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"The Mormon Murder Case," New York Review of Books, November 21, 2002

An excerpt from the essay:

 

On September 11, 1857, one hundred and twenty men, women, and children--members of a wagon train party traveling west from Arkansas--were slaughtered in a valley in southwestern Utah, an event now known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Until the 1985 Oklahoma City bombing and the events of September 11, 2001, the Mountain Meadows Massacre stood as one of the worst mass murders of civilians in US history.

 

Yet the incident has remained obscure. A historical plaque placed at the site of the massacre in 1932 reads:

 

In this vicinity, September 7-11, 1857 occurred one of the most lamentable tragedies in the annals of the west. A company of about 140 Arkansas and Missouri emigrants led by Captain Charles Fancher, enroute to California, was attacked by white men and Indians. All but 17, being small children, were killed. John D. Lee, who confessed participation as leader, was legally executed here March 23, 1877. Most of the emigrants were buried in their own defense pits.

 

Beyond the mention of John D. Lee, the marker does not identify the killers. In fact, the obscurity surrounding the Mountain Meadows Massacre has been part of a long and purposeful campaign orchestrated by the institution whose leaders provoked and whose members largely carried out the massacre: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which subsequently organized a cover-up of its culpability that continues to this day.