This is the first in a series of essays that I wrote for Martin Willett’s Debate Unlimited. Martin does not seem to be using them at his new site so I am reprinting them here.

The hungry, tired, Fancher-Baker emigrant wagon train had stopped in the Mountain Meadows area to rest and to graze their cattle. It was the last stop before the hard desert crossing. They had come from Arkansas and were headed to California under the leadership of Colonel Alexander Fancher who had already made the trip twice. The 140 member party was fairly prosperous and very well-equipped. They had originally planned to resupply at Salt Lake City and they arrived low on supplies. They waited outside Salt Lake City for about a week as other groups caught up with them. Here the groups huddled up to decide which route to take across the Great Basin to California. If they went north they had to cross the Sierra Nevadas. This put them in danger of getting stuck in the snow, in the mountains as the infamous Donner party had. If they went south they had to go through the Mohave Desert to get to California. The party was unable to resupply in Salt Lake as planned, though. Instead of trade, the party was met with an attitude of paranoia and anger in the Mormon settlements. So they continued south.

Beginning back in 1851, a number of federal officers, fearing for their safety, left their Utah appointments. This made President Buchanan think that the Mormons were near rebellion. President Buchanan said, “…there no longer remains any government in Utah but the despotism of Brigham Young.” The general public didn’t like the nature of the theocracy under Young, either. The Army was sent to re-establish order. The Mormons, filled with apocalyptic mania from the preaching of the Mormon Reformation, prepared for siege. The settlers were ordered to abandon their homes and fields and consolidate with the main body of the church in northern and central Utah. All LDS missionaries serving in the US and Europe were recalled. Young issued a statement,” Martial law is hereby declared to exist in the Territory….and no person shall be allowed to pass or repass into, through or from this territory without a permit from the proper officer.” Young said, ”If they persist in sending troops here I want people in the west and in the east to understand that it will not be safe for them to cross the plains.” The settlers were ordered to sell no goods to any emigrants and to begin stockpiling.

The Fancher Baker party left Salt Lake empty-handed and went on to Cedar City. Cedar City was the last “stop for gas” so to speak on the road to California. They needed grain ground and supplies and had money to buy it. Again the emigrants were told no. It was in Cedar City that someone claimed to have recognized a member of the party as being in on the murder of the popular Mormon leader Parley Pratt. Pratt had been killed in Arkansas a few months earlier by one of his wives’ former husband, Hector McLean. Eleanor, the wife in question, had taken the couple’s children and fled with the Mormon, yet the Mormon community still viewed his death as martyrdom. The angry and highly paranoid Cedar City leaders were not willing to let the matter go. They planned to call out the local militia to pursue and arrest the men.

The Mormons had been listening to the blood atonement preaching of the Reformation. The idea of blood atonement, is that in cases of serious personal sin it is the murder of the sinner and the literal mixing of his blood with the earth that results in forgiveness. Young preached the idea of blood atonement fervently,“I have no wife whom I love so well that I would not put a javelin through her heart, and I would do it with clean hands….” Then in September 1856, he said, “I know that there are transgressors, who, if they knew themselves and the only condition upon which they can obtain forgiveness, would beg of their brethren to shed their blood,” and, “…suppose that he has committed a sin that he knows will deprive him of that exaltation which he desires, and that he cannot attain to it without the shedding of his blood, and also knows that by having his blood shed he will atone for that sin, and be saved and exalted with the Gods, is there a man or woman in this house but what would say, ‘shed my blood that I may be saved and exalted with the Gods’ ? Will you love your brothers or sisters likewise, when they have committed a sin that cannot be atoned for without the shedding of their blood? Will you love that man or woman well enough to shed their blood? That is what Jesus Christ meant. He never told a man or woman to love their enemies in their wickedness, never. He never intended any such thing..” In another sermon he says, “I could refer you to plenty of instances where men, have been righteously slain, in order to atone for their sins. I have known a great many men who have left this Church for whom there is no chance whatever for exaltation, but if their blood had been spilled, it would have been better. That is the way to love mankind.”

By the time the party had made camp in the Mountain Meadows region they were tired, they hadn’t even circled the wagons, to start with. The local Native Americans, the Paiutes, were generally peaceful. Although they occasionally picked off emigrants’ stock for food; they didn’t make large attacks. Early on the morning of September 7th the party was attacked. They circled the wagons and hunkered down to defend themselves against what they thought were Native Americans.

