seth, although I think what Eyring said has already been said by Mormon leaders.

  14. Ginger says:

    This discussion is very much like the “Just because terrorists are Muslim doesn’t mean that all Muslims are terrorists” argument.

    No matter how large the group of Latter-Day Saints who participated in the Mountain Meadows Massacre, it was not a “Mormon thing”.

    RickB said: “how did these guys become sinners to the point that they could kill all these people?” Maybe they were average sinners until they became murderers. I wasn’t there, I don’t know, but it’s possible that these were just average Joe’s until swept up into a mob frenzy.

    And: ” why is it Every human since Adam has used their free will to choose Evil?” One of the great questions of all time! We’re here to be tested, to decide every instant temptation appears which path to take, not to be strong-armed back to heaven.

  15. Rick B says:

    Ginger, I understand the Mormon believes we are here to be tested, but still We seem to always choose evil, Why is it if you have Mormon parents who really understand that teaching, and they give birth to a child, they never seem to be able to clearly tell that Child, your sinless until the age of 8, then after that you could be Perfect like Jesus and never sin, then die perfect and tell Jesus Move over, your other sinless brother has arrived.

    Never happens, You believe we can do it, but some how every one seems to ALL WAYS fall short. Rick b

  16. amanda says:

    rick, as usual, you characterize mormon doctrine in the most ridiculous way…just because we believe faith is DEAD without works—
    James 2: 26
    “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

    This doesn’t mean that we believe the Atonement to be void– These characterizations of yours illuminate your limited understanding of the relationship between faith and action. you might convince me more effectively that you have come to conclusions about the restored gospel if you actually understood its’ teachings.

  17. Rick B says:

    Amanda what are you talking about, I was speaking to Ginger, I never spoke about faith verses works or the Atonement.

    Then you said you might convince me more effectively that you have come to conclusions about the restored gospel if you actually understood its’ teachings.

    Sadly, I see LDS on this sight, I believe it was Seth but I could be wrong, who stated LDS cannot agree on issues with in the Church, So who is it who does not understand their teachings? Rick b

  18. amanda says:

    what am i talking about rick? i thought my previous statement was enough to explain what i am talking about, i’m sorry if it is confusing. i’ll do better next time.

    Ginger,

    Common sense is only present on this site when it suits their point of view. There are a lot of intelligent and god-fearing men/women who post here- and for whom i have a lot of respect..but on this topic, it is purely gossip. you know how people just get MAD at you when you bring reason into a room full of gossip? well, that dynamic is alive and well here.

  19. Ginger says:

    Rick B said: “You believe we can do it, but some how every one seems to ALL WAYS fall short.”

    I personally do NOT believe that any person can be perfect. I believe that EVERY person can be accountable AND can repent.

    Amanda, I’ve been reading this blog and sometimes commenting for a while, so I know the dynamic. Some people are interested in what you have to say and others couldn’t care less what you have to say except to find another avenue to attack. It’s cool. I don’t expect everyone at an [filtered profanity or slur] blog to be open-minded to what I have to say, as long as I can say it.

    This is a forum for sharing ideas and opinions, not for changing anyone’s mind. Don’t let anyone get under your skin, every person in the blog world is easy to needle and just as easy to ignore–just don’t visit this blog or if you like the blog, don’t respond to those people.

    Yes, some people are troglodytes, but that’s life.

  20. Rick B says:

    Ginger, A few things come to mind here on what you said. LDS do use the Bible verse, Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect, to say you must be perfect. You might not believe that, but I meet LDS who have taught that and believed that. So for those who teach/believe that, I would add to that,

    1 Nephi 3:7
    7 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

    If the LDS believe God wants you to be Perfect the According to Nephi you should be able to do it.

    Then again you claim were attacking you. Did you miss the Post I posted for amanda from YOUR PROPHET Clearly stating that If JS is a false prophet he MUST BE EXPOUSED AS SUCH. I believe He is and their fore following what your Prophet said to do. Then lets not forget Your former Prophets said Christians beliefes are from Hell and were misrable priests, and JS claims God told Him are creeds are an abomantion.

    Your Prophets attack us, but were not allowed to defend our Beliefes for fear of being called hateful anti mormons. Then the LDS cry No Love from you Christians, but then the LDS in the same Breath call us (troglodytes)? Were unloving and hateful, but you call us names. I see a hyprocite. Rick b

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