One hundred and fifty years to the day that 120 emigrant men, women and children were massacred at Mountain Meadows in southern Utah, hundreds of people gathered in a communal memorial service at the grave site, some 35 miles from Cedar City.
Elder Henry B. Eyring, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, represented the First Presidency at the service, which was organized by descendants of those on the California-bound wagon train who lost their lives.
Expressing “profound regret for the massacre,” Elder Eyring referred to the “undoe and untold suffering experience by the victims then and by their relatives in the present time.
Calling for reconciliation, he said, “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.
Elder Eyring said that a separate expression of regret is owed the Paiute people, “who have unjustly borne for too long the principal blame for what occurred during the massacre.”
He added that 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.
Elder Eyring said that new research had “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.”
Elder Eyring acknowledged that the responsibility for the massacre 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.”
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Referring to an obligation to understand and learn from the past, Elder Eyring said that a new book was about to be published by three authors who had been given full access to all relevant materials held by the Church in its archives.
In addition to placing responsibility for the massacre on local leaders at the time, the authors have also concluded from all the evidence that a message conveying the will and intent of Brigham Young not to interfere with the emigrants arrived too late to prevent the killings. Brigham Young was president of the Church and territorial governor at that time.
Elder Eyring said that since the dedication by Church President Gordon B. Hinckley of a monument to those who had fallen, the Church had worked with descendant groups to maintain the monument and surrounding property.
“The Church 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,” Elder Eyring said.
This article was prepared by the LDS Newsroom at lds.org.