Portrait of a Mormon Scapegoat -- Again the Second Time
by Sterling D. Allan
Copyright © Greater Things
July 6, 2003
"Perhaps the most controversial figure in Mormon history," now incarnate as a modern spokesman for avoiding violence. Foretold in Alphabetics Bible code.
Lee was marginalized, excommunicated and executed; but at the time he committed his deeds at the Mountain Meadows Massacre, he represented epitome Mormon faith.
The subject of Mountain Meadows Massacre and John D. Lee are often associated with anti-Mormon literature. This black mark in LDS history is an uncomfortable subject.
My purpose in broaching it here is not to diminish faith, but rather to invite a more mature approach to faith that can deal with faults, invite repentance, and the healing that comes there from.
It is my belief that for Mormons to accomplish the great role God intends for them, to awake and put on strength in the Lord, that such matters as this need to be put into their proper perspective.
Brushing things under the carpet of selective forgetfulness is not conducive to spiritual maturity.
My presenting this material here is not to diminish faith but to nurture it. Yes, "blind faith" gets a beating, as is warranted, but faith born of deep knowledge is a superior replacement anyway.
John D. Lee is perhaps the most controversial figure in Mormon history," says a PBS film project. More controversial than Brigham Young, or Joseph Smith, or Porter Rockwell.
In an already controversial religion, such a notorious distinction is a noteworthy feat.
As the scapegoat for the Mountain Meadows Massacre in which 120 men, women and children were slaughtered under orders from the Mormon hierarchy, Lee was excommunicated and then executed -- 20 years later -- in an attempt to expunge the deed from LDS culpability as the pressures from the world outside the Mormon Deseret empire increased. The controversy arises as two polar perspectives contend that theirs is the more accurate portrayal.
The standard LDS line to this day is that Lee was an unfortunate aberration in an otherwise innocent LDS hierarchy -- that he acted outside the wishes of the LDS leadership and took the fall as a result.
The opposite view is that Lee was given orders to do what he did from the highest levels of LDS hierarchy -- possibly even Brigham Young himself; and that the Church has been unscrupulously covering up this link.
The deep chasm between these views is precariously spanned by acknowledging the possibility of gross error on the part of LDS leadership, a leadership that the Church members generally like to believe is without guile, divinely guided at all times. To broach the possibility of serious transgression of LDS leadership, in their mind, is to tamper uncomfortably close to the blasphemy-like sin of "evil speaking against the Lord's anointed," which obliterates their temple worthiness, and hence their shot at exaltation in the highest degree of the Celestial kingdom of heaven.
Hence, they would prefer to "leave well enough alone."
Ironically, it was that very reverence for leadership and unquestioned obedience that spurred John D. Lee to do what he did, despite a screaming conscience to the contrary.
John D. Lee's introspective portrayal of the event, composed while awaiting execution and then published posthumously by his attorney, is probably the most honest, concise, and accurate rendition of the massacre and what lead up to it, and what happened afterward. It makes for a stunning study in human nature and the role religion can play, especially when combined with the powers of government and unquestioned obedience.
He describes how he came to do a deed that he never would have done, in the name of righteousness, believing he was doing so in uprightness before God. He recounts that those who talked him into it, promising him eternal rewards of the highest degree, and threatening him with consequences of insubordination, then punished him as if they had nothing to do with the deed.
Lee's account of Brigham Young's role actually acquits Brigham of the supposition that Brigham had a direct hand in commanding the event, but also shows that Brigham empathized with the event and then later betrayed Lee for political expediency.
Outside the cloud the Massacre cast on Lee's life, he was one of the pillars of the LDS community and settlement of the West. As an "adopted son" of Brigham Young, and member of the quorum of Seventy, he was called upon for some of the more important tasks both pertaining to spiritual and temporal affairs of the Church.
In Nauvoo he had served as body guard to Joseph Smith. In the migration West he headed up Winter Quarters, Nebraska. Once in the new home of Deseret, he headed up a settlement near what is now St. George.
His gift of healing was widely recognized -- even long after the massacre -- as was his oratory ability. He moved his audiences with the power of the word.
