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on April 21, 2002
Juanita Brooks, a life-long southern Utahn, used her considerable native talent, her drive for the truth, and many years of effort to compile this first exhaustive, honest examination of the Mountain Meadows massacre. It is especially impressive given the fact that Ms. Brooks wasn't by vocation a historian or scholar. Her narrative is lucid and complete. Her analysis has proven, in the context of additional investigation, to be principally correct. Throughout it all, Ms. Brooks remained also a faithful LDS (Mormon) woman, in spite of her disappointments with her contemporary LDS church leadership as it related to her investigation. This should be a starting point for any serious student of the Mountain Meadows massacre. Ms. Brooks shows us a world of grays with very human characters whom she places into a carefully resurrected context.
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on June 14, 2000
This was a hard story to tell. The Mountain Meadows Massacre is one of Mormondom's most infamous stories, and one which members have steered clear of for years. It is amazing that this book was written so long ago, and yet so many of us are still uninformed on what happened.
What Ms. Brooks has done is recreate the context in which this terrible act occurred. The Mormons of the southern colonies were in a highly aroused state knowing that the army of the United States was marching their way. The emigrant party was overly boisterous, deriding the Mormons, their leaders, and threatening to raise an army in California to return to destroy Utah. The Indians wanted some "action" against the "Merrycats" (Americans) in retaliation for the poisoning death of some of their tribe, and the Mormons new they needed the alliance of the Chiefs if they were to offer any kind of effective resistence to the army that would arrive that next spring. All of this contributed to a sense of mob action that every one of the participants would later regret. What is important about this book, however, is that it helps you understand that it was not a mere malicious act of vengence or wickedness; it came in the context of war, among a group of frightened farmers who had been driven from their homes by violent mobs at least two or three times in the past 15 years. Of course, it doesn't minimize the heinous act.....
It is also important in understanding the apparently diliberate sacrifice of John D. Lee, the only participant who was ever brought to trial, and who was ultimately executed at the Mountain Meadows. His loyalty to Brigham Young and the Church ultimately set him up to be the scapegoat, with the Church relying on the Book of Mormon phrase "it is better that one man should perish than a whole nation dwindle in unbelief." They knew that a fair trial would drag the upper eschelons of the Church hierarchy through the mud, and the preservation of the Church depended on that not happening.
While there are those who will criticize this work for some of its statistical inaccuracies (how many died in the Fancher party...), it is important to keep in mind that this book was written at a time when Mormon History was very difficult to obtain. It is remarkable that the story could be so well researched at all, and if there are errors, they certainly seem excusable to me. This book is still the standard for anyone who studies the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
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on February 8, 2004
This was the book that first got me interested in the Mountain Meadow Massacre, what I called the 9-11 of 19th Century. It was one of the biggest mass murders in the history of the American west and ironically speaking, the killers were white men, murdering white people in cold blood. With considerable courage, the author painted a very clear picture of what this massacre was all about and within her limited means, gave a cause and effect of the incident. I used that term "limited means" because the author was (now deceased) a member of LDS and she probably compromised some of more inflamatory elements of the massacre so other writers like Will Bagley and Sally Denton can go at it. Her defense of John D. Lee was bit surprising to me but I figured that she knew that Lee was nothing more then a scrapgoat for the Mormon Church. But she did not take any inroads to the actual responsibility of the massacre. Like I wrote in the earlier reviews on books written by Bagley and Denton, I would considered this book to be a valuable first book of three that honestly deal with the Mountain Meadow Massacre.
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on May 23, 2000
Brooks, although not a professional historian, did throuough research and offered a balanced view of the massacre even though she was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as well. The book's conclusions are well argued and the documents are used in a fair and balanced way. Brooks also does an effective job of discussing the background of the massacre with clear chapters on the "Mormon War" of 1857 that was coming. Unlike many authors, Brooks overcomes the tendancy to become emotional or polemical about the massacre. Instead of using the book to further her own agenda, (either to be an apologist or what is called an "Anti-Mormon" and tear down the church), Brooks attempts to bring to light not only the massacre itself but the motivations behind it and the cover-up that happened afterwards. Anyone studying the Mountain Meadows Massacre need to read this book first or at least second or their research is woefully incomplete!
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on February 10, 2006
Juanita Brooks must be commended for writing as thorough a history of the Mountain Meadows massacre as she has; it seems she spent decades gathering and sifting information, including affidavits, personal letters, newspaper accounts, and documents from the LDS archives, to present as accurate a picture as possible. And still so much is lost or buried in history and irretrievable today. How many people were actually killed remains in dispute, the number ranging anywhere from 60-something to 120. The causes of the near-hysteria exhibited by the southern Utah Mormons at the time, and the fact that the well-stocked Fancher wagon train was their target, are many and varied: fear of attack by the US army, fear that through-trains would incite Californians to attack the Mormon settlements, a desire to avenge recent Mormon murders in the States, and the Fancher party's own intimidating behavior toward the Mormon's in the villages they passed through, have all been forwarded as causes.

