The Millennium will have come by then

January 28, 2005 | 120 comments
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Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, during my first feeble attempts at writing science fiction, I sometimes encountered members of the Church who objected to science fiction about the future because “the Millennium will have come by then.” In their view, for me to write about something happening a hundred years from now was essentially a denial of faith — unless, of course, the story took place during the Millennium.

Maybe it’s because we managed to get past April 6 of A.D. 2000, but I haven’t heard that objection recently. (Back in about 1994, I was ward Sunday School president when the Gospel Doctrine teacher explained to the class that, according to the Doctrine & Covenants, the Second Coming would occur on April 6, 2000. He did not, however, specify the hour.) Still, at that time I wasn’t sure how to respond to such criticism.

So, early in the spring of 1991, I emailed Orson Scott Card to ask how he would respond. (Yes, there was email back in 1991, even though I hadn’t yet heard of the Internet. OSC and I were both members of the Prodigy online service.) He was gracious enough to answer me. And while the particular issue of imminent millennialism as an objection to science fiction seems to have faded, the general points he made are still relevant.

Therefore, with his permission, I am reprinting his response here:

From: ORSON SCOTT CARD
Subject: SF & Mormonism
Sent on: 04/07 [1991] at 4:32 PM

I regard such criticism as deep silliness, but the polite answer you
give to people like that is, “But I’m not writing prophecy. I’m
writing fiction. That means that the reader knows from the beginning
that I’m just making it up. It’s like a game, and nobody expects it to
come true. At the same time, I try to show the truth about the way
human beings are, no matter what era or location my stories take place
in.” Kind of a long answer, but it should help them understand that
you’re quite serious about your fiction, but not at all serious about
“predicting the future.”

This is one of the worst misunderstandings of science fiction that
people have – even some sci-fi writers who should know better seem to
think that science fiction has proven its value if we happen to get a
prediction right. How silly. Ray Bradbury’s Mars stories have great
value, even though they have always been dead wrong about the nature
of the red planet. Likewise, your stories aren’t being set up in
competition with Joseph Smith’s prophecies: rather you are trying to
enlighten your readers about life.

In the meantime, just between you and me, I’d be just FASCINATED to
know how your LDS friends know that “the millenium will have come by
then.” After all, Christ said that NO MAN knows the day and the hour
of his return. So what’s their source? The same source that had so
many people SURE that blacks wouldn’t receive the priesthood till
after the millennium? I always worry about Mormons who think they know
what’s on God’s desk calendar!
-best,
osc

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120 Responses to The Millennium will have come by then

  1. doug on January 28, 2005 at 3:42 am

    At BYU I took the religion course covering the second half of the New Testament from Joseph Fielding McConkie. One of the things that seemed to ruffle a lot of students was McConkie’s explanation that there was still quite a bit that needed to happen before the Millennium “arrived.” His point: while no one knows the hour of His coming, based on prophecies (not yet fulfilled) it could very well be a long, long, long ways off.

  2. mike on January 28, 2005 at 4:08 am

    having a very orthodox dad i really wondered if i should even attend college since the 2nd coming might have come right in the middle of it. what a silly child i was.

    my biggest pet peeve is mormons (or other fundamentalist leaning types) that take an anti-environmental stance simply because they believe that the 2nd coming is nigh and the lord will take care of everything.

  3. Marc D. on January 28, 2005 at 4:35 am

    There have always been people who believed that the millenium would start when they were still living.
    For example President Wilford Woodruff. January 6, 1884
    (JD 25:10)

    We are living at the commencement of the Millennium, and near the close of the 6,000th year of the world’s history. Tremendous events await this generation. You can read an account of them in the revelations of St. John; the opening of the seals; the blowing of the trumpets; the pouring out of the plagues; the judgments of God which will overtake the wicked when Great Babylon comes in remembrance before God, and when the sword that is bathed in heaven shall fall on Idumea, or the world who shall be able to abide these things? Here we are living in the midst of these tremendous events.

  4. Brian G on January 28, 2005 at 5:18 am

    Interesting. On my mission I met a man of the Bahai faith (hope I’m spellling that right) and he pointed out that the scripture states, “no man knows the DAY or the HOUR,” but says nothing about the YEAR. He had it all figured out. Some year in the 1800s I think when their prophet was born. We talked to him quite a few times until we realized he was trying to convert us instead of the other way around and making a lot more headway than we were. I found a lot of their ideas fascinating, but that’s a subject for another thread.

  5. Bryce I on January 28, 2005 at 7:40 am

    I remember in high school in idle moments wondering when Millennium would arrive, and speculating that it could only begin in an instant when no one was thinking about when the Millennium would come. Kind of silly, but you could make a short story out of it, I suppose.

