Posts Tagged ‘BYU’


This article was started several weeks ago and only now did I decide to finish it and add a little more information.  Just some random musings I was doing a few weeks back.

A Search for Independence

For those who don’t follow sports (and I’m getting closer and closer to becoming a member of that group), BYU has recently been trying to flex it’s brawn and become an independent school a la Notre Dame, at least independent with regards their football program.  Indeed, within the past couple of days it announced that they were leaving the Mountain West Conference to become a football independent.  So far so good.  But, as an entity owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (TM, yes it’s a trademarked name), why is there this need to go off into independent status and throw their conference affiliation to the wayside?

Not being a huge historical buff on this issue, it made me wonder why the change would be advantageous, but in reading the publicly available reports on the issue, I’m still left scratching my head.

Exposure and Money

Tom Holmoe, the BYU Athletic Director who spurred this decision forward along with Cecil Samuelson, president of BYU, had this to say regarding the why and how of the decision:

“We have some incredible options available to us because of BYU broadcasting and the friends that we have across the country. We’re going to look to make sure that we build on those things and take advantage of those things. We’re trying to put ourselves in position to be the best we can, which is exposure across the country, letting our kids shine in the bright lights.”

The best position, following Holmoe’s logic, is for increased exposure and popularity – shining in the bright lights.  In this same article, Holmoe reportedly stated how frustrated BYU had become with a “lack of television exposure” and how there “goal is exposure.”  The frustration stemmed largely from a poor Mountain West Conference TV payout schedule, as well as the inability to broadcast games on BYU’s own TV network.

One BYU fan put it this way, “You have to make a lot more money to be able to go independent. You’re not guaranteed money if another school makes it to the BCS or something like that, so there’s financial risks.”

Joe Schad, an ESPN reporter stated that (prior to BYU officially electing for independent status), “With BYU considering leaving the MWC, Thompson said he has had “very good dialogue” with BYU president Cecil O. Samuelson since Fresno State and Nevada announced they would join the conference.  Thompson said the MWC has “shown a willingness to work through some TV issues” in an effort to prevent BYU from declaring its independence.  BYU is exploring putting some sporting events on its own television network.”

Based on these statements, the reasoning behind this move was (a) exposure, (b) money and (c) more exposure and more money.  Exposure through increased TV time, under the “bright lights,” and increased revenues through more lucrative TV deals.

A New Contract

Cecil $amuelson, president of BYU, in a press release announcing the move to an independent football school, as well as the signing of an 8-year TV contract with ESPN to televise home football games, explained that:

“We’ve long sought broad, nationwide access to our games for our fans and increased visibility among those who may be less familiar with our university and athletic programs.  We’ve also been looking for ways to take better advantage of our own unique broadcasting resources.”

Again, more exposure, visibility and money is the goal.  Why would one seek to “take better advantage” of their “unique broadcasting resources” (i.e. BYUTv and the households it reaches, which in turn will bring in advertising and syndication dollars) if it was for something other than money?  According to the aforementioned press release, BYUTv is available in 55,000,000 homes through Dish Network and DirectTv, in addition to being carried by more than 500 cable systems.  Thanks to some investments in a “state-of-the-art” production truck, BYUtv will be able to televise games live, and in HD.

In a separate SL Tribune article, Samuelson proffered, “We are convinced we are taking major positive steps forward.”

ESPN, in responding to this contract, declared:

“Once BYU decided to chart an independent course for football, we both recognized it is a good opportunity to build and grow our strong 30-year relationship. With this agreement, college football fans around the country will see the quality and pageantry of BYU as well as the passion and enthusiasm of its supporters.”  Dave Brown, a vice president of programming and acquisition, declared that the announcement of the new TV contract was “tremendous day to be back in business with BYU. We’ve had a great relationship with BYU over the years.”

While the details of the contract seem scant, some estimates suggest that the contract will net BYU between $1.0 and $1.2 million per home game.  With a minimum of 3 home games televised annually by ESPN over the life of the contract, one would rightly assume that BYU is looking at making some $5.0 million (more or less) each year of the 8 year contract.  That would lend a rough guesstimate of a total value of the contract between $40 and $50 million, and that’s assuming that only 3 games are televised annually.  Kurt Kragthorpe of the SL Tribune stated that “ESPN is televising nearly every home game for eight years.”  If that’s the case, then more games = more money.  Samuelson reportedly stated that the “driving force” behind the move was merely to “secure broad and nationwide television access to BYU athletic contests for the school’s fans around the world.”  Uh huh.  Sure.

Nope, still not buying it.  While that might have been a consideration, there’s simply no way BYU would have gone forward with this move if it were costing them $50 million over the next 8 years.  Absolutely no way.  The only real reasons for this move is for exposure and money.  Pure and simple.  Any other explanation is a likely a stinky pile of garbage.

One may even argue, and perhaps this is what Samuelson was getting at in his statement to bring BYU football games into the living room of every breathing Mormon, that the increased exposure will result in more alumni donations and endowments.  That may indeed prove to be the case, but that would then point even more to money being the main goal of this decision.

An Old Business Model

George Ure recently stated, on his blog, that everything essentially boils down to economics and a basic business model.  You can read his discussion on that topic here, but his discussion had to do with recent pontifications by various media personalities.  In response to someone calling him out for failing to mention said personalities or political events, Ure responded:

“As a matter of policy around here (a right I claim as a real piece of shit, as you so eloquently penned it) we don’t spend much time counting the number of people who line up behind one business model, or another.  No point to it.  BUT, now that you brought it up, everything is a business model.  The job you used to have, the business of being a politician, even churches / religions are business models, something I don’t grind your face in because the evidence is that I’m right.  Jesus didn’t make the big bucks on his own religion, it was the marketers who followed who cashed in.  Ditto Buddha and the rest of history’s Enlightened:  Business models that followed were where the dough was – so you see  everything really is a business model. Not bad just is.  Every time the right wing, or the left, or the NRA, or the church, or the local PTA pass around fundraisers, or I pimp my subscriber side,  I’m reminded “Everything’s a Business Model.” Again for clarity: I didn’t say any of this is bad…money makes the world go round. On the other hand, whenever I see a highly touted named personality I run – not walk, mind you – I run the other way as fast as I can.  We live in a society where EBM and the cults of personality are all what?  Repeat after me:  Business models!”

With that in mind, and taking the above quotes by Joe Schad, Cecil $amuelson and Tom Holmoe at face value, we’re essentially left with a move that is based on a business model.  Business models, it should go without saying, are based on profits and revenues.  Money, pure and simple, is the name of the game.  Exposure, the other word used to justify this move by BYU, is another way of attracting both money and fame.  The relationship between exposure and money is mere symbiotics at work.

Kragthorpe, of the SL Tribune, stated back on August 19th that the ultimate benefit of their new found independent status was – you probably guessed it – money.

“The benefit for BYU will be not having to share bowl revenue with conference partners.”

Couple potential bowl revenues (that don’t need to be shared with 10 other teams) with its new TV contract(s) in place, and BYU is merely positioning itself to earn more money down the road and keep a bigger slice of the revenue pie, or rather the entire pie themselves.

So, what does this have to do with the church, or anyone else for that matter, and why should I care?

Well, the answer to that is that I probably shouldn’t care and mostly I don’t care.  Will I watch more games now that BYU is on TV?  Perhaps, but only considering I rarely watch any games at all, on any network.

A Parallel 10 Years in the Making

Nearly a decade ago the Church announced the renaming of Ricks College to BYU-Idaho in concert with a migration to a fully accredited four-year degree granting institution.  This same announcement brought about the ending of the Ricks College athletic program (especially the football program, as football programs are the real money makers of any athletic program).  As it turns out, a few other issues were also at play that have parallels with what BYU is doing today.

Football at Ricks College was more or less doomed the moment the church announced that the school would be converting to a full-fledged 4-year university, complete with accreditation from the Babylonian institutions that regulate such bodies.  Some people champion the route Ricks College took in turning “its back on the ‘arms race’ that some critics say college sports has become and freed itself from the competitive pressures” that face universities with numerous sporting programs, especially in an era dominated by multi-million and billion dollar TV contracts.

What’s interesting about the decision is that Ricks College routinely sported one of the top junior college football programs, and many of its players went on to play division I football at major NCAA programs (like BYU).  What’s even more interesting is that no one challenged the decision.  Indeed, no one dared challenge the decision.  As one article points out:

“But because Mormons view their president as a prophet, guided and inspired by Jesus Christ, no one challenged the decision. When the president speaks “the debate’s over,” Ms. Woodland says. “There’s no arguing.”

