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September 27, 2015 Blood Moon photo taken by Scot Facer Proctor. Special thanks to Vern G. Swanson and Del Benson for their thoughts in this article.
Last week the LDS Church officially distanced itself from author Julie Rowe’s book, A Greater Tomorrow on a page directed to institute and seminary teachers under the heading “Spurious Materials in Circulation.”
It read “Although Sister Rowe is an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, her book is not endorsed by the Church and should not be recommended to students or used as a resource in teaching them. The experiences she shares are her own personal experiences and do not necessarily reflect Church doctrine or they may distort Church doctrine.”
In this rousing book, which has garnered over 250 reviews on Amazon, most of them five star and laudatory, Rowe devotes considerable time to the coming bad times—which she suggests are imminent–and the mass evacuation of Mormons and other peoples of faith to form tent cities as places of refuge.
She says there will be “hundreds” of tent cities, “many dozens” of places of refuge, and about six cities of light (p. 61) heavily concentrated in North America but especially in Utah. The time to prepare to live in these tent cities is now and people should watch for special instructions from their leaders.
Various types of severe destruction are described including earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis and plagues. People will be exposed to biological warfare and the dreaded EMP. The Statue of Liberty will be halfway submerged on a sinking island.
Periodically in the book, the author says she knows much more in detail but is prevented from disclosing it because the Lord will not give her permission.
The Church’s Official Statement
Other prophecies of doom are in full flower on the Internet as well just now. Jonathan Cahn has promoted in his book The Harbinger that 13 September 2015 was to be a day of financial crisis and stock market upheaval. The fourth Blood Moon, which fell on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Sept. 27, was also considered a sign of disaster.
This caused enough hub bub in the media that in order to correct misinformation the LDS Church issued an official statement:
“The Church encourages our members to be spiritually and physically prepared for life’s ups and downs. For many decades, Church leaders have counseled members that, where possible, they should gradually build a supply of food, water and financial resources to ensure they are self-reliant during disasters and the normal hardships that are part of life, including illness, injury or unemployment.
“This teaching to be self-reliant has been accompanied by the counsel of Church leaders to avoid being caught up in extreme efforts to anticipate catastrophic events.
“The writings and speculations of individual Church members, some of which have gained currency recently, should be considered as personal accounts or positions that do not reflect Church doctrine.”
In reality, we hardly need these portents of gloom, these soothsayers of misery. We can see the instability in our economy, the 18 trillion dollars of U.S. debt, the volatility of the Middle East, the threat of Isis, the assault upon religious freedom, the persecution of Christians, the new aggression of Russia, the spiraling morality of society, the unfeeling sacrifice of our unborn.
It is clear that some of the prophecies of the last days are already happening in some regions of the world. Hunger, wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes are a part of what many people already know. Ask Syrians right now about last-day styles calamity. Their world is imploding.
But the world has often been in severe crisis. Our parents and grandparents saw World War l shatter Europe, knew the hunger and panic of the Great Depression. They watched a mad man with genocidal aims take over one of the most civilized and cultured countries in Europe and then sweep across the continent conquering everything in his wake.
I remember seeing a sign over the drinking fountain in Winston Churchill’s underground secret war room reminding those who worked there that the fate of Western, Christian civilization was in their hands. That was not an exaggeration. It was.
So times have been tough—and maybe much tougher before.
The Response to Rowe’s Book
Rowe’s book may be sincere and even well intended. What has been disturbing, however, about her book is the response of some Latter-day Saints to its message. They do not dismiss it as her personal experience, but buy it as the reality of not only what can happen, but what will happen. They take the whole thing in, lock, stock and barrel. They see it as a painting of the future, a description of what absolutely will be.
They question her on when the “call-out” will be to head to the hills. They ask what they should take and what they can leave behind. They go into a panicked debt to beef up their emergency supplies. When she appeared on radio talk-show host Mills Crenshaw’s show, they questioned her about specifics as if she were a prophet.
Some are painfully anxious. One reviewer of her book on Amazon said that she had become so fearful she couldn’t sleep at night and claimed her friends felt the same way.
