Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows/Omissions/Indians as instrument of vengeance

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Did Brigham Young use the Indians for the Mountain Meadows Massacre?

A FAIR Analysis of: Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows, a work by author: Will Bagley

It is claimed that nineteenth-century Mormons saw Indians as a divine weapon given them to wreak vengeance on their persecutors. These beliefs, it is claimed, led to the Church and Brigham Young using the Indians for the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Source(s) of the criticism

As one review noted:

Citing only “one Nauvoo Mormon” as evidence, Bagley generalizes that “within six months of [Joseph] Smith’s murder, the Saints developed a tradition that the Indians would play a key role in avenging their martyred prophets” (27). Even the missionaries Brigham Young sent to visit Indian tribes throughout the United States “were called to prepare the Indians for their role in the impending apocalypse” (36). I suggest that the Native Americans were to become nothing less than “the battle-ax of the Lord” and fight alongside the Saints to usher in the millennium (23–37). While Bagley cites a variety of sources—including Book of Mormon verses, Brigham Young, and other Saints—to make his case, he is selective in his choices and single-minded in his interpretation, and he does not account for the complex and, at times, contradictory nature of Mormonism’s Indian policy. For his tale of blood to work, he must pigeonhole Young and the Saints into a monolithic “battleax” strategy. In reality, the Saints’ stance toward the Paiutes varied in time and space according to changing circumstances and differing personalities.

While touring southern settlements in 1851, for example, Brigham Young commented to Saints at Parowan that he “wished to have sufficient men there to be secure from the children of the Gadianton robbers who had infested the mountains for more than a thousand years and had lived by plundering all the time.”1 Presiding Bishop Edward Hunter, Heber C. Kimball, and John Taylor also linked Great Basin Indians to the Gadianton robbers, the latter doing so from the pulpit of the St. George Tabernacle. At least some rank-and-file Church members viewed the Indians in the same light. In 1858, for example, one resident of Harmony (John D. Lee’s home at the time of the massacre) insisted that “these Indians in these mountains are the descendants of the Gadianton robbers, and that the curse of God is upon them, and we had better let them alone.” Needless to say, seeking security from the Paiutes, linking them to the Gadianton robbers of Mormon scripture, and letting them alone are far cries from Bagley’s insistence that “the Mormons came to regard the Indians as a weapon God had placed in their hands” (37). Certainly, there was more to Mormon-Paiute relations than an inevitable march toward Mountain Meadows. [1]


  1. W. Paul Reeve and Ardis E. Parshall, "review of Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows, by Will Bagley," Mormon Historical Studies (Spring 2003): 151 (references silently removed).