Hinckley stated that the changes would “extend the opportunity of secular education within the framework of a Church school, where is taught faith … .”  David Bednar, who was president of Ricks at the time of the announcement, later referred to the decision as “historic.”  One of the reasons for the change, incidentally, was the “expense of intercollegiate athletics.”  As it turns out, BYU-Idaho could have done the same thing that BYU-Provo is doing today – namely migrate conferences and expand its reach and exposure.  Well, they could have but for the fact that no one cared about the exposure of BYU-Idaho’s football program.  In fact, had BYU-Idaho joined Division II of the NCAA (which it would have at the time), it’s athletic budget would have likely tripled.  Instead of absorbing the cost and continuing on in hopes of new revenues down the line, the church made a financial decision based on real-life dynamics.  The athletic programs were then transformed into a 4-tier “activities” program which, according to David Bednar, ran (and presumably still runs) at a “fraction of the cost.”  It was an economic business model decision, and a completely understandable one at that.

What’s even more interesting is that if you follow the rest of that story you will read of an example where Bednar drew a line in the sand, a line which apparently doesn’t work with BYU’s main campus in Provo.  Josh Clawson – one of the student athletic directors a few years back – related a story wherein Bednar supposedly stated:

“The day I see a linebacker rush the lineman, straddle him, point in his face, is the day I go onto the field, take the football, and the game is over.”

That game, coincidentally, was the newfound intramural football league which replaced the regular athletic program.

And yet, down in Provo, such lines are not only not drawn, they’re not even thought about.  Max Hall (and many others) had (or have had) infamous falling outs with the competition.  A few years back, Hall had once such encounter with Utah fans.  If you remember, he merely stated “I don’t like Utah. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program, their fans. I hate everything.”

One might rightfully ask where the difference between pointing in someone’s face on the field or launching into a nationally televised diatribe revealing your hatred for some team is?  The real difference, it would seem, why the athletic program at Ricks College was done away with was not so that students could focus on gospel oriented learning, as some suggest, but rather because the costs of continuing the program at the D-II level would have been prohibitive.  Today, though, faced with signing a contract valued somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million over 8 years, BYU and Cecil Samuelson chose to take the most financially “beneficial” route, namely that of independence.

The “business model” with Ricks College athletics simply didn’t make sense.

The Church and BYU

As most know, BYU is a church owned institution.  And this move towards independence had to be approved by the board of trustees made up of the first presidency of the church and some members of the quorum of the twelve.  Today that group (the board of trustees) is made up of Monson, Eyring, Uchtdorf, Nelson, Ballard, Bednar, as well as a few others.

One article discussed the steps taken to reach independence internally by noting:

“BYU President Cecil Samuelson presented several scenarios to the school’s board of trustees, comprised of the LDS Church’s First Presidency, members of the Quorum of the Twelve, and other high-ranking church officials, Thursday and received approval to proceed with whichever route he sees as “most beneficial” to the mission of the church and the school, a source told The Tribune.”

Gain, Popularity and Seeking the Things of the World

So, my question is whether some of the scriptures in the book of mormon might apply here.  If the main goal, at least according to statements from both the Athletic Director and President of the University, of a church run institution participating in an athletic program is to get exposure (fame/popularity) and make more money (gain), then is there something amiss that we should be recognizing?

Principally, this one:

“For the time speedily shall come that all achurches which are built up to get gain, and all those who are built up to get power over the flesh, and those who are built up to become bpopular in the eyes of the world, and those who seek the lusts of the flesh and the things of the world, and to do all manner of iniquity; yea, in fine, all those who belong to the kingdom of the cdevil are they who need fear, and tremble, and dquake; they are those who must be brought low in the dust; they are those who must be econsumed as stubble; and this is according to the words of the prophet.”

I would argue that this move is rather obviously based on (a) getting gain, (b) becoming popular in the eyes of the world – i.e. exposure – and (c) seeking the things of the world, if not more.  If that’s the case, then what are we really doing?  Trading the power of God for acceptance and popularity?  Is that not what we’re doing and, if so, why are we doing it when the scriptures tell us that “pandering for popularity is at the heart of priestcraft“?

Granted, I’m removed from Utah so I’m not entirely sure how this is playing out there in Happy Valley, but it’s likely being well received up and down the Wasatch Front.  Indeed, I did read one comment which said if this move was approved by the “Board of Trustees” then no doubt it was the best decision the university could have made (i.e. the Board of Trustees is made up of the first presidency and members of the quorum of the 12 and, as such, they’re impervious to bad decision making).  And, if so, then is it also true that the general sentiment is that a + b + c (above) are all good things?  That that is what we should be doing and there’s nothing amiss?  Namely, that there’s nothing wrong with seeking for more exposure and more money?

Borrowing from a new blog that I stumbled across today, the following quote provides the clarity we need:

“Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea, verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments” (D&C 82:14).  Is Zion’s beauty increasing as we strip-mine the earth and tear down God’s world in pursuit of money? Is Zion increasing in holiness as we study “Gospel Principles” in Priesthood and Relief Society, taking us back to primary concepts that we obviously haven’t learned, unable to, as a community, search deeper into the mysteries of God (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 364)? Are [her] borders enlarging or is Babylon infiltrating our borders (that’s the border security issue with which we ought to be concerned)? Are her stakes strengthening or are we being uprooted and “tossed to and fro, carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14) (Think political parties and campaigns, military objectives, commercials and advertising, and the like)? Surely all is not well in Zion.”

What say ye?

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Quite by accident I came across this Hugh Nibley article, entitled Promised Lands.  I distinctly remember listening to an mp3 of portions of this chapter/article, but it took on new light as I re-read it a couple of days ago.  The new light, as it so happens, is the discussion on Mormons, Hopi and Mother Earth, which was discussed/written about here a little over a month ago.  I almost feel ashamed that I hadn’t originally thought to see if Nibley had ever discussed what happened between the Mormons and the Hopi, but alas I did not think of it.  So, in re-stumbling upon this article, I was both excited and surprised to read what Nibley had to say on the matter.

I would encourage all to trudge on and read it, as there is a grave message included therein.  The details Nibley provides on Ernest Wilkinson, Peabody Coal, the Hopi and the Momona (Mormons) is well worth reading.

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Another World

When I first came to Provo shortly after World War II, I was approached by Brother Virgil Bushman, who had been called to revive the mission to the Hopi Indians after it had languished during the War. He urged me to go with him and promised me that I would see an ancient world probably much like the kind I would like to have found in the ancient Near East. I eagerly complied, and on a cold bleak morning in March we approached the Third Mesa from the west. The landscape was utterly desolate, nothing in sight but sand and rock. Brother Bushman assured me that these were the fields of the Hopi. The men would come down every morning afoot or on their donkeys to walk out into the sand for a few miles. There with a stick they pushed down five kernels of corn twenty inches into the sand, hoping that it would strike the underground moisture from the Denebito Wash.

Each stalk of corn would grow only two feet or so and never bear more than a single ear of corn. This was their staff of life, their security, their capital. And yet they had survived all the rigors of nature and the fierce pressure of white intruders since the sixteenth century. Later I learned that Sister Theresa Harvey’s house in Walpi on the First Mesa had been the first one measured by the new tree-ring dating method and was found to be over 800 years old.

I was stunned by what I saw as we came through a low arch at dawn out onto the spectacle of a splendid drama in progress. Here, on a high, bleak rock, surrounded by nothing but what we would call total desolation in all directions, was a full-scale drama in progress in the grand manner of the Ancients. The only witnesses were a few shivering little kids and some hunched up old people on stone benches. Everything was being carried out with meticulous care; all the costumes were fresh and new; there was nothing that could be bought in a store, nothing artificial—all the dyes, woven stuff, and properties were taken from nature.

What an immense effort and dedication this represented! And for what? These were the only people in the world that still took the trouble to do what the human race had been doing for many millennia—celebrating the great life-cycle of the year, the creation, the dispensations. I told Brother Bushman that there should be fifty-two dancers, and that is exactly what there were. Fifty-two was not only the sacred number of the Asiatics and the Aztecs, but it was also the set number of dancers in the archaic Greek chorus. The dancing place was the bare plot which the Greeks called the konistra, the sand patch where this world came in contact with the other, at the crucial periods of the year. That was the time when the orcus mundi was open—mundus patet; that is, when the mouth of the other world was open and the spirits of the ancestors attended the rites. By the altar, of course, was the sipapuni, the mouth of the lower world, the orcus mundi, at which the spirits from above and below could meet with their relatives upon the earth.  This was the essential year-rite, found throughout the world from the earliest times. On either side of the altar was a small evergreen, adorned like a Christmas tree with prayer feathers, for as in countless ancient societies these dramas were sacred. I have written extensively on this theme, which is called “Patternism,”1 but we can’t go into it now. Suffice it to say, it was a miracle of survival, commonly recognized as the only surviving instance of the fully celebrated year-cycle.

Almost the first house one comes to in mounting up the climb to Hotevila where this was taking place was the dwelling of Tom and Belle Kuyushva. Tom was a Kikmongui, an honored elder, the nearest thing to a chief among these egalitarian and independent people, who have always eschewed any type of power structure. He wore all the splendid regalia—the silver and turquoise of an honored person—and was present in the seat of honor several years before Brother Bushman gave his first sermon. Brother Bushman spoke only about twenty minutes, and at the end, old Tom, who knew not a word of English, came up and asked to be baptized. Brother Bushman explained, “But you have only just barely heard me speak!” “But I know it’s true,” said Tom, who was ninety years old (incidentally, all his life he had been thoroughly immersed in the doctrines and customs of his people). He pointed to his breast and said, “I know it’s true in here.”

