The settlement of the Mountain West by the Latter-day Saints led by Brigham Young was considered impossible by the famous trapper Jim Bridger due to the poor and cold climate.

Also, beginning with the cicada-like “Mormon Crickets,”  the Great Basin was the heart of permanent habitation of the most virulent locust species ever known anywhere in the world: The Rocky Mountain Locust (melanoplus spretus).[i]

It appears that this locust was the main impediment to the colonization of the western frontier, with its periodic swarming phase eating everything in sight.[ii]

The Migratory Locust in its adult phase complete with wings ready to swarm.
Rocky Mountain Locust from 19th century photos.

The estimated trillions of locusts in a single mighty plague of locusts in 1875 was and remains a world record of destruction and number of insects.[iii]

Map of key regions for the rocky mountain locust. The yellow and orange regions are inhabited permanently, from which swarms move into and through the red and green regions and sometimes California. This map can be zoomed in and out to explore the regions.

Suddenly, this Locust Became Extinct.

Amazingly, Since 1902, the Rocky Mountain Locust melanoplus spretus, has become extinct. “Instead of another invasion during the next drought cycle, the locust completely disappeared over the course of a few years [after 1875,] without any apparent cause.” [iv]

This inexplicable disappearance of so powerful an organism has been a mystery to scientists and historians alike. [v]

Grasshopper Invasion of 1855

As the Latter-day Saint pioneers struggled to colonize the Mountain West, they faced worse insect plagues than either the 1848 battle with the “Mormon Crickets,” or the locust plagues of the Old World in Egypt.[vi] 

My previous article on the Rocky Mountain Locust plague in the Utah Territory in 1855 emphasized how the Lord, prospered the Latter-day Saints to not just survive but thrive against a seemingly all powerful foe. The Prophet Brigham Young and the Latter-day Saints learned through revelation, prayer and practical experience important principles of welfare services that govern the Church in our day. [vii]

I had noted in passing the great swarm that covered Nebraska in 1875 and that it broke all of the world records for a deadly swarm of insects. I saw the notes and articles on the locust’s mysterious extinction but it did not really register in my mind.

I was focusing on the effect the locust battle with the pioneers, their ability to settle the mountain west area and not to be destroyed by these amazing menacing insects. And, I thought that there were other species of locusts in the world—and there are. And, other lesser species of locust have also become extinct—also true. [viii]

How Could this Super-Powerful Locust Disappear during the Height of Its Power?

But, then I looked closer and learned that even in our day, North America is the only continent outside of Antarctica without a powerful locust species. And, 1902 was the last year of any evidence of the formerly gigantic “eater” of everything, the Rocky Mountain Locust.

Perhaps the explanation is not just a logical scientific interpretation. What if it involved both physical and spiritual causes?

Is There a Reference in Malachi to this Locust?

I reread the verses in Malachi that the Savior personally quoted to the Nephites in America at the temple in Bountiful.[ix]

The Book of Mormon would not be complete for Mormon and Moroni to not include key gospel essentials and the various priorities of those essentials to teach and empower Joseph Smith and his successors

The Lord proclaimed through the prophet Malachi:   “Ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them.” (3 Nephi 24:7) 

Malachi’s words promise superlative blessings to those who repent and obey the Lord’s laws, especially the laws of tithes and offerings. And, it looks like one of those rewards for obedience is a good match for this not-so-nice locust to become extinct and for the latter-day saints to be preserved by His matchless power.

The Lord would rebuke something known as the “devourer.” Yes, the only references to a word of this spelling in the standard works: Malachi and 3 Nephi.

There it was: Just as the Lord was enumerating the phenomenal blessings to be poured out upon those who live the laws of tithes and offerings; and just before the Lord gave His prophet Malachi the supernal prophesies of the culmination of our mortal life under the priesthood power of Elijah. This power would require the building of holy temples, and the endowment and sealing of the family of God on both sides of the veil that all might receive exaltation and eternal life.

Rebuke the Devourer [x]

“And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the fields, saith the Lord of Hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed, for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of Hosts.” (3 Nephi 24:11-12)

The Lord will “rebuke the devourer” and “devourer” is translated as “locust” or “eater.” It is the plague that could destroy 70% of all crops in the Utah Territory in 1855, so close to a devastating plague where the pioneers would have to abandon their western migration.

And, at that time, who would have accepted the pioneers moving back into the United States, without fearing a repeat of Missouri? And, not to mention the widespread effects of the locusts on the food supplies of the other States of the Union, e.g. Nebraska after Albert’s  Swarm after 1875.

Diligent Faith and Works for the Restoration of All Things [xi]

Begun in 1847(planning), 1853 (groundbreaking) the Salt Lake Temple was dedicated in 1893.

In 1855, the pioneers were already hard at work on the majestic Salt Lake Temple. It would become the centerpiece of the Restoration to have now hundreds and later thousands of modern temples,[xii]

These Houses of the Lord are built where faithful members could enter and receive all of the saving and sealing ordinances for themselves, for their ancestors, and for all of Heavenly Father’s children, living and dead across time and all eternity.