His charisma of personality is attested by the fact that he gathered nineteen wives to him in marriage, keeping most of them by his side until his excommunication, when only three stayed put. Their report of his treatment of them and his children is mostly laudatory.
Fact is, he was not a black sheep of Mormonism as it was practiced then. He was one of its quintessential embodiments. A pillar.
When that pillar was crushed by heaping upon him the full blame for what should have been accepted by the body as a whole, it spurred in him some frank introspection of himself as well as the religion he had embraced. Those reflections are the kind of "graduate studies" in spiritual advancement that provide a substantial diet for pondering.
By the law of opposites, a study of this, the most controversial man of Mormon history, can foster a resolution to some of the most difficult questions of faith. These reflections can provide spiritual sustenance not just for those of an LDS background, but men and women of faith of all religious backgrounds.
The subject of Mountain Meadows Massacre became a topic of pursuit for me back in March of 2000, when I read a news story reporting that the LDS Church had (paradoxically) accidentally disrupted some bones while digging footings for a monument they were erecting in remembrance of the massacre. In the article, Gordon B. Hinckley President/Prophet of the Mormon church stated that the erection of this monument was not to be construed as an admission of guilt on the part of the LDS church.
That spurred me to commence an index on the subject: "Reburying the Dead of Mountain Meadows Massacre." It is one of the few indexes I've been able to get listed at Yahoo, and is one of the few sites listed on the subject in the Open Directory Project, the human-edited database that feeds such directories as Google and Yahoo. My main contention in the index is that healing will not take place until the LDS church accepts responsibility for having fostered the massacre, both by doctrine as well as by edict. There needs to be a collective repentance for what was unfairly collectively heaped upon the head of one man.
More recently, when I discovered that Judith Freeman was being threatened with excommunication over her novel "Red Water," which addresses the massacre from the perspective of three of Lee's wives, my curiosity was piqued, and I purchased the book and read it. This account, though fictionalized, struck me as very honest, insightful and accurate.
It was then that someone brought to my attention the fact that the massacre commenced exactly 144 years, to the day, prior to the September 11 terrorist attack on America. Considering how significant the number 144 is in scriptural prophecy, and the parallels between the two events, I composed an essay elaborating these parallels, which I then linked from the header of GreaterThings.com website with the text: "9/11 Attack 144 Years Prior - Mormon Hero/Terrorist, John D. Lee."
The Manti Miracle Pageant was under way at the time, in the town next to mine, and I felt driven to create a flier to distribute to pageant-goers to draw their attention to this fact. Even though I guessed ahead of time that few of the tens of thousands that attend the pageant would actually follow the website link given on the flier, and most would discard it out of hand as anti-Mormon literature, I felt an urge to do it anyway. Especially on the last Friday of the presentation did I feel unusually pressed to show up and pass out a few fliers, even though other events of the day were demanding my attention.
Later, I was struck with the coincidence that that Friday was the anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith.
I found that if I was given a chance to talk to a person for a minute or two that half of them would realize I was not an enemy to the Church, but that I was bringing up some very important points to consider as we seek as a people to advance in our development.
During this time, for about a week, the number 144 was cropping up nearly everywhere I turned -- on the computer in counters, on my odometer, on the clock.
144k hits two days during flier pass-out
on main index I'm maintaining at present
also on same index when I save it down
It seemed to be beaconing to me, telling me that there was something very important about what I was doing, both for others as well as for myself.
It was also around this time that I began reading John D. Lee's own account of the Massacre, and was impressed by his sincerity as he told his story.
Then, on the evening of July 4, 2003, it struck me. I turned to my wife as we were retiring for the night, and said, "I just had a thought. Was I John D. Lee in a previous lifetime?"
I have believed in multiple mortalities for many years, but never have I drawn any conclusions about who I may have been in a previous lifetime on this planet. I guess I didn't have enough curiosity to pursue the question strongly, though there was a inkling of interest.
As I pondered on it over the next few hours, I thought of many things that supported the idea, including such obvious things as my having been excommunicated ten years ago for "apostasy" in order to shut me up. Mormons are trained not to listen to excommunicated members.
