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Sun Aug 21, 2016, 01:07 PM

 

I realize that Joseph Smith is a venerated figure among Mormons, having found those

golden tablets and talked with the angel Moroni and all. I'm not claiming Smith was a huckster, even though it's easy to interpret that story in such a way. Maybe he was just plumb nuts. In any case, he founded the Mormon religion. I don't want to mock Mormons. I don't suppose their beliefs are any more ridiculous than a lot of religious beliefs, but honestly, this guy is fucking insane. I can't imagine Vermont's stringent land use laws will accommodate his dream, but a billionaire with a determined agenda that flies directly in the face of what a place values, is still annoying.

Vermont Doesn't Want a Mormon Techno-Utopia

?

In 1954, Tracy Hall got sick of waiting around for the earth to spit out diamonds. He figured out how to press them into existence. David Hall, his son, is sick of waiting around for the earth to spit out idyllic communities, so he’s using his fortune and his father’s high-pressure strategy to try to build them. The man who built and sold Novatek, a company that supplies diamonds for use in oil drilling, is scooping up land around the world, shelling out millions in the hopes that he can finally build a Mormon techno-utopia.

We’re going to need to backtrack. Two centuries ago, Joseph Smith founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Along with countless other apparent divine revelations, Smith offered his followers a vision of an ideal community, the Mormon utopia. He called it the Plat of Zion and he detailed its design and order. It was not just Smith’s ideal community; it was the ideal community. These towns would be agrarian, self-sufficient, pious and multitudinous. Each would accommodate 20,000 Mormons on a one-square-mile grid. Smith wanted his dream communities to “fill up the world,” but he failed to build even one.

Hall intends to use Smith’s plans to turn the prophet’s birthplace, Sharon, Vermont into a Plat. He’s already purchased about a thousand acres of idyllic Vermont farmland for upwards of $3.6 million and he’s not stopping there. He wants 5,000 acres to house 20,000 residents and he’s planning to spend a quarter of a billion dollars to make his NewVista development a reality.

<snip>

In Vermont, people take pride in the evidence of this process. Most towns aren’t on grids, and covered bridges from the 19th century have signs that read “Two Dollars Fine for Driving on This Bridge Faster than a Walk.” The Green Mountain State’s redneck and hippie communities can agree on this narrative, if not much else.

This character — along with cheap, abundant, isolated land — makes Vermont an attractive state for outsiders. Utopians have long seen opportunity and freedom in the state’s rolling hills. Beginning in the 1830s, acolytes from various religions, including Mormonism, came to establish colonies, the vast majority of which were eventually dismantled or relocated. The trend continued through the 20th century as social and political revolutionaries followed in the devout colonists’ tracks. In the 1960s and ‘70s, disaffected free thinkers nationwide banded together and headed for those alluring hills. Vermont was overrun with communes.

<snip>

These stringent policies are not the only aspects of Hall’s ideas infuriating would-be neighbors, who have a website dedicated to stopping his project. He’s behaved rashly. He’s buying up acres upon acres of open land in order to build prefabbed developments that won’t look anything like farmhouses or barns. He’s trying to bring 20,000 people to a town with a population of 1,500. To put that in perspective, Vermont’s state capital, Montpelier, has only about 8,000 people. “Coming in with a development at that scale is pretty antithetical to the whole spirit of Vermont,” Jacobs says.

<snip>

https://www.inverse.com/article/19500-david-hall-newvistas-mormon-utopia-sharon-vermont

To give the church credit, it has officially come out against Mr. Hall's plans for both Sharon, VT and Provo, Utah.

