So the other day I drove nine hours to Beryl. I didn’t know exactly what I might find in Beryl but I love adventures so into the back of the truck went my hiking boots, staff and miscellaneous camping gear. During my nine hour drive I passed through four states stopping only to fuel up. Gas was only $ 2.59 cents a gallon which almost encouraged me to keep driving beyond my destination.
Just before reaching Enterprise, Utah I stopped at a roadside monument to read up on some local history. The monument marked a spot along the Old Spanish Trail where wagon trains would take families to California in search of a better life. The monument marked a place known as Mountain Meadows. The grass filled meadow was a beautifully breathtaking vista, complete with a river winding its way back and forth as it made its way south.
The sun was shining on the meadow’s tall green grass as the wind swirled through it, making it shimmer like retreating surf after the crash of an ocean wave onto the shore. As the wind blew through my hair, I squinted through it at the memorial plaque that had been carved out of a single solid granite marker. There were hundreds of names listed on the wall and for a moment I thought I was looking at the Vietnam Memorial with its endless columns of names of our fallen heroes.
The only problem was the names chiseled into the stone were not only of men fallen in battle, but included hundreds of women and children. This was not a Civil War battle ground but a beautiful tranquil meadow, a resting spot to water and feed the settlers’ livestock before they traveled through the intensely hot Mojave Desert on route to California.
The story I’m about to tell illustrates the depravity that is in every human heart; our natural tendency is to do evil. Although the root cause that inspired these men to do the unthinkable is not without controversy, the facts still are recorded in history that a very large massacre of men, women and children occurred in Mountain Meadows just miles away from Enterprise, Utah.
Wagons filled with settlers originating from the state of Missouri were on their way to California. Running low on provisions, they had sought to purchase supplies from local Mormons who were living in the area. Because of reasons that are not clear, the Mormons denied the travelers any food or provisions. Desperate for help, the men of the party angrily provoked the Mormons and a battle ensued.
Local Indians had also been tracking the settlers who had supposedly poisoned a spring their livestock used to get water, resulting in the deaths of several people of their tribe. Now the Indians as well as the Mormons were united in their efforts to punish this group from Missouri. At some point in the skirmish a truce was proposed, as Mormon leaders promised to lead the settlers away from danger and sort things out with the Indians.
The men of the party, deceived, put down their weapons and were led a short distance away from the rest of the group where they were brutally lined up and fired upon, execution style. Likewise, the women and some of the older children were led away to another spot by armed Mormon and Indian fighters where they met the same fate as their husbands, sons and brothers.
The Mountain Meadows Massacre is now only a very distant memory in the minds of the relatives of the slain. In fact, it’s hard to imagine such horror as you look out onto this beautiful, peaceful meadow graced with tall grass impregnated with spring flowers.
The fact is that we are all capable of this kind of evil if we don’t guard our hearts and minds with the love that only comes from God. Unfortunately, if we don’t remember these atrocities, then history is bound to repeat itself. The anger, hate and blood lust that led good people to do such evil in Mountain Meadows is not dissimilar to what motivated an angry crowd to demand the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.
Fighting over religious dogma has caused death, pain and suffering throughout our world history. Jesus Christ, our Savior, came into the world to teach us how to love one another. Religious facts, figures and beliefs are not reasons to maim or kill others who don’t believe the exact way that you do.
Maybe, if we remember the ugly things that happen on peaceful meadows all over the world then maybe we can learn to love and respect others.
Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves, to build up and not tear down, and to walk an extra mile with someone in need.