He was soon baptized and became an elder, and we should note that he and Brother Bushman had to go clear to Gallup to find enough water for baptizing. That’s how desolate the land was; there was what they called Jacob’s Well in Oraibi, but the water was poisonous. There was indeed a spring in Hotevila, which gave the place its name. The WPA wanted, by installing a pump, to relieve the women of Polacca from the trouble of going down the long trail to the water and fetching it up again on their heads. This was vigorously opposed by all. Were these people insane to reject such a convenience? Not at all. It was a way of life that your ancestors and mine had practiced for thousands of years since the days of Rebecca at the well. When the U.S. government wanted to install electric lines in Hotevila, the people repeatedly took down the poles. The government officials would put them up again, and the people would take them down again—they actually rejected the blessings of electricity and a ready water supply. I talk about these things to show how different their ways were from ours.

Since this is Homecoming Week, I may suggest a parallel. All the time my children were growing up, it was a special thrill for all of us to go out in front of the house during Homecoming Week to watch the lighting of the “Y”—the long, zigzag trail of flickering torches creeping up the mountain (a good 1000 feet), dividing and slowly enclosing the giant emblem with mysterious flickering orange flames, until the final glory. It was exciting, strenuous, thoroughly unnecessary, and everybody loved it. How silly, how wasteful, how impractical! Now we just throw a light switch and it’s all done—as convenient and inspiring as lighting a billboard. That is the difference between our cultures. The torches on the mountainside served no practical purpose whatever, but the water trail up the mountain had been an absolute necessity for many centuries; what greater imperative than to preserve the operation just as it is, where an act of drudgery becomes an act of devotion and even fun? Pumps can and do break down.

The day after that first dance was Easter Sunday. I was met in New Oraibi by a delegation of Hopi men who announced that they had just been in a session with the Mennonite, Baptist, and Methodist missionaries who had explained to them exactly why our Book of Mormon tells very much the same story as their own traditions. The explanation was this: When the great chief Tuba (for whom Tuba City was named) became a Mormon, he went to Salt Lake City to marry his wives in the temple there. While he was there, Joseph Smith got hold of him and pumped him for all the secrets of the Hopi. Then he sat down and wrote it all down in what became the Book of Mormon. It was not hard for me to set them straight simply by throwing out a few dates. The point of this story is the promise of common ground that we have with this strange people—the Book of Mormon is their story.

There is considerable general knowledge about certain salient traits of the Hopi which are not peculiar to them but characteristic of almost all Indians. The first of these is the way they see all things together. “I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit,” says Black Elk, “and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.”2 Here we have that peculiar idiom which makes the Indian a total alien to our own culture. The culture is completely religious and therefore completely consistent. If you wrote an essay on Hopi farming, it would be an essay on Hopi religion; on Hopi hunting, it would be an essay on Hopi religion; an essay on Hopi family life, it would be an essay on Hopi religion; on Hopi games the same—on everything they do and think is their religion. As they see all things as a whole, all joined in a single divine pattern, like a great sand painting, so they feel that all who share a common life should act together. I have often heard them say that when they join the Church, it will be all together—as soon as we set them the example. This mysterious but very real oneness is beautifully expressed in our scriptures, which might have been written by Black Elk: “And now behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me” (Moses 6:63). The Hopis have not only survived but prospered on their desolate mesas, the last place on earth anyone would covet. We find it foolish that they constantly protest the slightest change in the way of doing things—but it all hangs together, just as our projects continually fall apart as we insist on sanctifying growth and change.

From the beginning there was conflict between those who in their willingness to be ingratiating and comply to pressure from the U.S. government and those who rigidly opposed it. The one party was labeled “progressive,” of course, and the other who called themselves the “traditionals” were called the “Hostiles.” The leader of the traditional party in Oraibi was Tewaqueptewa, about whom many stories were told. I have talked with him often and bought many Kachina dolls, which he made of strictly native materials and sold for a dollar and a half apiece, never more or less. The anthropologists were fighting among themselves for these dolls, for which they could get high prices, and yet the great chief was practically giving them away. We just can’t understand a thing like that. In 1906 there was a showdown between the traditionalists and Tewaqueptewa’s party. They settled in a sensible fashion by a tug-of-war, the losing party going off to Moenkopi. Tewaqueptewa’s daughter, Mina Lansa, was entrusted with the national treasures, always kept by a woman. Her husband, John Lansa, was the leader of the traditionalists.

One evening as it was getting dark I was passing by their house, the northernmost house in Old Oraibi, when Mina came out and beckoned me vigorously to come in. I wondered what I had done wrong, because new infringements of the whites were causing considerable tension. In the house the chief elders were seated all around the room. A small kitchen table and chair were in the middle of the room and a coal oil lamp was on the table. Mina told me to sit on the chair; then she went out of the room and soon returned with a bundle, something heavy wrapped in a blanket. She put it on the table and then unwrapped it. It was the holy tablet, the Hopi Stone, no less, the most sacred possession of the people. I knew what I was expected to do and started talking.

By an interesting coincidence I had spent the previous week in Cedar City with President William Palmer, a patriarch as well as stake president, who taught anthropology in the college there. He had been initiated into the Paiute tribe, and took me out to their sacred place in the plain southwest of Parowan. The building of the highway had put an end to the rites of initiation that once took place there, but President Palmer described the teachings and ordinances as far as was permitted. In particular he told the story of the descent of the Lord from heaven as if at that place, an event much like that described in 3 Nephi.

Tobats was the God of all Creation; his son Shinob was the peacemaker full of love and eternally young. One day the Evil One Un-nu-pit killed Shinob. At once a great darkness fell upon “Tu-weap,” the whole earth. It was absolute blackness for three days. In this chaos and confusion everyone was groping around in howling and lamentation. Finally, a voice from the top of the mountain spoke; it was Tobats the Father. He told them to move about with outstretched arms, calling out to each other, and joining hands with whoever one touched. Thus they formed lines, and the lines were instructed to join with each other; people in the lines were to cry out for husbands and wives and children until all families had reformed. Then the noise ceased, and a voice told them to climb the mountain or mesa where Tobats was. They worked their way up the mountain, toiling in human chains and finally forming a huge circular formation on the top, with Tobats in the middle. Well, Tobats said he would shoot an arrow straight up (this is the well-known Indian and world-wide theme of the arrow chain to heaven). His arrow produced a tiny spark of light; but the second arrow brought light, which grew like an explosion until it flooded all the land. The blackbird and the flicker have been honored ever since because their feathers were used for the arrows—they are perpetual reminders of the great event.3 And thus the Indians typically reedit, according to the tribe and the land, those stories whose origin is lost in a distant past.

There were many things on the Hopi Stone that are never shown in the sketchy reproductions of it, but the main items were the wanderings of the people and upheavals of nature, the arrow-chain to heaven and the light descending from the clouds. I started to explain things in terms of what I had learned from President Palmer a few days before. As I talked the elders began whispering among themselves with some animation. Suddenly Mina snatched the stone from the table, clutched it tightly, and said excitedly, “You are a smart man—but you don’t know everything!” Was I on the right track? I suspect so, because some years later, in 1965, when I was wandering in the sad desolation of Oraibi, now emptier than ever, I was approached again with an invitation to come to the house and see the Hopi Stone again. When I got there, there was confusion and excitement; something had happened. We would have to call it off. Everyone was going to where the meeting of the Tribal Council had just been held. The Tribal Council was a creation of the BIA, compliant to the will of the powers of the East, whose authority the traditionalists had never recognized. They had just that day leased a tract of the sacred Black Mesa to the Peabody Coal Company. The company had generously offered to provide trailer houses for the entire tribe if they would move to Los Angeles. A more colossal culture gap could not be imagined.

Here it is necessary to speak of that strange passion for the land with which all Indians seem to be obsessed. This state of mind can best be explained by reference to the Book of Mormon. In his great sermon to the Nephites the Lord declares, “Behold, the covenant which I have made with my people is not all fulfilled” (3 Nephi 15:8). “And behold, this is the land of your inheritance; and the Father hath given it unto you” (3 Nephi 15:13). Again he tells them to “write these sayings after I am gone, . . . that these sayings which ye shall write shall be . . . manifested unto the Gentiles, that through the fulness of the Gentiles, the remnant of their seed, who shall be scattered forth upon the face of the earth because of their unbelief, may be brought in” (3 Nephi 16:4). We are to take note of what they have written, and it is this: “Verily, Verily, I say unto you, thus hath the Father hath commanded me—that I should give unto this people this land for their inheritance” (3 Nephi 16:16). The Hopi Stone, beautifully done on highly polished porphyr, is such a writing as the Nephites were ordered to make—a deed to the land. The Lord concludes with a final repetition: “And the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you this land, for your inheritance. . . . And if the Gentiles do not repent . . . after they have scattered my people, . . . the sword of my justice shall hang over them at that day” (3 Nephi 20:14—15, 20).

