In September 1857, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with the assistance of local Paiute Indians, attacked and brutally slaughtered 120 men, women, and children traveling with the Fancher-Baker wagon train through southern Utah. One hundred and fifty years later, Elder Henry B. Eyring (then a member of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) gathered with descendants from both sides, among others, at the site of what has come to be known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre for a special memorial service. During the ceremony, and under the direction of the Church’s First Presidency, Elder Eyring issued a formal apology for “this unspeakable episode” in Church history. In addition to expressing “profound regret” for the massacre and to all the parties involved, Elder Eyring spoke of research concluding that responsibility for the massacre rests with local Church leaders and members who, based on the historical evidence, acted outside official Church channels.
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I speak today, by assignment, on behalf of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In so doing, I express their appreciation for the invitation to participate on this program.
It is important and appropriate that we meet together on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. We gather as relatives of the massacre victims and perpetrators and as unrelated but interested and sympathetic parties. We gather to remember and to honor those whose lives were taken prematurely and wrongly in this once lush and pastoral valley.
We believe it is our obligation to understand and learn from the past. For this reason, the Church responded favorably several years ago to the request of three experienced and able historians, Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley, Jr., and Glen M. Leonard, to cooperate with their researching of a book about the awful event that occurred here a century and a half ago. The book they are writing is nearly complete and will be published in coming months by Oxford University Press under the title Massacre at Mountain Meadows.
Although they are Church employees, the authors have retained full editorial control and have drawn their own conclusions from the exhaustive body of historical material they assembled. They have been given full access to all relevant materials held by the Church. Two of the significant conclusions they have reached are (1) that the message conveying the will and intent of Brigham Young not to interfere with the immigrants arrived too late, and (2) that the responsibility for the massacre lies 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.
Although no event in history can fully be known, the work of these three authors has enabled us to know more than we ever have known about this unspeakable episode. The truth, as we have come to know it, saddens us deeply. The gospel of Jesus Christ that we espouse, abhors the cold-blooded killing of men, women, and children. Indeed, it advocates peace and forgiveness. 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.
We express profound regret for the massacre carried out in this valley 150 years ago today and for the undue and untold suffering experienced by the victims then and by their relatives to the present time.
A separate expression of regret is owed to the Paiute people who have unjustly borne for too long the principal blame for what occurred during the massacre. Although the extent of their involvement is disputed, it is believed they would not have participated without the direction and stimulus provided by local Church leaders and members.
We know, too, that 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. No doubt Divine Justice will impose appropriate punishment upon those responsible for the massacre. Nevertheless, our continued prayer for their relatives is that knowledge of a God who is both just and merciful will bring a measure of peace to their souls.
In 1999, President Gordon B. Hinckley returned and joined with many of you in dedicating the monument that stands near our place of assembly today. The Church has worked with descendant groups since then to maintain the monument and surrounding property and continues to improve and preserve these premises and to make them attractive and accessible to all who visit. We are committed to do so in the future.
Having reflected and commented on both the past and future of this hallowed meadow, we conclude by expressing our love and desire for reconciliation to all who have in any way been affected by what occurred at Mountain Meadows 150 years ago today. May the God of Heaven, whose sons and daughters we all are, bless us to honor those who died here by extending to one another the pure love and spirit of forgiveness which His Only Begotten Son personified, is our prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
150th anniversary of Mountain Meadows massacre. (2007, September 11). Mormon Newsroom. Retrieved from http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/150th-anniversary-of-mountain-meadows-massacre
Hundreds gather to honor Mountain Meadows victims. (2007, September 11). Mormon Newsroom. Retrieved from http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/hundreds-gather-to-honor-mountain-meadows-victims
Moore, C.A. (2007, September 12). LDS Church issues apology over Mountain Meadows. Deseret News. Retrieved from http://www.deseretnews.com/article/695209359/LDS-Church-issues-apology-over-Mountain-Meadows.html
Mormon Church expresses ‘regret’ for 1857 massacre that left 120 dead. (2007, September 12). Fox News. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/story/2007/09/12/mormon-church-expresses-regret-for-1857-massacre-that-left-120-dead.html
Ravitz, J. (2007, September 11). LDS Church apologizes for Mountain Meadows massacre. The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved from http://archive.sltrib.com/story.php?ref=/lds/ci_6862682