I have to admit that my knowledge of current LDS/Mormon culture isn’t as good as it used to be, mostly because I don’t attend church services and have far less frequent interactions with Mormons. A friend sent me an article from the Salt Lake Tribune about how a subset of Mormons is preparing for impending doom and the Second Coming.
Apparently, a church member named Julie Rowe had a near-death experience several years ago and has written books about the knowledge she received through that experience:
Here’s how the doomsday scenario plays out: History, some preppers believe, is divided into seven-year periods — like the Hebrew notion of “shemitah” or Sabbath. In 2008, seven years after 9/11, the stock market crashed, a harbinger of a devastating recession. It’s been seven years since then, and Wall Street has fluctuated wildly in recent weeks in the wake of China devaluing its currency.
Thus, they believe, starting Sept. 13, the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days, there will be another, even larger financial crisis, based on the United States’ “wickedness.” That would launch the “days of tribulation” — as described in the Bible.
They say Sept. 28 will see a full, red or “blood moon” and a major earthquake in or near Utah. Some anticipate an invasion by U.N. troops, technological disruptions and decline, chaos and hysteria.
Some of these speculations stem from Julie Rowe’s books, “A Greater Tomorrow: My Journey Beyond the Veil” and “The Time Is Now.”
Rowe, a Mormon mother of three, published the books in 2014 to detail a “near-death experience” in 2004, when the author says she visited the afterlife and was shown visions of the past and future.
Though Rowe rarely gives specific dates for predicted events, she did describe in a Fox News Radio interview “cities of light,” including scores of white tents where people will live in the mountains and sometimes be fed heavenly “manna.” She saw a “bomb from Libya landing in Israel, but Iran will take credit.”
And “Gadianton robbers” of Book of Mormon infamy, meaning secret and corrupt leaders, are “already here.”
Her purpose in speaking out, Rowe told interviewer Kate Dalley, was “to wake more of us up. … We need each other as we unify in righteousness and continue to build a righteous army. When we need to defend the [U.S.] Constitution, we will be ready.”
I would be kind of bummed if the end came just as the college football season is getting underway, but we’ll see what happens.
Given the LDS church’s long history of encouraging emergency preparedness–at one time suggesting that church members stockpile a year’s supply of food and necessities–a cottage industry has grown in Utah and other places where Mormons make up a significant part of the population. But there has always been a subset of people in the church who have combined the preparedness fervor with right-wing politics and prophecies of doom. (These “doomsday preppers,” as they’ve come to be known, are not limited to Mormonism but are found all across the US.) Some LDS teachings just seem to be more compatible with these beliefs, so it’s not surprising that there are quite a few LDS preppers. It seems that every ward has at least one.
But I lived in a ward once where such beliefs and activities thrived. Between 1991 and 1997, my wife and I lived in an LDS ward in Orem, Utah, located just south of University Mall. For much of that time I was elders quorum president and then the bishop’s executive secretary. The ward was about 80% young married BYU student couples, with perhaps 10-15 families (a mix of older couples and families with kids).
Anyway, the ward was remarkable to me for two reasons.
First, among the “established” families, there seemed to be a high percentage of “doomsday preppers” with extreme right-wing views. Pretty much every sacrament meeting included at least one person warning of impending calamity and railing against the “New World Order,” the UN, and so on. Bo Gritz bumper stickers were common, and I was grilled more than a few times as to why I didn’t support his candidacy and instead supported one of the fake parties that were in on the conspiracy. One of the more militant couples routinely would email me right-wing propaganda, and they even got me a subscription to a right-wing magazine, whose name I have forgotten. It just showed up one day, and then about a month later, this sister approached me after church to ask, “Do you like the magazine?”
The other notable feature was somewhat related. There was a Uruguayan woman in the ward, and sometime prior to my moving in, her sons were sent to jail for stashing guns in and around Temple Square, as they were convinced that church president Ezra Taft Benson, a known right-winger, was being drugged and held against his will by people who didn’t want him speaking out on the aforementioned New World Order. They were going to bust him out of captivity in his apartment at the Eagle Gate Towers. I heard about this because the First Presidency sent out a letter saying that, if members of the church were ordered not to wear their tempe garments in jail, they should not wear garments. Our bishop then chuckled, telling us this was the result of the Gedo brothers suing for the right to wear garments in jail.
While I was elders quorum president, the brothers were released from jail and moved back in with their mother. These guys were certifiable and took every opportunity to disrupt meetings and corner people in the hallways at church. They were told they couldn’t be given temple recommends because they weren’t doing their home teaching (I wasn’t about to inflict them on anyone in the ward). So, the bishop told me the stake president was “ordering” me to assign them as home teachers. I told him no, but that if need be, I should be released as elders quorum president, but I was not going to do that. My bishop smiled and said, “Good. I didn’t want to do it, either, but I didn’t want to say no to the stake president.”
A few months before we moved out of the ward, things escalated with the Gedo brothers, and they were told that, during meeting times, they had to be in the meetings, or they were not welcome to be there (the one brother kept accosting young girls in the hallways). During Sunday School one week, the one brother scared the crap out of a young girl, who ran screaming to the second counselor in the bishopric, an older man in a wheelchair. The Gedo brother ended up punching the counselor in the face, breaking the man’s glasses and causing him to bleed. Unfortunately for Brother Gedo, a very large man happened to see the altercation and tackled him, subduing him until the police arrived. I emerged from Sunday School to find the church filled with police officers. Following that, the stake presidency asked me (by then I was executive secretary) to go with the bishop to deliver a letter from the church’s legal department barring the brothers from all church property. They threatened to kill us and our families, but we delivered the letter.
I hadn’t thought much about them until a friend talked about standing up for her beliefs against leaders of a non-LDS church. I think refusing to assign them as home teachers was the only time I ever said a definite “no” during my years as a believing Mormon. I was trying to remember the exact circumstances of their original arrest, so I went to Google and found that the story doesn’t end there.
I knew James (the creepier one who punched the guy in the wheelchair) had been arrested for making “terroristic threats” and a number of other things.
But then I stumbled across something that completely blew me away. The woman in our ward who had sent us the subscription to a right-wing magazine later was sued by David Gedo for paternity to establish that he is the father of her youngest child. My first thought was that he’s even crazier than I thought, but according to her appeal, she acknowledges his likely paternity. I’ll quote from one of the relevant court proceedings:
Mother has been married to [Father] for over eighteen years. [Child], the fourth of five children, was born into the marriage [in 1998]. Gedo filed this paternity action in 2005, seeking to adjudicate himself as [child’s] father. Mother has acknowledged the possibility that Gedo may be [child’s] biological father.
The parties’ versions of events since [child’s] birth are wildly divergent. According to Mother, [child] has been happily living with her and Father in a cohesive family unit, has seen Gedo only briefly since his birth and not at all in the last three years, and has never formed any sort of parent-child relationship with Gedo. Mother also asserts that Gedo acquiesced in Father’s role as [child’s] father, never paid child support or any other costs pertaining to [child], and never took any steps to establish his parentage. According to Gedo, Gedo has a strong parent-child relationship with [child] and has “paid child support, medical bills, and costs at birth.” Gedo acknowledges his lack of legal action to establish paternity, but claims that he brought this action after Mother cut him out of [child’s] life. The district court made no factual findings below, and for purposes of this appeal we simply acknowledge the factual disputes between the parties.
I would bet money that the folks I knew in Orem are among those expecting the end of the world is coming this month. Me, I’ve never understood the attraction of these kinds of beliefs, but then there’s always someone out there who does. Hopefully, he or she isn’t in your ward.