Wednesday, January 02, 2008

September Dawn

I have added a link to the highly-recommended movie September Dawn on the right side of my blog. IMDB's description of this movie is:

A story set against the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the film is based upon the tragedy which occurred in Utah in 1857. A group of settlers, traveling on wagons, was murdered by the native Mormons. All together, about 140 souls of men, women and children, were taken. Amidst this, two young lovers-to-be, one a Mormon and the other one of the doomed settlers from Arkansas, develop a relationship in an atmosphere of suspicion and rancor.
This is an incident that the Mormon Church has never apologized for:

Kent Bylund, a Mormon who owned land at the site in southwestern Utah, has seen a shift in attitude. Tapped by Mormon President Gordon Hinckley to head up construction of a memorial in 1999, Mr. Bylund turned to the local Mormon community for donations of time and money. "People wanted to be a part of this healing process. For Mormons, it's a part of their heritage, and it's hard for them to come to terms with it," says Bylund. But Bylund also received death threats from Mormons unhappy with the effort. And when a backhoe accidentally dug up a shovel full of bones, distrust of the church flared among victims' relatives. Finally, at the dedication ceremony, Mr. Hinckley offered words of healing to the descendants, but punctuated them with a legalistic disclaimer of any church responsibility.

"Compared to what we've seen in the last 150 years, since 1999 [church officials] have made strides," says Patty Norris, head of the Mountain Meadows Massacre Descendants, a group of those related to the 17 children under age 7 who were spared. "But they need to go a lot further. We want them to openly acknowledge that church leaders were involved."

She says her group also wants the church to help round up property that was stolen from the train, agree to turn over the site to some other steward, and - very simply - apologize.

Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have expressed sympathy. "My heart has gone out to the descendants," Elder Dallin Oaks said in a recent PBS documentary. "What a terrible thing to contemplate, that the barbarity of the frontier and the conditions of the Utah war, whatever provocations were perceived to have been given, would have led to ... such an extreme atrocity perpetrated by members of my faith." The church, says author Will Bagley, is on the horns of a dilemma: "Until you can embrace confession, you can't repent. If you can't repent, there's no forgiveness." (Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 24, 2007)

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