Mine and Yours
Many have questioned the rigid faith of the mine believers. Are theirs a deeper testimony of the LDS Church or are they beliefs of another splinter group?
The church gave its last official warning against the mine in 1970, when President Harold B. Lee recited a 1913 declaration against the mine. Hansen believes the church at large has no ax to grind anymore with the mine’s faithful because Koyle’s followers don’t hold the mine above the church itself. But, they also can’t separate their beliefs in both institutions.
“Most people [who believe in the mine] that have a testimony of the gospel have that same testimony in the mine and can’t disregard the one without disregarding the other,” Hansen says.
Because of this, however, some believers worry that open talk of the mine might draw the scorn from fellow Latter-day-Saints—perhaps even excommunication. When asked about the status of mine believers’ church membership for this story, the LDS Church declined to comment.
For many like Hansen, both works are divine—others eventually will come to learn the significance of the mine. “There are some people, even leadership in the church that have no knowledge or testimony of the mine. You can be president of the church and yet the Lord might not give you knowledge of the mine. It’s something that’s on a need-to-know basis, and you don’t need to know,” he says.
The belief that God might guide the faithful toward a bonanza of lost gold and riches might cause mainstream LDS members to scoff. But then again, a strikingly similar story is that of the Book of Mormon’s discovery in which God revealed the location of golden plates inscribed with holy scriptures to church founder Joseph Smith.
D. Michael Quinn, an eminent LDS Church historian, referenced the mine in his controversial work Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. Quinn saw treasure-seeking church members like Koyle as an integral part of early Mormon folk belief.
But old-time religion practices didn’t have much support later on, explains Quinn in a telephone interview from California. “You had secular humanists and narrow-minded religionists united in the idea that they had to battle [the old] beliefs, for which the religionist considered Satanic and the secularist just considered embarrassing and stupid.”
Business As Usual
While, for some, faith in the mine and church are knotted tightly together, others don’t see it that way.
“The mine is not the church, and the church is not the mine,” says John Adams, who since last May has been president of the Relief Mine Co. (the official name of the mine).
Adams, acutely aware of the mine’s controversial history among the church and the larger community, knows the kind of attention the mine has drawn in years past. “Some people have focused on the mine to an unhealthy degree,” Adams says. “Some people end up on the fringes. Instead of focusing on the preparedness side [of the mine] and focusing on the interest of their fellow man, they tend to go off on tangents.”
For Adams the mine is just a business, at least for now. “There’s no mining going on now. We’ve got agricultural properties, rental homes and a gravel pit. We’re just generating enough revenue now to keep the lights on and the doors open.”
The money generated from these enterprises just pays the bills, while general upkeep of the mine remains with volunteers who come to clean up and make repairs. These frugal efforts have helped keep the mine open over its 113-year existence. All the while, the mine has never surrendered an ounce of gold. It’s earned the reputation of being the longest-operating mine never to produce.
For Adams, it will continue this way until the time is right. Until then, the mine doesn’t need to be a gathering point for folks living on the fringe.
“The thing people forget is that Koyle’s testimony was first that the church is true, and second was that he had a unique experience he felt he needed to act upon.”