Descendants of the pioneers involved in the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre and of the victims met Sept. 15 in what President Gordon B. Hinckley called a "spirit of reconciliation."
President Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, spoke to about 2,000 people at a memorial service at the Southern Utah State College Centrum, about 40 miles northeast of Mountain Meadows. He indicated that while he is not a descendant of any of those involved, he represented a people who have suffered much because of the tragedy. While at the Centrum ceremony, he also dedicated a monument recently erected at the site in memory of the tragedy.The monument was the result of efforts by a coalition of relatives that began efforts in 1988 to place the granite marker on a hill overlooking the site.
Other speakers included BYU Pres. Rex E. Lee, a direct descendant of massacre participant John D. Lee, and several descendants of victims. Music was provided by a 400-voice choir.
It was at Mountain Meadows that a company of 120 Arkansas emigrants, led by Capt. John T. Baker and Capt. Alexander Fancher, was attacked while en route to California. There were 18 people who survived.
The BYU president said he hoped in the future Mountain Meadows would symbolize "not only tragedy and grief, but also human dignity, mutual understanding, a willingness to look forward and not back."
President Hinckley spoke also of reconciliation: "A bridge has been built across a chasm of cankering bitterness. We walk across that bridge and greet one another with a spirit of love, forgiveness, and with hope that there will never be a repetition of anything of the kind.
"We do not understand fully what happened back then. We cannot change it. But we can change ourselves, and in that spirit we have gathered from far and near knowing that all of us are sons and daughters of God our Eternal Father, with a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood that obtains from that recognized fact."
President Hinckley praised those "courageous men and women who opened a dialogue that has led to this historic day." He called the gathering of descendants on both sides a "miracle, a much-desired miracle which will bless this and future generations."
He noted that a common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ helped heal the deep wounds of hurt and bitterness.
"We come not to judge, to censure, or to renew the passions of the past, but rather to heal and anoint with the balm of peace and love, that balm which comes of the spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord, in whom we all believe, and from whom we draw forgiveness, and fellowship and healing.
"We pray that old and tragic wounds may heal, that feelings may soften from this day forward, that there shall not be recrimination over that which happened long ago and for which none of this generation had any responsibility."
Before offering the dedicatory prayer, President Hinckley concluded by saying, "We hope that there shall never again sprout from this soil seeds of hate or malevolence, but, rather, that we and those of future generations will walk together in the sunlight of goodwill."