September 11, 2007


LDS Admit to Mountain Meadows Massacre

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 and that some "saints" acted independently, I applaud the Church for finally acknowledging and addressing this horrible event. Much of what lingering respect I had 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 Indians without respect or compassion toward them. True to form, the Church then bashes the Utah Indian. Turley or the Church could have at least asked the Paiutes what their side of the story is. Still, instead, Turley's obvious biased opinion is proof and sufficient enough.

Mr. Turley goes to great lengths to distance the Church from John D. Lee and the other members that 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 being gospel truth without making any allowance that they may have their own opinion different from his. Are we all children 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 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 to the acculturation of a society that is blind to the truth. Thereupon unintentionally discriminates, and the Church segregates itself from its fellow human beings.

"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 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, most perpetrators led decent, nonviolent lives before and after the Massacre.