What could be clearer? This land has been given to that particular branch of Israel as an inheritance for their children in perpetuity—it is their sacred obligation to hold it for their children; they cannot possibly sell it or allow it to be taken from them. That would be unthinkable, and that we never seem to understand.

Never the Twain Shall Meet

It would be hard to imagine two cultures more opposed than our own and that of the Indians. Typical of the total misunderstanding that still prevails is a statement by Ronald Vertrees, president of the Customs Clearing House, a Denver-based drilling supply firm, in a letter to the Navajo tribal council protesting favored treatment of the council in hiring Navajos on their own reservation. ” ‘Given the historical facts, we consider ourselves to be members of the conquering and superior race and you to be members of the vanquished and inferior race. We hold your land and property to be spoils of war, ours by right of conquest. Through the generosity of our people, you have been given a reservation where you may prance and dance as you please, obeying your kings and worshipping your false gods.’ . . . Contacted Monday, Vertrees said he has no regrets about sending the letter,” which appeared conspicuously in the Salt Lake Tribune, January 17, 1986, and elicited no comment.4 As is well known and often noted, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago in 1848 recognized the sovereignty of the Indian Nations. Between 1876 and 1893, trading posts, missions, and schools, were established—for profit. It was the Presbyterians and not business or government that built the small hospital. One day I picked up an old Navajo woman who had just finished making a blanket at her hogan near the sacred Blue Canyon (since dismantled by Peabody); we went to the trading station at Tuba City, where the man offered her $5.00 for her beautiful blanket. I was standing by, witnessed the deal, and instantly offered to buy the blanket. The man was furious—he had to sell it to me for $10.00 instead of the $100.00 he could have got. I gave the old lady another $5.00 and we parted happily, though I have felt guilty ever since. Later I went back but found the hogan deserted—the Navajos had been driven out.

At the turn of the century, schooling was compulsory for Hopi boys, who were forced to cut their hair and forbidden to speak Hopi. Those elders who protested were labeled the Hostiles. In 1891 and 1894 the Hostiles were rounded up, arrested by U.S. troops, and imprisoned for a time. In 1906 young people were sent to Carlisle Indian School in the East, smaller children were sent to Keams Canyon, and the Kikmongui, the most influential men, were sent to the Sherman Indian School in California. When Albert B. Fall became Secretary of the Interior in 1921, a familiar plot was played out. The name of Albert Fall should still ring a bell—Teapot Dome Oil and the scandals of the Harding Administration. Standard Oil had discovered the oil on the reservations in 1921, and Fall went all out to take over. “Along with various schemes to defraud the Indians of their land, oil, and mineral rights would be injected a plan by Fall’s Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Charles H. Burke, to deny the Indian what freedom of religion he still enjoyed.”5 “Freedom of Religion, as provided for in the Bill of Rights, rarely, until recent times, was even considered as applying to religions of the Indians of the United States [and today we still deny them peyote]. In fact, . . . it was government policy to aid missionaries in converting the Indians to one or another of the Christian denominations [and, incidentally, turned them against the Mormons]. Definite stipulations curtailing Indian freedom of religion were contained in the official Bureau of Indian Affairs regulations, often referred to as its ‘Religious Crimes Code.’ “6 The suppression of the Sun Dance ceremony at the instance of missionaries and government officials “led to the enactment of a regulation which, although aimed particularly at the Sun Dance, concluded that ‘all similar dances and so-called religious ceremonies, shall be considered ‘Indian Offenses,’ punishable by ‘incarceration in the agency prison for a period not exceeding thirty days.’ “7

“In 1922 . . . the Senate . . . pass[ed] the so-called Bursum bill, taking the most valuable agricultural lands of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico.”8 In the following year Commissioner Burke wrote to all Indians: “I feel that something must be done to stop the neglect of stock, crops, gardens, and home interests caused by these dances or by celebrations, pow wows, and gatherings of any kind that take the time of the Indians for many days. . . . No good comes from your ‘give-away’ custom at dances and it should be stopped. . . . You do yourselves and your families great injustice when at dances you give away money and other property, perhaps clothing [had he never heard of Christmas?]. . . . I could issue an order against these useless and harmful performances, but I would much rather have you give them up of your own free will. . . . I urge you . . . to hold no gatherings in the months when the seed time, cultivation, and harvest need your attention, and at other times to meet for only a short period and have no drugs, intoxicants, or gambling and no dancing that Superintendent does not approve. If at the end of one year the reports which I receive show . . . that you reject this plea then some other course will have to be taken.”9 Need we recall that God commanded Moses to lead the people in the great feasts at the seed time, cultivation, and harvest? Just as he commanded them to waste their time resting on the Sabbath?

Three hundred and seventy formal treaties with the Indians, which by the Constitution are the law of the land, have nearly all been violated as ninety percent of the land has been taken from them. The Dawes Act of 1887 was held as a liberating gesture, for it allowed individual Indians to own the land privately and, best of all, to sell it, which was the purpose of the whole thing, of course. In 1934 the Indian Reorganization Act set up the tribal councils for a democratic representation. The Indian votes No by not voting at all—after all the Yes votes are counted, it is assumed that the rest vote No, since all must vote. Oliver Lefarge explained that to the Commission, but they went ahead and installed Tribal Councils with the tiniest possible number of Indians approving—the No-votes did not count.

In 1946 the Indian Claims Act compensated Indians in money for their lands, but deprived them of all title. The government could claim to be acting in good faith, since we sincerely believed that anything could be honestly and fairly had if enough money was offered for it. The most vicious proviso of the Act allowed lawyers to receive ten percent of the fee that was paid, and an army of lawyers descended from all sides to help the Indians settle the compulsory compensation. The Utes did not want the money—they wanted the land, and they still say so. But Ernest L. Wilkinson was able to make a settlement for 30 million dollars, collected his ten percent and came to Provo trailing clouds of glory and talking loudly of Manifest Destiny.

I got to know him quite well, beginning with our clash at the very first faculty meeting. He had given a degree to a friend in Washington, and some of the faculty protested that degrees should be bestowed or at least approved by colleges, such being the immemorial practice of universities. Well, a paper was circulated to that effect, and some people signed it. Wilkinson stormed into that first faculty meeting in a towering rage: This has nothing to do with right or wrong, whether it was moral or immoral is irrelevant. The only question is, was it legal? Who would dare question him on a point of law? Who signed this protest? I had signed it, so I stood up, and I was the only one. “Come and see me in my office!” I did and we became good friends—being a lawyer, he was not at all upset by adversarial confrontation; in fact, he enjoyed it. I was his home teacher at the time, and he started out at the “Y” by familiarizing himself with the students with a fireside at his house, followed by other such firesides, some of which I attended. The theme of his discussion in all of these was, “What was the difference between being dishonest and being shrewd?” He illustrated each time by his own case. When he was in Washington fresh out of law school, he was looking for a job, and so found himself in Senator King’s office. The senator was not there, but the secretary allowed him to use the phone for what he said was an urgent call. It was urgent indeed, for he called up the office of Justice Charles Evans Hughes and said, “This is Senator King’s office speaking. I would like to recommend a certain young man, etc., of high qualifications to work for the Justice.” And so he became a clerk to the celebrated Chief-Justice Charles Evans Hughes—not dishonest, just shrewd.

At the second faculty meeting we got another shocker. The family that owned the farm on Temple Hill where President Wilkinson wanted the land for expansion refused to sell. President W. would appeal to eminent domain, but it was his introductory remark that rocked us: “I never yet saw a contract I couldn’t break,” he boasted. I mention this because this has been our ace-card in dealing with the Indians through the years—aptness in breaking and ignoring contracts.

When I got out of the army in 1946, I made a beeline for the Colorado Plateau, lived with a ranch family in Hurricane, and traveled all over the area in roads at that time marked on the maps with such inviting admonitions as “Do not enter without guides,” and “Carry water,” and “Make inquiries.” The impressive thing was the utter desolation into which the Indians had been turned out to starve, like the scapegoat in the desert. But before long the same vast area was buzzing with activity. Helicopters and specially equipped trucks were everywhere looking for uranium. Promptly a decree from Washington forbade any Hopi to go out of sight of his mesa. That was a hard one to enforce, so it was followed up by another that in order to operate, one would have to have at least ten million dollars capital. So the Hopis were out of it.