    Brian– Baha’i (left out the apostrophe).

  6. John Mansfield on January 28, 2005 at 8:25 am

    The Millennium will begin when “limited term” U.S. copyrights resume expiring.

    Regarding the J.F. McConkie teaching, I recall a similar statement by his father to the effect that several generations of his descendents would live and die before the Millenium arrived. I look back at Wilford Woodruff with his zeal and productivity at spreading the gospel, and I have to guess that he would not have believed that there could still be so far to go a century and a half later and that missionary labor would be a perpetual institution.

  7. Stephen M (Ethesis) on January 28, 2005 at 8:32 am

    “no man knows the DAY or the HOUR,” reminds me of the old paradox that if you can’t know the day, then it can never come, given a final end date, because you have to always know it isn’t the day before, ad nauseum.

  8. Last_lemming on January 28, 2005 at 9:08 am

    D&C 51:7 provides a direct rebuttal to the anti-environmentalists–

    And the hour and the day is not given unto them, wherefore let them act upon this land as for years, and this shall turn unto them for their good.

    This might even work on the anti-SF types (although I must say, I have never encountered any of those in the Chrurch).

  9. Jack on January 28, 2005 at 9:19 am

    …execpt that enviromentalists don’t want us to “act upon [the] land”.

  10. Adam Greenwood on January 28, 2005 at 9:31 am

    “In the meantime, just between you and me, I’d be just FASCINATED to
    know how your LDS friends know that “the millenium will have come by
    then.””

    Maybe its just me, Eric James Stone, but i suspect it’s because you always preface your stories ‘Long, long after the coming of the Millennium, in a Galaxy far, far away’

    Maybe you should rethink that.

  11. Sheri Lynn on January 28, 2005 at 9:42 am

    My husband and I wore out several sets of young missionaries before a senior couple went to work on us. One young pair failed when they informed us that the many, many SF books we owned showed that we were unrighteous stewards wasting our time on earth; reading or writing SF is an inherently unrighteous activity that no good Mormon would perform–simply because it’s not studying scriptures or doing service! Ouch! Now that I look back I’m reminded of the story of the rich young man whom Jesus told to give up all he owned, and I wonder. What?! Give up my SF? For salvation?

    I must add, however, that a remarkably large percentage of our library cannot be loaned to an 11-year-old in our ward who loves to read. We had a terrible time finding books for her that contain no inappropriate material. Even the ones that don’t have problems. PODKAYNE OF MARS is wonderful, but we all know that someone hooked on Heinlein WILL eventually read his later stuff, when a “dirty old man” obsessed with incest took over the writing under that name. Are Heinlein juveniles some kind of gateway sure to lead eventually to porn?

    I included ILLUSIONS: THE ADVENTURES OF A RELUCTANT MESSIAH in the books we loaned her because I loved that book at her age, but I wasn’t Mormon then, and Bach hadn’t found, married, and dumped his soulmate for a younger woman then, either. I used the Harry Potter books as a standard–if the book contained no more prurient material than Rowling’s stuff, it would probably be judged acceptable. Still, I’ve read reviews of the Potter series that make it all sound like one veiled exercise in juvenile pornography as well as a celebration of witchcraft, paganism, and worship of the self. The responsibility was all ours. This girl’s parents do not speak or read English.

    I have been told that some people are told in their PBs that they will be living when the Lord returns. Is this an urban myth of Mormonism?

  12. lyle on January 28, 2005 at 9:45 am

    mike: I’ve never met anyone with that attitude, nor do I expect to, given that it is very clear that Christ will reign during the millenium, and very clear that we will be his servants, and very clear that there isn’t any ‘magic wand’ he will wave; ergo…we clean it up now, or _we_ will be cleaning it up then.

  13. greenfrog on January 28, 2005 at 9:59 am

    …execpt that enviromentalists don’t want us to “act upon [the] land”.

    Ah — you’ve misunderstood. We’re fine with you acting upon the land, so long as it’s not delusions of non-interdependence and harmlessness that are being acted out.

  14. Eric James Stone on January 28, 2005 at 10:06 am

    “But of that day and hour knoweth no man . . .”

    Of course, as The Return of the King showed, there’s a very large loophole in statements that say what “no man” is capable of. ;)

  15. Rosalynde Welch on January 28, 2005 at 10:07 am

    This raises the question of whether the onset of the millennium is temporally fixed, or if it’s contingent upon historical event. Being trained in poststructuralist anti-teleological anti-grand narrative historiography, I of course think it might be contingent, even radically so.

