Mormons, Coal Plants and Hopis
What do Mormon land settlers, coal power plants, corruption and Native Americans have to do with each other? As it turns out, quite a lot. Add a dash of intrigue, attorneys and no small amount of greed and power (and the lusting after), and you end up with a story full of surprises.
Before delving into the salacious details of the intrigue, greed and power, it is important to understand the geographic location we’re dealing with, as it will play a role in nearly everything that follows. This location, as it turns out, begins our path with the Hopi Indians. Native Americans, as it turn out, have been on the unfortunate end of land wars for hundreds of years. That should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the history of the United States. History has proven that the white man has felt it his divine duty to control, coerce and castigate Native Americans (and anyone else for that matter) anywhere and everywhere they could. Lest you, the reader, think you are in a superior position than these Native Americans, it might be worthwhile to study adhesion contracts and how that pertains to our (not really) Federal Reserve. That, though, is well outside the bounds of this article.
Hopi Lands and Mother Earth
To better understand the larger issue is oftentimes difficult for the modern American who is so detached from the spiritual aspects of our Mother Earth. Our western civilization is patterned to ignore the spirituality of things not seen, instead preferring to focus on the tangible items all around us as our gods. This methodology is in stark contrast to eastern religions and the larger Native American community. Indeed, in doing research for this very topic, I came across an interview of a traditional Navajo, Roberta Blackgoat. In the course of that interview, in a discussion that we’ll pick up later, she stated that the church “is everywhere … land is the repository of religion, economics, sociology, history, science. … coal is the liver of the earth. When you take it out, she dies.” This statement merely serves to highlight the increasing gulf between the differences that western civilization sees as church and religion versus what the Native Americans and other eastern religions see as church.
Needless to say, to the Hopi and other Native American tribes, Mother Earth and her lands are sacred.
The subsurface resources are equally sacred, with analogies found in human organs, as noted above. This issue, from a macro perspective, is admittedly difficult to touch on satisfactorily in this piece, but hopefully you, the reader, will still be able to take something away from this discussion.
With this necessary preface, we turn, if only briefly, to Black Mesa and the other lands which will touched upon later. The Black Mesa makes up the land where the Dine (Navajo) and Hopi reservations in northeastern Arizona can be found. Philip Coppens, in his article The Wanderers of the Fourth World, goes into extensive detail on both the historic and current meanings that make up the Black Mesa area. Black Mesa is part of a trilogy of mesas which make up “the sacred circle” from whence, according to the Hopis and other clans, they emerged into this, the Fourth World, and where each clan must return when they complete their four “divine migration[s]” before exiting the Fourth World and venturing onto the Fifth World.
According to their traditions, the Hopi mesas are the real center of the world, the homeland of the Hopi and the ultimate (and final) destination of the wandering tribes. When the other tribes completed their “divine migrations” they returned to the mesas and either settled on, or near, the mesas. The Bear Clan, the first to complete their four migrations, arrived at Mesa Verde and settled on Second Mesa. The Snake Clan returned some time later and settled on First Mesa. With each subsequent tribe that returned home, it became the responsibility of these tribes to welcome , or reject, the new tribes. The Bear Clan, being the first to return from their migrations, takes on the dominant role in such judgments. Though each returning tribe brought on natural social consequences, the Hopi seemed most concerned about the rightfulness of each tribe returning to the Three Mesas and whether the returning tribes had the right to reside among the other tribes near the Three Mesas. The most pertinent question, it seems, as to whether these tribes would be allowed to access the “sacred center” would be whether each tribe had lived according to the divine rules set out upon entrance into the Fourth World, and whether the had abused their magical powers (a magic jar of water, given by Maasaw, the caretaker of the land. The water jar meant the clans/tribes could settle some distance away from rivers and bodies of water and create springs or rivers wherever they settled. Once the tribes resumed their journeys, they would take the jar with them and the sources of water where they were would dry up).
In Hopi mythology, their deities are believed to live in the San Franciscan Peaks, the highest of which is Mount Humphreys at 12,643 feet. To the Hopi, this mountain is called Nyvatukya’ovi and is within view of the Hopi reservation, which lies some 65 miles to the east. These deities would depart from these peaks on or about December 21st of each year (the winter solstice) and reside on the mesas until after the harvest of late July, at which time they’d return to the San Franciscan Peaks. The peaks make up but one of the four “sacred mountains” found throughout the four corners area. These “four sacred mountains” complement the “four migrations,” the “four cardinal points,” and the “four seasons.”
Though the four migrations were divine instructions from the Maasaw, some have argued that the Orion constellation provided a map with which the Hopi (and other tribes) organized their sacred sites. In Philip Coppens’ article he provides an image, pasted below, which shows the striking similarities. The Three Mesas, of which the modern day Black Mesa is one, represent Orion’s Belt and the center of the world.
