It was a big week for Mormon news. The owner of Skinwalker Ranch, Brandon Fugal, discussed how his Mormon faith in infinite populated worlds helps to shape his investigation of Skinwalker Ranch, which culminated in his assertion that the ranch is inhabited by a noncorporeal “precognitive” intelligence that adapts its supernatural manifestations to the subconscious “intentions” of each visitor. “It can anticipate and even be aware of your thoughts and consciousness and react according to your intention that you bring to the property,” Fugal told Salt Lake Magazine. That sounds a lot like people are seeing what they want to see and are experiencing their own expectations reflected back at them through the mirror of their own minds. In other words, there is no interdimensional intelligence, just people scaring themselves with their own fantasies.
Meanwhile, a group of Mormons and their Russian allies (!) are searching Montrose, Iowa for what they believe will be the remains of Zarahemla, a fictitious ancient Jewish metropolis invented by Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon. The group believes that Zarahemla had 100,000 residents, mostly descendants of immigrants from Jerusalem, who filled the largest city in the Americas in the fourth century CE. Montrose, on the Mississippi River, is (not coincidentally) the site of an early Mormon settlement that Smith had christened Zarahemla.
The team plans to find the city by using ground-penetrating radar to look for fire pits, claiming that they expect to find an area with 10,000 fire pits, one for every 10 residents.
The Heartland Research Group is not officially endorsed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The danger, of course, is that if the group should find Native American cultural material in their search, they could wrongly conclude that it is ancient Jewish material, replaying the racist nineteenth century effort to erase Native history that I detailed in my book, The Mound Builder Myth.
There is already fallout, since the article reporting the search in the Iowa Starting Line took the claims at face value and did not indicate anywhere that Zarahemla is a Mormon fantasy and not part of any civilization recognized by mainstream archaeology or groups outside Mormonism.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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