One thing I don’t miss from Salt Lake City


Yikes, there’s something off about the whole story

Really, it’s a lovely place to live, and it’s usually easy to overlook the Mormons. The Salt Lake Tribune is also a good newspaper, except…they have a tendency to soft-pedal Mormon absurdity. Case in point: their coverage of Mormon archaeology. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the Mormon religion was founded by a 19th century con artist who wrote this pretentious, long-winded piece of fan fiction about the lost tribes of Israel colonizing North America and creating, out of whole cloth, a pseudo-history of pale-skinned people building cities and fighting wars all across the continent. There’s no evidence for any of this nonsense. But the Salt Lake Tribune reports it as if this is legitimate history and archaeology, and the religious kooks digging around for support for their myths are heroic.

Forget Indiana Jones. Try Iowa John.

Yes, John Lefgren and other supporters of the Heartland Research Group aren’t hunting for the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail, but they are searching high and low — in this case, really low — for archaeological evidence supporting the church’s signature scripture, the Book of Mormon.

Right now, they’re on a quest to find Zarahemla … in southeastern Iowa.

They’re using light detection and ranging sensors — along with carbon dating, magnetometry and other technological tools — to pinpoint the ancient Nephite capital, which they believe is waiting to be discovered underground just outside of Montrose.

Nope. There were no Nephites. There was no Nephite nation. There was no Zarahemla. Montrose, Iowa happens to be just across the Mississippi from Nauvoo, Illinois, where Joseph Smith and his followers fled to after they were chased out of Missouri — Smith just incorporated anywhere he found himself into his fantasy fictional history. So they’re digging in a random spot and claiming any evidence of human habitation supports the Book of Mormon.

The Heartland Research Group thinks it may have found the site of Zarahemla—a notable city in the Book of Mormon—outside of Montrose, a small southeast Iowa town located on the banks of the Mississippi River.

John Lefgren of the Heartland Research Group said in his faith, Zarahemla would be comparable to Jerusalem for Christians. The exact location of Zarahemla has not been verified, so being able to pinpoint it would be a milestone.

“Iowa is an important place,” Lefgren said. “In the fourth century, Montrose, Iowa, had the largest city in North America.”

According to Lefgren, in its heyday of AD 320, Zarahemla had a population of about 100,000 and it was the largest city in the Americas.

Nope. Nauvoo/Montrose are on the Mississippi, about 200 miles from Cahokia. This was the heartland of the Mound Builders culture, which actually existed, and was thriving at the time the Mormons claim there was an entire Hebrew civilization living in the same place, riding horses and wielding iron swords, somehow replacing the real human beings who lived there. They’re going to misinterpret everything they find.

One method they hope can help verify Zarahemla’s location is by finding fire pits. The group theorizes that with a population of about 100,000, there would be one fire pit for every 10 residents within a mile or so of the city center.

“We’ve gone down into the ground with core sampling to get charcoal/carbon from fires that are 1,700 years old,” Lefgren said. “It’s all serious stuff; all serious stuff right here in Iowa.”

The samples will be sent to the Vilnius Radiocarbon Laboratory in Lithuania for carbon-14 dating to determine the age of the recovered charcoal.

Let’s just pretend there wasn’t a thriving American Indian culture right there 1700 years ago, and that those people cooked their food in their villages along the banks of the Mississippi. They’re going to find ashes and declare victory, they found proof that Joseph Smith’s grand con was true.

And the Mormon newspapers will go along with it.

Comments

  1. mandrake says

    I think they have better chance of discovering that L Ron Hubbard was the reincarnation of Joseph Smith.

  2. PaulBC says

    I can’t wait for the movie. I’ll even help with the screenplay as long as I can include the line “Curses! Another phony Moroni!” as the hero tosses away a counterfeit artifact.

  3. larpar says

    There were Mormons in Montrose, but the Army was there first (after the Native Americans).
    From Wikipedia: “Montrose was the location of Fort Des Moines No. 1, a military post from 1834 to 1837. From 1839 to 1846 Montrose was the home of many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This was especially true in 1839 when many people lived in an abandoned barracks at Montrose that served as a good short term residence while homes were being built in Nauvoo.”

