How We Recount the Mountain Meadows Massacre – Pt 2


At the height of the Utah War, the Baker-Fancher party of emigrants from Arkansas traveled through Utah heading to California. The recent church essay records, “At the peak of this tension, in early September 1857, a branch of the territorial militia in southern Utah (composed entirely of Mormons), along with some Indians they recruited, laid siege to a wagon train.”  After the initial attack was resisted, and after the party identified the attackers as not simply an Indian raid, but as composed of white Mormons, it was consciously decided by the ecclesiastical and militia leaders, Stake Presidents Isaac C. Haight and William H. Dame to leave no survivors to tell any tales.  On September 11, the emigrant party was coaxed to leave their barricade in a single file under promise of a white flag.  After a few hundred yards, a signal was given.  All were murdered except for about 17 children under eight years old.  The attackers were sworn to secrecy and a plan was set to blame it on the Paiutes.

What followed was a cover-up.  Not until the 1870’s, when the federal government had sufficient evidence to place blame on Utah settlers, did Brigham Young orchestrate setting the Iron County Indian Agent John D. Lee as the scapegoat in trial.  He was executed for the crime.  He, alone, received any legal or lasting ecclesiastical justice for the massacre.

This essay documents the evolution of how we tell the story.  Who was to blame for the massacre?  Were the native Paiutes the instigators and sole attackers?  Were whites involved, were they reluctant, were they the instigators?  Were the emigrants antagonistic? How involved was Brigham?  How do we talk about the cover-up?  What more do we need to say?

Most of the material for the essay is from a PhD Dissertation by Casey Olson written in 2013.[1][2] Olson documents all of the written narratives discussing the Mountain Meadows Massacre.  The public schools have closely aligned with the church’s stance.  Outside of B.H. Robert’s Comprehensive History, the church held that Paiutes were primarily responsible until a 2007 Ensign Article.


Olson (2013).  Placement of responsibility by each publication categorized by type

George A. Smith (1858)

The first official narrative is Apostle George A. Smith’s official report of the massacre, recorded in a letter to Brigham Young on August 17. It placed full blame on the Indians for the massacre and only mentioned that John D. Lee and some other White Mormons may have been present.

Charles W. Penrose (1884)

Apostle Charles W. Penrose gave an address to the twelfth ward in October 1884, eight years after Lee was executed. The Church later reprinted it. [3]  He asserted that John D. Lee of his own volition incited Indians to attack the Baker-Fancher train and commit the massacre. He related that some local White Mormons under Lee’s influence also participated in the atrocity.

Hubert Howe Bancroft. History of Utah (1889)

One of the first secular Utah history books was written by a prolific “assembly line” historian Hubert Bancroft.  He essentially adopted Penrose’s narrative.

Orson Whitney. History of Utah (1892) and The Making of a State (1908)

Apostle Orson F. Whitney wrote Utah’s first history textbook in 1908.  It included an abbreviated version of Penrose’s narrative.  The multi-volume 1892 history conceded that John D. Lee joined Indians attacking the wagon train, but represented Indians as the leading perpetrators. It reiterated the original Latter-day Saint narrative that downplayed Mormon culpability by vilifying the Arkansas and Missouri emigrants, rebutting Bancroft’s footnotes that supplied a version of the massacre unfavorable to Mormons, and emphasizing the alleged depravity of bloodthirsty Indians bent on revenge.

Josiah F. Gibbs. The Mountain Meadows Massacre (1910)

Gibbs was an ex-Mormon who wrote this short book published in Salt Lake City.  He wrote, “There is a popular and widespread impression that John D. Lee was the leader and arch criminal of the massacre. That is not true.… As an abject slave of the Mormon priesthood he was a willing tool of his ‘file leader’ [Isaac C. Haight] in deeds of violence.” (p. 15)

Joseph Fielding Smith. Essentials in Church History (1922)

Apostle J.F. Smith and Church historian wrote a popular volume that became required reading for missionaries.  He wrote that “It was the deed of enraged Indians aided by a number of white men” (p. 418). The chapter’s first footnote includes a direct citation of Bancroft (1889) who wrote that the massacre “was the crime of an individual, the crime of a fanatic of the worst stamp” (p. 544).

