Paranoia will Destroy Ya’

I impressed myself. I listened to two and a half sessions of general conference. My favorite talk was by Pres. Hinkley He insisted that getting all paranoid about the current perils of the world is actually negative. Further, he explained that humans have always faced peril. Some of the other speakers must have been wishing they could revise the sections of their talks where they continued to refer to the downward spiral of the world. Applying Hinkley’s advice will certainly improve your life. I’ve never seen a happy Mormon who obsessed about the evils of the world and I’d say fully a quarter of the Mormons I’ve known are in that paranoid group.

Of course, Mormonism does not have a lock on paranoid thought. The safety of religious thought attracts paranoids. And the General Authorities pretty agressively and consistently speak out against focusing on the end of the world. I only wish that message acted more effectively. It is depressing to continually hear that strident tone insisting itself in our church meetings and throughout the Mormon blogosphere. In addition, it’s sad for those who fall victim to it. Mormon doctrine encourages optimism by insisting that we may become gods. The individual who insists on reminding us over and over that wickedness is increasing misses out on that.

I should be honest though. I don’t really believe that there will be an apocalypse, so I’m not being brave by not being worried about it. I prefer the practical advice that helps lessen the force of our own private calamities. Overall, the financial advice in several talks stuck with me most. Two GAs spoke about staying out of debt and maintaining an adequate savings. One even mentioned keeping insurance. One mentioned the importance of saving up while you are doing well, since things don’t always get better financially. Sounds like something I’d hear in an economics class. Something I can agree with whether God exists or not.


  1. Aaron,

    You clearly missed the talk, I think Saturday morning, when someone speaking gave statistical eveidence that natural disasters are on the rise.

    I’m inclined to think this is probably because we have better and more accurate means of recording them or because the definitions of earthquake etc. have shifted or that the data is just plain bad–but I can also think of reasons why weather-related natural disasters may be on the increase–so who really knows.

  2. Another factor contributing to the high bankruptcy rate is that the average age of Utah citizens is lower than most states, and younger people are statistically more likely to declare backruptcy.

  3. Clark, “entrepreneurial spirit” is a very kind way of putting things. Hucksterism and multi-level fever is a more accurate way, IMHO. We could have a whole thread about how LDS culture fosters such an economic environment.

  4. Hi Tamara!!

    All I can say is that there’s nothing like a prophet referring to “seven lean years” to scare you into belief. The practicality of the Church’s teachings on this point is one part of it, but there is also a spirituality and warning to it that can’t be discounted (at least by me).

  5. I agree, in matters such as these I tend to listen more carefully and to take action.

    I wonder what the statistics are like for church members being in debt, if they resemble the national average or if there are differences? I’m also interested in accumulation of wealth amongst members. Does anyone know of any studies?

  6. I enjoyed Pres. Packer’s talk too. And I like the talks about being happy, etc. But don’t the scriptures start us in on all the doom and gloom for the sinners, happiness and peace in times of turmoil for the righteous? I don’t think it is just a General Authority way of speaking. It’s a main theme of scripture.

  7. Jeremy's FW says:

    I just want to say thank you for the Adam Ant flashback. It’s been awhile.

  8. I think it’s because families are larger and in lean times, the fixed expenses are higher than for small families. You can’t cut as much spending on food if you have a family of seven as you can for a family of four. Just my experience.

  9. I think the bankruptcy rate in Utah is largely due to there being a strong entrepreneurial spirit here. I think that many people (unwisely) didn’t plan for failure as well as success and got caught off guard by the recession.

    While the recession and unemployment certainly affect those simply laid off. The kinds of investments typically part of small businesses or other such endeavors are far more likely to lead to bankruptcy.

  10. It doesn’t help that with advanced means of transmitting information, “rumors of wars” are abounding like nobody’s business. I used to read the scriptures when I was a kid about tumults in “divers places”, and think that all hell was going to break loose when Atlantis came back.

    Steve C.’s post has clearly brought out a tension in the church: that one the one hand we are modern, smart people, but on the other hand we have a whole host of scriptures about the end of the world and all kinds of signs. The talks in general conference to me reflected this tension.

