When Regret is Not a Synonym with Apology

Memorial Crosses

Last Tuesday I attended the memorial service commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The day before, I had the pleasure of meeting several of the descendants of the Fancher family in Cedar City. Suffice it to say that the memorial service was a somber occasion. Short speeches were given by both descendants of the victims and the perpetrators. Several times the word forgiveness was invoked.

The service began when relatives and friends carrying large pennants walked behind a lone covered wagon down the gravel road from Dan Sill Hill to the rock cairn memorial built in 1999. Each pennant contained the last name of a family whose lives ended on this very spot. A few days prior, another service was held at the site. Here, participants had hung white crosses on the metal fence surrounding the memorial. Larger crosses represented the adults that were killed, while smaller crosses represented the many children who died that day.

Memorial PennantsI had just returned to Salt Lake City from the memorial service, when I read the headline of an article by Carrie A. Moore in the online edition of the Deseret News. It read, “Church issues apology for massacre.” Another article written in the Salt Lake Tribune by Jessica Ravitz, was headlined, “LDS Church apologizes for Mountain Meadows Massacre.” Moore wrote that Mormon Apostle Henry B. Eyring issued “a long-awaited apology today for the massacre of an immigrant wagon train by local church members 150 years ago in southwestern Utah.” Ravitz echoed s similar conclusion when she wrote, that a Mormon Apostle, “apologized for the church’s role.” He did? I was sitting barely ten rows away from Mr. Eyring when he spoke – how did I miss that? Several speakers received standing ovations for the comments they made, but not a single person stood to applaud Eyring’s comments. Given the fact that descendants have been longing for such an announcement, I can’t imagine Mr. Eyring receiving anything less if he did, in fact, express such a message.

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Instead, we heard Mr. Eyring “express profound regret” for the “undue and untold suffering experienced by the victims and their relatives.” We heard Mr. Eyring offer a “separate expression of regret” to the Paiute people “who have unjustly borne for too long the principal blame for what occurred during the massacre.”

He also made it clear that the “responsibility for the massacre lies with local leaders” of the LDS Church. In his short speech he also put in a plug for the new book being written by three LDS historians that is due to be published by Oxford Press. No doubt this book, like Mr. Eyring’s speech, will offer nothing really new about this tragic event. Why should the Church assume that this will be the definitive work on this subject? Why should the public readily accept the statements of these three Church employees, when for the past 150 years the LDS Church has shown itself to be anything but honest and cooperative when it comes to the MMM? Why not at least let qualified historians have access to all of the documents the LDS Church now keeps in its archives?

Reader responses to both the Deseret News, and Salt Lake Tribune articles were incredibly mixed. Some Mormons expressed their contempt at the descendants for making this an annual issue purposely designed to embarrass their Church. Others expressed profound joy that their Church had finally apologized to the families. A few admitted they were indeed shocked, given the fact that the LDS Church never apologizes for anything.

Having been there and hearing Eyring myself, my shock was limited primarily to the conclusion drawn by the two journalists. Regret is not always synonymous with apology, and while Eyring did appear to be emotionally moved by the circumstances, he never spoke those simple words that the descendants have wanted to hear.

Mountain Meadows Massacre 150 YearsNo doubt many of those Latter-day Saints who rejoiced when they read the headlines were utterly disappointed to later hear that the two journalists had drawn an incorrect conclusion. In an Associated Press article that has been circulating in several major media outlets, it stated quite clearly that “Church leaders were adamant that the statement should not be construed as an apology.” Said LDS Church spokesman, Mark Tuttle, “We don’t use the word ‘apology.’ We used ‘profound regret.’”

