Meadows descendant says no apology necessary, only understanding
By Kristen Encheff
Septemer 17, 2007 | I have two secrets. The first most
can figure out in a glance: I wear a cross necklace,
the occasional sleeveless shirt, I don't have a ward
and have no clue where the stake center is. Being non-Mormon
in Utah is something I have gotten used to, though getting
a date is hard and a second date, nearly impossible.
My second secret: I am a descendant of John T. Baker,
wagonmaster of the wagon train that met its end in the
Mountain Meadows of Southern Utah.
For most of my life in Utah, revealing this lineage
often got questions such as "the Mountain Meadows Massacre?
What's that?" After a long story and lots of reassurance
that I hold no grudge, life could return to normal.
What angers me is not the act itself, but the ignorance
that such a dark spot on the LDS Church history is so
little known. It has always been my belief that only
understanding of the past can keep us from repeating
its mistakes. But with the 150th anniversary of the
Mountain Meadows Massacre this month, it has been thrown
into the spotlight.
On Sept. 11, 1857, a wagon train from Arkansas taking
reprieve from their journey to California in the Mountain
Meadows in southern Utah, came under an unprovoked attack
by local Mormon militia and a few Indians. While the
trigger for this attack is unknown, it certainly has
something to do with the Mormon's own violent evictions
from several states and the hysteria following word
that the U.S. Army was riding towards the Utah Territory.
Of course, the true horror of Mountain Meadows was
not the battle itself, but events following pioneer's
surrender. Under the command of John D. Lee, the leader
of the militia, the pioneers -- men, women and children
-- were marched up a hill and swiftly executed, all
except a handful of children under 6 years old, considered
too young to recount what had happened to their families.
The cover-up that followed this brutal act still haunts
the descendants of both sides of the incident, the anniversary
of which seems to have renewed turmoil and pain. Many
descendants of the wagon train demand an apology from
the current LDS Church, many more at least a confession
of their part in the massacre. I believe this to be
a foolish request. The massacre was four generations
ago, and such things need to be laid to rest.
When local people discover my lineage, they often
react with either sorrow or anger, nearly always certain
that my family and I must hate the LDS Church and its
people. There are many descendants who do harbor such
resentment, just as there are many descendants of the
Mormon pioneers that carry anger at the injustice their
own ancestors suffered during their long search for
What happened in the past should stay in the past.
I don't expect a confession or an apology, nor do I
truly want one. I would rather be able to discuss the
events of 150 years ago with my LDS peers without hostility
or defensiveness. What happened to my ancestors, and
the ancestors of the Mormons, should finally be put