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The Last Words of John D. Lee
Spoken at his execution for the Mountain Meadows Massacre
March 23, 1877
His conviction (as a scape goat) is widely believed to have been arranged (effectively ordered jury tampering) by Brigham Young. Story is told in the documentary, The West by Ken Burns.
I have but little to say this morning. Of course I feel that I am upon the brink of eternity; and the solemnities of eternity should rest upon my mind at the present. I have made out -- or have endeavored to do so -- a manuscript, abridging the history of my life. This is to be published. In it I have given my views and feelings with regard to these things.
I feel resigned to my fate. I feel as calm as a summer morn, and I have done nothing intentionally wrong. My conscience is clear before God and man. I am ready to meet my Redeemer and those that have gove before me, behind the veil.
I am not an infidel. I have not denied God and his mercies.
I am a strong believer in these things. Most I regret parting with my family; many of them are unprotected and will be left fatherless. When I speak of these things they touch a tender chord within me. I declare my innocence of ever doing anything designedly wrong in all this affair. I used my utmost endeavors to save those people.
I would have given worlds, were they at my command, if I could have averted that calamity, but I could not do it. It went on.
It seems I have to be made a victim -- a victim must be had, and I am the victim. I am sacrificed to satisfy the feelings -- the vindictive feelings, or in other words, am used to gratify parties.
I am ready to die. I trust in God. I have no fear. Death has
Not a particle of mercy have I asked of the court, the world, or officials to spare my life.
I do not fear death, I shall never go to a worse place than I am now in.
I have said it to my family, and I will say it today, that the Government of the United States sacrifices their best friend. That is saying a great deal, but it is true -- it is so.
I am a true believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not believe everything that is now being taught and practiced by Brigham Young. I do not care who hears it. It is my last word -- it is so. I believe he is leading the people astray, downward to destruction. But I believe in the gospel that was taught in its purity by Joseph Smith, in former days. I have my reasons for it.
I studied to make this man's will my pleasure for thirty years. See, now, what I have come to this day!
I have been sacrificed in a cowardly, dastardly manner. I cannot help it. It is my last word -- it is so.
Evidence has been brought against me which is as false as the hinges of hell, and this evidence was wanted to sacrifice me. Sacrifice a man that has waited upon them, that has wandered and endured with them in the days of adversity, true from the beginnings of the Church! And I am now singled out and am sacrificed in this manner! What confidence can I have in such a man! I have none, and I don't think my Father in heaven has any.
Still, there are thousands of people in this Church that are honorable and good-hearted friends, and some of whom are near to my heart. There is a kind of living, magnetic influence which has come over the people, and I cannot compare it to anything else than the reptile that enamors its prey, till it captivates it, paralyzes it, and rushes it into the jaws of death. I cannot compare it to anything else. It is so, I know it, I am satisfied of it.
I regret leaving my family; they are near and dear to me. These are things which touch my sympathy, even when I think of those poor orphaned children.
I declare I did nothing designedly wrong in this unfortunate affair. I did everything in my power to save that people, but I am the one that must suffer.
Having said this, I feel resigned. I ask the Lord, my God, if my labors are done, to receive my spirit.
[TEXT: Juanita Brooks, The Mountain Meadows Massacre (Stanford University Press, 1950), pp. 151-52.]
See also: Testimony of Ann Eliza Young former wife of Brigham Young.
See also: Character Assassination