Such a comment speaks volumes. It not only confirms in the minds of many that the leadership continues to display a type of infallible arrogance, but it will also be understood by many that the LDS Church is not sorry for what happened under Brigham Young’s watch. For me that is the big issue. I fully understand that there is no one currently living who was personally responsible for the MMM. However, there is a corporate responsibility that the LDS leadership wants to continue to deny. Brigham Young was the “prophet, seer, and revelator” of the LDS Church and he was also the ultimate head of every LDS militia in the Utah territory. True leaders understand that when things go wrong, the “buck” has to stop somewhere, and in a real world it usually stops with those who are in charge. The LDS Church must certainly understand this concept given the huge monetary settlements paid by the LDS Church regarding child abuse cases perpetrated by Church personnel.

Furthermore, are we really expected to believe that Young’s fiery reformation speeches on blood atonement and absolute loyalty to the leadership had no affect on those same leaders? It is difficult for me to believe that his sermons were given with the intent that they should be understood only as “revival rhetoric.” Respected historian Juanita Brooks noted on page 219 of her book, The Mountain Meadows Massacre,

“while Young and George A. Smith, the church authorities chiefly responsible, did not specifically order the massacre, they did preach sermons and set up social conditions which made it possible.”

Young may not have pulled a trigger or bludgeoned a small child with a gun butt, but I find it very difficult to side with Mormons who insist that he did not play any role in this awful event.

One last thought. Mr. Eyring, towards the end of his speech, stated, that “divine justice will impose appropriate punishment” for those who carried out the massacre. Does appropriate punishment await John D. Lee, the only man who paid for this crime with his life on March 23, 1877? Lee was ex-communicated in 1870, but in 1961 the LDS Church First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve reinstated Lee’s membership and temple blessings. I could be wrong, but I tend to think that most Mormons would see this as a reward, not a punishment.

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73 Responses to When Regret is Not a Synonym with Apology

  1. jeff says:

    Juvenile? hmm, I would call it playful, but you can call it whatever your heart desires.

  2. mare says:

    thanks, leanne. i think your words (and God’s) communicated more effectively than my attempt. compassion is such a strong witness of God.

  3. Zak says:

    No… Im not “suggesting that God Himself wanted the Fancher train dead?”

    All Im saying is that all these “Christian” nay sayers who are making all the hoopla about this have a very sandy foundation under their soap boxes.

  4. Seth R. says:

    Zak, it’s no defense of one’s own religion to point out “but your religion is silly too!”

  5. Zak says:

    Its not a matter of “religion”. its a matter of a “double standard”. A LOGICAL fallacy. ;)

  6. Zak says:

    PS. Is Mr. Bill or anyone else calling for the Israelites to appalogize to the Ammorites?

  7. Falcon says:

    I don’t think anyone here is using the MMM in an attempt to destroy the restored gospel which the Mormons proclaim. I think the restored gospel pretty much raises of falls on its own merits. If I was going to debate someone about the restored gospel of Mormonism, MMM wouldn’t even make the top 100 reasons it’s not true. If I wanted to debate the topic of group think and the controlling nature and legalism of Mormonism, then I’d probably pull MMM into the mix as the most egregous example.

  8. Leanne says:

    Zak,

    Cool name- almost named my 1st son Zach, after Zechariah= God Remembers. Now let’s see if you can remember my original question. By the by, liked your “Paul didn’t get my memo” thing. I’m gonna use it until you get MY memo.

    However and FYI, I have a real life and I’m not here as a professional See-How-Witty-I-Can-Be jabber-jaws. Been there, done that; don’t have time for “cute”, unless you mean no meanness. So please let me know if you are a believing Christian, seeking to share and dialogue legitimately? Thanx. If not, you can spar with the other kids.

    #1- 2nd try: Could you please answer my question (and Seth’s) about why you used the Deut. 3:2-6 passage? Is it fair to ask you to explain your reasoning on this forum? You can just tell us in plain English what your point/analogy was.

    Thank you for pointing out my non-sequitur. Now please explain what I think yours is.

    #2- And, YOU ARE RIGHT- my bad. I meant to say Old Testament “commands”, not commandments. I teach Hebrew, so that was a blond moment for sure.