What a turnabout! For all those years they had nothing we wanted—having turned them out from any valuables they happened to be sitting on; but now even this desolate place had the very things we wanted most of all. We on the other hand always believed quite sincerely that what the Indians most wanted and needed must surely be our superior knowledge and technology. Technology was all we had to offer after all, but as we have seen, they refused that—even vital water pumps for Polacca were turned down, and attempts to electrify Hotevila in 1984 and 1986 were deliberately wrecked—we would say vandalized, which is exactly how the Indians reviewed our activities on the land. The supreme irony is that our technology will not work without their energy, locked up in the coal, the oil, the natural gas, the uranium, and the water, which we are exhausting at a record rate. You are probably familiar with the so-called Hopi-Navajo controversy. I have watched Hopi and Navajo barter in total silence, since neither understood the other’s language, and in perfect amity. They would meet and celebrate their pow-wows together, and everybody had a great time. But that has stopped since the discovery of coal and oil on the sacred Black Mesa—controversy has been stirred up between them, though the Hopis have been perfectly content to let the Navajos graze on the northern areas as they have for generations. The game has been to push the Navajos off land which the Hopis do not use and so let the Big Boys move into it. I heard Barry Goldwater declare on TV that if the Navajos did not move out of their homes, he, as commander of the Arizona National Guard, would send in his helicopter gun-ships and drive them out. Our little Vietnam. Finally, the so-called Trilateral Commission of energy and military interests has recommended that the entire Colorado Plateau be set aside as a “National Sacrifice Area,” in which the coal, oil, uranium, natural gas, timber, and water could be extracted, the power developed in huge coal-burning plants immune to EPA regulation against pollution, with power lines, railroad lines, slurry lines crossing the area to take the final product to the great cities of the coast and to animate the million light bulbs, which are the glory of Las Vegas. It was a sacrifice area because there would be no obligation whatever to observe any niceties in extracting the stuff and especially to restoring any of the landscape after it had been ruined. Naturally in this scheme the Hopis have been considered nothing but a primitive obstruction—hence the generous offer to move them all to the dire inner city of Los Angeles.

The Two Ways

The ancient doctrine of the Two Ways is a lively one with the Hopis. A thing is either Hopi or Ka-Hopi. When I first went there they spoke of three ways, those of the Hopi, the Pahana, and the Momona—the Mormons, which in the early days were manifestly not typically Pahana, who in fact were constantly denouncing them to the Indians. But one of the best Indian men I know told me very recently that the Indians no longer consider the Mormons their friends. And it is not hard to understand why.

There is a bitter joke among the Navajo today: “What is the Peabody Corporation?” Answer, “A bunch of Mormon lawyers getting rich.”

A list of the nineteen principal corporations seeking the wealth of the Colorado Plateau in order of the money invested begins with Pacific Gas and Electric, with the controlling stock owned by the Rothschild family. We go down the list of awesome and familiar names such as the City Bank of New York controlling the Public Service Company of New Mexico; number four in the list is the Arizona Public Service Corporation with its huge coal-burning power plants selling electricity far and wide, the main investor being the Latter-day Saint Church. We go on to Standard Oil of Ohio, controlled by British Petroleum Ltd.; the Gulf Corporation, by the Mellon and Hunt families; Utah International, by General Electric; Peabody Coal Company, by Equitable Life of New York; El Paso Gas, Coal and Power, by the Latter-day Saint Church; and so on to Shell Oil, Mobile Oil (Bankers Trust of New York, Hess family, John Paul Getty, Manufacturers Hanover Bank; Citibank, J. P. Morgan).

Is all this for the Indians’ own good? When the Navajos asked for an increase in the royalties they were receiving for their coal from $.15 a ton to $1.50 a ton, they were roundly denounced, according to the New York Times, by Mormon lawyers, so specified, for jeopardizing the sanctity of a contract—had they no shame?

With increasing interest in the Indians and a considerable growing literature on the subject, the Mormons are regularly given a black eye in books and articles—a black eye which they would not deserve if they would only pay a little more attention to their scriptures. There is one common ground, one common need, between us and them, and it is the Book of Mormon. Consider how much it tells us about the present situation. First of all, we accept the Great Spirit—we do not consider the Indians heathen. King Lamoni mistook the visiting superman Ammon for the Great Spirit, a mistake which his descendants have made more than once, to their loss. To his servants he said, “I know that [this] is the Great Spirit; and he has come down at this time to preserve your lives” (Alma 18:4). But Ammon explained that he was not the Great Spirit, “Believest thou that there is a God?” (Alma 18:24). Lamoni: “I do not know what that meaneth” (Alma 18:25), or What are you talking about? Ammon: “Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit? And he said, Yea. And Ammon said This is God, . . . this Great Spirit . . . is God [who] created all things” (Alma 18:26—28). Can we not safely say that we believe on that same Great Spirit who is God, just as we believe in Allah when we understand who he is? Our missionaries in Lebanon had no other name for him.

In the second place we believe the one thing which the Indians are constantly emphasizing, that all things are spiritual; to be carnal minded, says the Book of Mormon, is death; but to be spiritually minded is eternal life. Carnal mindedness embraces those four things which both Nephis declare will destroy any society, namely seeking for power, gain, popularity, and the lusts of the flesh (1 Nephi 22:23; 3 Nephi 6:15). For particulars see your local TV guide. In the third place is their attitude to nature, which is their livelihood, beautifully summed up in Doctrine and Covenants 49: “For behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance. But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin. And wo unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need” (D&C 49:19—21). This is the creed of the Hopi which so shocks us. If you live on a soaring rock 200 yards long and 50 yards wide with a hundred other families, you will find little room to accumulate the things of this world.

What we are speaking of is that ideal society described in the Book of Mormon as being established by the Lord in person, to succeed and fulfill the Law of Moses, that society which we should both emulate. Quoting from 4 Nephi, “And there were no contentions and disputations among them [the Hopi, as we all know, are the peaceable people and do everything to avoid violence—are we that way?], and every man did deal justly one with another [no money, no law courts]. And they had all things [in] common among them [“if one has corn we all have corn”]; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. . . . And the Lord did prosper them exceedingly in the land; Yea, insomuch that they did build cities” (4 Nephi 1:2—3, 7). But it wasn’t easy—they had to work at it exactly as the Hopis do, meticulously carrying out all the prescribed functions. These are, it is true, mere “forms and observances,” but they “point their minds forward,” as with the Nephites—did not old Tom in Hotevila instantly recognize and accept the gospel because he was the most thoroughly trained man of the village in his own religion? “And they did not walk any more after the performances and ordinances of the law of Moses; but they did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord and their God, continuing in fasting and prayer, and in meeting together oft both to pray and to hear the word of the Lord. . . . And . . . there was no contention among all the people, in all the land” (4 Nephi 1:12—13). To this day and against fearful cultural and economic opposition, the Hopis persist in their fasting and their prayers; they meet together unfailingly to pray each week—all the villages come together for ceremonies at one place. There the Baho-feathers are always in evidence, for they are the call to prayer. But the dances are also accompanied by sermons, teaching things of life and death, even as temple sessions of the Latter-day Saints in the early days were followed by dancing,10 and as the great celebrations of Israel as ordered by Moses always required rejoicing and dancing to the sound of the timbrel, the sackbut, and the drum. I have seen such happy ring dances of Jewish elders performed near the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem while members of our Latter-day Saint tour group expressed lively disapproval of such undignified goings-on. In the times of upheaval and destruction, the legends tell us, the Hopi have survived by coming together on the mountain tops and singing together, uniting their voices in praise, until the evil passes. Even so I can still hear my grandmother fervidly singing, “When thy judgments spread destruction, keep us safe on Zion’s hill; singing praises, singing praises, songs of glory unto thee,” etc.11 That goes back to the Jaredites and their sing-ins while they crossed the violent ocean (Ether 6:9).

After two hundred years the Nephites relaxed and reverted to the easier program of privatization: “And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them. And they began to be divided into classes; [business was booming] and they began to build up churches unto themselves to get gain, and began to deny the true church of Christ. . . . And yet they did deny the more parts of his gospel. . . . And this church did multiply exceedingly . . . because of the power of Satan who did get hold upon their hearts” (4 Nephi 1:25—28). This is surely an ominous statement. The people claimed to worship Christ, and they did have parts of the gospel, but Satan was their inspiration. We will consider their condition later, but first let us ask whether there is any chance at all of our two cultures merging with their present teachings intact. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read that “My gospel shall go unto the Lamanites” (D&C 28:8) and all nations through the Book of Mormon. “And this was their [the Nephites’] faith—that my gospel . . . might come unto their brethren the Lamanites, and also all that had become Lamanites because of their dissensions” (D&C 10:48). That broad and inclusive term includes a rich ethnic mix, specified in the Book of Mormon as Nephites, Zoramites, Mulekites, Jaredites, and others who may have become Lamanites; there are as well broad implications of other people, including “former inhabitants of this continent” (Joseph Smith—History 1:34), making contacts. “They did leave a blessing upon this land in their prayers [how very Indian!]. . . . And now, behold, according to their faith in their prayers [also very Indian, that obsessive faith in prayer itself] will I bring this part of my gospel to the knowledge of my people” (D&C 10:50, 52).

