Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 1857 & The Lucifer Effect By Philip Zimbardo

On September 11, 1857 a group of Mormons killed over a hundred innocent people. See this short clip below:

Note: I am not the biggest fan of the moive September Dawn since it weaves a fictional tale about a Mormon family within the factual events of September 11, 1857. To watch a shortened version of the film with most of the fictional aspects edited out, see the youtube video here.

So how could a group of good and active Mormons kill innocent people? Well, the video [now posted below in the comments section] quoting LDS leader Dallin Oaks about blind obedience and how members must be basically loyal and not criticize their leaders (which is a tradition in Mormonism) no doubt contributed to the Mormon murders in 1857. See the 2007 lecture at Stanford on the The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo.


Anonymous said...

The church accepts responsibility for the massacre. From what I read, a local church leader organized the killing. Under the precarious and stressful circumstances of the time (the US military was on the churches back), the dearful local leader thought that he was doing the right thing but later regreted it. He was prossecuted and hanged.

The Dalin H. Oaks interview is disingenuous because it ties an unrelated quote from Elder Oaks concerning criticism of church leaders.

William Kempton said...

Thank you for your comment,

There is debate among historians as to who is responsible for the order to kill the 120 people, whether it was Brigham Young or local LDS leaders. See what Mormon and non-Mormon historians say about this at these links:

• (this link is to a talk by Mormon historians)

The bottom line is that Mormon leaders (plural) orchestrated the events leading up to the massacre. What I am most interested in is how several otherwise good Mormons could kill women and children in cold blood under orders of their leaders. Aren’t you curious?

I don’t interpret the video as disingenuous although I decided to remove it from my post because the video doesn’t provide Oak's full quote, even though I personally don’t think it matters. Readers can go to the video I removed below:

Mormon Apostle Dallin H. Oaks on Mountain Meadows Massacre

For the record, in the video above Dallin Oaks says both those things in the PBS interview you can read for yourself at, Sept. 12, 2011. In the LDS published transcript Oaks states:

“… in my readings of Church history (this would be college, graduate-school level), I learned that local Church leaders had been participant with the Indians in this exercise [the Mountain Meadow Massacre]. … I have no doubt on the basis of what I have studied and learned that Mormons were prime movers in that terrible episode and participated in killing.”

Then in the same interview Oaks says:

“The talk where I gave that was a talk on ‘Reading Church History’ — that was the title of the talk. … in the course of the talk … I also said something else that has excited people: that it’s wrong to criticize leaders of the Church, even if the criticism is true, because it diminishes their effectiveness as a servant of the Lord. One can work to correct them by some other means, but don’t go about saying that they misbehaved when they were a youngster or whatever. Well, of course, that sounds like religious censorship also. …”

Here Oaks downplays his admonishment not to criticize church leaders even if it’s true to the non-Mormon interviewer by claiming he was speaking of the person’s past as a youngster. Never mind that Joseph Smith’s court records as a youngster are relevant to the alleged translation of the Book of Mormon; but when speaking to fellow Mormons Oaks is unambiguous in his talk on “Reading Church History” when he says:

"Criticism is particularly objectionable when it is directed toward Church authorities, general or local. . . . Evil-speaking of the Lord's anointed is in a class by itself. It is one thing to depreciate a person who exercises corporate power or even government power. It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true. As President George F. Richards of the Council of the Twelve said in a conference address in April 1947: 'When we say anything bad about the leaders of the Church, whether true or false, we tend to impair their influence and their usefulness and are thus working against the Lord and his cause.' (CR April 1947, p. 24)" (Dallin H. Oaks, Reading Church History, Ninth Annual Church Educational System religious Educators' Symposium, August 16, 1985, Brigham Young University.) Source:

continued below ...

William Kempton said...

continued from above ...

In this quote above Oaks is clear that he is stating that it is wrong “to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God.” The Mormon killers in 1857 apparently also believed that it was wrong to criticize or depreciate their leaders for their performance in demanding the death of innocence people since they believed their leaders held an office to which he or she had been called of God. If they didn’t believe this why else would they follow such heinous orders? And if their murderous acts were done with this attitude in mind how can we know that something like Mountain Meadows can’t happen again?

Also notice that Oaks invokes Evil-speaking of the Lord's anointed. In an Institute lesson it states:

“. . . How do we react when we hear evil-speaking against the Lord’s anointed? Do we honor all [our covenants]? Or do we allow exceptions and rationalize our behavior to suit our preconceived preferences?” Source:

What covenants is this lesson referring to? It is referring to the temple where Mormons swear to obey the law of the Mormon gospel:

Law of the Gospel: We are required to give unto you the Law of the Gospel as contained in the Holy Scriptures; to give unto you also a charge to avoid all lightmindedness, loud laughter, evil speaking of the Lord's anointed, the taking of the name of God in vain, and every other unholy and impure practice, and to cause you to receive these by covenant.

You and each of you covenant and promise before God, angels, and these witnesses at this altar, that you will observe and keep the Law of the Gospel and this charge as it has been explained to you. Each of you bow your head and say "yes." Source:

Still don’t see my point, see the long list of quotes at this webpage:

Thus the quotes by Oaks conveys a general attitude of the LDS church that it is wrong to challenge church leader’s authority and to criticize their performance as men called of God. As a result of this attitude and other factors, in 1857, men, women, and children died horribly. In the post above I am attempting to show with the videos that blind obedience to fallible Mormon leaders leads to harm. Mormonism in 1857 was a breeding ground for The Lucifer Effect discussed by Philip Zimbardo in the video above.

Diane Tingen said...

IMO, this mindset has its roots in the Book of Mormon where Nephi killed Laban - 1 Nephi 4:13 says, "It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief."

When Mormons have that kind of example in their own scriptures, what are they supposed to do when they believe that God has told their leaders that they are to do something? It's no wonder the Mountain Meadows Massacre occurred. What's surprising is that more outrageous things don't occur. But then again, many have.

A Short List of Reasons Why I am Not a New Order Mormon and Decided to Resign

Note: If you are a New Order Mormon for the sake of family and career, I respect your decision. This is just my subjective point of view. ...