Posts Tagged ‘Mormon’


***This is a story a good friend of mine wrote a while back.  Thought I’d put it up here for others to read.***

The Tale of Two Sister-Missionaries

Sister Sally Smith and her cousin, Jennifer Ballard, went out on their missions on the very same day.  Sister Smith went to England, Sister Ballard to Taiwan.  Coming home from their missions, coincidentally, they arrived at the Salt Lake Airport at the same time, within 15 minutes of each other.  Sister Smith’s family was there to congratulate her for a job well done.  Honorably released.  Fifteen minutes later, Sister Ballard’s family was there also, cheering her return and excited for honorable release.

Sister Smith and Sister Ballard had been called from the same Ward, interviewed by the same Bishop and Stake President. In fact, they even went to the Temple together to “take out” their Endowments.  But then again, these two sisters had always done things together, going to Primary and Sunday School and Relief Society together. Family reunions, they planned together.  And now, here they were coming home together.

Next step?  Sally and Jennifer headed off to BYU, both majoring in accounting, both having their Associates Degree from Ricks College.  Two more years and each graduated from “the Y” with their Bachelor Degree’s in Accounting.  Sally went to work for the Utah State Tax Commission.  Jennifer went to work for a local accounting firm in Salt Lake City.

In the course of their employment, Sally met and fell in love with LaMar Christensen, a good Church member who was active and held a current Temple Recommend.  LaMar was Sally’s “boss” and headed one of the teams in Collections Department of the Utah State Tax Commission.  Sharp, and efficient, well-spoken, LaMar had a bright future before him.

But not so with Jennifer.  There were no prospects for marriage before her.  She was quite active in “the Singles program”, but no man seem to take any interest in her.  Of the two sisters, Sally was the better dressed, the better looking and more able to engage men in conversation. Jennifer was kinda shy, a little backward, dressed more homespun but she was deeply invested in the Restored Gospel.  Sally also had a testimony, but was more invested in the “social scene” the Church offers.

Three years from the time she completed her mission, Sally married LaMar in the Salt Lake Temple.  Sealed for Time and all Eternity.  Sally was excited. Family.  Active in the Church. Sending her sons and daughters on missions.  Grandchildren.  Some day, the Celestial Kingdom

From time to time, Sally and Jennifer visited together.  Sally subtly made sharp jabs at Jennifer because Jennifer remained in her spinster state and seem to have no prospects of marriage.

Sally and LaMar were happy in their Temple Marriage, living and struggling financially in their small apartment in downtown Salt Lake City.  They discussed starting a family, but LaMar announced that they needed to put off having children until “they were financially secure”.  One year turned into two years, then three years and four years.  Sally was growing impatient.  Soon enough, the couple was able to purchase a home, pay off their two BMW’s which they had purchased to commute “to work”  And still LaMar insisted that they needed to get a “nest egg to fall back on, in case things went badly for them financially.”  Sally was getting desperate.  Approaching her 29th year and still no children.  On one Friday, late in May, she had come early from work.  She really needed to talk to LaMar.  She needed to pour out her feelings on her strong and ardent desire to start a family.

LaMar came home looking sullen and serious.  The confrontation.   Sally blurted out, “LaMar, it is time for us to have a family!!!!”  LaMar looked down at the floor, shuffled his feet slightly, looked up with tears in his eyes,  “That will never be, Sally. We will NEVER have children together!”.  Sally felt a cold shiver go down her spine and lodge like a kick in her gut. There was more to his declaration than just the words. His body language was communicating something so very, very awful.  “I have fallen in love with another woman….” LaMar muttered.

Divorce!! A divorce was coming and she could FEEL it, like steel knives carving up her heart, knocking the breath and life out of her.  She just stared straight ahead, through LaMar as if he were not there.  Words that were from a distant galaxy came out of her, as if another woman not her was speaking.  “Very well,” she said with a hollow ring, “Who moves out? You or me?”  Then she caught herself. If he moves out, he moves out into her arms.  There is still a chance I might save this marriage—IF.. IF, he has not broken his Covenants with her.  “Did you break your Covenants with her? Did you break the Law of Chastity?”

His sullen reply, “No, I have not gone that far. But I want to live with her, not you.  I love her. I don’t love you any more.”

Again, the hollow question, “Can our marriage be ‘saved’?

The sullen reply, “No. I don’t want to ‘save’ our marriage.”

