By the way, it’s not the end of the world

I have to admit that I am rather insulated from the doomsayers who associates insist are confident and vocal that the end is nigh at hand. I do have one friend that has made cryptic comments suggesting that he thinks something eschatological is near. It doesn’t really surprise me, really. However, I do find the contemporary incarnations, as I have said before, not only goofy and creepy, but a bit dangerous.

I recently came across a report of the 1850 half-early conference meeting in London. One of the elders got up and in his sermon stated:

The gospel has been preached more extensively in this land, than in America. There they persecuted the saints, and murdered the prophet. The elders were withdrawn, and the curse of God has rested upon America from that day to this; and she will yet be deluged with blood, for the wicked shall slay the wicked. Her power shall be prostrated — her government destroyed — and her union abolished. Division, with its dire consequences, shall spread its deadly and dark influences around her. All the various stakes that have ever been established, and thrown down, will be rebuilt; Far West, Kirtland, and Nauvoo, will again shine as the curtains of Zion. [1]

Mormons have had no shortage of foils to engage since this time and it seems that we often fall to the temptation of fearing the boogey man. There are people who have made it their life work (and life’s profit) to fearmonger. And we have seen plenty of it in recent memory (see here for some fun). I thought Y2K may have quenched the apocalyptic tendencies of our people, but that may have just been wishful thinking.

If we are disappointed in the night of our slumber, perhaps it will be that in looking to the future, we chose not to build the successor to our grand attempts at Zion and feared, considering violence and the tools of our foe.

_____________________________

  1. Half-yearly Report of the London Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Held in the City of London, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 30th and Dec. 1st, 1850… (N.p.: N.pub., n.d.), 7.

Comments

  1. ” I thought Y2K may have quenched the apocalyptic tendencies of our people, but that may have just been wishful thinking.”

    Yeah, me too. Now I’m hoping when 2011 comes and goes quietly maybe we can all get back to the business of trying to live good, charitable lives.

  2. A few weeks ago in our Sunday School class a prominent ward member announced that his friend — a former mission president who works in the Church Office Building, so you know he knows what he’s talking about, right? — was going to the once-in-ten-years Oberammergau Passion Play this year. Because it’s the last one that will ever be held, you see. Because the Second Coming will occur before 2020, you see.

  3. I’d love for the Second Coming to be here already. I tire of all the fearmongers.

  4. Don’t you know that people denying the end of the world is a sign that the end of the world is upon us? :)

  5. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    J. Stapley, it’s disappointing to learn that the Socialists, Fascists, Progressives, and Trilateral Commissions of the world have duped you.

  6. You mean stuff like this?
    http://www.abysmal.com/
    and
    http://www.abysmal.com/LDS/Preparedness/why_tent_cities.pdf

    Which has suckered hundreds of people into buying food and medical supplies, and tents–lots of tents.

  7. ClaudiaHen says:

    What really irks me is the people who keep insisting that the world is getting worse and worse.

    Look at some of the statistics. More people are being educated. More people can read. More people have access to books than ever before. More people have access to information than ever before via the internet. More people are getting more food than any point before in history and we spend less of a percentage of our income on it. More people have access to medical care than ever before in history. We take care of our poor better. Many countries don’t allow child labor. Most of the US has indoor plumbing. Fewer children die from childhood illness or accidents. Seatbelts have saved countless lives. Teenage pregnancies are down overall (we have seen a very slight increase in the last few years). Rapes rates have gone down since the 70s. Probably most of you know all that. I should type up a sheet with the numbers and carry copies in my scriptures.

    Of course, we can and will do better, but yikes, we are so much better off than even two or three generations before, yet the end is upon us. It gets old.

  8. My recently-divorced, recently-unemployed father-in-law was implying a soon-to-come end just the other day. I think for him its just a way to cope with stress; that it might all soon end.

    (is there a niblet for excellent use of hyphens??)

  9. Some part of this is the lingering influence of that oft-quoted Prophet, Ezra Taft Benson. A couple of years ago, I read through several talks by President Benson on the Book of Mormon and each featured a form of apocalyptic thought. How much this was tied into President Benson’s political outlook, combined with the 80s Cold War era in which he presided, I cannot say, but we seem to have moved away from frequently citing the Second Coming in Conference of late.

  10. 7 – I have a huge issue with that as well, it drives me nuts when people insist that we are in the worst of times. And I’m sure it varies from country to country, but specifically here in America I like to use the example of Andrew Jackson: Here is a man who was probably guilty of bigamy – marrying another man’s wife, fought 13 duels – killing one man in the process, and later became President of the US. Now we fret over whether someone smoked a little weed. Times certainly are changing – but if these two examples are any indicators it would lead me to believe we are becoming much more peaceful and appaled by violence, and possibly in many ways more ethical and moral.

