Massacring the Truth
Massacring the Truth
Reviewed by Craig L. Foster
In the classic Western movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Senator Ranse Stoddard tells
the small-town newspaper reporter the true story of the shooting of Liberty
Valance and his own rise to prominence. At the end of the movie, the journalist
slowly tears up his notes. Stoddard asks if he’s going to use the story. The
reporter answers, “No, sir.” He then explains that his late editor
used to say, “This is the West! When the legend becomes a fact, print
That statement appears to be the mantra of Christopher Cain with
his new movie, September Dawn, which
was released on 24 August 2007. Advertised as a “Romeo and Juliet relationship
love story . . . set against the background of the controversial
real-life massacre of 120 men, women and children traveling through Utah in
the nineteenth century,” the movie, as Cain says, “closely resembles
the religious fanaticism the world is seeing today. People were killed in
the name of God 150 years ago and they’re still being killed in the name of
God.”2 The official September
Dawn Web site advertised the film in even more sensational terms:
On September 11, 1857 in an unspoiled valley of the Utah Territory—and
in the name of God—120 men, women and children were savagely murdered.
Who ordered the massacre, and why, has been hidden in a cloak of secrecy and conspiracy.
And the reputation of one of the nation’s mightiest religious figures has been
preserved and protected.
The movie was created by Christopher Cain and his Aspen, Colorado,
friend Carole Whang Schutter. According to Schutter, she approached Cain with
the story she had been writing, and he told her it “[didn’t] look like
a screenplay.”4 The two began to
work together on a screenplay, which included a fanciful Romeo and Juliet
relationship, with the son of a Mormon bishop falling in love with the beautiful
girl from the wagon train. “Then it felt like a movie to me,”
Christopher Cain said.5
But romance was not all Cain felt the movie needed. He wanted more
controversy. “At the core of the controversy is the notion that the Mormon
church, and church leader Brigham Young himself, sanctioned the
killings.”6 In fact, Christopher
Cain and others associated with the movie seem to have sought controversy
through their interviews and statements, beginning with some of the earliest
articles about the movie.7
Recognizing potential for publicity, the director and producers of
September Dawn even attempted to link Mitt Romney’s presidential
campaign to their movie. In March 2007 they held a special screening of the film
and invited reporters to interview Jon Voight.8
And while they kept insisting the movie had nothing to do with
Romney’s campaign, articles began to appear with titles like “Will New
Anti-Mormon Movie Hurt Mitt?”9
and “Mitt Romney campaign eyes Mormons’ 9/11
In fact, according to a news article, “Promo spots for
the flick include a nod to the presidential campaign with the suggestion that
we’re at a point in history ‘when issues of Mormonism are in heightened areas
of the news.'”11 The Romney campaign
expressed displeasure at the wording in the advertisement. “That statement
alone ‘obviously is directed at our campaign,'” an anonymous source
complained.12 Reporters happily took the bait
and began hounding the Romney campaign for a statement.
Shortly before the movie premiered, Mitt Romney
finally responded by telling the Associated Press, “That was a terrible,
awful act carried out by members of my faith. There are bad people in any
church and it’s true of members of my church, too.”13
Even so, Romney said he had no plans to watch the movie, to
which Christopher Cain commented cynically that the film might help his candidacy
because Romney “has somewhere in the area of 30% of the American public
who say they won’t vote for a Mormon. And perhaps this is an opportunity for
him to deal with (that) 30% of the American
On a recent segment of the Hugh Hewitt Show, Jon Voight commented:
Let me say that the LDS Church just came out very recently, and perhaps because
of the film, with a rather comprehensive statement that was by their managing
director of family and Church history, the department there, and his name
is Richard E. Turley. . . . Very, very strong statement that really parallels
everything that we have in the film, right up to the door of Brigham Young.
It doesn’t pass that threshold, but it really does a very, I think, a very
scholarly job of describing the events.15
In addition, a report of an interview with Scott Duthie, one of the
movie’s producers, suggested that September Dawn “forced the church’s
hand,” noting that the church “published
several articles on the massacre, painting an unflattering picture of past
leaders who ordered the crime.””Actually, to their credit, that was great,”
Duthie said. “They itemized and took accountability for what
Both Voight and Duthie seemed to be unaware that Richard E. Turley,
Ronald W. Walker, and Glen M. Leonard have been working for over six years
on what promises to be the definitive work on the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
The first volume of this work, which has been tentatively titled Massacre at
Mountain Meadows, will be published in 2008 by Oxford University Press.
In the autumn of 2006 Cain and some of his associates attended a
meeting of relatives of massacre victims, offering a special viewing of the
film and interviewing relatives for a series of featurettes. These featurettes,
later included on a DVD, include provocative sound bites, such as one calling
the Mountain Meadows Massacre “a crime against
humanity”17 and another describing it as
“one of the most important historical events in the history of America’s westward
expansion.”18 One descendant claimed that
“the Mormons have covered this up. If they have their way, this would be
forgotten.”19 Another said, “The
Mormons have an agenda,” and added that “too much has been covered
up for so many years” and “the LDS Church will be held responsible
for getting out the truth.”20 “Religious
fanaticism and extremism is a dangerous thing,” said
Dean Cain, the director’s son, has been an enthusiastic supporter
of his father’s film. As early as September 2005 he had announced, “It’s
hush-hush what’s going on with the film. It’s going to be very
controversial.”22 Since that time, he has made other
comments to the press emphasizing the controversial nature of the film. On
an episode of the Rachael Ray Show that aired on 11 December 2006,
he again indicated that it would be controversial.23
In an article in the National Ledger,
Dean Cain explained that his father “just wants people to see the movie
and draw their own conclusions.”24
He stated further:
I think that some people will be very offended, by the film and by the slaughter.
I think some people will protest it. I think people will think that it’s untrue.
I think that some people will think that it demonizes Mormons and the Mormon
religion. . . . Some people will say, hey, it’s great, someone’s
finally telling the truth. People will have to find out more about
Christopher Cain likewise insisted that the
film was about religious fanaticism. “I’m not attacking the Mormon Church.
This was an incident that happened in history. It’s an incident that happens
today by radicals.”26
Cain’s protestations notwithstanding, both the book and movie versions
of September Dawn appear to have a darker intent than to simply comment on
contemporary religious fanaticism and terrorism. With that in mind, I will look at both
the movie and the book, focusing on the book and the featurette DVD. I revised some parts of this
essay after viewing the film version. I have also added new information because
the movie contradicted the novelized version released a few months in advance.
My not viewing the movie before the national opening, however, was certainly
not due to a lack of effort on my part. I called the public relations firm
handling the film at least six times, and during five of those phone calls
I asked if it would be possible to go to a screening or have a “screener”
or DVD sent to me so I could review the film. I was continually but very cordially
put off. On my last phone call, I was told there would be no more showings
and that the producer had “asked for no screeners to be sent out.”
When I said that seemed odd, the representative repeated twice that she didn’t
“understand their logic.”27
I didn’t either until I saw the actual movie.
Who Made September Dawn?
Christopher Cain was born Bruce Claibourne Doggett in 1943 in Sioux
Falls, South Dakota.28 Like many other people in the
entertainment industry, Bruce Doggett changed his name, Christopher C. Cain
being his choice. Cain grew up on the Doggett family farm, north of Hartford, South
Dakota. His parents, Douglas and Jeanette Holt Doggett, as well as his grandparents,
were active in the community and church. Douglas, like his father,served for a number of years
on the administrative board of the Hartford United Methodist Church, and he also served as a
choir director, Sunday school teacher, and lay speaker for a number of
Christopher Cain graduated from Hartford High School in 1961 and
attended Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, South Dakota, where he graduated
in 1965.30 Soon he made his way to Hollywood,
“hoping to break into music, but instead found himself singing back-up
on TV commercials.” After switching to acting and appearing in a number
of television shows, he turned to directing. After writing and directing several
family films in the 1970s, Cain directed The Stone Boy
in 1983. The film, described by one film critic as “powerfully done,”
made many of the critics’ “top ten” lists for the year, and Cain’s
career appeared to be on the fast track.31
“Known for his visual style as well as his keen portrayals of
human interaction,”32 Cain next directed That
Was Then . . . This Is Now (1985), which received mixed
reviews.33 Where the River Runs Black (1986),
while not a box office success, won praises for its artistic
accomplishments.34 Cain gained enough respect in Hollywood
to be asked to direct a Western with several of the popular young stars of the 1980s.
Young Guns (1988) was Cain’s most profitable directorial turn, grossing
$45,661,55635 and starring such actors as Emilio Estevez, Kiefer
Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Charlie Sheen, as well as iconoclast
Popular among the viewing audiences, the film received mixed reviews from
critics. As one wrote, “Young Guns supposedly takes place in the old west, but it
actually takes place in front of the cameras. . . . Young Guns doesn’t have a
good reason to exist besides an excuse for these hot young Turks to look good
onscreen.”37 Hal Hinson bemoaned the fact that
“‘Young Guns’ plays out less as a movie than as a sort of fraternity
frolic.”38 Christopher Cain’s directing also
came under scrutiny. Gregory Dorr described the film as a “pimped-up
smudge of pop history” that “plays like lukewarm late-’80s
In spite of the critical views, Young Guns was popular with the viewing audiences,
and Christopher Cain was at the height of his career. Oddly enough, when Young Guns II
was made the next year and released in 1990, Cain did not direct it.40
Instead, he directed Wheels of Terror, a made-for-TV movie that has the dubious distinction
of being ranked among the three hundred worst movies.41
Jason MacIsaac wrote that Cain’s “resume doesn’t contain many things that will make you swoon,
but his career was semi-respectable until of late. Now he’s got things like The
Amazing Panda Adventure (1995) and Gone Fishin’ (1997) under his belt. Yeah,
ouch.”42 Billed as a buddy movie, Gone
Fishin’, which starred veteran actors Joe Pesci and Danny Glover, has been described
as “the Ishtar of the 90s.”43
Between 1997 and the making of September Dawn, Cain directed four pictures, two of
which were for television. He directed three episodes of USA Network’s
The Magnificent Seven in 1998 and 1999 and the made-for-TV movie A Father’s
Choice in 2000.44 Although two other theatrical
films were advertised and appear to have had some filming completed, they
were never released.45
The Cain-Schutter Connection
The person who introduced Cain to the idea of making a film about
the Mountain Meadows Massacre—and who wrote the screenplay with him—was
his friend Carole Whang Schutter. She and her second husband, Monte H. Goldman
(who died in 1995), had been prominent socialites in Aspen, Colorado, where
Cain also lived.
