Youngest Bishop in England cover(excerpted from The Youngest Bishop in England, by Robert Bridgstock)


Mountain Meadows Massacre

The Mountain Meadows Massacre took place on September 11, 1857. On that date, at Mountain Meadows, Utah, Mormon settlers and Southern Paiute warriors waylaid the Baker-Fancher party, a wagon train bound from Arkansas to California. Pinned down in a circle in a remote corner of southwest Utah, some forty men, thirty women, and seventy children fought for their lives for five days before surrendering under a promise of safe conduct. As the Mormon militia and their Indian allies escorted the emigrants away from their wagons, they killed all of them except seventeen children below the age of seven.

Jaunita Brooks, author of the ground breaking first study, The Mountain Meadows Massacre, cites the following statement by a descendant of one of the killers:

My grandfather, Dudley Leavitt, was present, and he told the incident repeatedly, so that it has been verified by three of his sons. One preserved it in these words, quoting his father:  “I was with the group of elders that went out with President Young to visit the spot in the spring of ‘61. The soldiers had put up a monument, and on top of that a wooden cross with words burned into it, Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I will repay.  Brother Brigham read that to himself and studied it for a while and then he read it out loud, Vengeance is mine saith the Lord; I HAVE repaid.  He didn’t say another word. He didn’t give an order. He just lifted his right arm to the square, and in five minutes there wasn’t one stone left upon another. He didn’t have to tell us what he wanted done. We understood.” (p. 183, from “Journal of Lorenzo Brown”)

John Doyle Lee, the only member of the Mormon ambushers ever executed for the crime, states: “Brigham Young’s attitude and remarks clearly indicate that he was not sorry that the MMM had occurred, and that the massacre was an appropriate act of ‘vengeance.” On the same visit to southern Utah Lee is referring to, Young spoke in a church meeting. Many Mormons in attendance had been among the murderers at Mountain Meadows four years prior, including Bishop John Doyle Lee, who recorded Young’s comments in that church meeting:

Pres. Young said that the company that was “used up” at the Mountain Meadows were the Fathers, Mothers, Bros., sisters & connections of those that murdered the Prophets; they merited their fate, & the only thing that ever troubled him was the lives of the women & children, but that under the circumstances this could not be avoided.

—John D. Lee’s diary entry of May 30th, 1861, as published in A Mormon Chronicle: The Diaries of John D. Lee, 1848-1876, edited by Robert G. Cleland and Juanita Brooks.

Indeed, several southern Utah Mormons had alleged that some members of the Fancher emigrant train had boasted of being among the murderers of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in 1844. Also, LDS apostle, and one of the first members of the Quorum of the Twelve, Parley P. Pratt had been murdered in Arkansas a couple of months before the California-bound Fancher train, which had originated in Arkansas, met its fateful end in Utah. Some Mormons stated that it was Pratt’s murder, in Arkansas, that enraged the Southern Utah Mormons enough to massacre the party, on the unsubstantiated belief that members of the train were responsible for Pratt’s murder. (In fact, Pratt was murdered by Hector McLean, a minor federal official in San Francisco, whose wife Pratt had seduced into polygamy. McLean tracked Pratt across the country and shot him in Arkansas.)

It’s important to remember that the Massacre took place well after Brigham Young added an “oath of vengeance” to the temple endowment ceremony in 1845. As part of the oath, Mormons swore to “avenge the blood of the prophets unto the third and fourth generation.” Participants in the Mountain Meadows Massacre referred to that oath as their “authority” to commit mass murder, and Brigham Young spoke of the Massacre as an act of justifiable “vengeance,” adding that the adult male victims “merited their fate.”
Today, relics of the oath of vengeance and blood atonement are still present in watered-down form in Mormon temple ceremonies, though they, like so many other messy things in Mormon history, will eventually disappear. I myself witnessed changes having to do with blood atonement in ceremonies. In 1993, I went through an endowment session in the London temple, and was amazed when I saw that the nasty, bigoted bits from the film normally shown in the endowment had been dropped and the execution of the penalty (symbolic suicide) was also gone. These had all been essential parts of the ceremony, and as of 1993 it was as if they’d never been there.

