As 2016 sees its last rotation around the sun, it is appropriate some might say to reflect on the passing year and glean something noteworthy while at the same time looking to the new year with a resolve of some measure to improve.

It is here where I will assert to you that the noteworthy ongoing occurrence of 2016 is the pattern of behavior demonstrated by Dixie State University and the City of Saint George. While the most notable example is the Varlo Davenport termination and subsequent malicious prosecution, the two have also been involved in some ethically questionable behavior in their handling of other school administrative issues and the Washington County Justice Court and by proxy the city’s code enforcement court that has now been moved there.

Suffice it to say that in 2017 there should be much meticulous and fact based interest in informing the people of this great city of what the elected and appointed officials see fit to do as they serve the community as well as what the administration of a public university is up to.

Some may grow weary of such coverage and as I alluded to last week, those who are perhaps on the wrong side of the ethical and legal side of this are counting on that.

It is at this juncture I would like to suggest to my fellow citizens that now more than ever, an impermeable resolve to see justice prevail in some of these matters is what this city needs to truly embody its newly professed expression of intention, that it is “The Brighter Side.”

In 2012 I had the opportunity to work as a screenwriter in a production under Phil Tuckett at DSU that aimed to reenact 1982’s “Quicksand and cactus: A memoir of the southern Mormon frontier” by St. George historian Juanita Brooks.

Brooks was well known for having written the definitive account of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Impassioned by the project she went out to set the record straight on what happened that September 11th of 1857. It would be the cause of her temporary exile from the Mormon church as she was excommunicated for her work.

When I first learned of the book titled for the name of the massacre, “The Mountain Meadows Massacre,” I had some trepidation about its accuracy, having heard it was written by a local. History has a way of being written in different lights depending on who is writing it, and my experience with historical revisionism in this area had lead me to be somewhat jaded.

After much research and even a few visits to the grave of this woman, I would come to know that Brooks was, in fact, the genuine article.

She seemed to intuitively see what her family and brethren wouldn’t when they looked at themselves in the proverbial mirror with a clear conscience despite what loomed over their heads. She saw that the covering up of this tragic day in the history of the pioneer west was a stain on the community.

Brooks could not stand to see the reputation of the church and community tarnished by the indecency not only of the Mountain Meadows Massacre but of its willful and wanton cover up. It was a sickness in the community that needing purging.

A sickness, if you will, that was preventing not only the needed healing that comes about when the truth makes way for forgiveness but the restoration of the genuine faith the community could have in its leaders in the city and the church when it owned its past honestly.

Such a sickness infects our community today, and it reveals itself in the behavior of the administration of DSU and by some pointed default, the elected and appointed leadership of the city and perhaps even the state.

There is simply no getting around the growing mound of quantifiable evidence that these people are engaged in cover up behavior for destroying people’s lives, and for not abiding the laws of liberty in our land. It will not simply heal itself and it will not go away. It will require first a purging with perhaps even some accountability for those involved. Then it will require honesty to the community. Then an apology and a commitment to a path that will guarantee it not happen again. Then time to see it can be trusted.

There is no away around this.

By my count, the number of people committed to bringing such change can be counted on two hands or less. One is an attorney who has for five years now, at his own expense, sought to bring forth this much-needed reckoning.

There simply needs to be more involvement on these matters from not only a lawyer and a lean few in the press. The church and its members need to speak up. The professors and academia need to speak up. The lawyers, judges, and law enforcement officials need to speak up.

What is done to the least of us, is done to all of us.

Happy New Year.

See you out there.

CORRECTION: Juanita Brooks was shunned by members of the LDS church for her work, but appears to have never been officially excommunicated. The author accepts full responsibility for this error in conflating shunned and excommunicated as being the same thing.


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Dallas Hyland is a professional technical writer, freelance writer and journalist, award-winning photographer, and documentary filmmaker. As a senior writer and editor-at-large at The Independent, Hyland’s investigative journalism, opinion columns, and photo essays have ranged in topics from local political and environmental issues to drug trafficking in Utah. He has also worked the international front, covering issues such as human trafficking in Colombia. His photography and film work has received recognition as well as a few modest awards and in 2015, he was a finalist for the Mark of Excellence Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Based in southern Utah, he works tirelessly at his passion for getting after the truth and occasionally telling a good story. On his rare off-days, he can be found with his family and friends exploring the pristine outdoors of Utah and beyond.