Carole Schutter stated that while her husband and his brother were
very wealthy, they did not know Jesus. “I once had everything money could
buy but nothing is of more value to me than the love that the Lord Jesus Christ
gave to me.”46 She further explained,
“I look to God to guide me in all things. I’ve surrendered everything to Him and meditate
daily upon God’s wonderful promises. I stand upon those promises no matter what the devil
brings against me. The battle isn’t mine, but the Lord’s.”47
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin announced:
There’ve been some major changes in the life of Carole Whang Schutter. The ex-wife
of attorney David Schutter and widow of millionaire playboy Monte Goldman,
who shot and killed himself, Carole has become a born-again Christian. She’s
just written a book called “Miracles Happen,” sub-titled, “A
Prayer Guide for Desperate People.” Her message is simple—no matter
how bad things are, there’s always hope.48
She has also written a number of essays about finding God,49
in addition to her 1999 book, Miracles Happen. This book discusses the importance of faith,
prayer, and miracles. She has had her faith tried and strengthened by difficult experiences that
included sons with drug and legal problems and being defrauded out of almost
Of September Dawn, Schutter
said, “It’s an extremely controversial movie. It takes place in the first
act of religious terrorism in the United States.”51
She claimed she “got the idea for the movie when she
was driving between Buena Vista and Salida through country that looks very
much like site [sic] of the Mountain Meadows massacre. She didn’t know it at the time.”
Instead, she explained, “I got this crazy idea to write a story about a pioneer
woman going in a wagon train to the California gold rush, and the train gets
attacked by Mormons dressed as Indians. The idea wouldn’t leave me. I believe
it was from God.”52
Schutter began doing research. “I came across the Mountain Meadows
massacre and I was blown away,” she said. “I thought, ‘Holy cow—this
isn’t made up in my mind. This is real.’ I got really into it. I cried and
cried when I read about the story.”53
She insists she had never heard of the massacre before she began researching it.
“Why would it just explode in my mind all of a
sudden?” she asked.54
With evangelical zeal, Carole Schutter wrote a script about the massacre.
She claims that her screenplay becoming a movie is nothing short of miraculous:
I found the nature of terrorism especially intriguing and relevant today. Creating
likeable characters that take part in unimaginably atrocious acts is a chilling
reminder that terrorists can be anyone who chooses to blindly follow fanatical,
charismatic leaders. I believe we should examine the leaders we follow that
we might not be misled.
Our fight is not against certain religions or “flesh
and blood,” as the Bible says, but “against principalities and powers
of darkness” which are prejudice, hate, ignorance, and fear perpetuated
by leaders who history will surely judge by their
While appreciative of the help Christopher Cain gave her in turning
her script into what she describes as “a stirring, evocative movie that
will force people to think about the nature of
terrorism,”56 she is grateful also
for divine aid:
Most of all, I am grateful to the Lord Jesus Christ who took one of the “foolish
things of the world to confound the wise.” In a world where only 1.1%
of all screenwriters ever get a movie made, Jesus gave me a miracle. He turned
me into a screenwriter and fulfilled a lifelong dream of being an author.
Thank you, Jesus. What He did for me, He can and will do for you, if you never
give up, and simply believe.57
The movie, billed as “a romance played out against a drama of
a mass murder that continues to engender controversy almost 150 years after
the fact,”58 includes a combination of real and
fictional characters. The synopsis of the film, as provided by Murray Weissman & Associates,
the public relations firm representing the movie, is interesting in what it
does and does not say:
Captain Alexander Fancher (Shaun Johnston) is leading his third wagon
train overland to California in the spring of 1857. For Fancher, an Arkansas
militiaman, it would be his last trip, as this time he is bringing his family
with him to settle down on the rich Gold Coast of California.
Mormon Bishop Jacob Samuelson’s (Jon Voight)
family compound just outside Cedar City, Utah is home to his many wives and
children, particularly his beloved oldest son, Jonathan (Trent Ford), and
adored second son, Micah (Taylor Handley).
Run out of Missouri a decade earlier, victims themselves of massive
persecution, including the murder of their Prophet Joseph Smith (Dean Cain),
the Mormons are now on edge when “Gentiles”—a term used by
the Mormons for anyone not of their faith—cross into their territory.
Rumors are circulating that President Buchanan is sending US Army troops to
displace Territorial Governor Brigham Young (Terence Stamp) from his post.
Young, in turn, has declared martial law, warning his church members to be
prepared to turn back interlopers by any means.
When the Fancher wagon train stops in Mountain Meadows in early September,
they are first met by Mormon deacon John D. Lee (Jon Gries) and his Danites
(a group of extreme LDS vigilantes). Urged by Lee to leave the encampment,
Fancher stands fast and continues to plead for compassion, as his teams need
to refresh and rest.
Bishop Samuelson intervenes and allows the wagon train to stay in
the valley for two weeks. The Bishop commands Lee to offer help to the settlers,
while at the same time instructing his son Jonathan to spy on them, hoping
to ascertain their true intent. In the meantime, the Bishop makes his way
to the Elders in Cedar City and asks for divine guidance.
Jonathan is only too happy to accommodate his father’s wishes, for
he was captivated the first day by the angelic smile of a beautiful young
girl on the wagon train. The minister’s daughter, Emily (Tamara Hope) and
her family are traveling with the wagon train on their way to a new life.
Generous in spirit and kind in nature, Emily helps the settlers by caring
for the younger children on the train. . . .
By the time the Bishop returns to the encampment, Jonathan and Emily
have declared their love and commitment to each other. Still, Bishop Samuelson
has other plans. The Church declares the wagon train to be enemy combatants
who must be killed. Against Church teachings, as the Bishop incites his followers
to prepare for the blood atonement of those killed earlier in Missouri, Jonathan
urgently and frantically tries to quell the fury.
Unable to make his father see reason, Jonathan and Emily have one
last moment where they can share their commitment and Jonathan’s pledge to
move with her to California. The two young lovers share tokens of their promise
and privately bond themselves to each other.
Planning to slip away at dawn to join the wagon train, Jonathan is
instead ambushed by his father, locked up in chains and is anxiously close
to being killed himself. . . .
Jacob first persuades the local Paiute Indians to attack the wagon
train, accompanied by some of his own men disguised as Indians. The settlers
are able to repulse the onslaught and, after losing many of his own men, the
Indian chief withdraws, realizing that he has been duped by the Bishop.
As the settlers help their own wounded and wait for the next onslaught,
John D. Lee comes to them under a flag of truce. Telling them that he will
lead them to safety if they will follow him and leave their wagons and possessions
behind, he instead leads them into a brutal ambush.
When Jonathan can at last escape and make his
way to the encampment site, he encounters a scene more vicious than any from
Dante’s Inferno. Horrified at the sight, a distraught Jonathan
begins the torturous search for Emily among the bodies. What he finds will
put him squarely in the crosshairs between love and death—and test the
will of God against the will of man.59
Theater or History?
Christopher Cain insists that the film was not meant to attack Mormons.
“I’m comfortable that historically this movie is as accurate as you would
want a theatrical movie to be,” he said.60
Cain’s statement might not be too comforting given Hollywood’s
record of portraying the past. Hollywood is known for “skewing historical
events to fit audience profiles and lift profit
margins.”61 For example, no
mention was made in Saving Private Ryan
of British and other Allied troops who also landed in Normandy on D-Day, and
British submariners were replaced by Americans in the movie
U-571.62 A British historian called these
Hollywood distortions “shameless and totally irresponsible—a grotesque distortion
Film portrayals of the American West are also far from real. Hollywood’s
West is filled with outlaws, gunfights on Main Street, Indian battles, and
violence. But this is what the viewing audience has been taught to expect
and enjoy. As one historian noted, “We are surrounded in the United States
by a mythology of our own creation that frontier violence forged the essential
American character.”64 While there certainly
was a culture of honor, which included violent acts, these incidents were
not the norm. With Hollywood, however, when it comes to “image versus
reality, image usually wins.” It is difficult for those writing about
historical events to “compete with the media’s power to form popular
views of reality through visual impact. Granted, no one really expects films
to be historically accurate.”65
Unfortunately, Hollywood not only skews history
for profit but also distorts it for even darker reasons. Some supposedly accurate
movies replace “an accepted, well-supported version of an historical
event with a ‘new improved’ version that exists less because of its accuracy
than because of its advocates’ biases.”66
While biases are often political in nature, they can also
be religious. “Ever since Hollywood’s self-imposed censorship code began
to fade in the ’60s, religion and the religous [sic] have been portrayed
in negative stereotypical terms.”67
This is particularly true with Christianity; various denominations have come under attack in
Hollywood movies. Some films depict other religions in a positive light while portraying Christianity
Regarding such negative stereotyping, one writer argued that an analysis
of Hollywood films with religious themes or characters reveals that in the
last four decades Hollywood has portrayed Christians as sexually rigid, talking
to God, disturbed, hypocritical, fanatical, psychotic, dishonest, obsessed,
dumb, manipulative, phony, neurotic, mentally unbalanced, unscrupulous, destructive,
foulmouthed, and fraudulent; and their roles have ranged from slick hucksters,
fake spiritualists, Bible pushers, Adam and Eve as pawns in a game between
God and Satan, Catholic schoolboys run amok, miracle fabricators, and deranged
preachers to outlaws, devil-worshipping cultists, Bible-quoting Nazis, and
murder suspects (including an unbalanced nun accused of killing her newborn
infant). Few, if any, positive portrayals of Christians were found in Hollywood
films released in the last four decades.69
“Trapped by the Mormons”
Latter-day Saints have long been the victims
of negative stereotyping in Hollywood movies. From the earliest days of motion
pictures, films depicting supposed Mormon fanaticism have
appeared.70 One of the better-known movies from the silent era
was A Mormon Maid (1916), which used a familiar plot device found in earlier
and later anti-Mormon films—”an innocent non-Mormon family with
an attractive daughter caught up in the machinations of the polygamous
Since the 1960s, Mormons have for the most part
been portrayed as “simply caricatures designed for easy jokes and general
disdain.”72 While this approach has continued,
there has also been another technique to portray the Saints as violent and
dangerous. There have been several films focusing on this theme, and one of
the more egregious was a made-for-TV movie entitled
The Avenging Angel (1995), with Tom Berenger starring as a professional
Mormon bodyguard out to stop a plot by other Mormons to assassinate Brigham
Young.73 The movie had the usual negative
stereotype of the Saints as fanatics living in a strange, foreboding place
and following strange religious practices, such as polygamy.
