1913 A Warning Voice
Outgoing President William Howard Taft was succeeded by President Woodrow Wilson on March 4, 1913. President Wilson proposed in his inaugural address that his election marked a clear “change of government” in which the American system would reexamine its previous industrially-, materialistically-, economically-driven tendencies and pursue a more moral, human-centered course. He specifically referred to mining twice in rather negative tones.1 Indeed, the worst mining disaster in United States history claimed 362 lives on December 6, 1907, in a Monongah, West Virginia, coal mine. That year saw the most coal mining deaths in American history with 3,242 fatalities, thus leading Congress to establish the Bureau of Mines. The second worst mining disaster occurred later in 1913 on October 22 in Dawson, New Mexico, killing 263 people.2 Despite the tremendous risk, “the hope of finding mineral treasure” was a staple feature of the economic mindset of many Americans from its early colonial period. “The possibility of making a great deal of money in a short time always crazes people; and the discovery of large deposits of metal, both the baser and the precious, affords just such inviting possibilities to the workman and to the capitalist,” wrote nineteenth-century mining historian Albert S. Bolles in 1879.3
Occasionally, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints became involved in what archaeologist and anthropologist Ian Barber has called “sacred mining enterprises,” endeavors with significant spiritual overtones. Barber identifies several such ventures in operation during the latter part of the 19th century and into the early part of the 20th century.4 The most notable of these was John Koyle’s “dream mine” near Salem, Utah, so-called because of Koyle’s claims that angelic visitations and other spiritual manifestations had induced him to engage in the mining endeavor.5 In June 1913, Elder James E. Talmage, of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and a professional mining consultant, traveled to Salem to inspect the mine. He pronounced it “absolutely without promise of success.”6 While the Church allowed its members to pursue professional, vocational, and economic ventures of their choice, Koyle appeared to use his position as a counselor in the bishopric and later as bishop to induce members of his congregation to buy stock in the Koyle Mining Company.7 This appears to be the immediate precursor to the initial issuance of the 1913 Statement on August 2. On July 2, 1914, another Deseret News article reported that the “dream mine” was about to shut down (although it was not). However, the article claimed that “another mine in another part of Utah being worked on similar principles” was starting up;8 therefore, the 1913 Statement by the First Presidency was reprinted. It is difficult to know whether the other mine being referred to was the “Humbug Mine” being run (rather successfully) by Jesse Knight9 or perhaps early reports of the “Syndicate Mine” being started by Benjamin Bullock, a previous collaborator with Koyle.10
The 1913 Statement was issued by the members of the First Presidency, which consisted at this time of Joseph F. Smith (President), Anthon H. Lund (1st Counselor), and Charles W. Penrose (2nd Counselor). As was mentioned already, Elder Talmage had also likely counseled with the First Presidency about the matter.
Without identifying any specific mining ventures, the First Presidency denounced “fake mining schemes” and any other “fanciful schemes to make money for the alleged purpose of ‘redeeming Zion’ or providing means for ‘the salvation of the dead’ or other seemingly worthy objects” (Improvement Era, Sept. 1913, p. 1149). The First Presidency also declared, “No person has the right to induce his fellow members of the Church to engage in speculations or take stock in ventures of any kind on the specious claim of Divine revelation, or vision, or dream, especially when it is in opposition to the voice of recognized authority, local or general” (Ibid., pp. 1148-49).
This last phrase alludes to a much broader principle that is prevalent throughout the statement: the order of revelation in the Church. The statement begins with a reference to Hiram Page and others11 who had been led astray by “delusive spirits” (Improvement Era, Sept. 1913, p. 1148). Having experienced many such situations in the formative years of the Restored Church, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit, when they think they have the spirit of God.”12 So while the immediate concerns about “dream mines” and the like catalyzed the issuing of this statement, the First Presidency took occasion to entrench principles related to the order of revelation in the Church. For example, “visions, dreams, tongues, prophecy, impressions or any extraordinary gift or inspiration” should not be accepted by members of the Church when it “convey[s] something out of harmony with the accepted revelations of the Church or contrary to the decisions of its constituted authorities” (Ibid.). Similarly, revelatory pretensions are “not to be accepted when contrary to Church covenants, doctrine or discipline, or to known facts, demonstrated truths, or good common sense” (Ibid.). In summary: “The Holy Ghost does not contradict its own revealings. Truth is always harmonious with itself” (Ibid.). Thus, anyone claiming to receive revelation that was in violation of or out of harmony with the revelations of the Lord to the Church as a whole could not be considered a reliable source.
