Reg McDaniel is the kind of true believer that only Utah can produce. The Utah County scrap-metal dealer is busy preparing for the apocalypse. Beyond the routine Mormon habits of storing emergency food supplies, packing a “bug-out” kit with a survival plan for disasters ranging from earthquake to economic meltdown, McDaniel has bought as much stock as he can in a mine that will produce vast treasure when the End of Days are nigh.
McDaniel is one of hundreds who believe century-old prophecies that the end, indeed, is near. They have acquired remote land for citadels and have made preparations for Armageddon.
“We can get the hell out of Dodge and go to our underground shelters with solar and wind power and wells and food supplies,” McDaniel says, then adds with a smile, “and our crowd-control ammo. It’s just crowd control, we’re not out to shoot anyone. If you’re hungry, we’ll let you know what we can give you.”
Devout Mormons accept many supernatural truths, including that the religion’s founder Joseph Smith was led to a cache of golden plates by an angel. But a surprising number have also embraced the Dream Mine prophecy, a unique mix of religion, revelation and market capitalism.
Relief Mine Company, the Dream Mine’s formal name, really exists. The tunnels are open, the ore mill awaits its first payload and hundreds of Mormons have put their money where their faith is by purchasing stock. According to the prophecy, their holdings will skyrocket in value when the mine comes in, which will be shortly before doomsday. Believers expect to use the wealth to finance final preparations for the Kingdom of God.
The End of Times is an event that has, of course, fascinated religions, cultures, societies and cults for millennia. Be it a bang or a whimper, the end has transfixed sub-groups of all faiths and creeds. They watch for signs of the apocalypse—melting ice caps, four horsemen, a reality-star-turned-president, fiery lakes, cat-and-dog cohabitation. And according to some, the end is right around the corner. Even Patrick Byrne, founder Overstock.com, is putting aside food rations and precious metals to get his business and employees through troubled times.
The Dream Mine believers are following the prophecies of an obscure farmer named John Hyrum Koyle, who in the late 1800s scratched a living out of the soil of his Spanish Fork farm. But Koyle would become a man of visions, whose dreams of the apocalypse galvanized thousands of followers—and ultimately drew the ire of the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Of Cows and Catastrophes
In 1868, Koyle lost a cow, a serious farming setback that troubled him until one night he dreamed he saw his cow alive and uninjured, except for a broken horn, in a nearby field. The next day, Koyle found the cow, broken horn and all, just as he had dreamt it.
And his dreams continued. On Aug. 27, 1894, Koyle was visited in a dream by one of the Three Nephites, pivotal figures from The Book of Mormon who often appear as guardian angels. The Nephite commanded Koyle to dig for treasure that would help the faithful in the crucial moments before the apocalypse. The angel led Koyle to a mountain where he parted earth and rock to conduct Koyle into its depths. The angel showed Koyle rich ore deposits and ancient treasures.
The next morning, Koyle got to work. Word of his dream spread and neighbors flocked to Koyle to help him build the mine. His followers’ zeal was fed by his high batting average for prognosticating. Followers say Koyle predicted the 1929 stock market crash, the start of World War I and the end of World War II.
The followers labored for years to construct the Dream Mine, oftentimes being paid only in stock. In 1909, the mine was incorporated and 114,000 shares of stock were sold at $1.50 a share. Prior to this moment the work of the mine had been on a small scale, but after incorporation, the mine’s popularity surged and at its peak, shareholders and their families numbered in the tens of thousands, according to The Dream Mine Story, written by Koyle follower Norman Pierce.
Driven by Koyle’s ominous predictions, speculative stock sales raised $20,000 during the Depression to pay for the construction of an ore-processing mill (that’s $275,000 in today’s money). But the fervency of belief also led to wild speculation. The Deseret News reported speculators were claiming the ore was valued as high as $1 million per ton. And though Koyle’s prophecies on world events often hit the mark, his repeated predictions that the mine would begin producing precious ore were invariably wrong.
Worse, throughout the years of the Dream Mine’s stock sales, the wild speculation brought LDS Church censure. In 1913, a church statement obliquely attacked Koyle when it warned members of money-making ventures that seemed divine, but were really the work of “the Archdeceiver.”
