LDS Church Confesses to the Mountain Meadows Massacre in 1857

The writer is the author of My Journey to Understand Black Hawk's Mission of Peace Phillip B Gottfredson, Indigenous Day Award recipient.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints finally says "yes" to their involvement in the Mountain Meadows Massacre in 1857. In a recent article in the Church's Ensign magazine, 2007, 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 and that some "saints" acted independently, I applaud the Church for finally acknowledging and addressing this horrible event. Any lingering respect I have for the Church has been, to 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 without respect or compassion toward them. True to form, the Church then bashes the Utah Indigenous. Turley or the Church could have at least asked the Paiutes their side of the story. Still, instead, Turley's obvious biased opinion is proof and sufficient to show the Church's duplicity toward Native people. 

Mr. Turley goes to great lengths to distance the Church from John D. Lee and the other members who were renegade Mormons. He also suggests that there were good and bad people in the Church. The Massacre at Mountain Meadows was an unfortunate but isolated incident. 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, makes broad assumptions, and presents his case as gospel truth without making any allowance that they may have their opinion different from his. Are we all equal in the eyes of the 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 practiced by some LDS writers is intended to protect the Saints, but 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..." 

I agree with Michael Quinn, and stand firm in my conviction that believing in these contrived, sugarcoated stories of innocence contributes to the acculturation of a cuture that is blind to the truth.

"Richard E. Turley Jr., "The Mountain Meadows Massacre," Ensign, Sep 2007, 14–21 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 for me to fathom. First, nothing that any of the emigrants purportedly did or said, even if all of it were true, came close to justifying cold-blooded murder of 120 men, women, and children. Second, it is said that most perpetrators led decent lives, nonviolent lives before and after the Massacre, and that makes a difference. How?

See Mountain Meadows Massacre by Will Bagley