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Richard Turley Writes on Saints… and Sinners (Part 1 of 4)

Richard Turley is not only an amazing historian but is Director of Public Affairs for the LDS Church.  In our next conversation, we’ll get acquainted with him and learn about a few of the books he has written, including the recent release of Saints: The Standard of Truth.

Turley:  So Saints, the story of The Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter-days, is the first multi-volume history of the church produced officially since B.H. Roberts’ comprehensive history, which was compiled from a series of journal articles that he wrote and published as a set in 1930 as part of the church’s centennial. Saints is a four-volume work that breaks the history of the church up into four time periods: 1815 to 1846, and then from there until 1893, and then from there until the mid-1950s. Then from that point to the present day.

It is a history that is written in narrative style. So, unlike a lot of histories which was just somewhat expository, this one is narrative, which means it’s deliberately intended to be engaging to the reader. The content is extraordinarily accurate history that’s been source checked repeatedly. You can find the sources in the back of the book. But it’s also written in a very engaging style. So, it has already become, by perhaps an order of magnitude, the single most read history in the history of the church.

GT : Well, it’s sold out too. Do you know that?

Turley: We give it away electronically, and we’ve had a vast number of downloads. We’ve also had a vast number of chapter views. So, we know that we have over a million people reading it right now.

GT : Well, I tried to get it for my mom for Christmas, and it was sold out, and I was like, “Are you kidding me?”

Turley: Well, it’s remarkable. Volume 1 is remarkable, and the other volumes will appear in succession. I encourage everyone to read it.

We also talk about his past and future books on the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Turley: So when my co-authors and I were writing Massacre at Mountain Meadows, we gathered a lot of information. In fact, we ended up with more than 50 linear feet of files that we had collected from 31 states in the United States and the District of Columbia. I include in that the National Archives on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, the National Archives in Maryland, what we sometimes call Archives Two and the Denver facility for the National Archives. So, we had a lot of information. The information that we gathered included historical documents, legal documents. The legal documents were particularly important, because no one had ever really examined the case from that perspective before and I, having a legal background, was particularly interested in doing that. So, working with the Janiece Johnson and LaJean Purcell Carruth, who is a shorthand transcriber, we put together these two volumes, and then an associated website that has on it thousands of additional pages of information. These volumes gave you the perspective from a legal standpoint of the Mountain Meadows case, including information related to the nine people who were formally indicted for the massacre.

Check out our conversation…

Richard Turley is not only an amazing historian but is Director of Public Affairs for the LDS Church.
Richard Turley is not only an amazing historian but is Director of Public Affairs for the LDS Church.

Check out our other conversations about the Mountain Meadows Massacre with Rick’s co-author, Barbara Jones Brown.

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)

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Who Bears Responsibility for MMM?

In our final conversation with Barbara Jones Brown, we’ll talk about who was most culpable for the massacre.  Was it John D. Lee, Brigham Young, or militia leaders in Iron County?

Barbara:  [Brigham Young] starts to come to believe that John D Lee and Isaac Haight we’re involved. Now at this time, he doesn’t have civil authority. He just has church authority, right? Because he’s not the governor anymore. And so, he excommunicates John D. Lee and Isaac Haight, eventually.

GT: Would it be safe to say that those were the two most responsible people for the massacre?

Barbara:  I think William Dame is also responsible because he gave the final okay to go ahead and carry it out as Iron County militia commander. Phillip Klingensmith was clearly very much involved and clearly received much of the spoils. We know from a clerk of Phillip Klingensmith that he was pilfering tithing funds and stealing from the people long before the massacre.

But is Brigham Young completely blameless?

Barbara:  I agree with Juanita Brooks’ conclusion that his rhetoric before the massacre was very dangerous. You know, privately he was writing and saying, “I don’t want any bloodshed in this conflict.” But he was definitely whipping people up into a state of hysteria.

GT:  Would Brigham Young be an accessory to that with his rhetoric?

Barbara: I don’t think he’s an accessory to the crime. I look at President Donald Trump today and some of his rhetoric that he uses. Did he tell people to do what happened at Charlottesville? No. But did his rhetoric make people think it was okay to do what they did? Did some people think it was okay to do what they did at Charlottesville? Probably. So, would you call Trump an accessory to any crime? Would you call Trump an accessory to the crime that occurred at Charlottesville when you had one of these people drive a car into protesters? No. I wouldn’t call Trump an accessory to that crime. No. But did his rhetoric encourage some people to think that was okay? Possibly.

Check out our conversation….

Are there others responsible for the deaths at Mountain Meadows?
Are there others responsible for the deaths at Mountain Meadows?

Check out our other episodes with Barbara!

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)

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After the Killing (Part 5 of 6)

The day after approximately 100 immigrants from Arkansas were killed, Mormon leaders in Iron County got together to discuss how to explain the deaths.  Barbara Jones Brown tells how leaders dealt with Brigham Young’s message to leave the immigrants alone, and how they decided to blame the Indians for the atrocity.

Barbara:  On the day after the massacre Haight and Dame arrive at the Mountain Meadows to see what’s happened, what’s been done. Lee and Klingensmith are already there because they were major participants in the killings, in the atrocity. They come and then Lee talks about watching Haight and Dame argue over who’s to blame for this as they see the horrible, butchering, just the horrible, butchered bodies lying all across the meadows, including all of the women and children. Dame says, “We have to report this.”

And Haight says, “How? As an Indian massacre?”

And Dame says, ” I’m not sure I would report it just as that, because Dame knows he’s ordered out the Iron County militiamen to do this.

Isaac [Haight] says, “You have to report it as an Indian massacre or you’ll implicate yourself.”

Dame says, “Isaac, I didn’t think there were so many of them. You told me that most of them were already dead, that there were just a few more witnesses that had to be killed.”

Haight yells at him and says, “If you blame this whole thing on me, I will follow you to hell to make sure you pay for it,” basically. So there’s just this horrible argument going on the day after. So, Lee gets back to Fort Harmony and starts bragging to his congregation about what he’s done. He’s proud of it.

A letter from Brigham Young arrives on September 13th, two days later. It arrives in Cedar City telling Isaac Haight, “The Indians will do as they please, but you must not meddle with the immigrants. If those who are there will go, let them go in peace.”

Isaac Haight receives that letter and says, “Too late, too late.” So he forwards that message to Harmony and also to Washington. The same thing happened in Washington. The militiamen returned to Washington and they’re bragging about what they’ve done. They’re proud of it, until that message arrives, that Brigham Young had said, “No. Let them go in peace.”

So Haight calls Lee to him in Cedar City and says, “We’re in a muddle.” He says, “You need to go report this to Brigham Young and take as much of the blame for it as you can.”

So Lee says, “Why don’t you just tell him you’re the [leader.]”

He [Haight] says, “Well, you could tell him better than I.”

So he sends Lee north to report the massacre to Brigham Young.

And so the blame game begins.  Check out our conversation….

What Happened after the Killing at Mountain Meadows?
What Happened after the Killing at Mountain Meadows?

Don’t miss our other conversations with Barbara!

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)