Excerpts from the Novel about Mountain Meadows Massacre by Judith Freeman
Selections chosen by Sterling D. Allan
pp. 79,80 Elizabeth (emigrant friend from England) to Emma (17th wife of JD Lee)
"He admits to nothing, she said. Only that an oath was taken by all the men. The affair cannot now be spoken of without breaking the oath, which is to court the wrath of the destroying Angels....
"But I have learned this, she said. There were many men there that day. Many of our men. Some were part of the killing and some were not. Some killed the women and children, and some killed the wounded and the able men. And others killed no one. They laid down their arms in horror. But when it was over, more than a hundred people were dead. Do you hear me, Emma? Over a hundred! Including many little children. And those few children who survived? They did so not because they were rescued by our men, as we were told, but because our Doctrine of Innocent Blood forbids the killing of children under the age of eight."
"...He said, Elizabeth, if the Lord requires blood atonement to accomplish his purposes here on earth, then His agents shall be ready at hand. If called, we answer; it is our duty to the priesthood. Now, what do you say to that, Emma? What do you think of this Doctrine of Blood Atonement? Is that what we left our families for, to join a pack of holy murderers?"
p. 81 Lee addresses his family before going to the mountains in hiding from the group of officers and soldiers coming to arrest him.
"After [John D. Lee] had given out all his instructions concerning temporal affairs he began preaching to us on the vileness and treachery of our enemies and especially did he rail against those who had murdered our Prophet Joseph and had boasted of it, and others who had recently murdered our Apostle Parley P. Pratt and done the same--the cutthroat heathens from Arkansas. (Only as he said this word, Arkansas, did I begin to make the association that the wagon train of emigrants had hailed from the same region as the men who had so recently murdered Pratt, and this gave me pause . . . ). He wend on to say that if a man is walking a path of sin and does not veer from his course, then it is incumbent upon a believer to stay his decline into hell by relieving him of the burden of his life and that in spite of anything we might have heard about the unfortunate affair at the meadow we should remember this: To be relieved of a sin-ridden life was better than to go on living in such a degraded manner. To pay for sins with one's blood was a way of gaining Heaven for the unrighteous."
p. 84 Solomon Chamberlain to Emma
"He said he himself had not been there that day, but sometime later he had occasion to pass by the scene, and he described what he had found there.
"The scene, even at this late date, was horrible to look upon, he said, stopping to lean upon his hoe and shaking his head. Women's hair in detached locks and masses clinging to the sagebrush and strewn over the ground. Parts of little children's dresses and female costume dangled from the shrubbery, or lay littered about, and among these, here and there on every hand, for at least a mile in the direction of the road, there gleamed the skulls and bleached white bones that had been scattered by the wolves.
"The wolves dug them up, you see, he said. Dug them up and feasted on their bodies.
"I am not saying that they did not deserve their fate, he added taking up his hoe once again. Anyone who blasphemes our Prophet shall not be allowed to pass from this land alive, and anyone who kills our apostles shall suffer the same end, even if they be guilty only by association. To murder a Gentile may sometimes be expedient or even to a certain degree wrong, but it is seldom a crime or an unpardonable sin. My objection is with the method that was used. It was your husband who led the Indians to attack the train first. And it was also he who rode into the camp, a few days later, carrying the white flag of truce and promising the emigrants deliverance from the natives if they would lay down their arms and march out single file. He told them to send the women and children out first and then ordered each man to march out so one of the brethren could walk by his side and lead him to safety. Only that is not what happened, is it? Instead they shot those people and clubbed them to death. All was arranged, you see. All of it arranged with the natives. I have no quarrel with this. If it had to be done, so be it. But how could they have departed the scene without conducting proper burials, leaving the bodies for the wolves to feast upon, and for the next train of emigrants to discover?"
p. 97-100 Emma reflecting, as she walks home from a party in which a small girl came up to her, looking at her dress, and said "that's my mother's dress you are wearing! Where is my mother?" Then a new settler stated, "The child is an orphan of the massacre, and you dare to wear the spoils of the slaughter, replete with the stains of blood. But the child knows the truth and she speaks to your shame. Butcher's wife."
"I trudged on, thinking of the time not long after my marriage when Father [what the wives called JD Lee] had taken me down to the cellar of the bishop's storehouse in Cedar City and shown me the rows of shoes lined up on the shelves. Men's shoes, women's shoes, children's shoes of all sizes, some stained, other with holes in them, and all worn into the shapes of their previous owner's feet.
