Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

U.S. landmark

Church will seek designation for Mountain Meadows
Published: Saturday, April 5, 2008

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CARROLLTON, ARK.

AP Photo by Beth Hall
Church Historian Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy, right, accompanied from Salt Lake City by Steve Olsen, managing director of the Church History Department, shakes hands with Arkansas State Sen. Randy Laverty.

The Church has announced several developments in efforts to memorialize the victims killed at Mountain Meadows more than 150 years ago in southern Utah.

Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy, Church Historian, told leaders of three descendant organizations at a March 28 meeting in Carrollton that the Church will seek National Historic Landmark designation for the Church's holdings at the Mountain Meadows site.

Last year, leaders of the three organizations — the Mountain Meadows Association, the Mountain Meadows Massacre Descendants and the Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation — unanimously asked for the landmark status.

Elder Jensen said, "A National Historic Landmark designation, along with the continued efforts of the Church and descendant groups, will ensure that those who died at Mountain Meadows will always be remembered as part of our nation's history."

The site is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but requirements for a landmark designation are far more stringent. The process involves documenting the historic significance of the site, a public comment period and a review by the National Park Service and a government-appointed board of experts, with the final decision by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

At the meeting, Elder Jensen sought input from the descendant groups on proposed plans to create a second memorial with interpretive markers at the Burgess upper grave site, an area recently acquired by the Church where remains of some of the victims are thought to lie. The Church recently purchased 600 additional acres of land at Mountain Meadows to avert its development into a residential subdivision. Elder Jensen said, "The land will be left undeveloped to preserve the sanctity of that hallowed area and out of respect for those who died there."

Six months ago, Church leaders gathered at Mountain Meadows with the three descendant groups, Paiute Indians and others at a 150th anniversary memorial service to honor the victims of the massacre.

On Sept. 11, 1857, after tensions escalated between Mormons in southern Utah and a California-bound wagon train from Arkansas, 50 to 60 local Mormon militiamen, aided by some native people, killed about 120 emigrants. Most of the victims were from Arkansas.

During the September 2007 memorial service, Elder Henry B. Eyring, then of the Quorum of the Twelve and now first counselor in the First Presidency, acknowledged that the responsibility rested with local leaders of the Church 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 teachings and conduct," Elder Eyring said. "We cannot change what happened, but we can remember and honor those who were killed here."

To deepen understanding of what happened at Mountain Meadows, three authors, including Assistant Church Historian Richard E. Turley Jr., have written a book that will be published by Oxford University Press this summer. The authors were given access to all relevant materials held in the Church archives and made an exhaustive national search for any documents related to Mountain Meadows, uncovering new information that sheds additional light on the tragedy.