August 20, 2016 - 4:59pm
Mormon church opposes plan for futuristic, green communities in Utah, Vermont

http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/nation-and-world/mormon-church-opposes-plan-futuristic-green-communities-utah-vermont

34 replies, 4046 views

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Reply I realize that Joseph Smith is a venerated figure among Mormons, having found those (Original post)
cali Aug 2016 OP
yeoman6987 Aug 2016 #1
cali Aug 2016 #3
msanthrope Aug 2016 #4
cali Aug 2016 #16
msanthrope Aug 2016 #27
MineralMan Aug 2016 #7
yeoman6987 Aug 2016 #8
MineralMan Aug 2016 #9
cali Aug 2016 #13
WheelWalker Aug 2016 #2
yortsed snacilbuper Aug 2016 #5
3catwoman3 Aug 2016 #12
dflprincess Aug 2016 #32
MineralMan Aug 2016 #6
cali Aug 2016 #15
MineralMan Aug 2016 #17
cali Aug 2016 #19
MineralMan Aug 2016 #21
LWolf Aug 2016 #10
MineralMan Aug 2016 #11
cali Aug 2016 #14
MineralMan Aug 2016 #18
cali Aug 2016 #20
MineralMan Aug 2016 #23
MineralMan Aug 2016 #24
REP Aug 2016 #29
LeftyMom Aug 2016 #34
SwampG8r Aug 2016 #22
CK_John Aug 2016 #25
Wellstone ruled Aug 2016 #26
Humanist_Activist Aug 2016 #28
TheBlackAdder Aug 2016 #31
edhopper Aug 2016 #33
Xolodno Aug 2016 #30

Response to cali (Original post)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 01:14 PM

1. That picture looks amazing

 

If we're serious about climate change that's an example to follow.

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Response to yeoman6987 (Reply #1)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 01:21 PM

3. Not in Vermont. NEVER. It's a bad fit.

 

and if you read the entire article, you'll see why. The rules for this planned community are insane.

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Response to cali (Reply #3)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 01:33 PM

4. NIMBY, cali. nt

 

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Response to cali (Reply #16)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 04:43 PM

27. Sorry, but your original post decrying the Mormon aspect of this project

 

is what stands out as your critique.

Frankly....I don't give a shit what the Mormon church thinks about land use, and the fact that you cite them approvingly is troubling.

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Response to yeoman6987 (Reply #1)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 02:02 PM

7. The idea of an agrarian-based community is one that

many support. I wonder if it is just the religious connection that is causing people concern.

I like the agricultural focus of this, although I'm not a fan of that architectural style, really. But, if the agriculture is going to be used by that community, that's something that interests many people right now, I think.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #7)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 02:23 PM

8. I think having these communities without the religion component is doable for those

 

that don't want that part. But to ignore the positives of these types of communities because of a religion or its ugly is foolish. Improvements can be made to appeal to communities without tossing the whole thing.

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Response to yeoman6987 (Reply #8)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 02:36 PM

9. They don't appeal to me, personally, but they could be

a new way of integrating living space with food-growing. I'm in favor of that. As for the religious basis, I don't really care if a religious community wants to build a project in my community. There's a monastery not far from where I live that incorporates living and farming into a community of its own. Now, that's a Catholic thing. But I don't live there, so whatever rules apply to those who do are not really my concern, as long as it's voluntary on the part of the residents.

We have many communities with strict rules about many things. Condo developments, townhome communities, etc. all have associations that dictate a wide range of things. I don't live in those, either. They're not for me. Some people like them, though, so I have no objection to them.

There's room in our society for all sorts of social experiments. Some succeed, while others fail. I don't object to someone trying a new mode of living, if they can do it and find people who want to share that vision with them. Others, though, seem to be leery of anything that is not what they're used to. That's too bad, in my opinion.

I wouldn't live in one of those Mormon "plats." They don't appeal to me at all. But, I don't mind if others like them or want to try the concept. How does it affect me? Not at all, really.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #7)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 02:56 PM

13. Not at all. The problem is scale. Sharon is a tiny town of under 2,000 people.

 

And the agriculture is solely for those in the compound. If you read the full article, I think you'd grasp why it's a very bad fit. Btw, but Vermont is an agricultural hotbed with innovation galore. It's been extensively covered in media from the NYT to Bon Appetit and abroad.

The problem is not only the architecture but that this is a small town.