A Confession of Sorts

Shock of shocks, current LDS leaders now acknowledge the Mountain Meadows Massacre as a Mormon atrocity, though the LDS membership will not have seen or heard much about that unless they went looking on the Internet. The hierarchy have always known the Massacre was authored and, in large part, committed by Mormons and not, as we were always told, only by Indians. Continuing pressure from descendants of those massacred, as well as the Church’s embarrassment by the growing number of books on the topic, finally brought Church leaders in 1990 to erect a small monument to the Massacre victims and to quietly wring their blood-stained hands in humble admittance of responsibility. One might note that in all likelihood the Massacre victims were memorialized in another way, and one peculiar to Mormonism—being posthumously baptized in temple ceremonies into the faith of those who murdered them.

In their official apology, Church leaders exonerated Brigham Young of any involvement in this massacre. What else would you expect? They did what they’ve always done: dumped the blame on the members. This is palpable nonsense of course. Brigham Young was involved up to his elbows, but as usual he made certain that no one would trace responsibility back to his door.

Right up to the time John D. Lee was scapegoated and executed for these murders, he gave his last, solemn yet deluded testimony of the Church. He said quite clearly in “The Confession and Last Statement of John D. Lee” that Brigham Young commanded Church leaders on how the massacre was to take place. Lee’s phrase is “on the direct command of Brigham Young.” The clerk in Young’s office, who had prepared the written instructions on how the massacre was to proceed, was found mysteriously drowned in a ditch with only three inches of water in it some weeks after preparing the instructions.

John D Lee, also noted the following in his personal journal:

Most of my journals, written up to 1860, were called for by Brigham Young, under the plea that he wished the Church historian to write up the Church history, and wished my journal to aid him in making the history perfect. As these journals contained many things not intended for the public eye, and especially very much concerning the crimes of Mormon leaders in Southern Utah and elsewhere, and all I knew of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and what led to it, they were never returned to me. I suppose they were put out of the way, perhaps burned, for these journals gave an account of many dark deeds.

The Unpardonable Sin and Sons of Perdition

As previously explained, according to Mormon doctrine, a person who has committed the ill-defined but unpardonable sin of denying the Holy Ghost is probably someone like me, a person who has left the Church and absolutely refuses to return. Such a person most likely left after having received an emotional feeling that his insights were true and perhaps, like me, having been a Melchizedek priesthood holder and a bishop. Having broken sealing, endowment, and priesthood covenants, I and others in my situation—if we’d lived in the days of Brigham Young—might have felt obliged and been encouraged to act out literally what I/we symbolically promised in the temple—allowing our (my) throat(s) to be cut or to be disembowelled, thus satisfying the law of blood atonement.
Richard Rohr said in Hope Against Darkness:

In one sense or another, all ancient religions felt we had to spill our blood to get to God. God was distant, demanding and dangerous. God couldn’t possibly love me in my radical unworthiness. What we have in the mystery of the crucified Jesus is the turning around of all primal religion. No more human sacrifice, no more animal sacrifice, no more Jansenism [beating yourself so you can be worthy of a God who basically doesn’t like you]. Instead of our spilling blood to get to God, we have a God spilling blood to get to us! Pray on that for a week. It’s enough to transform you!

Thou Shalt Not Judge

If the murder of an ordinary human being requires the spilling of the perpetrator’s blood (blood atonement), how much more necessary would be the shedding of the blood of those who killed Christ? But Christ didn’t demand blood atonement. Just the opposite. He said, “Father forgive them.” If the pleadings of Christ might cause the Father to forgive the murderers of His only Son, how much more would Christ’s blood forgive the murder of lesser mortals. It’s strange then, that Mormonism states categorically that a murderer has no forgiveness. Doctrine and Covenants 42:18 reads “[H]e that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come.”

If murderers are required to have their blood spilled, in addition to Christ’s, why then was Paul not killed by the disciples of Christ before his conversion? Paul confessed himself to involvement in “many” murders. He says in Acts 26;10 “[M]any of the saints did I shut up in prison . . . . and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.” Paul also admonished those who killed Christ with these words: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out . . . .” (Acts3:10,19) He says nothing about there being no forgiveness, nor “suffer our lives to be taken” (words used in the temple).

