I received criticism about using John D. Lee as a source in Passing the Heavenly Gift. My response was this: Though he was excommunicated from the church, convicted of the crime and executed for his role in Mountain Meadows, the church reinstated John D. Lee to full fellowship in 1962. His temple ordinances were restored, and so far as the church is concerned all his blessings returned.
There are things in the church’s archives that have never been made public. Therefore, the church knows things about John D. Lee’s role in the incident that have not been made available for me to review. In the recent book, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, one of the LDS Church Historians (Richard Turley) makes a number of acknowledgements about the event. I presume he was acquainted with material in the archives when he did so.
The primary sources for my views are the work of Juanita Brooks and the recent Richard Turley books, not John D. Lee’s work. However, I think it is now a mistake to ignore what was said in Lee’s book. If the church believed he deserved reinstatement of all blessings, including his temple rites after what he wrote about the event, then I think it is a mistake to just ignore it.
I read Lee’s book with his attitude at the time it was written fully in mind. There were competing motivations. On the one hand, he was decidedly disaffected and felt betrayed by Brigham Young and the church. On the other hand, he was about to die and wanted to part this world telling the truth. Each reader will have to decide for himself which motivation prevailed. I found parts of the book were not credible to my mind because the incident was too remote and his retelling seemed to have too much detail for me to believe it wasn’t being embellished. But there were other parts which were very believable. His acknowledgements of wrongdoing and acceptance of his faults, particulary in his own family and among his plural wives, seemed to me to be an authentic effort of a man about to die to set matters straight.
In the end, I think his work is something that needs to be read and considered. I wanted corrobration to important details, but since the church has more information than has been given to the public, and decided in the light of that information to fully reinstate John D. Lee, it is no longer appropriate to dismiss him out of hand.
I also considered the criticism that his lawyer could have altered the text to make it more salacious before publication. I reached my own conclusion about that and do not think there was enough of that to warrant the conclusion that the text represents the story of the lawyer, and not John D. Lee’s. Anyone reading it should consider the historical criticisms made about the book.
On another subject altogether, if you’re in Beaver, Utah, check out Hammy’s. It is a new fast-food restaurant now occupying the old Arbys building just off I-15. The Arby’s signs were still up when we stopped there on our way home, and at first we thought we were going to Arby’s. After trying the place, I have to say I prefer it to Arbys. It’s our new favorite place to stop when we’re in Beaver.
We drove to Las Vegas in a snow storm on Friday. My daughter’s last softball games were down there. The drive down was exciting. We lost count of the wrecks we passed, or, in one occasion, drove through. Stayed in Circus Circus. I learned that Las Vegas still considers men who wear their uncontrolled lusts on their countenances, who are willing to pay money to titilate themselves in their desperate hormonal slavery, “Gentlemen.” They organize “clubs” for them. Somehow there are enough of them to apparently make a profit from catering to their weaknesses.