There is "a striking comparison" between 19th century Utah and the Holy Land in the Near East, according to a Texas college professor.
Dr. Richard V. Francaviglia, professor of history and geography, the University of Texas at Arlington, said that even Utah's settlers in the 1800s saw similarities between the two regions, based on maps and memories.
"The Latter-day Saints are modern day Israelites," he said during a presentation Friday at the 52nd annual meeting of the Utah State Historical Society in the Salt Lake City Library.
For Francaviglia, it was an intriguing 1896 map showing the Great Salt Lake area and an upside-down Dead Sea region side-by-side that highlighted this striking comparison best. He also said many mapmakers of the day were also aware of similarities.
Francaviglia stressed that not everything is alike. For example, Utah's elevations are much more abrupt and higher, ranging from 4,500 feet above sea level to 11,300, as compared to the Holy Land's 1,200 feet below sea level to 3,000 feet.
However, for Deseret, the Wasatch Mountains were viewed as a barrier than could help protect the church members from their enemies, as well as from corruption.
Also, Salt Lake City was laid out in a rectangular orderly fashion, while Jerusalem relied on a very irregular and disorderly kind of street layout,