Following Will Bagley’s 2002 release of Blood of the Prophets, Richard Turley published Massacre at Mountain Meadows in 2008, as well as some collected legal records in 2017. I asked historian Will Bagley his impression of Turley’s work, and was surprised by his reaction.
GT: Should we get your opinion of that book [Massacre at Mountain Meadows]? I’m curious.
Will: It’s just part of the cover up. It’s just part of the standard story. I went into Bill Slaughter’s office at Church archives. You can look at and you can see all of the old church archives. It was after Blood of the Prophets had come out, and they were saying that they were going to have their book out next year. But I said to Bill, “I think you can throw enough dirt in the air about whether Brigham Young ordered the massacre or not, but you can’t avoid the cover up”.
Will: The cover up is too damn well-documented, in the most impeccable Mormon sources, as Juanita Brooks said. Bill looks off in the distance and he goes, “We got our story, and we’re sticking to it”, which is the best summary of what the Church’s Mountain Meadows books are going to be about. They got their story, which was cooked up for H. H. Bancroft in the 1870s, and they’re sticking to it. [laughs]
GT: The story is Brigham Young wasn’t involved.
Will: [The story is] he would have been horrified at the whole idea. Absolutely, and then he didn’t know about it for 20 years, and when he did know about it, he excommunicated people. No, no, no, simply not true.
But, the thing about the massacre at Mountain Meadows is, when does [Turley’s book] stop? The day after the massacre. It has a coda in which they convict John D. Lee and put all the blame on him. But it’s an act of historical deception, to not address the entire story.
GT: Well, that’s what part two is supposed to be coming out, which hopefully is next year?
Check out our conversation….
Don’t miss our other conversations with Will!
446: Buchanan & George Smith’s Role in MMM (Bagley)
445: Handcart Disasters & Mormon Reformation (Bagley)
Here is our earlier conversation with Richard Turley!
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)