He recounted the notion that Indians first ambushed the train and later called “for 166 reinforcements from among their tribes, and for John D. Lee, who had been in close touch with Indian affairs as their farmer, to come and lead them to victory” (pp. 421- 422). Lee “seemed to partake of the frenzy of the red men” (p. 422) Isaac C. Haight and William Dame are not mentioned, likely because their roles as Mormon militia and ecclesiastical leaders would severely complicate the narrative’s basic premise—that the massacre was perpetrated by Indians and a few rogue White men.

Brigham H. Roberts. A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


B. H. Roberts, senior president of the First Counsel of the Seventy, told the story largely exonerating latter-day saints. He discussed the crude, immoral behavior of the emigrants, repeating stories of them poisoning cows and streams. The initial attack and siege was instigated solely by the Indians.  He does, however, doubt Lee’s claim to “come upon the Indians “in a frenzy of excitement and demanded that he lead them in an attack.  If Lee did not comply, “they would declare war upon the Mormons and kill everyone in the settlements.” Roberts lays responsibility “upon those men who conceived and executed it; for whatever of initiative may or may not have been taken by Indians in the first assault upon these emigrants, responsibility for this deliberately planned massacre rests not with them.” (p. 156)

Roberts believed that during George A. Smith’s 1858 investigation of the affair, Smith was able to ascertain that White Mormons were involved in the killing, and he criticized Smith’s official report that perpetuated the claim that the atrocity was an Indian massacre. He cites the preservation of the children not being customary for Indians – “especially of uniformly young age, as in this case; that was not the act of savages.”  Second, the Indians became demoralized.  “They had seen that their white neighbors, instructors in industry, had been capable of an act of treachery and savagery equal to their own, even if not more treacherous and murderous.  Surely there could be no more white man’s moral and spiritual influence over the red men after what the latter had witnessed at Mountain Meadows!”

Third, Roberts notes the report of the tangentially unexplained presence of John D. Lee and other white men.  “This, a year after the crime was perpetrated; and is the only indication from the whole report that white men were present at the massacre!  But previous to this and “soon after” the event, the presence of Lee and other white men at the massacre and even somewhat of their participation in it had been made known in Salt Lake City.”

Roberts admission that Latter-day Saints had been “naturally slow to admit all the facts” (p. 139) signaled his willingness to explore culpability for the Mountain Meadows Massacre in a way that previous Latter-day Saint historians had not.

William E. Berrett. The Restored Church (1936)

Written for CES, Barrett concluded: “The perpetrators were never held guiltless by the Church and the Church must not be condemned because of the vile deeds of a few of its members” (p. 488). Berrett asserted that a few White Mormons eventually assisted hundreds of Indians in carrying out the massacre is significant.

Juanita Brooks. The Mountain Meadows Massacre (1950)

Juanita Brooks’ book was a watershed moment in the historiography of the massacre.  She was a Columbia educated English teacher who grew up in Bunkerville, NV and taught Dixie State College in St. George.  The publication of her book remedied the “selective amnesia” that had begun to take hold with regard to the massacre’s place in Utah history.  It further contested the narrative that suggested Mormon involvement was limited only to John D. Lee and a few unnamed White associates.

In her second edition of her book, Brook’s relates Samuel Knight’s account of the massacre.  He reported that “a messenger came from the authorities in Cedar City…commanding him to go South and instruct the Indians to arm themselves and prepare to attack the emigrant train.  This attack, it was proposed, was to occur at the junction of the Santa Clara and the Mogotsu.”  Brooks emphasizes “the orders came from Cedar, and were both military and ecclesiastical.”[4]

She stated that while Brigham Young and George A. Smith “did not specifically order the massacre, they did preach sermons and set up social conditions which made it possible” (p. 219). In addition, Brooks implicated Brigham Young as “accessory after the fact” of the murders, “in that he knew what had happened, and how and why it happened” (p. 219), and yet he ultimately allowed blame for the massacre to be unjustly shouldered by John D. Lee and his Indian allies.