Sally wheeled around weakly, and headed for the bedroom. Invading the closet, she took out three suitcases and began to load them up with her clothes and other personal effects. In happier times, these same suitcases had been employed to make the week-end “get-away” for a few days of fun and games in not-too-distant places. But as she thought on these “get-aways”, she reflected that in the past nearly two years, they had not gone any where as a couple.  Their only excursions had been to far away places to attend Professional Seminars and those usually alone.

Sally moved out to live with Jennifer for a time, not knowing Jennifer’s “secret”. The divorce came.  Sally found her own apartment and moved there.  LaMar went on to marry his “new sweetheart”, the very woman who worked as his Personal Assistant and Secretary in his newly acquired position as “head” or “chief” of the Utah State Tax Commission Collections Department.  As LaMar had not broken his Temple Covenants, there was no “Church action” against his membership.  LaMar and Kristen were married in the Salt Lake Temple, after LaMar had successfully petitioned and received a “Temple Divorce” from the First Presidency’s office.  He personally knew one of the members of the First Presidency who was able to “arrange things for him”.

Now, Sally was back into the Single’s Program of the Church, searching for her Eternal Companion who would open the way for her to have children—a full life in the Church as she had taught on her mission and had always envisioned as a young MIA Maid.

Turning the page, we go to Jennifer’s family history and progress.  For five years, Jennifer was active and diligent in her Church callings, attending every Single’s Activity that was sponsored by her Stake.  She even took time off of work to make sure she was at every Single’s Activity. But each week, each activity she’d see the same old guys there, too frighten to marry, too timid that another woman would “take them to the cleaners”.  Most of the men were either divorced or so nerdy that they would never make a suitable Patriarch in any family setting.

As Jennifer was pursuing an active role in her Ward, she one day had occasion to meet Owen Jessop, a kindly older man, who seem to have a gentleness and a civility and charity about him that she found infectious.  He was having her do his taxes for himself, several businesses he owned as well as three single, Head-of-Household women with children which she found curious.  Upon further inquiry, she found this man was a polygamist.  Poor women!! She thought to herself, until she actually met two of his “wives”.  They were not poor at all. In fact, they seem quite happy, free and rejoicing in their children and in their family.  They all three spoke quite highly of Owen and what a great father and husband he was to the family.  But it was obvious they were not rich as to things of the world.

Jennifer wanted to know more.  She called up Owen and asked him kindly if she could learn more about WHY and HOW they were able to live the Law of Plural Marriage, as these three sisters called what they were doing.  Owen kindly received the 28-year old Jennifer and began to explain to her how the early Saints had made provision to continue the Law of Plural Marriage with Priesthood Authority. He challenged her to pray and ask God if what he shared with her was true, just as she had done on her mission with her investigators.

Jennifer went home, prayed about what Owen had taught her and the Lord spoke to her clearly in a personal revelation that what Owen had shared with her was in fact the Truth.  Jennifer burst into tears, full of the Holy Ghost, as women often do, when they are touched by the Spirit of God. Not only was she given such a testimony of Keys and Priesthood outside of the Church to effect these ordinances, but she was told that she should marry into Owen’s family and there become a wife to him and a sister-wife to his three other wives.

Jennifer returned to Owen’s home, knocked on his door and stood there humbly. Owen knew right away that she had received her answer and that she would be joining his family, the Lord having directed her to do that.

When Sally had come to Jennifer’s little apartment, as the refugee she was, Jennifer was but a week away from marrying Owen.  Jennifer dare not tell Sally. Sally was already upset with her impending divorce. No use burdening her with this bit of disconcerting news.

Jennifer married Owen at the beginning of June and Jennifer found out for herself what a magnificent and kindly man she had married.  He was wise in all his decisions and dealings with his wives and children. He was totally dedicated to the Fullness of the Gospel, and his family and loved the Church with all his heart, having served a Spanish speaking mission in his youth for the Church.

Within a year, Jennifer became pregnant with her first child, a little boy, whom she named Joseph.  Nine more children came over the years to Jennifer and Owen, to add to the other children of the other three wives which were 24 in number at that time.  The family struggled financially, with so many mouths to feed, so many bodies to house and clothe, but the family moved on and always had sufficient for their needs.

In her 34th year of life, more than five years after marrying Owen, Jennifer received a telephone call from Sally.  As she listened to Sally lament her singleness and her ardent desire to have children, she was suddenly struck by the thought of inviting Sally to join her family as a Fifth Wife.  She would make a wonderful addition, so thought Jennifer.

