American Massacre


by Sally Denton (Alfred A. Knopf)


(This column first appeared in the October 16, 2003 issue of ArtVoice of Buffalo.)


In this book, subtitled The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857, Ms. Denton describes our country's worst civilian atrocity before the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Making its way west through Utah, one of the richest wagon trains in our nation's history was waylaid, its pioneers then "saved", only to be annihilated by their saviors. At least 120 were viciously slain with only a few young children taken to live with their captors. That this atrocity was carried out by Latter Day Saints Mormons under clear instructions from church leaders, almost surely including one of the faith's two major patriarchs, Brigham Young, is a terrible indictment of this church. And even if the story is not as bad as Denton paints it, the fact that Utah church leaders have continued to cover it up until as recently as 1999 certainly calls into question their sect's role. This is clearly the downside of the story told in the church's Salt Lake City Tabernacle and by Palmyra's summer pageants. I feel sorry for those door-to-door Mormon missionaries for the response they'll receive when they visit the home of anyone who knows this story.-- Gerry Rising