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Mission to Mars

The Beehive State has a lot in common with the Red Planet.

By D.P. Sorensen
Posted // June 17,2009 - “Utah will be stage for Mars in new movie.” —Headline in The Salt Lake Tribune, June 12, 2009

It seems only fitting that Utah will double as Mars in an upcoming movie, and not necessarily because of the faulty perception that Mormons are from Mars.

Utah and Mars go way back together, back to when Brigham Young brought the Saints to this God-forsaken corner of the organized universe. “This is the place,” Brigham famously pronounced as he gazed upon the bleak landscape. What is not so well known is Brigham’s next sentence, which he addressed to his trusty African-American manservant, Elijah Abel: “It reminds me of Mars.”

But it wasn’t long before Brigham determined that Utah was perhaps not the place. Almost immediately, Brigham and his followers found themselves besieged by hostile indigenous peoples, belligerent travelers bound for California, and stiff-necked federal soldiers sent by Washington to keep the Mormons in line.

Brother Brigham was mightily frustrated, and soon hit upon the idea of decamping either to Montana or to Mars. For a while, Montana looked promising, but Brigham soured on the idea when a sizable number of his wives (somewhere between 35 and 40 of them, according to various reports) absolutely refused to move to a colder climate.

So, Mars it was. Besides the nice climate, Mars was apparently unpopulated, thus presenting no problems from resentful natives. Nevertheless, a debate raged among the brethren, owing chiefly to a belief held by some of the faithful that Mars was indeed populated, not by Martians, but by some of the Lost Tribes of Israel, chief among them the tribe of Harvey. Brigham himself thought for a while that there might be something to the idea, especially since he was convinced beyond a surety that the sun itself was inhabited by intelligent (but very sweaty) beings.

People today are apt to scoff at Brigham’s belief that sentient creatures lived on the sun, attributing it to his tendency to go off the deep end about any number of things, including the idea that Adam was God and that prairie dogs were celestial spirits who had wimped out during the War in Heaven. But Brigham, though a man mighty in the loins and a true prophet of God, was still a man of his time, and men (and women) back then believed all sorts of crazy things.

It should also be noted that Brigham’s predecessor, the Prophet, Seer and Revelator Joseph Smith, Jr., preached that a race of Homo sapiens lived on the moon. According to loyal follower Oliver B. Huntington, Joseph revealed that the men on the moon were 6 feet tall, wore top hats and lived to be 1,000 years old. Joseph was mum on the presence of women on the moon, but it is reasonable to assume that they were elegant ladies, probably 5 feet, 10 inches or so, who wore tiaras, long gloves, and liked to dance cheek to cheek.

Getting back to Mars, preparations were well underway to move the body of the Saints to the Red Planet when disaster struck. Parley P. Pratt, who was the leading rocket scientist of his day, had developed a formula for transporting the entire Tabernacle, filled with the faithful, to Mars, based on a recipe used by the ancient Hebrews to travel by submarines to America. Brother Pratt was wrapping things up in Arkansas when he was killed by the husband of a cherished lady whom Pratt had anointed as one of his multiple celestial wives.

Accounts vary, but one story has it that the husband took umbrage when Pratt, refusing to tell the distraught man he was taking his wife to Mars, would only give a tiny hint, expressed in the negative mode: “Not on Uranus,” said Pratt, whereupon the husband smote him dead.

Without Pratt’s secret formula, the Saints were unable to fly to Mars, and had to content themselves to awaiting the Millennium in the Mars-like landscape of Utah. This little known chapter in Utah history has only recently come to light, thanks to the opening of the new LDS Church History Library, whose dedication was announced the same day the news came in about Utah doubling for Mars in a new movie.

In a related development, Congressman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who is frequently mistaken for a Martian, announced he would rather have his wife and daughter vaporized by a terrorist bomb on an airplane than have their naughty bits vaguely outlined by a security body scan.

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