Because Mormonism is perhaps the only major world religious movement to have started in the United States, it has always seemed to me to have taken on a peculiarly American identity.
It is, in that way, innovative though socially conservative. It is entrepreneurial while also being communal. And, like perhaps all religions, it is willing to make claims that, using modern scientific standards, cannot be proven.
And now we are seeing evidence of another especially American trait -- thinking big.
It turns out that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, through various of its organizations and subsidiaries, is looking ahead some decades and planning what might become an entirely new city in central Florida that, by 2080, could be home to half a million people living on 290,000 acres of land.
The Guardian story to which I've linked you is based on a lot of reporting that required lots of time and energy to piece together what may be in the offing. (See? There's still good newspaper journalism being done in the world.)
The Deseret cattle and citrus ranch, the story reports, has plans that "were given the green light by local county commissioners in 2015." Those plans "are thought to be the largest-ever proposed in the state and have attracted high-profile attention. Critics have accused the plans of putting already stressed natural habitats and critical resources, such as water, in further jeopardy."
Yes, there's something else American: To live in environmentally destructive ways at times.
Before I had read the story, I wasn't very familiar with the Mormon history with urban planning:
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long influenced urban developments in America through specific ideas about town planning. In the 1830s, the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, laid out a vision for compact, self-sufficient agrarian cities. These were Utopian in conception and have been hailed as a 'precursor to smart growth' planning.
"The plans for the Deseret ranch in central Florida have shone a spotlight on another side of the church’s influence: its investments in land and real estate. Today, the church owns land and property across the U.S. through a network of subsidiaries. Its holdings include farmland, residential and commercial developments, though it remains notoriously tight-lipped about its business ventures."
No doubt it's a legitimate question for the LDS Church -- as it is for other religious bodies that own much property -- whether that is in keeping with the broad religious mandate to care for the poor and needy and to be wary of monetary idolatry.
But in this case it's also worth watching how all this develops to see whether unique environmental lands will be severely compromised in an effort to provide large-lot housing for individual families. Somehow the common good must be kept in mind -- especially when religious bodies get engaged in what looks like commercial development.
(The photo here today is from the Deseret Ranch website.)
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A NEW BURST OF HATRED
What's with the recent rash of antisemitic hate crimes and vandalism in several cities around the country? Was it the recent presidential campaign that undid restraints on such anti-social behavior or is it simply a return to perhaps the world's oldest hatred. I say "return," though, in fact, antisemitism has never really gone away. We must do what the passengers on that New York transit line did (as recounted in the story to which I've linked you) -- stand against this trash.