A more disturbing week in Mormon History cannot be found to replace the second week in September of 1857. The 9/11 attacks have given us an eerie reminder of fanatical violence with religious ties. The Mountain Meadows Massacre is a topic we generally ignore on Sunday and proves to be a a shock to members, like myself, the first time they learn of the horror that occurred in southern Utah. Philosophers, and theologians have been grappling with the question of “what makes people go wrong?” for centuries and we continue to grapple with this question. We seem to intuitively cast characters in horrible events as angels or saints, but, as our study of Mormon history tends to teach us over and over, those types are not always able to fit nicely within the documentary evidence and if we look around us we see potential villains and heroes in each and every one of us. A study of the 1857 massacre, other equally atrocious historical events (the Munster Rebellion and the 9/11 attacks for instance), and key psychological experiments on authority and violence should always remind us that there is nothing virtuous in unchecked authority and blind obedience.

In this third installment of “Top Ten Books on Mormon History,” Ben and I discuss Massacre at Mountain Meadows.

Supplemental Links:

The Psychology of Evil

The Milgram Experiment


Prophets of Doom

Top Ten Histories

Our “Top Ten Books on Mormon History” list was composed for someone new to Mormon History. The criteria for inclusion are the book’s demonstration of:

  • Use of a sophisticated academic approach and emphasis on analysis over merely regurgitating data and documents.
  • Coverage of an important person, event, or period in Mormon history
  • Quality of writing.
  • Length (not too long).

The List

  1. Matthew Bowman, The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith
    Release in March
  2. Richard Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling
    Release in April
  3. Ronald Walker et. al., Massacre at Mountain Meadows
    Release in May
  4. Sarah Barringer Gordon, The Mormon Question Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth-Century America
    Release in June
  5. Kathryn Daynes, More Wives Than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840-1910
    Release in July
  6. Paul Reeve, Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness
    Release in August
  7. Kathleen Flake, The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle
    Release in September
  8. Armand Mauss, The Angel and the Beehive: THE MORMON STRUGGLE WITH ASSIMILATION
    Release in October
  9. Prince & Wright, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism
    Release in November
  10. Martha Bradley, Pedestals and Podiums: Utah Women, Religious Authority, and Equal Rights
    Release in December

Music: bensound.com

Brian was born and raised in Northern Utah and is now working as a chemist in Ohio. He has one wife and three children. He currently serves as the ward hall monitor. He likes to eat good food, and build cool things.

All posts by