    My point in plain English: Are you using a specific, historic command from God, (vis-a-vis for Moses to destroy people God specified for His reasons) to justify the MMM? They don’t correlate, so are you using something in the Biblical narrative to justify a current event? (That’s 2 “yes or no” questions.)

    That is what is meant by “out of context” and ALL non-sequiturs should be GRACIOUSLY pointed out, equally to all guilty parties… Else, Aaron will have to intervene and you can move on to a more juvenile sand box. I.E.= BE HONEST and answer the question. I did this as a Mormon for 35 years (see previous blog), so I can sniff out my own previous, devious circular arguments and (I whisper this:) “crap”.

    Zak- I only # my points so anyone answering can make sure they have responded to my ?’s. We all forget sometimes when blogging late or in a hurry.

  9. Zak, since you think it is a double standard, are you willing to demonstrate that the two examples are indeed alike, i.e. showing that Brigham Young or the local Mormon leaders received an order from God to eliminate the wagon train? If you can’t show that, then the two examples are effectively different and fall differently by the same standard.

  10. Also, Zak, it’s “Bill” or “Mr. McKeever”.

  11. Jacob Niemi says:

    Hey, when did Christ’s love ever cause somebody to murder one-hundred innocent people?

  12. Zak says:

    Sure Aarron,

    Heres a little bit of what they told me over on BAM:
    “If you really are a Mormon, I can understand how you don’t understand the true nature of the Biblical God. He isn’t a kindly old Grandpa, just waiting for you to return home. This isn’t just some test to see if we can become Gods, or to see how much knowledge we can gain. We are separated from Him by sin. A just and holy God cannot coexist with sinners. And we all are sinners. And we deserve DEATH, every one of us. To cover up these sins there needed to be a sacrifice. That’s why the ancient Israelites offered animal sacrifices for these sins so we could be reconciled to God. And above all, that’s why Jesus had to come and be offered as a final sacrifice to God. Now that we have the sacrifice and are under the covenant of grace, a lot of the things done in the Old Testament just seem awful.

    God lawfully has the right to execute judgment upon anyone. The Bible says that all people have sinned against God and are under his righteous judgment. Therefore, their execution is not an arbitrary killing nor is it murder. Murder is the unlawful taking of life. Killing is the lawful taking of life. For example, we can lawfully take a life in defense of our selves, our families, our nations, etc.

    When God authorizes the nation of Israel to wipe out a people, it is a lawful execution due to their rebellion and sin against God. While the extermination of an entire population may seem excessively cruel when viewed as an isolated incident, other factors shed light on that situation.”

    So wether God authorized it or not… The wagon train deserved to Die. So why is anyone complaining?

  13. Zak says:

    Leanne says: Cool name- almost named my 1st son Zach, after Zechariah= God Remembers. Now let’s see if you can remember my original question. By the by, liked your “Paul didn’t get my memo” thing. I’m gonna use it until you get MY memo.
    === Thanks, It’s short for Zakuska. Which is a Russian hors d’oeuvre which is best served with Vodka. (Kind of like my posts.) ;)
    === Well… I am a beleiving Mormon… If you consider Mormons “Christians”… then yes.
    RE: #1-
    === I like to play Devils advocate.
    RE: #2
    === I just hate it when people Give that excuse, That because its in the Old testament we can basically ignore it because Christ did away with ALL that. How much of the New testament is quoted from the Old? people seem to forget that the Old testament is just as important to understanding the new. And that many things in the Old Testament never went away… but simply changed in how they are manifest in the New covenant. (eg Animal Sacrifice – looking forward to Christ vs The Lords Supper – Reminding us of Christ)
    Leanne says: Are you using a specific, historic command from God, … to justify the MMM?
    === No. Im not trying to Justify anything… Just playing Devils advocate.
    === But I am glad that you are “Brunette” enough to see that they have no corallary… other than the fact that “everyone died”. I’m not saying God told BY and then BY told the Local Leaders. We know the Local Leaders did it to cover their butts because they jumped the gun and made the initial attack, without authorization for SLC. So not only where they covering themselves from the US government, but from their Church & Militia Leaders as well.
    === You wouldn’t happen to be related to the Knudsens from Holiday utah?

