by John G. Turner
The December 30 Christian Century has Matt Sutton's review of Massacre at Mountain Meadows, which almost certainly was the 2008 bestseller in Mormon history until the appearance of the first volume of the Joseph Smith Papers. Sutton allows that Massacre provides a good narrative of the events leading up to September 11, 1857, and makes a compelling case that [Brigham] Young did not order the massacre." He laments, however, the decision of the authors (Ronald Walker, Richard Turley, and Glen Leonard) to concentrate solely on the events leading up to the massacre and the massacre itself, saving the "aftermath" for a second book:
They deal solely with the crime, ignoring what they call the punishment, which was in fact a horrifying lack of justice in Young's Mormon-dominated Utah and gravely inadequate efforts by the church in most of the decades since to deal forthrightly with the controversy.
Sutton attributes this decision to the authors' position as believing Mormon historians:
They are certainly good historians, but they are also faithful Mormons. They probably could not find any way to tell the rest of the story without sacrificing one of these two commitments—either they would compromise historical integrity or they would anger their church.
This is a huge and complex topic, and I hope some of our readers will share their thoughts and expertise. My hesitant opinions on the massacre can be found here. My response to Matt's concern in a nutshell: If the authors made a compelling case about the culpability for the massacre, why presume they could not write an equally compelling account of its aftermath?
Readers looking for a detailed discussion of Walker, Turley, and Leonard's book should investigate this post at By Common Consent. Those interested in the dynamics of faith in Mormon History may enjoy this recent discussion at Juvenile Instructor.