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They All Laughed

meadows_0701117

Mountain Meadows Massacre Monument*

When I said that we need to watch out for Christian religious extremists and anti-guvmit types with guns, I’m pretty sure I lost readers. Oh, ho-ho, there goes RD again, gettin’ all paranoid. She’s been eating too much tin-foil.

Turns out, not so much. The DHS was concerned about that possibility too but decided to defund the office that was looking into it anyway:

Daryl Johnson once worked in the branch of the Department of Homeland Security that studied the threats posed by antigovernment groups. His former office was shut down more than five years ago.

But when members of an armed group took over a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon last week, Mr. Johnson was not surprised.

In 2009, the former analyst wrote a report that warned of a growing antigovernment movement and the possible recruitment of returning military veterans that could “lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone-wolf extremists.”

His words drew fierce criticism from Republican lawmakers and conservative news media, labeling the report an unfair assessment of legitimate criticisms of the government. The document was retracted after Janet Napolitano, who was then the Homeland Security secretary, apologized to veterans, and the Extremism and Radicalization Branch was quietly dismantled.

Ah-fa-la-la! Isn’t that funny?

Know what’s even funnier? It was the openly Muslim Congressman, Keith Ellison, who thought that shutting down this office was a bad idea.

Oh wait, totally forgot to remind everyone that the first act of religious extremist terrorism on September 11 was by a bunch of Mormons who thought the government was going to come to Utah to…

…wait for it…

… take away their guns.

Or some such nonsense. Yep, turns out they were waiting for the US of A to send soldiers into Utah and make them start behaving or not polygamating or something. If you want a complete breakdown of how the whole ugly religious extremism-anti-government Mountain Meadows Massacre happened, check out this collaborative podcast effort between Lindsay Hanson Park and Mormon Expressions. You won’t be sorry. It’s an amazing story and cautionary tale for all of us.

  Granted, the Mormons had had a checkered past with the authorities in several states with massacre-ing happening on both sides. But with the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Mormons took it to a new level and butchered over 100 men, women and children who were just passing through. Maybe they wanted the cattle. Maybe they suspected them of collaborating with the people who killed one of their apostles. Maybe they just wanted to set an example for anyone else who thought they could traipse through the west without even a “by your leave”.

Who knows?

One thing for sure though. Those crazy Mormons had been fed a steady diet of anti-government propaganda, were chased from place to place because they were trying to rig the voting system in their favor and followed some new messianic religion, and they were waiting for the end of days.

So, you know, we have all been here before.

The violent, anti-government rhetoric in the west has been around for more than a century. We probably shouldn’t be surprised that Glenn Beck has been using the survivalist shtick to sell everything from gold to desert bunkers.

There is a cost to all of this. The religious extremism and anti-government paranoia has gone mainstream now. These people have their own “political correctness”. That is, in order to be a good American, you’ve got to believe in the most reactionary forms of patriarchal Christianity and the second amendment is THE most important amendment in the Constitution. It trumps the first, fourth and fifth amendment. Oh and the 14th amendment is optional.

Challenge them on any of this and see what happens.

*You may wonder why there’s a wall and fencing around the massacre monument. Turns out that the monument kept getting torn down. If I’m not mistaken, it was Brigham Young himself who ordered it torn down the first time. Then the relatives of the slain would rebuild it annnnnd the Mormons would tear it down again. So, who knows how long this one will be around. I think it’s a government historic landmark now.

Even more reason to tear it down.

For more on the most recent Malheur occupation by the YeeHawdist, Ammon Bundy and pals, see these background articles from The Conversation.

 

 

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There’s a Bathroom on the Right

We’re on the eve of destruction according to Mormon author Julie Rowe. According to The Guardian:

Well, while we wait, let’s all sing-a-long to CCR’s prophetic words:

Happy Pioneer Day

Today is Pioneer Day, a sort of holiday for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormons.  As you may know, I’m not religious at all but I find uniquely American religions interesting.  Mormonism grew out of the Second Great Awakening, a protestant revival movement that came into being as a response to deism and the enlightenment.  If we want to know where the religious liberty mantra of fundamentalist evangelicals got its start, we should probably revisit this era in our nation’s history.

The geographical locale for the hotbed of religious fervor was in western New York state, otherwise known as the “burn over district” because by the time the Civil War came along, everyone there had been converted to something and had burned themselves out.  It was this area where the Millerites waited out the end of the world.  Their legacy survives in the Second Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses.  It was here that the Shakers built their first communities.  This is where utopian experiments were tried.  And it was in Seneca Falls where the American feminist movement started. 

Joseph Smith was born in Vermont but his family settled in Palmyra, New York when he was young and he was still in his teens when he had angelic visions.  He must have been incredibly charismatic.  He was also a canny organizer and knew how to get his followers to vote en bloc in order to influence local election outcomes.  It was that ability to mobilize his saints to vote that got him into trouble and had him tarred, feathered and chased from town to town, state to state, with all his saints in his wake.

He finally ended up in Nauvoo, Illinois.  How many of us have ever heard of Nauvoo?  At one time, it was one of the most populous cities in Illinois.  There were something like 12,000 saints living there during Smith’s era.  It was in the mid 1840s that Smith started to either experience megalomania or was severely tempted by forces unseen.  He made some sketchy real estate investments, experimented with plural marriages and destroyed a printing press all while referring to himself as a general and declaring his intention to run for president.  It didn’t end well.  He was shot to death while trying to escape from the local jail where he was being held for trial on a first amendment violation.

His saints had a succession crisis but the bulk of them rallied around Brigham Young and they headed out of Nauvoo on the way to the west where they were determined to live by their faith without interference.  Some of them used handcarts to transport their belongings.  It was an arduous journey.  

 

 

The Mormons are currently undergoing a sort of reformation. It isn’t of the Church’s making but there are a growing number of progressive members who are forcing it upon the church leadership.   So history repeats itself but this time it is turning back to reason.  The LDS church is no longer growing.  More and more members are leaving, troubled by the hierarchy’s slow evolution on the subject of homosexuality and women in the priesthood, as well as faithful members disturbed by what the church is covering up in Joseph Smith’s biography.  I’ve been listening to these dissident voices at the podcast MormonStories, hosted by John Dehlin.  What I find is a rich cultural tradition that is uniquely American, forged in the fire and fervor of religious revival, and hardened by pioneers making their way across America to live in Zion.  After the religion is stripped away, the Mormon experience is still a forceful one that brings people together and whose ancestors shared a common story that is as powerful as any religious mythology.

I’d like to have the progressive and secular Mormons on my side.  They’re a determined bunch.

This song, Come, Come, ye Saints, was written by Mormon poet William Clayton in Iowa on his way from Nauvoo to Utah.  The music is based on an old English folk tune, All Is Well.  Enjoy.