"A National Historic Landmark designation. . .will ensure that those who died at Mountain Meadows will always be remembered as part of our nation's history," said Marlin K. Jensen, official historian for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Jensen met this morning in Carrollton, Ark., with representatives of the Mountain Meadows Association, the Mountain Meadows Massacre Descendants and the Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation, all of whom had asked the church to seek landmark status for its holdings in southern Utah, where Mormon militia and a some native people killed about 120 emigrants on a California-bound wagon train from Arkansas on Sept. 11, 1857.
The Mountain Meadows site is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but requirements for a landmark designation are much more stringent, according to an LDS Church statement. The process involves documenting the historic significance of the site, a public comment period, and review by the National Park Service and a government-appointed board of experts. The Secretary of the Interior will make the final decision.
At today's meeting, Jensen also sought input from the descendants groups on proposed plans to create a second memorial with interpretive markers at the Burgess upper gravesite, an area recently acquired by the church where remains of some of the victims are thought to lie. The church recently purchased 600 additional acres of land at Mountain Meadows to avert its development into a residential subdivision.
"The land will be left undeveloped to preserve the sanctity of that hallowed area and out of respect for those who died there," Jensen said.
Six months ago, Mormon leaders gathered at Mountain Meadows with the three descendants groups, Paiutes and others at a 150th anniversary memorial service to honor the victims of the massacre.
At that time, Henry B. Eyring, then an LDS apostle, now a member of the church's governing First Presdiency, acknowledged that the responsibility rested with regional LDS leaders who also held civic and military positions and with members of the church acting under their direction. "What was done here long ago by members of our church represents a terrible and inexcusable departure from Christian teaching and conduct," Eyring said at the September 2007 service "We cannot change what happened, but we can remember and honor those who were killed here."