It may be important to remind ourselves, as the founders of Quakerism have correctly said, that “the seeds of war” are inside each of us—never mind blaming and calling for retribution or blood atonement. The seeds of all the sins we project onto others are inside us, too. We tend to place blame “over there,” or “out there,” when it is actually in us. Christ admonished those who were quick to judge, “Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.” Mormonism, in its continuing frenetic and paranoid impulse to blame, condemn, control and punish moral sins, has wandered far from the spirit of Christ. The fanaticism of men like Brigham Young lives on in the stilted, stunted, and crippling guilt-inducing, blame-casting morality of the Church, as exemplified by men like Joseph Fielding Smith, Spencer W. Kimball, Boyd K. Packer and, sadly, too many rank-and-file members of the Church.

The sin of murder is the same as all sins, in that it occurs in a moment of madness. The apostle Paul said of himself: “It is not I that sins, but sin that dwelleth in me.” He seems to be saying that his essential self is not responsible. Some authors define sin as: “missing the mark,” which is like saying we have wandered off course, taken the wrong path. “Missing the mark” is about being lost. Christ said from the cross, “They know not what they do.” Right or wrong, this is a much kinder analysis than defining our sinfulness as a consequence of our personal evil.


Brigham Young was an outright misogynist and racist. His enthusiastic promulgation of polygamy, plus his public statements showing blatant contempt for the feelings and rights of women, are sufficient alone to disqualify him from claims of godly authority, or of being the prophet of the True Church. His insistence that black people are “cursed” and his equally stubborn conviction that slavery was “acceptable,” due to this curse, are likewise sufficient to discredit him. People with strongly prejudiced views always claim “legitimate” reasons for holding those views. This “prophet” was no different.

Of course, Brigham Young was only following Joseph Smith’s lead. As regards black people, according to Smith the “curse” (black skin and unfitness to hold the priesthood) goes back to Cain, who slew Abel and then continued after the biblical flood through the lineage of Ham, a son of Noah. Smith said:

I do not believe that the people of the North have any more right to say that the South shall not hold slaves, than the South have to say the North shall…. the first mention we have of slavery is found in the Holy Bible…. And so far from that prediction being averse to the mind of God, it [slavery] remains as a lasting monument of the decree of Jehovah, to the shame and confusion of all who have cried out against the South, in consequence of their holding the sons of Ham in servitude.

—Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, v. 2, p. 438

Brigham Young said:

You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable, sad, low in their habits, wild, and seemingly without the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind. The first man that committed the odious crime of killing one of his brethren will be cursed the longest of any one of the children of Adam. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be and the Lord put a mark on him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race—that they would be the “servant of servants;” and they will be, until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree.

Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, pp. 290, 291

The above quotation, apart from anything else, simply reeks of prejudice, which Young conveniently blames on his equally prejudiced Mormon god, for cursing Cain. In the twentieth century, this prejudiced doctrine remained in force under that famous Mormon scholar and prophet, Joseph Fielding Smith, who said:

Not only was Cain called to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father of an inferior race. A curse was placed upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures …
[T]hey have been made to feel their inferiority and have been from the rest of mankind from the beginning.” (my italics)
—Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, p. 101, 1935

What wonderful men of God have led the Mormon Church.

Brigham Young and the Adam-God Doctrine

For almost my entire life I’ve heard talk about the Adam-God theory, and thought it consisted of no more than the idea encapsulated in the oft-repeated Mormon aphorism, “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may be.” But as I researched this subject after my excommunication, I discovered that Brigham Young taught that Adam is God the Father, and came to Earth with one of his wives in their resurrected state (as bodily immortals) and then produced “mortal” children. (Young also taught that Mary [Jesus’s mother] was conceived by this same Adam.)

There is no doubt that Young taught this. There are too many on-the-record “inspired” statements of his for anyone to deny it. Yet at other times he also taught the more traditional Christian views about Adam, as simply our great first progenitor.

So, was there contradiction in the mind of Brigham about who or what God was? Brigham Young, Bruce McConkie says, “was not sure about Brigham Young.” In other words, this second prophet, who led the modern children of Israel to the promised land of the Salt Lake Valley, did not know which God he worshipped, and swung between contradictory ideas. Orson Pratt even strongly disapproved of what Brigham Young taught about Adam and the nature of God; this is no invention of anti-Mormons.