    Wasn’t there an episode when the Lord told Joseph that if he could assemble a quorum in a particular locale within the hour, then the millennium would be ushered in right then? Joseph was (obviously) unable to come up with a quorum, but it leaves us with the question: did God know that Joseph would be unsuccessful, had no intention of ushering in the millennium (because he knew it would come later) and was just playing some sort of game with Joseph, or was there a real possibility that eschatology could be changed by Joseph’s efforts?

  16. Jack on January 28, 2005 at 10:07 am

    I think good SF can be useful in that one may be led to ponder upon a given exposition of conditions that lead to or away from a “millennial” or utopian state. SF tends to put all of the responsibility for ushering in a utopia on mortals. (though the scientists/technologists tend to be deified)

  17. Jack on January 28, 2005 at 10:14 am

    greenfrog,

    That was one of those things that I couldn’t keep myself from saying – you know, just to balance the extremes. Frankly, I like how a post-millennial view places greater responsibility upon individuals to be better stewards of the enviroment.

  18. Rusty on January 28, 2005 at 10:20 am

    So what about all those people with patriarchal blessings which say they will be around when the millennium is ushered in. I’ve always had a problem with that because it basically suggests that the millennium will happen within the next 70 or so years.

    Lyle, I’m surprised you’ve never met anyone with that attitude. I’ve met swaths of Mormons who don’t want to hear anything any environmentalist wants to say.

  19. Mark B. on January 28, 2005 at 10:21 am

    Rosalynde,

    D&C 130:14-15 raises the same question as the incident you mention:

    14 I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following:

    15 Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter.

    Would the second coming have occurred if Joseph had reached the age of 85? Did his return to Carthage delay the coming of the Millenium? Or, as verse 16 says, was this simply a reference to a “previous appearing” or to Joseph’s dying and seeing the Lord?

    Interesting questions, which belongs up there with “Would Sodom and Gomorrah really have been spared if Abraham had found 50 righteous, or did God know all along that Abraham wouldn’t find them, so Abraham’s searching was all for naught?” Perhaps we’ll learn the answer sometime after that hour and day that no man knoweth.

  20. annegb on January 28, 2005 at 10:23 am

    I got a massage after Christmas from a person who lived in the same stake as Orson Scott Card, who is one of my favorite authors. She said he was sort of strange, and sometimes onery. In person.

    In my imagination, he did not look strange or onery. But I can’t get that picture of my mind now.

    I am looking forward to reading the posts on the millenium. It sure seems like the last days to me.

  21. Mark B. on January 28, 2005 at 10:25 am

    Being trained in poststructuralist anti-teleological anti-grand narrative historiography . . .

    Shouldn’t there have been a hyphen between “grand” and “narrative”?

  22. Sheri Lynn on January 28, 2005 at 10:29 am

    I think being a writer makes one strange and ornery. Almost everyone else can be productive in company. Writers have to learn to drive people away so they can work, or they won’t get any writing done. Or maybe that puts the cart before the horse.

  23. annegb on January 28, 2005 at 10:44 am

    I read somewhere that our calenders were off by 4 years, that the millenium would actually start in 2004, so when the Tsunami hit, I thought, “well, it’s started.”

    Which is a scary thought, even though I wish we could get this over with. It’s sort of like anticipating having a baby, when I was very young and my stomach was huge and I was ignorant, painfully so, and I looked down at my 8 month pregnant stomach and thought, “how is that going to get out?’ This is the absolute truth. I had no idea. Then I remember thinking, “this is going to hurt.” So looking forward to the second coming, but not the labor.

  24. Jim Richins on January 28, 2005 at 10:53 am

    One idea about the Millenium that I like is that we are already in the Millenium. It started on Jan 1, 2000 (or 2001, or April 6, if you prefer). Whatever specifc day and hour you fancy, it may have already past.

    After the opening of the 7th Seal, there is supposed to be silence for the space of half an hour before the fireworks begin. A half-hour in the 1 day=1000 years conversion works out to about 20 years, I think.

    So, in a strictly chronological sense, we are already living in the Millenium, and God is just giving us a last half hour of rope to hang ourselves with.

    I also agree that there are a number of prophecies that have not yet been (apparently) fulfilled, which could mean that the Second Coming is still a few years off.

  25. Ivan Wolfe on January 28, 2005 at 10:59 am

    I’ve met OSC a few times (at EnderCon in 2002 and at LTUE in 2003) and he seemed very nice and affable.

    But his political website is called “the Ornery American” – so perhaps he realizes just how ornery he is.

  26. Sheri Lynn on January 28, 2005 at 11:17 am

    Ivan, I’m sure at a convention, he was resigned to not being able to write.

