September 11, a date that should go down in infamy, not just because of the Twin Towers being attacked by Muslims in 2001 but also because it was the day in 1857 that a group of Mormons ruthlessly murdered 120 Christian men, women and children. In a movie that is very close to the history that has been written about the Mountain Meadow Massacre, two of which your reviewer has read, SEPTEMBER DAWN tells in painful, violent detail how one group of Mormons ruthlessly slaughtered all the inhabitants of a wagon train passing through Utah on the way to California.
SEPTEMBER DAWN opens as a young woman, one of the few who survived the massacre, discussing the fact that this is a story of good versus evil and love versus hate. Jon Voight, a local bishop and a fictional character, recalls burning a newspaper office and beating the printer when they published anti-Mormon materials. In the reprisal raid by the townsfolk, Joseph Smith is killed. Now the Mormons feel that the only solution, as Brigham Young says, is to kill all the gentiles. Brigham Young, played by Terrence Stamp, casts himself as the new Mohammed, bringing blood atonement on the gentiles because he doesn’t believe in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
When a wagon train of Christians arrives in Mountain Meadows Utah, the Mormons, led by the bishop, immediately start plotting to kill every man, woman and child. This situation is complicated because one of the bishop’s sons falls in love with the daughter of the Christian pastor on the wagon train. The son is predisposed to dislike his father because his mother was taken by Brigham Young as one of his wives. When she escaped, his father watched the woman be ruthlessly killed in blood atonement. For the first raid on the wagon train, the Mormons get the local Indian tribe to attack. When the Indians realize that the Mormons lied to them about protecting them, it’s up to the Mormons to finish the slaughter.
Mormonism, in a pattern resembling Mohammedism or Islam as it is now known, grew out of Christianity as a cult started by uneducated men, something that is pointed out eloquently in the movie. Moreover, Mormonism and Mohammedism or Islam share some common characteristics: polygamy, revenge, domination, strict fundamentalism, and making men gods. Although there have been many books about these similarities and topics, including THE MOUNTAIN MEADOWS MASSACRE, this is the first movie. The Mormon Church now admits the tragedy of the massacre, but has tried to keep Brigham Young above the fray. This movie tries to tell the whole story and in doing so will make a lot of people angry.
One wonders why this movie was made. The director, Christopher Cain, says he was trying to show the dangers of religious fundamentalism, but the fact of the matter is that his movie the Christian fundamentalists are portrayed as loving, forgiving, generous, caring, and embodying the characteristics of the founder of their faith, Jesus Christ, who died for His enemies and was resurrected, rather than murdering or killing his enemies. And, the movie portrays the Mormons as many were at that time – dogmatic, cruel people who thought of themselves as gods and who, as gods, felt they could do whatever they wanted to others, including blood atonement. The movie makes it clear that Christianity, as manifested by the wagon train folk, is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a matter of grace. Since they are saved by grace, the people on the wagon train express love, kindness and all those other virtues we mentioned. When one Mormon boy, Jonathan, shows that he can tame a wild, expensive breeding stallion, the captain of the wagon train gives him the horse. The kindness, love and grace of the Christians is incomprehensible to the Mormons. They do not believe that Jesus Christ paid the price for their sins or anybody else’s sins. They do believe that they are gods and that they need to protect their territory. They also believe that women are chattel and that the young people need to be obedient without question. Thus, the contrast between the Mormons and the Christians couldn’t be more clear.
Although much of the movie is a classic western, there are some very intense scenes such as the castration and the massacre itself. Little children are shot point blank. Women and children are brutalized and slaughtered. Deception and self-righteousness are the tools that the Mormons use to trap the Christian settlers. It is not a pretty picture.
This movie is going to produce an angry outcry and open up old wounds. Whatever the filmmaker’s position was, the movie is a clear contrast between cultism and Christianity. Many would argue that it would better to not let the Mountain Meadow Massacre be forgotten. Perhaps, however, by exposing the fruitless works of darkness, the movie will cause the descendents of the perpetrators to recognize the errors of their ways, repent or turn around, accept the love and grace, which is only found in Jesus Christ. This movie shows clearly that it’s very hard playing god. Perhaps it’s time to let God be God, and realize the good news that He loves them so much that His only begotten son, Jesus Christ, died on the Cross for them. One can only hope that good will come out of this. Knowing the fallen condition of mankind, that may not be the case.
(CCC, BB, VV, S, N, M) Very strong Christian worldview extolling love, forgiveness, generosity, and compassion, contrasted with very strong cult, early Mormon worldview exposing one of the darkest events in Mormon history; three light profanities (Oh, God!); intense violence with some blood showing Mormon raid where a man is castrated and his private part nailed to a door, pointblank shootings, hatchetings, beatings, clubbings of men, women and children; a couple kisses, discussion of polygamy in semi-salacious terms; rear male nudity of a man being baptized in a Mormon temple, suggestion of upper female nudity; no alcohol; no smoking; and, lying, deception, cruelty, misogyny.
SEPTEMBER DAWN tells in painful, violent detail how a group of Mormons ruthlessly slaughtered the inhabitants of a wagon train passing through Utah on the way to California. After Joseph Smith is killed in a reprisal raid, the Mormons feel the only solution, as Brigham Young says, is to kill all the gentiles. Brigham Young casts himself as the new Mohammed, bringing blood atonement on the gentiles because he doesn't believe in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. When a wagon train of Christians headed for California arrives in Mountain Meadows, Utah, the Mormons, led by the local bishop, start plotting to kill every man, woman and child. The situation becomes complicated when the bishop's sons falls in love with the daughter of the Christian pastor on the wagon train.
The contrast between the Mormons and the Christians in SEPTEMBER DAWN couldn't be more clear. The Christians are loving, forgiving, generous, caring, and embody the characteristics of the founder of their faith, Jesus Christ. The Mormons are dogmatic, cruel people who think of themselves as gods and who, as gods, feel they can do whatever they want to others, including blood atonement.