As Mark Twain wrote:

“The whole United States rang with its horrors. A large party of Mormons, painted and tricked out as Indians, overtook the train of emigrant wagons some three hundred miles south of Salt Lake City, and made an attack. But the emigrants threw up earthworks, made fortresses of their wagons, and defended themselves gallantly and successfully for five days! Your Missouri or Arkansas gentleman is not much afraid of the sort of scurvy apologies for “Indians” which the southern part of Utah affords. He would stand up and fight five hundred of them. At the end of the five days the Mormons tried military strategy. They retired to the upper end of the ‘Meadows,’ resumed civilized apparel, washed off their paint, and then, heavily armed, drove down in wagons to the beleaguered emigrants, bearing a flag of truce! When the emigrants saw white men coming they threw down their guns and welcomed them with cheer after cheer….”


John Doyle Lee

That pretty much tells it all as only Twain could. On Friday, September 11, two Mormon militiamen approached the Fancher wagons with a white flag. One of them, John D. Lee, was a high profile Mormon. Brother-in-law to Brigham Young, he served in the LDS’s secret police force, the Danites, back in Missouri and in the Council of Fifty. He was also an influential Indian agent and militia officer. When he told the party he had negotiated with the Paiutes so they could be escorted to safety in Cedar City in return for their livestock and supplies being given to the Indians, the scared emigrants took him at his word. They debated what to do; the men did not want to lay down their weapons. However, in the end, they accepted the terms. The Arkansas men reluctantly and with heavy hearts laid their guns in a wagon. They were certain this would mean their deaths, but they didn’t know what else to do, they had been under siege for five days with little water and the wounded were dying.

The youngest children and wounded left the wagon corral first, driven in two wagons, followed by women and children on foot. The men and older boys went last, each with an armed Mormon escort. They followed the Mormons out of the fortifications and began the march to their deaths. When the signal, a shot fired in the air, was given, each Mormon turned and executed the unarmed man next to him. The Mormons with the two wagons in front murdered the wounded. In the end 120 people including 50 children lay dead. The bodies were then looted for valuables and left to rot. The cattle, cash, and wagons were divided among the Mormons.

According to Mormonism, children are not accountable for their sins until after the age of eight, so seventeen children under eight were spared and given to Mormon families. The children were taken to the home of Rachel Hamblin. She later described how the children arrived “in the darkness of night, two of the children cruelly mangled and the most of them with their parents’ blood still wet upon their clothes, and all of them shrieking with terror and grief and anguish.”

Sara Baker, a survivor later wrote, “you wouldn’t forget it, either, if you saw your own mother topple over in the wagon beside you, with a big red splotch getting bigger and bigger on the front of her calico dress.” In 1859, a young survivor told his playmate, “My father was killed by Indians, when they washed their faces they were white men.”

Plans to blame the Paiutes began almost immediately. Pratt had actually been killed two weeks after the party left Arkansas, and people were horrified as word of the massacre traveled. It became impossible to maintain secrecy. Young concealed evidence from the beginning. He stated after the massacre that god had taken vengeance on the Fancher-Baker party. In Cedar City, Utah, the church leaders told members to ignore dead bodies and go about their business. It was 1859, before the children were returned to their relatives. The Mormons also gave back a bill for $7000, for their care. The first major report was also done in 1859, by Brevet Major Carleton of the US Army. He reported his findings to Congress and buried the remains and marked it with piled rocks topped by a wooden cross on which he inscribed, “Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord.” Brigham Young and his men tore down the monument, and over the next century, it would be rebuilt and destroyed several times.


Philip Klingensmith, Mormon Bishop

The 1872, confession of Philip Klingensmith (pictured, right), a Mormon bishop at the time and a private in the Utah military was significant. It probably resulted in the 1874 indictments of nine men for the massacre. Needless to say, Brigham Young was not among them, in fact he continued his shadowy, theocratic government for some time. Only John D. Lee was tried. He was convicted by an all Mormon jury looking to put the matter to rest. He was executed by firing squad in accordance with their blood atonement doctrine. Another indicted man turned state’s evidence, and others spent years on the run. Faithful LDS members took an Oath of Vengeance against the murderers of the prophets. So these Mormons considered it their religious duty to kill the prophets’ murderers when they came across them. Lee was not the only person responsible for the massacre, not by a long shot. Isaac C. Haight, the stake president (a stake is an administrative unit comparable to a diocese in Catholicism) and senior regional militia leader of the Mormon militia, was in on it. In Lee’s 1877,Confession he says George A. Smith was sent to southern Utah to direct the massacre. They wanted no witnesses or reprisals.