Based on the understanding that priesthood authority and keys had been bestowed upon the leaders of the Church for the governance of the Lord’s Kingdom on the earth,13 the First Presidency reminded Church members that the Church “is not governed by individual gifts of manifestations, but by the order and power of the Holy Priesthood as sustained by the voice and vote of the Church” (Improvement Era, Sept. 1913, p. 1149). Warning Church members to not be led astray by any influence that “leads away from the direct revelations of God for the government of the Church,” the First Presidency also testified that “the counsels of the Lord through the channel he has appointed will be followed with safety” (Ibid.). As important as gifts of the Spirit are in the Church of Christ, they cannot supersede the delegated authority from the Lord Himself to His chosen servants.14
While the 1913 Statement may have led some Church members in the early 20th century to withdraw from or avoid entanglement with “dream mines” or other speculative endeavors, the enduring value of this statement for Church members is readily apparent in context of this warning from Elder Russell M. Ballard, a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, in October 1999:
Today we warn you that there are false prophets and false teachers arising; and if we are not careful, even those who are among the faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will fall victim to their deception… We often assume that such individuals are associated with small radical groups on the fringes of society. However, I reiterate: there are false prophets and false teachers who have or at least claim to have membership in the Church. There are those who, without authority, claim Church endorsement to their products and practices. Beware of such.15
The principles found in this statement will help individuals and families avoid the “disappointment, sorrow, and disaster” (Improvement Era, Sept. 1913, p. 1149) that comes from hearkening to and following sources that are not called of God.
- See Wilson, Woodrow (1913), “First Inaugural Address of Woodrow Wilson,” Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/wilson1.asp , accessed June 15, 2021.
- See “Mine Disasters in the United States,” United States Mine Rescue Association, https://usminedisasters.miningquiz.com/saxsewell/historical.htm , accessed June 15, 2021.
- See Flake, The Politics of American Religious Identity, pp. 65-68; Allen, James B. and Leonard, Glen M. (1992), The Story of the Latter-day Saints, p. 447; and “The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage,” Gospel Topics Essays; https://abn.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/the-manifesto-and-the-end-of-plural-marriage?lang=eng , accessed May 25, 2021.
- Bolles, Albert S. (1879), “Mining History in the United States,” Weiser, Kathy, ed. (2020), Legends of America, https://www.legendsofamerica.com/we-mininghistory/ , accessed June 15, 2021.
- See Barber, Ian (2009), “Dream Mines and Religious Identity in Twentieth-Century Utah: Insights from the Norman C. Pierce Collection.,” Princeton University Library Chronicle, vol. 70, no. 3, pp. 433-470, https://blogs.princeton.edu/westernamericana/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2013/01/Barber-Final.pdf , accessed June 15, 2021.
- See Blair, Addison (2019), “Koyle Dream Mine,” Intermountain Histories, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/32 , accessed June 15, 2021; Graham, Joe S. (1970), “The Dream Mine: A study in Mormon folklore,” BYU Theses and Dissertations, https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5723&context=etd , accessed June 15, 2021; and Christianson, James R. (1962), “An Historical Study of the Koyle Relief Mine, 1864-1962,” BYU Theses and Dissertations, https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5597&context=etd , accessed June 15, 2021.
- See Seppi, Gregory (2020), “James E. Talmage and Scientific Consulting in Early Modern Utah,” BYU Studies Quarterly, vol. 59, no. 1, pp. 183-212, https://byustudies.byu.edu/article/james-e-talmage-and-scientific-consulting-in-early-modern-utah/ , accessed June 15, 2021.
- The Relief Mine continues to maintain a website ( https://www.reliefmine.com/ , accessed June 15, 2021)
- “The Dream Mine,” Deseret News, July 4, 1914, p. 4, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=Aul-kAQHnToC&dat=19140704&printsec=frontpage&hl=en , accessed June 15, 2021.
- See Reece, Gary F. (1961), “‘Uncle Jesse’: The story of Jesse Knight--miner, industrialist, philanthropist,” BYU Theses and Dissertations, https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=6063&context=etd , accessed June 15, 2021; see also Barber, p. 441.
- See Barber, pp. 447-450.
- See Doctrine and Covenants 28; see also Cannon, Jeffrey G., “‘All Things Must Be Done in Order,’” Revelations in Context, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/revelations-in-context/all-things-must-be-done-in-order?lang=eng , accessed June 15, 2021.
- "Times and Seasons, 1 April 1842," p. 744, The Joseph Smith Papers, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/times-and-seasons-1-april-1842/10 , accessed June 15, 2021.
- See Doctrine and Covenants 28:2-7; 35:18; 81:2; 90:3-5; 107:18-19; 128:11, 14, 20; and 132:7.
- See McBride, Matthew, “Religious Enthusiasm among Early Ohio Converts,” Revelations in Context, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/revelations-in-context/religious-enthusiasm-among-early-ohio-converts?lang=eng , June 15, 2021.
- “Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers,” October 1999 General Conference, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1999/10/beware-of-false-prophets-and-false-teachers?lang=eng , accessed June 15, 2021.
