Elevate Difference

When Push Came to Shove: Mormon Martyrs in an Unrelenting Bible Belt 1821-1923

William Whitridge Hatch originally started writing on Mormon relations in the South as a graduate student, and his work has become a life-long quest. In When Push Came to Shove, he studies the uneasy relationship and culture clash that Mormon missionaries working in the Southern states had with the local Southern “Gentiles” (the word used for any non-Mormons, including Jews).

Briefly, the book tells us that Mormons (particularly their pastors/leaders) were persecuted in the South after the Civil War. The author links this persecution to the “Mountain Meadows Massacre” – an attack by Native Americans led by Mormons on a wagon train from Arkansas headed to California where all men, women and children that could speak were killed. Part of the “Mountain Meadows Massacre” incident that was highlighted as particularly horrific was the killing of the women and children. It was the men who were at the front carrying the weapons and organizing the attack/defense, so the women and children were most likely unarmed.

The Church of Latter-Days Saints does not substantiate the claim that Mormons - including, most notably, Brigham Young - were involved is in the massacre. The author finds this denial suspect and points out other cases of violence. The largest incident involving a woman has to do with Parley P. Pratt. Pratt was a charismatic Mormon leader. A woman fell in love with him, left her husband and followed Pratt to the South. Her husband tracked her down and murdered her.

The book is thoroughly researched, and the author does a decent job in being unbiased since he places the massacre in a historical context where Mormons and “Gentiles” were by turn the persecutor and persecuted. While informative, the book is not particularly entertaining. It’s a bit of a dry read, and it was the first-person accounts that are occasionally used that were the most enjoyable. Women are given a backseat in most of the events that took place, as they likely were from 1821 to 1923. I would recommend it to scholars or historians, but few others.

Written by: Kristin Conard, September 6th 2007

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