In any case, we have some of the strictest land use laws in the country:

Vermont's Land Use and Development Act, is a law passed in 1970 by the Vermont legislature designed to mitigate the effects of development through an application process that addresses the environmental and community impacts of projects that exceed a threshold in size.


Development pressures resulting from the opening of two interstate highways (I-89 and I-91) made access to the state much easier for year-round visitors, creating community concerns including road congestion, increased environmental problems, burden on local services, and rising taxes. Governor Deane C. Davis (Republican) appointed a study commission in 1969 to develop a statewide law to address these concerns, as no environmental regulations or land-use controls existed. A major contributor to the construction of the law was Laura G. Wheeler, in consultation with then Vermont Attorney General James Jeffords.

The law[edit]

The law created nine District Environmental Commissions to review large-scale development projects using 10 criteria that are designed to safeguard the environment, community life, and aesthetic character of the state. They have the power to issue or deny a permit to real estate developers for any project that encompasses more than 10 acres (40,000 m˛), or more than 1 acre (4,000 m˛) for towns that do not have permanent zoning and subdivision bylaws. The law also applies to any development project with more than 10 housing units or housing lots; and may also apply for construction proposed above 2,500 feet (760 m) of elevation. Act 250 also created the Vermont Environmental Board to review appeals coming from District Commission rulings.

<snip>

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Act_250_(Vermont_law)

And from the article posted in the OP:

Hall is departing from Smith’s original plans, but — given that two centuries have passed — not by much. First, he’s increased the size of each community from one to almost three square miles. Multi-family homes and “work-live units” comprise the available housing options, all of which are relatively small and minimalistic. They’re “free,” provided you work for the community and give up all your money when you move in. (More on that below.)

<snip>

As for the social engineering — that which makes this Hall’s utopian project, and not just a planned community — there is plenty to go around. Those who don’t enjoy the restrictions are free to walk at any time. But those who wish to stay? “Participants and their dependents are required to abide by the rules and bylaws of the community.”

These rules and bylaws are already numerous. There’s a strict, prescribed diet. “There will be a need for regulation of the kinds of food that are made available to NewVista residents,” Hall writes. “The traditional western diet… will have to be greatly modified.”

In Vermont, where winters are long, it’ll take some unprecedented success to make all this work. Or it’ll take money. And if Hall gets his way, there will be no shortage of money at his disposal. Anyone who moves into a NewVista will have to invest all their money in the town. “When individuals come to a NewVista community,” Hall writes, “they will deposit their intellectual assets and cash with the community capital fund.” They must sell their automobiles and other “large personal assets” and similarly deposit — read: donate — this money. Ten percent of all business profits go to the town. NewVistas will own its residents’ intellectual property.

Karrie Jacobs isn’t convinced that residents would be able to put up with the dictates for very long. “To me, it seems like the thing that makes utopian schemes fail is that there’s only a certain amount of social engineering that people will tolerate,” she says. Hall, in Jacobs’s eyes, is overdoing it. Looking at other utopian projects’ track records, it’s hard to disagree.




He's a nut. And it won't happen, but it's disconcerting that he's buying up thousands of acres of good farmland which will soon enough turn to scrub. His timeline is long- he's talking in terms of decades before it's functional, which as I've said, will never happen. And folks here pretty much know that. It's the buying of these thousands of acres, taking them out of use, that has many people upset.

Small Farming is actually thriving and growing here with many people engaged in value added products like cheese or goat milk caramel, etc.

More, Smaller Farms In Vermont Despite National Trends
http://digital.vpr.net/post/more-smaller-farms-vermont-despite-national-trends-1#stream/0

https://learn.uvm.edu/blog-sustainability/vermont-farm-and-food-economy-is-growing

On the road that I live just off of, there is the Heirloom Pork shop, where they raise their own pigs. There is the Angus Beef farm and store. There is a fantastic organic farm store. A little past that is Jasper Hill Farm, widely acclaimed as the best artisan cheese maker and cellarer in the country. There is Hill Farmstead Beer where they're experimenting with growing their own hops. All of this within the last decade or so.