Here’s some commentary by Young on the Adam-God subject, which now gathers dust and is largely forgotten (or should I say buried?):

Adam is the great Archangel of this creation. He is Michael. He is the Ancient of Days. He is the father of our elder brother, Jesus Christ — the father of him who shall also come as Messiah to reign. He is the father of the spirits as well as the tabernacles of the sons and daughters of man-Adam!

After men have got their exaltations and their crowns—have become Gods, even the sons of God—are made kings of kings and Lord of lords, they have the power then of propagating their species in spirit; and that is the first of their operations with regard to organizing a world. Power is then given to them to organize the elements, and then commence the organization of tabernacles. How can they do it? Have they to go to that earth? Yes, an Adam will have to go there, and he cannot do without Eve; he must have Eve to commence the work of generation, and they will go into the garden, and continue to eat and drink of the fruits of the corporeal world, until this grosser matter is diffused sufficiently through their celestial bodies to enable them, according to the established laws, to produce mortal tabernacles for their spiritual children. This is a key for you.
Journal of Discourses, 6:275

Until after my excommunication, I never knew of these things Brigham Young taught and did. The more you learn, the worse it gets.


  1. Gregg Chmara says:

    Bravo for this brief expose’ of BY. While not all Mormon prophets were as cruelly barbaric as he was, with or without the frontier life as an excuse for the hardness and rigidity of thought they bound up in doctrine– their spirit of looking Christian and good while spewing a lot of spiritual nonsense and outright lying remains today. Even the fully believing well intentioned Mormons, who do a lot of good in the world in their daily lives, fall victim to the belief that when the prophet speaks, the thinking is done and the decision is perfect.

    Young an Mormon prophet shows the worst of when mankind accepts totalitarian groupthink, and tries to rationalize everything in terms of faith and belief, not rational discovery, observation and transparency of motive.

    I would venture, however, that a Mormon invests as much in faith as a Catholic priest, Lutheran minister, or Islamic politician backed by a mullah. And, rather than remuneration in cash, Moprmons live for the quiet plaudits of other members whom they serve…as a Sunday School Teacher, Primary Teacher, Home Teachers, or just the young (office of) priest or deacon of the Aronic priesthood charged with passing the water and wonder bread as a sacrement during one of the interminable Sunday meetings.

    The hierarchy of faith created and organized by Young with all the military hallmarks as dreamed by Joseph Smith lives today in the church and even in it treatment of dissenters today. The public announcement of excommunication and quiet observation of disfellowshipments exemplifies the ancient Greek death sentence of exile from your city of birth. You are (today) slightly less than perfectly human — unless you re-ent and follow the Mormon rules to the letter.

    At least the barbarism of Islam is still evident with their slaying of the apostate rather than the slow death of social shunning, economic squeezing and saying it is all done in love — as is the Mormon doctrine.

    I wonder, too, if anyone has drawn parallels between the Mormon prophet and structures and L. Ron Hubbard and his successors in the 20th Century advent of Scientology?


    • Thanks for the thoughtful comments. You’re absolutely right about the effects of shunning. I’ve seen how it affects ex-Mormon friends and it can be devastating.

      To the best of my knowledge, no one has made an in-depth comparison of Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard, although the parallels are certainly there. Those that come immediately to mind are 1) Both wrote works of fiction (uhhh, sorry, I mean scripture) with distinct science fictional/fantasy elements (Kolob, Xenu, etc.); 2) Both apparently “borrowed” without attribution from previous works (Hubbard from Korzybski/general semntics as one example, and Smith from an earlier fantasy author–can’t remember who at the moment, but I’m pretty sure Fawn Brodie covers the matter in “No Man Knows My History”); 3) Both founded authoritarian, top-down new religions and profited handsomely from them; 4) Both weren’t above using strong-arm tactics to silence critics (Operation Snow White, the Danites); 5) Both set up religions that were very demanding of their followers in terms of both time and money (the cost of going up “The Bridge” can run to hundreds of thousands of dollars and Sea Org and other staffers in the CoS work far more than full time for almost no pay; Mormonism is notorious for extracting tithes from even its poorest members [an unscriptural practice, incidentally], and the amount of time Mormons waste on unpaid church “callings” is appalling).

      I’m sure there are other parallels, but these are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head. If you can think of any others, please post ’em here.


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