ethel’s words

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AN IMAGINARY IOSEPA

The story on Iosepa, Utah, in The Salt Lake Tribune, July 25, 2008, page B-8, “Utah The West ” Section, is a marvel of revisionist history. A settlement has become a “town” even though its highest population (according to this story) was 228. Rather than rebut the long story, a version known to us and to many others should be presented so that it may be preserved.

My spouse and I visited the site in the forlorn sweep of Skull Valley. We chatted with a descendant of Iosepans (my word), who was a resident of Payson, Utah.

We had read history of the shocking origin and creation of the tragedy-assaulted community.

Persuaded by Mormon Missionaries--that strange breed of white-shirted con-men--Hawaiians left their lush, fertile, vibrant home and came to a land with only a tall wide sky to justify its existence. (Even those of us who love deserts found this spot remarkably drab and lifeless, except for the humming silence.)

Who can say the displaced people stayed because of superstitious faith or because they could not devise a way to return to their beloved (no doubt) green islands.

The colony dwindled but it was when disease swept through the population that death began the emancipation. Yes, there are surviving descendants, and I guess they have a right to compose their own history, the same as everybody else.

But a portrayal of that gathering of sorrow as a joyful community belongs in only one place--The Book of Mormon.

Ethel C. Hale