In town, there's the center for an agricultural economy and the Food Venture Center

The Vermont Food Venture Center is a multi-use processing facility, designed to get your food business cooking!
•We start you off with a one-on-one consultation and business advising to help you understand the VFVC facility, policies and your stage of business growth. Start here, with the online Client Inquiry Form.
•We offer 3 kitchens, each with different specialty industrial equipment for between $28-$35 per hour, to food entrepreneurs and farmers and more. Click to download the Rate Sheet.
•We offer cold, frozen and dry storage for your farm or food business needs. Our rates are $25/month for a dry pallet of storage, and $40/month for a frozen or cold pallet. Learn more by reading our Storage Agreement.

Through these services, it is the VFVC’s mission to support job creation, strengthen Vermont’s local food network and further build the agricultural economy.


http://www.hardwickagriculture.org/

This is replicated throughout Vermont. Small scale farming isn't just growing here, it's preserving the landscape and environment, as well as providing employment.


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Response to cali (Original post)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 01:18 PM

2. Makes me think of Rashneeshpuram...

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Response to cali (Original post)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 01:46 PM

5. Inside the town that Domino's built: a Florida community called a 'Catholic's paradise'


'If you go to the drug store and you want to buy the pill or the condoms or contraception, you won't be able to get that in Ave Maria Town': Former Domino's CEO Tom Monaghan.

Slice of heaven: Ave Maria, a planned community for Catholics built on the outskirts of Naples, Florida, is the brainchild of Tom Monaghan, the former Domino's CEO and onetime seminarian.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3395148/Inside-town-Domino-s-built-pizza-chain-s-founder-established-Ave-Maria-Florida-community-called-Catholic-s-paradise.html

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Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Reply #5)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 02:51 PM

12. A Feb 2015 article states...

...that only 720 of a planned 11,000 homes have been built.

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Response to 3catwoman3 (Reply #12)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 10:20 PM

32. Probably because there aren't many Catholics who would want to live in a "Catholic paradise"

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Response to cali (Original post)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 02:00 PM

6. Probably fighting it on its general unsuitability for Vermont

would be better than using a religious argument. I'd think local zoning laws could take care of that just fine.

As an atheist, I'm not big on any religions, but I'm also not into restricting people based on their religious beliefs. That just doesn't seem right to me.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #6)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 03:02 PM

15. That is what we're fighting it on.

 

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Response to cali (Reply #15)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 03:08 PM

17. In that case, it would probably be best to drop

the whole Mormon thing. Putting it on that basis is very shaky. Just use normal land-use rules to block it.

The minute religion becomes part of the argument, the argument is on very weak constitutional grounds. So many communities have learned in the past.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #17)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 03:20 PM

19. I was just being snarky, and you're probably right. It gave the wrong impression

 

but religion was brought into it by Mr. Hall, not the residents of Sharon or those in other parts of this small state. As I explained extensively above, what people find really troubling is this guy spending millions on good farm land in a state that's almost unique in bucking the trend: Here, small scale farming is growing and thriving. And it's one of the leading industries in the state. Those acres, all farmland, will go to scrub and just sit there. This is a working landscape, not just a tourism driven one.

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Response to cali (Reply #19)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 03:38 PM

21. I've been to Vermont. It's a lovely state.

It's not difficult to block large-scale developments and be legal about it. If Vermont or parts of Vermont want to keep such developments out, then there are time-tested ways to make it impossible to build them. Up to a point, that is. However, if those land-use rules are not in place and someone proposes a development that doesn't violate existing limitations, it can be much more difficult to prevent that development from going forward.

In many rural areas, not enough attention has been focused on maintaining an existing land-use strategy, and laws have not been put in place, because nobody expected such changes. When that happens, it's always possible for a developer to use the holes in the land-use laws to do what he or she wants. It can be almost impossible for a jurisdiction to prevent such use if it is not prohibited.

I'd guess that this particular developer believes that he has found a legal gap that would make it possible to do what he plans. He might be correct, actually. Any hint that the local jurisdiction is trying to use religious grounds to prohibit the development could destroy its chances of actually stopping it. Religious freedom is a very tough bar to crack.