  27. Mark B. on January 28, 2005 at 11:20 am

    Or a few hundred years off.

    Your personal “second coming” could be on the grill of that Mack truck driving down Broadway. And, for anybody reading this, it will almost certainly be before 80 years from now. So, what’s the use of speculating about the timing of an event that the Lord said He Himself didn’t know.

    And, we should get over the hangup with dates, whether it’s 2000 or April 6 or whatever.

  28. Trenden on January 28, 2005 at 11:22 am

    McConkie is very clear in Mormon Doctrine that he doesn’t believe the Second Coming and start of the Millennium are moveable based on righteousness/wickedness or some other factor. He adamantly declares the events fixed dates that were planned from the beginning. Of course, he was wrong on a few things but in this case I think he’s correct as it matches my understanding of the scriptures and prophecies in them.

  29. Kristine on January 28, 2005 at 11:27 am

    “my biggest pet peeve is mormons (or other fundamentalist leaning types) that take an anti-environmental stance simply because they believe that the 2nd coming is nigh and the lord will take care of everything.”

    The oddest variant of this idea I’ve ever encountered came up one time when I was teaching Genesis in Gospel Doctrine. Someone actually argued that we have an affirmative duty to pollute as much as we can, to help fulfill the prophecy that “the earth will wax old like a garment.” The less recycling we do, according to him, the sooner the Savior can come again.

    My jaw hasn’t been quite the same since that drop.

  30. Trenden on January 28, 2005 at 11:41 am

    I found it very interesting when in General Conference a couple years ago President Hinckley quoted Joel 2:28-32, which is the scripture Moroni quoted when he appeared to Joseph Smith. President Hinckley said the scripture has now been fulfilled just as Moroni said it would be. If you read the scripture to the average member I don’t think they would think it had been fulfilled. I acrually did that in GD class once and not one persone agreed that it had been fulfilled. Perhaps we’re missing some of the signs.

    Here’s the scripture for reference:
    (Old Testament | Joel 2:28 – 27)
    28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
    29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
    30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
    31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.
    32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.

  31. Jack on January 28, 2005 at 11:43 am

    I’ve given up on interpreting the seven seals. According to these verses (Rev.6:12-17) the “great day” should have come already.

    12 And I beheld when he had opened the asixth• seal, and, lo, there was a great bearthquake•; and the csun became dblack• as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as eblood•;

    13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her auntimely• figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.

    14 aAnd• the heaven departed as a bscroll• when it is rolled together; and every cmountain• and island were moved out of their places.

    15 And the akings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the bdens• and in the rocks of the mountains;

    16 And said to the amountains• and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:

    17 For the great aday of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to bstand•?

  32. Adam Greenwood on January 28, 2005 at 11:45 am

    Kristine,
    Maybe you should revise your views on ark-steadying a little. :) I’ve never heard of a more egregious case.

    (Oh, sure, there’s all those priests and someone on this blog awhile back, I forget who, who always suggest killing infants so they can go the Celestial Kingdom, but as far as I know these suggestions are only hypothetical).

  33. Eric James Stone on January 28, 2005 at 11:45 am

    I think it’s self-evident that if we as members of the Church were not going to do the things God knows we are going to do to hasten the coming of the Millennium, then the Millennium would have been scheduled for later than it is, but that if we were going to do the things God knows we are not going to do, then the Millennium would have been scheduled for sooner.

  34. Adam Greenwood on January 28, 2005 at 11:47 am

    “Being trained in poststructuralist anti-teleological anti-grand narrative historiography, I of course think it might be contingent”

    Don’t you also have to believe that God does not have complete foreknowledge, Rosalynde W.? Otherwise, the Second Coming could be both dependent on historically contingent events and still be certain to occur at a specific time.

    Uh, and I’m simply interested in the answer, not in a debate on foreknowledge. Don’t expect me to wade in, anyone.

  35. annegb on January 28, 2005 at 12:00 pm

    well, you guys, this is not a theological argument, but it is what–January 28?–and I’ll tell you, my tulips are up, and my gladiolus.

    No lie. In the snow.

    I’ve noticed an unreliability in the weather in the last few years, as opposed to years back. Or maybe that’s simply aging wishful thinking.

  36. Jack on January 28, 2005 at 12:07 pm

    Won’t flowers bloom year-round during the millennium? :)

  37. Kristine on January 28, 2005 at 12:26 pm

    What, Jack, you don’t already have “roses bloom[ing] beneath your feet” all the time in your home? ;)

  38. Jack on January 28, 2005 at 12:32 pm

    Why yes! Of course, there are a few thorns in that little bed of roses. But overall, I must say that it’s “a garden sweet”.