The belief in blood atonement continues. Although, the LDS denounced it in 1978, FLDS, leader Warren Jeffs expects to be able to perform it in the future. Rulon Jeffs, father of Warren Jeffs, told his followers in 1997, “This is loving our neighbor as ourselves; if he needs help, help him; and if he wants salvation and it is necessary to spill his blood on the earth in order that he may be saved, spill it.” The cover-up attempts by the church continue as well. In August of 1999, a backhoe accidentally scooped up the bones of 28 of the massacre victims. Utah state law says they have to be studied. Forensic anthropologist Shannon Novak from the University of Utah and her colleagues did study them. She found entrance and exit holes in the skulls of men that could only have come from gunshots fired at close range. The women and children found died of blunt force. Of more than 2,600 bone fragments none had evidence of knives used to scalp, behead, or cut the throats, or trauma from arrows. This would seem to clear the Paiutes. “Prior to this analysis, what was known about the massacre was often based on second-hand information, polemical newspaper accounts, and the testimony of known killers,” said Novak. “Furthermore, what had come to be merely an abstract historical event, the ‘tragedy at Mountain Meadows,’ now became a mass murder of specific men, women, and children with proper names and histories.” Novak’s work was stopped by order of the governor, Mike Leavitt, whose grandfather participated in the massacre. Leavitt ordered the bones re-interred before the study was finished.

Religious terrorism is not new to our time and the attack on the World Trade Center was not our first 9/11. In fact, the massacre of the emigrants by the Mormons was the worst incidence of terrorism on American soil until the Oklahoma City bombing.

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Bagley, Will, Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows, 2002, University of Oklahoma Press
Brown-Hovelt, Luscinia and Himelfarb, Elizabeth J. Mountain Meadows Massacre, 1999 Archaeological Institute of America
Fisher, Alyssa, A Sight Which Can Never Be Forgotten, September 16, 2003, Archaeological Institute of America
Gibbs, Josiah, Mountain Meadows Massacre, 1910, Salt Lake Tribune Publishing Co.
Najacht, Norma, FLDS reinstituting blood atonement, Custer County Chronicle, May 2006
Turley, Jr., Richard E., The Mountain Meadows Massacre, Ensign, 2007,


I’m an ally

It’s long been out there amongst my friends that I’m an ally and supporter of the LGBT crowd. However, I want to a chance to come out as a different kind of ally. I want to say that I support drug legalization and an end to the war on  citizens. I have three major points I feel strongly about making.

1. Medical cannabis is a matter of compassion for me. There are things good people can disagree on, this is not one of them. I believe those who are facing the most dire of diseases and situations ought to have access to whatever makes their quality of life better. This is not negotiable to me. I find it utterly and unforgivably shameful that our leadership gives these patients a hard time.

2. My moral code has nothing against feeling good. America’s protestant heritage seems to want to make anything that makes people happy seem sinful and bad. If you resist the things you like whether they be drugs or coffee or sex that is your decision and I can’t and won’t make you do any different but I do not share that ethos. I am a proud, self- indulgent individual and there is nothing wrong with someone who works a long hard day coming in and smoking or drinking or otherwise fulfilling whatever impulse makes their day brighter. As long as you are an adult and you like it and you aren’t putting another earthling in danger do as you will. Enjoy that toke, enjoy that cocktail, enjoy that experience that makes you human. I refuse to see the recreational use of any drug as bad so long as it is not interfering with a person’s ability to live what we would consider a normal, productive life. At no point in time do I confuse the legalities of my present day country with my morals. Just because something is legal does not make it right and just because it is illegal does not mean it is wrong. I refuse to see otherwise decent people as criminals just because the state wants me to.

3. Drugs are illegal because of racism and greed. That’s it. It’s not about keeping people safe. It’s about racism and greed. Please by all means read up on it. Read about Hearst and DuPont and the fear mongering they did in their day. Read about the attitudes toward the Chinese and Mexicans. Read about what the government is doing to present day South Americans.