The First Temple In Utah Dedicated and Endowment Ceremonies for the Dead Introduced

As the news from the 1875 giant swarm of Rocky Mountain Locusts had been making headlines of ongoing long term disaster in Nebraska and several other states, on 6-8 April 1877, the St. George Temple was dedicated and Wilford Woodruff called as the temple president.[xiii]

“The Founding Fathers of the United States of America appeared twice to Wilford Woodruff in the St. George Utah Temple asking why their temple work had yet not been performed on their behalves. A striking painting depicting this singular event hangs in the temple lobby (That We May be Redeemed by Harold I. Hopkinson).”[xiv]

The first temple dedicated since Kirtland and Nauvoo was the first temple where the endowment ordinance for the dead was performed.
Brigham Young, the great colonizer of the west and the builder of new magnificent temples in the west. He passed away on August 29, 1877 just after the St. George Temple was dedicated and sacred temple work commenced in earnest.
Wilforn Woodruff was the temple president of the new St. George Temple.
“That We May be Redeemed by Harold I. Hopkinson).”

Locusts vs. Settlers and Latter-day Saint Pioneers

President Brigham Young passed away later that year, on August 29, 1877.

And, very interesting to relate, after the 200,000 square mile Albert’s Swarm of the locusts in 1875, it seemed that the western US might just wither away leaving a desolate wilderness behind.

After that swarm and the dedication and temple work in the temples in St George, Utah and other temples, the Rocky Mountain Locusts were never to be the same. It was then that the super-powerful locusts, and not the settlers which would wither away … and become extinct.

And, the Terrifying Rocky Mountain Locust Just Disappears

Can the Lord fulfill these prophecies and completely destroy these locusts that threatened the modern-day Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ?  Can the Lord destroy this locust species to the extent of rebuking this devourer into extinction?

I believe that the Lord did precisely that as he answered the prayers and genuine efforts of His people and many others not Latter-day Saints, seeking to keep the commandments enclosed in Malachi’s book of scripture and to bring about the fulfillment of these important prophecies of the last days. O may these other blessings included by Malachi also come to pass according to our faith and diligence and the Lord’s will.


[i] Rocky Mountain Locust, picture in Wikipedia commons area, retrieved 10/25/2020.

[ii] Locust: The Devastating Rise and Mysterious Disappearance of the Insect that Shaped the American Frontier

by Jeffrey A. Lockwood

“In 1876, the U.S. Congress declared the locust “the single greatest impediment to the settlement of the country between Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains.” Throughout the nineteenth century, swarms of locusts regularly swept across the American continent, turning noon into dusk, devastating farm communities, and bringing trains to a halt. The outbreaks subsided in the 18 …more

Rocky Mountain Locust, wikipedia.org. retrieved 10/31/2020.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocky_Mountain_locust  ]

[iii] Distributon map of Rocky Mountain Locust habitat areas, Wikipedia.org. retrieved 10/25/2020.

Map of North America, showing approximately the probable native home of the Rocky Mountain Locust; the country subject to invasion, and the eastern limit reached by it.—Prepared by G. F. Riley

Green : Country in which the species is not indigenous; which it visits at irregular intervals; in which it is most disastrous; and which it vacates with a year.

Orange/Gold : Region goes up into Camada_ where the species comes to perfection; in which it permanently breeds; and from which come the disastrous swarms that sweep over the first mentioned region (green)

Red : Area more often visited ; in which the species holds its own longer, but which it generally forsakes in the course of time.

Yellow : Area west of the mountains where the species also, in all probability, breeds permanently; from which it sometimes pushes to the east of the mountain range ; and from which the California swarms probably come.

[iv] Rocky Mountain Locust, Wikipedia.org, retrieved 10/25/2020.

“The Rocky Mountain locust (melanoplus spretus) is an extinct species of grasshopper that ranged through the western half of the United States and some western portions of Canada with large numbers seen until the end of the 19th century. Sightings often placed their swarms in numbers far larger than any other locust species, with one famous sighting in 1875 estimated at 198,000 square miles (510,000 km2) in size (greater than the area of California), weighing 27.5 million tons and consisting of some 12.5 trillion insects, the greatest concentration of animals ever speculatively guessed, according to Guinness World Records.[4]

“Less than 30 years later, the species was apparently extinct. The last recorded sighting of a live specimen was in 1902 in southern Canada.[5] Because a creature so ubiquitous was not expected to become extinct, very few samples were ever collected (though a few preserved remains have been found in Grasshopper Glacier, Montana). A second species of North American locust, the High Plains locust (Dissosteira longipennis) reached plague proportions in the 1930s but is now very rare,[citation needed] leaving North America as the only continent without a major locust species, apart from Antarctica.”