So, Jennifer invited Sally over to her home to meet Owen and her four children and show her the joys of family life, especially life in the Principle.  Sally showed up to Jennifer’s home, out in the boonies of Utah County and they met for the first time since Sally was a refugee and then divorced.

Sally was a little confused. Jennifer had never told her she was married, nor invited her to a Temple Sealings, as she had done when LaMar and she were married in the Salt Lake Temple.

“You are married? You have children? Why didn’t you ever tell me, Jennifer?” inquired Sally.

“Its because my husband is a polygamist and I am his fourth wife.  We were married by Priesthood Authority in a place where you could not come—an Endowment House.”

Sally shuddered and had that “weird feeling” come over her, as if she had been struck by lightening.  “You’re kidding, right?”

“No”, she replied, “This is where the Lord has led me—to a very righteous and kindly man who is the Father of my children. I am very happy living this way.”

Sally nearly wanted to jump up from the couch where she was sitting.  “This is nuts, Jennifer.  You don’t own a decent car. The cars which I saw as I pulled into your driveway are all junkers. Your house is in need of repairs and is not very comfortable at all, with all these kids running around.  I can guess that you don’t have much money if any at all and certainly NO retirement nest egg to ensure your future.  And I’ll bet you’ve even been cut off from the Church and from all your Temple Blessings. Didn’t you learn ANYTHING on your mission?”

Jennifer looked gently and sadly to the floor and then looked up with a serious expression. “Sally, I invited you over because I have compassion for you and joy for myself. I wanted to share that joy with you, to see if you might want to learn WHY and HOW we live this Law of Plural Marriage and perhaps join the family of which I am now a part.”

Sally’s eyes glowed with indignation and rage. “Are you kidding? Lose my Church membership to live like this!  Your authority is all pretend. You’ve lost your Temple Blessings and you are living in adultery, deception and apostasy!!!”

With that, Sally wheeled around and headed for the door, Jennifer pleading with her as she left, to at least sit down and listen and learn and pray about it, as she had done.  No more words were exchanged. Sally went out to her car, unlocked the door, jumped in and fired the engine up, making rather jerky motions in the car out of the driveway.  She was upset and hurt.  Jennifer had betrayed her and the Church!!! She vowed to NEVER see Jennifer again, UNLESS she repented and got rid of that adulterous man whom she claimed as her husband.  She vowed that she would ONLY see Jennifer at her re-baptism into the Church, a sure sign that she had again regained her senses and her testimony.

After this encounter, life flowed on for both Sisters, year after year, decade after decade.  Sally remained “active” in her Ward, faithfully paid her tithing and attended nearly all of the Singles Activities sponsored by her Ward.  At 70 years of age, Sally retired from active service with the Utah State Tax Commission, claiming her pension and her Social Security at that time.  All this time, she had lived in the same apartment.  She worked extensively on family genealogy and doing Temple Work in the Salt Lake Temple. She taught a Gospel Essentials class in her Ward for many years and also a Gospel Doctrine class, giving good information and testimony to her fellow Ward Members.

From time to time, she’d visit her two nephews, sons of her younger brother.  But as she grew older, those visits grew more infrequent, as the two boys had a life of their own to pursue and not much in common with their aunt. At 83 years of age, Sally couldn’t go to the Temple or the Genealogy Library any more. She hardly ever attended her Ward. It was just too much of a challenge and she didn’t feel like imposing on the younger crowd to help her get to Church. She was too frail and too old to make the daily or weekly trips. So, she’d stay at home and listen to the General Conferences over and over again, as well her Scripture CD’s. She’d watch the BYU channel on her television.

At 88 years of age, one dark and cold night in the Utah winter, with no one around, the angels came and took Sally home to the Celestial Kingdom, a faithful reward for all of her hard work in the Church and her faithfulness to her Covenants and her faithful activity up to the time she died. Yes, she had been stalwart and had endured to the end and the Lord now blessed her for her faithfulness to the Brethren and to the Church..

Meanwhile, Jennifer continued to have children up and including the time she was 45 years old—TEN children in all, 6 boys and 4 girls.  She struggled in her unfinished home and with her cars that would often break down.  She seldom had much money.  But many times, it seems that almost miraculously, food or what they needed would “appear” to satisfy a pressing need.  At 65 years old, her “final” child left her home to go out on her own, married to a fine man.  By this time, she had 48 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.  Frequently, they would drop by to visit her and she would travel to visit them. Each two years, the Owen Jessop family would gather to share genealogies, play together, tell stories, talk of common business ventures and catch up on all the family news.  Five wives, fifty-seven children which included the adopted children, 256 grand children and 46 great grand children were in evidence.  As Jennifer looked out at this family she had joined so many years ago, she could not help but see a vision of “this must be how the Celestial Kingdom is–FAMILY.” And she felt the indescribable joy of Family all united, loving and working together, overcoming challenges and growing.