She asserted that after Lee’s first trial, LDS Church leaders formed a strategy to place all the responsibility for the massacre on Lee so “they could lift the stigma from the church as a whole” (p. 220).  Twelve pages of her book defend Lee’s character and suggested he was a victim of the circumstances in which he was placed by his leaders.

However, as Will Bagley (2002) noted, “Brooks’s unquestioning acceptance of Lee’s account of the massacre also led her to believe his most ingenious lies—that the Paiutes led the attack, [and] that they had forced his hand” (p. 357).

Significantly, she openly chastised Joseph Fielding Smith (1922) and his classic, widely used text. “Smith devotes one chapter to the massacre, in which, without mentioning names, he can hardly find language strong enough or words vigorous enough to condemn the participants. He quotes one footnote, and one only—Bancroft’s statement that it “was the crime of an individual, the crime of a fanatic of the worst stamp.” Yet in the collections of the historian’s office of the Latter-day Saints church, records of which he is the custodian, there is ample evidence that this was definitely not the crime of a single individual, nor the responsibility of only one man. Even the most superficial research would show the utter ridiculousness of such a statement.” (p. 217)

Latter-day Saint leaders in Salt Lake City initially reacted to Brooks’ work with “stolid silence”.[5] Years later, in 1976, Elder Ezra Taft Benson, of the Quorum of the Twelve, warned Brigham Young University students and faculty of writings “which would tarnish our own Church history and its leaders,” and then denounced “one writer” who accused Brigham Young “of being ‘an accessory after the fact’ to the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre incident.”[6]

In the preface to her book, Brooks (1962) acknowledged that her objective was to rewrite Mormon history: “Since the Mountain Meadows Massacre occurred, and especially since the execution of John D. Lee for his part in it, we have tried to blot out the affair from our history. It must not be referred to, much less discussed openly” (p. xix). She affirmed that the book’s purpose was “to present the truth” and then declared, “I feel sure that nothing but the truth can be good enough for the church to which I belong” (p. xx).

In 1982, Brooks related an experienced that motivated her to write.[7]  She taught school in Mesquite, Nevada. A local resident named Nephi Johnson asked her to record his life story saying “ears have not heard nor tongue has spoken the things my eyes have seen.” However, before Brooks pursued this opportunity Johnson became critically ill. Summoned to the man’s deathbed, Brooks observed: “He prayed, he yelled, he preached, and once his eyes opened wide to the ceiling and he yelled, ‘Blood! BLOOD! BLOOD!’” After asking a family member why Johnson thus screamed, Brooks learned that he was present at the Mountain Meadows on the day of the massacre.

As we shall see, it takes more than a half century for Brook’s accurate conclusions to be incorporated by the church.  The church’s publications continued the narrative of Paiute instigators and reluctant Whites.

Carter Eldredge Grant. The Kingdom of God Restored (1955)

Grant wrote this book under the prodding of Adam S. Bennion, Apostle and administrator of CES. The manuscript was approved Joseph Fielding Smith and William Barrett and used in some seminaries.

A heading preceding Grant’s account of the massacre refers to “Indian Troubles” (p. 468), and the narrative begins under the heading “The Pillaging Missouri Wild Cats” (p. 470). Grant cited Joseph Fielding Smith (1922) to describe the emigrants’ alleged offenses and added, without evidence, “they turned their horses, mules, and oxen into the ripening grain and cornfields of the Mormon farmers, and they were accused of poisoning springs, mistreating Indian girls and women, and killing several red men. …Thirteen years after the massacre, certain evidence leaked out, revealing that several frenzied white men had taken part in the terrible battle, which up to that time had been blamed entirely upon the Indians. The Church immediately disfellowshipped several Mormons who had participated in the massacre.”

