First Book of the Week: Massacre at Mountain Meadows

Hi, my name is Russ.  Yes, this blog might be another one of the crowd.  But not if I have anything to say about it.

I just finished working at the Church History Library.  I handled Brigham Young’s diaries, documents, and letters on a daily basis. I do have an axe to grind (why else would people blog?).  I have no sympathy with either those who seek to tear the Church down or those who seek to cover our history up.  Most of all, I want the Saints to feel secure in studying their history.  It’s not scary, gutsy, or “apostate.” This is our story.  It’s there, and we can own it. I love our people in the great times and in the shameful times.  “The spirit of love casteth out all fear.”


So for my first book recommendation of the week: Massacre at Mountain Meadows

This is (and ought to be) a harrowing episode in our history. It raises fundamental questions about war, the relationship between our individual moral compass and priesthood authority, and our tendency to “follow the crowd.”

The authors (two of them were/are full-time Church employees) worked very closely with the Church in publishing this book. They were given unprecedented access to the archives (including the First Presidency vault) and tremendous editorial license. They said that they were willing to implicate Brigham Young, if that’s where the evidence led. I’ve read, analyzed, and cited many of the actual documents they reference in the book. It’s reasonably-sized (250-300 pages) If you’re going to read one book on the topic, this is the book to read. Even my mother (who is an Anita Stansfield fan) read this book and found it fulfilling.



4 comments on “First Book of the Week: Massacre at Mountain Meadows

  1. Mitch S says:

    I was very pleased with this volume and their work. On an ironic note, my seventh great-aunt and her children were all killed at Mountain Meadows; three of her grandchildren were spared. But my wife is distantly related to John D. Lee.

  2. Katie says:

    Russ, I will have to read the book to decide what I think for myself, but you’ve sparked my curiosity with the words “you decide…” Did you personally feel there was enough evidence in the book to persuade you one way or the other to form your own opinion in regards to Brigham Young’s role in the massacre?
    I am immediately related to John D Lee and the massacre is not something that has been openly discussed in my family, so I thank you for recommending this book. It means a lot to me to get what facts there are straight so I can try to understand my family members who were affected by the tragedy. There is a rather shocking (at least to me) interpretation of the event given by one member of my family, closer to that generation, so I’ll be glad to get another perspective and see how they compare.

  3. Russ, I left a long comment which disappeared when I went to copy it and save a copy. This was probably a error on my part because I had not saved it first. I wanted to proof the copy, then decided that I might want to post it somewhere else. Gene England was traveling to Canada to do research, and I was going South frequently to speak with my Grandfather who was taking notes and samples while my grandma plied the shovel carefully so my grandfather could mark the sample and the place on his map where the sample was taken. He needed o prove hat the building that was burned was a mill. My grandpa knew where the mill stone was because he passed it every day on his way to and from school. He wanted some of the old people to corroborate the position of the mill and all felt that the whole event should die with their generation.

    So that’s when they decided to do the excavation and research and apply for a State Historical Monument. A cousin in the Governors Mansion who came down for the Dedication. This mil was important because John D Lee ground grain there 3 days a week for the poor of the church and the Indians. The pivotal events which triggered the premature decision to kill the party and save themselves occurred at the old mill and would make no sense if that history was literally buried.

    The reasoning make as much sense as the decision to drop atomic Bombs on Japan, and the atmosphere was about the same. The estimates of how many American lives were saved did not come from anyone on the ground or in the air, and they keep getting bigger. Sweeney, in his autobiography, put the estimate at 45,000 and the men were willing to stay and make the sacrifice.

    I learned a lot from the movie review site in the Vancouver main paper. The discussions went on for months and gave me a better picture of how the Fancher-Bakers entangled themselves in sticky events of history that in time led to the massacre. I do not think or mean to imply that the massacre was their fault. My grandmother wrote me when the first of the descendents came to the Lee Family Reunion to request a memorial. The fence he had to climb under to get to the site was built by my family to keep people out. Monuments had been tried at least twice, and a sturdy fence was needed,

  4. Russ–you can take these down after you have, if you like, after you’ve saved the links or seen the videos. It takes an enormous amount of reserch to begin to understand human evil.

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