But as with Sally, Jennifer’s time to leave this earth life came.  Funny enough, she died about a week after Sally died.  As she lay on her death bed, struggling for breath, but peaceful nonetheless and knowing her time to depart this earth life had come, her TEN children gathered around her bed, with multiples of her grandchildren and great grandchildren there also.  Her oldest son, Joseph with his brother, Hyrum, gave her a blessing of comfort and as a final send-off, thanking her kindly and sincerely for her many years of devoted sacrifice for them and for their family.  Tears of great joy and poignant memories were freely shed in that special place of Jennifer’s send off.  She knew she was going “home” to meet her husband and two of her sister wives.

But that expectation was all a falsehood, all a deception.  As Jennifer breathed her last, she was escorted by the devils to Hell, for her apostasy, deception and wanton rebellion against the Lord’s Anointed Prophet, having taken upon herself to live a law that had long been abolished from the Church’s requirements for Celestial Glory.  In fact, Prophets, Seers and Revelators had rightly labeled any such persons who lived polygamy as adulterers, deceivers, and as apostates.  And according to the Standard Works, such persons are cast into Hell where they suffer for their sins of rebellion, covenant breaking, and faithlessness.  They don’t come out until they have repented and openly and humbly admitted their errors in doctrine and their rebellions against the Lord’s Anointed and for the covenants they have broken.  Hopefully, Jennifer will come to that day when she will repent of a life lived full of deceptions and apostasy.

Thus ends the stories of Sally and Jennifer.

====

Thus ends his story of Sally and Jennifer, complete with the standard Mormon assumptions and judgments about what makes us worthy (or not) to receive some glory (or not) in the afterlife.  So, is Sally or Jennifer right?  Or are they both wrong?  Both right?  Which is it?

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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.


Small Miracles + Promised Lands – Part I

In tackling this topic, I am admittedly venturing into an area with which I do not have much familiarity, knowledge or expertise.  So, as you read, peruse and ponder this topic in your own life, take what I say with a huge grain of pink Himalayan salt.  In fact, come to think of it, everything I write should be taken with an abnormally large grain of salt.

A simple comment over at LDSFreedomForum.com spurred this topic and this article.  In response to a solicitation to add and share thoughts on especially poignant stories from the Book of Mormon, one response simply and matter-of-factly stated:  “There’s also great symbolic significance in Lehi’s journey to a promised land. It signifies the trek each of us must make to acquire our promised lands.”  And, with that in mind, I begin this topic.  I open with a few pertinent questions, such as what is a promised land, how does one qualify for a promised land and why are they important.  Perhaps you already know the answers to these simple questions and, if so, I would hope you would share them.

The terms “promised” and “land” occurs 43 times throughout scripture.  The Bible contains 10 of these references, the Doctrine & Covenants contain 5 of these references and the Book of Mormon contains 27 of these references.  The Book of Mormon, therefore, provides approximately 63% of all the references to a promised land.  One may rightfully ask, therefore, why the focus, relative to the other easily accessible scriptures, on promised lands in the Book of Mormon.  A sampling of the references within the Book of Mormon include a discussion on Moses and the Red Sea[1], the Brother of Jared crossing the ocean[2], and the story of Lehi and his sons leaving Jerusalem[3].  Of these references, if we dissect it even further, there is one reference from Christ while speaking with the Nephites shortly after his resurrection about a future land of promise[4], three references refer to the Brother of Jared[5], two references refer to Moses[6], while the remaining references deal either directly or indirectly with the story of Lehi and his sons, a total of seventeen references.

Hopefully, from that brief and imperfect dissection of these verses we begin to see a pattern on this topic of promised lands.  The story of Lehi and his sons and their journey from Jerusalem to the Americas accounts for almost 40% of the total references to “promised lands” or “lands of promise” in modern day, easily accessible scripture.  I fully acknowledge that there may be other scriptures out there in the world which may discuss this topic in detail, perhaps better than the above references, but this article is focused solely on the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.  These are the sources I am referring to when I say “easily accessible.”

Therefore, almost out of necessity, this essay will focus almost entirely on the story of Lehi and his sons.  Acknowledging that the Book of Mormon was edited and compiled by its namesake, Mormon, one should inquire as to why the focus in the first couple of books (1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, Jacob) and the underlying theme of promised lands and the voyage necessary to obtain and find them.