    Child rearing used to involve belts, switches, and spankings. Now we refer to that as child abuse instead of just good ol’ discipline.

    Worst of times indeed.

  11. we’ve been living in the end of times since the beginning of times (in a modern gospel sense as well as in times of old)… I have no doubt the faithful flock will be wrestling with this question 200 years from now…

    we are blessed with the gospel of peace… not the gospel of fear and doom and gloom… look up people – there’s a whole lot of living to do NOW before the end happens in some long distant time

  12. I hesitate to say this because I fear I am generalizing from a few individuals, as well as perhaps attributing motivations and emotions to them that they do not actually feel, but I have known some members who seem to me to be figuratively salivating at the prospect of End being near. More than anything, it has a tendency to make them divisive. If you disagree with them on interpretation of certain doctrines, you are a sign of the times. They seem to get off on the idea that some of the faithful are being led away, and because they recognize this as a precursor to the Second Coming, they practically rejoice in the division. They point vigorously and triumphantly at the line in the sand, as they stand on the right side of it, with very little concern for people who are really struggling to know why that line is there or how to resolve the issues that keep them from crossing over it.

    Am I the only one who feels this way?

  13. J., glad you see you utilizing the Church’s Internet Archive collection!

  14. I enjoyed this post. I, too, eschew a sky-is-falling approach. Instead, I like to think of the example my paternal-great-grandparents who purportedly included a line in their evening prayers to the effect that, they looked forward to the second coming of Christ and the peace that would reign on the earth. To them, the end of the world was something to pray for, but not something to get in the way of being in-the-moment, here-and-now.

    (Take that, B.Russ! I just one-upped you in the hyphen game.)

  15. Ehem, I used 6 in 37 words. You used 8 in 83.
    Its not about sheer quantity, its about saturation.

  16. B.Russ, the fact that you stopped to count out all my hyphens just makes laugh. I feel like saying, “Ha! Made ya look!”

  17. Well, when someone challenges my hyphenating abilities . . . its time to start counting!

    /threadjack

  18. My mom is like Hunter’s great grandparents. She has told me that at times she has fervently prayed for The End to come because she felt so badly for all those in the world who had it so rough. If Christ came again, we’d maybe die, but then what — peace and being with Him.

  19. If you wanted to validate the prophesy of the OP, that sounds like the Civil War to me. Far West, Kirtland, and Nauvoo may not be the “curtains of zion,” but they have great vistor’s centers!

  20. Yup it is always the last days simply because there is no tomorrow there’s only today. People get last days fever because it makes them feel better. It helps them escapre responsibility. And it strengthens their faiths, at least for the moment.

  21. I think that the frequently-reminded counsel of a year’s supply of food contributes also to hoping for the last days – I find myself thinking that way a bit sometimes. You hate to think that all the money and work put into your food supply generally doesn’t make any difference.

  22. If you are don’t believe in the End Times, can you call yourself a Latter-day Saint? And yes, I do believe we are becoming more wicked and yes not having the ability to spank our spoiled children without getting called abusers is evidence of increased wickedness. Those who look at today through rose colored glasses while ignoring the truly evil that has grown around the world (even calling evil good and good evil), shall find themselves as goats to the sheep. We have the Book of Mormon and the Book of Revelation for a reason, and its not to write fanciful novels.

  23. Enter Jettboy.

    If you’re feeling picked on for not being to spank your spoiled children, maybe you shouldn’t have spoiled them in the first place. Also, an insufficiently harsh judgment about the wickedness of the rest of the world did not make final cut on Christ’s list of criteria for separating the goats and the sheep.

  24. The world is both better and worse than ever.

  25. Hello! 2012 people. It’s time to wake up and smell the Nephite calendar.

  26. The end of the world stuff resonated a lot more when several thousand nuclear warheads were aimed at the United States, plus the upheaval of the late sixties and the sex, drugs, and rock and roll stuff that was more prominent than now.

  27. Most of the end times discussions I’ve heard recently are merely unconvincing complaints about young people’s wickedness. Anything more creepy or dangerous I’ve thus far been spared. Still, it doesn’t have to be this way. Eschatology has given some Mormon preaching and hymnody a sense of excitement, hope, and purpose. I like the idea that today’s work hastens the coming of a millennium of peace, however distant that might be. I hold hope that the scriptures about the end of the world have a better use than promoting the sale of survivalist gear or inspiring strained views of current events and recent history.

