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Carole Whang Schutter
“I didn’t choose love, it chose me.” Emily Hudson, on September 11, 1857.
Based on one of America’s most horrific, historical events, this is the story of an improbable romance between two nineteen-year-olds from starkly different worlds, Jonathan, the son of a Mormon bishop and Emily, the daughter of a Christian pastor. In a beautiful, pristine valley called Mountain Meadows, surrounded by an atmosphere of fear and hatred, Jonathan, tormented by the execution of his beautiful mother by a lecherous apostle, falls in love with beautiful, spirited Emily. Ordered to spy on the wagon train by his father, Jonathan tames a wild, magnificent black stallion and wins the heart of the girl who has captured his.
The Mountain Meadow massacre was an act so atrocious it was kept shrouded in secrecy for over a hundred years. Mormons, driven by a despotic Brigham Young who thunders chilling messages of Blood Atonement from the pulpit, commit polygamy, murder, and castration in the name of God. But unforgiveness and revenge cannot stop a love so great, it refused to die, or muzzle a story so amazing, it struggled to live. In the end, this is Jonathan’s story. In the midst of the massacre, Jonathan must choose between his brother and his faith, or Emily.
As Jonathan races to save Emily, the reader is left breathless with heart-pounding anticipation as the scope and magnitude of their love amidst the searing fire and ashes of the Mountain Meadow Massacre dramatically, and unforgettably, unfolds.
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Th e author, Carole Whang Schutter, and her dog, Maxi.
Based on the film, September Dawn
Th e author, Carole Whang Schutter, and her dog, Maxi.
Based on the film, September Dawn
September 11, 1907
There are things that happen in the course of history that are so
horrific that the people involved feel the need to create versions they can
live with. With this in mind, on the fiftieth anniversary of the first act
of religious terrorism in the United States, Paul and his mother, Emmy,
decided to tell the rest of the family the truth about their Grandpa’s role
in the Mountain Meadows massacre and his enduring passion for the
woman he loved.
Laid out in thick leather journals was a story so shocking that
Grandpa felt it necessary to add research gathered over the years in orderto support his tale of two clashing cultures and the love that wouldn’tdie. Grandpa had first shown Paul his journals in 1903 when the UnitedStates Senate began an investigation into Utah Senator Reed Smoot’sright to hold office, due to his priesthood in a church that ignored thelaws of the land by practicing polygamy. The Senator’s loyalty to theUnited States was challenged, and Grandpa had spent many nightstalking to Paul as he tried to decide whether or not it was his duty
to expose the defiantly anti-American oaths taken by members of the
Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. Grandpa had first-hand
knowledge of these oaths.
Ignorant of the whole picture, everyone in the family except Paul and
his mother were shocked by the revelations of their gentle patriarch toCongress and the impassioned stance he ultimately took on the matter. It surprised Paul that his mother had known so little about her father.
Everyone, including the congregation Grandpa had served as pastor for
thirty years, had always thought of him simply as a wonderful father and
grandfather. When he died in May at age seventy, hundreds of people
from all over California came to pay their respects at his funeral. Their
great outpouring of love and touching stories made for a remarkable
Just before his death, the long investigation into Senator Smoot finallyended in the Senator’s favor. Learning about the decision, Grandpa hadchuckled. “After all the hubris, I’m sure the Prophet and the Apostles
will see fit to have a new revelation from God and change the endowment
At nineteen, Grandpa had been an unwilling participant in the
much-debated endowment ceremony. Fifty years later, with his grandson
Paul beside him, he helped to effectively pierce the veil of lies created by the Mormon Church. Tall and still handsome in a charcoal gray suit, he unwaveringly testified to the Congressional Committee as he faced the
hostile faces of two of his half-brothers, who were among the crowd of
Mormons who journeyed from Utah to support their Senator.
“You did what you had to do, Grandpa,” Paul had told him, shaking his hand. “I’m proud of you. It’s time the lies stopped. You’re a hero. It
took courage to stand up to your family.”
It saddened Paul to see that the stress of having to face his brothers’
condemnation accentuated the lines in Grandpa’s face. A poignant,faraway look flickered briefly in the elder man’s eyes as he sighed, “I’m
no hero. It took me a long time to stand up and tell the truth.”
The truth became an obsession to Grandpa, consuming the last
fifteen years of his life. He meticulously researched the events that
haunted him. Paul joined his project during the last four years. Grateful
for the chance to get to know his grandfather better, he found that their
time together made him more appreciative of his grandfather. He learned that the man he idolized had lived his life with a passion very few people ever experience. The flame inside his grandfather made dim the lives of the people around him. Others who faced the kind of obstacles Grandpa
faced would have likely surrendered to a will outside their own and, in
the process, could have lost their way forever.
