Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Massacre at Mountain Meadows

by Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley Jr., Glen M. Leonard
430 pgs

On September 11, 1857, nearly 120 emigrants, consisting of men, women, and children, were killed by a group of men, consisting of a band of Mormon militia and Paiute warriors. The emigrants were lured away from their encampment under a white flag of truce and then killed. Only 17 small children from the group—deemed too young to be considered reliable witnesses—were spared. The attack became known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

As a member of the LDS church, I remember the Mountain Meadows Massacre being mentioned occasionally in church, but until now, I didn’t know much about it. I remember hearing that some believed Brigham Young, the president of the church at the time, gave the order for the attack to take place. That would be inconsistent with the image I had of the man, so I decided to learn more about what happened for myself.

Massacre at Mountain Meadows is a thorough and comprehensively-documented account of the events surrounding the attack. It was written by three LDS scholars and historians, but it gives a fair and balanced account of what took place. In the preface to the book, they explain that they agreed to write the book with the condition they be given full access to the Church’s records, and they be given the freedom to write the book as they saw fit. The book describes the persecution and violence against the Mormons, which ultimately led them to leave their homes and property in Illinois and look for a place to settle west of the Rocky Mountains. It describes the relationship the Mormon settlers had with the U.S. government and the fear they had that the U.S. Army was on its way to wage a war against them.

The authors' greatest accomplishment is their explanation of how a group of men, who prior to the attack were peaceful and law-abiding, became capable of committing a mass killing of a group of unarmed families. In explaining how it could happen, they in no way try to justify what they did. They make it very clear that there was no justification for the attack.

I found the book to be a fair and balanced account of the massacre and the events which led to it. It presents the facts without trying to justify them, nor protect the reputation of the church, its leaders, and its members.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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