Would not that have a disruptive effect on their established traditions? On the contrary, it would strengthen them: “Behold, I do not bring it to destroy that which they have received, but to build it up. And for this cause have I said: If this generation [of Lamanites] harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them” (D&C 10:52—53). But what effect will this have on the members of the restored Church—if the Indians have nothing to lose by joining the Church, do the church members stand in any danger of contamination? Not at all! “Now I do not say this to destroy my church, but I say this to build up my church; Therefore, whosoever belongeth to my Church need not fear, for such shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. But it is they who do not fear me, neither keep my commandments but build up churches unto themselves to get gain, yea, and all those that do wickedly and build up the kingdom of the devil— . . . it is they that I will disturb” (D&C 10:54—56).

We need the resources of “backward people” for raw materials as we need their markets for expansion. It is the old imperialist game, with energy as the good of first intent. But they don’t need anything we have, neither our goods nor our money; all they want is the land. For that matter, our own people are soon glutted with the products of the ever-expanding corporate giants. Nothing amazed me more in the remote backwaters of the Fayyum in Egypt, among villages unchanged for five- or six-thousand years (and looking and acting very much like Hopi villages, incidentally), in this most stable of all civilizations to see the landscape dominated by enormous American billboards, “Come to Marlboro Country!” The Americans won’t take any more of the poison stuff, so now it must be forced on the poor backward Egyptians; and so now we too must be prodded, wheedled, shamed, and beguiled into buying more stuff by enormously costly and ingenious sales campaigns; every ten minutes our absorption in the soap or sport or documentary is interrupted with a “message” demanding our instant and undivided attention. No wonder we have lost all capacity for concentration or critical thought, and, above all, reflection and meditation, preeminent Indian skills.

In 1540 when Pedro de Tovar came up to Bear Chief, who was standing to greet him on the rise at Old Oraibi, the chief reached out his hand to establish the visitor’s identity by offering him the sacred handclasp, the nachwach—was he really the promised White Brother? Naturally, the Spaniard, who had come looking for gold and nothing else, thought he was asking for money and placed a gold coin in his hand. Have you any signs or tokens? asked the chief. Yes, I have money, replied the visitor. From that moment the Hopis knew it was not the one they were looking for,12 and to this day they have never been converted to Christianity. We are most fortunate in possessing Satan’s game-plan, which he gave away in a fit of temper in the Garden of Eden. The perennial source of wealth, the treasures of the earth, are to be controlled by the convenient symbols of a money economy, gold and silver; these are used to buy up kings and presidents, armies and navies, popes and priests. They are controlled by “secret combinations, to get power and gain” (Ether 8:22; cf. 8:18—19), and the result is rule by violence. Adam rejected the plan, but Cain bought into it, and so became “master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain” (Moses 5:31)—the great design which at last is nearing fulfillment in our day of converting all living things into marketable commodities.13

We may be puzzled about the Indian’s insistence in viewing all things, including the earth itself, as alive, though it is a doctrine clearly taught by Joseph Smith, Young, and other of our prophets. We say a human is worth more than an owl, but as Black Elk puts it, what do we care for humans? To reverence life is to reverence all life. “I could see that the Wasichus did not care for each other the way our people did before the nation’s hoop was broken. They would take everything from each other if they could, and so there were some who had more of everything than they could use, while crowds of people had nothing at all and maybe were starving.”14

The first revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants puts us into the picture which the Indian sees of us: “Every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall. . . . The hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand, when peace shall be taken [away] from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion” (D&C 1:16, 35).

And so we get to the ultimate prophecies, which we also share with the Indians.

And I command you that ye shall write these sayings after I am gone. . . . But wo . . . unto the unbelieving of the Gentiles . . . [who] have scattered my people . . . and have  . . . trodden [them underfoot]. . . . At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and . . . hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations [again consult your TV Guide]. (3 Nephi 16:4, 8—10)

Note that lying comes first in the list, a judgment that few will dispute today.15 “If they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, . . . I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them. And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people . . . and I will bring my gospel unto them. . . . The Gentiles shall not have power over you; . . . and ye shall come unto the knowledge of the fulness of my gospel. But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, . . . behold, they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel. And I will not suffer my people . . . [to] tread them down” (3 Nephi 16:10—14). There is an ominous note here which we cannot pursue.

The promise is repeated in the last speech to the Nephites: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, thus hath the Father commanded me—that I should give unto this people this land for their inheritance (3 Nephi 16:16). And it shall come to pass that all lyings, and deceivings, and envyings, and strifes, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms shall be done away. . . . But if they will repent . . . I will establish my church among them, and they shall come in unto the covenant and be numbered among this the remnant of Jacob, unto whom I have given this land for an inheritance; And they shall assist my people, the remnant of Jacob, and also as many of the house of Israel as shall come, that they may build a city, which shall be called the New Jerusalem” (3 Nephi 21:19, 22—24). Throughout these explicit prophecies it is the Gentiles who join: “the Lamanites and those who have become Lamanites,” not the other way around. If we are to be saved we must move in their direction.


1. See CWHN 4:21—22, 366—67, 383; 6:preface xv, 295—310, 506; 8:247—48, 301—2, 317—18.

2. Black Elk Speaks, as told through John G. Neihardt (Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1988), 43.

3. William R. Palmer, Two Pahute Indian Legends: “Why the Grand Canyon Was Made” and “The Three Days of Darkness” (Cheney, WA: Citizen Journal Press, 1987), 21—22.

4. “Racial Navaho Letter Prompts Removal of Subcontractor,” Salt Lake Tribune, 17 January 1986.

5. Harry C. James, Pages from Hopi History (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1974), 185.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid., 185—86.

8. Ibid., 186.

9. Ibid., 187—88.

10. Heber C. Kimball Journal, cited in Elden J. Watson, Brigham Young Addresses 1836—1849, vol. 1 (n.p., 1979): “Pres. Young called the attention of the whole company, and gave them a message . . . that this temple [Nauvoo] was a holy place, and that when we danced we danced unto the Lord, and that no person would be allowed to come on to this floor, and afterwards mingle with the wicked. . . . He strongly impressed upon the mind of those present the impropriety of mingling again with the wicked after having come in here, and taken upon them the covenants” (1 January 1846).

11. William Williams, “Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah,” in Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985), no. 83, verse 3.

12. Frank Waters, Book of the Hopi (New York: Ballantine Books, 1963), 308—9.

13. Jerry Mander, In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations (San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books, 1991); regarding Hopis, see 268—86.

14. Black Elk Speaks, 217

15. Paul Gray, “Lies, Lies, Lies,” Time Magazine (5 October 1992): 32—38.


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.[1] 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.[2] 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.”[3] 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,[4] 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[5]).

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.”[6]

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.”[7] 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…”[8]

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.

Land Settlements

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[9] 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[10] should ring a bell.  This act, enacted and signed when Chester Arthur, the 21st President of the United States[11], 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,[12] 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[13] 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.[14] 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.”[15] Today it provides more than 10% of all the U.S. electricity, and more than 2% of worldwide electricity needs.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18] 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.[19]

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.[20] 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.”[21] 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.[22] 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.[23] 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.”[24] 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.[25] 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.”[26]

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.[27] 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).[28]

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.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31]

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.”[32]
  • 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[33] 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).”[34] 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.”[35] 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.”[36] 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.”[37] 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.[38] 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.”[39] 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.”[40] 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)[41] 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.[42] 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.

Truth

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.”[43] 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.


[1] Adhesion Contract:  http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/adhesion+contract.  Retrieved 06/08/2010

[2] See Mosiah 2:26; 2 Ne. 9:7; Mormon 6:15 and last, but certainly not least, Moses 7:48.

[3] Judith Nies.  “The Syncline and Roberta Blackgoat.”  http://www.angelfire.com/realm/dinehinfo/pages/blackmesasyn.html.  Retrieved 06/08/2010.

[4] Philip Coppens, The Wanderers of the Fourth Worldhttp://www.philipcoppens.com/hopi.html.  Retrieved 06/08/2010.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Coppen.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Desert Land Act:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desert_Land_Act.  Retrieved 06/08/2010.

[10] Edmunds Act:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmunds_Act.  Retrieved 06/08/2010.

[11] Chester Arthur. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chester_A._Arthur.  Retrieved 06/08/2010.

[12] US Code, Title 25, § 640d-9.  http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/25/usc_sec_25_00000640—d009-.html.  Retrieved 06/08/2010.

[13] Peabody Coal, History.  http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/Peabody-Coal-Company-Company-History.html.  Retrieved 06/09/2010.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] http://www.peabodyenergy.com/Profile/PeabodysHistory.asp.  Retrieved 06/09/2010.

[17] Danae Friel, BYU Magazine, “Ernest L. Wilkinson, University Builder.”  http://magazine.byu.edu/print.php?a=207.  Retrieved 06/09/2010.

[18] Ibid.

[19] http://unicomm.byu.edu/president/wilkinson.aspx.  Retrieved 06/13/2010.

