A Book worth tracking down: “Drat! Mythed Again”

Drat! Mythed Again: Second Thoughts on Utah

by: Steve Warren
Most people, I find, have never heard of this book, but it’s one I referenced often growing up, as we had a copy in my house. My parents weren’t sure exactly when they picked it up, but it’s 1986 copyright date indicates it had to be after they moved to Alaska.

I have no idea who Steve Warren is.  Daniel Peterson has written approvingly about this book.

The basic justification for the book was, in the author’s words, that after reading a book on “authoritative misinformation entitled The Experts Speak” he noticed “its 391 pages contained not a single reference to Utah.”  To “correct . . . this clear oversight” and “to entertain” as well as inculcate “a little healthy skepticism” in readers, Warren compiled a book of misinformation, cons, dubious claims, and other interesting bits of Utah history/odds and ends.

Here are some examples from each chapter:

Chapter 1: The Great Basin
“This region is doomed to perpetual sterility” – TJ Farnham (explorer, lawyer)

Chapter 2: Great Salt Lake
“The opinion now almost universally prevails among scientists that this mysterious body of water . . . is certain within the course of a century to disappear . . .” – Scientific American (July 2, 1904)

Chapter 3: Cities, Towns and Buildings
“[Corinne is] a city of permanent importance . . . a permanent, well-governed city.” – Cincinnati Commercial (October 17, 1868)
[The book notes that the population plummeted to only 277 in 1880. A quickie internet search puts the current population at 809]

Chapter 4: Pols and Polls
Deseret News – “Recent polls in Utah show Hatch’s race against Salt Lake Mayor Ted Wilson is closing . . a KSL poll on Thursday [October 28th] had Hatch only 3 points ahead.” (Five days later, Hatch won by 58 – 41 percent)

Chapter 5: Addressing the Issues
Two quotes from Ernest L. Wilkinson on Vietnam-
May 18, 1968: “We are in this war to win.”
May 29, 1970: “We never had the intention of really winning this war in the traditional sense”

Chapter 6: Salt Lake City Government
[A long section on bats in the City and County building, starting with a declaration in 1973 that the bats were “exterminated long ago” and then giving several “updates” all the way to 1984 where state employees presented a petition “pleading for help in eliminating the bats”]

Chapter 7: Mother Nature
“In 1963, ecclesiastical writer Norman C. Pierce envisioned ‘the greatest earthquake in history’ hitting Utah. ‘Watch for it in late 1967!'”

Chapter 8: Sports
“The train only comes by once, and I just don’t think Salt Lake is a big enough market to handle what it would cost to get in [the NBA].” – Bill Daniels (December 1, 1975)

Chapter 9: Short Subjects
“Movies will get cleaner because that is the only direction they can possibly go.” – Harry Jones (Deseret News columnist; January 1, 1970)

Chapter 10: The University of Utah
“In 1902, the University of Utah Chronicle praised the faculty for eliminating math, sophomore English and physics as graduation requirements . . . Only one subject, freshman English, remained . . . Alas, the faculty giveth and the faculty taketh away . . . [four years later] a faculty committee developed new, far stricter graduation requirements . . .”

Chapter 11: BYU
“the student body will be 10,000 by 1960 and possibly 16,000 by 1970” (Ernest L. Wilkinson; 1955)
[The book notes “By 1970, BYU enrollment reached 26,689”]

Chapter 12: Experts View Mormonism
“The Mormon church was stronger at four o’clock Sunday afternoon than it ever will again become; the remarkable will and organizing force of the dead leader departed with him, and have been transmitted to none other in his church; and we may now watch with complacency, if not with joy, the gradual disintegration of the whole Mormon fabric.” (Salt Lake Tribune, following the death of Brigham Young, 1877)

Chapter 13:Tall Tales
[This chapter covers rumors and such – such as the White Horse Prophecy and claims that Joseph’s and Hyrum’s bodies were transported to Utah]

Chapter 14: LDS Second Thoughts:
“If there were some need – which there is not! – to single out one member of the Godhead for a special relationship, the Father, not the Son would be the one to choose” (Bruce R. McConkie, explaining why no one should talk of developing a “special relationship” with Christ, 1982)

“Subtitle: ‘Deepen our personal relationship with Jesus Christ’
Conclusion: ‘Establishing a personal relationship with the Savior promises deep joys both here and in eternity’.” (LDS Relief Society, Spiritual Living Lesson #5, 1979-1980)

Post Script: Great Predictions
[examples of people getting it right]
“From a Texas Newspaper in 1953: ‘BENSON REALLY HAS CONTACTS – Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson apparently has contacts that are literally out of this world. When Benson left San Antonio on Sunday, he promised south Texas farmers and ranchers immediate drought aid. . . Less than 24 hours later it rained for the first time in months.”

2 comments for “A Book worth tracking down: “Drat! Mythed Again”

  1. Thx for posting this – although I am supposing that it will only be of interest to those of us who are ‘Utahans’ (as some Easterners call us). FWIW: the prediction of it being too expensive to bring an NBA team here actually was true at the time – ask Sam Battistone Jr, who pretty much used all his accumulated wealth to make it happen, and finally was able to get out of the quagmire by the generosity of Larry Miller, a self-made auto parts guy.

  2. RW:

    There’s enough “Mormon” content to make it interesting for non-Utah types, but it definitely is geared toward people familiar with and interested in Utah’s history and culture.

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