I also have drawn conclusions about Polygamy being a deception (not the highest order of union between man and wife), not intended by Abraham for our emulation; which would seem consistent with having lived polygamy to the degree that Lee did, and upon realizing that not everything that came from Joseph and Brigham was inspired, and was therefore willing to re-examine that doctrine in light of its real-life fruits.
My aversion to Jim Harmston (perfecting the mistakes of the past), who seems a modern incarnation of Brigham Young, is also consistent with the deep falling out between Young and Lee.
My tenuous friendship with JJ Dewey, who some believe was Joseph Smith in a former life, is also consistent. On the one hand, I have very deep respect for much of what he produces -- the most sublime teachings I know of today, at least most of them. On the other hand, I am cautious to accept his teachings, knowing that Joseph Smith convincingly promoted some serious delusions last time around. I'm also a tad leery of the personality cult aspect that surrounds Dewey to a certain extent. He is the ring leader, and he does not like to have that position challenged.
Furthermore, while I am critical of many features of modern Mormonism, I still maintain an overall belief that the foundation is solid, and that a "restitution of all things" could finally see God's people rise to the level of performance that would change the world for good for 1000 years. That seems consistent with what I see in Lee's introspection. Let's identify those areas where we have adopted incorrect traditions, let's recognize that we have made mistakes, and let's aim for the ideal -- not according to edict, but according to conscience and common sense, sustained by the Spirit of God.
Most of all, I think Lee learned first-hand the blatant fallacy of "just following orders," even when those orders are given by those who one believes to be set apart by God to be one's ecclesiastical leaders -- augmented in Lee's case by the fact that those leaders were also part of the government at that time, wielding the power of life and death for insubordination.
Because those who he revered were telling him what he needed to do, giving him a line of reasons that seemed to coincide with the doctrines being emphasized at that time, he was finally -- after tremendous wrenching of his soul -- able to quiet his rebelling conscience enough to carry out their orders.
You will see the slogan, "Would that ALL God's people were prophets" emblazoned on nearly every page I have posted on this large Greater Things website. In other words, let each person be responsible for their own relationship with the heavens, ready to accept the consequences of their choices. It is a crux of agency -- the greatest innate essence of our beings: the right to choose our own destiny.
The fact that I've been drawn to cover the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and that my coverage is among the best found on the internet, though I have spent relatively little time actually researching the situation (I feel it intuitively), can also be seen as another piece of evidence toward the idea that I could have been John D. Lee.
Though I believe in self defense and the right to bear arms and to be part of a militia in defending freedom, I have hardly an ounce of desire to ever have to wield a weapon against another person, even for these legitimate purposes.
None of these reasons is solid evidence, but they do make for an interesting thought exercise.
There is, however, what I believe to be some compelling evidence in Alphabetics code to the idea that I am John D. Lee incarnate again.
On July 5, 2003, I blew the dust off of my Hebrew and Greek Old and New Testament lexicons, to see what I might find by looking up the birth (1812) and death (1877) years of John D. Lee. There I found both solid links to John D. Lee in the code, as well as some evidences that tie him to me.
Word number 1812 (words numbered alphabetically) in the New Testament Greek is
1812 hexakosioi Six hundred (Rev. 13:18; 14:20)
Six hundred, as used in 666 of Revelation.
I immediately thought of my address: 666 S. 60 E., Ephraim, UT. "Ephraim" is on page 666 of the LDS Bible Dictionary. I did a write-up on how I came to have this address, which is so ironic considering that the most visited page of my website has been the index on 666, lamenting how the LDS Church is virtually silent on the subject -- which is one of the most relevant issues of our day. There is an opposite for everything. I love my address. It is like a trademark.
So when I see Lee's birth year means "six hundred," as in 666, you can see why I would consider that to be a pretty good correlation. Furthermore, in my lexicon (Zodhiates), this word 1812 that means "six hundred" is on page 599, just one page before page 600. In Alphabetics, vicinity is one of the primary tools for finding illustrative commentary.
The last word on page 599 is:
1815 exanastasis The resurrection from among the dead.
That certainly fits the idea of incarnation.
The word just before 1812 is
1811 exakoloutheo To follow; metaphorically, to copy after, conform to.