[v] ‘Theodore Hopkins, “Extinction of the Rocky Mountain Locust,” review of: 

Locust: The Devastating Rise and Mysterious Disappearance of the Insect that Shaped the American Frontier. By Lockwood Jeffrey A..  Basic Books, New York,  2004. 288 pages, illus. $25.00

https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/55/1/80/248302 \]

“The Rocky Mountain grasshopper, or locust, was a migratory insect that in peak population years spread over the Great Plains from Canada to Texas and periodically devastated the crops of homesteaders and farmers. The mystery began late in the 19th century: Instead of another invasion during the next drought cycle, the locust completely disappeared over the course of a few years, without any apparent cause.”

[vi] “The end of the World?” “Religious Study Center,” Duke University.

 [  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagues_of_Egypt#8._Locusts:_Ex._10:1%E2%80%9320   ]                   

“Locusts: Ex. 10:1–20

This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. They will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields. They will fill your houses and those of all your officials and all the Egyptians—something neither your fathers nor your forefathers have ever seen from the day they settled in this land till now.

— Exodus 10:3–6”

[vii] “Locusts,” Wikipedia.org, Retrieved 10/23/2020.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locust \

“North America is currently the only continent besides Antarctica without a native locust species. The Rocky Mountain locust was formerly one of the most significant insect pests there, but it became extinct in 1902. In the 1930s, during the Dust Bowl, a second species of North American locust, the High Plains locust (Dissosteira longipennis) reached plague proportions in the American Midwest. Today, the High Plains locust is a rare species, leaving North America with no regularly swarming locusts.”

“The extinction of the Rocky Mountain locust has been a source of puzzlement. It had swarmed throughout the west of the United States and parts of Canada in the 19th century. Albert’s swarm of 1875 was estimated to cover 198,000 square miles (510,000 km2) (greater than the area of California) and to weigh 27.5 million tons, with some 12.5 trillion insects.[37] The last specimen was seen alive in Canada in 1902. Recent research suggests the breeding grounds of this insect in the valleys of the Rocky Mountains came under sustained agricultural development during the large influx of gold miners,[38] destroying the underground eggs of the locust/”

“The Rocky Mountain locust (Melanoplus spretus) is an extinct species of grasshopper that ranged through the western half of the United States and some western portions of Canada with large numbers seen until the end of the 19th century. Sightings often placed their swarms in numbers far larger than any other locust species, with one famous sighting in 1875 estimated at 198,000 square miles (510,000 km2) in size (greater than the area of California), weighing 27.5 million tons and consisting of some 12.5 trillion insects, the greatest concentration of animals ever speculatively guessed, according to Guinness World Records. “”

Ronald P. Millett, “Welfare Principles that will Save us from the Very Brink of Destruction,” Meridian Magazine,

July 26, 2020

https://latterdaysaintmag.com/welfare-principles-that-will-save-us-from-the-very-brink-of-destruction ]

” Even though we usually remember the cricket plague of 1848 where just barely enough of the Latter-day Saints’ crops were saved by the seagulls to get the more than 4,500 pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley through the winter, the most serious insect plague for the pioneers was the great grasshopper invasion of 1855, resulting in the loss of over 70% of the crops throughout the then extensively settled Utah Territory with more than 40,000 inhabitants by 1860.

[viii] “Rocky Mountain Locust,” wikipedia.org,

“Less than 30 years later, the species was apparently extinct. The last recorded sighting of a live specimen was in 1902 in southern Canada.[5] Because a creature so ubiquitous was not expected to become extinct, very few samples were ever collected (though a few preserved remains have been found in Grasshopper Glacier, Montana). A second species of North American locust, the High Plains locust (Dissosteira longipennis) reached plague proportions in the 1930s but is now very rare,[citation needed] leaving North America as the only continent without a major locust species, apart from Antarctica.”

[ix] Gospel Art for Book of Mormon, lds.org. Retrieved 10/27/2020.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/manual/book-of-mormon-stories/chapter-43-jesus-christ-appears-to-the-nephites?lang=eng ]

[x] “I will rebuke the devourer,” crossroadsbible.net., retrieved 10/23/2020.

https://crossroadsbible.net/2019/07/03/i-will-rebuke-the-devourer/ ]

“hi 3 to bring the Israelites back to true worship, he told them to test him and see if he would not reward faithfulness. “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it may not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the LORD of hosts. “And all the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the LORD of hosts (Mal 3:10-12, NAS).

“What is the “devourer?”The word comes from the common word for “to eat” (Heb. akal, אָכַל) and could have been translated “the eater.” What it destroys is the “fruits of the ground,” i.e. most anything that grows. While there are a few different insects that this could be, the most obvious choice would be the locust”.

[xi] SL Temple.

https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/additional-resources/background-on-the-salt-lake-temple  ]

[xii] Temples list,

https://churchofjesuschristtemples.org/statistics/  ]

[xiii] “St George Temple,”

https://churchofjesuschristtemples.org/st.-george-utah-temple/ ]

[xiv]http://basicprimarymusic.blogspot.com/2011/07/somewhere-in-west-jordan-utah.html  ]