Hugh Nibley once stated that the story of the Liahona and Lehi’s journey out of Jerusalem, into the wilderness and on towards the promised land was nothing more than a metaphor for what we should all be pursuing while on this ephemeral earth:

“It was a “type and shadow” of man’s relationship to God during his earthly journey.”[7]

One of the great discussions on this topic within the Book of Mormon is a rather small section within the Book of Alma.  Within this section[8] we read of Alma the Elder instructing his sons, specifically his son Helaman.  Alma explains to Helaman the purposes of the Liahona, the “compass” of such a “curious…workmanship.”[9] The Liahona was specifically designed as a temporal tool, a tangible, physical tool to be used by Lehi’s family in their journey to the promised land.  What it was is precisely what it was not.  The Liahona was not an intangible, untouchable, easily mistaken “voice” or “whispering” they would occasionally hear.  Though it worked in concordance with their faith and how well they followed its directions, it nevertheless was a tangible reminder of who was helping them on their voyage.[10] Hugh Nibley describes the Liahona as being the following:

Listing the salient features of the report we get the following:  The Liahona was a gift of God, the manner of its delivery causing great astonishment.  It was neither mechanical nor self-operating, but worked solely by the power of God.  It functioned only in response to the faith, diligence, and heed of those who followed it.  And yet there was something ordinary and familiar about it. The thing itself was the “small means” through which God worked; it was not a mysterious or untouchable object but strictly a “temporal thing.” It was so ordinary that the constant tendency of Lehi’s people was to take it for granted—in fact, they spent most of their time ignoring it: hence, according to Alma their needless, years-long wanderings in the desert.  The working parts of the device were two spindles or pointers.  On these a special writing would appear from time to time, clarifying and amplifying the message of the pointers.  The specific purpose of the traversing indicators was “to point the way they should go.”[11]

The scriptures note that Lehi’s journey towards their promised land was directed by many, many miracles.  It was truly a divinely inspired trip of immense proportions.  The scriptures describe these miracles, and the response to these miracles, as follows:

…therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day. Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by asmall means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were bslothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey…[12]

Though the Liahona was none other than a temporal reminder of spiritual things, those who held the Liahona, saw its workings and were intimately aware of how it worked, nevertheless were “slothful” and “forgot to exercise their faith and diligence.”  As I read this, I am forced to wonder how this could happen.  How could these people so easily forget how the Liahona magically appeared outside of Lehi’s tent?[13] Though verse 10 mentions Lehi’s honest surprise at finding such an instrument in front of his tent, I’m still left to wonder whether these “miracles” began to lose their luster over time.  Lehi had been commanded in a dream the night prior that it was time, once again, to take up their journey the next day.  He presumably woke up from this dream, walked out into the sunlight of the morning and there, for the first time, sees this brass compass.  Had they become so familiar with, and expectant of, miracles that these same miraculous events began to lose their luster?  Clearly, Alma described these “miracles” as “small means” occurring “day by day.”  How can, as the text describes, something be both of “small means” and capable of showing “marvelous works?”

Perhaps, on our expectant voyages to our own promised lands we’re also witnesses to “small [miracles]” which occur “day by day” and we also are slothful in that we don’t notice them, don’t take them for what they’re worth, and fail to exercise our faith and diligence toward God’s ends.

Continuing on with the story as contained in the Book of Alma, Alma describes and relates to the reader exactly what the type and shadow of this Liahona was:

And now I say, is there not a atype in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.  O my son, do not let us be aslothful because of the beasiness of the cway; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would dlook they might elive; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.   And now, my son, see that ye take acare of these sacred things, yea, see that ye blook to God and live.[14]

Taking these verses to heart, a couple of questions immediately arise which necessitate an answer.

Q1:  Who or what is our director?

Q2:  Where is our promised land?

Q3:  Where must we look?

The answers to these questions may be self-evident to you, the reader, but to me they are both complex and loaded.  Alma provides answers to all these questions in a very short section of modern day scriptures, though the answers, in practice, are far from easy to implement.  Or, are they?

A1:  Our director is the words of Christ [personal revelation].

A2:  Our promised land is “beyond the vale of sorrow,” and a “far better land of promise.”[15]

A3:  We must look to God … and live.

