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Utah War & Mountain Meadows Massacre (Part 1 of 6)

If you didn’t grow up in Utah, you’ve probably never heard of the Utah War.  Federal troops came to Utah in 1857 creating great anxiety among the Mormons.  This war footing led to the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the lowest point in Mormon history.  Barbara Jones-Brown tells about these events that led to the greatest atrocity in American history up to that point in 1857.

Barbara: A memorial from Utah’s legislature [was sent to Washington] saying, “Look, if you keep sending us federal officials that we don’t like, that we don’t agree with, we’re going to send them away. Please choose appointees that are from among us and represent our values.” Basically one legislator said it was practically a declaration of independence. So there’s these kinds of stories, these kind of rumors, some based in fact, some exaggerated that reach Washington. So the new president concludes that he needs to send a whole new set of territorial appointees to Utah, including one to replace Brigham Young as governor and that he’s going to send federal troops with them to ensure that they are placed successfully and with no resistance from local Utahans.

So Brigham Young and church leaders interpret this as a threat and they vowed that the army, the troops will never enter into their settlements. I’m really glossing over things quickly here, but you have what came to be called the Utah War erupt where the troops and the federal appointees, as they are nearing settlements of what was then Utah Territory. Young and other church leaders send out Mormon militia men to hamper their way. So they’re running off their cattle, they’re burning the grass in front of them. They are burning their supply wagons, doing everything they can to try and get the troops to be stopped on the plains that year. So that’s the environment and you’ve got this war hysteria going, on if you will, in Utah Territory.

These heightened tensions contributed to Mormons in Utah committing the worst war atrocity in U.S. history up to that time in 1857.  Approximately 100 settlers from Arkansas were killed.  Check out our conversation….

President James Buchanan sent federal troops to Utah to quell the "Mormon Rebellion." The Utah War indirectly led to the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
President James Buchanan sent federal troops to Utah to quell the “Mormon Rebellion.” The Utah War indirectly led to the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Check out our other conversations about the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

194: What is the Dead Lee Scroll? (Mayfield)

193: John D. Lee’s Role in Mountain Meadows Massacre (Mayfield)

074: CSI: Mountain Meadows – Using DNA to Solve 2 Mysteries (Perego)

 

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Hoover on MLK & ETB

If you’d like to check out this episode, please sign up for my newsletter.  It’s completely free.  Go to GospelTangents.com/newsletter  to find out what J. Edgar Hoover thought of Ezra Taft Benson!

Here’s what we’ll talk about in this episode: Dr. Matt Harris tells us that Pres. Benson was a big fan of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, but Hoover wasn’t particularly fond of Benson.  Harris shares Benson’s FBI files with us, and tells why Hoover thought Martin Luther King was a threat.  Sign up right now!  The link is only available to newsletter subscribers.  Go to GospelTangents.com/newsletter!

Dr. Matt Harris tells why FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover thought little of MLK and ETB.
Dr. Matt Harris tells why FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover thought little of MLK and ETB.
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How Hinckley Prevailed Over Benson on Civil Rights (Part 12 of 13)

Ezra Taft Benson clearly wasn’t a fan of civil rights and called it a communist conspiracy.  But his counselor in the First Presidency, Gordon B. Hinckley, made peace with the NAACP and helped name a state holiday in Utah after King.  Dr. Matt Harris tells more about Hinckley’s effects on Benson.

Matt: For years, Dr. King’s been called a commie. Latter-day Saints of at least two generations grew up with this sort of thinking. So, what do you do about this? Well, when the Martin Luther King holiday was proposed in the early ’80’s, of course, the State of Utah just recoiled in horror. They can’t support the Martin Luther King holiday. The idea was, not only is he a communist, but he’s an adulterer and all the other things that these people had said about him. So, what happened was Utah decided they were going to call it Human Rights Day instead of Martin Luther King Day. There are a few other states that had gone that path, too.

Matt: Hinckley is privately befriending members of the NAACP. He’s doing a lot of stuff behind the scenes to really undo, quite frankly, what Elder Benson had spent much of his apostolic ministry doing: denouncing civil rights and Martin Luther King. So, President Hinckley is doing much of this stuff on his own. To finish the story here, that President Hinckley gives his support to rename the holiday after Martin Luther King. He tells the church lobbyist, he says, “Why don’t you go up to the hill and let them know that the church supports the renaming of Martin Luther King Day?” He’d been working in private with NAACP leaders. They have been pushing him hard. “Why can’t the church support this? Because you know, if the church supports this, that the legislature will fall in line.”

President Hinckley thought, “Oh my goodness, why don’t we support this? It serves no purpose in the 21st century, or as the 21st century approaches to not rename this after this iconic civil rights leader.” So, President Hinckley tells the church lobbyist, “Go up to the hill and tell them that the church supports the changing of the holiday.” It was done. And so in 2000, Utah became, I think it was like the 49th or 50th state in the union to recognize Martin Luther King holiday. What that means is that President Hinckley, yet again, is trying to modernize the church and to let Latter-day Saints know that, it’s unchristian to demean people of color and to call them a commie, and to deny them civil rights. That’s really, I think, one of, in my humble opinion, one of President Hinckley’s most enduring legacies is to really open up a new day for race relations with the church. As far as I know, because of President Hinckley, the NAACP has maintained cordial relations with the church hierarchy, because of him.

He also makes some interesting comments about Sheri Dew’s biography of President Benson.

Matt: If you look at Elder Benson’s biography that Sheri Dew did, that was published in 1987–this was during the early years of his presidency, which is really interesting if you look at this. And this is not a fault to Sheri Dew–otherwise I think it’s actually a pretty fine biography. But there’s no mention of the Birch Society, Robert Welch, none of that stuff. These guys were extremely close. And to not mention that in a biography is really extraordinary. Again, not a criticism of Sister Dew, but clearly somebody had prevailed upon her that, you know, “We’re trying to move beyond this stuff. This isn’t good for business.”

GT: So, you think she purposely was told to leave that out?

Matt:  Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I’m just speculating of course, but she had access to his papers and she knows how close they are.

Check out our conversation, and don’t forget to purchase Matt’s new book on Benson called Thunder from the Right.  My copy arrived on Tuesday and I’m just digging into it!

 

Gordon B. Hinckley made outreach to the NAACP and helped undo the harm of President Benson's race relations.
Gordon B. Hinckley made outreach to the NAACP and helped undo the harm of President Benson’s race relations.

Here are our other conversations about President Benson!

253: The End of Benson’s Political Aspirations (Harris)

252: Benson on Civil Rights & Communism (Harris)

251: Benson and John Birch Society (Harris)

250: How Ezra Taft Benson Joined Eisenhower (Harris)