Others involved in the Mountain Meadows Massacre

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Others involved in the Mountain Meadows Massacre

Colonel Thomas Kane

Critics who use the Mountain Meadows Massacre to attack the Church often mention non-LDS Col. Thomas Kane. Kane was a good friend to the Mormons prior to Joseph Smith's death, and he was also briefly involved in the Massacre issue. There are two issues raised by critics in conjunction with Kane:

  1. some blame Kane for helping Brigham Young to cover up the Massacre
  2. some paint Kane as ridiculous, vain, or foolish—this is apparently done on the theory that anyone who likes or helps the Mormons must either be evil or a dupe.

Noted one reviewer:

The claim that Kane was responsible for covering up the massacre (p. 47) finds no support in history, nor does Denton cite primary sources for her view other than Kane's participation in advising Young to respond to federal inquiries in 1858 (p. 208). As I point out in my review of Bagley's Blood of the Prophets, the massacre investigation spanned decades and involved sitting presidents, cabinet members, attorneys general, federal district attorneys, federal marshals, territorial marshals, and more. Kane was out of the picture shortly after the massacre." [1]

Negative portrayal

Denton's American Massacre portrays Kane as arrogant, effeminate, a hypochondriac, and with delusions of fame. Wrote one reviewer of her portrait:

Denton's discussion of Kane is mercilessly out of context. Biographies and journals of nineteenth-century 'Renaissance' men reveal that many accomplished men adopted what appear today to be affectations of self-importance and prolixity. Stenhouse, no advocate of Brigham Young nor necessarily fair with his sources when discussing Mormonism, treated Kane respectfully in his nineteenth-century work, Rocky Mountain Saints. Stenhouse tells us that 'in the relations of Col. Kane with the Mormons at that time, there was exhibited evidence of the highest Christian charity and personal heroism of character.'" [2]


  1. Robert D. Crockett, "The Denton Debacle (Review of: American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857)," FARMS Review 16/1 (2004): 135–148. off-site
  2. Robert D. Crockett, "The Denton Debacle (Review of: American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857)," FARMS Review 16/1 (2004): 135–148. off-site

George A. Smith

Some wish to make Brigham Young and apostle George A. Smith complicit in the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Thus, it is claimed that prior to the massacre, George A. Smith is alleged to "have carried orders to Cedar City leaders to incite their people to avenge the blood of the prophets" (Denton, 186).

John D. Lee is wrong on those events which we can verify, and no other evidence supports this claim.

One reviewer dismissed the thin evidence upon which this claim rests:

"This argument assumes Brigham Young had formulated the plan for destruction when the Fancher train was still in Salt Lake City on 5 August 1857. There is no evidence of material provocation by the Fancher train at this early stage except from persons with no reliable basis upon which to provide testimony....Nobody has ever offered any believable evidence that George A. Smith gave instructions to Haight and Lee to massacre the train. John D. Lee is the only person who purported to offer evidence of these instructions," and Lee had a clear motive to lie to save his own skin and make his memoirs more marketable. "Lee's claim that George A. Smith met Lee in southern Utah on 1 September 1857 (an approximate date deduced from Lee's text) with orders of destruction was impossible because Smith was hundreds of miles away in Salt Lake City on that very day, as well as the day before. [1]


  1. Robert D. Crockett, "A Trial Lawyer Reviews Will Bagley's Blood of the Prophets," FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): 199–254. off-site

Captain Stewart Van Vliet

From Robert D. Crockett:

Army Quartermaster Captain Stewart Van Vliet came to Salt Lake City on 8 September and left after midnight on 14 September 1857 to arrange for the advancing army's provisions. Denton tells us that Brigham Young carefully shielded Van Vliet to hear nothing of the massacre, because if Van Vliet came to know about it, "an invasion of Utah Territory would be expedited" (p. 165). There is no historical support for this claim. The claim is also impossible to support. Because the massacre was not over until 11 September 1857,23 there is no possibility that Brigham Young could have known of the massacre before his last meeting with Van Vliet on 13 September 1857." [1]


  1. Robert D. Crockett, "The Denton Debacle (Review of: American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857)," FARMS Review 16/1 (2004): 135–148. off-site