The life parallels I mentioned above elaborate on this.
The word just after 1812 is
1813 exaleipho To smear out, blot out, expunge, wipe off...
(I) Used in reference to blotting a name out of the book of life. The assurance that the Lord will not blot the name of the victor from the book of life...
(II) By implication, it also means to wipe off or away as "all tears from their eyes"...
Many hours before he was called upon to do what he did (finish the job of complete annihilation of the wagon train), John cried when he tried to talk the Indians into ceasing their attack on the wagon train. He saw that carnage of men, women and even children, and it melted his heart. From that, he got the nickname from the Indians of "Yaw guts," meaning "cry baby." That was the name they called him for the remainder of his life.
|When the Indians saw me in tears, they called me "Yaw Guts," which in the Indian language means "cry baby," and to this day they call me by that name, and consider me a coward. (JDL Confessions, p. 229)|
John D. Lee was promised by his superiors that his doing this act (finish the job) would assure him a place in heaven. Once the deed was done, and the heat came upon the Church, they turned tail and excommunicated Lee as an attempt to expunge their own guilt in the matter.
Word 1808 (exairo) on the previous page includes the meaning "to expel or excommunicate." Something Lee and I have in common.
In opposite contrast, the word following means "to claim back for oneself." And that is one of my objectives here is to help clear the name of John D. Lee -- not that he was innocent, for he made mistakes that he later recognized -- but that he was not a lone operative but was representative of the Mormon world at the time.
Word 1810 means "suddenly, unexpectedly, at once; unawares." This brings to mind both the massacre as well as this present expose of the truth behind the matter.
On page 600 are a few words of interest as well.
Word 1818 "to deceive completely, beguile, seduce; to lead out of the right way into error" with synonym: "to lure as by bait" describes Lee's treachery to the settlers in telling them he was leading them to safety, when he knew he was in fact leading them into a death trap. It also describes the Karmic equivalent of Lee's Church/government leaders promising to stand by him but then putting him away.
Word 1820 on page 600 means "to be wholly without resource, to despair utterly." This calls to mind the penury into which Lee declined as his ostracism grew over the years. That definition hits home to me as well.
Word 1812 (Hebrew words, numbered alphabetically) in the Old Testament (Gesenius) is
1812 deleph a dripping; dropping
It is derived from word 1811, which means "(1) to drop, to drip; (2) to shed tears, to weep, used of the eyes."
Yaw Guts. "Cry Baby." The name the Indians gave Lee when he cried at the massacre when he saw the carnage the Indians had imposed at the instigation of the Mormons.
Another thing to note is that the first two of the three letters that spell word 1812, daleth and lamed, spell "Doyle" in Hebrew, and they stand for "D.L."
A word two words after this one is
1814 dalaq (1) to burn, to flame ...; (2) (c) the heat of persecution, pursuing, whence "to pursue hotly;" ..."they pursued us upon the mountains;" ...to rush violently as a crowd.
Mountain Meadows Massacre: to avenge the blood of Joseph Smith, and reap vengeance for the persecutions that had been heaped upon the Mormons.
After writing the above, I picked up where I was last reading in JDL Confessions, and came across this statement:
|...The Mormon Church was under the blaze of the reformation, and punishment by death was the penalty for refusing to obey the orders of the Priesthood. (JDL Confessions, p. 291)|
I next looked up the word numbers corresponding to the year when John D. Lee was executed in Mountain Meadows, where the massacre had transpired.
Word number 1877 in Gesenius' Old Testament lexicon is
1877 deshe First sprouts of the earth, tender grass, tender herb; as clothing in the meadows.
That matches a word found on page 600 of Zodhiates' New Testament lexicon (following page 599 where word 1812 is found).
1816 exanatello To spring up out of a place as the ground. Spoken of plants, to shoot forth, sprout up; of light.
Back in the OT lexicon, the next word, 1878 (dashen) includes the meaning, "turn to ashes." Word 1880 mentions "a funeral pile." Word 1881 mentions "justice; law; a royal mandate." Then comes 1882 "(1) law, (2) religion."
