September Dawn is a 2007 Canadian film by Christopher Cain, released on August 24, 2007. It sets a fictional love story against a controversial historical interpretation of the Mountain Meadows massacre. During the massacre a wagon train of emigrants was attacked by a group of Mormon militiamen and members of the Paiute tribe; around 120 men, women, and children were murdered.
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The fictional love story between Emily Hudson (Tamara Hope), the daughter of the wagon train's pastor, and Jonathan Samuelson (Trent Ford), the son of the local Mormon bishop, plays out against the build-up to the tragedy itself. The movie begins with the deposition of Mormon leader Brigham Young (Terence Stamp). The Fancher party is then depicted crossing Utah on its way to California. The party encounters a group of Mormon militiamen, who advise them to move on. Bishop Jacob Samuelson (Jon Voight) defuses the situation but is disturbed that the Fanchers have a woman wearing men's clothing and are delivering racehorses to California to be used in gambling. He is also upset that some are from Missouri, whose inhabitants he blames for the death of Joseph Smith and for persecuting them. He instructs his sons Jonathan and Micah to keep an eye on them.
A scene follows where the pastor for the Fancher party (Daniel Libman) praises God for their deliverance, while Bishop Samuelson thanks God for delivering the Gentiles (non-Mormons) into their hands for divine punishment. As the Mormon leadership prepares to defend Utah from an attack by the Federal government, Samuelson's son Jonathan develops a relationship with the daughter of the pastor, Emily. At the direction of Brigham Young local Mormons are directed to massacre the gentiles, using their allies the Paiute Indians. By pointing to a rival Indian tribe as their mutual enemy, John D. Lee (Jon Gries), who we find out later is the adopted son of Brigham Young, convinces the Paiutes that it is God's will to kill the Gentiles. Jonathan objects to the plan, which his father has just conveyed to the local Mormons, and is imprisoned by his father. Jonathan has become disillusioned by the Mormon faith not only because of the planned massacre, but because of what he allowed to happen to his mother. In a flashback earlier in the movie Jonathan remembers that his mother was ordered away by a senior religious leader who took her as is his wife. She returned to get her children, for which she was executed in full view of Jonathan and his father.
The Fancher party repels the Indian attack, and the local Mormons are forced to complete the mission themselves. The Mormon militia under the command of John D. Lee is ordered to kill anyone who is old enough to talk. John D. Lee offers to lead the Fancher party to safety; however, they lead them instead to an ambush where they are all killed. Escaping his imprisonment, Jonathan arrives too late to save them and his lover Emily, who is killed by his father. John Lee is executed for his role in the massacre in 1877 and Brigham Young denies any knowledge or involvement.
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