  28. “The end of the world stuff resonated a lot more when several thousand nuclear warheads were aimed at the United States…”

    Oh, but the evil extremists in Pakistan are going to sell one to “the terrorists” (whoever they are) in the hopes that they can sneak it into (and detonate it in) a major US city, maybe even one near you!

    If, as some believe, our reaction to 9/11 was not proportional to the damage done to us, just think how nuts we would go in that case.

  29. Thomas Parkin says:

    I no longer think it will happen in my lifetime. Who knows? The only thing sure is that it is closer now than it was before.

    I don’t see the ‘end times’ so much as an augmenting Satanic darkness ending in the Second Coming as a growing set of overlapping problems, enough of which are worsened by solutions until finally the center cannot hold. We just aren’t that smart, even without the barriers of selfishness, intellectual self-regard, etc.

    One sign: you cannot have an End of the World until you have a World, which now we do have. A scripture like this in Rev 18 has so much more resonance with a ‘global economy’ in place.

    “For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off,
    And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city!”

    The real apocalypse is coming to every one sooner rather than later, when we are stripped of all the identities and little ego props we have used to prop ourself up and are left to face the absolute with what is left of us unmasked. Then who shall be counted worthy to stand?

    :)

  30. there is no question a segment of the church which so much longs for the survivalist times.. i just don’t get it.. are they really planning on being hunkered down in their basement for months or years on end, standing watch over their food storage with a shotgun and ready to blast a hole into whoever looks at them crosseyed or happens to find out about their bountiful cache? Yeah – real christ-like yearnings there… And i suppose if it does happen like that they will find some sense of validation and self-righteousness in their decades long kooky behavior.

  31. Thomas Parkin says:

    me,

    I had an inactive friend in Cache Valley who told me her food supply was a shotgun and a meat grinder. A nice twist on the ‘what will you do when they come for your food storage’ dilemma. What do you mean, they are my food storage.

    Disclaimer: naturally, cannibalism isn’t really, truly, deeply funny. It’s a sin.

  32. In so many ways the world is much better than ever before in human history. Count progress past spanking kids for misbehavior as part of that improvement!

    J., I didn’t read the 1851 sermon as a zealous apocalyptic pronouncement. Rather, it seemed pretty prescient considering that it was given in 1851.

    As Fred Gedicks is known to point out, if the Constitution were ever hanging by a thread, it was certainly during the Civil War.

  33. Apocalypse porn in all its misanthropic, nihilist glory.

  34. And yes, I do believe we are becoming more wicked and yes not having the ability to spank our spoiled children without getting called abusers is evidence of increased wickedness.

    Thats nice Jettboy, here’s a scooby snack.

    I’m curious, what would you say to ClaudiaHen’s claim that Rape rates have gone steadily down over the last four decades? More evidence of evil in the world? Darn us for listening to the pained cries of hurt women (and men), am I right? What is this world coming to?

  35. “not having the ability to spank our spoiled children without getting called abusers is evidence of increased wickedness”

    It’s true, I can’t believe that we have sunk so low as to prohibit the hitting of children under the guise of discipline. Disgusting.

  36. john f., the idea that war in the US was imminent was prescient (though commonly held, I understand); but the idea that the US was under a curse, the Union doomed to destruction and inevitable reign of chaos, seems to have some interesting parallels to modern movements, I think.

  37. ClaudiaHen says:

    I just don’t see how fearmongering has much point in the gospel of Christ. Maybe some people can be motivated to righteousness by it? I don’t personally find it all that effective. I won’t listen to it. I find it antithetical to faith.

    I’ve always thought that food storage was built up for the purpose of sharing during a natural disaster.

    If the end of the world comes, we can only control our own actions and reactions. I think we’re more likely to see it come through over-population than by any other means. It’s less obvious and more creeping than nuclear war or other types of wars. I’m doubtful that we’re stupid enough to go that way, but then I tend to the idealistic when it comes to humankind.

    31–I guess she read “The Road” one too many times.

  38. Thomas Parkin says:

    “I guess she read “The Road” one too many times.”

    Is that possible?

  39. All spanking aside, I would simply point out that when most people talk about times getting “worse,” I don’t think they are referring to the material prosperity and physical health so very well outlined in comment #7. Of all the many things listed in that comment, only the rape rates would have anything to do with the moral degradation that most people are referring to when they say times are getting “worse.”

