Famous Last Words
John Doyle Lee
Meadow Mountains, Utah territory
March 23, 1877
“Center on my heart, boys. Don’t mangle my body.”
In September 1857, a group of emigrants moving west to California were attacked in Mountain Meadows by a group of Native Americans, as well as members of the Church of Ladder Day Saints disguised as Natives. On the third day of the attack, Lee came to the camp, urging the group to surrender their weapons and other property to the Mormons in exchange for safe passage to Cedar Rapids. The emigrants complied and roughly 120 were killed by the Mormon militia, with around 17 small children spared.
Lee stood trial for his role in the massacre, but held that he personally did not kill anyone and should not face execution.
Before his execution by firing squad, Lee claimed to be a scapegoat to take the fall for the massacre while the higher ranking Church members who were responsible for ordering the massacre were kept in safety. He said to the crowd, “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… I have been sacrificed in a cowardly, dastardly manner.”
His final words, spoken to his executioners, were “center on my heart, boys. Don’t mangle my body.”