I’m re-reading The Mountain Meadows Massacre, by Juanita Brooks at the moment. Twenty or thirty years ago when I submerged myself in everything I could find about the event I concluded the Brooks work was the best out there. When it came into my hands again recently I held back beginning it again to savor the anticipation. Now I’m midway through it again and it’s as fine a piece of research as ever.
Brooks was a Mormon lady, which made the Mountain Meadows Massacre a work of courage on her part. The LDS church had spent a century suppressing the realities about the mass homicide of an estimated 60-120 men, women, and children of the Fancher wagon train journeying through Utah to California in 1857, by Mormons and members of a tribe of Native Americans.
The event happened at a time when there was plenty of massacre going on across North America, but was unusual for a couple of reasons. First, because the people involved were Mormons killing Christians, as opposed to Christians killing Mormons, and the motivation wasn’t acquisition of territory belonging to someone else. Second, because the circumstances surrounding the massacre involved ‘normal’, dutiful, pious people behaving in ways anyone outside the context could only consider far from normal. Believing the killing was defensively justified and necessary.
Brooks establishes clearly and thoroughly that the heads of the LDS ordered the massacre and that John Lee, who’d been hanged for it and handed full responsibility by the LDS Church, was carrying out those orders.
An excellent read for anyone interested in history, human behavior, duty, and the ability of the human mind to justify anything it applies itself to.