In a recent news release, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that it will seek National Historic Landmark designation for the Church’s holdings at the Mountain Meadows site.
The intention of the action is to support efforts of descendants groups to memorialize the victims who were killed at Mountain Meadows more than 150 years ago in southern Utah.
A memorial service was held on 11 September 2007, 150 years to the day of the 1857 tragedy in which 120 emigrant men, women and children were massacred some 35 miles West of Cedar City Utah.
President Eyring attended that meeting representing the First Presidency and spoke on behalf of the Church. The memorial service was organized by descendants of those on the wagon train bound for California who lost their lives.
He acknowledged that the responsibility for the killings rested with local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the regions near Mountain Meadows who also held civic and military positions and with members of the Church “acting under their direction.”
On 11 September 1857, after tensions escalated between Mormons in Southern Utah and a California-bound wagon train from Arkansas, fifty to sixty local militiamen, aided by some native people, killed about 120 emigrants. Most of the victims were from Arkansas.
Expressing “profound regret for the massacre,” President Eyring referred to the “undue and untold suffering experienced by the victims then and their relatives to the present time.”
“What was done here long ago by members of our Church represents a terrible and inexcusable departure from Christian teaching and conduct. We cannot change what happened, but we can remember and honor those who were killed here.
“Many of those who carried out the massacre were haunted all their lives by what they did and saw on that unforgettable day. They and their relatives have also suffered under a heavy burden of guilt.”
You can probably ascertain that most of the above text was taken from official news releases from the Church. Having been a member of the Church most of my life, I grew up with a knowledge of what happened at Mountain Meadows so long ago. It was not hidden and there was no cover up. It was taught in Seminary and in Institute classes on Church History.
The Mountain Meadows massacre was a painful, regrettable and terrible event that transpired in Southern Utah that should never have happened. It is something about which we speak with sadness and reverence for those who lost their lives. I cannot even imagine the pain and sorrow it must have caused the families and descendants of all those involved on both sides.
I know that some have pointed to this tragic episode from our history as evidence that we cannot possibly be true followers of Jesus Christ. There is no way that the events of that time can be excused. Even after studying the history, I’m still not sure that I even understand it.
Please do not let your knowledge of this horrendous crime prevent you from considering the true message of the restored gospel. We hope you can forgive imperfect men who will undoubtedly face the justice of God and receive appropriate punishment.
For more information
A detailed historical summary of the events that surrounded this terrible tragedy can be read in an article found in the LDS Newsroom or in the September 2007 Ensign article. My wife and I read the article when it was published as part of our evening gospel study. I recall being moved with compassion when reading the account of the mistakes made by otherwise good leaders.