Gary David, author of The Orion Zone, states that:
“[the constellation] Orion provided the template by which the Anasazi determined their villages’ locations during a migration period lasting centuries. Spiritually mandated by a god the Hopi call Masau’u, this ‘terrestrial Orion’ closely mirrors its celestial counterparts, with prehistoric ‘cities’ corresponding to all the major stars in the constellation. By its specific orientation the sidereal pattern projected on the Arizona high desert also encodes various sunrise and sunset points of both summer and winter solstices.”
The astute observer may notice the similarities in the language that modern day Mormons (and others) use to discuss kingdoms (i.e. terrestrial, celestial, etc). Given that the four migrations would be guided by the stars, Gary David further argues that these migrations were purificational migrations, in “accordance with the movements of the stars, the deities.” Coppen concludes his article by hearkening back to a discussion on the Fourth World, suggesting, “The Hopi elder Grandfather Martin held a press conference in 1991, arguing that we were seeing the end of the Fourth World and that eight of the nine prophecies related to this event, had already occurred. The final prophecy and ninth sign of the Hopi states: “You will hear of a dwelling-place in the heavens, above the earth, that shall fall with a great crash. It will appear as a blue star. Very soon after this, the ceremonies of my people will cease.” … the Ancestral Puebloans are expert stargazers … It were the skies that they had depicted on the landscape of the Fourth World, and it will be the skies that will inform them when this World comes to an end. As such, the Hopi are indeed an “apocalyptic movement” in the strictest of terms. And they believe that only their ways is what keeps this Fourth World in balance. Just like Maasaw had said all along…”
This will become important later on, especially in understanding how the Hopi and Navajo regard the sacred Mesas, but we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.
Back in the mid-to-late 1800s Mormons, among others, were settling land all across the southwestern United States. Part of the appeal in settling these lands was the prospect of being able to, thanks to the Desert Land Act, buy large swaths of land at reduced prices. The Desert Land Act of 1877 stipulated that settlers could buy up to 640 acres for $1.25 per acre if (and only if) these settlers continued to settle and improve these lands. Naturally, those buying the land and acreage end up acquiring title to both the surface and subsurface rights. Those rights, in the right hands and in the right location, can and did make many a man no small fortune, provided these people knew just what they had in those surface and subsurface locations.
No problem, right? Well, at least if you were a land settler, but what about those charged with surveying the lands, building the railroads and governing the lands? Perhaps. Indeed, for those original Mormon settlers, this was a problem. For readers familiar with Mormon history in the late 1800s, the Edmunds Act should ring a bell. This act, enacted and signed when Chester Arthur, the 21st President of the United States, was in office, was the acted that banned polygamy (at the federal level) and produced no small number of headaches for Wilford Woodruff and other Mormon leaders at the time, and certainly was one of the chief steps which led to the ending of polygamy. The Edmunds act was signed in 1882, a year that has significance in this discussion.
Also in 1882, President Arthur signed an Executive Order, Executive Order Reservation of 1882, which hampered Mormon settler’s ability to acquire land in northeastern Arizona under the Desert Lands Act. This Executive Order, instead, created a reservation for the Native Americans to use as they “see fit to settle therein.” The creation of a reservation would not only force relocation upon the Mormon settlers, but also create a safe haven to harbor the resources which had been surveyed by the US Government in 1881 as part of the transcontinental railroad reaching Arizona. During this surveying, the US Government had sent the Army to subdue the “savage tribes” who had blocked access to their resource rich, yet sacred, lands, and in the process discover vast swaths of both coal and copper. As a result, the creation of the reservation would, quite purposefully, enable President Arthur and the US Government to keep control of the mineral resources for another day.
That future day would come approximately 80 years later and would once again find the Mormons and U.S. Government at the center of the action. Whereas 1882 found Mormons on the short end of the stick due to governmental intrusions and restrictions relating to the divisive issue of polygamy, the 1960s would find Mormons deep in the pockets of government agencies and working hand-in-hand with the same government to profit from the sacred “center of the earth.” A mere 80 years had traded an adversarial relationship with a much more friendly, and profitable one. And this time, it was the Native Americans and their sacred lands who suffered at the hands of some Mormons and the U.S. Government.
Peabody + John Boyden
Enter, no doubt graciously, both Peabody Coal and John Boyden. If you’re anything like I was prior to this write-up, you have probably never heard of either. By the time this is over, if you’ve even ventured this far, you’re likely to concur that you’d rather not hear of them again. And, who could blame you? Unfortunately for us, both play an integral role in this story in more ways than not.
Peabody Coal was a coal and energy operation that, by the 1950s, was losing ground on other coal companies and experiencing significant financial losses. Seeking outside sources of cash, Peabody, in 1955, began to court and approach outside investors. Along came Sinclair Oil who acquired 95% of Peabody’s stocks and, with newfound access to outside revenue sources, began an aggressive campaign to find new sources of revenue and, as a necessary byproduct of this new revenue, coal. Prior to the merger Sinclair owned and operated profitable strip mines and was the nation’s 3rd largest coal producer, while Peabody was the 8th largest producer. Following the merger with Sinclair, Peabody doubled its “production and sales by opening new mines in the western United states, including Arizona.” Today it provides more than 10% of all the U.S. electricity, and more than 2% of worldwide electricity needs. Unfortunately, if we left the story at that, we’d be missing some of the most important factors in this discussion with the Hopis and their sacred mesas.
