1 September 2031
In the heart of Salt Lake City, an estimated 600 people stormed the iconic Salt Lake Temple over the weekend. Operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often called the “Mormon” church, the Salt Lake Temple has been a landmark of the west since its forty-year construction was completed in 1893. The temple has been in the national spotlight over recent months as it is believed to house the so-called “golden plates,” which have been at the heart of the latest controversy surrounding the church.
Church leaders teach that the golden plates are a religious record kept by inhabitants of the ancient Americas. The founder of the church, Joseph Smith is said to have translated a portion of this record, now known as The Book of Mormon. Smith and The Book of Mormon have been the subjects of many attacks against the church since its founding as Smith’s translation–or even the existence of the golden plates–have never been verified by an independent party. Smith claimed that an angel forbade him from showing the plates to more than a handful of supporters and that after completing his translation he delivered the plates to the angel.
Controversy flared up in April last year at a conference marking the church’s 200th anniversary when the current president of the church, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, announced that the angel had returned the plates to him with instructions to translate and publish another section. The alleged translation is expected to be released next month, coinciding with the church’s annual October conference. The church has not issued an official statement detailing what the new release will contain, but leaks suggest it will bear a strong resemblance to the book of Revelation in the Bible.
Critics both within and outside of the church have called for the plates to be examined by third party experts and the translation verified by independent agencies. The church has firmly refused these calls, fueling speculation that the plates do not exist. Some detractors have also pointed out that Uchtdorf is the first president of the church born outside the U.S. since John Taylor, who died in 1887. They see recent events as Uchtdorf’s play to leave a legacy, particularly after the numerous sweeping changes made by his predecessor Russel M. Nelson
who led the church from 2018 until his death at age 104 in 2028.
Reacting to the church’s repeated refusal to release the plates or even photographs of them, and amid doubts about their actual existence, rioters organized on social media and stormed the temple on Saturday, August 30th, interrupting ceremonies that were in progress. Guided by rumors of a high security vault that was installed in the temple’s basement during a 2019-2023
remodel, rioters focused on searching the lower levels of the temple, although some ventured as high as the third floor. Police arrived on the scene within minutes, expelling the rioters and making over 50 arrests.
Initial estimates place the cost of repairing damage to the temple at $3.4 million, with another $1.2 million for damage incurred to some gardens and an adjoining office building that are part of the same church-owned complex. The temple is expected to be closed for up to 6 months as repairs are completed and security measures increased.
The riot, which has been dubbed ‘Mormon Storm,’ follows on the heels of the Vatican invasion in May by a mob looking for the ark of the covenant. Government and church officials were quick to condemn the riot, with President Uchtdorf stating that, “the purpose of this life is to develop and exercise our faith. Oftentimes this requires us to accept, believe, and support things that we
do not have direct evidence for…Illegal acts such as looting, defacing, or destroying public or private property cannot be tolerated.”
While another church official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the event as “reminiscent of the mob violence our ancestors faced in Missouri,” law enforcement believes that the majority of the rioters were members of the church.
The riot is expected to be a focus at the church’s conference on October 4th and 5th. There is no word yet on whether the golden plate translation will be released as planned.