[20] Richard Poll, Working the Divine Miracle:  The Life of Apostle Henry D. Moylehttp://signaturebooks.com/?p=2016.  Retrieved 06/13/2010.

[21] Gregory Prince.  David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, page 265.

[22] Ibid.  Page 214.

[23] Ed Marston, High Country News, “Seeking Justice for all on the Colorado Plateau.”  07/05/1999.  http://www.hcn.org/issues/158/5125.  Retrieved 06/16/2010.

[24] 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.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Marston, “Seeking Justice for all on the Colorado Plateau.”

[27] “A Shining Star in the Business Community.”  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/59370/A-shining-star-in-business-community.html.  Retrieved 06/09/2010.

[28] Kennecott Corporation History.  http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/Kennecott-Corporation-Company-History.html.  Retrieved 06/08/2010.

[29] Lucy Raven, Triple Canopy, “Daybreak.”  http://canopycanopycanopy.com/7/daybreak.  Retrieved 06/09/2010.

[30] Tailings.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tailings.  Retrieved 06/09/2010.

[31] Biography:  H. David Burton.  http://www.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/background-information/leader-biographies/bishop-h-david-burton.  Retrieved 06/15/2010.

[32] http://filehost.org.ru/files/516/Church_Handbook_of_Instructions.pdf.  Retrieved 06/16/2010.  Page 168.

[33] Ibid.  Page 466.

[34] Ibid.  Page 14.

[35] Jason Swenson, “City Creek Center.”  10/07/2006.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/49614/City-Creek-Center.html.  Retrieved 06/16/2010.

[36] Ibid.

[37] 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.

[38] 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.

[39] “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.

[40] 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.

[41] 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).

[42] Afghan Riches:  Mineral Wealth Raises Questions for the U.S. http://www.istockanalyst.com/article/viewiStockNews/articleid/4221139.  Retrieved 06/16/2010.

[43] Definition:  Ere.  http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,ere Retrieved 06/16/2010.


As I was sitting in the library today their internet connection went down.  And it wasn’t one of those “down for 2 minutes” kind of down.  It ended up down for several hours.  As I was sitting there wondering what to do – go home or study – I flipped open a copy of Hugh Nibley’s Approaching Zion.  A book which I had only plucked off the library shelf a mere hour or so earlier.  Not sure I was wanting to delve into Nibley’s writings, I semi-randomly flipped the book open to page 52 and began reading.  Paragraph after paragraph seemed to roll off the pages relating precisely to topics I have studied only weeks prior, both echoing sentiments I have felt as well as answering questions I was myself posing.  Therefore, in spite of myself, it was with great interest that I read what was being shared about Zion.

In that vein, I shall transcribe and share what Nibley so aptly shared (spans pages 50-63 of Approaching Zion). I thought about mixing this post together with my words, but really don’t think that it does much justice to what Nibley so eloquently wrote.  The problems he decried those many years ago remain even more prevalent today, if not more so.  We are so far from Zion, the view so distant, that it scarcely seems imaginable.  The teachings on Zion have been, if only mildly, corrupted to the point where we no longer believe in a physical gathering where we can live the laws of a Zion, instead placating ourselves with a Zion that’s but a mere shell of what we yearn for.  We’re told that Zion is wherever you are, it’s where you live, it’s in your heart.  This is true, to a degree.  Zion does begin in the heart, where you live.  However, I see this as a means to an end.  At some point we will have to leave Babylon – fully and completely – and exit stage right if we’re to ever advance as we simply must to attain what others have looked forward to for so long…but alas, I’m left alone with these thoughts, pondering, myself, the next step.  It’s in this spirit that I share these words from Hugh Nibley:

============================================================================================================

In Zion, all are “of one heart and one mind … and there [are] no poor among them” (Moses 7:18), thus showing that equality extends into all fields, as it must also be in the preparation for Zion: “For if ye are not equal in earthly things, ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things.  For if you will that I give you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves” (D&C 76:6-7).  “And you are to be equal … to have equal claims … every man according to his wants and his needs … every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all the things with an eye single to the glory of God” (D&C 82:17, 19).  Well, there is a great deal of this.  In the words of the Prophet Joseph, “The greatest temporal and spiritual blessings which always come from faithfulness and concerted effort, never attended individual exertion or enterprise”[1] (a statement I do not recall having heard from the stand for some time).  This was a hard lesson to learn: to come down to earth.  “The Latter-day Saints, in their conduct and acts with regard to financial matters, are like the rest of the world.  The course pursued by men of business in the world has a tendency to make a few rich, and to sink the masses of the people in poverty and degradation.  Too many of the Elders of Israel take this course.  No matter what comes they are for gain – for gathering around them riches; and when they get rich, how are those riches used?  Spent on the lusts of the flesh.”[2] As to the idler eating the bread of the laborer, “I have seen many cases …,” says Brigham, “when the young lady would have to take her clothing on a Saturday night and wash it, in order that she might go to meeting on the Sunday with a clean dress on.  Who is she laboring for?  For those who, many of them, are living in luxury.  And, to serve the classes that are living on them, the poor, laboring men and women are toiling, working their lives out to earn that which will keep a little life within them.  Is this equality?  No! What is going to be done? The Latter-day Saints will never accomplish their mission until this inequality shall cease on this earth.”[3] “The earth is here, and the fullness thereof is here.  It was made for man; and one man was not made to trample his fellowman under his feet, and enjoy all his hearts desires, while the thousands suffer.”[4] Regardless of who works and who doesn’t, no just father is going to order one son clothed in robes and another in rags (D&C 38:26).

Of course, the man who devotes himself to the tiring routines of business should be rewarded, but should all others be penalized who do not engage in that particular line of work?  “Where, then, is your great ability?  In your pockets – in the god so much adored,” says Brigham with contempt; there is other work to be done and far greater:  “But take the men that can travel the earth over, preach the Gospel without purse or scrip, and then go to and lay their plans to gather the saints.  That looks like the work of angels.”[5] Granted that those who acquire wealth are sometimes people of superior talent (though for every real artist, or poet, or composer in America, there are at least ten thousand millionaires), “those who are blessed with superior abilities,” even in business, “should use those blessings … to administer to others less favored.”  Our gifts and talents are to be put at the disposal of the human race, not used to put the race at our disposal.  “Instead of this,” Brigham notes, “man has become so perverted as to debar his fellows as much as possible from those blessings, and constrain them by physical force or circumstances to contribute of the proceeds of their labour to sustain the favoured few.”[6] That is not Zion, but that is what we have.  Should we settle for it?

The doctrine of united together in our temporal labors, and all working for the good of all is from the beginning, from everlasting, and it will be for ever and ever.  No one supposes for one moment that in heaven the angels are speculating, that they are building railroads and factories, taking advantage one of another, gathering up the substance there is in heaven to aggrandize themselves, and that they live on the same principle that we are in the habit of doing.  No Christian, no sectarian Christian, in the world believes this; they believe that the inhabitants of heaven live as a family, that their faith, interests and pursuits have one end in view – the glory of God and their own salvation, that they may receive more and more … We all believe this, and suppose we go to work and imitate them as far as we can.”[7]

“There are men in this community who, through the force of the education they have received from their parents nad friends [i.e., this is an established ethic among us], would cheat a poor widow out of her last cow, and then go down upon their knees and thank God for the good fortune he had sent them and for his kind providences that enabled them to obtain a cow without becoming amenable to any law of the land, though the poor widow had actually been cheated.”[8] Here, please note, the defense of immorality is legality:  if it is legal, all is well, even though the law has been contrived under pressure of interest groups.

God recognizes only one justification for seeking wealth, and that is with the express intent of helping the poor (Jacob 2:19).  One of the disturbing things about Zion is that its appeal, according to the scriptures, is all to the poor:  “The Lord hat founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it” (Isaiah 14:32).  Of course, once in Zion, no one suffers from poverty, for they dwell in righteousness and there are no poor among them (Moses 7:18).  The law of consecration is a minimal requirement, for “if my people observe not this law, … it shall not be a land of Zion unto you” (D&C 119:6).  Here our rhetoric engages in a neat bit of sophistry that has always been popular:

Elders of Israel are greedy after the things of this world.  If you ask them if they are ready to build up the kingdom of God, their answer is prompt – “Why, to be sure we are, with our whole souls; but we want first to get so much gold, speculate and get rich, and then we can help the church considerably.  We will go to California and get gold, go and buy goods and get rich, trade with the emigrants, build a mill, make a farm, get a large herd of cattle, and then we can do a great deal for Israel.”[9]

I have heard this many times from friends and relatives, but it is hokum.  What they are saying is, “If God will give me a million dollars, I will let him have a generous cut of it.”  And so they pray and speculate and expect the Lord to come through for them.  He won’t do it:  “And, again, I command thee that thou shalt not covert thine own property” (D&C 19:26).  “Let them repent of all their sins, and of all their covetous desires, before me, saith the Lord, for what is property unto me? Saith the Lord” (D&C 117:4).  He does not need our property or our help.