And then when you’re done reading that go to the November Coalition and see what you too can do to help those caught up in this disastrous failure we call a drug war. It’s a war whose only winners are the cartels and the government, the rest of us lose. We lose safety, we lose freedom, we lose whole generations to the school-prison pipeline. I think it’s time it stopped. You do not have to be a user of drugs to know this has gone too far. I think it’s even more important in a way for us non-users to be known as allies. As long as the group in question is “the other” it’s easy to demonize them.

So there you go. The chips will fall where they may.

Chloe Interrupted

That’s Chloe. Settled in her new crate made necessary by a bout of IVDD.
Inter-Vertebral Disc Disease is a disease that both people and dogs can get. It’s a very common disorder in dachshunds and other long dogs. The spine consists of vertebrae that are connected by flexible cartilage discs. The discs, called intervertebral discs, are cushions between each bone and they allow for movement of the head, spine and tail. The discs can become weak and hardened and herniate or rupture which causes the disc to protrude and even push against the spinal column. There is a gel like substance in the disc that can come out, sometimes quite forcefully and when it comes out it can go into the area where the spinal cord is.

An estimated 1 in 5 dachsunds will get IVDD. I had no idea. I had heard that dachshunds had back problems but frankly, people treat their dogs so badly and expect so much from them I kind of blew it off as impatient owners who expected their dachshunds to do what their Labs or Chihuahuas did. This stuff is no joke though. It can cause everything from pain to paralysis and even death in the case of myelomalacia.

We knew Chloe was hurt when she refused to follow me up to the bedroom. She had a number of the common signs, shaking, a tight belly, a hunched back, and she yelped whenever we tried to do anything with her. There are two treatments for this, one is surgical and the other is medical management. We chose medical management because she showed no signs of paralysis. Had she not been able to use her back legs we’d have had to go directly to the surgery option. The vet put her on Prednisone for the swelling and Raboxin for pain and muscle spasms. We did eventually have to go to Tremadol which is a heavier pain pill.

We found out crate rest is the most important part of all this. That took some time to get used to for us and Chloe. We never had a need to crate train before, there was always someone with the pups so leaving them while at work wasn’t an issue so we just never bothered. If you ask me though every dachshund owner needs to spend some time crate training their dog. Just bring it in and let them check it out and give them treats for going in it. Something just to get them familiar with the crate if nothing else because if you do ever have to go through this not having your dog freak out over being in a crate is a valuable thing.

Dodger’s List has been an excellent resource for us. I highly recommend it and I really think if you own a dachshund head over there now and read. If you ever need it you won’t be sorry you did. I wish I had known more ahead of time, I wish all dachshunds came with a manual that pointed the way to Dodger’s List and explained that IVDD can strike when you least expect it. It makes me sick to think of all the people who may just euthanize their dogs when in fact this thing is treatable and quality of life can be had.

I’ll probably blog about this again as we progress. Right now Chloe is resting well, she has adapted to her crate. Ironically, the other two dogs get in there when she gets out for pee time and food, lol.

I just saw a friend of a friend’s post on Facebook about his astrological sign. I always chuckle at stuff like that. I was an astrologer for a long time. I enjoyed it for most of those years. One thing I do not enjoy is lies and deception. That’s exactly what I believe the astrological community has begun to engage in. I’m not talking about their belief in it. You can believe in something I don’t think is real and as long as you truly believe it I’m not going to say you are liar, misguided maybe but not a liar- I think there is a difference. But astrologers are using the zodiac in a way that it no longer exists.

Precession is a word used to describe the change in the orientation of the rotation of a rotating body. Axial precession, the kind we are referring to when we discuss astronomy, is the movement of the rotational axis of an astronomical body, whereby the axis slowly traces out a cone. In the case of Earth, this type of precession is also known as the precession of the equinoxes. Earth goes through one of these cycles about every 26,000 years, during which the positions of stars as measured in the equatorial coordinate system will slowly change. Over this cycle, Earth’s north axial pole moves from where it is now, within 1° of Polaris, in a circle around the ecliptic pole, with an angular radius of about 23.5 degrees. The shift is 1 degree in 72 years. Hipparchus is the earliest known astronomer to recognize and assess the precession of the equinoxes at almost 1º per century, so it’s not like the current crop of astrologers doesn’t know.

