The long-awaited sequel to the 2008 Massacre at Mountain Meadows has finally arrived!1 Published by Oxford University Press, Vengeance is Mine: The Mountain Meadows Massacre and Its Aftermath was written by Richard E. Turley Jr. and Barbara Jones Brown. Both Rick and Barbara worked on the first book Massacre at Mountain Meadows, Rick as co-author (with Glen Leonard and the late Ron Walker) and Barbara as content editor.

Vengeance is Mine begins where the first volume left off, at the time of the massacre on 11 September 1857. Although details and context of the massacre are discussed throughout, this book’s emphasis is on the cover-up, investigation, and eventual prosecution of some of those responsible. The authors successfully illustrate how “[a]ttempts to wield the case as a political weapon resulted in justice delayed—and justice denied—for the innocent victims of the massacre and their families.”2

A major difference between Massacre at Mountain Meadows and Vengeance is Mine is the reference material. The first book had lengthy endnotes and various appendices listing the names of emigrants, militiamen and American Indians.3 In contrast, Vengeance is Mine has no appendices, and the endnotes are extremely brief. All pertinent information was included within the narrative itself. This leads to sometimes odd interruptions in the story, such as inserting that modern researchers believe naturally occurring anthrax was the likely culprit for cattle deaths near Fillmore rather than poisoning.4

More often than not, the interruptions are fact-checking, pointing out when folks were lying or purposefully obfuscating (which happens a lot in the book). Tracking the changing retellings and testimonies was likely infuriating for the researchers, but readers benefit by seeing how and when the stories morphed over time. In the process, the authors also debunk popular myths and explain how they likely developed.

Documenting when the perpetrators began to hide their involvement illustrates why Church leaders in Salt Lake City initially insisted that Paiutes were responsible for the attack. This was, after all, the story fellow member John D. Lee gave them. Non-Mormon government officials obtained more accurate intelligence about Mormon involvement in the massacre, but Latter-day Saints quickly dismissed these claims as anti-Mormon lies. In fact, one of the few “heroes” in the volume is undoubtedly Jacob Forney, the non-Mormon Utah Indian Affairs superintendent, who investigated the massacre in the late 1850s and worked to get the seventeen surviving children back to their families in Arkansas.

The multiplicity of government and military officials over the decades covered in this book can get overwhelming, but the authors worked to make the narrative as accessible as possible. Paragraphs and chapters are short. Like the first book, each chapter has a subheading providing the dates and locations covered. (There were still times I wished there was a separate timeline.)

Two maps are included inside the front and back covers. One illustrates the westward emigration trails in the United States in 1857 and also points out the locations in Arkansas where the massacre victims originated. The map inside the back cover shows the locations of attacks against emigrant companies in 1857 (both before and after Mountain Meadows).

This book is useful for those who want to understand the Mountain Meadows massacre, the cover-up, and why justice was ultimately lacking.5 Those studying the Utah War and the Utah Territory’s executive and judicial branches will also find the book helpful. Both the military conflict and bickering among various federal appointees affected investigation and prosecution of the Mountain Meadows massacre in the 1850s and 1870s. Other massacres in Utah, primarily against Amerian Indians, are mentioned to highlight racial prejudice, but they are not treated in-depth.6

For those who want to listen to the authors discuss the book, check out the most recent MormonLand podcast from The Salt Lake Tribune. Those who’d like to read comments from the authors instead can check out a post at From the Desk blog. To see the authors in-person, come to Benchmark Books in Salt Lake City on the evening of Thursday, June 1st, at 6pm.

1 Technically the publication date is 30 May 2023, but the book is available now to purchase via your favorite bookseller. Signed copies are available at Benchmark Books in Salt Lake City, which is where I got my copy.

2 Richard E. Turley Jr. and Barbara Jones Brown, Vengeance is Mine: The Mountain Meadows Massacre and Its Aftermath (New York: Oxford University Press, 2023), xv.

3 Expanded versions of the emigrant and militiamen lists are available online at

4 Turley and Brown, Vengeance is Mine, 174.

5 Nine men were finally indicted in September 1874, but it took until March 1877 before John D. Lee, the only person convicted, was executed. Turley and Brown, Vengeance is Mine, 287 and 375.

6 In speaking of the 1863 Bear River Massacre, the authors stated, “The irony in the opposing perceptions of Utah Territory’s two major massacres, occurring within six years of each other, is striking. While the Mountain Meadows Massacre was widely condemned, the significantly larger Bear River Massacre was hailed as a victory.” Turley and Brown, Vengeance is Mine, 237.