The story you linked to would seem to indicate that some such thing is being attempted. That's a serious mistake, and could screw up the plans to block such a development in their tracks.

Land-use stuff is tricky. Very tricky. The community where I used to live in California made a similar mistake, really. Not having to do with religion, but in not having well-designed land-use laws. A developer wanted to put up a shopping mall. It was across a major road from another one, but the property in question was zoned for agricultural use. The owner of the property was the developer. He looked at the land use limitations and discovered that he could pretty much do anything agricultural there without restriction. So, he decided that he'd put a pig farm on the property. It turned out that the local jurisdiction could not keep him from doing so, right on the edge of a residential and commercial zone. They had not considered such a use, and had not prohibited it.

The developer built the shopping mall. Apparently the local jurisdiction decided that would be a more appropriate use, since there was another one right across the road. The pig farm project was not developed.

If the area around that small town does not have adequate land-use restrictions in place, that jurisdiction is going to find that trying to use religion as the basis for prohibiting the development will backfire and they'll lose any chance of blocking this developer by taking the wrong approach. I foresee real problems with this, frankly. And if the proper land-use restrictions are not in place, it's too late to impose them if the developer has filed any plans for his project.

Quite a dilemma, and the developer can use current interest in alternative community development and agricultural/residential mixed development, along with energy considerations to push this effectively. The religion thing sounds like desperation to me. It will not succeed, and could backfire spectacularly.

On the upside, most such dream communities are never built for other reasons, anyhow.

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Response to cali (Original post)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 02:50 PM

10. I'm all for green communities.

I'm not for a whole intact town with laws requiring adherence to a particular religious doctrine.

And I can see why residents are fighting it. I would, too, for the same reasons.

These stringent policies are not the only aspects of Hall’s ideas infuriating would-be neighbors, who have a website dedicated to stopping his project. He’s behaved rashly. He’s buying up acres upon acres of open land in order to build prefabbed developments that won’t look anything like farmhouses or barns. He’s trying to bring 20,000 people to a town with a population of 1,500. To put that in perspective, Vermont’s state capital, Montpelier, has only about 8,000 people. “Coming in with a development at that scale is pretty antithetical to the whole spirit of Vermont,” Jacobs says.

Hall doesn’t seem to know the first thing about Vermont and its ways, and continues to act as though that’s not problematic. To Hall’s credit, he’s attended at least one town meeting and personally defended his plan, but he doesn’t seem to take criticism too well. “I apologize that I have such great confidence in it,” he told Bloomberg. “I personally think that the people of Vermont will eventually ask for it.


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Response to cali (Original post)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 02:51 PM

11. Amana Colonies in Iowa

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amana_Colonies

Still there, after all these years.

Amish Communities

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amish

Still there, after all these years.

Hutterite Community in Montana



Still there, after all these years

How are these different?

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #11)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 03:01 PM

14. It's very different.

 

for one thing it hasn't been communal since the 1930's. The total population is around 1,500. Some billionaire didn't just decide arrogantly to buy up a lot of land and plan to plop 20,000 people into it. It was a natural outgrowth of religious persecution in Europe. Not the scheme of one man.

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Response to cali (Reply #14)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 03:14 PM

18. Cali, this is a weak argument.

Truly it is. It's one that many communities have tried to use to keep unwanted religious developments from being built. Whether it is a mosque and Muslim school and community center or some other religion-based thing, focusing on that aspect is very weak, legally.

Instead, local government must rely on local land-use and zoning restrictions to keep such developments out. Raising the religious thing to any degree at all is a red flag to the courts.

Lots of real estate developments are the idea of one man (person). Most, in fact. Every big condo development, for example, or entire multi-residential communities. Bringing religion into the argument is specious. If that area of Vermont doesn't want some high-density, mixed-use development, it needs to restrict that universally. It can't discriminate based on religious connections. That trick never works.

