September Dawn A story set against the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the film is based upon the tragedy which occurred in Utah in 1857. A group of settlers, traveling on wagons, was murdered by the native Mormons. All together, about 140 souls of men, women and children, were taken. Amidst this, two young lovers-to-be, one a Mormon and the other one of the doomed settlers from Arkansas, develop a relationship in an atmosphere of suspicion and rancor.
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September Dawn I have been hearing many bad reviews for this movie, panning it for a perceived ‘blanket condemnation of the Mormon Church.’ What so many of these reviews refuse to take into consideration is the actual character of territorial Utah in the 1850s and the rest of the historical evidence.
The plain simple fact is that Utah at the time WAS full of zealous religiosity. Every statement made by Brigham Young in the movie comes from his published sermons. Utah territory was a harsh and repressive society, and the movie portrays this accurately.
This movie is in NO WAY a blanket condemnation of Mormonism, though it IS a condemnation of the Mormon Church *IN THE 1850s.* To say that this movie portrays them like “homesteading Nazis,” is completely unfair.
John Voight’s performance gives a perfect example of the sort of character found in Mormon authorities in the period, while his sons show us some of the various types of dissension, the outright rejection, and the horrified self-loathing obedience.
The only thing I can see wrong here is that they could have put some hostile people in the wagon company, as undoubtedly there would have been. I can understand why they did not however, in order to drive home just how terrible this massacre was. Whether or not Brigham Young was directly involved in the events is up for debate, but there can be no doubt that the teachings he espoused and the environment they engendered were a significant part of what caused the massacre.
In short, most of the negative reviews come either from Mormons or people who have very little background with regards to the history of Territorial Utah