John G. Turner
Anyone with an interest in Mormon History should order a copy of the long-awaited Massacre at Mountain Meadows (Oxford University Press, release imminent). Written by a team of scholars (Ronald Walker, Richard Turley, and Glen Leonard) employed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and many years in the works, the book's release is of both contemporary and historiographic importance.
Massacre at Mountain Meadows chronicles in minute detail the horrifying murder of roughly 120 pioneers in southwest Utah on September 11, 1857. Since soon after the massacre, rumors have persisted about the culpability of the church hierarchy -- namely president Brigham Young -- in both ordering and covering up the massacre. Will Bagley's 2002 Blood of the Prophets argued for Young's responsibility on both counts. Having read an advance review copy of Massacre at Mountain Meadows from Oxford, I am persuaded that the massacre was, as the authors portray, a local affair. The details are far too complex to present here, and I lack the expertise to fully assess the relevant sources. Massacre at Mountain Meadows does not chronicle the long investigation into the massacre, perhaps leaving that story for a second volume. I recommend that those interested in assessing the question for themselves read both MMM and Blood of the Prophets.
The publication of MMM is a major event for contemporary Mormonism and has already attracted considerable attention in Salt Lake newspapers and the Mormon "bloggernacle." For a taste of just how controversial the topic remains, look at this detailed review and 182 (and counting) comments on one of my favorite websites, By Common Consent. The comments include some of the brightest stars in Mormon history, including Bill MacKinnon, Will Bagley, and Ardis Parshall (no offense to anyone left out). The review by Jonathan Stapley and Brad Kramer is of first-rate quality.