September Dawn certainly fits this format by portraying Mormonism in exaggerated,
stereotypical imagery. For example, the Saints are pictured as fanatical and
violent individuals who repress women, believe in strange doctrines and rituals,
and worship a false Christ. Not surprisingly, the Mountain Meadows Massacre
is portrayed as a plot of pure evil planned at the top and executed to destroy
good and innocence.74
Violence in Nineteenth-Century America
Although Carole Schutter claims to have spent four years researching the subject before writing the
screenplay,75 the movie contains glaring historical inaccuracies, claiming,
for example, that Brigham Young “transported 16,000 people to the Rocky
Mountains . . . in one wagon train.”76
In fact, according to the Mormon Pioneer Resource Study, it took
from 1847 to the middle of 1851 before 16,000 people had immigrated to
Utah.77 Again, Jonathan Samuelson was supposed to have seen
Brigham Young preach in the Salt Lake Temple,78
but the temple was not finished until 1893, almost sixteen years after Young died. Schutter and the
other creators of September Dawn also
described the First Presidency as “the level immediately below the office
of the Prophet,”79 but the prophet is actually a
part of the First Presidency. She also had Joseph Smith and other Latter-day
Saint leaders practicing plural marriage while they were still in Kirtland,
Ohio,80 but plural marriage on a large
scale was not practiced until about 1843, when the Latter-day Saints were
centered in Nauvoo, Illinois. Schutter also described Missouri’s “Mormon
War” as starting when Latter-day Saints “attacked state troops”
in October 1838.81
She did not, however, mention that state militia served on both sides of the
skirmish nor that the reason the Latter-day Saints approached Samuel W. Bogart’s
militia camp was that he and his men had kidnapped two Latter-day Saint men
who the Saints feared were going to be executed. The supposed “attack”
was a rescue mission, and gunfire occurred on both sides, with several Latter-day
Saints being wounded and three being killed.82
Perhaps more troubling is Schutter’s failure
to mention what has come to be called the Haun’s Mill Massacre, in which state
militia attacked a Latter-day Saint settlement and killed nineteen men, including
a ten-year-old boy who begged for his life.83
Moreover, the events in Missouri and Illinois were portrayed as if they were completely
the fault of the Latter-day Saints. “Mob brutality exploded and found
its way from Independence to Far West, Missouri. . . . Joseph [Smith]
ultimately betrayed his own people by inciting them to violence in a frenzy
of self-righteous fury with his demands of complete subjection to god and
The creators of September Dawn portrayed the Latter-day Saints as aggressors deserving
mob reciprocation. In fact, descriptions and images of beatings, castrations, and murders permeate
the film—for example, dark images of Danites, “often dressed as
Indians,” bursting into houses, dragging “sinners out of their beds,
slitting their throats from ear to ear,” and exacting other types of
severe punishment.85 Even more insidious
than the murders, as portrayed by the movie, “the Mormons had an unusual
form of punishment for men accused of sexual
There were, of course, examples of extralegal punishment for sexual
and other serious crimes in territorial Utah. For example, in 1846 Daniel
Barnum and Peletiah Brown were whipped for “carnal communication”
with some young women. But the legal punishment was death.87
In 1856 one of the more controversial incidents took place
when Thomas Lewis of Manti was taken by a group of men on his way to the territorial
penitentiary for some unspecified sexual crime, probably fornication, and
castrated.88 Another man named John Beal was castrated in
1858 for adultery.89
Most cases of extralegal punishment, however, were retribution for
seductions and rapes. The precedent-setting case was that of Howard Egan,
who in 1851 killed James Monroe. Monroe had had an affair with Egan’s first
wife, Tamson. Monroe wisely chose to get out of town before Egan returned
home from a journey to California. Egan, however, followed Monroe and caught
him close to the Utah border, where he shot and killed him.90
Egan was later brought to trial, where he was
defended by George A. Smith. During the closing arguments, Smith argued, “In
this territory it is a principle of mountain common law, that no man can seduce
the wife of another without endangering his own life.” He then continued,
“The principle, the only one, that beats and throbs through the heart
of the entire inhabitants of this territory, is simply this: The man who seduces
his neighbor’s wife must die, and her nearest relative must kill
him!”91 Egan was acquitted, and during the following
decades, several husbands and fathers who killed seducers or rapists used Smith’s argument
as the basis for their actions. Obviously, extralegal punishment of this nature
would certainly not be condoned today. It was not, however, limited to Utah.
Nor was extralegal punishment of this nature a strictly local means for enforcing
local mores—it was common across the United States and its territories
and was much more accepted in the nineteenth century than in the present.
Some examples may help give a better picture of the culture at that
time. In 1886 in Walla Walla, Washington, a man tried to rape a young girl
but was stopped. While he was never brought to trial, a group of men later
abducted him and tried him for rape. He was not seen again until his corpse
was found hanging from a tree.92 In 1850s Morgan County,
Missouri, a resident poisoned a spring used by the schoolchildren, several of whom died
from the poisoning. His neighbors chased him, brought him back, and hanged
him at the schoolhouse.93
Extreme violence over real or imagined attacks against a person and
his honor was not uncommon. This was particularly true in the South, where
tradition emphasized the need to preserve one’s honor, especially in regard
to female members of a man’s family. Southern states were also the site of
intense anti-Mormon activity, particularly in the last quarter of the nineteenth
century, when there were over three hundred instances of anti-Mormon
violence,94 including meetings being broken up by mobs,
property destroyed, beatings, whippings, tar and featherings, shootings, and
murders.95 Such activities were not only accepted but even
encouraged. In 1886 the Alabama Baptist published an editorial insisting
that “it is Mormonism itself that is to be hated, to be feared, to be
No part of the country was free of extralegal violence, usually in
the form of vigilantism. Such states as Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa had strong
vigilante groups, but even stronger ones were found in such western states
as California, Texas, and Montana. In addition, the Missouri-Arkansas border
country, where most of the members of the Baker and Fancher wagon train came
from, witnessed extreme vigilantism between 1884 and 1892.
Interestingly, extralegal violence in Utah “was rare compared
to that found in other frontier communities.”97
For example, “within six months of arriving in California
in 1849, one in every five of the 89,000 gold seekers was dead, an astonishing
And it has been estimated that there were 4,200 murders in California between
1849 and 1855.99 “The city of Marysville reportedly had
seventeen murders in a single week, prompting the formation of a vigilance
Tales of Danite intimidation and violence notwithstanding, Utah never
reached the level of violence of the mining and frontier communities in surrounding
states and territories. There were certainly forms of vigilante justice in
Utah, but not to the extent of its neighbors. Nor was vigilantism perpetrated
by Danites (mispronounced with a long a in September Dawn), who were “a defensive
paramilitary organization” created to assist the Saints during the religious
violence leading up to the so-called Mormon War in northwestern Missouri in
1838. The head of the two known units that composed the Danites was Sampson
Avard, who, unbeknownst to Joseph Smith and other Latter-day Saint church
leaders, altered the original defensive purposes of the Danites by using “initiation
rites and secret oaths of loyalty and encouraged subversive
While Joseph Smith was aware of the Danites, he was not aware of
their more violent and destructive operations. Nevertheless, Danite tales
had been created, and stories of their atrocities were plentiful throughout
the nineteenth century. Anti-Mormon fiction writers created fanciful accounts
of rampaging Danites committing murder in the name of God. “By 1900 at
least fifty-six anti-Mormon novels alone had been published in English, incorporating
one or more aspects of the Danite myth, beginning with the false assumption
that there was a functioning Danite organization in
September Dawn relies upon the old anti-Mormon stereotypes of Danites. In visual
imagery reminiscent of the Ring-wraiths from the Lord of the Rings movies,
Danites appear throughout the movie wreaking havoc. We are told, for instance, that John D. Lee was
a Danite and was “aware of the lengths the church went to in order to
keep their people in line and strengthen the position of the men in
There is no doubt that, as early as 1847, Brigham Young did appoint
“a few ‘rough-rider’ type minute men” who “were on call for
Indian uprisings and immigrant problems.”104
But “there were never ’70 Destroying Angels’ appointed
by Brigham Young”105
to roam the territory and terrorize people, nor was there
even one organized band of Danites. But the imagery of Brigham Young’s “Destroying
Angels” was appealing to readers and, later, filmgoers and apparently
continues to capture the imagination.
Misrepresentation of Temple Ceremonies
September Dawn also portrays Mormonism as a non-Christian cult with strange doctrines
and rituals by focusing on presumed eccentricities, particularly the temple
ceremony. These portrayals are filled with sensationalism, stereotypes, and
innuendo. In both the movie and the book, Jonathan Samuelson is taken to the
Latter-day Saint temple in Cedar City, where he is forced to endure
rituals.106 The most obvious problem with this scenario is
that there never has been a temple in Cedar City. In 1857 there was no Latter-day
Saint temple anywhere, only the Endowment House in Salt Lake City. The creators
cannot claim ignorance on this matter because Schutter, according to Sandra
Tanner of Utah Lighthouse Ministry, phoned her and “asked about the temple
During this conversation Tanner explained that Salt Lake City would be where
the endowment ceremony would have taken place.