  39. Mark B. on January 28, 2005 at 12:35 pm

    I’ve always worried that roses blooming beneath my feet would either result in a lot of crushed flowers or feet pierced with thorns.

    Who wrote that sappy thing anyway?

  40. Marc D. on January 28, 2005 at 12:37 pm

    Joseph Smith said this concerning this ‘no man knows the day or the hour’

    Were I going to prophesy, I would say the end [of the world] would not come in 1844, 5, or 6, or in forty years. There are those of the rising generation who shall not taste death till Christ comes.
    I was once praying earnestly upon this subject, and a voice said unto me, “My son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years of age, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man.” I was left to draw my own conclusions concerning this; and I took the liberty to conclude that if I did live to that time, He would make His appearance. But I do not say whether He will make His appearance or I shall go where He is. I prophesy in the name of the Lord God, and let it be written—the Son of Man will not come in the clouds of heaven till I am eighty-five years old. Then read the 14th chapter of Revelation, 6th and 7th verses—”And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come.” And Hosea, 6th chapter, After two days, etc.,—2,520 years; which brings it to 1890. The coming of the Son of Man never will be—never can be till the judgments spoken of for this hour are poured out: which judgments are commenced. Paul says, “Ye are the children of the light, and not of the darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief in the night.” It is not the design of the Almighty to come upon the earth and crush it and grind it to powder, but he will reveal it to His servants the prophets.

    DHC 5:336-337

  41. William Morris on January 28, 2005 at 12:44 pm

    OSC writes:

    “But I’m not writing prophecy. I’m writing fiction. That means that the reader knows from the beginning that I’m just making it up. It’s like a game, and nobody expects it to come true.”

    I understand and agree with what he is saying in principle. But I’m not sure that he is characterizing the expectations of *all* readers correctly — as we see in some of the examples listed here. Although fiction, and speculative fiction in particular, is a game, that doesn’t mean that readers completely set aside their worldviews and fundamental beliefs when they approach a work. To expect that all fiction take place within the possible realms of someone’s belief system seem silly, of course. But the Mormon understanding of the flow of history and the eventual fate of this world is something that, imo, is of course going to interfere in some way with reading experience.

    This is especially true if the work of speculative fiction (esp. science fiction) includes any overt references to Mormonism. Of course, precisely because of those expectations, Mormon science fiction has the opportunity to play around with some interesting narratives that comment on them. OSC’s Folk of the Fringe does that to some extent. So do two stories that I’m (really not) working on.

  42. John David Payne on January 28, 2005 at 12:59 pm

    I don’t think the second coming will be in my lifetime, for two reasons. First, reading books like _The Name of the Rose_ has helped me understand just how long people have believed that they live in the last days. Most Christians since the days of the first coming have believed that the second coming is right around the corner. They have watched the signs of the times and thought that the end was nigh. So far, they have all been wrong. Why should we expect anything different?

    Second, my father believes that the second coming can not happen until the gospel is preached to all the world, and that to meet this condition there must be missionaries in the muslim world. Since there are something more than a billion muslims in the world, I think that’s a pretty reasonable interpretation. It’s also true that our missionaries are still basically shut out of China, and that we have only the very beginnings of the first inroads into India. So that’s about four billion people that are not getting preached to, out of a world population of six and a half billion.

    To get the same level of coverage in these areas, we would need about a hundred and fifty thousand missionaries. Right now, we have about sixty thousand, and that number has been pretty stable since about 1997. (In fact, it’s been declining for the last few years.) It might take us another century to get a hundred thousand missionaries in the field.

    We’ve got plenty to do in the meanwhile. Our access to India is still not good. And it will be decades (at least!) before China really opens up. And preaching to the world’s billion-plus Muslims will be even harder. China and India are unified states; we can see change happening suddenly there, as it did in the USSR. But the Muslim world is divided into dozens of states. And in many of these states, leaving Islam for another faith is not just a sin, but a crime. The penalty prescribed by Shari’a law is execution for men and life imprisonment for women. And even if governments do not enforce such punishments, Muslim converts may be the victims of vigilante justice. So the real problem is the broader culture, not the government. Laws can change quickly; culture changes more slowly. Myself, I do not see many Muslim-majority countries where Christian proselyting is tolerated, and I see no trend toward increasing openness. It is true that the work of preaching the gospel is a marvelous work and a wonder. Even counting on miracles, though, it is hard to see how the Muslim world would be open to LDS missionaries in the forseeable future.