Meanwhile, while Sinclair and Peabody were increasing operations and investments both near and far, an unbecoming attorney by the name of John Boyden was making a name for himself.
In 1946 we find Ernest Wilkinson, a Mormon attorney from Utah working for the Department of the Interior, setting up a law firm in Washington, D.C.: Wilkinson, Clagun and Barker. This firm was set up to handle tribal claims from across the U.S., and indeed handled more claims than any other law firm in the country. Wilkinson had drafted the original legislation for setting up the Indian Claims Commission and was well acquainted with the tribal practices and policies. The ICC was written in such a way that tribes could only receive monetary compensation, and no land. Wilkinson, and his firm, would charge legal fees of between seven and ten percent for these claims, based on what the Interior Department paid out.
Concurrently with the set-up in D.C., Wilkinson returned home to Utah to create a partnership with John Boyden, another Mormon attorney, who would handle the Indian claim cases. Wilkinson would become rich off these claims cases and eventually retired. He ran for the U.S. Senate and lost, but was soon appointed to become the president of BYU, a Mormon owned and operated school, from 1951 to 1971. During this time Wilkinson would oversee the entire Church Educational System, as well as representing the Mormon Church in Washington, D.C. through his firm. His firm, incidentally, received the equivalent of $31.4M for their work “on behalf” of the Ute tribe and in concert with the Indian Claims Commission. Always the gracious man, Wilkinson didn’t accept a salary from BYU until his return from an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in 1964. During his tenure as President of BYU, Wilkinson oversaw an unparalleled period of construction. Some 77 permanent and 82 temporary buildings were constructed during his presidency.
This period of immense building was a replica of the same building that was going on through the Mormon Church. Over at the Church Office Building, Henry Moyle was spearheading the building programs of the church. Moyle’s motto was much the same as the one made famous in Field of Dreams: “If you build it, [they] will come.” His aggressive efforts, which included the original idea to establish a 312,000 acre cattle ranch in central Florida and the doubling of the size of the Church Office Building. His thoughts, relative to building, can best be surmised by his own statement regarding the purchase of land where the Washington, D.C., LDS temple would eventually be built, which was purchased for a pretty penny: “we cannot go wrong by getting property if it is properly located.” He was also known for his “lavish” spending on mission homes – a practice questioned by some in the Church Office Building as being too extravagant, far more extravagant than mission president’s would have decorated their own homes – throughout the world and was, indeed, proud of his role in the building program. His efforts put a serious financial strain on the Church at large, pushed it near bankruptcy, brought about tangible fears that the Church might not be able to meet payroll and, among other things, led to the Church ending the practice of reporting its financial reports during general conference.
John Boyden, meanwhile, became the tribal lawyer for the Hopis and, for the next 30 years, continued to work for both the Hopis and Peabody simultaneously. This act constituted a serious ethical violation – working for both sides of the table of a negotiation – and did so at the expense of the Hopis.
At the end of the 1950s and the start of the early 1960s we find Boyden trying to convince both the Hopis and the Navajo that it’s in their best interest to sign over the subsurface rights of the Black Mesa to Peabody, arguing that such a decision would bring untold monetary riches to both tribes, and bring their tribal members out of poverty. The same arguments that are now used to build tribal casinos across the U.S. were then used to convince both tribes that they should sacrifice what they viewed as sacred (one of their hallowed mesas) at the altar of the almighty dollar. Boyden had been working to craft an inclusive strategy to address the political, legal and economic issues which would lead to the opening of the coal deposit of the Black Mesa. Regarding this legislation, Hopi tribe member Dan Katchongva, stated, “If [this bill] becomes law, it will destroy our Hopi way of life, religion and law.” The traditional Hopi were furious with Boyden’s efforts, his role in the legislation and the influence he represented.
While the Navajo rebuffed Boyden’s efforts, the Hopi offered no such resistance, but mostly because it lacked a tribal council that could effectively represent itself. The Hopi tribal council was the epitome of a fractured group. The Hopi had lacked a governing tribal council since 1938, and Boyden saw some silver in that lining. Or was that gold? I forget. Ever the capitalistyer, Boyden goes around the Hopi community, gathering the Mormon, English speaking converts and convinces them that the riches are theirs if they but sign over their souls in return for the ability to let someone, err Peabody, mine the black gold, err coal. Boyden had a natural “in” with the English converts. Boyden was a Mormon bishop, a respected role to which the converts would have given a high degree of respect, especially considering their status as new “converts.” Boyden was also extremely well connected in groups of power – be it through the Indian Claims Commission, his law practice or his connections with Mormon federal judges and Ernest Wilkinson, among other connections.
