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Massacre at Mountain Meadows Hardcover – August 19, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

On September 11, 1857, more than 120 men, women and children traveling from Arkansas to California were butchered by Mormon militiamen and Paiute Indians at Mountain Meadows in southern Utah. This study of the tragedy, by three LDS historians, utilizes previously unavailable archival documents to answer the question, How could basically good people commit such a terrible atrocity? The authors find responsibility almost everywhere: in the escalating tensions between the federal government and Mormon authorities, in the 19th-century American culture of violence, in the barbarism of the emigrants and in the unchecked hunger for vengeance the Mormon militiamen felt toward Americans who had opposed their faith. John D. Lee, a fanatical militia leader, receives much of the blame, while church president Brigham Young gets a pass. This first volume covers the massacre itself, not the coverup that some historians have alleged was masterminded by the LDS Church; the authors leave the door open for a possible sequel. But the book's evocative portrayal of the moments leading to the massacre and its careful reconstruction of the lives of the victims makes an important contribution. This is an absorbing, if unsettling, read. (Aug.) ""
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved."

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Coauthors Walker, Turley, and Leonard provide the fullest account yet of the darkest chapter in Mormon history: the massacre of a wagon train of California-bound immigrants passing through southern Utah in 1857. Readers relive the grim days when local Mormon leaders besieged the immigrants with a force of white militiamen and Paiute warriors and then brutally butchered all but a few young children. To account for the barbarism of attackers who professed a religion of love, Walker, Turley, and Leonard recount the Mormons’ turbulent history in Missouri and Illinois, where government officials allowed mobs to kill unarmed Mormons and drive others from their homes. Determined to protect their new communities, Utah Mormons seethed with passion when, in 1857, President Buchanan announced plans to send troops to quell a supposed Mormon insurrection. Those passions surged when some immigrants boasted of involvement in earlier depredations against Mormon settlements—and threatened worse. The drama leading up to the massacre brings to view a score of memorable personalities. But the most famous—namely, Brigham Young—plays a role of surprising impotence, as his urgent letter directing the militia to let the immigrants pass in peace leaves a Mormon captain lamenting, “too late, too late.” An essential acquisition for any western history collection. --Bryce Christensen

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (August 19, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195160347
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195160345
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.5 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #486,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Help readers to make their own judgment.
If you have any interest in LDS Church history I would highly recommend reading this book.
Excellent book...well researched and easy to read.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

124 of 154 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Crawford on August 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After I read this book I attended a book signing where all three authors were present. Apart from signing the book, they gave a 45 minute lecture. Richard Turley informed the audience that when Ronald Walker was approached, 7 years ago, to begin work on this book, he (Ron) said that he would not be involved with the project unless complete disclosure of the massacre was the proposed goal of the book. That goal was achieved.

Massacre at Mountain Meadows is, as has been pointed out by other reviews, written by 3 faithful Mormons. However, they do not hide any fact, no matter how poorly it reflects on the Mormons of the time. For instance, concerning Brigham Young they write: "We believe errors were made by . . . Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders, . . . and most of all by settlers in southern Utah who set aside principles of their faith to commit an atrocity. At each point along the chain of acts and decisions--especially in Iron and Washington Counties--a single personal choice or policy might have brought a different result" (p. xiv). The "errors" committed by "Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders" are not glossed over, or hidden behind the skirts of any LDS public relations committee. The men who wrote this book completely admit and demonstrate, through their writing, that the culpability for the murders can never be placed at the feet on one particular person. Indeed, the writers allow the reader to determine, by a full disclosure of facts, how much blame Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders deserve for the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Though the three men who wrote this book are faithful LDS members, they condemn the Mormon murderers and absolve the Arkansas emigrants: "The emigrants did not deserve what eventually happened to them at Mountain Meadows.
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31 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Michael S. Post on March 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
As a non-Mormon I was curious as to how 3 LDS members would treat this subject. I found the book to be as fair and honest an account as possible given the passage of time and the reluctance of the perpetrators to create a historical record at the time. The subject is covered in great depth and where the evidence of some assertion is thin, the authors so state or reveal in the notes that they did not include the info and the rationale for why. Most telling is that fully one third of this book is composed of the exhaustive research notes which will allow any doubter to go to the original sources and see for themselves.

I also found that the authors went to great effort to provide the political and social context of the event for both sides. This does not so much excuse anyone's conduct as it provides the reader an understanding of a tumultuous time set just a few brief years before the nation was torn apart in civil war.

As to some of the less academic and more emotional reviews seen here, ignore them. This is both a good historical treatment of the event and a great read.
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50 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Seth J. Frantzman HALL OF FAME on August 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Mountain Meadows massacre of September 1857 where more than 120 men, women and children traveling from Arkansas to California were killed by Mormons and their Indian allies is one of the great massacres of American history, up there with Waco, the Oklahoma Federal Building, 9/11, some of the famous massacres of striking workers and of course, Little Big Horn. It was indeed a viscious massacre and since it took place much blame has been tossed at Mormons in general in a series of Xenophobic books that seek to indict the church and its leaders. This is not surprising as the hatred for the travellers who were killed at Mountain Meadows was an anger felt across the Mormon country of Utah, but the savage outburst of butchery was carried out by individuals, not a collective.

It is to these individuals and the culture of the times that three LDS authors have turned, using church archives, to paint a fair pciture of what took place that day and in the time leading up to it. The Mormons had been persecuted when they had lived peacefully in Missouri and the old Northwest. There different ways, of polygamy, and their new religion, set them apart. Their prophet was murdered and their people driven from one place to another. When Utah beckoned as a promised land it was no surprise that many were annoyed to find that following close on their heals were the same people who had driven them out of Nauvoo and other settlements.

Anger and resentment turned to revenge, against people who certainly did not deserve revenge. This book paints a good picture of this clash of cultures and the massacre that resulted. A truly important contribution to the history of the American West.

Seth J. Frantzman
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Eve Greenridge on September 4, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Coming off of the exhaustive "Blood of the Prophets" this book feels like the middle child who tries to make nice, by saying facts, but only facts that generally lead to a concillation between parties.

What struck me early on in the book was the hagiography of Joseph Smith, and a careful wording of history to be truthful, yet misleading in ways to make it more palatable for those unfamiliar with early Mormonism. They speak of Joseph Smith, 'translating new scriptures from ancient texts' and say nothing more, not even what is accepted, and widely known, Mormon origin of the texts, and only speak of Joseph going to his death 'like a lamb to the slaughter'to the jailhouse and not about his earlier escape attempt that he turned back from. They also skim over the Mormon views on the origins of Native Americans, and their reasons for strong ties of friendship with them.

This early whitewashing is meant to establish firm legitimacy for Mormonism before the Massacre to keep non LDS readers from coming to dangerous conclusions that Mormonsim was suspect to begin with, and perhaps wondering if the Massacre had roots going back to the earliest founding of Mormonism. Not saying that this conclusion is correct, but the authors obviously were frightened that enough readers, if given the plain facts, would not view Mormons as sympathetically if they knew them.

Another striking difference between Bagley and this book is not clearly describing the origin of quotes in the book. Bagley makes if very clear, when he uses quotations, who was speaking, how it was recorded, what date this recollection was, and what bias the speaker might have had (usually without passing final judgement on truthfulness).
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