AP, Saturday, August 17, 2002
SUSQUEHANNA, Pa. — Land on the Susquehanna River in Northeastern Pennsylvania may become a Mormon pilgrimage site because church officials say it is the place where most of the Book of Mormon was written almost 200 years ago.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints plans to buy land in the Susquehanna/Oakland/Lanesboro Industrial Park on the north bank of the Susquehanna River.
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Susquehanna County commissioners on Wednesday helped clear the way for the sale by advancing a plan to maintain an access road to the site. The 24-acre parcel will cost $60,000, according to Susquehanna County economic development director Justin Taylor.
Taylor said it is not out of the question to think that the site could be a place “every Mormon would be drawn to visit at least once in their lives.”
Some believers already make pilgrimages to the area, which was once part of neighboring Harmony Township and home to church founder Joseph Smith. A monument marks the site where Smith was baptized in the river, and many Mormons are still baptized there.
The church said most of the Book of Mormon, which members believe was translated from ancient records provided by a heavenly messenger, was written down in 1829 in the Smith home. Church spokesman Coke Newell said officials plan to build a replica of the home, which burned down in the 19th century.
Newell said the project could wind up as part of several Mormon Heritage tours that currently visit Palmyra, N.Y., Nauvoo, Ill., and Kirtland, Ohio.
The church counts 11 million members worldwide, more than 5 million of them in the United States.
Area leaders said they hope the purchase — and the Susquehanna/Oakland/ Lanesboro Industrial Development Authority’s first tenant since it formed in 1991 — will generate economic activity.