  14. Leanne says:

    Leanne, your comment has been deleted. Please discuss issues, not individuals who comment here. Thanks.

  15. Zak says:

    Leanne,
    [quote]Everyone isn’t complaining. Just the Christians. That’s the point, dude. If Christ put His Spirit in you, you would grieve like He does over this evil and others. [/quote]
    Ah but there you make your big mistake… You assume that Im not “Grieving”. You also assume to place yourself as my Judge… and try as you might… you just can’t quite peer into my heart like ONLY the Lord can.

    Yes the Spirit of Christ is pure love… but sometimes Love is tough.

  16. Falcon says:

    For some reason the controversy over MMM won’t go away. It seems that the ancestors of those who were brutally murdered are not going to drop this. And none of us should drop it either. The memorial that stands there is a reminder to all of us of the worst that exists in the hearts of men. Jesus had pretty strict standards to remind us of the insidious nature of even “small” sins, even those that we don’t overtly commit. Because it’s in our hearts where sin takes root and we eventually “do” those this we have “vividly imagined”. We just do what we’ve already practiced. We can’t justify or make excuses for sin. The Bible tells us to own it,confess it, and receive God’s forgivness. Rationalizing it just keeps us going like the little gerbal on an exercise wheel.

  17. Zak says:

    “The Bible tells us to own it,confess it, and receive God’s forgivness.”

    Hmmm… that sounds exactly like what the church is trying to do. But for some reason it isn’t enough. People like Bill and Aaron want heads to roll.

  18. Falcon says:

    I find that the symbolism expressed when B. Young tore down the memorial Cross at MM (when confronted with the sin of his people) to be quite telling. The Cross convicts us of our sin but at the same time shows us the pathway to achieve peace with God.

  19. Leanne says:

    Falcon-

    Good news re: the Cross that was ‘removed’ (several times, in fact, by locals over the following years):

    I just spoke with Dr. Burr Fancher, family spokesman and author (“Captain Alex. Fancher on amazon.com) a few minutes ago. They are currently drafting a letter to submit to the LDS authorities requesting that a hole be drilled in the rock cairn at the lower monument site. He will make another cross, similar to the 16′ cross he erected at their family site in Carollton,AR, so the family will bear the cost of the reconstruction.

    One of the best websites is done by Fancher-Baker descendant, Frank Kirchenman, for anyone interested in true intentions of the families and any current progress in “maintaining the site”:

    http://1857massacre.com/MMM/mmmf.htm

    You can also read the poem that Burr read at this year’s event concerning the importance of the Cross to their descendants. Very powerful and convicting.

    For all LDS who feel offended by bashing and attacks on their church and religion, this will help them understand (if they wish to) why Biblical believers want to witness the Bible message to them. If they understand the differences between the Biblical Jesus and His salvation message from LDS gospel, then they at least have the opportunity to compare & choose. We should never seek to attack anyone, but rather to “share the hope in Christ Jesus” we have.

    “For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”. 1 Cor.1:18

  20. Leanne says:

    Zak,

    If you truly wish to understand what the concern of non-LDS Christians is concerning omissions on this subject, I will reply once more.

    If you just want to play “devil’s advocate” eternally and never try to at least understand some of the other opinions, then I’m not obliged.

    Everyone has their own opinion on the regret/apology statement by Eyring. Mine was stated on my original reply (Sept. 17). It is “too little, too late” for almost all non-LDS, but was appreciated and accepted publically by the families. There were plenty of “other” opinions expressed afterward, many of which have been shared here.

    As for your statement that “people like Bill and Aaron want heads to roll”, the 1857 Mormon murderers accomplished that already. The majority of LDS wanted Brigham Young to make the heads of the bad guys roll, but he didn’t. THAT is why there is still an outcry today: JUSTICE WAS NEVER SERVED. (can you get that?)