In counseling us to “look to God,” Alma is saying something that no other prophet, prophetess, or anyone else in modern day scripture has said.  There is simply no other verse of scripture which contains this same language.  Though it is true that others have said, and will said, something similar to what Alma here stated, the simplicity with which Alma spoke and wrote is worth mentioning.  In order to obtain our land of promise, which land of promise is “beyond the vale of sorrow,” one must come to grips with both what “look[ing] to God” means and how one can “look to God.”

With that in mind, I will end this essay and pick up, in the next one, on the topic of “look[ing] to God.”  These words of Alma and necessarily important, necessarily poignant and, for me at least, not easily understood.  Though Alma describes the practicality of looking to God as easy and the only way to “live” and advance beyond the vale of sorrow into a “far better land,” I nevertheless am stuck on its easiness.

To be continued…


[1] See Alma 36:28.

[2] See Ether 7:27; Ether 6:5-16; and Ether 2:7-9.

[3] See 1 Nephi 5:5, 22; 1 Nephi 7:1, 13; among many others.

[4] See 3 Nephi 20:29.

[5] See Ether 7:27; Ether 6:5-16; and Ether 2:7-9.

[6] See Alma 36:28 and 1 Nephi 17:13-42.

[7] Nibley, Hugh.  The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Volume 17.  Page 254.

[8] See Alma 37:38-46.

[9] See Alma 37:38-39.

[10] See Alma 37:43

[11] Nibley, Hugh.  Page 254.

[12] See Alma 37:40-41.

[13] See 1 Nephi 16:10.

[14] See Alma 37:45-47.

[15] See Alma 37:45.


I recently took a weekend and headed over to California to attend a small conference on brick ovens.  While there in California I took some time to explore the Big Sur Coastway and State Route 1 that runs north and south along the Pacific Ocean.  While there, I snapped this photo of a bee exploring a flower outside of the Hearst Castle.

You can see more of the pictures I took here and here.

The reason for posting this specific picture is because I followed a link at the WfZ blog.  That link takes you to a small powerpoint presentation which talks about the importance of individuality, uniqueness and personalities with respect to our children.  Within that powerpoint is a discussion on bees and the living miracle they are.  Bees, it seems, are unique in that their wing structure, to us humans, is odd, seemingly too small and, at least to earlier views on the laws of aviation, too small to support the body of the bee in the air.  The bee, nevertheless, defied our human understanding for many years, carrying on in it’s ability to fly and pollinate the world.  Only recently, it seems, humans have caught up and begun to understand that the bee is able to create a vortex with it’s small wings which allows it to fly.  Nevertheless, for decades (centuries?) humans have seen the bee as an anomaly.  A living, flying miracle which defied our finite understanding.

The application of this idea should not be lost on you, the reader, or me.  How often do we decry something as impossible if we haven’t seen it happen in person?  Worse, how often do we decry something as impossible, even though it happens in front of our eyes?  In discussing these impossibilities, it is important to note that there are many miracles that happen in front of our eyes every day.  From the unseen – photosynthesis – to the seen – a child learning to walk.  While it is important to note these everyday miracles, the miracles of which I speak are of a different variety.  The creation of the earth, the creation of man, the healing of the sick, the raising of the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to see, etc.  These are the miracles of which I speak in this article.

The book of Fourth Nephi, chapter 1 verse 5, describes these miracles as follows:

5 And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did aheal the sick, and braise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of cmiracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus.

Moroni, among others, also spoke powerfully about miracles in the closing chapters of the Book of Mormon. What he wrote, though, was not written from an historical viewpoint.  It was not written about a people which had already lived when he wrote it.  It was written, as most of his stuff was written, about a people who would live in the distant future.  A people who would live to see the “great and marvelous work” come to pass.  A people who would be led to err by power hungry churches and leaders.  In fine, he was speaking directly to us in our day and, more specifically, us of the LDS faith who have been given the record on which his words are written.

Specifically, Mormon chapter 9 contains the following lecture about miracles:

10 And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles.

11 But behold, I will show unto you a God of amiracles, even the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and it is that same bGod who created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are.

•  •  •

15 And now, O all ye that have imagined up unto yourselves a god who can do ano miracles, I would ask of you, have all these things passed, of which I have spoken? Has the end come yet? Behold I say unto you, Nay; and God has not ceased to be a God of miracles.

•  •  •

17 Who shall say that it was not a miracle that by his aword the heaven and the earth should be; and by the power of his word man was bcreated of the cdust of the earth; and by the power of his word have miracles been wrought?

18 And who shall say that Jesus Christ did not do many mighty amiracles? And there were many bmighty miracles wrought by the hands of the apostles.