A temple placed in the wrong setting is not the only misleading scene
related to the temple. Another scene depicts Jacob Samuelson in a temple meeting
working a group of men into a rage, with all of them “screaming and chanting
with frenzied fury, ‘Blood atonement! Blood atonement!'” Even Sandra Tanner felt this
was “a little over the top.”108
But, as she explained several times, she only had some casual telephone conversations with
Carole Schutter, she never read the screenplay, and she didn’t see film clips until the movie
was completed and she and others were invited to a private
Where did Carole Schutter and Christopher Cain come up with these
ideas? They drew upon Increase Van Dusen’s temple exposés as the primary source
for this part of the movie. What they either did not know or chose to ignore
was that Van Dusen suffered from mental and emotional problems. Even after
publishing several tracts exposing the temple ceremony, he was still affiliated
with James J. Strang and his group (who had broken off from the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). This affiliation continued until personal
conflicts between Strang and Van Dusen over the latter’s 1849 publication
of a tract containing his own revelations caused Van Dusen’s banishment from
September Dawn also contains numerous references to oaths of vengeance supposedly
taken by Latter-day Saints. For example, at the very beginning Jonathan Samuelson
is pictured as knowing it was “his duty to expose the defiantly anti-American
oaths taken by members.”111
During the scenes of the temple ceremony, the participants
spoke in unison as they made their final vows:
We promise to never question the commands of the authorities in the church and
promise instant obedience. We swear everlasting enmity to the United States
government and promise to disregard its laws as far as possible. We vow to
exert every effort to avenge the death of our Prophet Joseph Smith and his
brother Hyrum on the Gentile race and on this American nation. We vow to teach
our children and our children’s children to foster this spirit of revenge.
The penalty for anyone who breaks or reveals this oath is excruciating torture.
They shall have . . . their throats cut from ear to ear; and their
hearts and tongues will be cut out. In the world to come, they will inherit
eternal damnation. There will be no chance of salvation for
Typically, Schutter has relied on a few well-used
nineteenth-century anti-Mormon sources rather than plumbing the many primary documents
relating to this topic. While there are reports that the Saints sometimes
prayed for the Lord to execute vengeance on their enemies (in a spirit reminiscent
of Psalm 83:13-17 and Revelation 16:4-7), there is no evidence
that they took an oath to seek vengeance themselves.113
The way plural marriage is depicted in September Dawn is merely a rehash of stereotypes
used since the days of the nineteenth-century penny tracts and tell-all novels
“exposing” Mormon polygamy. There are numerous references to polygamy
in the movie (and the book) that play up sexual stereotyping. For instance,
in a scene in the movie, Jacob Samuelson, as the bishop, walks along a row
of Mormon men prepared to attack the wagon train and anoints the forehead
of each man, repeating how they would be honored “with a polygamous kingdom
in the last days.”
The book also employs the stereotype of the misery of the lesser wives:
Bands of impoverished polygamists roamed the countryside with their many wives,
some of them girls barely in their teens, married to men in their sixties.
Starving and dressed in rags, they tagged after their “Father,”
as they called their husbands, carrying their naked babies on their hip. The
famine of 1856, caused by the locusts, had left some families so poor even
the older children ran around unclothed. It was not uncommon to see the younger
wives of wealthy Mormons walking barefoot to church. As younger wives, they
were nothing more than servants to the first wife and whoever the “Father’s”
current favorite wives were.114
The book thus creates the impression that all Latter-day Saint women
wanted to escape plural marriage but were too frightened to try.115
Clichés related to polygamy abound in September Dawn. The Mormon apostle who stole
Jonathan Samuelson’s mother away from Jacob Samuelson, her rightful husband,
is described as “a fat old man with piggish eyes.”116
In explaining Brigham Young’s having at least twenty-seven
wives, Jonathan states matter-of-factly, “Women feel honored to marry
Again, when Jacob Samuelson and John D. Lee go to report the massacre to Brigham
Young, they arrive at the Beehive House. “Next to it was the magnificent,
sprawling Lion’s House, which housed Brigham’s harem.”118
Note that harem is used to describe Brigham
Young’s large family. Since the mid-1800s, anti-Mormon writers have compared
Mormons to Muslims, particularly using imagery of captivity, sensuality, and
sexuality, which have long played an important part in the Western world’s
perception of Islam and its adherents.119 Muslims have
been viewed as “irredeemably lustful and therefore immoral. This negative
image was in the eighteenth century complemented by another, again largely
imagined, dimension of the Middle East as an exotic area with romantic longing,
harems, Turkish baths and eunuchs. Middle Easterners were seen as inherently
Anti-Mormon literature often described Brigham Young as one who “glories
in his shame, so as to make every friend of modesty and morality blush for
him, and sigh over his evil example.”121
Mormon leaders were characterized as “conspicuously obscene, profane and
immoral”122 and as “lecherous old
scamps,”123 and the women
were described as “panderers to . . . lust.”124
Such movies as Trapped by the Mormons and A Mormon Maid employed this imagery;
September Dawn does the same, showing John D. Lee and Brigham Young arguing about a
woman Lee loves but whom Young insists on marrying as a plural wife.
Joseph Smith is portrayed in even worse terms. He is said to have
justified his infidelities with teenage girls “by announcing he had a
revelation from God that the Heavenly Father had not only sanctioned, but
encouraged, polygamy.”125 Of course, Joseph Smith’s
plural marriages with teenagers are mentioned with appropriate shock and disgust.
Carole Schutter and the other creators of September Dawn have fallen into the same trap
that even some historians fall into—projecting their values onto people
of another era.
While Americans today react with disgust at the thought of older
men marrying teenage women, it was much more common in earlier centuries.
Peter Laslett, the prominent social historian, has noted, for example, that
in eighteenth-century Belgrade, Serbia, girls as young as eleven and twelve
were not only marrying but also having children. Furthermore, 87 percent of
all women between the ages of fifteen and nineteen were married, and one-third
of fifteen-year-old girls and over half of all sixteen-year-old girls were
On the American side, it was common in newer regions of settlement
and farming in both the United States and Canada for women to marry at a young
age. Both brides and grooms were very young in colonial America.127
For example, in seventeenth-century Chesapeake Bay and environs,
it was common for women to marry at age sixteen or younger. Marriages at a
young age continued with the American push West, and while the marriageable
age for both women and men has risen over the years in the United States and
other parts of the Western world, there are still some ethnic and social groups
that continue to accept and even encourage marriages between young
The Reality and the Illusion
The regrettable reality is that after a week’s siege, on the morning
of 7 September 1857, Mormon militia talked members of the Baker and Fancher
wagon train into laying down their weapons and trusting in the protection
of the militia. Then on 11 September the militia and a group of Paiute Indians
killed at least 120 unarmed men, women, and children. This event provides
the supposed reason for making September Dawn— to tell the story of a tragedy
that took place almost 150 years ago. Unfortunately, rather than provide a
straightforward account of one of the worst massacres in American history,
the makers of the movie created a convoluted love story full of inaccurate
information. So eager were Carole Schutter and Christopher Cain to portray
this sad event with clichéd stereotypes that they garbled the entire story,
introducing many factual mistakes in the process.
From the outset, both minor and major historical inaccuracies mar
the film. Mountain Meadows, for example, is represented as a valley with tall
trees alongside a wide river. But in reality there were very few trees, at
best just some scrub oak. Moreover, the source of water was the small Magotsu
Creek, located in a gully. Another problem is the depiction of travel time
when riding on a horse or in a wagon. In one scene, Jacob Samuelson departs
in a one-horse carriage to visit Brigham Young, telling his son he will be
gone “two days, maybe more.”129
But Salt Lake City is more than 250 miles north of Cedar City, and riding hard and changing horses at
every settlement up and back would have taken at least five or six days (and even
then the rider could have spent only a few hours in Salt Lake City). Furthermore,
the movie depicts Jonathan riding back and forth between Cedar City and Mountain
Meadows as if it is a twenty- or thirty-minute horseback ride rather than
approximately forty-five miles.
The chronology and time frame of events have also been changed. The
wagon train arrived at the valley probably sometime around midday or early
evening on Saturday, 5 September. The emigrants had a peaceful Sunday at the
meadow and were attacked shortly before dawn on Monday, 7 September. The book
and movie have the wagon train reaching the meadow at the end of August and
resting there a week before they were attacked.130
Schutter and Cain needed the added time to have a relationship develop
between Jonathan and Emily, the “Romeo and Juliet” of the movie.
The likelihood of a romance springing up between the two is improbable to
say the least, even if they did have that extra week at the meadow. Even Sandra
Tanner told Carole Schutter that the idea of a love-at-first-sight romance
was “improbable” and suggested that the storyline have the two originally
meeting in Arkansas. One family could join the church and move to Utah, where
the couple could renew their romance when the wagon train passed
through.131 This idea did not appeal to Schutter. Instead,
she had the wagon train arrive at Mountain Meadows a week early in an attempt
to make a far-fetched scenario seem plausible.
Several other points are also overplayed. After Jacob and practically
all of the community leaders in southern Utah make their short trip to Salt
Lake City, they meet with Brigham Young and various Indian chiefs to plan
the wagon train’s destruction. In the course of their plotting, Brigham Young
declares in a rather melodramatic voice, “I am the voice of god, and
anyone who doesn’t like it will be hewn down.”132
“Enthralled, the assembly shouted, ‘Amen!'”133
But contrary to Cain and Schutter’s assurances that everything their “Brigham Young” utters
is what the real Brigham Young said, there is no source for Young having actually
spoken those words. However, Christopher Cain went as far as to say, “I
didn’t write any of his dialogue,” claiming it was all found in Brigham
Young’s depositions.134 But I read Brigham Young’s
deposition for John D. Lee’s second trial without finding any hint of the above
statement.135 (Nor was Sandra Tanner able to find
That is not the only instance in which Brigham
Young is misquoted. A little later Young proclaims, “Now I will loose
the Indians upon them! And if any miserable scoundrels come here to our Zion,
cut their throats!”137 In a blatant act of
misrepresentation, the creators of September Dawn combined two different quotations, both taken
out of context. In his 16 August 1857 speech, Brigham Young complained that the emigrants
had “shot at every Indian they saw,” angering the Indians to the
point where Young felt he could not “keep them peacable [sic].”