Now, let’s take a step back and realize what Boyden was doing. While working with the Hopi tribal council he organized, made up of English speaking Mormon converts, he would buffalo the Hopi’s into believing that he was working to help alleviate poverty among the destitute, return some semblance of prosperity to a culture run ragged by wrongs committed for centuries and help bring monetary riches into the hands of these tribal members. And yet, to Salt Lake City (and elsewhere) he would return to exchange information with Peabody executives, craft and negotiate terms that were so one sided (in favor of Peabody) as to nearly defy reason – except it doesn’t when we consider the sway that money and power have over most all of us – and return and report to the Hopi tribe with a straight laced face, convincing them that “All [was] well.” Or, so he would say.
This circuitous route brings us back, again, to Peabody. Through a series of backdoor dealings, legislative wrangling and a duplicitous lawyer or three, the mine leases and permits were granted approval in 1966. At this stage, perhaps it’s rather pointless to state that the leases were secretly signed, foregoing the tribal referenda on either side. Both tribes tried to fight the inevitable – the Navajo’s blocking the mining equipment with frail roadblocks, and the Hopi eventually trying the route to sue their own tribal council on the claim that the lease had been signed without a quorum. Makes one wonder (I am that one) whether the Hopi were enlisting the services of Boyden to initiate this lawsuit, which they ultimately lost (quick, look surprised). And another, “Quick, look surprised!” moment would be found in the millions of dollars Boyden made representing the Hopi , paid by the government out of monies held in trust for the Hopi, all while claiming to be working “pro bono”, to say nothing of his double handed dealings with both Peabody and Hopi.
Peabody would go on to create one of the largest strip mining projects ever envisioned, and what would become a test site for future strip mining locations overseas, principally in China. The strip mining efforts of Peabody, as all strip mining does, left the land a total mess. Part of the negotiations (again, thanks to Boyden) included no clause to renegotiate any terms, a much lower payout rate ($0.30/ton versus the standard $1.50/ton paid out by the government on such contracts), no environmental protections and the right to use over 1 BILLION gallons of water per year) almost ensured that troubled times were ahead for the “sacred ground.” Certainly someone got the better end of the bargain, and it wasn’t the tribes. In a matter of a few years, Peabody had gone through thousands of years worth of water. Think on that for a minute. Thousands of years worth of water used up on slurry in a matter of years. As a result, the water tables literally dried up, the aquifers began to run dry and wells no longer worked. The mining was literally killing the tribe members living in the area. Meanwhile, the strip mining continued unabated, creating toxic rivers, polluted dirt and a gray ashen soil, properly labeled “orphan soil banks,”thanks to acids, metal run off, and sediments from the exposed coal beds. The end result? Little more than a “sterile wasteland.“
So, before continuing on, why did Boyden do what he did? Why did he knowingly and fraudulently represent the Hopi’s all while representing Peabody? Why did he knowingly structure a deal that so favored Peabody, at the expense of the tribe he was representing and at the expense of the environment, the Hopi’s “sacred” land? According to Charles Wilkinson, the man who unearthed the communications that proved that Boyden was working for both Peabody and the Hopis simultaneously, it was due both to Boyden’s conviction and ambition. Wilkinson stated:
“Just as important as his (Boyden’s) ambition, I have come to believe, was his certitude, the absolute conviction that he knew what was best for society … This certitude, if not the conflicts of interest, put Boyden in a large body of people from Brigham Young to Nathan Meeker to John Collier to Wayne Aspinall to Stewart Udall – men who knew to an absolute certainty what was right for the Colorado Plateau. Conquest by certitude.”
Marston’s article describes the reasoning as a parallel to what Wilkinson called the “Big Buildup.” To what greater good did Boyden sacrifice his Indian friends and violate the most fundamental legal ethic? Wilkinson calls it the Big Buildup.
“The cities around the plateau – Salt Lake, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, even Los Angeles – wanted growth. So they reached into the Plateau to mine Black Mesa coal, dam Glen Canyon, and build large and polluting power plants. Occasionally, those behind the Big Buildup were blocked. Kaiparowits coal is unmined, the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon and the Green and Yampa rivers in Dinosaur National Monument remain undammed, Junction Dam in Canyonlands was never built. But they succeeded often enough that today Albuquerque, Salt Lake, Phoenix and Las Vegas are among the fastest-sprawling places in the nation.”
Perhaps it’s only due to a “conquest by certitude,” as Wilkinson calls it, or perhaps it’s a mix of conviction, greed, money and power. You be the judge. The results speak for themselves.
From Peabody to Kennecott
Kennecott purchased Peabody in 1968, a mere two years after the first permits to mine the Black Mesa was issued, for $622M – about 70% higher than Peabody’s market value. By 1968, the efforts to grow coal production had made Peabody the #1 coal producer in the United States. Today, that sum would be more than $3.8B. Quite the investment, it seems. Kennecott would turn around and sell Peabody for a cool $1.0B in 1977, after a series of legal challenges were levied by the FTC and the FTC forced Kennecott to divest itself of Peabody. Today, that same $1.0B would equate to slightly more than $3.8B, nearly a wash in terms of an investment, other than the cash flow Peabody would have produced from 1968 through 1977.