    To me these signs are mostly red herrings. What matters is current spiritual development, regardless of when our world or the world ends. The thing that really gets me is when people try to say that this is the most wicked the world HAS EVER BEEN. How are you supposed to deal with that idea?

  11. Joseph N, do you know if the bankruptcies are among a younger class of people? I believe that you’re right, I just didn’t know that statistic.

    Perhaps another reason for increased bankruptcy is the belief that we shouldn’t accumulate earthly treasures?

  12. Matthew, I know of no doctrinal evidence against the apocalypse. On the other hand, I wouldn’t characterize it as a feeling either. It’s just a small part of my general lack of belief in unmeasurable phenomena. Not to say I’m not hedging my bets though…

  13. My favorite story on this topic: I was in the Marriott center on the ill-fated night that Cody Judy came storming in, pretended to have a bomb and demanded that President Hunter read a proclamation declaring that Judy was the prophet. One of the more terrifying experiences of my life…

    President Hunter just stood there, refusing to comply, until a group of security guards and students jumped Judy and we know the rest. He went to the mental hospital and is now running for Congress….

    Anyways, after the whole ordeal, President Hunter stood up and preached a sermon very much like President Hinckley’s yesterday–emphasizing that there would always be trouble in the world, but proclaiming optimism, and warning against getting bogged down in negativism. Talk about living your message…

  14. My two cents on apocalyptic thinking:

    –Regardless what was or was not said in General Conference, it bears remembering that Christians have thought the end was nigh for as long as there have been Christians. Maybe modern Mormons are extra-special in that we’re REALLY going to be the ones present for the Apocalypse. But frankly, I kinda doubt it. (I already told the story at T&S of my mission companion who was CONVINCED the Milennium was coming on April 6, 2003, so I’ll refrain from repeating the details here).

    –I never cease to be amused at comments in Church regarding the “Signs of the Times,” as evidenced by the latest earthquake or hurricane reported on the evening news. Like devastating “acts of God” are a NEW problem. About 2 years ago, an investigator came to Gospel Doctrine class and raised his hand when someone mentioned the calamity du jour and how it “proved” the end was near. The investigator asked, “But is it the mere fact of an earthquake that is a Sign of the Times, or is it an increased frequency of earthquakes? After all, earthquakes have been taking place for all of recorded history!” The great thing about this question was that this wasn’t some smart-ass, trying to be difficult. This guy truly and honestly wanted an answer to his question.

    The query was met with blank stares from the class. It’s like nobody had ever thought of this before.

    Aaron B

  15. Steve C,

    Actually, I caught very few “doom and gloom” pronouncements in other talks. I thought many speakers echoed Pres. Hinckley’s theme that “the End is not near so stop worrying about it and get back to important things like having babies and going to meetings.”

    I’m guessing the sombre tone and pointed rhetoric of the other post-9/11 Conferences spooked some of the Saints. It’s not just imagination–there is a real shadow that hangs over us. Every time I click into Yahoo News I half expect to see a headline that Pittsburgh or Austin or Portland just got hit by a suitcase nuke. Not fear, just latent anxiety.

  16. Steve C,
    In addition to the perilous times discussion, I too was struck by the emphasis given to personal finances. Since the October 2001 General Conference, when President Hinkley urged members of the Church to get out of debt where possible and to have a little laid aside for a rainy day, I have seen more attention given to our personal finances.

    From a personal standpoint I’ve seen a difference in my life by abiding by this counsel, but I think the GA’s also know that in order for the church to remain strong, its members must stay financially self-sufficient and out of debt.

  17. Steve,

    What leads you to believe there won’t be an apocalypse? Is this just a feeling or do you have some weird doctrinal interpretation you are going to delight us with:)

    BTW, I hate the smiley faces, but how else can I convey my tone.

  18. Steve, there’s difference between being prepared and being apocalyptic. Being prepared is having the duct tape and sheeting. Being apocalyptic is bragging about it on your blog ;)

  19. Steve, we’re ALL apocalypse-minded. Some of us choose to ignore it better than others, but it’s ultimately unavoidable. I choose to let it manifest in little ways like having lots of duct tape and plastic under the bed next to our 72-hour kits.

  20. The personal bankruptcy rate in UT is unreal, if that’s any indicator.

  21. True. It’s definitely a dominant theme of religion. I don’t have to like it though.