In reality, only two were excommunicated, Lee and Stake President Haight.  Haight, however, was rebaptized four years later 1874 by Brigham Young personally.[8]

Milton R. Hunter. The Utah Story (1960)

Elder Milton R. Hunter, of the first quorum of the Seventy, penned the first Utah history textbook for use in the public schools after Brook’ 1950 book was published. It entirely avoided the subject of the massacre.

James B. Allen & Glen M. Leonard. The Story of the Latter-day Saints (1976)

Church historian, Leonard Arrington, appointed two associates in the LDS Historical Department, Allen and Leonard, to author “a compact, introductory overview of Church history.” While the book was not an official publication of the LDS Church, it was printed by the church owned Deseret Book Company and the title page affirmed it was published in collaboration with the Historical Department of the Church.

The book averred that Indians “threatened some of the small communities of the Saints, and the settlers felt themselves risking danger if they acted too openly to restrain the Indians” (pp. 304-305). When some militiamen refused to follow orders, the Indians did the work of destruction for them. (p. 305)

Leonard Arrington. Brigham Young: American Moses (1985)

Leonard Arrington, now former Church historian, wrote the 1985 biography of Brigham Young.  Although citing Brooks, he continues the Church’s narrative that the massacre was orchestrated by the Paiutes and that the Mormons were reluctant participants.[9]  He relates, “The Indians determined to attack them.  By the time the emigrants reached the Mountain Meadows, the Indians laid siege.  Meanwhile, they asked their Mormon “friends” to help them wreak their revenge.  Warily, the Mormons, outnumbered now by the Indians in the region, declined.”  Why did the Mormons change their mind?  Arrington claims “pressure by the natives” and “the settlers’ fear of infuriating the Indians” as well as “their own hysteria when they found that some of their impetuous young men had killed an immigrant going for help-thus leading the company to conclude that the Mormons were partners with the Indians in the siege.”

John D. Lee was released as bishop in 1865, but not excommunicated until 1870.  “On a trip to southern Utah, in 1859, Elder George A. Smith was sufficiently disquieted to relieve some local church officers of their posts.  Arrington reports that John D. Lee was told privately to “gather your wives and children around you, select some fertile valley,” in an out-of-the-way place, and keep away from the public eye.

Arrington does point to Brigham’s violent speeches.  “Brigham realized that his rhetoric, and that of his associates, could have disastrous consequences. … The uncompromising language, the militant stance, the violent imagery of his public “discourses” were abandoned.”

CES Manual. Church History in the Fullness of Times: The History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1989)

By now the Church’s manuals were printed without authors, being largely written by committees.  This manual was in use until 2015.  On the massacre they write, “the Indian problem in southern Utah complicated these circumstances” (p. 371). The narrative further explains that it was possible “that the Indians would turn on the Mormon settlers” (p. 371). After “a band of Indians attacked the Fancher Train” (p. 372), local Mormons met and discussed what to do. A diabolical plan was concocted, partly to placate the angry Indians.” The account suggests at least three times that Mormons were in danger because of Indians.

Will Bagley. Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows (2002)

Acclaimed Western Historian set forth a narrative that attributed primary culpability directly to Brigham Young. In doing so, Bagley did not minimize the role of other Mormon leaders, such as George A. Smith, William H. Dame, Isaac C. Haight, or John D. Lee. In addition, Bagley was the first White scholar to cite Paiute Indian sources in his narrative of the massacre. He successfully demonstrated that Paiutes had been unjustifiably blamed for the massacre, but did not erase the possibility that some Indians were involved as participants.

Bagley frankly suggested that Latter-day Saint leaders’ alleged complicity in the massacre undermined the truth claims of the Mormon faith. His work was followed by a 2007 Hollywood film, September Dawn, both of which advanced the same conclusions as Bagley.