There’s an interesting story behind Kennecott, which is now part of the larger Rio Tinto conglomerate. Kennecott was founded in 1901, with financial backing from the Havemeyer, Guggenheim and J.P. Morgan families. Havemeyer introduced a young mining engineer named Stephen Birch to both the Guggenheim and J.P. Morgan families in hopes of getting financial backing to create a promising copper mine near the Kennicott Glacier in Alaska. The two international financiers – Guggenheim and J.P. Morgan – agreed to finance Birch and formed Kennecott. The Guggenheims, the most powerful force in the industry at the time, later took the Utah Copper Company – and the Bingham Copper Mine – under the umbrella of Kennecott and began further efforts to dominate the worldwide copper, gold and, eventually, coal extraction processes. Interestingly, Zion’s Bank was the bank who originally gave the initial financing to get the Bingham Copper Mine (and Utah Copper) off the ground and running. Later, in 1952, Kennecott was responsible for nearly 46% of the nation’s copper output and 25% of the worldwide copper production. The Bingham Copper Mine, at this same time, provided two-thirds of the copper output in the United States and Kennecott’s annual revenues topped $470M ($3.8B in today’s dollars).
Today, Kennecott maintains a significant presence in and around the Salt Lake Valley, with over 93,000 acres of land under ownership, including the Daybreak subdivision where the Oquirrh Mountain LDS temple was recently built. The Daybreak subdivision, interestingly, is a suburb that is being built on the “tails” of the Bingham Copper Mine. Inside the Daybreak community is a sixty-acre man-made lake which forbids swimming given its ironic location atop a brownfield. The reason the lake is sitting atop an area classified as a brownfield is because that is where some of the tailings from the Bingham Copper mine reside. Literally, Daybreak is sitting on a pile of waste. The tails, in mining terminology, are the materials left over after the process of separating the valuable contents of the ground (the ore) from the worthless is completed. In essence, the tailings are nothing more than waste. Some communities, such as Quebec, even require closure plans before mining has even begun, as well as a significant financial guarantee to cover estimated rehabilitation costs. But, for those monitoring such activities in Utah, this is of little-to-no concern, or so the tea leaves in my view seem to read. Not only do master planned communities get built on the waste, but so does a $400 million LDS temple.
From Kennecott to the Corporation
Interestingly, today the upper ranks of Mormondom include, perhaps not so coincidentally, former Kennecott Copperites. Among these Copperites we find, principally and most notably, H. David Burton, the current Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Burton joined the ranks of the Mormon Hierarchy as the first counselor to the Presiding Bishop in 1992, but only after proving himself over the course of 14 years as the secretary to the Presiding Bishopric. Three short years later, in 1995, Burton is promoted to the Presiding Bishop, where he remains today.
So, the question I pose at this juncture, is: what’s the purpose? Perhaps it’s a stretch – and I’d be the first to admit that logic – to assume anything here means anything other than mere happenstance. Mere blots on some strange piece of paper. Seems likely.
The Presiding Bishop is the highest position inside the hierarchy in regards to the Aaronic Priesthood. Perhaps, to help myself better make this connection, I should resort to a simple bulleted list:
- Oversees the temporal affairs – i.e. buildings, properties, commercial corporations, etc. – of the church.
- Oversees bishoprics
- Part of the “Council on the Disposition of Tithes” – the group that decides how to spend “sacred” mammon.
- Has power to convene the “Common Council of the Church,” the group which can initiate trials on the President of the Church
- To whom do you pay your tithing? Certainly, it’s not paid to the Chapel of the Provident Beefsteak…or, is it?
- Oversees the “LDS Foundation,” a department which “correlates, encourages, facilitates, and accepts voluntary philanthropic contributions to the Church and its related organizations and activities.”
- Chairman of the Board of Directors of Property Reserve, Inc., the commercial real estate arm of the Church which owns numerous other investments and companies.
The Church Handbook of Instructions simplifies (or is “stupefies” the better word here?) the duties of the Presiding Bishop as: “The Presiding Bishopric is the presidency of the Aaronic Priesthood of the Church (see D&C 107:15). Under the direction of the First Presidency, the Presiding Bishopric administers the temporal affairs of the Church (see D&C107:68).” As it pertains to the general church membership, the fewer details the better. That way, no one questions the purposes, roles and policies involved. After all, how exactly does one define “administer” in this context? Or, how do we interpret “temporal affairs”? Does it include investments in corporations whose motive is “profit at all costs,” does it involve the exploitation of lands and people who stand in the way of profit? Naturally, the hierarchy wouldn’t define it that way, but if those temporal affairs include such activities, then perhaps those definitions should be questioned a little more often.
While there is, as the previous statements suggest, corporate speak that defines this or that role, perhaps one way to give us a more colloquial definition would be to look at news clippings where the Presiding Bishop makes statements. We could simply define the Presiding Bishop as the Chief Financial Officer, after all, that’s what he is, but we’ll also peruse some articles, at least on one topic.
