It took 18 years to start the first trial of John D. Lee for the atrocities at Mountain Meadows. Why did it take so long? Historian Will Bagley believes LDS Church leaders covered up the crime. How does he come to that conclusion?
Will: But, what I’m saying is that the event that Wilford Woodruff records is staged, and in Lee’s account, which is of course untrustworthy, Brigham Young tells him, “Don’t even tell Heber about this,” which is a tribute to Heber C. Kimball. But we’re now dealing with the cover up, which begins in 1857, and for my money is still going on.
Will: But there’s so much of the cover up that I find despicable. For instance, the “investigations.” We have detailed accounts of the conspiracy that was mounted against Mormon leaders to deceive them. These are absurd notions. Who does Brigham Young send down to Southern Utah to investigate what caused the Mountain Meadow’s Massacre? George A. Smith! What better guy! It would be like send Dick Cheney to investigate what happened in Iraq.
But they actually visit the Meadows and they come up with a likely scapegoat, because at the end of one of Smith’s letters, he says, “And we don’t really know what John D. Lee was up to, but he seems to have been involved in this somehow.” So they already know who they’re going to eventually hang it on. And why did they pick John D. Lee? Because the other two guys are untouchable. The other two guys, senior officers are William Dame and Isaac Haight. Now in the church’s tale, they say, “Well, once Brigham Young realized what was happening in 1870, he excommunicated the main murderers.” No, he didn’t. He didn’t excommunicate Dame. He did excommunicate Haight.
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