SALT LAKE CITY — Juanita Brooks didn't live to see her dream come true. Brooks is best known for her groundbreaking book on the Mountain Meadows Massacre, but she also worked for decades to preserve and dignify the site of the massacre — and, in particular, she wanted a memorial at the "upper grave site" where some massacre victims were buried. Richard E. Turley and Barbara Jones Brown are coauthor and editor, respectively, of "Massacre at Mountain Meadows." Both are currently working on that book's sequel, which will be published by Oxford University Press. Turley and Brown spoke on Saturday at the University of Utah LDS institute during the J. Reuben Clark Law Society's annual conference. They recounted the efforts over the years to create a suitable monument to the victims of the 1857 massacre, where members of the LDS Church led an attack against a wagon train of Arkansas emigrants resulting in the death of an estimated 120 men, women and children. "We all know that no one today had anything to do with this horrible atrocity," Turley said, "but today's generations can do something about remembering those who died there." The process of remembering has been long, from a memorial raised in 1932, to the LDS Church's recent improvements and memorials in 1990 and 1999. The 150th anniversary of the massacre in 2007 brought a request from the three victim descendant groups for the church to seek Historic National Landmark status for the site. According to the National Park Service Web site, National Historic Landmarks "are nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States." The church began the process soon after the 2007 request, according to Turley. After the National Park Service approved an initial briefing statement, the church submitted the nomination papers. Currently, letters of support or objection to the nomination will be accepted until the Landmark Committee has its regular meeting in spring and fall. "Many people want sites designated as National Historic Landmarks. Most sites won't be granted that status," Turley said. However, there is no Landmark Committee to review the nomination. The Obama administration hasn't appointed one yet, but may before the scheduled spring meeting. "We are hoping for a spring meeting," Turley said. "We may have to wait until fall." But so far, the news has been optimistic, according to Turley. "All of the preliminary signals we have received suggest there is considerable support for our recommendation that this be granted that status." If National Historic Landmark status is granted, it will encompass property the church recently acquired — including the "upper gravesite" that Brooks had wanted to be marked with a memorial. "The passing of time alone does not heal the effects of group violence," Brown said. "It must be an ongoing process. Healing requires from both sides an effort to understand the other's point of view. It requires statements of contrition and sorrow from one side and expressions of forgiveness from the other."
Monument to a massacre
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