Below is the Nauvoo Legion Lieutenant, Nephi Johnson. He led the killing of the women and children, after the leaders of the wagon train had surrendered to John D. Lee. Mr. Johnson was never charged with a crime. John D. Lee was executed at Mountain Meadow 20 years after the murders.
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Statement by John D. Lee, who was executed as a "scapegoat" for the massacre .
"I had many to assist me at the Mountain Meadows. I believe that most of those who were connected with the Massacre, and took part in the lamentable transaction that has blackened the character of all who were aiders or abettors in the same, were acting under the impression that they were performing a religious duty. I know all were acting under the orders and by the command of their Church leaders; and I firmly believe that the most of those who took part in the proceedings, considered it a religious duty to unquestioningly obey the orders which they had received. That they acted from a sense of duty to the Mormon Church." (...Life and Confessions of John D. Lee..., p. 213)
"As with most mass killings, emotion and propaganda surround this historic event, often with greatly disparate views," wrote principal investigator Shannon Novak, a native of Utah. "With time, interpretations often become bipolar -- either romanticized or exaggerated depending on which side is recounting the event. Physical evidence can often provide a reality check, requiring all sides to reconsider what they have 'known to be true." HOUSE of MOURNING| More on Dr. Novak
To acknowledge complicity on the part of church leaders runs the risk of calling into question Brigham Young's divinity and the Mormon belief that they are God's chosen people. "If good Mormons committed the massacre," wrote a Mormon writer, Levi Peterson, "if prayerful leaders ordered it, if apostles and a prophet knew about it and later sacrificed John D. Lee, then the sainthood of even the modern church seems tainted."