Sometimes, arguing about a movie or TV show becomes a debate over some aspect of faith, society, and life. So much for dismissing entertainment as “just a movie/TV show” that is inherently lacking in larger meaning. The best debates on Idol Chatter take just this route, and there’s a fascinating one happening in response to my (largely negative) review of “September Dawn,” a movie dramatizing the 1857 Mountain Meadow Massacre, when a group of Mormons killed 120 innocent settlers passing through Utah. A man named John D. Lee was the leader of the Mormon murderers and the only person tried–and put to death–for the crime.
The discussion has veered into an exploration of Mormon history and the nature of fanaticism. You can read it all here, but one comment in particular is worth drawing extra attention to.
A Beliefnet reader named Elizabeth writes:
I am a direct descendent of John Doyle Lee. I grew up in the Midwest in a family that is a couple of generations removed from Mormonism. We were told when we were young that we had a great, great something grandfather who was an “Avenging Angel” for the Mormons. We were told that he killed people who crossed up the church or Mormons that left the church. I have to say that I chalked it up to family folklore and really didn’t give it much thought. About 15 years ago there was an increased interest in geneology and family trees by some members of my extended family. With that we were introduced to the John Doyle Lee story and family tree.
We also found that the Mormon descendents of Lee look at him as a great man who was falsely accused and “scapegoated.” I have read the main books on Lee and the massacre, and while he may have very well been scapegoated, he had a long history of doing exactly what the church elders told him to do. Maybe the story of Mountain Meadow is so awful because it is true. As for the references to Mitt Romney in this and other blogs, when was the movie filmed? Give me a break. This story has not been hidden away in history. Pick up almost any detailed book on history of the American West and you will find it. Let the movie play out and die. It is the hype that will keep it going. I for one have no desire to see it. Like other movies about historical events, I know what happens. Give me a movie with a twist or new story. I get my history from books.