"Choose a pair for yourself, he'd said.
"There was a smell in the cellar that came from the shoes and from the mounds of unwashed clothes, a cold metallic odor tinged with a whiff of disease.
"I thought of what Rachel had once told me, how the morning after the slaughter she had driven out to the meadow with a few other women from the settlement to strip the dead of their clothes. The women had undressed the dead women and children while the brethren attended to the men. The clothes were staked in mounds just as a light rain began to fall. Jewelry had been removed from the corpses. And then one by one the naked bodies were dragged to shallow pits and covered with a thin layer of soil."
"What was I to think of those deeds in which I took no part and yet which had begun to haunt my life and create scenes such as the one that had occurred today?
"Will you love your brothers and sisters, Brigham had said. Will you love them 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?
"Life was composed of hardships and insults. But the flam of the true religion was burning and God was with his people.
"What was a world without vengeance anyway?
"Who would right the wrongs if not the righteous?"
"...There is nothing for it, I thought, except to grow stronger. To grow stronger and fight fire with fire.
"...It is not enough for us to be adapters, Father once said. We must be controllers. it is God's will for us to be so. We are the finishers of nature.
"Everything, I thought, is possible for the sake of love. And it was for love, love for those sinners, and for our slain leaders, that those lives had been taken.
"I pondered the nature of God and spirit and will and the meaning of grace in men's lives. In the moonlight I could see the red alluvial fans spilling out of the clefted canyons and the little skirted hills sang to me, calling out, carry on, carry on. I would prosper in this old red world. Let them call my husband a butcher and me the butcher's wife. What had been done had been done for the betterment of the Kingdom of God and in the end we would win out.
"...I washed my dress out and hung it outside to dry where it could be seen by all who cared to view it.
"The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, I thought. But I would keep what was mine, and from that day forth, I would wear that dress with pride.
"I knew Zion was within me and would grow until it covered the earth. Christ was coming. Christ was coming very soon. Then we would have one [thousand] years of peace. There was no stopping place in our religion. It was a warfare and finally would overthrow all opposition. Man was the head of woman. And the only way to be saved was to be adopted into the great family of polygamists and strictly follow their examples. And to strike down one's enemies with a vengeance.
"For vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.
"And we had taken some for Him."
pp. 107-108 Emma reflecting
"I would not have once believed that the religion that had claimed my soul could reflect such a worm ridden preoccupation with position, but those early years in Harmony taught me that even among the Saints--perhaps especially among the Saints--there were betters and lessers, the rich and the poor, the highborn and the lowborn. A constant struggle for betterment went on. Yet many of Europe's poor arrived in our colonies so bereft of goods and sills they were relegated to the meanest existence and looked down upon by the brethren and sisters who had climbed to the upper reaches of our society. Generally speaking, the elite lived in the north and the further south one traveled, the more one encountered poverty, and with it, ill treatment. Even in the smallest settlements, where there was little in the way of wealth, there were always those ready to lord it over others. I learned that snobbery exists everywhere, even on this raw frontier, and even among Christians who are taught we are all the same in the eyes of God. At no time was this more evident to me than on the occasions of the Prophet's visits, during his annual tour of the southern settlements."
pp. 108-110 Brigham Young prophecies following a meal.
"He had gained so much weight that, in truth, it required several men to help him descend from his carriage. Two of his wives accompanied him, including his reputed current favorite, Emmeline Free, whose sister, Louisa, had once been married to Father. Father once told me that he had hoped to marry Emmeline, too, but the Prophet had fallen in love with her and talked Father into giving her up to him.
"I couldn't help noticing the extraordinary quantity of meat and biscuits, puddings and cakes that the Prophet managed to put away, nor did I fail to observe the frontier quality of his manners. He burped purposefully and loudly when the urge overtook him. He let grease hand upon his chin, untended by a napkin. His hands were large and his fingers looked like bloated sausages, with the skin parched and cracked across his knuckles. His stomach swelled against the table, making it necessary to haul each forkful of food a good distance to his mouth in order to consume it, and not always did it make this trip without leaving something on his waistcoat. All in all, he seemed less a prophet and more the untutored, rough ruler of an ancient fiefdom. And yet no one could mistake his power, or the force of his personality.
"When he had eaten his fill, the Prophet excused himself from the table and took up a spot before the fire. Others quickly followed suit and in no time Brigham was surrounded by listeners, the faithful of his flock, eager to hear what words he had to say.
