Accepting the facts but not the responsibility , August 15, 2008 at amazon.com
This book is written by three LDS historians who claims that they had the full support of their church in writing about this incident. The book covers the subject of Mountain Meadow Massacre that took place in Sept 1857 where 120 white settlers of a wagon train passing through Utah were murdered by white Mormons. Majority of the victims were women and children. This was the worst case of mass murder by Americans on Americans until the Oklahoma City bombing.
The book is well written and it appears to be well researched. There are 438 pages in this book but the actual narrative is only 230 pages long. First half the narrative relates to persecutions of the Mormons before they fled to Utah and second half dealt with the massacre and its environments, like the Utah War.
The book set up excuses for Mormon atrocity while stating that there is no excuse for it. Remaining 208 pages of the book are filled with appendixes, notes and index. The three authors obviously wanted to show off their massive research effort in writing this book.
The book faithfully and surprisingly recount the story of the Mountain Meadow Massacre. The three LDS historians did not shy away from the fact that it was indeed the white Mormons who maintained the main attacks and tricked the doomed settlers into surrender by using a false white flag and had them murdered in a very efficient Nazi style massacre. Of course, all this have been recounted before by Will Bagley, Sally Denton and Juanita Brooks books. Interestingly, despite of their massive research, this book really doesn't say anything new.
The maps proves to be quite good and there were nice historical photographs to go with it.
The authors did not appears to be surprise that local leadership of that area took it upon themselves to attack and massacre large numbers of white settlers in such major scale. Usually in a theocratic society like the one under Brigham Young, local leaders don't act on something this big without some sort of approval from their leaders. Authors did not think it was strange that Indian leaders who after meeting with Brigham Young, some of them were involved in the initial attack the wagon train that turn out to be was just a prelude to the Mormons' participation that was the main event. Nor the authors thought of injustice that these Indians got the total blame for the massacre there after. It is also funny that these LDS historians insisted that most Mormons who took part of the massacre were good people who led exemplary lives before and after the incident. The authors should read Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men. That book shows how ordinary men could turned into evil murderers when given a proper environment and lack of morals.
The book overall acknowledge Mormon participation but avoid Mormon responsibility. As the authors see it, it is a work of the few good but misled men who strayed morally for a moment. It say nothing about the effort of the church to cover up this crime and protected the men who took part of it. The book ends with the massacre and there is one additional chapter on John D. Lee, the official sacrificial lamb of the church who was executed for the crimes of so many others. Why the book did not go into the aftermath more closely is strange considering all the research the authors have done. In the criminal justice system, those who sheltered, protected, aided and abetted a crime is just as guilty as those who pulled the trigger. This is where many who blamed the LDS Church point their fingers and this is one subject that this book totally failed to address. Maybe the authors are looking for more profits and seeking to write a second book....?
Of course, as church historians, these authors will have a hard time if they actually did point out how responsible the church was for their part in the aftermath of the massacre. I do understand that but that do taint any book regarding the subject of objectivity!
Its hard to recommended this book if you have read the other three written by Bagley, Brooks and Denton. Their books are more complete. Whether you agreed with these three books or not, at least they presented the whole material. Massacre at Mountain Meadow does not. Its an incomplete book with a lot of unfinished material yet unwritten. Considering the shortness of the narrative, this is a very strange. For the price, I would recommend you wait for the follow up book if any. The material is basically introductionary in nature and considering all the research done and shown, there appears to be very little in print to show for it.
(PS: I did some revision work on this review, I think TWO stars is more worthy then three.)
Up Date: Well, in case anyone out there rather not go through all the 42 comments after this review, I would like to alter few things. First of all, I misread the preface of this book. It purposely did not cover the aftermath of Mountain Meadow. That will come up in the second book they plan to published. I guess 230 pages or so of the narrative was just too much of our three authors to handle. But it does make you wonder why they put in the bit about John D. Lee in the first place if they were planning a second book. Maybe a teaser like they do in the two part movie??
Second, I can bite the stick and say that Brigham Young probably didn't know anything about the massacre until later on. However, I have also come to the conclusion that Mountain Meadow was an act of war committed by the Mormon militia and thus, a war crime under every rules of 19th century warfare. The authors' failure to explored this matter proves to be surprising but not unexpected. So if we were to regard MMM as a war crime, that would bring additional pressure on Young who failed to bring his own criminals to justice.
Third, I still stand behind most of my remarks I made in my initial review. Obviously some Mormons are offended by it but it can't be help. My truth is another man's fantasy and that man's truth is my fantasy. Its the nature of the beast I guess.