The effect this ends up having is that the millions of people who buy or read astrological products are being told about a sign which is actually not their own. The sun moves about a degree per day. The current number is off about 24 degrees. So unless you were born at the very tail end of your sign, you belong to the sign that precedes it. If you were born the first week of September you are not a Virgo, you are a Leo. If you were born December 10th you are not a Sagittarius, you are a Scorpio. How much money have astrologers made selling people the wrong goods? Yet, they keep just plowing along. Vedic astrologers take this change into account, but most Western astrologers don’t. The newspapers you are reading sure don’t. Lots of astrologers employed by magazines and newspapers giving a lot of false information. If you are going to bother believing in something shouldn’t you trouble yourself to get it right? Or have we all just gotten to the point we don’t give a damn and just want to collect our money?

Navel gazing

Well, it’s been a while but here I am. Still kicking. I don’t know what I had planned for this blog when I started. A menagerie of things I was interested in writing about, perhaps? I just didn’t want it to go the navel gazing route. But alas, the best laid plans of mice and all…. here we are. Last year I noticed my back was hurting more and more, in fact it seemed all my aches and pains were growing. I was only 34, darn it I shouldn’t feel this sore and tired. So I joined a gym. I started weightlifting. Yeah, I know, wild right? No, I have never been one of those people who just loved fitness. I mean I wasn’t one of those people who drove around the parking lot six times to find the closest spot, but I was no athlete either. So after a year and 80 pounds lost what have I learned?

    1. If you are female you will not get bulky by lifting heavy weights. Slap your trainer next time you hear this (I’m kidding; no I don’t advocate trainer abuse!) You just won’t. It’s not in your body to do so. You would need way larger amounts of testosterone.
    2. You have to eat. If you have been on a 1200 calorie semi-starvation diet do not go into the gym expecting to put on a lick of muscle. Even if your end goal is to lose weight you must eat.
    3. The best things to eat come with no labels. Grass fed meats, vegetables, organic when possible dairy are all good choices but try to avoid the stuff that comes in boxes and plastic bags that make up a large portion of the standard American diet. If its label reads like a chemistry project that’s a good clue it should be avoided.
    4. Don’t bend an ear to every Tom, Dick, and Harry who gives you advice. There’s a lot of good advice out there but you have to tailor it to you. If it works for you do it, if not drop it no matter how popular it is.
    5. Weight training is good for fat people. It doesn’t have to be anything like powerlifting, just the standard gym machines are ok to start with. Why? Because for one you can sit on stuff. Let’s be honest. The really overweight among us have a hard time doing basic tasks sometimes. It’s intimidating. You’ll still sweat, you’ll still burn calories, you’ll still lose weight but you can do it without having to embarrass yourself in aerobics class or feel like you can’t do anything but nap the rest of the day. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t lose weight by lifting weight you can, too.
    6. Fat really isn’t all that bad for you. The studies on saturated fat show the negative views people have of it just don’t hold up. In practice, a diet with fat in it is just more filling. It’s the sugar you need to watch out for. The more of it you eat the more you will want.
    7. Pick one little habit to change. Do it for 30 days. Pick something else, and do it for 30 days. If you can’t picture yourself doing it for 30 days pick something simpler.
    8. Find something you are passionate about. Doing agility with your dog, weightlifting, swimming, it really doesn’t matter but if it’s something you really enjoy you are more likely to do it every day. If you don’t know what that may be just try something. I had no idea I would like lifting. It’s not something I had any experience with. I started doing it because building muscle will make you burn more calories just as you are. It raises your base metabolism. But I found out I liked it. So just get out there.
    9. Don’t focus on numbers. Just make improvements from day to day. Strong is better than skinny, healthy is better than thin. Eat well, get some activity and try not to stress out. I know easier said than done, but there it is.

So, I’m going to leave it there because it looks unfinished. It should be. I haven’t learned all there is to learn.

By Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children. 
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. 
They come through you but not from you, 
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. 
You may give them your love but not your thoughts. 
For they have their own thoughts. 
You may house their bodies but not their souls, 
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. 
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. 
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. 
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. 
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; 
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable. 

Atheist Christmas

This video is by Martin Willett of Debate Unlimited. I love it. It addresses why we atheists should enjoy and embrace Christmas and explains that it really is not a Christian holiday at all.