Most Mormons are familiar with the idea of teaching “milk before meat,” meaning that the basics of the gospel must be preached and understood before you can move on to the deeper doctrines (“meat”) of the gospel.
Many people in and out of the church have noted that for many years, church manuals and leaders’ addresses have focused exclusively on the milk. Our lesson manuals, for one, avoid the thornier issues; see, for example, the injunction in the Gospel Doctrine manual to avoid discussing polygamy when studying Doctrine and Covenants 132, which is largely about polygamy. Similarly, late church president Gordon B. Hinckley caused a bit of a stir when on national television he downplayed a core doctrine (the potential of humans to become like God), stating merely, “I don’t know that we teach it.”
I understand why they do this. Since 1970, the church has sought to control the content of its publications through a process called “correlation,” whereby all materials must be reviewed by a committee to ensure they are in line with established church doctrine. This process has indeed put a stop to the publishing of embarrassing statements through official channels, but it has had an unintended consequence.
People in the church know that the prophets used to be quite bold in declaring meat from the pulpit, and they wonder why such is not happening today. Into the vacuum of deep, dark mysteries step the conspiracy theorists, the religious fanatics, and the self-proclaimed prophets. I ran across one such group today, who call themselves “A Voice of Warning.”
These folks believe that “in the very near future (within a few years perhaps) there will probably come a call from the Prophet of the Church (the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve), through the proper priesthood channels, to the members of the Church to voluntarily gather to tent cities that will be primarily located in and around the Rocky Mountains.”
Why, you might ask, do they believe this in the absence of any suggestion whatsoever from church leaders that such a day is coming? The answer lies in the idea of milk before meat.
Why aren’t the brethren teaching about tent cities[?] I cannot speak for them, but may I suggest the point that the key to favorably responding to a call to a tent city, perhaps when there is no other reason than faith and obedience, will not happen unless the Church members are obeying the basics, referred to as the milk of the gospel.
You have to admire someone’s having a strong enough conviction to suggest that the reason that their own personal hobbyhorses aren’t being taught by prophets and apostles is that the rest of the church isn’t ready for such “meat.”
It’s ironic that the church’s efforts to rein in such speculation has in some ways encouraged it, although the church has been successful in pushing such stuff to the fringes.
I’m not too worried either way. I have a nice twelve-person tent in my garage.