Sales for emergency supplies, freeze-dried food, flashlights, blankets and tents have skyrocketed in Utah. National and international publications have picked up on it, with headlines like this one from the Daily Mail in the U.K. “This is the month it will happen. Some Mormons are cleaning out Utah stores in preparation for September Doomsday.”
What is the Appeal?
Why would some Latter-day Saints jump on this bandwagon, even going to the extent of hawking their possessions to be ready to head for tent cities?
Admittedly, it is hard in this noisy Internet age when many people make claims and counter claims to recognize what is truth. You can’t discern it by the number of voices asserting that something is true. You can’t take something for reality just because a number of studies back it up. You can’t count on something just because a persuasive expert purports that it is true.
Certainly you can’t embrace a specific view of the future because a person, whose stewardship is her own family, said she had a vision.
It is tempting to be lured by an idea that is sensational or to believe that you are being given special knowledge not available to everyone else. It is enticing to want to fill in the details where the scriptures and prophets have only given more general counsel. (Please tell us exactly when and where that earthquake will hit?)
Yet, Latter-day Saints should be the most enlightened, steady, certain people in the world because we have a prophet of God to guide us. We should be the last people to be dragged into false enthusiasm or gather around intriguing visions, looking for a little extra detail when the prophets have not spelled that out.
Vern G. Swanson and Del Benson wrote, “The Lord is not relying on self-proclaimed visionary members of the Church who have ‘been shown’ things which the Prophets have not been shown. True safety is around the Lord’s Church, not around this or that group, teaching things differently than our prophets advise, then criticizing the Church for not being with the program.
“How can one say that they only follow the prophet and seek only personal revelation for them and theirs, then proclaim in the next sentence ‘I was called to give a warning to the people?’”
If the call to be prepared to build tent cities was so important wouldn’t this come to the prophet to tell us so that all could know, instead of to a single individual whose influence could only reach a few? Is that the way the Lord loves his faithful children—warn just those who happened to read a book?
Swanson and Benson again, “Rowe claims to have been inspired not to reveal her visions until time was granted. Why now? Isn’t our present leadership doing their job? Have they not counseled us for years about food storage and preparedness and most of our faithful have done just that?”
They point out that in Acts 2:17 it is written “And it shall come to pass in the last days saith God, I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh: and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams.” This scripture more than any other is used as a basis to believe and act on any dream or vision declared from a numinous source, regardless of the person’s church position. These Gnostics say, “The brethren make mistakes and are human; you can’t just rely on them alone.”
“However, the Prophet Joseph Smith noted, ‘There are so many fools in the world for the devil to operate upon, it gives him the advantage oftentimes.’[i] Apostle Neal Maxwell grasped Joseph’s intent when he said, ‘There is no détente with the devil. He knows that weak individuals make great dominoes. He knows that the collapse of individuals precedes the collapse of systems.’[ii]
“As in all things Satan was ready with a remarkably similar counterfeit to corrupt the true plan of salvation. Along this line of reasoning, Hugh Nibley once remarked that ‘In ancient time’s apostasy never came by renouncing the gospel but always by corrupting it.’”[iii]
Trusting the Visions of Others?
People do have visions and dreams and they sometimes share them inappropriately. Should you take that as a reality for you?
Joseph Fielding Smith said, “It seems that periodically it becomes necessary to call attention to the true order the Lord has given us in regard to revelation. During the past three or four months I have received a number of communications, coming from various parts of the Church, asking if certain purported revelations or dreams or purported visions are reliable and have the endorsement of the Authorities of the Church….
“Now, the Lord will give revelations to this Church, and he will give commandments to this Church from time to time…but always in accordance with his own law; and we do not have to run around and invite individuals who are without authority to relate to us purported visions, or revelations or commandments, for the guidance of this people….
“If a man comes among the Latter-day Saints, professing to have received a vision or a revelation or a remarkable dream, and the Lord has given him such, he should keep it to himself. It is all out of order, in this Church, for somebody to invite him into a sacrament service to relate that to the Church, because the Lord will give his revelations in the proper way, to the one who is appointed to receive and dispense the word of God to the members of the Church….