The role of the Indians involved is vague; they at first were expected to do all the killing while the whites looked on; this isn't what happened, though some Indians did participate and did much looting of the wagons afterward. Finally the role of Brigham Young in what appeared at first would be a complete "cover-up" only to have one man, John D. Lee, take the blame for everything - perhaps because he was the leader of the attackers and certainly because it would help keep the high officials of the church from appearing guilty, is explored by Brooks. It took a hundred years, but in 1961 John D. Lee was finally "reinstated to membership and former blessings" by the LDS supreme council. The Mountain Meadows tragedy is a fascinating story where somewhat cloudy intelligence got mixed up with fear and paranoia, allowing circumstances to get beyond control. It wasn't the first time something like it happened, and it won't be the last. Brooks's account of it is superb historical writing, however.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon November 22, 2011
In the "Author's Statement" to the fourth printing of this book, Brooks summarized, "the massacre at Mountain Meadows was committed by a military group under military orders by men ... Spurred on by the inflammatory speeches of their Church leaders, their own determination not to be driven again, their private vows to avenge the blood of the Prophets..." (Pg. xviii)

She wrote in the Preface, "in trying to present this subject with a desire only to tell the truth, I believe that I am doing my church a service.. Since the Mountain Meadows Massacre occurred... we have tried to blot out the affair from our history... Years ago, that might have been the best stand to take in the interest of the church, but now, with the perspective of time... we should be able to view this tragedy objectively and dispassionately... This study is not designed either to smear or to clear any individual; its purpose is to present the truth."

Here are some additional quotations from the book:

"...ever since the martyrdom of their prophet, the Saints had been taught that they should never cease to importune the Lord to avenge the blood of the prophets. Now here were the men who had boasted openly and defiantly that they had helped to kill Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum." (Pg. 53)
"This clears Brigham Young of any direct responsibility for the massacre. His frequent cautions against shedding blood are evidence that he would not approve, much less order, a massacre... His responsibility after the war was over and his possible guilt as accessory after the fact are points to be considered later in this study." (Pg. 67-68)
"The modern student, weighing various accounts, finds himself so often between accusations and denials that it is difficult to determine which most nearly approximates the truth." (Pg. 75)
"Whatever the details, the fact remains that the entire company was betrayed and murdered, an ugly fact that will not be downed... there is not justification for the death of a single indivdiual." (Pg. 108)
"Thus it was that, so far as the official church records were concerned, the entire blame of the massacre was shifted to the shoulders of John D. Lee." (Pg. 187)
"The reader ... senses the stamina Lee must have had to resist all attempts to persuade him to place the blame upon Brigham Young." (Pg. 194)
"Joseph Fielding Smith (in Essentials in Church History)... quotes ... Bancroft's statement that it 'was the crime of an individual...' ... Yet in the collections of the historians office of the Latter-day Saints church, records of which he was the custodian, there is ample evidence that this was definitely NOT the crime of a single individual, oir the responsibility of only one man. Even the most superficial research would show the utter ridiculousness of such a statement." (Pg. 217)
"While he did not order the massacre, and would have prevented it if he could, Brigham Young was accessory after the fact, in that he knew what had happened, and how and why it happened. Evidence of this is abundant and unmistakable, and from the most impeccable Mormon sources." (Pg. 219)
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on July 7, 1999
Juanita Brook's book was objective on both sides, pointing out the atmosphere among the LDS people at the time of the Mountain Meadows Massacre while also showing the inconsistencies in some of the LDS explanations. If there is one clear point in the book it is that in times of prejudice and war, even good people will do horrific things. This does not justify the massacre but does attempt to explain the paranoia and fear which existed in Southern Utah at that time. I find Juanita's research to be very fair and quite accurate. It parallels the research done by Josiah F. Gibbs in his book which was printed in 1910, much closer to the time of the massacre. Mr. Gibbs is not LDS and it is obvious he does not like the LDS, but certainly his book verifies that the research which Juanita performed was very accurate. Having read many of the books and information regarding this massacre, I believe Juanita has done her research well and attempted to get the truth out. One painfully obvious truth which comes out is the quickness with which the U.S. Government took action in trying to find the guilty parties. Perhaps if they had taken such quickness with the killings and mobbings upon the LDS in Missouri, Illinois and other states, this massacre could have been avoided.
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on April 27, 2010
I really admire Juanita Brooks, and her research.

She wrote this in spite of pressure, and without the benefit of quick internet research. I think it's a good book, that adds to the library of anyone interested in Mountain Meadows.

Will Bagley's book is better, but nearly every book out there about this horrible subject references Brook's book frequently.

It should not be your only book on the subject, because more has been learned, and she didn't have access to everything. She also makes some mistakes in the book, but the thing is, those errors seem to be from lack of correct information rather than a deliberate cover-up. Again, notice the publishing date.

I have no doubt that this brave woman who opened the examination of this horror would have included every nasty detail had she access to it.

Does she look at the Mormon side of things? Absolutely. That's what initially propelled her to write it. But she tries, very hard, to stay unbiased, and present what she can find, warts and all.

I consider this book an important piece of the puzzle.
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VINE VOICEon July 14, 2008
It's definitely a painful story but needed to be told, and Ms Brooks presented a detailed, marvelous manuscript. She told it the way it happened and didn't gloss over the barbarity of the whole situation and covered thoroughly the feelings and sentiments in Utah at the time. John D. Lee took the blame and was executed twenty years later and cleansed the others and the church, neutralizing the ugly massacre so people could move on with their lives, and the Mormons could start working with the US rather than against the federal government. Well worth the time to read and refer to actual documents - very academic and precise, but that I believe makes the book creditible. Good job - not another cover-up.
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on November 28, 2006
Briefly, even 50 years on, there has been much printed on the topic of the Mountain Meadows Massacre (MMM), much of it worthless, such as the discussion in "Under the Banner of Heaven: a story of violent faith." 50 years on, Brook's book on the MMM is one of, if not the best analysis of this tragic event. For those interested in Mormon history, this book is a must, alongside "The Mormon Experience" by Arrington and Bitton.
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