Welcome to the Read Rinaldo Blog. Over the next several weeks this site will analyze different people involved in the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857. This week, THE CHILDREN WHO SURVIVED.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon) began in rural New York, moved to Kirtland, Ohio, then to Nauvoo, Illinois before stopping in Utah Territory. The LDS experienced a great deal of persecution at each location before settling in the distant and unpopulated Utah Territory. The persecution in Illinois included gunfights between locals and the Mormon Militia, eventually named Avenging Angels or Danites. The Mormons stockpiled weapons for these encounters. Having to guess at the cause of these fights from what I know about humans, I suspect the locals and the Mormons share fault for reaching this level of violence. Prophet Joseph Smith, LDS originator and leader, died when a mob of gentiles lynched him (Mormons define gentiles as non-Mormons). Brigham Young filled the void atop the LDS hierarchy and moved the Church to Utah.
During Brigham's leadership, approximately 150 Arkansans were slaughtered during a four day siege of their encampment in 1857. Eerily, though the siege lasted from September 7th to September 11th, nearly all of the emigrants died on September 11th. This ranked as the most deadly killing of Americans by Americans outside of the Civil War until the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Local Mormons allegedly committed this atrocity. In 1999 two men digging with a backhoe unearthed bones at Mountain Meadows. Forensic scientists flocked to the area to quickly study the remains. Within days Governor Mike Leavitt ordered the bones reburied. Interestingly, Mike Leavitt is allegedly a direct descendant of one of the killers at Mountain Meadows in 1857. Mormons consider lineage of vital importance, and one's ancestry is something a faithful Mormon would definitely know. Please note that despite Mormons blaming local Paiute Indians for the killings, the scientists definitively concluded that every death they could account for happened with bullets, something the Paiute tribes in the area did not possess. Science, the limited federal investigation in the years following the massacre, and the surviving historical record irrefutably declares that Mormons killed these travelers. In 2007 the LDS officially expressed regret that the local Mormons participated in the massacre, but failed to admit sanctioning these murders.
THE CHILDREN WHO SURVIVED
According to Mormon doctrine, the Age of Accountability is eight. This means that children under eight years of age cannot sin and are "innocent". Therefore, if a child seven years old or under is killed, under Mormonism it is murder, regardless of the circumstances.
The emigrants from Arkansas, exhausted after a four-day siege, agreed to John Doyle Lee's terms of surrender. John D. Lee, covered last week in this blog [see below], offered some unusual terms. Whites [Mormons were the only whites in the area at that time.] would escort the emigrants out of the meadow. The children went out first a quarter of a mile ahead of the women, with the men trailing a quarter of a mile behind with an armed escort.
When the "Do your duty" command rang out, the Mormon settlers fired on the starved and drained emigrants. In close quarters an assassin doesn't have time to reload, that nervous first shot, catching the victims by surprise, often went astray. Sarah Dunlap, one year old, had her left arm nearly severed by a gunshot [American Massacre, Sally Denton, Vintage Books, page 140]. With the emigrants fighting back and running off, the murderers turned to other means.
The scene at Mountain Meadows Utah Territory on September 11th of 1857 erupted into mass chaos as bullets, axes, bayonets, and knives struck their victims. Children and infants being carried by their parents were shot. By accident? Intentionally? Any child eight or older was immediately killed. Any of the children, even those well under eight years old who seemed like they might make good witnesses, were killed. The Mormon hesitation to kill "innocents" evaporated in the light of possible exposure later.
The really smart kids who somehow managed to keep their wits about them realized they needed to remain silent and obedient. Estimates of surviving children range from 16 to more than 20. I consider these estimates wholly unreliable as the Mormon adults provided them. These murderers had several important reasons to lie. The children were divided up among the Mormon killers who wanted them for slave labor.
A few years later the Arkansan relatives of these children demanded that the U.S. government help bring them home. When the children went back to Arkansas, Mormons filed reimbursement claims with the government stating that they had paid a ransom to local Paiutes for the children. The Mormons perpetrated the fallacy of the Paiute assault, and that continues to today [NOTE: the official 2007 LDS comment reiterated Paiute involvement]. Several brave children later testified against the killers. The emotional wounds suffered by these children undoubtedly reopened every time they saw a Mormon captor wearing their father's hat or using their mother's frying pan.
Next week we look at the women murdered at Mountain Meadows in 1857.