The Other Tragedy on September 11th

For most of us, September 11th is remembered as a day of mourning. Most of us will recall exactly where we were and what we were doing when we first heard news of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. I had just run down the stairs of an old apartment building in Cleveland, OH, having just heard the sound of our mail-person closing the communal mailbox near the front door of the building. The postal worker asked if I was watching television… I thought it was a funny question to ask a Mormon missionary.

Several years later I came to understand that for many Mormons September 11th was already a day of mourning. September 11th, 1857 marks the violent ending of the tragedy known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Although the death-count of the 1857 tragedy is much lower than that of the 2001 tragedy, it doesn’t sting any less. In fact, it stings more because the atrocities were performed by members of my chosen faith.

None of my ancestors were Mormon pioneers. Still, I feel a close connection with the early saints. I consider them my brothers – my heritage. The LDS church plays such a profound role in my life that it is hard to admit that such a shameful event is part of my cultural history. It is hard to understand how faithful followers of Christ could perform such violent acts, and then fail to admit their guilt. I can’t explain what happened that day – teams of historians can’t seem to agree on some of the details – but it shouldn’t have happened.

So while others around me are mourning today, I too will mourn – not only for those killed in New York in 2001, but also for the unnecessary deaths of the Fancher-Baker party in 1857.

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