    As my Mormon pioneer Grandmother (1899- 1994) said, “I wouldn’t want to be Brigham Young on Judgment Day. What he FAILED TO DO was his sin: hiding the deed, protecting the murderers, and lying to the authorities afterward. We all knew that the others (besides JD Lee) went into hiding, protected and sheltered.” (paraphrased nicer than the tone in which she said it…)

    An honest man knows why there is an outcry, and now your church is making attempts to rectify their past silence, because they understand the serious omissions as well as the awful commissions. If non-Mormons on this site don’t at least acknowledge that fact, then I am 100% on your side, Zak.

    FYI- I agree with the majority of the modern historians, including Prof. Brian Patrick (“Burying the Past” docu-maker) concerning BY’s fore-knowledge or sanction: He did not conspire w/ Cedar City or Iron Co. Militia. The rider couldn’t get back to SLC in time.

    His prior complicity is a non-issue for me. His cover-up is & hopefully w/b to SLC leaders.

  21. amanda says:

    Megan,

    i didn’t realize that the gold standard for faith was logic, reason and data. forgive me for trying to simplify the issue with common sense (that you apparently characterize as irrational or emotional?)

    i use logic and reason plenty on this site. it is not logical of YOU to take one comment (that i still stand by) or even four comments (that i probably stand by) and try to paint a picture of my intellectual capacity. but see, logic doesn’t exactly effect any reasonable results on this site…nor does it effect any truthful conclusions in the world around us concerning the existence of a God.

    SETH, i never stated that my main argument for Brigham Young’s actions was the court of law argument…i was countering something Aaron said. (and i completely disagree, by the way, that the church doesn’t have a clear conscience on this issue—but that’s a different convo)

    my position has ALWAYS been this:

    If Brigham Young did anything wrong, it is HE who should apologize–and he is dead. the only One who can DEMAND apologies is the very God that we all claim to put our trust in…and if there was wrongdoing, it will be made right.

    so from an evangelical perspective (if i dare venture in that direction ;) )–it seems to me a reasonable conclusion is simply to forgive and FORGET, despite the actions of ANYONE.

    so this is my main argument with the continuous discussion of MMM- we are all responsible for our own actions—if we spend our time calling others to repentance, we never see enough of our own personal flaws that we as individuals need to repent of because we are focused on others, whom we can’t control. and THAT, MEGAN, seems illogical to me, trying to control anyone’s actions but our own.

    with that in mind–i’d like to suggest to evangelical christians on this site attempting earnestly to minister to mormons, you have a much better case if you lead by example, or is that not biblical, or logical?

  22. ethesis says:

    If you are really saying that it was the environment that made the MMM possible, and that the persons responsible for that need to apologize, then what I gather is that you mean that the Republican party sending out Johnson’s army owes an apology for the entire thing.

    It should be noted that Brigham Young’s response to Johnson’s Army is the “environment” that you are discussing, and included orders routinely signed with the by-word “shed no blood.”

    Given his intense efforts to avoid creating provocations in that environment, it is hard to think that he would have approved of or been pleased by what is obviously a large scale provocation.

    BTW, it is interesting to compare your insistence that Brigham Young and the corporate Church are responsible with the comparable discussions of the uses and intents of the Nicene creed.

    I think that takes us to the limits of fair attribution and correlation.

  23. Sapphire says:

    I think an apology for lying and covering up the truth for years is quite appropriate. They tried to blame the Indians, for heaven’s sake. The LDS church still venerates Brigham Young – still, given all the awful, disgusting things he said in his “sermons”. They venerate the man behind the vigilantes who massacred all those people. The evidence is overwhelmingly against him.

    Yes, an apology is appropriate, just as the Japanese should have (never have) admitted, thereby apologizing, for the horrendous atrocities they committed in WWII. The prime minister expressed “regret”, but took no responsibility on behalf of his country. They still gloss over their actions in WWII. Sound eerily familiar???

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