He then announced that if an army came to Utah, he would “not hold the
Indians still while the emigrants shoot them, as they have hitherto done,
but [he would] say to them, go and do as you please.”138
The other part of the quotation had nothing to do with loosing the
Indians. Brigham Young was speaking about the persecution the Saints had experienced
and about evil men coming to Utah to take advantage of the Mormons:
We have the proof on hand, that instead of the laws being honored,
they have been violated in every instance of persecution against this people;
instead of the laws being made honorable, they have been trampled under the
feet of lawyers, judges, sheriffs, governors, legislators, and nearly all
the officers of the government; such persons are the most guilty of breaking
To diverge a little, in regard to those who have persecuted this
people and driven them to the mountains, I intend to meet them on their own
grounds. It was asked this morning how we could obtain redress for our wrongs;
I will tell you how it could be done, we could take the same law they have
taken, viz., mobocracy, and if any miserable scoundrels come here, cut their
throats. (All the people said, Amen.)139
While the portrayal of events leading up to the actual attack against
the wagon train is inaccurate, that is nothing compared to the ineptitude
with which the wagon train members and the massacre itself are handled. Christopher
Cain claimed that while there is “some fiction” in the movie, the
creators of the film are “fairly accurate in terms of the real
story.”140 Cain ends up trivializing the
members of the Baker and Fancher wagon train, their fortitude in the face
of a horrific attack, and, ultimately, their senseless murders.
Similarly, the first victim in the movie is Nancy Dunlap, whom Cain and Schutter depict as a
pants-wearing, gun-toting woman who earns the wrath of the Mormons. Her “bloody body”
is discovered the night before the actual attack, and they quickly see that
“a part of her scalp had been brutally cut away.”141
Thus forewarned, Captain Fancher orders that the wagons be circled tight and the number of outriders
What an insult to the courage and tenacity
of the actual wagon train members. In actuality, the attack Monday morning
was a complete surprise. The wagons and tents were spread out haphazardly
by family groupings near the creek, and the emigrants were unprotected and
in a very vulnerable position. Impressively, even in the face of a surprise
attack, they were able not only to defend themselves and force the attackers
back but also to move the wagons into a circle and start digging a wagon fort
by piling up dirt embankments under and between the wagons.143
To have them prepared the night before takes away from their herculean accomplishments
during what was no doubt the frenzied hysteria of the first attack.
John D. Lee estimated that seven men were killed and three wounded
in the initial attack.144 More men probably died because
the pickets and herders were most likely killed before they could make it
back to the safety of the camp. Schutter, however, depicts a veritable bloodbath
of both sexes and all ages with more women being killed than men.145
Adding to the absurdity of this recounting of the massacre is the
scene portraying numerous Mormons attacking the wagon train on the day of
the first attack. The historical data shows that Lee and perhaps one or two
other Mormon men were the only settlers at the meadow during the first attack.
But even more ludicrous is how the film portrays the Mormon men darkening
their faces to look like Indians but then making a full-on assault on the
wagon train still wearing “white men” clothing, including their
hats (a few of which looked like the old beaver-skinned top hats similar to
what Abraham Lincoln wore). How gullible do the makers of September Dawn
think the wagon train emigrants were? If the emigrants had seen men wearing that type of clothing
at the beginning of the week attacking and shooting at them, would they have been so receptive and
gullible on that fateful Friday?
In the book, Schutter further demonstrates a lack of knowledge regarding
the actual emigrants. Several examples from the book will suffice. Twenty-two-year-old
Amilda Tackitt was killed by an Indian. “Out of nowhere, twenty-five-year-old
Charles Stallcup appeared. Just the day before, he had confided to Emily that
he planned to ask Amilda to marry him before they reached
California.”146 That certainly would have been
interesting since both were already married—and not to each other. Furthermore,
Amilda appears to have survived death; she later surfaces alive and well under
her actual name of Armilda. “Alexander’s heart went out to all the young
mothers, like twenty-two-year-old Armilda Tackitt, who sobbed as she placed
William Henry, nineteen months, and Emberson Milum, four years, in the
Another wagon train member who should be dead isn’t. Saladia Ann
Brown Huff is described as carrying a dead baby and “screaming as she
attacked a Mormon guard” who has entered the wagon fort. “Her four-year-old
daughter, Nancy, was crying and clinging to Saladia’s skirts, while Saladia’s
husband, Peter, stood next to her, trying to explain to the guard that the
baby was already dead.”148 Since Peter
Huff died on the plains before the wagon train reached Salt Lake
City,149 his being at the meadow was quite miraculous
but certainly not impossible for writers intent on demonizing a religion.
In the film, Cain has all of the men, women, and children happily
coming out of the protection of their wagon fort when John D. Lee and others
ride up with their white flag to talk them into surrendering. But walking
out in the open when the whereabouts of the Indians was unknown would have
been foolish, and the real emigrants did no such thing. Cain nevertheless
includes this scene in the movie. The movie and book also include a rape scene—played
out in detail in the book—even though Juanita Brooks, among other reputable
historians, has concluded that “the whole suggestion of rape in this
incident seems to be another example of how repeated suggestion and whisperings
may grow into more and more impossible tales, which are then passed on as
Cain, Schutter, Voight, and others involved with September Dawn have repeatedly claimed to
have nothing against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “I
don’t have an agenda with the Mormon Church,” Cain said.151
“I made a movie about Mormons attacking a wagon train;
not me attacking Mormons.”152 Schutter begins her book
by stating, “Throughout the ages, religious radicals have justified horrific deeds by piously
announcing that their crimes against humanity were done in the name of
God.”153 She then explains that the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has “a bloody past”154
but has “reinvented itself from its brutal beginnings by becoming as blandly non-threatening as
the pictures of their founder, Joseph Smith.”155
Although her attitude toward Mormonism is quite clear, Schutter
makes it even more overt by including the following scripture on the page
preceding the author’s note: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood
but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness
of the world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians
Schutter, as do some other conservative Christians,
sees herself as involved in spiritual warfare against the powers of darkness.
“The ‘spiritual warfare’ movement, born in the 1970s and 1980s in
Californian Evangelical and Pentecostal circles, gained international prominence
in 1986 when the best selling novel This Present Darkness by Frank
Peretti was published. By 1991, one and a half million copies of the novel
had been sold.”157 Numerous Evangelicals were soon
engaged in battling the forces of evil. For Schutter, as well as others, that
spiritual warfare involves attacking the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints.158 (Not surprisingly,
some anti-Mormon groups quickly recognized the polemical value of the movie.
In fact, according to a posting on the Internet titled “‘September
Dawn’ as a deconversion tool,” an issue of The Cross [Christians
Reaching Out to Sincere Saints], “the bi-monthly newsletter issued by
the Arizona-based anti-Mormon organization called Concerned Christians,”
wrote that September Dawn would be a good thing for the ministry; and
Bob Betts, the author of the review, expected “a flurry of calls and
e-mails from people, wanting more information.” Betts also suggested
readers “pray for all those who will watch September
Public Reaction to September Dawn
Fortunately, the movie’s anti-Mormon sentiments have not gone
unrecognized.160 Several movie
reviewers have commented on the anti-Mormon tone of the movie. Slant Magazine
stated that the movie “quickly feels less like an attempt at historical truth-telling than like
shameless anti-Mormon propaganda.”161
Weber State University professor and Mountain Meadows Massacre expert Gene A. Sessions was quoted
in a Boston Globe review saying, “This is a bit of salacious trash, designed to
sensationalize a terribly tragic event and horrible atrocity as well as to exploit current
anti-Mormon and anti-religious sentiment that seems to be sweeping through
popular culture.”162 Scott Renshaw of the
Charleston City Paper described the movie as “unintentionally hilarious and borderline
offensive.” “It does everything but gasp and insist there are horns under the Mormons’
hats.”163 He described the portrayal of
Mormon leaders “cackling in cartoonish villainy and twirling moustaches—er,
and concluded by calling the film a “historical tar-and-feathering”
in which Cain had portrayed Mormons as “homesteading Nazis,” adding
an interesting observation echoed by other reviewers: “By treating the
Mormons with such laughable contempt, he actually made me feel sorry for
Other newspapers were similarly harsh in their criticism of what
they perceived to be blatant anti-Mormonism. The Clarion-Ledger declared, “Though largely
based on historic fact, September Dawn is so ham-handed as to feel like blatant
propaganda,”166 while well-known film critic
Roger Ebert described the movie as “unbelievably ugly and an insult to
Mormons.”167 The Idaho Statesman accused
Christopher Cain of doing “a hatchet job on an entire religion” and said that his movie
was “devoid of objectivity.”168 Another
reviewer insisted that “the jarring MTV-style filmmaking is so distracting
and the ‘messaging’ so unsubtle that after two long hours you find yourself
leaving the theatre with a massive headache, wondering when you started to
hate Mormons.”169 The trade newspaper Variety
commented on how “the pic is ultimately less interested in understanding its Mormon characters than
in demonizing them,”170 and the Kansas
City Star described the movie as a “stridently anti-Mormon and cliché-heavy
melodrama,”171 while the Minneapolis-St. Paul
Star Tribune complained that “the film feels less like historical drama
than a venomous religious tract printed on celluloid.”172
A powerful review expressing the disgust that
many people felt for the anti-Mormonism in the film was published by a Christian-oriented
Web site whose reviewers are theologians, authors of Christian-oriented literature,
and commentators on Christian pop culture. In a review entitled “September
Dawn: A Nasty Trip Down History Lane,” the reviewer wrote, “September Dawn is,
simply put, one of the most shockingly poor and mean-spirited films of the year—despite the
fact the filmmakers’ intentions are pretty noble.”173
He then continued by expressing frustration at the lack of
depth in the movie’s characters and the “black-and-white anti-Mormon
vision” of September Dawn. “I’m afraid I can’t recommend September
Dawn for much of anyone at all, as much as I wanted to like
the film going in.”174
Particularly strongly worded reviews appeared on Collider.com and in the Detroit
The point of the picture appears to be the blunt mockery of the Mormon culture,
but surely “Dawn” would be far more controversial if it didn’t try
so hard to be raw and unpleasant. Cain has turned the Mormons into baby-eatin’
Nazis to suit his argument, parading around these black-clad, chin-bearded,
testicle-slicing gunslingers without any thoughtful consideration. To Cain,
the Mormons were hulking, borderline insane fundamental gorillas who flung
excrement at anyone daring to besmirch the name of Joseph Smith . . . and
led around . . . by a Zod-like deity in Brigham Young.175
Director Christopher Cain . . . paints a damning, one-sided portrait of Latter-day
Saints in this irresponsible, ham-fisted morality tale that plays off our
cultural ignorance of the Mormon religion. If you think polygamy is a bit
wacky, wait until you learn Mormons are bloodthirsty, murderous psychos! What’s
worse, Cain shamelessly evokes Sept. 11 by playing up the fact the massacre
occurred on Sept. 11, 1857. He stops short of calling Osama Bin Laden a Mormon
sympathizer, but maybe that’ll be on the DVD.176
The references to Muslims were in reaction to the claim that September Dawn is supposed
to be a commentary on modern fanaticism and terrorism. Some reviewers suggested that Hollywood
attacks Mormonism because it is afraid to criticize radical Islamic jihadists.
