Sept. 11 was a tragic date in American history long before the terrorist attacks of 2001.
On Sept. 11, 1857, a Mormon militia in southern Utah seized a wagon train from Arkansas and brutally murdered 120 people. Soon after, records of the event were destroyed and Mormon leaders attempted a cover-up. The "Mountain Meadows Massacre" still troubles the descendants of both the attackers and victims.
A new book, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, tries to explain what happened that day and why. Produced in cooperation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), it is the latest of more than a dozen books and films that seek to make sense of an inexplicably brutal act.
An Infamous Day
"The Mountain Meadows massacre is the worst event in Latter-day Saint history," says Richard Turley, assistant historian of the LDS Church and co-author of Massacre at Mountain Meadows. "If Latter-day Saints could face head-on this worst event in their history, they could face any historical topic."
Turley and fellow Mormon authors Ronald Walker and Glen Leonard spent more than five years collecting diaries, journals, reports and other documents from that period. They had unprecedented access to the archives of the LDS Church, which include documents that other historians had not been permitted to review.
Their work adds little about the events that happened that day. But it raises difficult questions for Mormons and others who may cling to earlier LDS Church versions of the incident now dismissed as cover-ups.