It has been two years since I published A Land of Strangers: Cane Creek Tennessee's Mormon Massacre And its Tragic Effects on the People Who Lived There. I have a few mixed emotions about what I would do differently if had it to do all over, but for the most part I have been pretty satisfied with the approach and the results.
Ever since I have been asked again and again if and when I am going to write another book. The answer is a bit complicated. But to boil it down as much as possible I haven't found a subject which has grabbed me and refuses to let go.
I originally wrote A Land of Strangers because I felt I had a viewpoint that was not being represented. I found opinions to be sure. Most fell on one of two sides which were diametrically opposed viewpoints. Both were represented on the internet, or published in one form or another.
On the one side were people who believed that the massacre and the events related to it were the machinations of the devil; that the perpetrators were "fiends in human form" working to destroy the work of the gospel and stop it from rolling forth through out the world. Specifically in this case, ministers and the local elite, fearing a loss of power responded with lies and violence. Ultimately their efforts failed and the Church continues to grow.
On the other side were people who saw the late 19th century LDS missionary work in Tennessee as an effort to seduce weak minded people to move to Mormon communities in the west - even if it broke up families - in order to prop up a financial system reliant on the constant influx of low wage workers and to provide ever younger women for polygamous marriages. These missionaries hid behind the veil of religious freedom, making the law powerless to stop them, and leaving violence as the only remedy.
The truth as I saw it was at neither end of the spectrum. The world is not split between just evil and good. no one is wholly one or the other. All of us, no matter how good, have some sin. I assume that that the opposite is also true. With that said, to understand why someone does something that we think of as evil, we must first understand how they justified their actions.
As a lifeguard I learned that person drowning will grab on to anything within reach. Their actions appear irrational, and can actually cause the drowning they are so desperately trying to avoid. But if we know how a drowning person thinks we can devise a method to save them without putting our selves at risk. Instead of reaching out with a hand, and risk being pulled under water, give them something to grab on which you are holding: a stick, a towel, or a ring buoy. The same is true of those who oppose the church's missionary work. If we know how they think we can devise ways to live together peacefully.
That is what I tried to do in A Land of Strangers, and it drove me to research, to write and to see the book through to completion. Will I find another book to write that drives me as much? ......
2 weeks ago