    In the meanwhile we can work on India (and Africa!) and look forward to China. That should keep us busy. But probably not busy enough to quit speculating about the date of the second coming…

  43. Sheri Lynn on January 28, 2005 at 1:28 pm

    Luke 11:29

    I have to admit I really don’t understand it. We’re supposed to think and watch and ponder and be aware, as well as prayerful. What are we watching for, if not signs?

  44. Kevin Barney on January 28, 2005 at 1:35 pm

    There have been two great millennial expectations in Mormon history (among a few other minor ones). The first was for 1890, based on the 85-year rumination of JS (who was born in 1805). The second was for 2000, which is the one I grew up with. (I love how we assume God shares our fascination for round numbers!)

    I believe that the passing of 2000 has seriouisly deflated talk of any specific timeline for the SC. When I grew up, my bishop told me it would happen during my lifetime (it still might, but I’m 46 and the clock is ticking), and everyone was sure that 2000 was the year. I think I even thought along those lines for awhile as a boy, until I grew out of it.

    It will be interesting to see whether another commonly believed year will develop in the future (maybe having something semispecific like that to hang onto is just a part of our religious culture), or whether the failure of 2000 has cured us of the desire for such specificity for good.

  45. Christian on January 28, 2005 at 1:43 pm

    Joseph (quoted by Mark D.): I prophesy in the name of the Lord God, and let it be written ”the Son of Man will not come in the clouds of heaven till I am eighty-five years old.”

    A literal interpretation of this statement implies strong contingency of the Second Coming. Further, the fact that Joseph did not (and will never) become eighty-five years old implies that the Second Coming will never happen. :)

  46. William Morris on January 28, 2005 at 1:48 pm

    Oh, it’s coming, no doubt. The only question is whether or not it will be televised (or blogged ;-) ).

  47. Mark Martin on January 28, 2005 at 2:18 pm

    annegb,
    Strange and ornery? (#20, #22, #25) Well, I have attended two public talks by Orson Scott Card in the past 5 years–one at MIT, and the other at an LDS institute-sponsored fireside. OSC is not afraid to speak his mind and stick to his point, or to say to a questioner, “Your logic is seriously flawed” when he can follow up with a basis for saying so. If I were arguing a point with him, I might conclude that he is “ornery” because he could make me look very foolish if I am in the wrong. My observation that he is refreshingly open, clear, and not fearful of offending those who disagree might make him both “strange” and “ornery” in today’s politically correct world. During the MIT talk and Q&A session, I found myself wishing that we could have many political leaders who are like that.

  48. VeritasLiberat on January 28, 2005 at 2:21 pm

    “What are we watching for, if not signs?”

    Opportunities to make a difference for good amidst the troubles of the world.

    —————————-

    “15 Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter.”

    I think this is the Lord’s way of saying, “Well, son, I’m not going to tell you when it is, so quit bugging me about it.”
    ————————–

    “I got a massage after Christmas from a person who lived in the same stake as Orson Scott Card, who is one of my favorite authors. She said he was sort of strange, and sometimes onery. In person.”

    I’ve met him in person three times (once for dinner) and correspond occasiopnally by e-mail. He’s a very pleasant and interesting person. (I imagine he has off days, just like anyone else.) As for being “strange,” well, one person’s strange is another person’s “unique individual.” (I’m probably considered strange by some folks in RS because I don’t like crafts, scrapbooking, Janice Kapp Perry music, Greg Olsen paintings, or The Work and the Glory.)

  49. VeritasLiberat on January 28, 2005 at 2:23 pm

    And since I converted to Mormonism, most people I know think I’m strange.

  50. VeritasLiberat on January 28, 2005 at 2:24 pm

    Although if my non-Mormon relatives and friends want to see strange, they should come to church with me the first Sunday of the month in my old ward.

  51. Mark Martin on January 28, 2005 at 2:27 pm

    In a small group fireside setting, a patriarch told us not to jump to conclusions by the particular wording in our blessings about the Second Coming. For example, being “called to come forth in the morning of the First Resurrection” doesn’t necessarily mean that we will be dead at that time, necessitating our resurrection. Conversely, we should be careful to think that we are promised to live to see (and not die prior to) the Lord’s coming. I liked it when I heard a friend say it didn’t really matter to him which side of the veil he is on at the time–he just wants to be ready for that great event.

    I openly admit to flaky thinking at times in my life. For a while I actually wondered if it made sense to have my wisdom teeth extracted, since my mortal existence might not extend long enough for them to become a problem. I finally went ahead with the extraction in my early 30’s. (I can’t help but smile sheepishly as I type this.)

