After one hundred and thirty-nine years, and even after the 1990 reconciliation that occurred with the dedication of the monument at the massacre site near Cedar City; the Mountain Meadows Massacre still evokes a wide range of emotions. Early in life, Anna Jean Backus was troubled by this tragic incident after her mother told her that her ancestor Philip Klingensmith was involved in the massacre. Anna's mother warned her, "Never tell anyone [he] is your great grandfather." Driven by a desire to unlock the mysteries surrounding this man, Backus embarked on a quest to uncover his life, even though her mother cryptically claimed that her own mother was not Philip's actual daughter, but that "he only raised her."
Anna Jean Backus has contributed to unraveling some of the secrets of Mountain Meadows. She also has argued that her "grandmother, Priscilla Klingensmith Urie, was one of the surviving children of the massacre . . . [and] was raised by Philip Klingensmith and his third wife, Betsy, in the Mormon faith." Most of the book focuses on the life of Philip Klingensmith. Klingensmith interests Mormon historians because he was an eyewitness to the Mountain Meadows Massacre, was accused of complicity in the affair, and testified at John D. Lee's first trial. He was also involved in caring for the children who survived the massacre and in placing them in homes.