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Richard Turley’s book “Massacre at Mountain Meadows” was published in 2011. The book ends at the massacre in 1857. He and Barbara Jones Brown are writing the latest installment of the tragedy and this time they will focus on the trials of John D. Lee and aftermath. Barbara and Rick sat down as part of the 2020 Mormon history Association meetings and talk about their collaborative efforts on the upcoming book.
Richard: At the time we were working on the book, we were very optimistic about the schedule, as scholars often are. Sometimes we take on a project, and we think, well, this will be done in a few months or a few years. As it turned out that project which we started around 2000 or 2001, it didn’t wrap up until 2008. Because we actually divided the project into two parts, the first part and the second part. It’s actually continued to this day. So, on the first volume, because your skills as an editor were in high demand for this project, you did a tremendous amount on the book. In fact, I’ve got this copy of the book, Massacre at Mountain Meadows that was inscribed to you by Glen and Ron and me. Ron, put this inscription in which I think reflects the feelings of all three of us. It says, “Every page shows our debt to you with warmest appreciation,” Ronald W. Walker. So, you played a major role in that. When the book was published, and I was continuing to work on the next volume of the set, you and I were working together on it in an editorial sort of role, and then ultimately became co-authors of it. We’re still working on it. For those who remain interested in the topic, I will say, for this audience, that the draft of the book is done. But as was the case with the first volume, it’s too large to meet the page count for Oxford. So, Barbara and I are currently working on trimming it down to get it within the page count so that it can be published, which we hope to do by the end of this year.
Barbara: Great. Well, I for one, I’m really grateful to have that interview, that professional interview with you and grateful for the opportunity I had to work on this project. It led to my going back to graduate school and getting a master’s degree, and really has affected my life. The whole Mountain Meadows project was so meaningful on so many counts. I wonder if you could talk more about the reconciliation process that took place as a result of the book, and about the 150th anniversary when Elder Henry B Eyring, elicited or read an apology. Just talk more about that, and then ultimately achieving National Historic Landmark status for the Mountain Meadows.
Richard: So, writing about the Mountain Meadows was one part of what I think needed to be done with the topic. But, more than that, I think relationships needed to be built and more needed to be done, particularly to recognize and reflect the pain of the descendants and other relatives of the victims of the massacre, as well as to have a kind of catharsis for many of those who were descendants of participants in the massacre. As I mentioned that sort of relationship had begun in the late 80s, early 90s, and it continued. Ultimately, three groups developed to represent those who had been victims of the massacre. Those three groups worked together at times. At other times they worked independently. But ultimately, one of the groups–the group that was the Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation, put together a group of proposals that were presented to the Church suggesting that the Church consider having the Mountain Meadows become a National Historic Landmark. That proposal was accepted. All three of the groups worked together with the Church in having that National Historic Landmark recognition occur.
Richard: When the meeting occurred that you mentioned with then Elder Henry B Eyring, of the Twelve at that time, now of the First Presidency, the purpose of that meeting was in part to read a statement on the part that had been drafted and signed by the First Presidency, expressing several things simultaneously.
Check out our conversation….
Don’t miss our previous conversation!
475: Hired After Hofmann
Richard Turley retired in 2020 after working in various roles for the LDS Church. This will be a special treat, because I’m turning the microphone over to Barbara Jones Brown, executive director of the Mormon History Association. Barbara asked me to film the interview for the virtual meetings at the Mormon History Association meetings, and I’m happy to re-release this to the public. We’ll learn more about his time in the Church History Department, and how he was hired just after the tumultuous bombings by Mark Hofmann.
Barbara: So you were I believe you were only 29 years old at that time.
Richard: That’s correct.
Barbara: Was it intimidating to step into this major leadership role, and what was it like for you at that time?
Richard: Well, first of all, I think one of the parts that really appealed to me was that they essentially said, “You’d be in charge. You’d have access to everything 24/7, 365.” So, for someone who had a deep and abiding interest in Church History to know that at any time I wanted, I could go into the collections and handle the personal diaries of Joseph Smith or look at anything I wanted, that was fascinating to me. At the same time, I had a great respect for the people who were running the operation. When I arrived in January of 1986 in the Church History Department, there were good aspects of the department and there were bad aspects. The bad aspects were that I essentially entered a crime scene. The Mark Hofmann bombings had occurred just a little over three months earlier. There were federal, state, county, and city investigators who were trying to find out the motive for those three bombs that went off killing two people and injuring a third.
Richard: So, I walked into a crime scene, and as one who was trained in the law, it was fascinating to me. But [it was] also disturbing that people had been killed and that, obviously, something was going on that we didn’t understand fully.
Check out our conversation with Barbara and Rick….
Don’t miss our previous conversations with Barbara
261: Who Bears Responsibility for MMM? (Jones Brown)
260: After the Killing (Jones Brown)
259: Cattle Rustling Turns Deadly (Jones Brown)
258: Tackling Myths of Mountain Meadows (Jones Brown)
257: Revenge for Haun’s Mill & Pratt’s Murder? (Jones Brown)
256: Utah War & Mountain Meadows Massacre (Jones Brown)
269: What Did Brigham Know, & When Did He Know It? (Turley)
268: Federal Investigation into MMM (Turley)
267: Was John D. Lee Most Guilty? (Turley)
266: Richard Turley on Saints… & Sinners (Turley)