"He began by pronouncing that God was about to redeem the world from sin and establish the millennium, and as proof of this he cited the destruction of the Union through the Civil War which was raging in the South, a war which the slain Prophet Joseph Smith had predicted long ago, even to the very place where the first battle would be fought--Fort Sumter, South Carolina. Brigham reminded us that Joseph had predicted this war would destroy the Union, after which time the Saints would step forth to rule the land. Jesus himself would appear in this century; and the Prophet had even predicted the exact year: 1890.
"Brigham said the leaders in Washington wished to see our people destroyed, and they had fixed on the issue of polygamy as the means to hasten our end. In the Senate a cry had gone up against the 'twin relics of barbarism,' meaning slavery and polygamy. The war that was now being fought in the South was an attempt to end the former, and it would be only a matter of time, the Prophet said, before the government of the United States turned its attention toward the Latter-day Saints in an effort to break us apart and destroy our plural families.
"But in this they would not be successful, he said, for the Lord was on our side. God was about to redeem the world from sin and establish the millennium and if bloodshed was required to usher in the new dispensation, then blood would flow where it must, but in the end, the Saints would triumph. The Civil War would destroy the United States, and when that happened, the Prophet said, he would be ready to become the king over the ruins."
"...And he exhorted us with these words: Arise and thrash, O Daughters of Zion; for I will make thy horn iron and thy hoofs brass; and thou shalt beat in pieces many people; and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord."
pp. 116, 117 Emma reflecting
Also arriving that spring was the disturbing sense that the tide had turned against Father. A decided chill came over all relations between him and the General Authorities. It was as if they wanted nothing to do with us anymore, as if they had decided that Father was a liability. They seemed to subscribe to a growing feeling that he could be blamed for the lamentable affair at the meadow, and that by shunning him, the could take away the blame from others and spare the leaders any implication of having sanctioned the destruction of the emigrants."
"...So began our descent, our rapid decline into disgrace and ignominy.
"By then, every man who had been at the meadow on that terrible day had left the area. ...Only Father had chosen to stay in the area and carry on his business as before, and this seemed to irritate the Authorities who wished that we, too, might just disappear."
pp. 137, 138 Emma recounts coming upon Brigham Young's entourage on their way to Salt Lake City, around April 25th, 1868.
"Before parting, Father tried to gauge the mood of the Prophet in terms of the ill will that had long been building up against us in the southern colonies. He told him about the shunning we had increasingly suffered as a result of the unfortunate affair at the meadow--sore treatment that others, even more responsible for these events, had somehow managed to escape. Father said he wanted the Prophet's assurance that he still held him in highest regard and that he could be counted on to stand by us in the future, and the Prophet gave him such assurance. He went so far as to sigh a paper that said, "Brother John D. Lee is a staunch, firm Latter-day Saint who seeks to build up the Kingdom of God and live by its Principles and is in full Fellowship and Good Standing." This paper was to prove important, especially when we reached the city, as it helped guarantee Father a market for his cattle and insured he received a warm welcome wherever he went to trade."
p. 147 Emma's account
"Many times I thought we were foolish to stay here. I felt it would be prudent to follow the example of others, like Isaac and Elizabeth, and the Kingensmiths and Samuel Knight, all of whom had fled long ago. It seemed to me only a matter of time before the authorities would come again, sending their troops like bloodhounds, and who would they find when they arrived? Only Father, whose name increasingly was attached to the incident as chief instigator. I had come to accept that he had played a part in the massacre, though I believed his account of the affair--that he had ridden into the emigrant camp with every hope of saving the party and leading them to safety, that he had pleaded with the Indians to cease their siege and even wept in an effort to dissuade all parties from the butchery, thereby earning him the name of Yawgatts, and that when the slaughter had finally commenced, he had been so absorbed with caring for the littlest children that he had taken no part in the actual killings.
"I believed this because I wished to believe it. Whether it is true or not, I still do not know. And in many ways, it doesn't matter. Men are moved by their faith to commit acts only God understand, and oaths are taken to seal those acts in a brotherhood of silence. What I do know is that Father continued to carry on his affairs as if a more innocent man didn't exist."
p. 157 Emma
"The news of his official excommunication was received by letter in October of 1870. He was much upset, and claimed evil forces were at work. When the wives heard this news, they were most frightened and anxious, for everyone understood what it meant. To be excommunicated was to become a pariah, and outcast, in this world, and to join the realm of the damned in the next. No longer could we expect any kind of support or protection from what Father liked to call his "friends in the north," meaning Brigham and other high officials in the church. Furthermore, our goods and property were now wholly subject to plunder. As his wives, we were encouraged to disassociate ourselves from him, and were told that we would be granted immediate divorces and deeds to our property if we did so."
pp. 184, 185 Ann, JD Lee's 19th wife, taken at age 13, reflecting on the temple endowment and on the news of her ex husband's death.