  52. JWL on January 28, 2005 at 2:34 pm

    This is always an amusing topic as can be seen from most of the comments above. Not to be a downer on the thread, but I do know a fair number of people in the Church who really do make major life decisions on the assumption that the Second Coming is imminent. Some of these life decisions, such as not pursuing schooling, passing up employment opportunities, spending large amounts of money on survival gear, are quite a bit more serious than failing to enjoy SF, in fact are potentially very harmful if the Event doesn’t happen. Does anyone else here know any Church members who act thus, is my concern exaggerated, is it none of my business?

  53. annegb on January 28, 2005 at 2:36 pm

    Veritas: You must be from my ward. :)

    I think Orson Scott Card is the most honest writer of LDS fiction, I wish he’d write a book, not science fiction, but fiction, about us. I’ve only read his short stories, and the science fiction. But I think he could do it.

    You know, it’s a weird thing to be strange among a strange people, one just doesn’t fit anywhere. I speak from experience. I say, embrace the strangeness.

  54. VeritasLiberat on January 28, 2005 at 3:06 pm

    Anne, have you read Saints, OSC’s Mormon historical novel?

  55. VeritasLiberat on January 28, 2005 at 3:10 pm

    By the way, my first EVER fast and testimony meeting experience as a brand new investigator featured a woman who complained for TWENTY MINUTES about all the terrible problems she had, with emphasis on how her LOUSY HOME TEACHERS had FAILED MISERABLY to help her with any of them.

    It was so bad, the bishop and the missionaries pulled me into an office afterwards to do damage control.

  56. Ivan Wolfe on January 28, 2005 at 3:22 pm

    OSC has written a lot of fiction for and/or about mormons.

    beyond the aforementiond Saints there’s Folk of the Fringe and his quadrilogy of Old Testament novels, Stone Tables (about Moses) and the Women of Genesis trilogy (Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel & Leah).

    Plus, in his hardcover Maps in a Mirror the “bonus” section contains tales he wrote for the Church magazines.

  57. Eric James Stone on January 28, 2005 at 3:52 pm

    And, of course, Lost Boys.

  58. Adam Greenwood on January 28, 2005 at 4:08 pm

    William Morris, there’s no question.

    The Millennium
    will not be
    televised

    :)

  59. Jim Richins on January 28, 2005 at 4:13 pm

    Adam,

    Actually, thinking about the miracle that occurred on July 20, 1969, I’ve sometimes wondered if television might not be the way that the entire world will see the Second Coming together.

  60. Geoff Johnston on January 28, 2005 at 4:26 pm

    I love this Strange and Ornery theme…

    Really admirable people like OSC and Hugh Nibley and Enoch get called it. You know — Strange and Ornery in a good way.

    When I get called “strange and ornery” it is not in the good way — it is in the oafish way…

  61. Adam Greenwood on January 28, 2005 at 4:57 pm

    The Second Coming now, that’s different.

  62. Just an Onlooker on January 28, 2005 at 5:10 pm

    Yikes. Alas, Nibley’s “strange and ornery” reputation will take a turn for the wors(t) when his daughter Martha’s book is published this March. The serious charges she alleges will definitely brand him as far more sinister than just a loveable eccentric.

  63. annegb on January 28, 2005 at 5:31 pm

    Oh, yeah, I forgot about Lost Boys. I think in the Alvin series, there is a resemblance to the Joseph Smith story, as well. I lost interest after about the third.

    Yeah, Lost Boys. Good book. The library has it in the non-fiction section of the library. I keep arguing with the librarian that it is fiction. I haven’t read the book Saints or even heard of it. I meant modern times plots. I would like to see someone interpret my experience as a latter-day saint. Wallace Stegner said it was impossible because there is so much to explain. Maybe that’s true.

  64. Jack on January 28, 2005 at 5:35 pm

    Perhaps the best way to counter act Martha’s book is to publish a book about Martha.

  65. Geoff Johnston on January 28, 2005 at 6:13 pm

    Onlooker: Didn’t one of Nibley’s daughters already put out a non-flattering book on him? Did she not get enough dad-bashing the first time or is this a different daughter? If it is the same daughter it sounds a little fishy to me…

  66. Ivan Wolfe on January 28, 2005 at 7:04 pm

    Yeah = there’s the Alvin Maker series (loosely based on the life of Joseph Smith) and the Homecoming series (not so loosely based on the Book of Mormon).

    I like the Alvin series better, because it is so loosely based. The general themes and characters are there, but OSC seems to allow the story go where ever is best for it. The Homecoming series failed (IMHO) because the story wanted to go another place and OSC wanted to make it follow the BoM fairly faithfully. That’s probably why the Homecoming series was ended before it should have.

