ON Kilter: Mormon mavericks: Juanita Brooks, filmmakers kickstarting her story

OPINION – When I was told that the definitive account of the Mountain Meadows Massacre had been penned by a Mormon from St. George, I rolled my eyes. I wondered how the horrific event would be told by a woman invested in Mormonism.

Juanita Brooks outright shatters the perception that the Mormon culture is one of revisionist history, one that seeks to hide or rewrite the history of its origin and what took place in its accession to acceptance in American culture. At least as to this event in history.

A mid-20th century school teacher, historian and devout Mormon, Brooks loved her faith and the truth so much that she was, I would assert, compelled to do nary otherwise but expose the truth of that senseless day in our past, and tell the events that led to it.

She was shunned by the very people she loved, the church and the community, for what can now be seen, through the lens of hindsight, as a tremendous and valiant act of courage. Brooks was a woman in a culture and a church that disparaged outspoken women, telling the truth about a senseless act of cowardice and homicide upon a mass of innocent people.

The benefit of hindsight always reveals it is better to own our misgivings and that covering them up or denying them imbeds an impurity among us that if not removed will make us collectively ill; it festers and eventually becomes infectiously destructive to the health of our community.

Today, Brooks is revered as a maverick for not only being a whistle blower, but for recognizing that the credibility of her beloved faith was tarnished by the shameless way its people had conducted themselves.

She knew that by telling the truth, it would free her church from condemnation and place the burden of forgiveness upon those who could now at last have closure and peace.

Riding the Edge: The Juanita Brooks Story – documentary film project

Dixie State University student Matt Black is so impassioned by the story of this woman’s life that he is the driving force behind a project being proposed by the school’s film production department: the production of a documentary about Brooks’ life.

Phil Tuckett, the program’s director, is a maverick himself in every sense of the word and is likewise impassioned by the story.

The project can be found on Kickstarter at Riding The Edge: The Juanita Brooks Story, where money is being raised to fund the project.

A fundraiser and carnival will be held tomorrow at the St. George Town Square from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and all are invited, no, encouraged to attend.

column piece continues below

In addition to having the potential to tell an incredible story of the life of a true Mormon, and a true patriot who through the power of subtle forbearance and conviction succeeded in restoring some people’s faith in this community, mine included, the project will also offer an opportunity for the students of DSU’s film department to attain real hands-on experience in the making of a film that makes a difference.

I would have liked to have met this woman. In fact, I was so struck by her that I have visited her grave.

See you out there.

Resources and recap

Kickstarter fundraising for the film project: Riding The Edge: The Juanita Brooks Story

St. George carnival fundraiser for the project: June 29, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. St. George Town Square

Ed. note: Dallas Hyland was a student in a digital film pre-production class when Tuckett first introduced the Juanita Brooks film project to DSU, and the class contributed to the production of the trailer included in this article.

Dallas Hyland is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @dallashyland

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.


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  • Dan Lester June 28, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Well, the link to The Amateur Broad Thinker is broken and I couldn’t find it by googling. Has it died? Inquiring minds want to know, particularly. How can I follow what I can’t find?

    • Joyce Kuzmanic June 28, 2013 at 2:02 pm

      This inquiring mind wants to know too, Mr. Lester. I will find out.
      ST. GEORGE NEWS | STGnews.com
      Joyce Kuzmanic
      Editor in Chief

  • Dallas Hyland June 28, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Apologies. Updates to links are in the works. Thank you for reading.

  • Dave Snell June 28, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    “… the definitive account of the Mountain Meadows Massacre…” by Brooks(?) I’m not prepared to agree with that. But I must explain that I don’t think there is a “definitive” account out there. Each and every one of them toe-dances around Brigham Young’s involvement, and never mentions that, to this day, the Mormons have never apologized for the slaughter, and have always played fast and loose with the notion that they should open their archives in that regard. All the while maintaining – bare-faced – that they have already done so, and that we needn’t worry our pretty little heads about it. The simple truth is that Mountain Meadows is the most hienous peace-time atrocity in the history of this country. The fact that the Mormons can’t deign to say, “We’re sorry (that this ever happened)” spotlights the dark recesses of their pompous arrogance. Only a childlike innocence and unworldliness could allow one to believe that her manuscript was not blue-penciled by Salt Lake City. I see no reason to establish her in a cult of personalty. That she had humble beginnings and was often ostracized for her work has no bearing whatever on the facts of this case.

  • Utah Attorney June 28, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    I think this will be an interesting documentary.

  • ARF June 29, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    As an former believer turn athiest. And as someone who is not a a fan of BY. Other then the rhetoric. I believe BY was not involved in the MMM beforehand. However he is definitely an accessory to murder after the crime he tried to cover it up and protected the known murderers. BY was too holed up in SLC to be involved while it happened.

  • Willa Derrick July 1, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Obviously Dave Snell is very uninformed about the details of the Church’s handling of the MMM. I was present at a meeting in Cedar City Utah where the Mormon Church was represented, the Indian tribe that was involved, and Judge Fancher, a representative of the family that was killed. It was a beautiful healing meeting, where the Church apologized for their involvement, as did the Indians, and it was accepted by Judge Fancher.. That was is 1999, the Church then added a new monument at the MMM site, and it was a beautiful, spiritual gathering. Juanita Brooks spent 5 years doing research on this incident, and although the archives were not open to her, she received a lot of other help. A new book about the MMM has come out, sanctioned by the church, and shows that Mrs Brooks was right in her assessment. The Church has repeatedly said that “They are extremely sorry”, and Dave Snell is very uninformed. She did not have any help from the Church at the time, and it was a courageous undertaking on her part. It was done under a Rockefeller Grant from the Huntington Library in California. She felt at that time that it would be better if a good member of the Church did the research, and so she applied and received the grant.

  • Bender July 1, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    Dave Snell, please enlighten with sources that will help the rest of us come to the certain conclusion that BY had pre-massacre involvement. I’ve been a casual student of MMM for 30 years and nothing I’ve read brings me to that conclusion. I’ve read Bagley.
    Brooks was a saint. How do you reach down inside and pull up the strength and conviction to discover and tell the truth about such a sordid event while living among perpetrator’s children and grandchildren who would very much like the event forgotten? She deserves much more acclaim and admiration than she gets locally.
    Snell, if you want to rail and froth about something here it is: The local population has little understanding, no sense of remorse and a lots of flat out untrue mythology about MMM. The only good that could ever come out of MMM would be to understand of why it happened and a resolve to prevent xenophobia and mob mentality in the future.

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