Much occurred at the beginning of the restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from mobs persecuting members to Latter-day Saints dying while traveling by foot to move to Zion. Many people in the United States were against the Church at the time.

It is probably unimaginable to think that a massacre would happen at the hands of Latter-day Saints. A new book series tells an in-depth story of the event that occurred in 1857. 

Even though the Church teaches about the massacre, some members don’t recall learning about it.

“I’ve never been taught about the massacre growing up, nor have even heard about it,” said Austin Archuleta, a business and finance student at BYU-I.

According to the Church’s website, “Latter-day Saint militiamen planned and carried out a massacre. They lured the emigrants from their circled wagons with a false flag of truce and, aided by Paiute Indians they had recruited, slaughtered them. Between the first attack and the final slaughter, 120 were killed. The express rider returned two days after the massacre. He carried a letter from Brigham Young telling local leaders to “not meddle” with the emigrants and to allow them to pass through southern Utah in peace. The militiamen sought to cover up the crime by placing the entire blame on local Paiutes, some of whom were also members of the Church.”

From 2008 to 2023, Latter-day Saint Historian Richard Turley Jr. has combined forces with multiple authors to produce a series of books to bring the public to the understanding of what happened in September of 1857. 

Scroll spoke with Turley about the series. 

Scroll: “In brief, what is a summary of the two books that have been released involving the massacre?”

Turley: “In September of 1857, a group of Latter-day Saints in Southwestern Utah attacked and murdered a California wagon train of more than a hundred men, women and children. The two books explain how that horrible event occurred and what happened in the aftermath: What kind of Church and federal investigations were there, who were named the perpetrators, and what punishment occurred.”

Scroll: “What lessons can readers take from your books?”

Turley: “One lesson is when you work together with a council, you are far more likely to make better decisions than when you operate on your own. A second lesson is that the title of the book mentions Vengeance is Mine, which comes from the book of Romans in which God says that it is not our responsibility to get reconventions on anyone. That is His responsibility. Our responsibility is to love our neighbor, do good to those who hate us, and be kind to our enemies.”

Scroll: “How were you feeling during the research process?”

Turley: “It was a subject matter that brought nightmares and lots of sadness, but we overcame that by getting to know the relatives of the victims of the massacre and showing love and concern for them.”

Scroll: “Out of many topics, what made you want to write about this specific topic?”

Turley: “I chose this topic because I wanted to take the worst episode in Church history and expose it to the full light of day so that I could show the people that it is possible to tackle history and not be afraid of it.”

Scroll: “What was your process?”

Turley: “It took eight years for the first book and 15 years for the second book. It required to do research in 31 of 50 United States and three national archive facilities. It also required taking some text that proved not to be reliable and using the best historical skills to find what was reliable. We found a lot of healing because we talked to a lot of people with different points of view and helped people to come to an understanding of something in the past has been tampered.”

Scroll: “Are you considering writing another book for the series?”

Turley: “No, I have actually done three others besides these two that were required to write. This would be five total for me and that is enough.”

For those interested in learning more about the massacre, the series is available at Deseret Book.