I have to admit that I do not remember seeing this particular episode of PROFILES IN COURAGE. In fact, I had to look up the character of General Alexander Doniphan to find out what this was about.
It is about the persecution of a religious group: the Mormons. Given the astounding number of Mormons in the country today (the largest Protestant denomination that is growing), it is hard to realize that at one time it was small enough to be bullied. In the 1830s and 1840s the Mormons were persecuted throughout the middle west, forced out of a series of settlements that were prospering, but practicing Mormon customs, such as polygamy. Their use of the Book of Mormon was also considered (by their neighbors) as heretical. So they were suspected of immorality and blasphemy, and their economic success added greed and envy to this devil's brew.
Doniphan (Peter Lawford) was in Missouri, following an Indian war there, when the governor of the state (Robert Emhardt in this cast) requested that they have a policy meeting. He wanted Doniphan to solve the "Mormon" problem, by getting rid of the leadership (i.e., exterminate it). Doniphan refused to do so.
His action, unfortunately, did not end the persecutions - this incident occurred in 1838. In 1844, in Nauvoo, Illinois, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyram were murdered (after they were arrested) by a masked mob that broke down the cells they were in in a local jail. The Mormons fled to the west, and under the guidance of Brigham Young (Smith's chosen successor), they settled the area called "Deseret" which eventually became the state of Utah.
Even this move did not end persecution. In 1856 the noted Mormon preacher Parley Pratt was stabbed to death in Arkansas by a man whose wife had left him to become Pratt's wife. Pratt actually may have been really helping this woman - the husband seems to have been an abuser, and he was certainly violent.
The death of Pratt, unfortunately, was a last straw. In 1857, a wagon train headed through Utah for California, with Arkansas settlers in it, was attacked and destroyed at Mountain Meadows, presumably in an attack organized by one Bishop John Lee. Whether the Mormon Bishop acted alone or was under instruction from Young has never been settled. Lee would be tried for murder in 1877, and executed.
As for Doniphan, he distinguished himself by one of the most notable military marches of the age in the Mexican War, that led to his occupying New Mexico. After the war he was an attorney practicing in Missouri, and helped keep that state in the union during the Civil War, assisting in a commission regarding civilian-army problems. He died, widely respected, in 1887.
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