Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows

Book Review
Author: Will Bagley
Journal: 42:1

The massacre at Mountain Meadows remains one of the most heinous and least understood crimes in the history of the American West. How a militia unit of "God-fearing Christians" could have murdered more than 120 people in cold blood seems beyond comprehension. In a previous book, I attempted to understand the massacre by comparing it to "the massacres of Christian Armenians by Moslem Turks, of Jews by Christian Germans, and of Moslem Bosnians by Christian Serbs." I did not say, as Bagley flippantly claims I did, "the Indians made them do it." On reflection, the massacre should reveal to each of us our vulnerability and our potential—however well hidden—for acts of unspeakable atrocity.

Thanks to the work of Juanita Brooks, we have known both the context and the story of the Mountain Meadows Massacre for more than fifty years. The context includes the abuse and murder of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the American Midwest and South; the establishment of towns, farms, and churches by Mormon settlers in Utah; the Mormon Reformation of 1856–57; charges of murder, illegal acts under color of law, malicious mischief, and treason leveled against the citizens of Utah by federal appointees; the murder of Parley P. Pratt in Arkansas; the removal of Brigham Young as Utah territorial governor by President James Buchanan; the appointment of a new governor and judges; the march toward Utah of an army of about 2,500 men; the passage through the territory of a party of Arkansas emigrants; and the lives and activities of southern Paiutes.