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Massacre at Mountain Meadows Hardcover – August 19, 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 95 customer reviews

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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

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: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #829,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Kindle Edition
I once read a story on the Mountain Meadows Massacre in an LDS church magazine called the Ensign around 1987-1989. I'd never heard of the Mountain Meadows Massacre before. The article said its purpose was to educate us about the incident in case we were unfamiliar with it. It basically lay the blame on the indians and said the indians coerced the reluctant mormons to help them. In the following years I learned that wasn't true at all and the church has pretty much come around 180 on it since then. That was really an eye-opener for me and I learned not to trust anything the church publishes. That's not to say I don't still enjoy reading church publications. But I'm very careful about the source and I've since learned who are the well-respected authors on church history, both mormon and non-mormon. Reading in the introduction on how well the church cooperated in providing information, I'm impressed that the church has made this big step.
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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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