The leadership of today’s Mormon cult could do well in spending long periods of time with the leadership of the German government. Contemporary Germany is not afraid to speak openly and honestly of the atrocities of its Nazi-era past, and the efforts by the German leadership (beginning in the late 1940s with Konrad Adenauer and continuing to this day) in trying to heal the horrific pains of the past have been noted. The Mormons, however, prefer to run away from the atrocities of their past, and thanks to a new film their actions have been noted.
Brian Patrick, co-director of the University of Utah’s Film Studies Division, has created a documentary about a chapter of Mormon history, which has been intentionally obfuscated for too long. “Burying the Past: Legacy of the Mountain Meadow Massacre” focuses on the events of September 11, 1857, in which 120 men, women and children on a wagon train heading from Arkansas to California were massacred by Mormons disguised as Indians in an isolated corner of Utah. The exact cause for the massacre was never clear, but the grisly results were too shocking to consider. Bodies were looted and left to rot in the open fields, property (including gold coins, cattle and horses) were stolen by the Mormons, and 17 children ages six and under who survived the massacre were kidnapped into Mormon families. Two years would pass before the children were rescued by American soldiers and reunited with their families in Arkansas; the stolen property was never returned.
Almost immediately, the Mormons began a cover-up. Brigham Young, the flim-flam man who ran the Mormon operation like a cut-rate dictator, sent the men who orchestrated the attack into hiding in neighboring Arizona and spun the story that the massacre was the work of Indians. Young would later tear down a stone monument built by the U.S. military at Mountain Meadow. Only one person was ever indicted and convicted of the attack: John D. Lee, an adopted son of Young who was played for the patsy, but it would not be until 1877 that he was executed. The Mormon hierarchy spent the next years pretending the massacre was the work of Indians, even erecting a monument in 1932 claiming as much.
“Burying the Past: Legacy of the Mountain Meadow Massacre” covers the efforts of the past decade in which the truth is finally being allowed to surface. Or at least some truth is coming forward. Members of an association of the survivors of the massacre have been in contact with Mormon bigwigs to restore and preserve Mountain Meadows. Yet while the Mormons financed the landscaping and preservation of the Mountain Meadows site, they still refuse to acknowledge culpability for their ancestors’ actions. Mormon honcho Gordon Hinckley (an elderly thing who speaks with the halting cadences of an incontinence patient trying to will his body functions to behave) dedicated the new monument by mechanically reading a speech in which he absolved Brigham Young and never identified the cause or criminals behind the massacre. The survivors of the descendants of the massacre were visibly upset by this, though one could imagine the Mormons were secretly pleased that old Hinckley didn’t s**t in his pants while making the speech.
“Burying the Past: Legacy of the Mountain Meadow Massacre” is a shocking feature which calls to task not only the Mormons for engaging in a variety of history revisionism unseen since the USSR’s demise, but also the massacre survivors’ descendants for allowing them to get away with this nonsense for so long — and also, indirectly, to Americans as a whole for being ignorant about this aspect of American history. Granted that the Mormons built their faith on some damn dubious foundations (try reading “The Book of Mormon” and see for yourself), so being disconnected from reality might be a congenital trait with this cult. But why isn’t the Mountain Meadow Massacre taught in American schools? And why has there been no film on this subject until now? Is the Mormon movement so powerful that it can keep history buried? Or is it politically incorrect to call into question the history of the Mormons, who actually have quite a lot to answer for in the past and the present?
This film is beautifully produced, with a wealth of interviews from every conceivable corner of the story that weave and tightens into a shocking web of injustice. If “Burying the Past: Legacy of the Mountain Meadow Massacre” has one slight mistake, it is having a filmed recreation of the doomed wagon train to illustrate what the massacre might have been like. This is filmed in grainy black-and-white using non-professional actors, and their lack of acting skills (especially when getting shot) actually dilutes the film’s message. But mercifully there is not enough of this to create serious damage.
There are many scenes in this film that were shot in the expansive and expensive Mormon headquarters in Salt Lake City, and it is easy to assume some of the wealth for this enterprise was stolen from the victims at Mountain Meadow. Yet in watching “Burying the Past: Legacy of the Mountain Meadow Massacre,” I was reminded of the example of the son of Nazi leader Martin Bormann, who sought to atone for the sins of his father by living a missionary’s existence in the poorest regions of Africa. The younger Bormann was not responsible for his father’s actions during World War II, yet the guilt of his father propelled him to serve God with a humility and dedication of peerless depth. The hypocrites in the Mormon offices, however, not only refuse to acknowledge that their forefathers sinned but they continue to move through a perverted fantasy-land where the past is half-considered in pathetic lies while obviously raking in the big bucks for their lucrative racket.
In this review, I intentionally did not refer to the Mormons as being a faith, religion or church because their actions in regards to the events of Mountain Meadows are antithetical to the basic tenets of faith, religion or church. “Burying the Past: Legacy of the Mountain Meadow Massacre” exposes the Mormon leadership for what it is, and the leadership of this movement will ultimately need to answer to a higher authority than Film Threat about their legacy of lies. Shame on them, and shame on all who have tried to keep the truth of Mountain Meadow lost in time.