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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended September 10, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 09Sep00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

LDS Church Struggles with Who to Please over Mountain Meadows Buttons

BERRYVILLE, ARKANSAS -- Since you can't please everyone all the time, you're often left trying to figure out who to please. When contractors building a new monument at the site of the Mountain Meadows Massacre near Cedar City, Utah uncovered the remains of several victims and buttons and other property that belonged to the victims, the Church quickly re-buried the remains. But recently the status of the buttons and the other property has become uncertain.

The Church planned to donate the buttons, shards of pottery and wagon wheel nut to the Carroll County Historical Society, in Arkansas, for display in their library. The donation was scheduled for this Saturday, and the society had purchased a new display case to hold the material.

But a few weeks ago, members of the Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation objected to the plan, asking that the state of Utah rule on the ownership of the artifacts. "What we have to ask ourselves is, is this finder keepers? If so, other graves will be disturbed as well," said Scott Fancher of the Foundation, which wanted the artifacts buried along with the remains.

Utah State Archaeologist Kevin Jones agreed. In an August 29th letter to BYU, Jones recommended that the artifacts be buried along with the victim's remains. The LDS Church seemed then to change its plans and Glen Leonard, director of the LDS Church Museum of Art and History told Fancher in a letter that if some family members would be offended if the artifacts were displayed, "we would defer to those feelings." The Church then took possession of the artifacts pending a decision.

But now Ron Loving, president of the Mountain Meadows Association is objecting. He says, "The preponderance of the relatives want the buttons returned to Arkansas."


Perhaps the most confusing part of this dispute is that there are two associations that claim to represent the descendants of the massacre's victims. The Arkansas-based Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation is represented by Fancher, and the Utah-based Mountain Meadows Association is headed by Ron Loving. The two organizations disagree about what should happen with the buttons, leaving the LDS Church unable to satisfy them both.

The Utah group says it wants the LDS Church to go ahead and donate the buttons to the museum. Loving says that the state of Utah's ruling on the matter is simply wrong. Claiming that the law the state archaeologist relied on was meant for Native American remains, Loving said that instead the state should treat the site as a crime site. "As a crime site, the objects can legally be claimed by direct descendants or the rightful next-of-kin," Loving's group says in a statement on their website.

All this leaves the LDS Church without a clear course of action. One of the two groups will be disappointed regardless of what it decides. In the past, the Church relied on Loving's Utah-based Mountain Meadows Association, but that group's advice didn't help them last year when the remains were first uncovered. At that time the Church contacted Loving, who advised the Church to keep the accidentally uncovered remains secret. But when the discovery became public, that advice backfired, and lead Burr Fancher, a member of the Arkansas-based Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation, to call Loving a "lackey in the employ of the Mormon Church and caters to Hinckley's every whim."

Meanwhile, the Carroll County Historical Society in Arkansas is holding a tour of the Arkansas sites dealing with the wagon train on Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm hosted by Judge Roger V. Logan, a local historian and Mountain Meadows' authority.


Berryville: Mormons take possession of 1857 massacre artifacts
Little Rock AR Democrat-Gazette 8Sep00 N1
By John Magsam: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Push to Rebury Artifacts From Massacre Criticized
Salt Lake Tribune 8Sep00 N1
By Christopher Smith: Salt Lake Tribune

Church Taking Custody of Massacre Artifacts
Salt Lake Tribune 7Sep00 N1
By Christopher Smith: Salt Lake Tribune

See also:

Backhoe Accident Ruined LDS Church's Attempt To Bury Mountain Meadows

Mountain Meadows Relics Raise New Controversy

Mormon News' Coverage of the Mountain Meadows Massacre Site


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Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information