A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Fireside

On Saturday night, a car pulled up behind me just after I found a convenient parking spot on a narrow Pasadena street. A tall, confident-looking fellow emerged from the car, stuck out his hand, and said, “Hi, I’m Aaron Brown.” Not one to miss a line, I replied, “Do you mean the Aaron Brown?” Suitably flattered, he confessed, and I introduced myself as his co-blogging partner in crime. And thus we convened an impromptu meeting of the California wing of Bcc, Inc. We’re no vast left-wing conspiracy, but we get around.

The event was actually the monthly meeting of the Miller-Eccles group, whose mission (for those who choose to accept it) is “to encourage LDS gospel scholarship, enlightenment and understanding.” The invited speaker this month was Ron Walker, a BYU history prof who is one of three authors of what promises to be the definitive book on the unfortunate occurrence at Mountain Meadows (forthcoming from Oxford Univ. Press in 2005). Prof. Walker’s remarks made it clear there was simply an awful lot going on in Utah in 1857, and most of it is relevant to understanding how something like Mountain Meadows could have happened. Having visited the actual site earlier this year, I found the presentation to be especially interesting.

Incidentally, the host told us he was pleased to see some “younger” attendees (which he generously defined as “under 35”) at the meeting, which seemed like the kind of discussion the average Bcc’er would find interesting. There is a $10 per person suggested donation to defray travel expenses of the presenters, but the discussion seemed well worth the investment. Check the MESG website for details on future meetings and speakers.


  1. Actually, Kristine, the sad thing is that thousands of women and children were brutally massacred, and most of us frankly, my dear, just don’t give a damn.

    They were, in the language of that day, Indians. Some of us have heard of Sand Creek or Wounded Knee, but those are just the tip of an ugly iceberg.

    The sad thing is that Steve is about right, tongue-in-cheek though his comment was. We simply consign the massacre of so many to the dustbin of the “wild west” and, forgetting, move on.

  2. dave,

    i tried to email the contact on the MESG website, but it was returned to me. how would i go about signing up for reminders regarding upcoming events? i live in the LA area and would be interested in attending some of the meetings.

  3. Dave, thanks for the report. Some questions: when Turley, Walker, and Leonard announced the book in May 2002, Walker stated: “Circumstance may explain their acts; nothing can justify them.” Do you believe that Walker’s remarks last night were consistent with this distinction?

    Also, it appears from your post that 2005 is the projected publishing date. Did Walker indicate the firmness of this date?

    Finally, did Walker talk about Will Bagley’s book?

  4. Does the MESG provide any materials that you could pass along? It sounds fantastic.

  5. Rosalynde Welch says:

    Hey Dave and Aaron– Did you know you were at my ancestral home? My parents are Russ and Christie Frandsen, the current directors and hosts of the Miller-Eccles group. Hope the bathroom was clean and the kids not too rowdy upstairs… we always hated Miller-Eccles Saturdays, since we had to set up all those darn chairs and then stay quietly in our rooms all night.

  6. Aaron Brown says:

    Hey Rosalynde,

    Yes, I mentioned your name to your father, and he claimed you as his. :)

    I quite enjoyed Prof. Walker’s presentation. And yes, it was fun to meet Dave. Maybe I’ll say more about it tomorrow when I’m less tired.

    Aaron B

  7. Ken Maxwell says:

    I just ran across this post and was intrested in the mountain meadows topic.
    John D Lee was my great grandfather. I read a book by Juanita Brooks on the Mountain Meadows massacre and yes it is a very contoversial subject.

    Ken Maxwell

  8. I know Kristine, I’m just trying to kick up some dirt.

    I guess what I’m trying to get at is more accurately framed in terms of current ramifications: so what? Where does MMM take us in terms of evaluating the Church that we belong to? In my mind, it’s as relevant to me as the Pioneers — that is, not at all. It’s an interesting case study, but I can’t get my mind around its practical implications for me as a latter-day saint.

  9. Mark B, I would like to know then as to what the appropriate treatment is of such past atrocities. I keep returning to this theme, but I want to know how it is I should be feeling about these events, and what (if anything) I should be doing.

  10. Rosalynde Welch says:

    Oh, and if anyone wants the contact info, just send me your email address– I’m at rosalynde at sbcglobal dot net –and I’ll forward it to my father, to put on his mailing list.

  11. Sorry Steve, you’ll just have to shell out for the book when it is published.

    Justin, late 2005 was my impression of when the book would likely be released. He referred to Bagley’s book in passing, being very complimentary to Bagley’s work but noting that they disagree on some points and noting that the Walker team has access to some materials that Bagley did not. (I haven’t read Bagley’s book yet.) I would note (me speaking here) that there is simply a huge amount of material that might be considered relevant–court transcripts, government investigations, Army reports, letters, every journal written in Southern Utah from 1857 onward, lots of stuff in the LDS archives, etc.

    I think Walker’s comments on the perspective the team is bringing to the book match his earlier comments that you quote. They appear to be after understanding about what happened and how it could have happened, rather than an apologetic defense of the role that Mormons played in the events.

  12. Steve,

    You should remember atrocities and take them very seriously because they teach an important lesson: innocent people are repeatedly killed by paranoid or avaricious people.

    Maybe if enough people would remember them, they would stop repeating the mistake, such as when paranoid Americans kill thousands of innocent Iraqis and then have the gall to claim they they’re being ‘liberated.’

    (But I’m forgetting my place, of course. The Red States won, and now we can’t say anything is wrong with America, so I won’t point out that it was Americans who killed countless innocent Indians, thus disproving the theory that America has never shed great quantities of innocent blood. No, in America we only accept prophets who tell us what is RIGHT with us. We stone the ones who tell us to repent.)

  13. Steve, I realized that you were trolling about 15 minutes after I took the bait. I should never blog after 9–before that I’m only a little dumb, by 9:30 my brain turns into a pumpkin.

  14. Steve, um, NO, we can’t just admit that it was the Wild West and leave it at that. The West was no so wild that women and children were brutally massacred. What happened at Mountain Meadows was way outside the bounds of even the rough and ready standards of Western justice at the time; it can’t be brushed aside or explained away that easily.

  15. Strange that it remains so controversial. This was, after all, the Wild West. Can we not just admit that some really crazy stuff happened, and that everyone was on the edge of survival and paranoid?