I ran across this very interesting article about SEPTEMBER DAWN, the controversial new movie that explores Brigham Young’s role in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
LOS ANGELES – As the new year dawned, Jon Krakauer’s “Under the Banner of Heaven” – about a “divinely ordered” double murder in 1984 by two members of a breakaway Mormon sect – was fresh off the best-seller list. Warren Jeffs, the polygamist prophet of this splinter group, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was on FBI wanted lists. And the world’s first-ever “Mormonsploitation Retrospective” (“Passion! Polygamy! Pamphlets!”) of vintage fear-mongering anti-Mormon movies had just finished at the fringy Pioneer Theater in New York’s East Village.
In public relations terms, this is not the easiest time to have the words “Latter,” “Day” and “Saints” anywhere close together in your name. And the going may get rougher after the filmmaker Christopher Cain finishes his new movie about one of the darkest moments in Mormon history, the Mountain Meadows massacre of 1857, in which 137 pioneers from Arkansas were killed in Utah by a raiding party whose ties to the Mormon church are still in dispute.
The movie will be highly controversial mostly because of its depiction of Brigham Young as a tyrannical fundamentalist leader, which I TRULY believe he was.
In the past, the LDS Church has tried to tone down his image, and created furor by painting a picture of him as a “monogamist.” In the Relief Society Manual of 1998, only one wife is mentioned. After the backlash started, the official church stance was:
‘Those who believe that this is a historical account of Brigham Young, or an all-inclusive book of his teachings, or something to learn more about Brigham Young the man, the statesman, the great colonizer and so on – that was never the intent,” said Ronald L. Knighton, managing director of the church’s Curriculum Department.
Rather, the focus was the gospel of Jesus Christ ”as taught through the mouth and sermons of that great president of the church,” he said.
This is but one example of how the Church has tried to whitewash its history, but my focus today is actually Brigham Young. If possible, he was actually much more “colorful” than Joseph Smith Jr., and much MORE of a PR nightmare.
Interestingly enough, the Church has chosen to alter many of Brigham Young’s quotes, to make them less offensive, thusly–say it with me now–TAKING THEM OUT OF CONTEXT. I get accused of that all the time. Frankly, I don’t alter the quotes. They do. There is a VERY big difference.
From the article I linked above:
”I’d say that about 10 percent of the quotes are overtly lifted out of context, with about another 10 percent that are more subtly altered. In addition, about 5 percent have been abbreviated to avoid offense regarding race, nationality, gender and so on,” Priddis said.
Bagley is perhaps the most vociferous in his disdain for the new manual, which he sees as a misguided attempt ”to pass Brigham Young off as a 20th century Mormon,” as ”this defanged creature.”
The same text does not mention Brigham Young’s Adam/God doctrine, one of the more controversial of his teachings.
“Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner! When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days! about whom holy men have written and spoken He is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do. Every man upon the earth, professing Christians or non-professing, must hear it, and will know it sooner or later …. When the Virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus, the Father had begotten him in his own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. And who is the Father? He is the first of the human family; … Jesus, our elder brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the garden of Eden, and who is our Father in Heaven. Now, let all who may hear these doctrines, pause before they make light of them, or treat them with indifference, for they will prove their salvation or damnation” (April 9, 1852, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1, pages 50-51).
Here’s another interesting article about the MMM.
Some of my favorite Brigham Young quotes (NOT taken out of context–just quoted):
“There are sins that men commit for which they cannot receive forgiveness in this world, or in that which is to come, and if they had their eyes open to see their true condition, they would be perfectly willing to have their blood spilt upon the ground, that the smoke thereof might ascend to heaven as an offering for their sins; and the smoking incense would atone for their sins, whereas, if such is not the case, they will stick to them and remain upon them in the spirit world.
“I know, when you hear my brethren telling about cutting people off from the earth, that you consider it is strong doctrine; but it is to save them, not to destroy them….
“And further more, I know that there are transgressors, who, if they knew themselves, and the only condition upon which they can obtain forgiveness, would beg of their brethren to shed their blood, that the smoke thereof might ascend to God as an offering to appease the wrath that is kindled against them, and that the law might have its course. I will say further; I have had men come to me and offer their lives to atone for their sins.
“It is true that the blood of the Son of God was shed for sins through the fall and those committed by men, yet men can commit sins which it can never remit…. There are sins that can be atoned for by an offering upon an altar, as in ancient days; and there are sins that the blood of a lamb, or a calf, or of turtle dove, cannot remit, but they must be atoned for by the blood of the man.” (Sermon by Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, pages 53-54); also published in the Mormon Church’s Deseret News, 1856, page 235)
And my personal favorite:
“Now take a person in this congregation who has knowledge with regard to being saved… and suppose that he is overtaken in a gross fault, that he has committed a sin that he knows will deprive him of that exaltation which he desires, and that he cannot attain to it without the shedding his blood, and also knows that by having his blood shed he will atone for that sin and be saved and exalted with the Gods, is there a man or woman in this house but what would say, ‘shed my blood that I may be saved and exalted with the Gods?’
“All mankind love themselves, and let these principles be known by an individual, and he would be glad to have his blood shed. That would be loving themselves, even unto an eternal exaltation. Will you love your brothers and sisters likewise, when they have committed a sin that cannot be atoned for without the shedding of their blood? Will you love that man or woman well enough to shed their blood? That is what Jesus Christ meant….
“I could refer you to plenty of instances where men have been righteously slain, in order to atone for their sins. I have seen scores and hundreds of people for whom there would have been a chance… if their lives had been taken and their blood spilled on the ground as a smoking incense to the Almighty, but who are now angels to the Devil… I have known a great many men who have left this Church for whom there is no chance whatever for exaltation, but if their blood had been spilled, it would have been better for them….
“This is loving our neighbor as ourselves; if he needs help, help him; and if he wants salvation and it is necessary to spill his blood on the earth in order that he may be saved, spill it…. if you have sinned a sin requiring the shedding of blood, except the sin unto death, would not be satisfied nor rest until your blood should be spilled, that you might gain that salvation you desire. That is the way to love mankind.” (Sermon by President Brigham Young, delivered in the Mormon Tabernacle, February 8, 1857; printed in the Deseret News, February 18, 1857; also reprinted in the Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, pages 219-220)
“This is loving our neighbor as ourselves; if he needs help, help him; and if he wants salvation and it is necessary to spill his blood on the earth in order that he may be saved, spill it..”
Sorta puts the whole MMM thing into perspective, huh?