Michael Medved agreed and explained that while Mormons were compared to Muslims
with all of the implications of fanaticism and violence, “Mormons won’t
respond with any comparable rage [like the deadly riots in 2006 over a dozen
Danish cartoons making fun of Islam], no matter how badly September Dawn tarnishes the
memory of their faith’s founders. . . . The measured response to public smears of
Mormonism in effect rebuts the September Dawn suggestion that the church represents a
relevant example of violent fanaticism.”177
Like reviewers, moviegoers reacted negatively to September Dawn. With 857 screens nationwide,
the first day’s gross was $182,000. By Sunday evening, the total gross intake
was $601,857.178 Subsequent figures bore out
the film’s poor reception.
As for Carole Whang Schutter, in her zealousness to portray the Latter-day
Saints in a negative way, she has employed several anti-religious stereotypes
as well as Victorian pornographic imagery (in the rape scene, for example).
She has portrayed the Saints as fanatics who are blindly obedient, who look
on outsiders with suspicion and intolerance, and who belittle those not of
their faith. Nevertheless, Schutter claims to have felt called by God to research
and write September Dawn;179 she also claims her
journey has been “a miracle.”180
Cain and Schutter set out to make a controversial movie attacking the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints and used the Mountain Meadows Massacre as a backdrop.
Unfortunately, contrary to their noble statements about honoring the victims
of the massacre, the members of the fateful wagon train were nothing more
than mere stage props and pawns in this poorly executed anti-Mormon melodrama.
Rather than memorializing the victims, the film ultimately dishonors their
1. “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” summary of film found at
http://www .orac.net.au/~mhumphry/libvalan.html (accessed 9 March 2007). The film, starring John Wayne,
James Stewart, Vera Miles, and Lee Marvin, was released 11 April 1962.
2. Murray Weissman
& Associates (press release), “Christopher Cain’s ‘September Dawn,’
Starring Jon Voight and Terence Stamp, About 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre,
Opens Wide on May 4,” Los Angeles, 24 January 2007, http://uk.us.biz.yahoo
.com/iw/070124/0207147.html (accessed 26 January 2007).
3. Murray Weissman & Associates press release, p. 5.
4. Stewart Oksenhorn, “Aspen screenwriter experiences miracle with
‘September Dawn,'” Aspen Times, 24 August 2007,
(accessed 7 December 2007).
5. Sean P. Means, “A foggy ‘Dawn,'”
Salt Lake Tribune, 23 August 2007, news archive at
http://www.sltrib.com (accessed 12 December 2007).
6. Oksenhorn, “Aspen screenwriter experiences miracle with
7. John Anderson, “With Only God Left as a Witness,”
New York Times, 22 January 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/22/movies/22ande.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
(accessed 17 April 2006).
8. Means, “A foggy ‘Dawn.'”
9. Nikki Finke,
“Will New Anti-Mormon Movie Hurt Mitt?” LA Weekly,
29 March 2007, http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/could-new-movie-impact-mitts-campaign
(accessed 29 November 2007).
10. “Mitt Romney campaign eyes Mormons’ 9/11 movie,” The
Spoof, 6 May 2007, http://www.thespoof.com/news/spoof.cfm?headline=s4i18379
(accessed 7 May 2007).
11. James Hirsen, “A Political Look at Hollywood,”
The Left Coast Report, 21 August 2007, an e-mail sent
by “Hollywood Confidential,” from firstname.lastname@example.org.
12 Bill Zwecker,
“Mitt’s a bit miffed: Film about 1857 Mormon massacre due out Aug. 24
and likely to have negative impact on his campaign,” Chicago Sun-Times,
16 August 2007, http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/zwecker/512514,CST-FTR-zp16.article
(accessed 16 August 2007).
13 Manya Brachear, “What was behind Sept. 11?” Chicago
Tribune, 24 August 2007, http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/religion_theseeker/2007/08/sept-11-movie-r.html
(accessed 26 August 2007).
14. Etan Vlessing,
“Director says ‘Dawn’ would help Romney,” The Hollywood Reporter, 25 August
(accessed 29 November 2007).
15. Hugh Hewitt
Show Transcript, Townhall.com, 22 August 2007,
(accessed 29 November 2007).
16. Martin J. Kidston,
“Independent vision,” Helena Independent Record, 26 August 2007,
(accessed 26 August 2007).
chap. 2, September Dawn EPK (electronic press kit), a Black Diamond Pictures and Alkemi
Production DVD sent by a public relations firm and in the possession of the author. This quotation is
from Cheri Baker Walker.
18. “Featurette,” chap. 2. This quotation is from
chap. 12. This quotation is from Phil Bolinger.
chap. 12. These quotations are from Harley Fancher.
chap. 12. This quotation is from Scott Fancher.
22. Marilyn Beck
and Stacy Jenel, “Dean Cain is Everywhere, Wayne Gretzky Has a New Gig,”
National Ledger, 27 September 2005,
(accessed 6 December 2007).
23 “It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s . . .
Dean Cain!” The Rachael Ray Show, http://www.rachaelrayshow.com/show/view/63
(accessed 9 April 2007).
24. Marilyn Beck
and Stacy Jenel Smith, “Dean, Christopher Cain in Mormon Film Controversy,”
National Ledger, 4 April 2007, http://www.nationalledger.com/artman/publish/printer_12532.shtml
(accessed 4 April 2007).
25. “Featurette,” chap. 10.
26. “Featurette,” chap. 10.
27. Telephone conversation with Lindajo Loftus of Murray
Weissman & Associates, 31 July 2007. Murray Weissman & Associates is an independent marketing
and public relations firm located in North Hollywood, California. The firm
has, according to its Web site at http://www.publicity4all.com/bios.html,
represented hundreds of motion picture and television projects, including
Chicago, Chocolat, Dances with Wolves, Empire of the Sun,
Enchanted April, The English Patient, Farewell My Concubine,
Field of Dreams, Good Will Hunting, GoodFellas,
Mighty Aphrodite, The Piano, Pulp Fiction, and Shakespeare
28. Sioux Valley
Genealogical Society, “Index to Births, 1880-1990, of Sioux Falls,
South Dakota” (Salt Lake City: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of
Utah, 1991), Family History Library film 1738664; and http://www.superiorpics.com/christopher_cain
(accessed 11 February 2007).
29. Sue Boy, Hartford, S. D., Centennial, 1881-1981
([Freeman, SD: Pine Hill Press], 1981), 104.
30. “Young Alumnus/Alumna of the Year,”
Dakota Wesleyan University, http://www .dwu.edu/alumni/previous/young_year.htm
(accessed 13 February 2007).
Cain,” http://www.hollywood.com/celebrity/Christopher_Cain/188994 (accessed
2 June 2006). Reviews of this film are found at http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/stone_boy/?critic=columns
(accessed 8 November 2007). According to Box Office Mojo, found at http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=stoneboy.htm
(accessed 15 February 2007), the domestic total gross for the film was $261,033.
32. “Christopher Cain: Director, Actor, Producer, Scriptwriter,”
http://www.allocine.co.uk/personne/fichepersonne_gen_cpersonne=19090.html (accessed 31 January 2007).
33. Please see the
reviews found at http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/that_was_thenthis_is_now
(accessed 8 November 2007). According to Box Office Mojo, http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=thatwasthenthisisnow.htm
(accessed 28 March 2007), the domestic total gross for the movie was $8,630,068.
34. Roger Ebert,
“Where The River Runs Black,” 19 September 1986, http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19860919/REVIEWS/609190304/1023 (accessed
28 March 2007). According to Box Office Mojo, http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=wheretheriverrunsblack.htm
(accessed 15 February 2007), the domestic total gross for the movie was $676,166.
35. Box Office Mojo,
http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=youngguns.htm (accessed 15 February 2007).
36. Box Office Mojo,
http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=youngguns.htm (accessed 15 February 2007).
37. Jeremiah Kipp, “Young Guns,”
(accessed 26 January 2007).
38. Hal Hinson, “Young Guns,” Washington Post,
16 August 1988, http://www .washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/videos/younggunsrhinson_a0c8d5.htm
(accessed 26 January 2007).
39. Gregory P. Dorr, “Young Guns: Special Edition,”
The DVD Journal, http://www .dvdjournal.com/quickreviews/y/youngguns.q.shtml
(accessed 22 February 2007).
40. “Young Guns II,”
29 March 2007). The director was Geoff Murphy.
41. “The Worst 300 Movies Part 3,” Epinions.com,
3 August 2004, http://www .epinions.com/content_4034699396 (accessed 8 November 2006).
42. Jason MacIsaac, “Wheels of Terror Review,”
Jabootu’s Bad Movie Dimension, 15 October 1999, http://www.jabootu.com/wot.htm (accessed 8 November 2006).
43. Tom Keogh, “Gone Fishin': Reviews: Amazon.co.uk Review,”
(accessed 11 February 2007). Chris Hicks of the Deseret News in a telephone interview on
30 March 2007 called Gone Fishin’ an “absolutely terrible film.”
44. “Christopher Cain,” Internet Movie Database
(IMDb), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0128883/ (accessed 4 April 2007).
45. There is no evidence Tender Touch of Evil
(1999) and PC and the Web (2001) were ever released.
46. “Testimony of Carol [sic] Schutter,”
http://www.bibleprophecyrevealed.us/2001/carolschutter.html (accessed 8 November 2007).
47. “Testimony of Carol Schutter.”