In fact, it's just plain wrong to do so. Unconstitutional, actually.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #18)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 03:36 PM

20. My argument here isn't a religious based one. Why not respond to the long post I wrote in response

 

to you upthread.

I have no idea what you're referring to here- beyond interpreting what I wrote, very oddly. I didn't mention religion as a reason for objecting Mr. Hall's plans. I mentioned it as a historical reference to Amana. (yes, I was snarky in my title and about Joseph Smith, and as I said, I regret that) but in the post you're responding to, religion wasn't mentioned as a reason to object. There are religious communes

You are responding without knowing the facts that I elaborated on extensively. There are religious communes in Vermont, Twelve Tribes being the most notable, and it's had it's problems over the years, with both the state and the community but it's been settled for many years now.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_Tribes_communities

They're all over the world now. It started in Tennessee but soon moved to Island Pond, VT , where I lived during its most tumultuous times, back in the early 80s.

http://www.twelvetribes.com/locations

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Response to cali (Reply #20)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 03:45 PM

23. I'm discussing your original post, which was all about

the religious aspect, cali. The only thing that can really keep this developer from going forward are strong land-use regulations. It sounds to me like they may not exist. I'm betting the developer knows what the rules are, or he wouldn't be buying up all that land, frankly.

I understand your dislike of the plans. But, I'm not sure there will be a way to block the project. No developer would buy up land if he didn't see a legal way to proceed with his plans. Change may well be coming to that area of Vermont. Change happens. Frankly, the idea is similar to others I've seen for mixed ag/res use developments. They're pretty popular right now with environmental and energy use folks.

I don't have time to look into this any further, and it's not near me, anyhow. It's interesting, though, and the fact that religion has been brought into it adds to my interest. Maybe I'll set up a search notification on Google for this project.

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Response to cali (Reply #20)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 03:56 PM

24. Of all the articles on this development plan, you chose

to link to the one that featured the Mormon aspect. Google NewVista project Vermont and you'll find any number of articles discussing it without the religion element. You picked the article, not me.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #11)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 06:59 PM

29. The Amana villages exist today mostly as tourist attractions, not self-sufficient 'colonies'

A better example would be Unity Village.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #11)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 10:28 PM

34. Good soil, a decent growing season and a population who knows how to farm?

The history of New England is full of utopian religious communes set up by people who didn't know how to farm. I can't think of many that lasted more than five years.

Oh wait, Wikipedia has a chart! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_American_Utopian_communities

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Response to cali (Original post)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 03:40 PM

22. +1

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Response to cali (Original post)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 03:57 PM

25. I wonder if this is just another EB-5 scheme like Jay Pike in the making.

Or maybe he is just flipping farm acres instead of houses.

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Response to cali (Original post)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 04:34 PM

26. Lot of ground has been covered via the article

 

and the commentary. Until you have lived in and around their Culture and their Community controls and understand just how controlled most of their Members belief systems are,then and only then,you have a true nature of their beliefs. Stockholm Syndrome comes to mind. Distrust of outsider's comes to mind. Here is a real smack down,"you ain't one of us and we don't want you here",beauty eh. Know that one personally.

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Response to cali (Original post)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 04:47 PM

28. Oh, he was a huckster, there's even written records confirming it. I find it amusing that a whole...

 

religion sprung up from his BS.

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Response to Humanist_Activist (Reply #28)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 09:58 PM

31. South Park did an expose on him. Hearing his name reminds me of the Mountain Meadows Massacre!

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Response to Humanist_Activist (Reply #28)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 10:26 PM

33. What religion didn't spring up from bullshit?

We just had newspapers for his.

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Response to cali (Original post)

Sun Aug 21, 2016, 08:20 PM

30. Good for them!

If they accomplish even half their goal, its something to take note.

You may not like the religious aspect of it, but, religion has played a role in the past in our advancement.

And quite frankly, I would like a religion that's hated by the "mainstream" religions do something that advances humanity for a change.

But if they have some success, we as humanity need to take note and capitalize on the elements of their success. Doesn't mean we have to become Mormons, but we can learn from their success or failures.

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