The Untold Story of The Mormon Church’s Vast Land Holdings in Arizona
The Mormon Church is one of the most recognizable religious organizations in the United States. Founded in the early 1800s by Joseph Smith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has grown to become one of the largest and most powerful religious institutions in the country. In addition to its religious teachings, the Church is also known for its vast land holdings, particularly in the southwestern United States. One state in particular, Arizona, is home to a significant amount of land owned by the Church. This article seeks to uncover the untold story of the Mormon Church’s vast land holdings in Arizona.
The Church’s Presence in Arizona
The Mormon Church first established a presence in Arizona in the mid-1800s. The Church sent missionaries to the area to convert Native Americans and other settlers to their faith. The Church’s influence grew over time, and they began acquiring land throughout the state. Today, the Church owns over 260,000 acres of land in Arizona alone, making it one of the largest landowners in the state.
The Location of the Church’s Land
The Church’s land holdings in Arizona are primarily located in the northern and eastern parts of the state. This includes areas near the Grand Canyon, the Vermilion Cliffs, and the San Francisco Peaks. The Church also owns large amounts of land near the cities of Flagstaff and Snowflake. Much of this land is used for cattle ranching, forestry, and conservation.
Cultural Significance of Church’s Land
One of the most significant things about the Church’s land holdings in Arizona is that many of the areas they own are considered to be of great spiritual and cultural significance to Native American tribes. For example, the San Francisco Peaks are considered sacred by numerous Native American tribes, who use the area for religious ceremonies and other activities. Likewise, much of the land near the Grand Canyon is considered to be culturally important to the Havasupai tribe.
Criticism and Legal Battles
The Church has faced criticism from Native American groups who feel that their spiritual and cultural rights are being stifled by the Church’s ownership of these lands. In 2011, the Havasupai tribe sued the Church, claiming that their ownership of land near the Grand Canyon was denying the tribe access to sacred areas. The Church rejected these claims, stating that they were committed to protecting the environment and respecting the rights of all people, including Native Americans.
The Church has also been accused of using its land holdings in Arizona for political purposes. Many of the areas the Church owns are located near sensitive environmental sites or areas of historical significance. This has led some to speculate that the Church is using its land to influence government policy, particularly with regard to issues like natural resource extraction and land management.
The Church’s Growing Influence in Arizona
Despite these criticisms, the Church remains committed to its land holdings in Arizona. In recent years, the Church has become even more active in the state, acquiring more land and expanding its influence. This has led some to question the Church’s motives, particularly with regard to its involvement in local politics and business.
One of the most significant examples of the Church’s involvement in Arizona’s political scene came in 2014 when the Church was openly involved in supporting Proposition 122, a measure that would have given the state greater control over federal lands within its borders. While the measure ultimately failed, the Church’s involvement in the campaign raised eyebrows among those who were concerned about the Church’s growing influence in the state.
The Complex Relationship Between Religion, Politics, and Land Ownership in the United States
The story of the Mormon Church’s vast land holdings in Arizona is complex and multifaceted. On the one hand, the Church’s ownership of these lands has enabled it to become a major player in the state’s economy while also allowing it to maintain a significant presence in the region. On the other hand, the Church’s ownership of these lands has put it in conflict with Native American groups who view these areas as vital to their spiritual and cultural traditions.
Ultimately, the story of the Mormon Church’s land holdings in Arizona underscores the complex relationship between religion, politics, and land ownership in the United States. As the Church continues to expand its presence in the state, it will be interesting to see how its influence shapes both the physical and cultural landscape of Arizona.