Problems with Mountain Meadows Massacre Sources

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints houses a large collection of information regarding the Mountain Meadows Massacre in its Church History Department. However, none of the sources are wholly reliable and must be analyzed carefully in order to piece together the complicated events of the massacre. Turley explains what possible errors exist in Major James Henry Carleton’s report, the John D. Lee trial transcripts, and John D. Lee’s autobiography, Mormonism Unveiled. Against most evidence, Carleton recorded that the wagon train massacred was the Perkins train, a fact that has been repeated without much scrutiny in other works on the topic. The John D. Lee trial notes, originally written in shorthand, are difficult to decipher, and written transcripts taken from the notes omit information as well as include details not originally mentioned in the notes. Finally, errors in Lee’s autobiography suggest the possibility that his attorney, William W. Bishop, may have added sensational details after Lee’s death. Turley concludes that historians must sift through myths, purposeful deceptions, and inaccurate memories in order to determine the facts about the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

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