Paul strengthened the project by lending it objectivity. His analytical
mind could look at the facts with emotional detachment. Grandpa
admitted he was too close to the subject matter. Just reading The Life
and Confessions of John D. Lee moved him to tears. Because Grandpa
personally knew both the victims and their assassins, the account caused
him to relive the horror once again.
By the time Paul became involved, other books were available.
One of Brigham Young’s wives, Anne Eliza, wrote a book named Wife
No.19. Anne Eliza’s memoirs gained notoriety as an account of “A life
in bondage…of women in polygamy.” Other “Blackjack Mormons,” or
“fallen” Mormons, had begun to speak out against Brigham Young and
the Mormon Church. The most scathing book was Brigham’s Destroying
Angel being the Life and Confessions and Startling Disclosures of Wild Bill
Hickman, the Danite Chief of Utah, published a few years ago. The books
were a confirmation of everything Grandpa had said. Paul was amazed
by his grandpa’s vivid and detailed memories.
His mother’s memories were just as impressive. Whenever anyone
questioned how someone not quite a year old when the event occurred
could remember anything about it, she would explain that the events were
so catastrophic that they were indelibly imprinted in her mind.
Privately, she admitted to Paul her relief upon learning that other survivors, all of them who were babies or very young children at the time of the massacre,reported explosive flashbacks that came during unexpected moments. Puzzling fragments of the wagon train often wove their way into her dreams.
“It always starts with the sound of wagon wheels on hard dirt,” his
mother told him. “And I can almost feel the jarring rhythm of a wagon
bouncing me around in a makeshift bed.” However, she confessed to Paul
that the most disconcerting memories were of faces she didn’t recognize
but which somehow seemed familiar and comforting as they hovered at the edge of her dreams, smiling. Everyone in the family knew that as a child Emmy would often wake up crying as she stretched out her hands in confusion. In that state of half-sleep, she longed to put her arms around the strange people who seemed to love her but stood just out of reach. Then her father would appear to hold her.
Secure in the knowledge of his love and protection, the faces went away and she always fell back to sleep.
Paul gazed at his mother sitting in front of the fireplace in her rocking chair. They were ready to disclose the secrets written in the
worn leather journals. Paul saw his father reach out and grab his mother’s
Sitting on the other side of his mother, Paul reflected over his
grandfather’s legacy. Before he turned thirty, he had taken over
his grandfather’s church as pastor. As an adult, he had become his
grandfather’s closest friend and confidante.
Paul’s wife, Madeline, cradled Jonah, the newest addition to the
family. Paul’s siblings, Charles Jr., Deborah, and James, sat nearby with
their respective spouses. Jenny, the youngest and only unmarried one of
the brood, slouched in a wing chair near the fireplace. The grandchildren
sat on the floor in front of her.
On his deathbed, Grandpa had insisted: “This story cannot die. To
remember is to make sure it never happens again.”
Paul wondered what the family would think when they finally knew
the whole story. All they knew were bits and pieces too small to piece
together. Grandpa’s story was unbelievably monstrous, yet poignant.
It was important to Paul that he and his mother do the story justice. Yet,
although there was so much to tell, there was also so much they still
didn’t know. But he was satisfied that both he and Grandpa had done their best compiling the facts. Together, they had created an exhaustive
timeline of everything that affected the incident.
Sighing, his mother opened the first journal. Taking out a letter
tucked between the pages, she unfolded the thin parchment carefully.
The crisp paper crackled in the silent room. Putting her glasses on, she
began to read aloud tremulously. The letter, penned in a shaky hand, had
been written only a week before he died.
“I have often thought that great love dances with sacrifice and flirts
with pain. I want to tell you a story of passion, love, deception, and horror
spawned by religious fanaticism. It began on August 30 and ended on
September 11, 1857. It is my hope that the inevitable result of excessive
religiosity will never repeat itself. How any man can truly believe that
God would sanctify the cold-blooded murder of innocents mystifies me.
I pray it will never happen again.”
Emmy paused and looked at her family, as tears glistened in her eyes.
Paul knew it was an important moment. The rest of the family was about to find out what lay behind the melancholy that shadowed their beloved
grandfather. His mother looked at him, and he nodded. They had both
agreed that it was important for the family and perhaps the rest of the
world to know the real story behind the Mountain Meadow Massacre,
but revealing the truth about any tragedy was never easy.
Sighing, his mother continued. “I want you to remember above all that this was a story of a love that all the forces of evil could not destroy.
The Bible says that without love we are nothing; love is God’s gift to
us. We are exalted and inspired by love. Seek love above riches, wealth,
or fame. Great love will see you through many dark days. Love is the
indistinguishable hope that defines our existence. I was told a very long
time ago that romantic love finds us; we do not find it. Praise the Lord if
you find love, because all wonderful things come from Him.
“Like all great love stories, my story began rather innocently. A wagon train of over 140 people from Arkansas and Missouri rolled into an area called Mountain Meadows in southern Utah, completely changing the lives of more people than those innocent emigrants would ever have imagined.”