Word 1877 in the New Testament lexicon is
1877 epanago To lead up or upon. Used as a nautical term meaning to lead a ship to or out upon the sea, to put out to sea.
Syn (1544) to cast out; (1808) to put away from the midst of.
Lee explains in his book that a phrase commonly used among Mormons to mean someone was going to be killed or had been killed was to say they had been sent "over the rim of the basin," especially in a context of fulfilling the doctrine of blood atonement then extant. (ref.)
The word prior is 1876 (epanagkes) "necessarily," with synonym given, "that which must be." That is how the deed was presented to Lee by his superiors.
For what it's worth, the synonym listed, word 1163, has in it the numbers of the month and year I was born: Nov. '63.
The word following is 1878 (epanamimnesko) "to remind of, to put in mind of." That which the Church sought to suppress will not go away. Either we can remember it with the satisfaction of having resolved it, or it can continue to be a festering wound.
Next word: "to rest, repose oneself upon" (1879 epanapauo).
Recall that word 1877 in the OT lexicon fell in vicinity with words that meant "law" and "religion." Likewise, word 1877 in the NT lexicon (Zodhiates) begins on page 612 and extends into page 613. The number 613 brings to mind the number of Jewish laws. Suitably, on that page is word 1882 (epanorthosis) "Correction, setting up straight again; cited as one of the four benefits of the word of God." Zodhiates then elaborates on these four benefits.
Also noteworthy is that on the previous page is word number 1874, which means "hear, listen to."
1874 is exactly one third the total number of words (5624) in the New Testament lexicon. In other words, this section of the lexicon is the "one thirds" part, with the two thirds remaining, which brings to mind the idea of "greater things" as explained in the Book of Mormon, which is the first 1/3, with 2/3 yet to come forth. The phrase "greater things" is used with the notion that when we receive that which we have been given, then shall the greater things be made known. Judaism was preparatory to Christianity, which is based on the Jewish foundation, but rejected by the Jews; and Mormonism likewise superseded Christianity, being based on the same foundation, and was rejected by Christians. A new thing is coming as well that is being rejected by Mormons, but which is built on its foundation. Each time, there is a higher level of spiritual maturity that achieves a more elevated manifestation of the old.
Fittingly, the last word definition on page 613 is word 1883 (epano) "Up, up above, above; more than."
Greater Things. www.greaterthings.com That is the whole thesis and meaning of the website that I founded -- seeking for the greater things; and those who seek will and do find.
With the number 1877, the year of Lee's death, appearing at this point, in this context, we have another link between him and myself, and the continuation of the work of the restitution of all things, of which this is a part.
Another word on page 613 is
1880 epanerchomai To come back, to return hither or thither, used in an absolute sense.
Lee is back . . . as me?
1881 epanistemi To rise up against someone, revolt.
Syn. (1453) to rouse; (1326) to stir up.
That's my nickname: Ster. And indeed, you can see that this website is anything but mainstream or status quo. Nearly everything is revolutionary, whether dealing with subjects of religion, or politics, or science, or news, or technology.
This time, excommunication has not stopped me. It has only liberated me to say what I must say, without fear of what "the brethren" or "the government" might think. My conscience is my guide, and I take responsibility for what I say; and I expect those who visit this site to do likewise. "Would that ALL the Lord's people were prophets."
(Considering the link of word 1812 in NT lexicon to the meaning of six hundred, as in 666.)
I happened to notice that there are a few word definitions on page 666 of my Old Testament lexicon that seem apropos to Lee. The first definition coming onto the page from the previous includes the definition for word 6293, quoting from Isaiah 47:3 "I will take vengeance and will not make peace with any man." It also gives the phrase from Isaiah 53:6 "he caused to fall upon him the iniquity of us all." Another definition rendered for the word is "to invade; assailant, enemy."
Word 6297 on page 666 means "a carcase, dead body." Word 6298 means "to rush upon any one; to attack."
One of the comments that I make in my essay about 9/11 happening exactly 144 years after MMM is that the effect the massacre had on the Mormons was to "get it out of their system." They were fed up with how they had been treated by the Gentiles, and were itching for some vengeance. This desire led to doctrines that supported the vengeance. Lee, under command of those in authority, executed a bloody scene of vengeance; and as the horrendousness of the deed sank into their collective conscience, they realized that the fruits of their doctrine and desires were not good; and they changed gradually.
