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Loken: Rescind the Prophetic Timpanogos Extermination Order

Healing is not possible in the midst of trauma — resolution is key. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must apologize to the Timpanogos Nation to begin the vital process of healing.
An office building for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah on Aug. 28, 2020. (Photo by Gwen Christopherson | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


We want people to take accountability for their mistakes. This requires recognition of the harm they enact and a commitment to improving. We should be asking the same thing of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Come as you are, but don’t stay as you are.

Accounts about the “Indian Wars” in Utah are told almost exclusively from a settler perspective, with plenty of omissions and half-truths. Despite self-asserted claims of persecution based on the rescinded Mormon Extermination Order, the LDS Church has yet to rescind its own extermination order against the Timpanogos Nation.

The Timpanogos Extermination Order must end if the Church truly wishes to reject the racist hypocrisy within its institution and history.

Exterminate All the Brutes

Brigham Young signed “Special Order No. 2,” also known as the Timpanogos Extermination Order, on Jan. 31, 1850. Young acted as the leader of the LDS settlers. He accused members of the Timpanogos Nation of stealing, then sent an all-LDS militia to kill Timpanogos members in their sleep.

Despite Young’s previous declaration, “It is cheaper to feed them than fight them,” he still demanded their extermination and unequal treatment. The Timpanogos Nation tolerated LDS presence and taught the settlers about local food sources. This conflict was about land claims, not moral obligation or religious beneficence. By framing the Timpanogos First People as “worthless savages,” the Church could justifiably lay claim to their land, destroy their way of life and enslave the Indigenous First People of Utah.

nicholas b jacobsen, the creator of the Unsettling Mormonism project, emphasized the role of LDS Church doctrine in shaping the dispossession of Indigenous life. They noted “the managing of Indigenous Peoples and the managing of land and the project of war were all one project,” underpinned by the Church’s capitalist extraction.

The LDS church’s abuse of people and place come directly from a sense of ethnoreligious entitlement to a “Promised Land,” jacobsen said. They explained the Church and its members racialized Native First Peoples as “Lamanites.” According to LDS doctrinal claims, Lamanites are ancestrally fallen sinners of the Americas. This dehumanization of “Lamanites” served as the perfect justification for extermination and cultural genocide.


The Timpanogos Nation still stands today. They recognize a need to heal from colonial dispossession of life, land and culture. Mary Meyer, Chief Executive of the Timpanogos Nation, said the Extermination Order still affects them today.

“When the mass annihilation was no longer acceptable we were pushed aside and forgotten, assumed to be extinct,” Meyer said via email.

LDS settler occupation in Utah is the dispossession of Timpanogos land, and still inflicts devastating generational trauma. Racialized massacres, systematic de-prioritization and neglect are injuries that span time and rest on the bodies of the Timpanogos People. Freedom from settler colonial domination should include relief from environmental racism and change narratives about Indigenous inferiority.

“We were not animals to be slaughtered and cast aside,” Meyer said.

The Timpanogos Nation are of the First People of Utah, but their nationality is not federally recognized. This erasure is violent, and the consequence is the Timpanogos people have no way of seeking legal recourse for wrongs enacted against them. The need for federal recognition is a nauseating irony for First People whose treaties and agreements are systematically betrayed throughout the brief history of the United States.

However, recognition is a path to receiving life-affirming services through the government that historically excluded Timpanogos People from structural development and justice. The Timpanogos Nation needs the ability to make decisions for its land management and energy development. We must not require Indigenous First People to run on broken promises.

For settlers, land is an opportunity to stake a claim to a place. For Indigenous people, their land is the connection to life, cultural survival and self-recognition. Self-determination returning to the Timpanogos Nation is justice for the colonial unfreedom enacted on peaceful people.

“Chief Tabby once said, ‘We want to live in peace with all people,'” said Meyer. “We still believe this and feel this way. However, that opportunity has yet to be granted.”

Change is Not an Option

The LDS Church wields dominating political, social and economic power in the state of Utah due to its colonial history. They use their power to enrich themselves and pedestalize their presence.

In their questionable pride, the Church has an anti-apology policy. The motivating mentality for this policy is that “god does not make mistakes,” jacobsen said. “They don’t ask for [apologies], and they don’t give them — they refuse to.”

Dallin H. Oaks, a Church authority, justified this Church pomp in 2015 by saying, “We look forward and not backward.” Church representatives cunningly evade apologies by expressing “profound regret,” instead of acknowledging unmet needs for restitution among injured parties.

The LDS Church must learn and do better for the people of Utah. They have the power to influence Land Back, Water Back and other decolonizing initiatives. The Church has the power to support a system of reciprocal relations instead of exploitation. Where exploitation is continuously upheld, we the people must contest it.

Transform the Roots of Harm

Healing is not possible in the midst of trauma — resolution is key. The Church must apologize to the Timpanogos Nation to begin the vital healing process. Apologies on behalf of our ancestors are easy to say, but truly setting aside chauvinism is difficult. Doing the real work to mend injustice is hard because it requires humility and compassion.

“Removal of the Extermination Order would be a small step in the recovery of what has happened to our Nation,” Meyer said. “An apology for the massacre of thousands of people would be a beginning.”

The present reality of the extermination order means the Timpanogos First People “don’t have land,” according to jacobsen.

The church owes an apology “at minimum,” jacobsen said.

Rescind the Timpanogos Extermination Order now.


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About the Contributor
NingLi Loken
NingLi Loken, Opinion Writer
(they/them) NingLi Loken works as an Opinion Writer for the Daily Utah Chronicle. They are pursuing a degree in sociology and minoring in ethnic studies. NingLi is a first-generation Chinese immigrant from early childhood and grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. They enjoy lyrical analysis, racism resistance, and eating dessert.

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