19 And if there were amiracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he bchangeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.

20 And the reason why he ceaseth to do amiracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should btrust.

The Book of Ether (12:12) contains a similar cry:

12 For if there be no afaith among the children of men God can do no bmiracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith.

Later, again, Moroni adds some more information on miracles in Moroni, chapter 7:

27 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, have amiracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God, to bclaim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men?

•  •  •

29 And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have aangels ceased to minister unto the children of men.

•  •  •

35 And now, my beloved brethren, if this be the case that these things are true which I have spoken unto you, and God will show unto you, with apower and great glory at the last bday, that they are true, and if they are true has the day of miracles ceased?

•  •  •

37 Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that amiracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of bunbelief, and all is vain.

What do these verses have to do with us?  I’d argue that they have everything to do with us.  I have frequently heard some (myself included) lament about the lack of spiritual gifts in today’s world, generally, and the LDS church, specifically.  We rarely, if ever, see people being raised from the dead, the blind having their sight restored to them, the deaf being able to hear, angelic visitations, and on and on.  In its place, members of all shapes and sizes simply reply that the lack of these gifts is merely the result of God’s will.  Since it doesn’t happen, it must be God’s will that it doesn’t happen.

In the place of faith based priesthood blessings, we give blessings with convenient “outs.”  We tell the recipient of the blessing that it’s contingent on their faith and the will of God.  We do this for many reasons, but mostly because (a) we’re scared that we don’t truly hold the Priesthood, (b) we’re scared that we’re not speaking inspired words, (c) we’re scared that we don’t have adequate faith and (c) we’re scared of miracles.  It may actually be a combination of all of the above, or something entirely different, but the following story may help relate it somewhat.

A year or so ago I had the privilege of listening to Parley P. Pratt’s autobiography for the first time as I commuted to and from work.  One particular passage from his authobiography still sticks with me, in my feeble memory.  It has to do with this very idea and I feel it will teach the principle better than I ever could:

When we first arrived we lived in the open air, with out any other shelter whatever. Here I met brother Joseph Smith, from whom I had been separated since the close of the mock trial in Richmond the year previous. Neither of us could refrain from tears as we embraced each other once more as free men. We felt like shouting hosannah in the highest, and giving glory to that God who had delivered us in fulfillment of His word to

His servant Joseph the previous autumn, when we were being carried into captivity in Jackson County, Missouri. He blessed me with a warmth of sympathy and brotherly kindness which I shall never forget. Here also I met with Hyrum Smith and many others of my fellow prisoners with a glow of mutual joy and satisfaction which language will never reveal. Father and Mother Smith, the parents of our Prophet and President, were also overwhelmed with tears of joy and congratulation; they wept like children as they took me by the hand; but, O, how different from the tears of bitter sorrow which were pouring down their cheeks as they gave us the parting hand in Far West, and saw us dragged away by fiends in human form.

After the gush of feelings consequent on our happy meeting had subsided, I accompanied Joseph Smith over the Mississippi in a skiff to visit some friends in Montrose. Here many were lying sick and at the point of death. Among these was my old friend and fellow servant, Elijah Fordham, who had been with me in that extraordinary work in New York City in 1837. He was now in the last stage of a deadly fever. He lay prostrate and nearly speechless, with his feet poulticed; his eyes were sunk in their sockets; his flesh was gone; the paleness of death was upon him; and he was hardly to be distinguished from a corpse. His wife was weeping over him, and preparing clothes for his burial.

Brother Joseph took him by the hand, and in a voice and energy which would seemingly have raised the dead, he cried: “BROTHER FORDHAM, IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, ARISE AND WALK.” It was a voice which could be heard from house to house and nearly through the neighborhood. It was like the roaring of a lion, or the heavy thunderbolt. Brother Fordham leaped from his dying bed in an instant, shook the poultices and bandages from his feet, put on his clothes so quick that none got a chance to assist him, and taking a cup of tea and a little refreshment, he walked with us from house to house visiting other sick beds, and joining in prayer and ministrations for them, while the people followed us, and with joy and amazement gave glory to God. Several more were called up in a similar manner and were healed.

Brother Joseph, while in the Spirit, rebuked the Elders who would continue to lay hands on the sick from day to day without the power to heal them. Said he: “It is time that such things ended. Let the Elders either obtain the power of God to heal the sick or let them cease to minister the forms without the power.”

