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Federal Investigation into MMM (Part 3 of 4)

When the Fancher-Baker Party did not make it to California, news traveled fast.  Congress asked federal investigators to find out what happened in Mountain Meadows.  Was it an all-Indian attack, or were Mormons involved?

Turley: But the word made it quickly to California and then quickly to the eastern United States. So, people knew that their loved ones were killed or missing in late 1857 and early 1858, so it didn’t take long at all. At that point people in Arkansas, whose relatives were killed began to write to their congressional representatives saying, “We need to do something about this.”  It wasn’t long before officials in Washington were demanding that something occur as well. So, they were sending orders with their people who were headed west with the Utah expedition telling them that they needed to do something about the massacre.

GT:  Okay. So, because, if I remember right, didn’t it take about 10 years before they brought anybody up for trial? Or what was the time frame before they actually brought legal action?

Turley: So the Utah War ended in 1858, and before it ended, there was not anything done. In 1858, when the federal judges arrived, one of the federal judges, John Cradlebaugh, became responsible for that portion of the territory of Utah that included the South.  So in 1859, in March, he convened a court and as part of that court had a grand jury, and he wanted the grand jury at that point to indict those who he felt were responsible for the massacre.

Without spilling a lot of the details of what’s going to be in our second volume, I’ll tell you that that was a complicated event. We explained in there exactly what happens during this trial. By the time you get to the middle of 1859, Church leaders are also concerned about what they’re hearing, and so they want to have some type of judicial proceeding as well. But for reasons, again, that we explain in our book, based on evidence no one’s ever seen before, that doesn’t work out. Then we get to the Civil War. After the Civil War, we get judges back in Utah, who are turning their attention to this crime again. So then in 1874, you finally have your first indictments, and then two trials of John D. Lee: one in 1875, and in 1876.

Check out our conversation….

News of the massacre traveled fast, but the first trial of John D. Lee happened in 1875, following the 1857 massacre.
News of the massacre traveled fast, but the first trial of John D. Lee happened in 1875, following the 1857 massacre.

Don’t forget to see our previous conversations with Richard Turley.

267: Was John D. Lee Most Guilty? (Turley)

266: Richard Turley on Saints… & Sinners (Turley)

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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)