Sally Denton. American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857 (2003)

Desiring to illuminate “the corruption in the Mormon Church”, Denton published American Massacre winning the Western Heritage Wrangler Award.

In making this case, Denton did not attempt to set forth new historical evidence based on primary source materials, as Will Bagley had done. In spite this, Denton offered new interpretations concerning  culpability for the Mountain Meadows Massacre. She was the first White author to examine the body of research on the massacre and conclude that Paiute Indians were in no way responsible for the affair. Ironically, Denton disregarded some  Paiute oral histories in order to make this assertion. She relied on a narrative that John D. Lee was a danite. She also claims that blood atonement started with Joseph Smith.

Richard E. Turley Jr. “The Mountain Meadows Massacre” The Ensign (Sep. 2007)

This article appeared in the LDS Church’s official periodical in commemoration of the 150-year anniversary of the Mountain Meadows Massacre.  It was the first statement by the Church that placed the responsibility primarily with the White Mormon settlers.

Turley writes that the perpetrators were “some 50 to 60 local militiamen in southern Utah, aided by American Indian allies” (p. 14). He discusses the violent sermons. “Fiery rhetoric” and “wartime policies” of George A. Smith, Brigham Young, and other church leaders “exacerbated tensions and conflict between California-bound emigrants and Latter-day Saint settlers as wagon trains passed through Utah’s settlements” (p. 16).

Turley explains the motive behind the initial attack to be verbal confrontations between members of the Baker-Fancher party and some Mormons in Cedar City. Cedar City leaders decided to persuade “the generally peaceful Paiutes” (p. 17) to kill some or all of the men in the train and steal their cattle. This narrative set forth the idea that Mormons planned the initial attack and were primarily responsible for most of the killings that occurred. It repudiated notions that Mormons were victims of the emigrants’ abuse and the Paiutes’ fury and suggested instead that the emigrants and Paiutes were victims of the misdeeds of Mormons.

Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley Jr., & Glen M. Leonard.  Massacre at Mountain Meadows: An American Tragedy (2008)

Partly as a response to Bagley’s and Denton’s attribution of culpability to Brigham Young and also to fulfill the need of openly and frankly telling the narrative, the Church commissioned three historians to write the tale.  They provided Walker, Turley, and Leonard ample support and assistance from the Church History Department.  The first half of their research covers the massacre and the events leading to it.  They are still working on the second half which will cover the aftermath. They published it through Oxford University Press to add credibility to their openness.

Walker and colleagues contended that the Mormons responsible for orchestrating the massacre initially hatched a plan  to incite Paiute Indians to assail the train and steal the emigrants’ cattle following a verbal conflict between the emigrants and Mormons in Cedar City. The local Mormon authority, Isaac C. Haight, recruited John D. Lee to use his influence with the Indians to execute the plan. Once the plan was set in motion, Haight and others appeared to regret the chain of events they had begun, but ultimately made the decision to carry out the final massacre once they learned that the emigrants likely understood that Mormons were involved in the attacks.

The authors refute Bagley’s conclusions concerning Young’s involvement.  They argue there are chronological problems in Bagley’s chain of events.

They asserted that “Paiutes would not have attacked the company unless local settlers had stirred them up” (p. 158). In sum, Paiute Indians were “shamelessly used by the white men who lured them to the Meadows” (p. 209)  However, in discussing the undue blame Mormons initially placed on Paiute Indians for the massacre, the book failed to recognize that Mormon leaders knowingly continued to allow this inaccuracy to be perpetuated.  Perhaps the next volume will add to this.

John G. Turner.  Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet (2012)

The most recent treatment comes from 2012 John Turner biography of Brigham Young.  Turner is unique among scholars, because he is the first non-Mormon to have a largely uninhibited access to church archives.  His perspective is also important, as it is a response to both Will Bagley’s critical Blood of the Prophets and the church sanctioned Walker, Turley, and Leonard volume.

