Saturday, September 1, 2007

Moutain Meadows

I read a Deseret News article today about the 150th anniversary of the Mountain Meadows Massacre (link below).

It troubles me that the LDS leadership feels compelled to control this piece of land when descendants of the massacre victims are calling for federal control. Part of my uneasiness comes from the newspaper article itself, which states explicitly about three times that Brigham Young himself DID NOT order the massacre.

As far as I understand, it's nearly impossible to make a factual statement one way or the other concerning Young's role in the massacre. However, it is a fact that his role in the massacre has been questioned by historians and others (hence the author's adamant denial?).

Beyond their refusals to relinquish control of the Mountain Meadow land, the LDS leadership's unwillingness to investigate the massacre in any detail adds to my feelings of disturbance. When the current monument was built about a decade ago, bodies of some of the victims were exhumed, but forensic anthropologists were given only about 24 hours to examine the skeletons before then governor, Mike Leavitt, ordered them re-interred.

The strategy seems to be: memorialize so that we can forget about it. That's the odd thing about memorials, they serve to consecrate historical events and solidify a single narrative so that other voices can be forced to the margins and eventually silenced. In other words, memorials help us remember one story so that we can forget the others.

This isn't to say that the LDS Church is any more or less responsible, beyond the story they have memorialized, for the lives that were lost 150 years. It is to say however, that by seeking to keep the massacre buried beneath a monument LDS leaders ensure that some doubt will remain. But, if the monument does its job adequately, even that doubt will soon die down and the secrets of the past will lay quietly buried among the bones of the Mountain Meadow victims.,5143,695206187,00.html