  40. There’s plenty of evidence of evil in world today. The violence in Darfar, the conscription of child soldiers in Uganda, and the continually high (though declining) rate of abortions in industrialized nations (1.2 million in the US in 2005) only begin a catalog of contemporary iniquity. Still, I don’t understand the view that things are deteriorating. Determining the worst of times may be an overly morbid debate, but I’d nominate the 1940s: multiple genocides, Communist takeovers and purges, apartheid in South Africa, and segregation in the US.

  41. ClaudiaHen says:

    39–There might have been a time in the US when people were better at hiding it or there was a higher social pressure to hide things and people didn’t talk about things, but I think overall people have always been pretty much the same.

    It used to be that when your husband had an affair, you just lived with it and didn’t tell anyone. Or, if you got pregnant out of marriage, you left for a while and came back and hoped no one knew or talked about it. The rates might be worse now, but it is really worse for people?

    I think it’s about the same. There are trade-offs. I’d prefer the advantages I listed in 7 and more openness so we can fix some of those things. I like awareness. I like openness. I like women being able to own property and vote. I like being able to get out of a horrible marriage. I prefer people knowing about childhood sexual abuse and people doing something about it. I appreciate that it’s a crime to beat your wife and children. I think it’s deplorable that there are places in the world where those things still legally happen or don’t happen as the case may be.

    I believe the idea of moral degradation is pure rhetoric. There have always been wars, adultery, prostitution, idolatry, murder–as the scriptures so clearly show us. It’s the same as it’s always been in terms of people who want to be moral, except that I think more people are aware of other people. I think we are thinking at a higher plane because of education and information.

  42. 39 – but this “moral degradation” is usually spoken of as some abstract bogeyman, and most just nod their heads in agreement as if its given, that there is such moral degradation. If you look back at the long course of history, its a much harder thing to believe.

    Sure, porn is more prevalant, but sexual slavery? probably not so much. And there’s also the rape statistics referred to earlier.

    Drugs are prevalent, but when have drugs ever been accessible and NOT consumed by people? Many cultures throughout history have used marijuana, hashish, shrooms, opium, peyote. . .

    More people are having sex out of wedlock, but divorce rates have been trending downward for decades (believe it or not)

    It is more common to hear sexual innuendo when watching tv. But it is harder to buy, sell, or own another human being.

    Homosexuals are getting the right to marry in many states (if one would like to refer to this as moral degradation). But it is relatively unlikely that another tribe will roam through my town tonight, kill me, rape my wife, and take my children into slavery.

    Music has a devilish beat and sometimes even screeching demonic guitar riffs. But there is no legally-defensible form of murder (see duels referred to above).

    You say that the material prosperity and physical health don’t pertain to this idea of moral degradation, but what about education levels and literacy rates. How many millions of people throughout history have been held captive by the literate – often clerics – because of their unique ability of reading and writing and understanding. Their ability to interpret the bible giving them license to interpret the moral code for villages to their whim.

    I mean, I guess I just don’t see this “moral degradation” that is so obviously happening all around us. I think reference to it takes a short view of some Utopian Victorian history that didn’t exist, and ignores millenia of wars, bloodshed, and crimes.

  43. ClaudiaHen says:

    “You say that the material prosperity and physical health don’t pertain to this idea of moral degradation. . .”

    Not to turn this into a pile on, but one note about this. If we have material prosperity and access to good medical care, is it not our moral duty to share it with as many people as possible? Isn’t that one of the most moral things we can do? Jesus told us that we have a moral imperative to succor the poor, and we seem to be doing a better job of this than in any other time in history. Of course, we could do much more to address the root causes and to ease more suffering, but I think we’ve made a lot of progress in the right direction. Sexual purity does not make a moral person–it is only one aspect of many.

  44. Elder Holland spoke at our Stake Conference two our three years ago about this exact topic. He got us all interested by relating a story about a missionary asking him if it was all worth it to go to college and get married if the world was going to end. His message to us: get married, plan on having lots of grandkids and great-grandkids; accumulate food-storage and savings in case you lose your job; store water, food, and money in case of a natural disaster. Otherwise, CHILL! :)

