In the heart of rural Utah, there's a small group watching the 2016 election not just as a contest for the leadership of the free world, but also as a very real harbinger of the end of days.
These people are believers in a turn-of-the-century prophet named John Hyrum Koyle. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Koyle amassed thousands of followers based on his dreams that predicted the end of the world. One in particular, Koyle's "Republican elephant" dream, predicted an elephant, embodying the Republican Party, stumble to its knees during an election and never rise again. A century later, there are still those who believe in Koyle's dreams—which they see as collective symbols of the end of the world—and have speculated Donald Trump's candidacy is a fulfillment of the elephant dream.
In other words, they see Trump as a symbol of the apocalypse.
America's history has long been rich on seers, revelators, and con artists, all claiming to have a gift for seeing what's around the bend. But Koyle wasn't just a seer. The fact that he still has believers in Utah in 2016 is due in part to the preservation of a mine, carved into the hillsides outside of Salem, Utah, an hour south of Salt Lake City.
In 1894, as the legend goes, Koyle was visited in a dream by an angel, who led him from his modest farmhouse into the mountains, safely passing through dirt and rock like it was fog. Inside the mountain, the angel revealed to Koyle not only veins of gold, but nine vaulted rooms filled with treasures of the Nephites, an extinct tribe of people from the Book of Mormon. The angel told Koyle to build a mine, and during humanity's 11th hour, the riches would be used to build a kingdom that would survive the Armageddon.
It's said that, back then, people listened to Koyle because his prophecies were mostly accurate: His first dream led him to find a missing cow, in a nearby pasture; later, he was said to have predicted the 1929 stock market crash and the start of World War I. So when he told others about the mine, they signed on.
In 1909, the mine was incorporated. Roughly 114,000 shares of stock were sold for $1.50 a piece, with the understanding that once they hit the motherlode, the shares would skyrocket in value. In the mine's heyday, shareholders and their families amounted to between 20,000 and 30,000 Utahns that supported Koyle's visions of the mine, according to the accounts of Norman Pierce, himself a Koyle acolyte and author of The Dream Mine Story.
Today, the mine's tunnels, including a main tunnel over 3,000 feet long, remain on the hillside—yet the mine itself still isn't operational. The Relief Mine Company has, however, made sure to complete $100 worth of labor on the mine every year to keep the claims as per Utah state law. The claims have thus been active and registered with the state for over a century, all the while producing no jackpots or dividends for shareholders. The mine only pays its meager bills from revenue from a gravel pit on site and the sale of fruit from an orchard on the property.
Stock still gets passed down through the generations, sometimes as an oddity, like when my father—who avoided any and all churches quite religiously—passed stock on to me. Others have received stock and bought new shares in full anticipation of the Armageddon.
The Republican elephant prophecy isn't the only sign that the end is near. Koyle's followers also point to the 2008 recession and the subsequent bailouts. At the time, believers compared the events to Koyle's dream that, before the end, the government would prop up the nation's economy as if it were on "stilts." But with the Republican Party seemingly splitting at the seams—even George W. Bush wondered recently if he would be the last Republican president—followers see this election cycle as another sign that they need to prepare for the end.
Take Reg McDaniel, who's been active with the mine for several years and has bought numerous shares. McDaniel is pretty sure the end is coming, and he's preparing for it. In 2014, he even approached the mine's current board of directors offering to donate rebar and construction materials to help get the mine in working order. His offer was politely rebuffed; he told me the current board, who are Mormons, made it clear that they wouldn't do so without explicit guidance from one of the Three Nephites, the guardian-angel like figures from Mormon scriptures.
McDaniel, however, isn't taking his chances. He told me Trump's role in this election is a clear manifestation of Koyle's prophesy. He and others, he says, have already stocked a compound with food, ammunition, and rations to survive in underground shelters.
Delynn "Doc" Hansen, another believer, quit his chiropractic business several years ago to help found the American Relief Mint in Santaquin, Utah. While the mint pays its bills by churning out products like commemorative buffalo nickel coins, it's real mission is to be ready to start minting coins from the mine's ore.
Hansen told me Koyle believers are warning of other perils he envisioned—like one prediction that, overnight, people would wake up, and there would be no heat, electricity, or gas. Hansen, like McDaniel and others, is preparing for the fallout.
Other stockholders have been heeding the warning signs for a while. William Anderson, a stockholder and ardent believer in Koyle, already got his shelter and most of his supplies ready and in place several years ago. (He's still gathering the last few items on his list, like the radiation detector he recently picked up in the mail.) While Anderson sees Trump as a fulfillment of Koyle's elephant dream, he also told me that he and others have had dreams predicting that something would happen in 2016. A man in Nevada, for example, claimed that God told him that Trump was the Lord's servant.
"[He] was told that God had his hand on Trump, but so many other figures in history—that have been nasty vicious people—God used them also," Anderson told me. "The question is, is he going to use [Trump] to pull us out of this mess or plunge us further in? Personally, I'm pretty pessimistic."
Like other believers in Koyle's mine, Anderson is prepped and ready, and with preparation comes peace of mind when contemplating the apocalypse.
"You know with nuclear war, if you live in the right place, it's not that big of a deal, and would actually come as a relief," Anderson says, since he believes targets would likely be cities like Washington, DC. "The places they're gonna hit, they can have 'em."
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