Every rhetorician knows that his most effective weapons by far are labels.  He can demolish the opposition with simple and devastating labels such as communism, socialism, or atheism, popery, militarism, or Mormonism, or give his clients’ worst crimes a religious glow with noble labels such as integrity, old-fashioned honesty, tough-mindedness, or free competitive enterprise.  “You can get away with anything if you just wave the flag,” a business partner of my father once told me.  He called that patriotism.  But the label game reaches its all-time peak of skill and effrontery in the Madison Avenue master stroke of pasting the lovely label Zion on all the most typical institutions of Babylon:  Zion’s Loans, Zion’s Real Estate, Zion’s Used Cars, Zion’s Jewelry, Zion’s Supermarket, Zion’s Auto Wrecking, Zion’s Outdoor Advertising, Zion’s Land and Mining, Zion’s Development, Zion’s Securities, Zion’s Bank – all that is quintessentially Babylon now masquerades as Zion.

There is a precedent for the bit of faking – a most distinguished one.  Satan, being neither stupid nor inexperienced, knows the value of a pleasing appearance – there are times when it pays to appear even as an angel of light.  He goes farther than that, however, to assure that success of his masquerade (given out since the days of Adam) as a picturesquely repulsive figure – a four-star horror with claws, horns, or other obvious trimmings.  With that idea firmly established, he can operate with devastating effectiveness as a very proper gentleman, a handsome and persuasive salesman.  He “decoys” our minds (a favorite word of Brigham Young) with false words and appearances.  A favorite trick is to put the whole blame on sex.  Sex can be a pernicious appetite, but it runs a poor second to the other.  For example:  we are wont to think of Sodom as the original sexpot, but according to all accounts “this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom”: that great wealth made her people cruel and self-righteous.[10]

The worst sinners, according to Jesus, are not the harlots and publicans, but the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism.  Longhairs, beards, necklaces, LSD and rock, Big Sur and Woodstock come and go, but Babylon is always there:  rich, respectable, immovable, with its granite walls and steel vaults, its bronze gates, its onyx trimmings and marble floors (all borrowed from ancient temples, for these are our modern temples), and its bullet-proof glass – the awesome symbols of total security.  Keeping her orgies decently private, she presents a front of unalterable propriety to all.  As the early Christian writers observed, Babylon always wins:  in every showdown throughout history, Satan has remained in possession of the field, and he still holds it.  Its security and respectability exert a strong appeal:  “When I see this people grown and spread and prosper,” said Brigham Young, “I feel there is more danger than when they are in poverty.  Being driven from city to city … is nothing compared to the danger of becoming rich and being hailed by outsiders as a first class community.”[11]

Brigham Young had this to say on the Puritan ethic, which shifts the burden of guilt from wealth to sex:

When the books are opened, out of which the human family are to be judged, how disappointed the professedly sanctified, long-faced hypocrites and smooth toned Pharisees will be, when the publicans and harlots enter into the kingdom of heaven before them; people that appeared to be full of evil, but the Lord says they never designed to do wrong; the Devil had power over them, and they suffered in their mortal state a thousand times more than you poor, miserable, canting, cheating, sniveling, hypocritical Pharisees; you were dressed in purple and fine linen, and bound burdens upon your weaker brethren that you would not so much as help to lift with your little fingers.  Did you ever go without food, suffer with tooth-ache, sore eyes, rheumatism, or the chills and fever?  You have fared sumptuously all your days and you condemned to an everlasting hell these poor harlots and publicans who never designed an evil.  Are you not guilty of committing an evil with that poor harlot?  Yes, and you will be damned while she will be saved.[12]

When the Saints were shocked by growing juvenile delinquency in their midst, who were the real criminals?  Brigham knows:  “I have not the least hesitation in saying that the loose conduct, and calculations, and manner of doing business, which have characterized men who have had property in their hands, have laid the foundation to bring our boys into the spirit of stealing.  You have caused them to do it, you have laid before them every inducement possible, to learn their hands and train their minds to take that which is not their own.”[13] But the respectable appearance will nearly always win, though the Lord has said, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

Here are a few notes from Brigham on this clever campaign:  “The devil appears as a gentleman when he presents himself to the children of men.”[14] “The devil does not care how much religion there is on the earth; he is a great preacher, and to all appearance, a great gentleman. … It is popular now-a-days to be religious; it has become the seasoning to a great deal of rascality, hypocrisy and crime.”[15] “The adversary presents his principles and arguments in the most approved style, and in the most winning tone, attended with the most graceful attitudes; and hi sis very careful to ingratiate himself into the favour of the powerful and influential of mankind, uniting himself with popular parties, floating into offices of trust and emolument by pandering to popular feeling, though it should seriously wrong and oppress the innocent.”[16] No atheism here!  “The servants of sin should appear polished and pious … able to call to their assistance … the subtle, persuasive power of rhetoric.”[17] “The devil is an orator,” said Joseph Smith.  “He is powerful; … he can tempt all classes.”[18]

The sorriest thing about Babylon’s masquerade and the switched villains is that there is nothing the least bit clever or subtle about it.  It is all as crude, obvious, and heavy handed as it can be, and it only gets by because everybody wants it to.  We rather like the Godfather and the lively and competitive world he moves in: what would TV do without it?  What other world have our children ever known?  We want to be vindicated in our position and to know that the world is on our side as we all join in a chorus of righteous denunciation; the haircut becomes the test of virtue in a world where Satan deceives and rules by appearance.  The full-fledged citizen of Babylon is an organization man:  Daniel was thrown to the lions before he would give up his private devotions offensive to the administration to which he belonged; his three friends preferred being cast into a fiery furnace to the simple act of facing and saluting the image of the king of Babylon who had given them wealth, power, and position in his kingdom, to whom they owed all allegiance, when the band played in the Plain of Dura.  For Brigham Young, conformity is the danger signal:  “I am not a stereotyped Latter-day Saint,” he said, “and do not believe in the doctrine … Away with stereotyped ‘Mormons’!”[19] When, as a boy, he was asked by his father to sign a temperance pledge, he resolutely refused.[20] Youth rebelling against respectability?  No, honesty resisting social pressure and hypocrisy.

Why this highly unoriginal talk?  Because if this is a very important and cosmic part of the gospel, it is also a much neglected one.

All of my life I have shied away from these disturbing and highly unpopular – even offensive – themes.  But I cannot do so any longer, because in my old age I have taken to reading the scriptures and there have had it forced upon my reluctant attention, that from the time of Adam to the present day, Zion has been pitted against Babylon, and the name of the game has always been money – “power and gain.”

It has been supposed that wealth gives power.  In a depraved state of society, in a certain sense it does, if opening a wide field for unrighteous monopolies, by which the poor are robbed and oppressed and the wealthy are more enriched, is power.  In a depraved state of society money can buy positions and titles, can cover up a multitude of incapabilities, can open wide the gates of fashionable society to the lowest and most depraved of human beings; it divides society into castes without any reference to goodness, virtue or truth.  It is made to pander to the most brutal passions of the human soul; it is made to subvert every wholesome law of God and man, and to trample down every sacred bond that should tie society together in a national, municipal, domestic and every other relationship.[21]

Cain slew “his brother Abel, for the sake of getting gain” (Moses 5:50).  For Satan had taught him “this great secret, that I may murder and get gain” (Moses 5:31).  He excused himself to God:  “Satan tempted me because of my brother’s flocks” (Moses 5:38), and having gotten the best of his brother in competition, Cain “gloried in that which he had done,” rejoicing in the rhetoric of wealth: “I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands” (Moses 5:33).

He felt no guilt, since this was fair competition.  Abel could take care of himself:  “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Moses 5:34).

It was all free competitive enterprise where “every man prospered according to his genius, and … every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime” (Alma 30:17).  This is no mere red thread running through the scriptures, but the broad highway of history.

Commenting on the astonishingly short time in which the Nephites turned from a righteous to a wicked nation, Nephi puts his finger on the spot:  “Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this – Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity … tempting them to seek [in other words, work] for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world” (3 Nephi 6:15).

I pray that there may be some Latter-day Saints who do not succumb to the last and most determined onslaught of Babylon, which I believe may be coming.


[1] TPJS 183

[2] JD 11:348

[3] Ibid., 19:47

[4] Ibid., 19:46

[5] Ibid., 8:353

[6] MS 17:673-74

[7] JD 17:117-18

[8] Ibid., 6:71

[9] Ibid., 1:164

[10] Hugh W. Nibley, “Setting the Stage – The World of Abraham, (Part 9, continued),” Improvement Era (November 1969): 118, citing references

[11] JD 12:272

[12] Ibid., 10:176

[13] Ibid.,  11:255

[14] Ibid., 11:236

[15] Ibid., 11:251

[16] Ibid., 11:238

[17] Ibid., 11:234

[18] TPJS 162

[19] JD 8:185

[20] Ibid., 14:225

[21] Ibid., 10:3