  45. Mark A. Clifford says:

    How to Not Believe in the End Times and Still Be a Good Mormon
    an excursus.
    It is possible to see the ministry of Joseph Smith as a move away from the millenialism that permeated his upbringing and to a stance that makes the Second Coming irrelevant. Certainly, at its beginnings, the Mormons looked to the End, preparing for the time that Christ would come – some apocalyptic future event in God’s Franklin Planner, fixed in time. Something happened on the way to the end, though.
    Escatolgy – teachings about end times – function in the Tradition as a way for God to reappear. In the present, the larger Christian tradition holds, Jesus is not visible, He speaks only through inspiration if at all, or through the Word. Miracles have ceased. And so, Christians looked to the Second Coming as the respite from divine silence, when wickedness would deffinitively end, miracles begin again, and Jesus speak and appear.
    Joseph was an impatient man. He – and his theology as it developed – wanted Jesus to speak now, to appear now, to work miracles now. Joseph sought ever to collapse, to erase the divide between the human and divine. Not later, Now.
    His temple theology became a key manifestation of this, though it is shot through all of his work. There, we learn, we are able to enter the presence of God now. We are summoned to the city of Zion now. We are supposed to build it now. We are promised that we will see Him now, not later. There is no need to wait for Jesus to return. He comes when we let Him. He speaks when we hear Him. The City of Zion waits only for our building of it.
    In my view, at the close of the Nauvoo period, with the endowment of the Saints, there remained no role for eschatology in Mormonism. What little place it occupies is mostly as a “crisis theology” appealed to when the world gets scary. But at its center, there is no future for which the Mormon’s wait, no coming time when Jesus speaks or acts or appears. He does it now.

  46. I guess the biggest question I have is, if we don’t believe in an End Time, what use is the End Time prophecies of the Scriptures? To follow up on that question a little, it sounds to me like many people here believe we are actually going backwards from End Time prophecy. With things “getting better” than the logic should probably be that the End Times are getting father away. That is unless you believe that the End Times prophecies about the prophecies about the growing wickedness of the Earth has passed and some new era has started.

    I personally find it hard to believe you can read the Scriptures, all of it, and not come away with serious considerations about End Times. The concept is covered in practically every book in the Bible, the whole point of the Book of Mormon, and a major concern in the Doctrine and Covenants. The Book of Moses and Abraham are the only ones I can think of that don’t have the theme as more than a shadow.

  47. Jettboy, that is likely a similar perspective to those in every generation since Jesus walked the earth. They have also all been wrong. Maybe like those that looked to Christ during his life, people are expecting the wrong thing. Maybe a more Catholic reading of the Apocalypse is appropriate. Maybe the early Saints were right that we have to build Zion before the Lord comes, or that all will hear his message in their own tongue.

  48. Mark, you’ve got a point there. The eschaton has been pushed back, or infused if you like. I’m not sure were ready for where some of the reformed traditions have gone though. I think we’re pretty much linked to the Articles of Faith on this one.

  49. Jettboy –

    I wouldn’t claim that there isn’t a literal second coming of Christ someday in the future. I don’t know whether or not there will be a literal war that starts at Har Megiddo, or if this war is parable for all wars – as being the “end of days” for any soldier that dies in war.
    Nor do I think we necessarily live in the best of times either. Theres a lot of bad out there still. I just really don’t believe we live in the worst of times. All things being equal, if I didn’t believe in any sort of afterlife or eternal recompense (I do) I would still choose to live today over any other time in history – and I think most people would as well. If that is the case, then today can’t be so bad.

    Additionally, I think a lot of end of times talk starts because of the parable Jesus gave in Luke 21 – that those who are prepared will see the end days coming like they see leaves sprouting, but for the wicked it will be like a thief in the night.
    This seems somewhat like Pascal’s wager since a person has every enticement to believe the end is near, but if I say “the end is not near” and I’m wrong, then I must be wicked.
    But its reverse logic. One does not become righteous by claiming the end is near, and one does not become wicked by claiming it is far off. I really doubt Jesus meant it as a scale by which to measure one’s worthiness, since it would be worthless – once the end days arrive and one knows whether they are right, its already the end and they’ve missed their chance to make any changes.
    So then, the only useful scale it can become is one by which to measure the righteousness of others. Since (obviously . . .) the end days are near, and that person isn’t stocking up on emergency supplies, then they must be wicked and not realize how near the end is.
    But is this righteousness to use the scriptures as a means to judge others? I sincerely don’t think so. The usage of the “end of days” scale for measuring the worthiness of “others” has undoubtedly caused pain and division ever since Jesus himself walked the earth. It is misuse of scripture.

  50. Sorry if I’m repeating, but I wonder if people who look forward eagerly to Armageddon and all that don’t feel like it’s kind of a pain to live right and they’re eager to see all the sinners who are enjoying themselves get their comeuppance. I think you see the same kind of glee at everyone getting sent to hell in some evangelical Christians (I’m thinking of the people who drew press a few years ago for calculating based on church affiliation how many people in various states were going to go to hell).

  51. It's Not Me says:

    A person in my ward refuses to have his employer contribute money to a retirement account, because he believes the Second Coming will occur before he needs to retire. I, on the other hand, wish my employer would offer retirement benefits.

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