48. Dave Donnelly, “Hawaii,” Honolulu
Star-Bulletin, 1 July 1999, http://starbulletin.com/1999/07/01/features/donnelly.html
(accessed 24 January 2006).
49. “Run to Him,” http://www.miracleshappen.com
(accessed 24 January 2006); “What Is Your Season?” http://www.sermonillustrator.org/minisermons/folder1/WHAT%20IS%20YOUR%20SEASON.htm
(accessed 26 January 2007); “Testimony of Carol Schutter.”
50. “Schutter lands in county jail,” Aspen Daily News,
11 January 2005, http://www.aspendailynews.com/print_9972 (accessed 15 June 2006); “Schutter awaits
arraignment in Jefferson County Jail,” Aspen Daily News, 4 December 2006,
http://www.aspendailynews.com/print_17157 (accessed 9 February 2007); and Joel Stonington,
“Socialite sued in fraud case,” Aspen Times, 29 August 2006,
http://www.aspentimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060829/NEWS/108290030&se (accessed 26
51. Pete Fowler, “Local pens screenplay about massacre,”
Aspen Times, 9 July 2007, as quoted at http://www.aspentimes.com/article/20070709/AE/70709002
(accessed 31 July 2007).
52. Fowler, “Local pens screenplay about massacre.”
53. Fowler, “Local pens screenplay about massacre.”
54. Fowler, “Local pens screenplay about massacre.”
The article states that Schutter “thinks it’s very odd that the Mountain Meadows massacre fell
on the same day of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but she said people can draw their own
conclusions. ‘It is strange that it’s the same day, isn’t it?'”
55. “About Me: Carole Whang Schutter,”
http://www.carolewhangschutter.com/about.html (accessed 25 July 2007).
56. “About Me: Carole Whang Schutter.”
57. “About Me: Carole Whang Schutter.”
58. John Anderson, “With Only God Left as a Witness.”
59. Murray Weissman & Associates press release, pp. 5-6.
60. “September Dawn: The Making of . . .” YouTube.com,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKy6mVq_ANA (accessed 31 July 2007).
61. Cahal Milmo, “1066 and all that: how Hollywood is giving Britain
a false sense of history,” The Independent, 5 April 2007,
http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/article54671.ece (accessed 5 April 2007).
62. “Historians: Hollywood distorts facts,” AlJazeera.net,
3 September 2004, http://english.aljazeera.net/English/archive/archive?ArchiveId=5529
(accessed 5 April 2007).
63. “Historians: Hollywood distorts facts.”
64. Michael A. Bellesiles, “Guns Don’t Kill, Movies Kill:
The Media’s Promotion of Frontier Violence,” Western Historical Quarterly
31/3 (2000): 285.
65. Bellesiles, “Guns Don’t Kill, Movies Kill,” 284.
66. “The Ethics of Changing History: Of Crockett, the Titanic and
‘One Small Step,'” Ethics Scoreboard, 10 October 2006,
http://www.ethicsscoreboard.com/list/history.html (accessed 26 January 2007).
67. Chris Hicks, “Nobody knows less about religion than
filmmakers,” Deseret News, 23 April 1999, http://email@example.com?CQ_SESSION_KEY =VXOETMGGQXNC&CQ_CUR_DOCUMENT =90&CQ_TEXT_MAIN=YES
(accessed 11 December 2007).
68. An excellent example of a blatantly biased film is Ridley Scott’s
Kingdom of Heaven (2005). According to “Hollywood’s Crusade Against History,”
Christian Action For Reformation & Revival Magazine, http://www.christianaction.org.za/articles_ca/2005-2-hollywoodcrusadeagainsth.htm
(accessed 6 December 2007), the movie “distorts history beyond all recognition.”
It purposefully distorts known events and historical aspects by depicting
the Christians doing some of the things the Muslims actually did, such as
collecting tribute taxes that allow Christians and Jews, or dhimmis as they
are known, to practice their religion in Muslim-controlled countries. The
film reflects Scott’s dislike for religion, Christianity in particular.
69. John W. Cones, What’s Really Going On in Hollywood
(Los Angeles: Rivas Canyon Press, 1997), http://www.homevideo.net/FIRM/whats.htm#3
(accessed 12 April 2006).
70. Richard Alan Nelson, “A History of Latter-day Saint Screen
Portrayals in the Anti-Mormon Film Era, 1905-1936″ (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University,
1975), 28. According to Nelson, pp. 21-22, 95, some of the earliest
films included >Mormonens Offer (A Victim of the Mormons, 1911), Mormonbyens Blomst
(The Flower of the Mormon City, 1911), The Mormons (1912), The Mountain Meadows Massacre
(1912), The Danites (1912), A Study in Scarlet (1914), and A Mormon Maid (1916).
71 Nelson, “History of Latter-day Saint Screen Portrayals,”
103. Among the other films using this plot line are Mormonbyens Blomst (1911), The Mormons (1912),
A Study in Scarlet (1914), Trapped by the Mormons (1922), and Married to a Mormon (1922).
72. Chris Hicks, “Films portray Mormons in an
ugly light,” Deseret Morning News, 18 May 2007,
http://deseretnews.com/dn/print/1,1442,660221510,00.html (accessed 10 July 2007). Hicks asked,
“Why does it always seem to be open season on the LDS Church?” in another essay,
“TV portrayal of Mormons mean, callous,” Deseret Morning News, 6 May 2005.
Near the end of his essay he asked, “Why would a mainstream TV show openly ridicule a sacred
symbol of any religion?” Even Mormon-made films have caused controversy between Latter-day
Saints and Evangelicals over whether Mormons and their films are really Christian.
“Latter-day Complaints: Mormons and evangelicals fret over movies, politics,
and each other,” Christianity Today, 1 July 2006,
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/article_print.html?id=38401 (accessed 18 April 2007).
73. “The Avenging Angel (1995),”
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112423 (accessed 8 August 2007).
74. For various studies on Mormons and film, see BYU
Studies 46/2 (2007), a special issue devoted to this subject.
75. “Most controversial
movie since Mel Gibson’s The Passion
of the Christ?” RNS Press Release, Religion News Service,
1 August 2007, http://www.religionnews.com/press02/PR073107B.html (accessed
6 August 2007).
76. Carole Whang Schutter, September Dawn
(Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2007), 136. Most of the quotations and references
are from Schutter’s novelized version of the screenplay, September Dawn. AuthorHouse is
a self-publishing company (www.authorhouse.com [accessed 26 November 2007]).
77. Mormon Pioneer Historic Resource Study,
National Park Service (2003), http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/mopi/hrsab.htm
(accessed 18 August 2007).
78. Schutter, September Dawn, 133.
79. Schutter, September Dawn, 37.
80. Schutter, September Dawn, 75
81. Schutter, September Dawn, 86.
82. For an in-depth discussion of the Mormon-related conflicts in
Missouri, see Stephen C. LeSueur, The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri
(Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1990).
83. For more information
on the Haun’s Mill Massacre, see Alma R. Blair, “The Haun’s Mill Massacre,”
BYU Studies 13/1 (1972): 62-67.
84. Schutter, September Dawn, 86.
85. Schutter, September Dawn, 106.
86. Schutter, September Dawn, 107.
87. Juanita Brooks, ed., On the Mormon Frontier: The
Diary of Hosea Stout, 1844-1861 (Salt Lake City: University
of Utah Press and Utah Historical Society, 1964), 1:190-91.
88. Elizabeth Lewis
Jones to Brigham Young, 2 November 1856; Elizabeth Lewis Jones to Brigham
Young, 8 November 1856; and Elizabeth Lewis Jones to Brigham Young, 9 November
1856, Brigham Young Papers, Bx 69, fd 7, Family and Church History Department
Archives, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter Church
Archives). Brigham Young responded by stating he had been told that Thomas
Lewis was “wilful wicked and ungovernable.” Brigham Young to Elizabeth
Jones, 13 November 1856, Brigham Young Papers, Bx 69, fd 7, Church Archives.
89. Brooks, On the Mormon Frontier, 2:663.
90. Kenneth L. Cannon II, “‘Mountain Common
Law': The Extralegal Punishment of Seducers in Early Utah,” Utah Historical Quarterly
51/4 (1983): 310-11. For other examples of extralegal punishment in territorial
Utah, see Craig L. Foster, “The Butler Murder of 1869: A Look at Extralegal
Punishment in Utah,” Mormon Historical Studies 2/2 (2001): 105-14.
91. Deseret Evening News, 15 November
1851, as quoted in Cannon, “Mountain Common Law,” 312.
92. The Washington Statesman account of the lynching is published
in “Walla Walla in the 1860s: Violence,” Western Places: A Chronicle of Western
Settlement 2 (October 1993): 33.
93. Gerard Schultz, Early History of the Northern Ozarks
(Jefferson City, MO: Midland Printing, 1937), 144-45.
94. Patrick Q. Mason,
“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Mob: Violence Against Religious Outsiders
in the U. S. South, 1865-1900″ (PhD diss., University of Notre
Dame, 2005), 280.
95. Mason, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Mob,” 281.
96. Mason, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Mob,” 127.
According to Mason, the editorial appeared in the Alabama Baptist, 22 April 1886.
97. “The Legal History of Utah,” Utah History
Encyclopedia, http://www.media.utah.edu/UHE/l/LEGALHISTORY.html (accessed 2 May 2007).
98. David T. Courtwright, “Violence in America,” American
Heritage 47 (September 1996): 40. Certainly not all of the deaths
were from violence. Disease, mining accidents, and other factors were also
causes of death. Even so, a high percentage of deaths resulted from violence.
99. Courtwright, “Violence in America,” 44.
100. Courtwright, “Violence in America,” 44.
101. Arnold K. Garr, et al., eds., Encyclopedia of Latter-day
Saint History (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 275. For further
reading on the origins and activities of the Danites, see Leland H. Gentry,
“The Danite Band of 1838,” BYU Studies 14/4 (1974): 421-50.
102. Rebecca Foster
Cornwall and Leonard J. Arrington, “Perpetuation of a Myth: Mormon Danites
in Five Western Novels, 1840-90,” BYU Studies 23/2 (1983): 149.
103. Schutter, September Dawn, 102-3, 148.
104. Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton,
“Danites,” Utah History Encyclopedia, http://www.media.utah.edu/UHE/d/DANITES.html
(accessed 13 April 2007).
