Tag Archives: mountain meadows massacre

A Utah Massacre Remembered

In an old courthouse in St. George Utah I saw this beautiful quilt hanging on the wall. It is called A Remembrance and Reconciliation quilt.  It tells the story of a horrific incident in Utah history referred to as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. In a New York Times article Sally Denton calls it “the darkest stain” on the history of the Mormon religion. On September 11, 1857 in a meadow in southwest Utah militiamen from the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints attacked a wagon train of Arkansas families on their way to set up new homes in California. They killed 140 men, women and older children, saving only seventeen children under the age of eight. The head of the Mormon militia was a man named John D. Lee  who was the adopted son of Mormon prophet Brigham Young.  The church has labeled Lee a renegade zealot. He felt he needed get rid of infidels who might want to hurt the Mormons or infiltrate their territory. To this day there continues to be a great deal of controversy about exactly what transpired. How much did Mormon church authorities know about the massacre both before and after it happened? Did they try to cover up evidence or unfairly place blame elsewhere, including on a local group of First Nations people?

The quilt I saw in St. George has forty eight squares contributed by descendants of both the militiamen who helped Lee carry out the massacre as well as descendants of the Arkansas settlers whose ancestors were killed.  A similar quilt is on display in Arkansas. It is a way to remember those who died and to express sorrow over what happened as well as provide an avenue for healing. 

Green leaves on the quilt record the names of people killed. Red flowers record the names of the seventeen children who were spared.

I visited the home of Rachel Hamblin which was close to the massacre.The seventeen children whose lives were spared were first taken to Rachel’s house. She writes of that experience saying…“in the darkness of night, two of the children cruelly mangled and most of them with their parents’ blood still wet upon their clothes, and all of them shrieking with terror and grief and anguish” 

The quilt tells a tragic and damning story but I have to give credit to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for having it on display where thousands of visitors can see it. As is the case with so many religious groups who must now confront the atrocities committed by their clergy and membership in the past, there is hopefully a growing realization that only transparency and honesty, admission of guilt and request of forgiveness, can help pave the way to a more peaceful future where no religious group believes it has a corner on the truth so all are accepted with love and are never seen as enemies. 

Both wisdom from Buddhist and Hindu sources are included on the quilt

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Filed under History, Religion, Utah