In September of 1857, a wagon train bound for California stops at Mountain Meadows, Utah. The emigrants are met by Mormon deacon John D. Lee (Jon Gries) and his Danites (a group of extreme Mormon vigilantes). Urged by Lee to leave the encampment, wagonmaster Alexander Fancher (Shaun Johnston) stands fast and pleads for compassion. Mormon Bishop Jacob Samuelson (Jon Voight) intervenes and allows the wagon train to stay in the valley for two weeks. The Bishop commands Lee to offer help to the settlers, while at the same time instructing his beloved oldest son Jonathan (Trent Ford) to spy on them. Jonathan is only too happy to accommodate his father's wishes, for he is captivated by the angelic smile of a beautiful young girl on the wagon train - the minister's daughter, Emily (Tamara Hope). When the Bishop returns to the encampment, Jonathan and Emily have declared their love and commitment to each other. However, Bishop Samuelson has other plans and The Church declares the wagon train to be enemy combatants who must be killed.