Turner writes, “There is no satisfactory evidence that Young ordered the massacre; the most straightforward reading of Young’s letter to Isaac Haight is exculpatory.  Given his political objective of keeping the army away from Mormon settlements, moreover, there was no good reason for Young to order a massacre with the potential to focus the full fury of the American government on Utah.

“At the same time, Young bears significant responsibility for what took place.”  “A more prudent and responsible leader would have calmed rather than inflamed anti-Gentile sentiment and restrained rather than encouraged Indian attacks on American civilians.

“The several acts of violence during the previous winter-the Thomas Lewis castration, the shootings at the Santa Clara River, and the Parrish-Potter murders—all suggested how easily violent rhetoric and incautious decisions could have unexpected and deadly consequences.”

“It remains unclear exactly what southern Utah leaders privately told Young about the massacre in the fall and winter of 1857-58.  Even if they attempted to shroud their own participation and that of the other southern Utah Mormons, their explanations would likely not have satisfied the church’s president.  Brigham Young was not a gullible man.  He knew as well as anyone that the Paiutes would not have made an unprompted attack.  Young feared that full knowledge of Mormon responsibility for the massacre would foment anti-Mormon sentiment across the country and embolden federal judges, giving him good reason for wanting the truth buried in the shallow red dirt of southern Utah.”

A year later in June of 1858, Jacob Hamblin gave Apostle George A. Smith an “account of the massacre.”  Afterword Smith investigated the matter.  Agreeing with Robert’s analysis, Turner notes, “By this point, Smith – and Young – must have known a great deal.  Yet Lee, Haight, and others appeared to remain not just in good standing but in Young’s own personal favor.  Over time, Young’s inaction lead many observers, Mormon and Gentile, to reach the conclusion that he condoned the slaughter.”

“By 1861, Young knew that Mormons bore responsibility for the crime and wanted to make sure that their fellow church members shielded them from prosecution.  For Young, everything else was secondary to the preservation of the church.”

Gospel Topics Essay. Peace and Violence among 19th-Century Latter-day Saints (2014)

The Church’s website quietly published a series of essays between 2013-2015.  They will slowly be incorporated in CES materials.  Now with the official imprimatur of the Church, this essays explicitly cites Walker, Turley, and Leonard and repeats their conclusion: The local Mormons were fully responsible and Brigham Young had no involvement beforehand.

Cover-Up of the Massacre

Less has been said to this.  The essay had very little to say about it.  Only noting that 2 members were eventually excommunicated (but failed to mention that Isaac Haight was reinstated), and Lee was executed.

As noted, Roberts questions and criticizes Elder George A. Smith’s 1958 report to Brigham Young.  Roberts also exonerates Brigham Young by citing his repeated nominal efforts for Governor Cumming to “render all possible assistance to have it investigated”  Arrington also notes that Young pressed for government investigation of the massacre.  However, Turner writes, “Though Young repeatedly promised to support an impartial investigation, he hardly clamored for justice, nor did he mete out timely ecclesiastical punishment.”  George Hicks, a settler in Harmony was so unsettled by the lack of church action that he wrote President Young asking why Lee had not been excommunicated, “Can it be posable that the Church … fellowships a Company of men whose hands have been Stained with the blood of innocent women and children?”  Young responded, This “does not concern” uninvolved Latter-day Saints.  Hicks should mind his own business.  However George Hicks sent a letter to the Salt Lake Tribune noting that Lee rode his horse “by the side of Brigham’s carriage” Implying they were “birds of a feather” in guilt.  Hicks lost his membership over the letter.

In 1859, Judge Cradlebaugh made the first attempts at prosecuting the criminals involved in the massacre.  Met with tremendous opposition, it did not prove successful. He was reappointed to Carson valley where he “continued his anti-Mormon attacks,” as B. H. Roberts writes it.

Further evidence became public with time.  On being excommunicated in 1870,  Lee complained that “if the massacre was wrong now, it certainly was wrong then.”  Young claimed “that they had never learned the particulars until lately.”  Lee countered that “the whole Truth was then told you.”

