Vengeance Is Mine

The story goes that J. Golden Kimball was once preaching to a crowd in the South and became concerned when he noticed that only men were present. As he opened his mouth to talk, however,

All at once something came over me and I opened my mouth and said, . . . ‘Gentlemen, you have not come here to listen to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. . . . You have come to find out about the Mountain Meadows Massacre and polygamy, and God being my helper I will tell you the truth.’ And I did. I talked to them for one hour. When the meeting was out you could hear a pin drop.

The Mountain Meadows Massacre is a topic that tends to have that effect, and a long-anticipated book on the topic is about to come out.

Vengeance Is Mine: The Mountain Meadows Massacre and Its Aftermath by Richard E. Turley Jr. and Barbara Jones Brown is an exceptional and highly-recommended book that delves deep into the aftermath of the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre. The authors have done a remarkable job in presenting a comprehensive and detailed account of the massacre and its cover-up.

The book is a follow-up to the 2008 publication Massacre at Mountain Meadows and takes readers on a journey through the aftermath of the gruesome massacre. It examines the attempts of the local southern Utah leaders to conceal their crime by suppressing witnesses and disseminating lies. Government and church investigations were hindered by stonewalling and political maneuvering, and the authors provide insight into these challenges.

The authors delve into the trial proceedings of John D. Lee, the only person executed for the massacre. They analyze the complex relationship between Lee and church president Brigham Young, and question Young’s involvement in the cover-up. The book also details the fates of the other perpetrators and survivors.

Turley and Brown’s writing is well-researched and presents a balanced perspective. They have successfully conveyed the gravity of the event while maintaining sensitivity to the victims and their families. The authors’ willingness to confront the difficult aspects of this history is commendable and reflects the utmost respect for the truth. It was not something that was easy or light to read, but still very well done.

There were many interesting insights that the book provided of which I wasn’t aware. It made it very clear that even though John D. Lee was the only person ever successfully prosecuted and executed for carrying out the massacre that there were efforts to indict others. Those other efforts were thwarted by a variety of circumstances, ranging from an inability to capture the suspects (like Isaac Haight), plea bargains for testifying, and government agent refusals to accept assistance from the Church. Some of the interesting facts that came up were that Latter-day Saints had a role in the eventual purchase of Russian America (Alaska) by the United States and that John D. Lee mentioned Heavenly Mother in his sermons. But the details of the John D. Lee trial was probably the section of the book that was most new to me.

Vengeance Is Mine is an exceptional book that serves as a valuable contribution to the history of Mormonism and Utah. The authors’ openness and depth of research is remarkable and presents a clear and thorough account of one of the most shameful events in American history.