September 11, 2007
LDS Admit to
Mountain Meadows Massacre, BUT...
by Phillip B Gottfredson
The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints finally says yes to their involvement in the
Mountain Meadows Massacre. In a recent article that appeared in the church's
Ensign magazine, church historian Richard E. Turley gives what is said to be
the church's official account of the Massacre.
While Turley denies
that Brigham Young had anything to do with the murders, that some "saints"
acted on their own, I applaud Turley and the church for finally doing the
right thing by finally acknowledging addressing this horrible event in a
positive, albeit patronizing way. Much of what lingering respect I had for
the church has been in some degree reinforced, however I am very
disappointed by Turley's blatant disrespect for the Paiute in his article.
Again as with so many church authors, Turley stands arrogantly pointing the
finger of guilt damning the Paiute Indians without a shred of respect or
compassion toward them. True to form the church then bashes the Utah Indian.
Turley or the church could have had at least asked the Paiutes what their
side of the story is, but instead Turley's obvious biased opinion is proof
and sufficient enough.
Mr. Turley goes to
great lengths to distance the church and it's leaders from John D. Lee and
the other members that were in affect renegade Mormons, to suggest that
there were good and bad people in the church and that the massacre at
Mountain Meadows was an unfortunate but isolated incident, and that we
should not blame the church for the mistakes of a few. Hypocritically he
does not apply the same compassion when he unofficially speaks on behalf of
the Paiute and makes broad assumptions and presents his case as being gospel
truth without making any allowance that they may have their own opinion
different from his. Are we all children of Creator, or just some? As Michael
Quinn said in 1981 when he
spoke to an assembly of Church members, "The Accommodation History advocated
by Elders Benson and Packer and actually practiced by some LDS writers is
intended to protect the Saints, but actually disillusions them and makes
them vulnerable... The tragic reality is that there have been occasions when
Church leaders, teachers, and writers have not told the truth they knew
about difficulties of the Mormon past, but have offered to the Saints
instead a mixture of platitudes, half-truths, omissions, and plausible
denials..." And I stand firm on my observation that believing in these
contrived sanitized stories of innocence contributes in the acculturation of
a society that is blind to the truth, thereupon unintentionally
discriminates, and in so doing the church segregates itself from their
fellow human beings.
Turley Jr., “The Mountain Meadows Massacre,” Ensign, Sep 2007, 14–21
This month marks the 150th anniversary of a terrible episode in the
history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On September 11,
1857, some 50 to 60 local militiamen in southern Utah, aided by American
Indian allies, massacred about 120 emigrants who were traveling by wagon to
California. The horrific crime, which spared only 17 children age six and
under, occurred in a highland valley called the Mountain Meadows, roughly 35
miles southwest of Cedar City. The victims, most of them from Arkansas, were
on their way to California with dreams of a bright future.
For a century and a half the Mountain Meadows Massacre has shocked
and distressed those who have learned of it. The tragedy has deeply grieved
the victims’ relatives, burdened the perpetrators’ descendants and Church
members generally with sorrow and feelings of collective guilt, unleashed
criticism on the Church, and raised painful, difficult questions. How could
this have happened? How could members of the Church have participated in
such a crime?
Two facts make the case even more difficult to fathom. First,
nothing that any of the emigrants purportedly did or said, even if all of it
were true, came close to justifying their deaths. Second, the large majority
of perpetrators led decent, nonviolent lives before and after the massacre.
As is true with any historical episode, comprehending the events of
September 11, 1857, requires understanding the conditions of the time, only
a brief summary of which can be shared in the few pages of this magazine
article. For a more complete, documented account of the event, readers are
referred to the forthcoming book Massacre at Mountain Meadows."