Hidden History: “Vengeance is mine and I have taken a little.”
20 Years after the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the only man to be found guilty, was executed. On 23 March 1877, John D. Lee was executed on the site of the massacre; the sole person to be punished for the murders. He’d been given a choice: beheading, hanging or firing squad. He chose the latter. In the image, he’s sitting on a chair next to what will be his coffin.
“Vengeance is mine and I have taken a little.” — Brigham Young said at the site of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, 25 May 1861 when he visited. The LDS Church had initially denied any involvement by Mormons. Since then it has acknowledged its role, although, naturally, it doesn’t publicize it.
There was considerable politicking over the investigation into the massacre. Early juries, made up of Mormons, decided that anyone indicted was innocent. The public clamor for some sort of justice eventually forced a sacrificial person to be offered up and that was John D. Lee.
Lee had been a friend of the founder of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith. He was the “adopted son” of Brigham Young under a rule called the Latter Day Saint Rule of Adoption, which basically meant an acolyte was taken under the older man’s wing. Lee, at one point, had 19 wives. He ended up with sixty-seven children. Some of his descendants serve at high ranks in politics for Utah.
It’s interesting to note the difference between what’s noted in his Wikipedia page and delving into actual records from the time. Records indicate that Brigham Young ex-communicated him from Mormonism and he left the state. Wiki says he was sent out of the state on Young’s orders. Regardless, when the time came for someone to be offered up, it was Lee. Who stated so quite emphatically in his last words, a summary of which are in my book.
A monument has been erected in Mountain Meadows to the victims. The massacre took place on 11 September 1857.
The massacre is one of the missions in Nine Eleven.
Originally published at www.writeitforward.com on September 21, 2016.