What stuck with me is that last paragraph.  There were Elders in Montrose who were giving blessings to the sick, in an effort to heal them, “day to day” without the power to heal them.  Why were they lacking in the power which Joseph so boldly possessed?  What made them different?  Were the sick not being healed because it was God’s will that they remain sick and dying, or were the sick not being healed because the Elder’s giving the blessings were lacking in power?  I will let the reader decide how they interpret what happened.

I postulate, at the end of the day, that we, as members of the Church, are so afraid of seeing miracles, so afraid of making a mistake, so afraid of being looked at as odd, weird or different, that we all run from the calling Christ has for us.

D&C, Section 121, describes this as follows:

34 Behold, there are many acalled, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

35 Because their ahearts are set so much upon the things of this bworld, and caspire to the dhonors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

36 That 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.

37 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.

38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to akick against the pricks, to bpersecute the saints, and to cfight against God.

39 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.

40 Hence many are called, but afew are chosen.

We are scared, perhaps rightfully so, because (a) our hearts are set on the things of the world and (b) we want men to honor us.  The Priesthood, as laid out above, can only be handled “upon principles of righteousness.”  When we lack a connection with heaven, when we lack the ability to receive revelation, when we attempt to control, in any way, another we are left to “kick against the pricks.”  Why?  Because in so doing we’ve become an enemy to God (verse 38).  We struggle so much to see and witness these miracles because we’re too busy asserting authority, clamoring for others to believe, listen and follow us.  We want so much for the “honors of men.”  We want our wives, our friends, our associates and everyone in between to listen and give heed to our words.  When they don’t, all too often we start messing around with what’s found in verses 35-39 above and, as a result, we fail to “self select.”  We’re not chosen, because we’ve failed to give all the glory to Christ.  We’ve failed to realize exactly how reliant we are upon Him, and Him alone.

Others have also recently discussed this topic.  On another blog, we read the following opinion on why miracles seem to happen less now than they did in 1835-1840 and other time periods:

I think there is a tendency to avoid discussing any contemporary occurrence of the miraculous in our individuals lives within the Church because of the frequent association of such things with deceivers and the deceived.  In contrast to that fear, Moroni affirms that angels appear only to those with “a firm mind.”  (Moroni 7: 30.)  How odd it is that we have this juxtaposition:  On the one hand, in our day it is viewed as being evidence of a weak mind, or dubious character, and on the other Moroni asserts it is evidence of a “firm mind.”  One or the other has to be incorrect.
I think such things are experienced less because we talk of them less.  As we talk of them less, we increase our doubts about such things.  Doubt and faith cannot coincide. So was Christ weak-minded or of “a firm mind?”  Was Saul of Tarsus deceived or a deceiver, or instead a godly man who received notice from heaven?  What of Joseph, Alma, Moses, Peter, Mary, Elizabeth, Agabus, and John?

Today we prefer our miracles at a distance.  When we do accept the occasional miracle, we want it to be separated by culture, time and reduced to written accounts from the deceased.  We think it’s safer that way.  Society trusts that when the miraculous has been reduced to history alone it can then safely be the stuff from which PhD’s and theologians extract the real meanings.  After all, our scientific society only trusts education, certification and licensing; not revelation, visitation and ministering of angels.  Well, even if that is not as it should be, it is at least as Nephi said it would be: “They deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men.  Behold, hearken ye unto my precept; if they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work.”  (2 Nephi 28: 5-6.)

I think, in my interpretation of this response, is that fear of the miraculous is still prevalent.  We “prefer our miracles at a distance” because it is “safer that way.”  It’s less troublesome, less intrusive.  We’re less likely to be ridiculed by the outside world (both in and outside the church), we’re less likely to be viewed as crazy lunatics.  You put the certification of recognized scholars behind it, when they’re able to interpret it through their educated paradigms, and only then will it become comfortable.  Only then will we be able to say how great a miracle it was.

At the end of the day, do we view miracles as wings that are way too small for a creature to use?  Or, do we view them as enablers?   Do we view our ability to witness and see miracles as a likelihood that we aspire to, or as something relegated to other societies, other peoples, other centuries?  Do we have the faith necessary, “for it is by faith that miracles are wrought?”

Those are good questions.  Questions I admittedly do not have the answer to and questions which are very troubling to me.  Nevertheless, I hope to find positive answers for these questions.  At the end of the day, the gospel is all about us.  Do we, as individuals, view it as much?  Do we seek after the gifts we need, or are we content to let others do it for us?

Let us not forget, though, that:

“When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life.” – Eckhart Tolle