"Everything was white. Never had she seen so much whiteness.
"...There were other couples there, waiting to be sealed to each other, including many older men with young girls.
"Grips were shown to her and she was given a secret name and instructed as to the meaning of the marks on the holy undergarments that she would wear from that day on.
"...The mark across the stomach, she was told, meant that you would suffer yourself to be disemboweled rather than reveal any sign, grip, or password or repeat anything you saw or heard in the Endowment ceremony.
"The mark on the left side over the heart meant you agreed to avenge the blood of the Prophet or have your heart taken out.
"The mark on the right side of the breast indicated that you had to work for your living and be industrious and faithful in paying your tithes.
"...She was asked if she promised to obey Lee for the rest of her life, and, after a moment of hesitation, she said she would."
p. 186 Ann reflecting
"She knew his first trial had ended in a hung jury, and she believed then that he would go free.
"Waddell had told her i7t was an all-Mormon jury that had convicted him the second time, and that it was generally agreed it was done so on Brigham's orders."
"If what Waddell said was true, Lee was gone now. Dead. Taken to the meadow and shot, twenty years after the thing happened for which he was being killed. And this was hard to believe. Not that so much time had passed, but that he was finally dead, and that they had chosen to punish only him, out of all the others just as guilty."
p. 234, 235 Ann reflecting
"Some people said he was as good a man as ever lived. That he had a tireless energy and courage. A more than average intelligence. Walter Winsor had once told her he thought Lee was the best man he ever knew. Never a more tenderhearted man, he said. Never one more generous, a friend to everyone. He was a good hand with a horse, that much was true. A good builder and provider. You could put John D. Lee on a desert island, Winsor had said, and in no time at all he'd have raised a fortune, so clever was he at making money.
"But she had seen the other side, too. The way he bullied people to get them to do his bidding. How he was not quite honest in all his business dealings. he had a habit of spying and eavesdropping and claiming hat his visions set him apart from other men. he once told her that hits world was controlled by the other world of invisible spirits, although some had bodies of flesh while others were disembodied. When the Lord desired to accomplish a work among the wicked for their destruction. He generally employed disembodied spirits. But the killing at the meadow had been done by ordinary men. Men prepared to wield the sword of destruction for the greater good of the kingdom.
"Levi Stewart once told her a story about Lee. When he had lived in Illinois, Stewart said, Lee began taking more and more wives until he had so many he couldn't keep them all. Still, there were two young sisters, Louisa and Emmeline Free, both great beauties, on whom Lee had set his sights. he was determined to make these sisters his wives. Charmed by his good looks and courtly manner, the sisters had been prepared to marry him, until Brigham intervened. The Prophet fell in love with one of the sisters on first sight and pleaded with Lee to let him have her. Of course Lee agreed, being read to defer to Brigham in all things. And ye he was so upset by this turn of events that, according to Stewart, he had gone out and frigged several women to whom he was not married and then returned home and frigged all his wives, all on the same night, and afterward he had gone boasting about it. About how he had frigged twelve women in one day."
p. 238, 239 Ann reflecting
"He was the sort of man for whom no middle feeling existed. People either thought him generous and friendly and kindhearted, or shifty and power-hungry and dishonest. Still, in every meetinghouse up and down the line, from Santa Clara to Salt Lake City, she had heard him preach from each pulpit and seen the way he could melt people down to tears with his words.
"It had always seemed to her that he was a man with a great need to be liked--not just liked by loved--and this caused him to change his shape and sentiments to fit the circumstances in which eh found himself. When preaching, he was holy and God-fearing and full of fire. But when drinking with the hired men or playing cards with drovers, he was coarse and full of good-natured bravado and swore like one of them. With Brigham he was the fawning acolyte. With his wives, the firm yet seductive--and often cheerful--master. He tried to be all things to all people. And now he was nothing, or rather he'd been made the goad, which was pretty much the same thing."
END OF EXCERPTS
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Last updated on March 06, 2013