In May of this year, we will have the opportunity to see a Young Guns-type western called “September Dawn” focusing on the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The Bloggernacle has looked at this topic before, last year at BT and yesterday at Mormon Wasp, among others (probably).

Young Guns was a fun ride and a well-done western. The historical event of the Mountain Meadows Massacre provides rich material for a movie with lots of drama. Absent pointed, negative aspersions cast on a minority religion — the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — it should be a great flick.

Of course, by all accounts it does cast those negative aspersions. A simple massacre wouldn’t be interesting enough. The public is bored with seeing depictions of fanatical Islamicist terrorists and is presumably eager to see white cowboy/farmer/Mormon “terrorists” killing in the name of religion, or because of a distorted understanding of the doctrines of their own religion. Will the movie’s director claim through the film that the Church ordered the massacre, despite the lack of evidence that this is true? That appears to be the case.

And, predictably, we have certain voices assuring us of the evil of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Will Bagley, who has publicly declared on Doug Fabrizio’s radio show that he believes there is serious corruption and misuse of funds in the Church’s tithing office (not citing any evidence to corroborate this conclusion), assures us that “Brigham Young was the man in charge, and that’s where the orders [to kill the immigrants] originated.” To my understanding, this view does not represent scholarly consensus about the event.

Mr. Cain, the director, claims that his portrayal of Brigham Young ordering/condoning the killings is taken directly from “depositions” of Brigham Young after the massacre happened. Justin at the Mormon Wasp reproduces in its entirety the one deposition that was taken of Brigham Young concerning the massacre. As Justin notes, in that deposition, Brigham Young states that on or about September 10, 1857 (the day before the massacre) he received and answered a communication from either Isaac C. Haight or John D. Lee (the perpetrators of the massacre) about the Arkansas immigrants who were the targets of the massacre. Brigham Young states firmly under oath in the deposition that his answer to that communication was that they should “let this company of emigrants, and all companies of emigrants, pass through the country unmolested, and to allay the angry feelings of the Indians as much as possible“.

Justin also notes, however, that notwithstanding Mr. Cain’s asseverations to the contrary in his recent New York Times interview, the deposition does not contain Brigham Young’s alleged statement that “I am the voice of God and anyone who doesn’t like it will be hewn down,” as Mr. Cain claims.