BLOOD OF THE PROPHETS: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows

Will Bagley, Author . Univ. of Oklahoma $39.95 (544p) ISBN 978-0-8061-3426-0

In 1950, Utah historian Juanita Brooks stunned the Mormon community when she published The Mountain Meadows Massacre, a detailed and careful history of LDS involvement in the 1857 slaughter of an emigrant party from Arkansas headed for California. She argued that Mormons had instigated the attack and then covered up the bloodshed with a vow of secrecy. However, based on the available evidence in the 1940s, her research did not indicate that Brigham Young, the president of the Church, had ordered the attack. Enter this account by Salt Lake Tribune columnist Bagley, who draws respectfully from Brooks's work and also unpublished diaries, letters and other documents to raise the ultimate question: "What did Brigham Young know, and when did he know it?" In this meticulously researched and well-argued book, Bagley provides ample evidence to demonstrate that Young was at least an accessory after the fact, who led the effort at a coverup and eventually scapegoated John D. Lee, a massacre participant who was executed in 1877. Bagley's book presents some new and fascinating source material: accounts by the Paiutes who participated in the attack, memories of the young children who survived it and, most interestingly, the voices of those Mormon objectors who refused to cooperate in the massacre or who dared to break the silence about it afterward. Bagley also does a fine job of situating the massacre within the context of the Mormon Reformation, a short but intense period of fundamentalist zealotry. Although it's not flawless, this study will, like Brooks's, stand the test of time as a reflective and well-researched history of Mormonism's darkest hour. (Sept.)

Forecast:There has been a burst of recent interest in the atrocity, including Sally Denton's American Massacre (coming from Knopf) and Judith Freeman's novel Red Water (Pantheon, Jan. 2002). In May, three historians employed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced their own plans to do a full-scale interpretive history of the subject, tentatively titled Tragedy at Mountain Meadows (Oxford, 2003). After that book's publication next year, all relevant documents owned by the Church will be made available to the public for the first time, so there may be still more interpretations in the offing .

Reviewed on: 08/26/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 493 pages - 978-0-8061-3639-4
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