Douglas C. Pizac, Associated Press
Jerry Anderson stands beside his statue of John D. Lee, best known for his role in the 1857 Mountain Meadows massacre.

Over the past 25 years, artist Jerry Anderson has cast dozens of faces in bronze — from the anonymous American Indian warrior to President Abraham Lincoln and inventor Albert Einstein.

None has stirred controversy like Anderson's likeness of John D. Lee.

Lee was the lone Mormon pioneer held responsible for what's known as the Mountain Meadows massacre, the Sept. 11, 1857, killing of 120 people from an Arkansas wagon train crossing through southern Utah. Only 17 children survived the slaughter.

Lee was tried, convicted and put to death for the crime some contend was ordered by Brigham Young, then president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Cast in 2004, the 6-foot-6 statue of Lee was supposed to be erected with four others outside government offices in Washington, Utah, a city he helped found. City leaders commissioned the likeness for $35,000 but changed their minds in response to complaints from people who said it was inappropriate to pay tribute to a killer.

Since then the Lee statue has been mothballed at Anderson's gallery in Leeds. Currently Lee stands outside a pioneer-era Wells Fargo stage stop that's been converted to a souvenir shop.

"He's just standing there with a book in one hand. He's holding his vest on the left side," said Anderson, 72. "I wanted to capture his face first of all and show the man, not really defiant, but standing up for what he believes in and the church he loved."

But Lee may not be without a permanent home much longer.

Restoration plans for the nearby Fort Harmony include a spot for Lee, who helped build the adobe-style fort in 1854. It was home to more than 300 Mormon pioneer families in the New Harmony valley for eight years.

"There may be a problem, but we just want to talk about the history of the valley, and we don't want to bring (the massacre) in," said Karen Platt, a co-founder of the New Harmony Historical Society. "It's not his total story and a lot of his work gets ignored because of Mountain Meadows. He did a lot of good. He was a good family man."

The restoration project began in 2006 with a survey of the old fort grounds by Brigham Young University archaeologists, Platt said. The historical society is currently seeking grants and private donations to continue the work and build a memorial wall that will bear the names of the families that settled in the valley.

Anderson hopes the placement of the statue will comfort Lee descendants, many of whom have come to his gallery for a glimpse and a photograph of their ancestor.

"They've lived in degradation so long, maybe this will help them out," Anderson said. "I think Mormons overall really didn't like what John D. Lee did. But we have mercy and we have forgiveness."