Scholars are praising a new book that offers an in-depth look at one of the greatest tragedies in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The new book, Massacre at Mountain Meadows , published by Oxford University Press, is not a Church production but was co-authored by Mormon historians Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley Jr. and Glen M. Leonard.
Jan Shipps, professor emeritus of religious studies at Indiana-Purdue University Indianapolis and a respected authority on Mormonism, told the Provo Daily Herald that the authors’ collaboration “is unique in the breadth of the research that supports it.”
“There is documentation on top of documentation on top of documentation, and that we haven’t had before. It’s probably the most documented work of any in Utah history,” she said.
According to Kathleen Flake, author of The Politics of American Religious Identity, the book “provides in unflinching detail and with scholarly transparency the story of one of the West’s most disturbingly violent moments.”
The book sets out to comprehensively describe the relevant political and cultural context and to chronicle events leading up to and including the 1857 massacre, in which some 120 California-bound emigrants, most of them from Arkansas, were killed by Mormon settlers, aided by some Paiute Indians.
In an attempt to understand and then to explain what led to this atrocity, the authors spent seven years perusing hundreds of letters, journals and other documents in Church archives and additional sources in many parts of the country. Much of their research led them to records found in the lower central states of the United States, the original home of the massacre victims.
“I think readers should be assured that we left no stone unturned in the writing of this book,” Walker said.
Walker, Turley and Leonard “have produced a very detailed, insightful and balanced account,” said Robert V. Remini, professor emeritus of history and the humanities at the University of Illinois, as noted on the book’s jacket.
Their book will be featured in a panel discussion 5 September at the Salt Lake City Public Library. Scholars from Yale University, Utah State University and Arizona State University will present critiques of the work as well as participate in a discussion with Turley and members of the audience.
In a wide-ranging interview with Newsroom staff, excerpts of which are posted on this Web site, the authors describe their approach to research and writing and summarize the conclusions they have reached after years laboring on the book that Pulitzer Prize-winning author Daniel Walker Howe describes as a “model for how historians should do their work.”