Arrington described the first 1875 trial of John D. Lee as being “prodded by anti-Mormon Gentiles. The solicitor general had finally given his approval to a campaign to net at least one massacre participant.” Young sent an affidavit to Beaver claiming that he prevented Lee from giving the whole account because he could not bear the sanguinity.  However, Wilford Woodruff’s journal confirms that Lee had discussed the slaughter in at least some macabre detail in his first meeting with Young.  Furthermore, in Young’s affidavit, he denied any knowledge of the disposition of the emigrant’s property.  Turner notes “It seems incredible that he would not have asked such questions of John D. Lee or others.”  George Bates commented “He might have gone much farther and still kept within the truth”.

The first trial resulted in a hung jury.  However, Young, George A. Smith and others were still faced precarious legal danger for failing to respond quickly to knowledge of Mormon involvement with the massacre and the subsequent dispersal of the emigrant’s property.  Thus, after being urged by Bates  Young encouraged a second trial.  This time, in 1876, members and even first presidency counselor Daniel Wells testified.  Lee argues, and Juanita Brooks agrees that he was set up as their scapegoat.


The massacre was ordered for the purposes of silencing a murderous mistake.  The dead tell no tales.  The lives of over 200 innocent men, women, and children were expunged.  The participants swore an oath of silence.  Brigham Young, George A. Smith, and others actively sought to cover any White participation.  When it proved inevitable, they offered one of their own, the adopted son of Brigham, sealed in the Holy Temple, John D. Lee, as the whipping boy.  Mormon historians and educators continued to blame the emigrants and natives for the massacre for almost a century.  Even after Juanita Brooks, a faithful Mormon, wrote the truth in 1950, the Church did not act on it for another half century.

President Taylor said in 1874, “It does not seem fair to accuse nations, states and communities of deeds perpetrated by some of their citizens, unless they uphold it.”  In 1999 at the dedication of the new monument, President Hinckley would not discuss blame and prematurely pleaded to “let the book of the past be closed.” However, he did express the conclusion from his readings that exonerated Brigham. Additionally, he said that it is our moral obligation to “honor, respect, and to do all feasible to remember and recognize those who died here.”[10]

With the publication of the first Walker et al volume, the book has been properly re-opened.  When the second volume is published and honest conclusions are disseminated about the cover-up, the Church will have taken responsibility and repented of its part in the tragedy.

At the 150 year anniversary, Apostle Henry B. Eyring read the Church’s apology at a memorial event.[11]

“responsibility for the massacre lies with the local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the regions near Mountain Meadows who also held civic and military positions and with members of the church acting under their direction. We express profound regret for the massacre carried out in this valley 150 years ago today and for the undue and untold suffering experienced by the victims then and by their relatives to the present time. A separate expression of regret is owed to the Paiute people who have unjustly borne for too long the principal blame for what occurred during the massacre. Although the extent of their involvement is disputed, it is believed they would not have participated without the direction and stimulus provided by local Church leaders and members.”

[1] Olson, Casey W. Jan, 2013. The Evolution of History: Changing Narratives of the Mountain Meadows Massacre in Utah’s Public School Curricula. Utah State University: All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. Paper 2071.

[2] I add summaries of both Arrington’s and Turner’s Brigham Young biographies.


[4] Brooks, Juanita.  Mountain Meadows Massacre.  Second Edition, page viii. 1962

[5] Levi Peterson. Juanita Brooks as a Mormon Dissenter.2002. Signature Books. p. 238

[6] Benson, E. T. (1976). God’s hand in our nation’s history. Retrieved from:

[7] Brooks, J. (1982). Quicksand and cactus: A memoir of the southern Mormon frontier.

Salt Lake City, UT: Howe Brothers. Pg. 229


[9] It should be noted that, for some reason, Arrington’s book only cites Juanita Brooks’ 1950 first edition, and not the 1962 second edition.




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