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.
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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.
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