  4. says

    If they find anything that supports their fake-history if you squint at it right, then the very next question, for everyone who buys this BS, will be “What happened to that huge thriving nation?” And pretty soon the answer will be: “Solutrean genocide!” (Assuming that hasn’t already happened somewhere…)

  5. Reginald Selkirk says

    The samples will be sent to the Vilnius Radiocarbon Laboratory in Lithuania for carbon-14 dating to determine the age of the recovered charcoal.

    You know that there are competent carbon dating labs much closer than that. I guess they are all too sane to participate.

  6. bjnich2 says

    The SLTrib still does some great reporting, and it has been saved from the vile venture capitalists who carve up newspapers to sell their body parts. But under owner Paul Huntsman of the chemical company billionaire family, the Trib has increased it’s coverage of the LDS Church in both print and podcast formats. More recently, the newspaper was the first in the country to go not-for-profit. While I’m a subscriber, as long as there are so many resources dedicated to coverage of one religion, I won’t consider making a donation in the spirit of supporting objective news and information. The current SLTrib seems intent to appeal to consumers of the official Church ‘newspaper’, the Deseret News. Cartoonist Pat Bagley is a national treasure and still on staff. No-church reporting is damn good and seems to be expanding.

  7. says

    Not from SLC, but a stone’s throw away in Logan: Utah State University’s “police chief” (top rent-a-cop is more like it) was forced to resign after telling football players that women’s claims of rape were “regret after consensual sex”. And for his mishandling of rape cases, pressuring women to quit USU instead of investigating.

    https://www.ksl.com/article/50313221/usu-police-chief-resigns-after-reprehensible-sexual-assault-comments-to-football-players

  8. kestrel says

    PZ, I’ve always meant to ask you if you knew my father. He was at UofU teaching and studying the Great Salt Lake. I know David Suzuki was also there at some point. I reckon it would have been at the end of his stay there – he went next to Georgia Tech – and you know, maybe he was already gone by the time you were there.

    As far as “Mormon archaeology” yeah, let’s see some actual swords and horse skeletons. Oh yes, and harness, please. Maybe some chariot wheels? Anything? crickets

  9. whheydt says

    Re: kestrel @ #10…
    Any sort of wheel, actually. In Patricia Neilsen Hayden’s essay God and I (https://nielsenhayden.com/GodandI.html), she describes a friend of hers shredding the Mormon mythology. One very telling point he makes is to note that the supposed “Hebrews” that moved to North America somehow forgot about wheels….

  10. HidariMak says

    According to the Mormon theology, the Garden of Eden was in Independence, Missouri, the first Mormons came to America via a submarine made of wood (with a cork blocked entrance at the top), that the Native American Indians are descendants of those Israeli Jewish immigrants, and that Jesus Christ visited America. It’s rather hard for me to take them at all seriously, except as a threat.

  11. Akira MacKenzie says

    Score yet another victory for freedom of speech and an unregulated press. “We lie, because you superstitious knuckle-draggers have already decided.”

  12. beholder says

    Any “Passage to Zarahemla” fans out there?

    “I’m just waiting for the air to get wobbly…”

  13. Reginald Selkirk says

    @12: One very telling point he makes is to note that the supposed “Hebrews” that moved to North America somehow forgot about wheels….

    Oh yes; no wheels, no horse riding, no metal weapons. But beyond all that, we now have the DNA. Native Americans are not descended from Jews. And increasing data on paleo DNA also fails to support the BoM.

  14. springa73 says

    Raging Bee @#5

    Actually, when the Book of Mormon was originally written in the 19th century there was already a lot of speculation in the US that the earthen mounds in the different parts of the US were built, not by Native Americans, who were allegedly “too primitive”, but by a “lost white race” with a “higher” civilization, who had then been destroyed by Native Americans. These ideas must have heavily influenced Joseph Smith when he invented a prehistory of North America for his religion. The whole “Solutrean genocide” idea is just a 21st century reincarnation of this racist 19th century viewpoint.

  15. birgerjohansson says

    Springa 73 @ 18
    Remember, the Great Zimbabwe was also supposed to be done by OT jews and not “primitive” locals.

