Mountain Meadows perspectives argued by panel at UVU

By Michael De Groote

Mormon Times

Published: Saturday, March 7 2009 12:06 a.m. MST

The passage described a meeting between Mormon leader Brigham Young and other leaders with various Indian leaders asking for their help against the advancing U.S. Army. The Indians thought it was better to wait to see who won the conflict before taking sides. Bagley contended that the leaders were being encouraged by Young to attack the wagon train in southern Utah. Bagley conceded after much back and forth that there is no solid evidence that any leader had returned to Mountain Meadows — but that it was still possible some had. Turley was more sure, "(T)hese Indian leaders did not go down and participate in the massacre, and we think the evidence shows they did not," Turley said.

Bagley disagreed with Turley saying that this meeting was the main reason that Bagley believes Brigham Young ordered the massacre. Bagley said it was the cover up afterwards that proves the point.

Turley, who has signed a contract for a book that explores the aftermath of the massacre, said the short answer was that a cover up did take place. Why? "In part because of guilt. The participants covered up because of guilt. Church leaders during the Utah War covered it up because they were at war with the United States," he said.

Cuch spoke about how often Native American perspectives are left out of history — and that he thought that books on the massacre ignore their perspectives. He also addressed the issue in a broader way in how this problem extends throughout society and history. Turley said Cuch is correct in that often history has a "white hero" focus.

The clearest conflict was between how Bagley and Turley viewed Brigham Young. Bagley said, "My opinion of Brigham Young has gone no place but downhill since I wrote 'Blood of the Prophets.'"

Turley however, said that it is important to look at the totality of the evidence — such as Brigham Young's private correspondence.

"There is a historical fallacy called 'presentism' which essentially means we project back on people of the past our current values. The values of the mid-19th century were much different from the values we adhere to today," Turley said. "Brigham Young was immersed in a set of values and he operated accordingly. I think when we judge him we need to do so in the context of the environment in which he lived."

There was, however, one point upon which Bagley and Turley agreed.

"Despite the fact that we are very combative about these issues, it's a revelation that historians can look at the same evidence and come to very different conclusions. Everyone has a right to their own history. In point of fact, Rick and I quite like each other," Bagley said as Turley nodded his head and the crowd laughed and applauded.

E-mail: mdegroote@desnews.com

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