In a 1928 article in the Spanish Fork Press, Apostle James Talmage, a trained geologist, inspected the mine. He concluded it was a fraud and called Koyle’s work that “of the evil one.” By 1932, Church President Heber J. Grant decided Koyle had to be confronted. He told Mormon men at a church conference: “John H. Koyle is a liar and has been lying to the people for the last 20 years.” (Other contemporary skeptics blamed Koyle’s dreams on his wife serving him liver and onions before bed.)
Following the denunciation, the mine was temporarily shut down, only to be reopened. In 1947, the church finally unleashed its wrath on Koyle, who, after half a century, stubbornly continued to work the mine. He was excommunicated. A year later, Koyle, 84, died having never seen any sign of the Dream Mine’s treasure.
As the project stuttered and stalled, followers mostly went underground, leaving their stock to their children. But the dream never died—in fact, it has gained momentum, thanks to the Internet and ardent believer Delynn “Doc” Hansen, a retired chiropractor who runs a Dream Mine discussion group. Hansen, like others, believes the signposts Koyle warned of have come to pass and it’s time to resume digging.
Koyle’s followers have held on to the dream in part because Koyle left behind something more tangible than prophecies—the Dream Mine is real and can be seen outside Salem where a tower and a large ore-processing mill look down from a hillside. Once immaculate white, a century has left the facility weather beaten. But the faithful believe the time is nigh for the mine to give up its treasure. Besides rich veins of gold and platinum, the miners will find nine vaults, containing treasures of the ancient Nephites, a group of extinct American Indians described in the Book of Mormon.
Dreamers in a Modern Religion
Ian Barber is a professor of anthropology and archaeology at the University of Otago in New Zealand. As a visiting fellow at Princeton University’s Center for the Study of Religion, Barber researched the Dream Mine and its hold on believers. Most LDS members see the church’s challenges as LGBT members, women’s rights and other social issues, Barber says, but “[Dream Mine believers] are of a more conservative nature and likely to be slightly alienated because of dissonance between the supernatural elements and promises of earlier Mormonism and the practice and policy of the corporate church today.”
The Dream Mine movement is similar to other prophetic movements, Barber says. “The notion of supernatural salvation through the revelation of riches is very characteristic of new-prophet or millennial movements across the globe.”
It’s also, of course, consistent with mainstream LDS teachings. “In Mormon cultural history, the Koyle mine also references traditions about sacred caches of golden records in the Hill Cumorah that are also to be revealed at the end time,” Barber says. “These traditions were perpetuated by Brigham Young, among others, and have a slightly awkward currency today in Mormonism, but they are certainly current.”
The Dream Mine presents an unusual chapter even in Utah’s peculiar history, especially since it physically exists. But the story is typically Mormon for another reason—the promise of heavenly treasure right at your fingertips, if you’re only willing to believe—and buy stock.
Waiting for an Angel’s Memo
The Relief Mine Company holds an annual stockholders’ meeting every year, and every year the board has made it clear that despite John Hyrum Koyle’s prophecies seeming to have come to pass, the board is not reopening the mine unless a “messenger,” a Nephite angel, gives them an explicit OK.
Ardent believer Delynn “Doc” Hansen, a retired chiropractor, scoffs at the board’s trepidation and says it’s clearly time to start mining. “Who knows what would happen if a Nephite came to the board, and said ‘I’m a Nephite.’ They might say, ‘Yeah, and I’m President Trump’ and throw him off the hill,” Hansen says.
Meanwhile, for many of Koyle’s followers, events have proved the century-old predictions. For instance, the prophecy that overnight people would wake up and there would be no heat, electricity or gas. “An EMP [Electro Magnetic Pulse] possibly? An asteroid strike?” Hansen asks. “There’s always talk in the news about either North Korea or Russia having the ability to shoot EMPs over the United States and knock down the infrastructure.”
And Koyle once dreamed of an elephant falling to never rise again. It’s something followers interpret as the fall of the Republican Party, realized by Donald Trump’s election that upended the GOP establishment. (Or, with equal logic, could it be Ringling Bros. & Barnum Bailey’s decision to retire their elephants?)
Koyle also predicted the nation’s economy would struggle and would be supported as if on “stilts,” another signpost evidenced by the economic bailouts of 2008.
Hansen has moved ahead on preparations by partnering in creating the American Relief Mint, based in Santaquin. For the time being, the mint pays its bills by churning out commemorative silver dollar coins until it is needed to mint currency out of the Dream Mine’s precious metals.
written by: Eric Peterson
illustrations by: HABBENINK