  16. says

    As an undergraduate at Caltech in 1972, I took a class in the history of the Far West from Rodman Paul. Professor Paul made some preliminary remarks on the first day of class, cautioning us that any Mormons among us might find his class difficult to deal with. “Among other things,” he said, “I’m going to be pointing out the completely fictional nature of the Book of Mormon.” And so he did.

  17. says

    springa73@18:

    Actually, when the Book of Mormon was originally written in the 19th century there was already a lot of speculation in the US that the earthen mounds in the different parts of the US were built, not by Native Americans, who were allegedly “too primitive”, but by a “lost white race” with a “higher” civilization, who had then been destroyed by Native Americans.

    It’s even older than that. See, for instance, James Adair, The History of the American Indians, published in 1775 which has a huge section entitled “Observations, and arguments, in proof of the American Indians being descended from the Lews.”.

  18. says

    This was the heartland of the Mound Builders culture, which actually existed, and was thriving at the time the Mormons claim there was an entire Hebrew civilization living in the same place . . .

    Oh, by the way, Cahokia was from about 1,000 years ago. That was also the time of animal effigy mounds. 1,700 years ago, it was the Hopewell, centered more or less (though encompassing a huge sphere around the Ohio River valley) around Chillicothe, Ohio. But they clearly had an interaction sphere that went as far as Yellowstone, and Lake Superior, and the Florida Coast. See https://ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Hopewell_Culture

    These peoples built huge (in area) geometric mounds and celebrated (?) astronomical events (for instance, just outside Newark, Ohio, the Newark Earthworks are carefully aligned with an 18.6 year lunar cycle).

  19. birgerjohansson says

    OT
    Schadenfreude!
    The tories got beaten in a by-election in a district they had held for 198 years!
    OT 2
    Leopard seals feed on fuckin’ sharks!
    OT 3
    Australia has a millipede with 1300 legs. Because Australia.
    -None of this has anything to do with Joseph Smith, except to prove the real world is much more interesting than his made-up crap.

  20. birgerjohansson says

    There was a hilariously badly written book around the soultrean hypothesis by a white supremacist: “White Apocalypse”.

  21. davidc1 says

    @27 I live in the next seat down from North Shropshire ,in Shrewsbury And Atcham .
    The current tory mp ,is bestie mates will the saudis .Emails have surfaced about his pleading
    for a consultancy job with them ,”I have school fees to pay”,he wines in one of them .
    I bet the bastard has voted for every welfare cut the bastard tories have put through .
    With a bit of luck he might have to resign to follow his dream job ,UK Ambassador to those religious nut jobs in the middle east .
    And file this under irony ,if that git patterson had accepted his 30 day ban ,it would have nearly been up ,and he would still
    have his snout in the trough .
    Lashings of LOL’S .

  22. says

    One method they hope can help verify Zarahemla’s location is by finding fire pits. The group theorizes that with a population of about 100,000, there would be one fire pit for every 10 residents within a mile or so of the city center.

    Because them Injuns never invented fire? Even after wiping out all the civilized white people who had?

  23. Akira MacKenzie says

    @32

    Ah, but the Lamenites were once white. That is, until they fell into blasphemy and idolatry and their skin became darker with sin.

  24. pilgham says

    I hope this is done legitimately. Secondary coverage will twist it out of all proportion, but I hope there is primary research that can actually be useful.

  25. simonhadley says

    Ugh, after being stationed in Utah for eight years I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Between the 24/7 Mormon influence, air pollution and total lack of anything resembling culture I had simply had enough. Hill AFB is right up near the mountains but there were days when the smog was so bad you couldn’t see them at all. It wasn’t quite Beijing bad but there were long stretches in the summer when you simply did not exercise or do anything requiring physical exertion for fear of ending up in the ER. As for the Mormon influence, it’s kind of like the spice in Dune, meaning it’s everywhere all the time to the point where you don’t really notice it because it’s a baked in part of the landscape. Anyway, I’m just glad to be out of there and away from that cult in general.

  26. davidc1 says

    @31 She is the one who developed an obsession for someone ,and said she would ski naked down Mount Everest for him .

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