This method reveals, first and foremost in my case, thousands of results in our Google seer stone on one topic near and dear to our hearts: City Creek Center and Downtown Rising. The first announcement of the massive City Creek Center was made on October 3rd, 2006, in a meeting between Burton and the Salt Lake City Council, among other attendees. During this meeting, Burton stated, “This project sets the course for Salt Lake’s downtown for generations to come.” How was this idea conceived and hatched? I’m not really sure, though perhaps this statement by Burton sheds some light: “[I] sought advice from some of the best minds in the country.” This statement will mean more, at least from a spiritual context, when we read some later statements on how much religion, or not, touched on this project.
Less than a year later, in August 2008, in another statement on the City Creek Center, Burton offered this enlightening update of the project, “Some of the most sacred ground for the church … is immediately adjacent to this project and part of the reason we are proceeding with it … It’s important for us to see Salt Lake as a safe, clean, marvelous place to live and to visit.” Ah yes, there it is: “Sacred ground” which necessitates that everything around it get developed into commercial, retail and office space. “Sacred ground” being used as a means to sacrifice development upon the altar of Mammon. How “nice [and] very well-done,” in the words of Burton himself, is it to be able to develop next to “sacred ground” and “see” the beautiful appearance of the buildings the development will erect. Though the initial costs of the development were thought to be around a cold billion, with a ‘B’, the reported costs have climbed to upwards of four billion, with some estimates proposing that the cost will exceed six billion by the time it’s finished. Six billion dollars? To develop “sacred ground”? That would be the logic of mixing mammon with God, at least in my uninformed opinion. Though the scriptures suggest that we cannot mix God and Mammon, somehow the modern trademarked church thinks it knows better, and that the conjoining of God and Mammon is not only possible, but perhaps the best way to work through the issues of both the “sacred ground” and the developing of the same.
The updates on the City Creek project have, predictably, been given over the past couple of years with Burton being the point of contact. Now, in 2010, Burton has stated that the “sacred ground,” err, “City Creek” project will be “the economic engine for more development in Utah.” Other articles, such as one from the New York Times, are careful to point out that the church has “no religious goals in mind for City Creek.” In this same article, Burton is quoted as saying, “There will be no evidence of the church within those blocks.” Interestingly, the same article quotes anonymous “church officials” as stating that the City Creek project is a modern economic stimulus the same way the welfare system was a stimulus during the Great Depression. So, just what are we to make of this using “sacred ground” as a pretext for developing something that will produce “no evidence of the church within those blocks”? Interestingly, if we’re to grant the land adjacent to the Salt Lake Temple “sacred” status, then the church is doing the very same thing to that land that Boyden (and others) did to the “sacred” land of the Hopi – namely, exploiting said land for monetary purposes. To be sure, I don’t subscribe to this idea that the land next to the temple was or is “sacred,” but certainly note that Burton had used its “sacred[ness]” as an integral reason for redeveloping said land.
Returning to the economic stimulus discussion, through some contorted illogical verbal gymnastics thrown out by the Mormon oligarchy to their fawning admirers, we went from a stimulus program that created the modern church welfare system and has helped some (though certainly not all) people with temporary needs over the course of decades to the modern economic stimulus of the City Creek project. Perhaps it’s worth nothing that the City Creek project is a real estate investment project that will temporarily (through early 2012) employ some construction workers, while producing commercial rental income for church owned corporate ventures – that is, presuming the project makes money – which will merely be re-used to fund other for-profit projects should it make money. Perhaps we could only be so lucky as to have the economic downturn hamstring the project.
In fact, these actions are entirely consistent with earlier proclamations made by Burton. In a February 2003 news article, Burton is quoted as saying, “the church should seek to do a better job parlaying Temple Square visitors into downtown cash.” This quote can be read in the hyperlinked article in the previous sentence, but can also be found in the following excerpt from Daymon Smith’s recent book, The Book of Mammon, which discusses these statements (and others):
The same developer that so successfully brought to Utahns their Gateway to luxury commodities with much‐adjectivized names, sporting famous international brands, would also head up this exciting development: Brother Kem Lardner. (His name actually is Kem). Then head of The Boyer Company, and now head of Gardner Properties, Lardner had “developed” thousands of acres in Utah into commercial enterprises, land just sitting around and waiting to be put to work and churn out Capital. Not yet honored with the office of Presiding Bishop that usually attends such energetic capitalization of God’s creation, Lardner nonetheless sank his great girth in the seat of the executive committee of the Corporation’s for‐profit Bonneville International Corporation (BIC). Owner of many radio and television properties throughout the U.S., BIC sometimes competes with AVD for production work.
The new 22‐acre development Burton was announcing would be called City Creek Center, in honor of the now tiny strand of “water‐like liquid” that long ago as actual water rushed by Brigham Young’s Beehive House and provided him with sweet cold water to wash down his favorite meal: boiled potatoes, topped only by salt, like the Palace made for the Jazz. Honestly, you can’t make this up. The City Creek would survive eponymously, forever, as an even more upper‐scale “mixed use” facility than even The Gateway offered its satisfied patrons. Let’s all build to suit the richest among us, to paraphrase Jesus in the Sermon on the Flout. Everyone was happy, grinning, counting the gold in their pockets and rubbing it across their delightsome, shining faces. According to a Nordstrom agent, “Taubman pulled together a project that we were overwhelmed with.” Lardner and other developers and interested parties pulled together a coalition branded “Downtown Rising,” a powerful branding and messaging campaign that no doubt cost millions to create. It was said, often and loudly, though without evidence, to be the largest city redevelopment project in the history of the U.S. “It” thrust a record $10 billion behind the machines that would destroy and rebuild a ten‐block perimeter around Temple Square.