In April of 1970, President Harold B. Lee taught priesthood holders these principles after reading almost the entire 1913 Statement:
Addresses given are spurious, and yet the amazing thing is that we find that these spurious writings and some of these purported revelations, which we found upon investigation are absolutely false, are finding their way into our Relief Society meetings, into priesthood quorums, firesides, institutes, and seminaries. Brethren of the priesthood, you defenders of the faith, we would wish that you would plead with our Saints to cease promoting the works of the devil. Spend your time promoting the works of the Lord, and don't allow these things to be found among those under your charge, for they are the works of Satan, and we are playing his game whenever we permit such things to be heralded about and repeated and passed about on every side.Read More: https://ia801606.us.archive.org/20/items/conferencereport1970a/conferencereport1970a.pdf
In October of 1972, President Harold B. Lee addressed the priesthood holders of the Church for the first of only three times as President of the Church since he would pass away in December of the next year. Significantly, just two years after he had quoted the 1913 Statement in a General Priesthood Session of Conference, he quoted from it again, and then said:
This is something that is recurring time and time again, and we call upon you holders of the priesthood to stamp out any such and to set to flight all such things as are creeping in, people rising up here and there who have had some “marvelous” kind of a manifestation, as they claim, and who try to lead the people in a course that has not been dictated from the heads of the Church.
As I say, it never ceases to amaze me how gullible some of our Church members are in broadcasting these sensational stories, or dreams, or visions, some alleged to have been given to Church leaders, past or present, supposedly from some person’s private diary, without first verifying the report with proper Church authorities.
If our people want to be safely guided during these troublous times of deceit and false rumors, they must follow their leaders and seek for the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord in order to avoid falling prey to clever manipulators who, with cunning sophistry, seek to draw attention and gain a following to serve their own notions and sometimes sinister motives.
In 1997 Gerald N. Lund, Church Educational System zone administrator (and later a General Authority Seventy), taught that there continue to be those who try to claim special revelations and manifestations outside of that which is received by the First Presidency and other authorized priesthood leaders. After quoting from the 1913 statement, he said:
Is that plain enough? If the Lord wants to warn the Church about the importance of food storage, he won’t do it through a hitchhiker. If you need to be told of a coming earthquake, you won’t get that news from an audiotape your neighbor hands you. Let us be wise, brothers and sisters.Read more: https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/gerald-n-lund/voice-lord
While speaking at a BYU Devotional in 1998, Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander, of the First Quorum of Seventy, applied the 1913 Statement to his own experiences in dealing with those antagonistic to the Church. He shared this insight:
Speaking more personally, over the last weeks I have read quite a bit of material from those who oppose the Church and its teachings. As I read through the various allegations and accounts, I continually asked myself, “Is this my experience with the gospel?” It was not. My experiences within the gospel framework kept me safe from believing what was not true.Read more: https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/dennis-b-neuenschwander/believing-what-you-know/
Edward J. Brandt, Director of the Evaluation Division in the Correlation Department of the Church, reminded religious educators of the important principles taught in the 1913 Statement. He warned them against feeling as though they had “greater or higher truth” to teach than that which is in the scriptures and which comes from living prophets. He included this counsel for how to best put these principles into practice in the classroom:
Continue to be prayerful, be prepared, be focused by keeping it simple and direct. And make sure everything you teach is built upon the scriptures and the teachings of the prophets and apostles, for they have a special spiritual endowment in connection with their teachings.Read More: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/teaching-seminary-preservice-readings-religion-370-471-and-475/obtaining...
In the Doctrine and Covenants Institute Student Manual (2017), the 1913 Statement is quoted at length in the chapter for Doctrine and Covenants 28. In conjunction with the Statement, the manual also includes this quotation from the Prophet Joseph Smith
...it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instructions for those in authority, higher than themselves; therefore you will see the impropriety of giving heed to them; but if any person have a vision or a visitation from a heavenly messenger, it must be for his own benefit and instruction; for the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the Church are vested in the keys of the kingdom.Read More: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/manual/doctrine-and-covenants-student-manual/section-28-thou-shalt-not-command-him-who-is-at-thy-head?lang=eng
The 1913 Statement was originally published in the Deseret News on August 2, 1913, p. 4. It was prefaced by an editorial entitled, “A Timely Warning,” which mentioned the “dream mine” specifically:
Just two weeks later, the 1913 Statement was republished in the Deseret News on August 16, 1913, p. 4. This time it was followed by an article entitled, “Dream Mines” :
[Featured version] The 1913 Statement was published in the September 1913 issue (pp. 1148-1149) of the Improvement Era without any introduction or statement as to its context or purpose:
Another digital copy of the the 1913 Statement in the September 1913 issue of the Improvement Era is available on Archive.org:
The 1913 Statement was republished in another article entitled, “The Dream Mine,” in the Deseret News, July 4, 1914, p. 4:
The 1913 statement can also be found in Clark, James R. (1970), Messages of the First Presidency, 4:284-286.