105. Hilton and Hilton, “Danites.”
106. Schutter, September Dawn, 112-16.
107. Telephone interview between Craig L. Foster and Sandra Tanner
(15 August 2007).
108. Telephone interview between Foster and Tanner.
109. Telephone interview between Foster and Tanner.
110. Craig L. Foster, “From Temple Mormon to Anti-Mormon:
The Ambivalent Odyssey of Increase Van Dusen,” Dialogue 27/3 (1994): 283-84.
111. Schutter, September Dawn, xiii.
112. Schutter, September Dawn, 115-16.
113. See http://www.fairwiki.org/Oath_of_vengeance
(accessed 25 October 2007).
114. Schutter, September Dawn, 4-5.
115. Schutter, September Dawn, 138-39. Women’s fear of
being punished for running away from polygamy is reinforced in September Dawn by the blood atoning
of Jonathan Samuelson’s own mother, who ran away from an unnamed apostle after she was forced to become
his plural wife. Her blood-atoning is described on pages 101-3.
116. Schutter, September Dawn, 56.
117. Schutter, September
Dawn, 142. The book goes on to include how Jonathan Samuelson,
having grown up with polygamy, “had automatically accepted the practice.
He wondered why this Mormon mandate suddenly seemed distasteful to him. Perhaps
the Gentiles have the right idea, he thought, immediately feeling
118. Schutter, September Dawn, 231. Of course, what Schutter
calls the “Lion’s House” was and still is called the Lion House.
119. Craig L. Foster, Penny Tracts and Polemics: A Critical
Analysis of Anti-Mormon Pamphleteering in Great Britain, 1837-1860
(Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford, 2002), 165.
120.Sabine Schmidtke, “Review of Sexual Encounters in the
Middle East: The British, the French and the Arabs, by Derek Hopwood,” Die Welt des
Islams, n.s., 41/1 (2001): 121.
121. Dawson Burns, Mormonism, Explained and Exposed
(London: Houlston and Stoneman, 1853), 26.
122. Albert King Morris, A Word of Warning to Young
Women: The Unseen Hand of Mormonism (Pittsburgh: The National Order
of Anti-Polygamy Crusaders, ca. 1920), 4. He also urged young women not to
desert their home for “a place in one of the Mormon harems” and
to “forsake not the sacredness of [their] true womanhood.”
123. William Jarman, British Female Slaves,
2. This is an undated anti-Mormon tract identified as no. 13 (in the author’s
124. John Benjamin Franklin, The Mysteries and Crimes
of Mormonism; or, A Voice from the Utah Pandemonium (London: C. Elliott, 1855?), 3.
125. Schutter, September Dawn, 73.
126. Peter Laslett,
“Age at Menarche in Europe since the Eighteenth Century,” in Marriage
and Fertility: Studies in Interdisciplinary History, ed. Robert
I. Rotberg and Theodore K. Rabb (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
1980), 291, 293.
127. Michael Gordon, ed., The American Family in Social-Historical
Perspective, 3rd ed. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1983), 16; and David Hackett Fischer,
Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989),
128. For a lengthier
discussion on marriage ages and marriage customs in comparison to Mormons,
see Craig L. Foster, “Doing Violence to Historical Integrity,” FARMS
Review 16/1 (2004): 149-74.
129. Schutter, September Dawn, 23.
130. Schutter, September Dawn, 1.
131. Telephone interview between Foster and Tanner.
132. Schutter, September Dawn, 39.
133. Schutter, September Dawn, 39.
134. Anderson, “With Only God Left as a Witness.”
of Brigham Young, July 30, 1875 (for second trial of John D. Lee),” Mountain
Meadows Association, http://www.mtn-meadows-assoc.com/bydep.htm (accessed
21 August 2007).
136. Response to a 28 November 2004 letter to the editor,
(accessed 21 August 2007).
137. Schutter, September Dawn, 42.
138. Brigham Young,
speech in the old tabernacle on 16 August 1857. I thank Melvin Bashore for
providing these quotations.
139. Brigham Young, “The Kingdom of God,” Journal
of Discourses, 2:311.
140. Paula K. Parker,
“A Conversation with September Dawn’s Christopher Cain,” BuddyHollywood.com,
15 August 2007, http://www.buddyhollywood.com (accessed 21 August 2007).
141. Schutter, September Dawn, 164-65.
142. Schutter, September Dawn, 166-67.
143. Juanita Brooks, The Mountain Meadows Massacre
(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1962), 70.
144. Brooks, Mountain Meadows Massacre, 70.
145. Schutter, September Dawn, 186-88. Among the women
mentioned being killed were Nancy Dunlap (killed the night before), Armilda Tackitt, Manerva
Beller Baker, and Sarah Baker Mitchell.
146 Schutter, September Dawn, 186.
147 Schutter, September Dawn, 210.
148. Schutter, September Dawn, 211.
149. “A Survivor of the Mountain Meadow Massacre,”
Fort Smith Weekly New Era, 24 February 1875.
150. Brooks, Mountain Meadows Massacre, 105-6.
151. Chris Lee, “Fanatics
and a forgotten massacre,” Los Angeles Times, 19 August 2007,
(accessed 20 August 2007).
152. Parker, “A
Conversation with September Dawn’s Christopher Cain.”
153. Schutter, September Dawn, ix.
154. Schutter, September Dawn, x.
155. Schutter, September Dawn, xii.
156. Schutter, September Dawn, vii.
157. Frank Peretti, This Present Darkness (Ventura,
CA: Regal, 1986), as quoted in Massimo Introvigne, “Strange Bedfellows
or Future Enemies?: Is the split between the secular anti cult and the religious
counter cult movement bound to grow into open antagonism?” Dialogcentret
(October 1993), http://www.dci.dk/?artikel=200 (accessed 22 August 2007). Introvigne wrote in
his essay that “even a cursory look at the Christian counter cult literature would show that the
single most targeted group is the Mormon Church.”
158. Thus the comment near the end of September Dawn
(p. 252) about finding “the real Jesus.”
159. Justin, “‘September Dawn’ as a deconversion
tool,” Mormon Wasp, http://www.mormonwasp.wordpress.com/2007/06/21/september-dawn-as-a-deconversion-tool
(accessed 12 July 2007).
160. Online posts
about the movie have appeared at numerous Web sites, including exmormon.org
and mormontruth.blogspot.com. Well-known anti-Mormon John L. Smith also discussed
the movie in an article titled “New Film About Mountain Meadows,”
The Newsletter 3/28 (2006): 1. Some anti-Mormon groups immediately saw the polemical
value of the film.
161. Nick Schager, “September Dawn,” Slant
Magazine, 20 April 2007, http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/film_review.asp?ID=2925 (accessed 7 May 2007).
162. Michael Paulson, “Religious violence stirs a western,”
The Boston Globe, 19 August 2007, http://www.boston.com/ae/movies/articles/2007/08/19/religious_violence_stirs_a_western
(accessed 5 December 2007).
163. Scott Renshaw, “Mountain Muddle: The inept September
Dawn gets a good hate on for Mormons,” Charleston City Paper, 22 August 2007,
http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A31846 (accessed 5 December 2007).
164. Renshaw, “Mountain Muddle.”
165. Renshaw, “Mountain Muddle.”
166. Robert W. Butler, “Movie Review: September Dawn is blatant
propaganda against the Mormons,” The Kansas City Star, 24 August 2007,
(accessed 6 December 2007).
167. “September Dawn,” Winston-Salem Journal,
23 August 2007, http://www.journalnow.com (accessed 23 August 2007).
168. “September Dawn: Bias blurs fact and fiction in this
tale,” Idaho Statesman, 24 August 2007, http://www.idahostatesman.com/130/v-print/story/140812.html
(accessed 24 August 2007).
169. Brett Register, “September Dawn,” Orlando
Weekly, 23 August 2007, http://www.orlandoweekly.com/film/review.asp?rid=12972 (accessed 27 August 2007).
170. Justin Chang, “September Dawn,” Variety,
21 August 2007, http://www.variety.com (accessed 22 August 2007).
171. As cited by Jacob Gordon, “‘September
Dawn’ Opens to Negative Reviews,” TheCelebrityCafe.com, 25 August 2007,
http://www.thecelebritycafe.com/features/11535.html (accessed 26 August 2007).
172. Colin Covert, “September Dawn casts long shadows,”
Star-Tribune, 23 August 2007, http://www.startribune.com/1553/v-print/story/1378721.html
(accessed 24 August 2007).
173. Greg Wright, “September Dawn: A Nasty Trip Down History
Lane,” Past the Popcorn: Films, and the Artists Who Make Them,
(accessed 24 August 2007). The reviewer is the managing editor of the Web
site and is “Writer in Residence at Puget Sound Christian College in
Everett, Washington.” He is also an editor at HollywoodJesus.com and
is a member of Faith and Film Critics Circle.
174. Wright, “September
Dawn: A Nasty Trip Down History Lane.” Not all religiously oriented movie
reviews, however, expressed disappointment with the film. Harry Forbes, in
“September Dawn,” Catholic Online, 24 August 2007, http://www.catholic.org
(accessed 24 August 2007), was generally complimentary of the movie. He ended with, “Whatever
the truth, the film can at least be viewed, in generalized terms, as a warning
against religious fanaticism of any stripe, a theme with great resonance in
175. Brian Orndorf, “September Dawn,” Collider.com:
Latest Entertainment Stories, 23 August 2007, http://www.collider.com/entertainment/reviews/article.asp?aid=5265&tcid=1
(accessed 24 August 2007).
176. “September Dawn,” Detroit News,
24 August 2007, http://www.detnews.com (accessed 24 August 2007).
177. Michael Medved, “Hollywood’s terrorists: Mormon, not
Muslim,” USA Today, 13 August 2007, http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20070813/opledereligion81.art.htm
(accessed 6 December 2007).
178. “Daily Box Office, for Friday, August 24, 2007,”
http://boxofficemojo.com/daily/chart/?sortdate=2007-08-24&p=.htm (accessed 6 December 2007).
179. Fowler, “Local pens screenplay about massacre.”
180. Oksenhorn, “Aspen screenwriter experiences miracle with