Perhaps the reign of the beast in our day, to whatever extent it ends up manifesting, will have the same effect on us, to change us for good -- lasting 1000 years. We don't have to learn by experience, though. The more we can learn by precept and example, the less severe our calamities will need to be to get our attention. Will 911 be paled, or will it be adequate? That is a question we as a civilization are now facing. Kicking butt in Iraq like a bunch of rowdy cowboys is not ingratiating us with those who were heroes of vengeance to their own people on 911. If we back off, and let them cool down, maybe they too will be grieved by 911, and that will be the end of mass terror. Wishful thinking? Perhaps. It's our choice as a people.
I think John D. Lee would urge peace, rather than carrying out our course of vengeance. No matter how guilty people say the enemy is, the truth of the matter is that most of them are innocent. Our collective attitudes can be changed by the brave choices of those called to "follow orders."
If John D. Lee were faced with the same situation again, I think he would have refused to obey the orders being given him, even if it meant his own life being taken by those bent on blood. Chances are, his courage to do so, may have been the catalyst needed to soften the hearts of the others set on vengeance. Such a miracle has happened before, and it will happen again. Let's pray that it be the rule in our day, rather than the exception.
Would God that ALL were prophets -- taking responsibility for their own actions, and aligning with their conscience the best they know how. Such an approach certainly empowers one to question the official line being given, which may or may not be in harmony with righteousness that comes from God, which each person has a birthright claim to be able to discern. With such a people, dictators, be they religious or political or scientific would never thrive. Such a people will not be barred from the greater things that God wishes to impart, because they are not bound with chains to the false traditions and precepts that otherwise govern.
Being controversial is good, if it means it is stirring people up to reflect on the premises of their life, some of which might need adjusting to come closer to the truth.
|H.W.F. Gesenius; Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon of the Old Testament; Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI 49516; 1979. ISBN: 0-8010-3736-0 (softcover) Amazon.com|
|James Strong; Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible; Hendrickson Publishers, ISBN 0-917006-01-1. Amazon.com|
|Webster's New International Dictionary, 3rd Ed., Unabridged; G. & C. Merriam Company (established, 1831), Springfield 2, Massachusetts, U.S.A.; 1961.|
|Zodhiates, Spiros; Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, TN 37422; 1992. ISBN 0-89957-663-X. Amazon.com|
Having now made an assertion that I think I could be John D. Lee incarnate, here again to help set things straight, I will say that I am still open to the possibility that I am wrong.
My sense is that I will continue to find evidences to this effect, from a wide diversity of sources.
One of the reasons I have avoided wanting to discover who I was in a previous life is (1) I didn't want to be puffed up in ego because the person I was had been some famous figure in history, (2) I didn't want to go on a belief that was actually false, wasting my spiritual energy on a phantom idea, (3) I wasn't ready; the time wasn't right.
Now, I think the time has become right for me; and I shall enjoy the new insight this discovery brings into my life -- helping me be a better person because of an understanding of who I used to be.
Sent: Tuesday, July 08, 2003 8:26 AM
Subject: John D. Lee - GreaterThings.com Home Page
As a descendant of John D. Lee and a native of Panguitch, Utah - I just wanted to pass along an interesting fact.
The elevation that was traditionally quoted for Panguitch is 6666 ft above sea level (the safer number 6670 ft is now used). As you well know, JD Lee was both captured and buried there. I always thought there was a significance about the number, maybe you'll enlighten me.
Also, my great-great-great-great grandmother, Agatha Ann Woolsey, did not desert her husband john D. Lee (she died on 4 Jun 1866 in New Harmony, Washington, UT). I'm sure had she lived, she would have been there by his side - to the end.
|Book Excerpts > John D. Lee -- Life and Confessions|
|Index > Mountain Meadows Massacre|
|Supplement > Under the Banner of Heaven - Index of relevant material for Jon Krakauer's book that deals with frightening fundamentalist manifestations of LDS doctrines no longer actively practiced by Mormonism.|
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