In an earlier article in the Deseret News, published before the initial purchases, Burton claimed, entirely sincerely, “the Church should seek to do a better job parlaying Temple Square visitors into downtown cash.” With a billion, or ten billion dollar investment, that conversion of visitor to capital was sure to come about more efficiently. Burton continued, “Obviously one of our strengths is to get people downtown, and we ought to leverage that strength…We ought to encourage them to come down an hour early and have dinner.” The report suggested that Burton “seemed keen on virtual reality,” and he felt that “Simulation and things like that are all part of what we’re anxious to look at.” As part of our striving for simulation, the new mega‐mall would be enclosed. But Burton pointed out, “We can do a lot of things architecturally to give you a feeling of openness so you can see the blue sky and the snow falling in the wintertime.” This Plato’sCave2.0, updated for our modern era where churches proselytize in digital realms, and design media for digital personas, this simulacra of life will also validate for your parking convenience.
Hopefully, at the end of this discussion, we can come to grips with the gymnastics needed to justify such an expansive project. A project which is the baby of the Presiding Bishop, err CFO, a former executive at Kennecott. While the dots are tenuous, and I’m the first to admit that they are, perhaps they underline a general malaise that afflicts us humans: we will do whatever we can to make a buck or one billion – to hell with the consequences.
Luckily for us, returning to the initial connections that led to this convoluted story, we have a modern example that gives us a picture of the next victim of the exploitation of our Mother Earth.
A More Modern Analogy: Jon Stewart on Afghanistan
Too bad for the Hopi, and the Navajo, and that they didn’t have anyone speaking up and saying what Jon Stewart states in the following video. Wait, they did, but no one listened then either. Oh well, it’s worth the watch anyway:
Too bad, for us, no one will be listening this time around either. Greed, power and money tend to have a much louder voice. Picture the voice of Zeus thundering down on the plains of Thessalonica, while a tiny field mouse squeaks his disdain for being awoken from a small catnap. Or so I digress. Yes, Afghanistan is screwed. First, war torn. Now, the “ore for terror” begins.
Of course, perhaps we shouldn’t ask why both the Pentagon and the U.S. Geological Survey were there in the first place, analyzing just how much valuable stuff lay under ground in a country which now “will never not know war.” Perhaps we shouldn’t ask any more questions. Perhaps we should just continue to rape and pillage the earth to satiate our ever growing corporate needs. Yes, corporate needs. Corporations are people, too, dontcha know?! And, if they are people, then they have needs that need to be met. Those needs, naturally, are profit and viability – which go hand in hand. If they aren’t profitable, then they aren’t viable. And so, in order for these needs to be met, we should ensure that we go wherever we can to make sure there’s something for them to do, to profit off of. Enter Afghanistan, conveniently, and there you have it.
I suppose that’s what we get when we mix war, corporations, politics and money. The more colloquial name might be: the military industrial complex. Add lots of money. One trillion dollars worth, and potentially much, much more. Like we couldn’t see that coming. And, if this Peabody/Boyden/Kennecott/U.S. Government situation is anything remotely similar to what the Afghani’s are about to face, I’m sure there will be many people profiting from the value of the minerals – that is to say corporations, lawyers and politicians. Anyone, that is, but the Afghani people.
Then again, I’m sure everyone involved will be assured of the good stuff, the bad stuff will ignored and no one will think twice about it. The environment will more than likely suffer, the people in the area will more than likely suffer – be it through wars, environmental disasters, economic problems, corruption or something else entirely – and the corporations and politicians involved will assuage everyone into thinking life’s good, all is well. Meanwhile, out the backdoor they will waltz with billions of dollars in hand, leaving the tailings for someone who won’t even know what they are for another decade or three.
Unfortunately for us, the scriptures all too often attest to a fact that is perhaps best seen through direct experience. Mormons aren’t exempt from these facts, nor are the Native Americans, nor are politicians, nor the corporations, nor anyone else. What scripture, specifically, am I referring to?
“… the arights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be bcontrolled nor handled only upon the cprinciples of righteousness. That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to acover our bsins, or to gratify our cpride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or ddominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens ewithdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to akick against the pricks, to bpersecute the saints, and to cfight against God. We have learned by sad experience that it is the anature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little bauthority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise cunrighteous dominion. Hence many are called, but afew are chosen. No apower or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the bpriesthood,” (D&C 121:36-41, emphasis added.)
