When I was a 5th grader at Wasatch School in Provo, I arrived home from school one afternoon to find my mother waiting outside for me, and she was not happy.
Someone from Wasatch had called to tell her that I had been unkind to a new girl, Marian Kader, daughter of Palestinian immigrants who had recently moved into our school district. Provo was decidedly not diverse in 1957 and I had never seen someone with such dark skin and black hair in person. And I had been unkind to her.
Mother, a white descendent of Mormon pioneers, had never been further outside Utah than Yellowstone at that time, told me that I would not be allowed in our home until I had apologized to Marian. I was heartbroken, mostly for myself, but I also knew that I had greatly disappointed her and violated our family values by wounding another.
She did not know the Kaders but got their address, drove me there and waited while I walked to the front door, asked for Marian and apologized to her as her father listened. Marian and I became and remained friends, though we attended different junior highs and eventually lost touch.
Last week marked the 16th anniversary of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks—and also the anniversary of the 1973 coup in Chile, when thousands Chileans “disappeared” in the violence that overthrew Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president. And Sept. 11 is also the anniversary of the 1847 Mountain Meadows Massacre near Cedar City, Utah, when some 68 Mormon men slaughtered at least 120 men, women and children, all immigrants and members of the Fancher Party.
That all three mass murders occurred on the same day in September is coincidence, but one that provides a powerful opportunity to learn not only from what others have done to us, but also from what we have done to others.
Surely we have learned from 9/11/2001 what others’ hate and fear did to us, to our country. But have we learned from the United States’ direct involvement in the 1973 coup in Chile — the killing of innocents we as a nation helped to commit? And have we learned from the mass murder of innocents at Mountain Meadow — perhaps the greatest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history — what Mormons did to others?
Given the persecution of early Mormons, many Mormon leaders and scholars have rightly opposed the Trump administration’s travel ban focused on Muslims (see “Learn from Mormon ban’s mistakes, scholars tell court,” Tribune, April 21,) as well as the general atmosphere of hatred of Muslims, Mexicans and others that Donald Trump fosters.
But who urges us to learn from what Mormons did to the Fancher Party in 1847 — and to the Native American population in general as Mormons moved into their territory? Consider that this last weekend folks in Wellsville celebrated a grossly inaccurate history of Indians attacking settlers. (See “Wellsville event perpetuates an appalling racial bias,” Tribune, Sept. 6.)
Had my mother not been profoundly committed to love, I would never have learned from my mistreatment of Marian Kader. But because of Mother’s love for all, not just her own — I gained profound insight into the harm I had done to another human being.
As we mourn the loss of nearly 3,000 innocent human beings, all murdered, on 9/11/2001, may we also mourn those murdered in Chile in 1973 and in Mountain Meadows, Utah, in 1857. And may we love enough to reflect on what we should learn from the harm we have done, individually and collectively, to others.
Melodee Lambert is a retired professor from Salt Lake Community College, where she taught business communications and ethics for 30 of my 45 years as an educator.