Sunday, July 11, 2004

The Saints of 9-11 

I've been reading Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven (actually listening to the audiobook in my car). Krakauer's books are entertaining as hell and make outstanding car listening. This one's about Mormon (aka Latter Day Saint) fundamentalism, 1830-present.

I was interested to hear Krakauer's take on September 11. He describes a day on which a group of terrorists--religious fundamentalists, acting out of fierce allegiance to a rigidly theocratic world-view, and anger and fear toward a United States government they considered evil and non-believing and a primary cause of their people's suffering--a day on which this group of terrorists killed innocent men, women and children indiscriminately, savagely attacking peaceful travelers who were only trying to get from one end of the country to the other without harm.

Of course, this was September 11, 1857, the day of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, when a wagon train known as the Fancher Party (en route from Arkansas to California) was ambushed by a posse of Mormon militiamen and their Indian mercenaries.

Krakauer writes (I'm transcribing from audio, so excuse any errors):
The youngest children and several of the wounded were placed in a wagon and driven away. They were followed on foot by the emigrant women and older children. A few hundred yards behind this group the men of the Fancher Party were led away in single file, with each emigrant escorted closely by a Mormon guard. After approximately thirty minutes Major Higby, bringing up the rear on horseback, discharged a firearm to get the Saints' attention. "Halt!" he ordered, according to a prearranged plan. "Do your duty." At this infamous command, each of the Mormons immediately fired a bullet point blank into the head of the captive under his purview. Most of the emigrant men died instantly, but one of the Saints recalled seeing an apostate Mormon (one of the backouts who had joined the Fancher train in Utah and was a close acquaintance of the Mormon executioners) lying wounded on the ground, pleading to Higby for his life. According to a Mormon witness Higby told the apostate, "You would have done the same to me, or just as bad," and then slit the apostate's throat.

Another Saint who participated in the massacre later reported that while the men from the Fancher Party were being executed by their Mormon escorts, the women and children were attacked by the Indians, among whom were Mormons in disguise. Painted Saints and Puyutes rushed upon these victims with guns and knives and began shooting and bludgeoning them to death, and slashing their throats. An Arkansan named Nancy Huff, who was four years old at the time, later reported, "I saw my mother shot in the forehead and fall dead. The women and children screamed and clung together. Some of the young women begged the assassins after they had run out on us not to kill them, but they had no mercy on them, clubbing their guns and beating out their brains." According to Nephi Johnson, a Mormon who later confessed his own culpability to historian Juanita Brooks, white men did most of the killing.

The slaughter was over in a matter of minutes, leaving an estimated 120 emigrants dead. Approximately fifty of the victims were men, twenty were women, and fifty were children or adolescents. Out of the entire Fancher wagon train only seventeen lives were spared, all of them children no more than five years old, deemed too young to remember enough to bear witness against the Saints. Those children not killed were taken to Mormon homes to be raised as Latter Day Saints. Some were placed in the households of the very men who had murdered their parents and siblings. In 1859 an agent of the federal government managed to find all seventeen survivors and return them to their Arkansas kin. But before handing the kids over, their Mormon keepers had the audacity to demand thousands of dollars in payment for feeding and schooling the youngsters while they were in the Saints' care.

When quiet settled over the killing field, the Mormons looted the corpses for valuables. After the Saints had gathered what they wanted they allowed the Indians to take the rest. The dead emigrants were soon stripped of everything including every shred of clothing they'd been wearing...

The Mormon militiamen reportedly piled the dead bodies up in heaps in little gullies and threw dirt over them. The bodies were only lightly covered for the ground was hard and the brethren did not have sufficient tools to dig with. Within days wolves and other scavengers had unearthed the dead emigrants from the shallow graves and scattered their remains across the meadow. Upon completion of this half-hearted, hastily-undertaken burial, according to Lee, the Saints gathered in a circle at the site of the mass murder to offer thanks to God "for delivering our enemies into our hands." Then the overseers of the massacre reiterated the necessity of always saying the Indians did it alone, and that the Mormons had nothing to do with it. It was voted unanimously that any man who should divulge the secret, or tell who was present, or do anything that would lead to a discovery of the truth, should suffer death.
You've got to hand it to those Saints--at least they preserved democracy to the last!

You start digging into a little good old fashioned American history, and Lars von Trier's "Dogville" starts to seem like "Leave It to Beaver."

(One irony of the above story is the Mormons' use of the Puyute Indians for these acts of savagery. Mormons believed American Indians were descendants of North America's prehistoric dark-skinned Bad Tribe, who (according to the Book of Mormon, which transliterates Biblical-type mythology onto our continent) waged battle with the prehistoric white-skinned Good Tribe. (The savage, bloodthirsty Darkies triumphed, but the Whities came back with a mission to convert the Darkies and so turn them "White.") African-Americans weren't allowed into the Church until 1978. To this day, fringy LDS fundamentalists consider black people to be the most intelligent type of animals.)

No, Orrin, it's fairly clear that your God is bloodshed and hate. Your own sacred texts explain as much in very clear terms. And your prophets are lying, philandering, avaricious, wifebeating, murderous bloodthirsty hypocrites.

I wouldn't wipe my ass with Brigham Young. Or you, Orrin. You bad, bad, naughty little boy, you.


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