Mountain Meadows Monument Rededication
Saturday, September 11, 1999
Remarks and Dedicatory Prayer
President Gordon B. Hinckley
My dear friends, all of you who are here, together with those in Arkansas and elsewhere who have joined with us.
This is a solemn and significant occasion. I come as a peacemaker. This is not a time for recrimination or the assigning of blame. No one can explain what happened in these meadows 142 years ago. We may speculate, but we do not know. We do not understand it. We cannot comprhend it. We can only say that the past is long since gone. It cannot be recalled. It cannot be changed. It is time to leave the entire matter in the hands of God who deals justly in all things. His is a wisdom far beyond our own.
I first came here nearly 50 years ago. When my father turned 85, I brought him down to southern Utah. We visited this place. There was no one else around. My father said nothing. I said nothing. We simply stood here and thought of what occurred here in 1857. The rock cairn was here. Weeds rustled in the breeze.
We walked back to our car without speaking. We knew this ground was hallowed, and we were reverent and respectful.
I came here again in 1990. We met on the campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City. That too was a day of solemnity and reconciliation. There were a number of speakers. Some were descendants of the Fanchers and Bakers. Some were descendants of John D. Lee. I was not related in any way to either side. I came here representing the Church. We heard from an old Indian. We heard from those who came from Arkansas. I spoke. But perhaps the most impressive thing to me on that occasion was when Rex Lee, then president of Brigham Young University and who has now passed away asked all to stand and join hands in a gesture of friendship. We felt a spirit of peace on that occasion and a spirit of appreciation one for another.
We then traveled to the marker on Dan Sill Hill. I spoke a few words and offered a prayer of dedication there. We then came to this area. Many people had been here immediately before us. The weeds were all tramped down. We had a brief exercise here.
I came here again last year. I was shocked by what I found. The wall of the cairn was beginning to slip in the direction of the small stream in the gully. The weeds were tall. There was an ugly barbed-wire fence around this site.
I knew that the Church owned this ground. I said to myself, " You must do something to make this a more beautiful and attractive and lasting memorial. This is a sacred place."
I thought much of what we might do. I had our architectural department work on some drawings. I called a meeting in the Church Administration Building. Burr Fancher was there. Ron Loving was there. Verne Lee was there, and a number of others. I expressed my feelings on that occasion to the effect that I felt very strongly that the Church should do something to beautify this place. We owned the ground. This was a sacred place of remembrance for many people. I made alternative proposals and then asked you of the Mountain Meadows Association and the people of Arkansas to look over the alternatives and tell us what you would like to see here.
You came back with the suggestion that the stone walls be preserved, but that they be capped with dressed stone, denoting both the old and the new.
When the responses were in and you had expressed your desires, the Church went to work. We have spent a very substantial amount of money on what has been accomplished here. The walls of the cairn have been rebuilt and stabilized. The dressed stone has been placed along the top of the walls. We have not spared expense to do it right and to do it in a fashion that will remain through the years. We have gone to great effort and cost to secure water and electricity. We have fenced it in an attractive and secure manner. The path has been re-graded and improved. We have worked with the Forest Service and the county to make it more accessible.
Many, many people have participated. Volunteers have worked very hard. We are grateful to everyone. Dr. Glen Leonard has directed most of the work and has seen that it was properly done.
As you know the remains of some who lost their lives have now been laid at rest within these solid stone walls. We intend to maintain this memorial and keep it attractive. I am an old man now, in my 90th year. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to further this effort. All of my associates of the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church are united in what we have done.
I sit in the chair that Brigham Young occupied as President of the Church at the time of the tragedy. I have read very much of the history of what occurred here. There is no question in my mind that he was opposed to what happened. Had there been a faster means of communication, it never would have happened. That which we have done here must never be construed as an acknowledgment on the part of the Church of any complicity in the occurrences of that fateful day.
But we have an obligation. We have a moral responsibility. We have a Christian duty to honor, to respect, and to do all feasible to recognize and remember those who died there. May this cairn stand as a sacred monument to honor all of those who fell, wherever they might have been buried in these Mountain Meadows.
The Church is stable. It grows stronger every day. It will be here for as long as the earth lasts, and it will take care of this place. May the peace of heaven rest upon this hallowed ground and may no evil hand do damage of any kind. May all who visit here do so in a spirit of reverence and respect for the honored dead.
One hundred and forty-two years have now passed All who knew firsthand about what occurred here are long since gone. Let the book of the past be closed. Let peace come into our hearts. Let friendship and love be extended. May the peace of heaven be felt over this hallowed ground is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Now, my dear friends, if you will close your eyes and bow your heads I will ask you to join in a prayer of dedication.
O God, our Eternal Father, gathered before Thee in this hallowed place, we unitedly bow our heads in a prayer of dedication. We know something of what occurred here 142 years ago. But our knowledge is limited. We cannot understand it. We lack the ability to comprehend it. We are all sons and daughters of Thine, bound together in brotherhood and sisterhood, for Thou art our Father and our God. We are all Christians. Our great Exemplar is the Lord who said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).
Forgive our sins. Take from our hearts bitterness and rancor. Instill within us a spirit of love, an outreach toward one another. Kindle the fires of understanding and respect. Help us to rise above the evils of the past. Give us strength to put them behind us and replace them with a spirit of tolerance, and mutual respect.
The fires of bitterness and suspicion have burned long enough, O Lord. Let the sunlight of goodwill shine upon us. Dry the tears of those who have wept over these events. Open their eyes to an understanding of Thine all-encompassing love. Touch their hearts with a feeling of appreciation one for another as we mingle together on this day of reconciliation. There has been enough of weeping and grieving. This is the time to take upon ourselves the mantle of Thy Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave His life as a ransom for the sins of all men.
We, as Thy servants, have done all we know how to do to enshrine in this sanctuary the memories of the victims. May we honor those who died here by extending the hand of friendship toward those of this generation who are innocent of the past and have shown their desire to heal the wounds of bitterness.
Now, may we work together as Thy sons and daughters in that spirit of which Abraham Lincoln spoke when he said, "With malice toward none, with charity for all, . . let us bind up the wounds" (Abraham Lincoln , Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865) Let us go forward from this day with a renewal of love and an expression of friendship.
In the authority of the holy priesthood and in the name of Jesus Christ, I dedicate this sacred burial place, and all other burial places unknown, that arose out of the tragic events that occurred here. May this memorial stand through the years as a place held sacred by all who visit it, we humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of all mankind, amen.