Edited by Richard E. Turley Jr. and Ronald W. Walker. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 2009. Hardbound, 11×8.75″, 341 pages.
With this volume, the authors fulfill admirably their commitment to provide the unpublished, unexploited primary source material to support their earlier narrative history, Massacre at Mountain Meadows. In the process, they open partially the door to that fabled cupboard of documentary treasures and conspiracy grist–the LDS First Presidency’s vault. What here emerges is a set of participant accounts loaded with the gospel truth leavened by prevarication, mendacity, and finger-pointing. Turley and Walker perform a wonderful service in helping us negotiate the complexities of this homicidal thicket, sometimes at a cost to their own equanimity. Their book is best approached as an adjunct to Massacre at Mountain Meadows rather than as a stand-alone work; it can best be evaluated when read in tandem with another account of post-tragedy truth-seeking by an attorney-historian grappling with obfuscation–Henry C. Clausen’s Pearl Harbor: Final Judgment.
-William P. MacKinnon, an independent historian, honorary life member of the Utah State Historical Society, and president-elect of the Mormon History Association, is author of At Sword’s Point, Part 1: A Documentary History of the Utah War to 1858.
These recollections, affidavits, and statements of Mountain Meadows Massacre participants and informed bystanders are valuable additions to the documentation of the 1857 tragedy. The editorial standards employed here are cutting-edge. The editors’ acknowledgement of the limitations inherent in some of the documents enhances respect for the integrity of the project. This volume is an essential contribution to an understanding of one of the most horrendous crimes in Mormon and western American history.
-Klaus J. Hansen, Professor emeritus, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada, is author of Mormonism and the American Experience