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Mormon Church Apologizes for Massacre

In Apologetic rhetoric on September 15, 2007 at 8:44 am


As the Fancher-Baker wagon train passed through Utah in 1857, 120 men, women, and children in its party were brutally murdered by a group of men dressed in Native American clothing. New research shows that leaders of the local Mormon church were, in fact, responsible for recruiting Paiute Indians to participate–alongside Mormon militia members–in the horrific killings.

At the 150th anniversary memorial service held this month, Mormon Elder Henry B. Eyring, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, offered a groundbreaking statement of contrition and accountability for the church’s role in the massacre.

“What was done here long ago by members of our church represents a terrible and inexcusable departure from Christian teaching and conduct,” said Eyring. “We cannot change what happened, but we can remember and honor those who were killed here.”

Although the statement was intended as an apology to descendants of the victims and survivors, it did not include the word “sorry” nor did it take full responsibility for the church’s role in carrying out (not just planning or recruiting people for) the massacre.

Historian Will Bagley felt the church avoided its culpability. ”I don’t think shoving it off on local [Mormon] leadership is an apology,” he said. ”Did you hear an ‘I’m sorry?’” Priscilla Dickson, a descendant of one of the victims, added: ”Simply saying ‘I’m sorry,’ would go a long way.'”

After the ceremony, Richard Turley Jr., the church’s managing director of family and church history, insisted that the statement was offered as an apology, adding: ”[The church] is deeply, deeply sorry. What happened here was horrific.”

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