LDS Church's Position on the NewVistas Project
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Over three months ago, on March 22 at 6 a.m, I released the first article about the NewVistas Foundation and the man behind the grand plan, David Hall. It has taken a life of its own, and many people from the community responded with anger and disbelief, and went on to organize meetings and gatherings.
One of the key aspect that people are still wondering today is why here, why in Vermont, and why in our four towns. It was also my first question during my first phone interview with Mr. Hall, and he said "I am LDS and became interested in the area as a very young man because my family who lived in Schenectady NY, where I grew up, would visit the monument on vacations,” Mr. Hall said. LDS references The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons.
LDS Church's Response
Because the LDS Church was involved in other real estate development, and the proximity of the Joseph Smith Memorial landmark, I wanted to know about any possible involvement in the future by the LDS Church.
So on March 22, a few hours after I released my first article, I sent an email to the Church asking for their position on this project. I didn't receive an answer, so I continued emailing every couple of weeks. I finally received an answer on June 11, from Church spokesperson Dale Jones, saying "Like others we are beginning to learn more about the proposed NewVistas development. What we do know is that it is a private venture and is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
Updated position from the Church (08/17/2016): From LDS church spokesperson Eric Hawkins: "This is a private venture and is not associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in any way. The church makes no judgment about the scientific, environmental or social merits of the proposed developments. However, for a variety of reasons, we are not in favor of the proposal."
David Hall's Response
During a live interview and prior to the Church's statement, I asked David Hall if he would hope for a church involvement with the project. "I hope not, because they would screw it up completely," he answered laughing. I asked Mr. Hall if the Church has taken a stand on this project. He said that "they won't, because they discarded [the Plat of Zion] years and years ago. It's not important to them. In the early years of the Church, they tried doing communities and failed miserably over and over again. So they have given up on that one. If a church tries to do something, it's very insular. Because you are not being demographically correct, you are not getting good inputs from others. You are not being challenged enough because everything is authority-driven. So a church would have a hard time doing it."
Adding that it's very important for this project not to be a religiously based project. "[The LDS Church] tried community building, and didn't include others, it was more 'zionism' then community building" adding that the documents he has been using as a template, the Plat of Zion, are very inclusive and not restricted to only LDS members.
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