“Now, these stories of revelation, that are being circulated around, are of no consequence, except for rumor and silly talk by persons who have no authority…When you know God’s truth, when you enter into God’s rest, you will not be hunting after revelations from Tom, Dick and Harry all over the world. You will not be following the will-o’-the-wisp of the vagaries of men and women who advance nonsense and their own ideas.”[iv]
Joseph Smith arrived at the Whitmer home in Fayette, New York, where much of the Book of Mormon had been translated, in August of 1830 to find that Hiram Page, a son-in-law of the Whitmers and one of the eight witnesses of the gold plates was using a seer stone to purportedly receive revelations for the Church about the organization and location of Zion.
In Section 28, the Lord tells Oliver Cowdery to take Hiram Page aside “and tell him that those things which he hath written from that stone are not of me and that Satan deceiveth him.”
To emphasize how important this was, the stone that had been used for these “revelations” was ground to powder and the pages the revelations written on were apparently burned.
The Church had been told just six months earlier at its birth that the Lord would speak his revelations through his prophet:
“For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith. For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.
“For thus saith the Lord God: Him have I inspired to move the cause of Zion in mighty power for good, and his diligence I know, and his prayers I have heard” (D&C 21:5-7).
As Latter-day Saints we should be wary of anything that attempts to get ahead of the prophet, goes beyond the prophet, assumes the prophet needs to catch up with the times—or even claims to follow the prophet, but also spells out exactly what the Church will be doing in the future as Rowe does in her book.
In their urgency to be told something special or sensational, I’ve heard some people say, “When are the Brethren going to actually tell us something?” Actually, they have already told us plenty—and it is always insightful, calming and transformative.
Here are two samples of what we have been told about preparation.
President Gordon B. Hinckley
President Gordon B. Hinckley was speaking in the Oct. 2001, just after the 9/11 in America, when he received word just before his talk that a U.S. missile attack had just been launched in the Middle East. He said “We live in perilous times,” and added, “Great forces have been mobilized and will continue to be.”
It was a dramatic moment, but his response was not dramatic. He reminded people that in a vulnerable economy it was important to stay out of debt and be self-reliant.
He said with the calmness of a prophet, “We cannot provide against every contingency. But we can provide against many contingencies…As we have been continuously counseled for more than 60 years, let us have some food set aside that would sustain us for a time in case of need. But let us not panic nor go to extremes. Let us be prudent in every respect. And, above all, my brothers and sisters, let us move forward with faith in the Living God and His Beloved Son.”
President Hinckley said, “Our safety lies in repentance. Our strength comes of obedience to the commandments of God.”
President Boyd K. Packer’s Insight
When it comes to our tremblings about bad times and last days, President Packer’s voice was always steadying. In his conference address to the youth in October 2011, he acknowledged that they were being raised in “enemy territory”, but he added “despite the opposition, trials, and temptations, you need not fail or fear.”
He made this pronouncement: “Sometimes you might be tempted to think as I did from time to time in my youth: “The way things are going, the world’s going to be over with. The end of the world is going to come before I get to where I should be.” Not so! You can look forward to doing it right—getting married, having a family, seeing your children and grandchildren, maybe even great-grandchildren.”
Remember, this was a talk dedicated to the youth in 2011.
Are those thrown into a tizzy by prophecies of doomsday hoping to hunker down and ride it out until the Second Coming? Some people wrest the scriptures as an excuse not to be engaged. They see clouds in the sky and hide out of the storm because, after all, the scriptures tell us that it will be bad before the Lord comes. What can we do about that? (except perfect our emergency preparations.)
What if Churchill and his associates had thrown up their hands in that World War II bunker and said, “Oh well, there’s nothing we can do about Hitler?” Their very quietude would have spelled defeat.
Those who are concerned about the signs of the times, and all of us should be, need to be personally prepared. They need to be a light in a darkening world, raise their voice about the good news of the gospel and the importance of family; engage in public discourse to shape the world we live in.
Do we prepare? Of course, but in the way the prophets have always said.
[i] Joseph Smith, TPJS (20 Jan 1844) p.331
[ii] Neal Maxwell, Deposition of a Disciple (1976) p.17
[iii] Hugh Nibley, “One Eternal Round” Temple and Cosmos (1992) p.395.
[iv] Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report (April 1938), 65–67.