That’s no small indictment, it seems. To those wondering why I underlined “ere,” it was to draw attention to its meaning. “Ere he is aware…” can be translated into our modern lexicon as either meaning (a) “Before he is aware” or (b) “Sooner than he is aware.” So it is with us. Any degree of unrighteousness produces a situation where we’re left alone, sans priesthood, sans any connection with heaven, and we’re left alone in that state while fully thinking and believing that we’re fully connected, doing the bidding of the Lord. Ah, the consequences are myriad, are they not? This certainly seems to be describing what Boyden did – “conquest by conviction” – and I have also fallen prey to this in my own life. When a connection is as tender as the connection we can hold with the heavens, it’s no wonder that we’re all too convinced of our righteousness when doing our own bidding. Perchance we should be a little more careful of what it is that we’re really pursuing.
So, I’d suggest that this story can be simplified into the following: the Native Americans were buffaloed into exploiting their sacred lands in the name of money and profit, profit that went into the hands of lawyers and corporations who more than likely used religion and perceived authority and righteousness as a way to exploit the lands, all the while likely being convinced of our rightness. We can rest assured that there are corporations, individuals and politicians all willing to continue this degrading process.
And, if we can’t find any solace in that inevitability, perhaps we can find solace in the following:
“For the aearth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be bagents unto themselves. Therefore, if any man shall take of the aabundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the blaw of my gospel, unto the cpoor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in dhell, being in torment.” – D&C 104:17-18
May all who read this, including myself, not be found in those described that group.
There is a lot more to this story that I did not include in this write-up, but most especially – to me, at least – are those concerning the spiritual ramifications of the traditional Hopi’s distrust for Mormons and the white man. The Hopi’s are viewed by some Native Americans in a similar light as the Levites are viewed by those interested in the House of Israel. They are also viewed, through some of their spiritual proclivities, as the only ones holding chaos at bay – the only ones keeping us from entering the fifth world. There are some who suggest that the Hopi are on the verge of letting go. That is to say, the world has declined to such a state of perversity – including and especially how the world degrades and exploits Mother Earth – that they no longer want to hold chaos at bay, they no longer feel that there is any good to be gained from such altruistic actions.
I am not prepared to comment on these metaphysical aspects of this story, nor am I anywhere near informed enough to even attempt it. I merely mention it here in case there are others who are interested, or more “in the know,” wish to address the topic here or elsewhere.
Suffice it to say we have been indicted in more than one way, none of which are good.
 Adhesion Contract: http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/adhesion+contract. Retrieved 06/08/2010
 Judith Nies. “The Syncline and Roberta Blackgoat.” http://www.angelfire.com/realm/dinehinfo/pages/blackmesasyn.html. Retrieved 06/08/2010.
 US Code, Title 25, § 640d-9. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/25/usc_sec_25_00000640—d009-.html. Retrieved 06/08/2010.
 Peabody Coal, History. http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/Peabody-Coal-Company-Company-History.html. Retrieved 06/09/2010.
 http://www.peabodyenergy.com/Profile/PeabodysHistory.asp. Retrieved 06/09/2010.
 Gregory Prince. David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, page 265.
 Ibid. Page 214.
 Judith Nies, Orion, “The Black Mesa Syndrome: Indian Lands, Black Gold,” Summer 1998 issue. http://arts.envirolink.org/arts_and_activism/JudithNies.html. Retrieved 06/15/2010.
 Marston, “Seeking Justice for all on the Colorado Plateau.”
 “A Shining Star in the Business Community.” http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/59370/A-shining-star-in-business-community.html. Retrieved 06/09/2010.
 Kennecott Corporation History. http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/Kennecott-Corporation-Company-History.html. Retrieved 06/08/2010.
 Biography: H. David Burton. http://www.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/background-information/leader-biographies/bishop-h-david-burton. Retrieved 06/15/2010.
 http://filehost.org.ru/files/516/Church_Handbook_of_Instructions.pdf. Retrieved 06/16/2010. Page 168.
 Ibid. Page 466.
 Ibid. Page 14.
 Jason Swenson, “City Creek Center.” 10/07/2006. http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/49614/City-Creek-Center.html. Retrieved 06/16/2010.
 Angie Welling, “Bishop Burton extols quality of City Creek Center.” 08/17/2007. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/695201642/Bishop-Burton-extols-quality-of-City-Creek-Center.html. Retrieved 06/16/2010.
 For a discussion on this, perhaps we should turn to the scriptures: “No man can aserve btwo masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.” 3 Nephi 13:24.
 “City Creek Center Project releases progress report,” April 20, 2010. http://www.fox13now.com/news/kstu-city-creek-project-progress-report,0,5725205.story. Retrieved 06/16/2010.
 Kirk Johnson, New York Times, “Project Renews Downtown, and Debate.” 02/07/2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/08/us/08saltlake.html. Retrieved 06/16/2010.
 See Daymon M. Smith’s book, The Book of Mammon, for an in-depth discussion on the shortfalls of the welfare system, among many other interesting stories emanating from the Church Office Building (COB).
 Afghan Riches: Mineral Wealth Raises Questions for the U.S. http://www.istockanalyst.com/article/viewiStockNews/articleid/4221139. Retrieved 06/16/2010.