    But other readers mileage may vary.

  67. Jim F. on January 28, 2005 at 7:15 pm

    ##62, 64, 65: Why not wait until there is a fire before we worry about about the smoke we think we see? Let the smoke rise for a while before we decide to wrangle over this one. If the book is coming out in March, at least give it until March.

  68. Aaron Nonymous on January 28, 2005 at 7:28 pm

    Martha’s book may not even appear, so we now return you back to your thread before it gets further jacked.

  69. Clark on January 28, 2005 at 11:26 pm

    There is apparently a lettewriting campaign to get the publishers to stop publication. Even independent of the Nibley claims it makes some *very* odd claims such as hairdressers calling husbands for permission to cut wives hair short, nurses calling people Br. or Sis. X. and so forth.

    It comes out before March, doesn’t it?

  70. Eric on January 29, 2005 at 10:00 am

    I would like to get back to the speculation on the date of the Second Coming. I had a Stake President who knew when it would be: on Stake Conference Sunday during the opening weekend of the hunting season, catching all those backsliders who thought they could miss church one week and get away with it.

  71. Jack on January 29, 2005 at 12:26 pm

    Super Bowl sunday.

  72. Hans Hansen on January 29, 2005 at 1:39 pm

    Christmas Eve.

  73. Justin B. on January 29, 2005 at 4:04 pm

    With regard to the date of the Second Coming, I’ve heard a few forthcoming dates:

    A former roommate of mine told me that he was told by a friend of a bodyguard for President Howard W. Hunter that President Hunter said (in the bodyguard’s presence) that the Second Coming would occur around 2040. I’ve marked my calendar.

    A former stake president of mine suggested to me that the date may be December 21, 2012. It’s an important date according to many people who have posted on the web.

  74. Geoff Johnston on January 29, 2005 at 4:45 pm

    Rush fans expect it to be sometime around 2112… (“We are the priests, of the temple, of…” Sing along!)

    Actually, in my spare time I like to try to match up Nephite history with US history to triangulate an approximate date. Since we are getting into the Gadianton robber phase of US history (ie the enemy is now terrorism instead of specific enemy nations) I kind of like the round number Justin’s buddy thought he overheard from President Hunter…

    Come on, admit it. It’s fun to take swipes at these things!

  75. Ivan Wolfe on January 29, 2005 at 7:14 pm

    6000 or 6001 on the Jewish Calendar. Which would be, I think, if my calculations are correct, 2239 or 2040.

    So, maybe Howard W. Hunter was on to something………

  76. Jack on January 29, 2005 at 7:15 pm

    I doubt my grandchildren will see it. I think the kingdom of the devil still needs a vigorous shaking before we can do the kind of work that really needs to be done in preparation for the millennium.

  77. Geoff Johnston on January 29, 2005 at 9:56 pm

    Ok, so Justin’s old roommate’s friend’s hearsay of President Hunter combined with Ivan’s reading of the Jewish calendar combined with my overlaying Nephite history onto US history has picked 2040. Well then I guess it’s settled! Boy, I guess we showed OSC and the scriptures didn’t we!

    (No, I’m not serious)

    If the BofM overlay were actually legitimate and 2040 really was a legitimate date it would put us in the end of Helaman chapter 16 and start of 3 Nephi 1. It is interesting to note that whereas the Nephites had previously been divided over ideologies like freemen vs. kingmen, at this point in their history the major division among the people was between those who believed in God and those who didn’t… Sound anything like us these days?

    (Cue Twilight Zone music…)

  78. John David Payne on January 30, 2005 at 12:22 am

    No, not really.

    (Cue Twilight Zone music off.)

  79. Sarah on January 30, 2005 at 3:48 am

    Watching all this back-and-forth stuff is fun. I should make popcorn. It’s even better than watching my sister and stepfather drive each other crazy over minor theological points, and whether one or the other is going to make the family seem “nigh on apostate” to any of the missionaries in this stake.

    Honestly, what does it matter when the millenium happens? If you aren’t prepared now, shouldn’t you be busy? And if you are… I really hope you have better things to do than surf the web debating what date it’ll happen on!

    (I used to hope the millenium would happen before I had to do anything important — like go to college… now I hope it’ll happen after my future children have had a good life, and I’m dead… I’ve been wrong once, so stay tuned!)

  80. Christian Cardall on January 30, 2005 at 8:41 am

    I’m ashamed to admit that in times (hopefully) past, a millenialist awareness of the prophetic laundry list of Calamities in the Last Days engendered in me a secret lust for cataclysmic events (don’t know if I was/am just a sicko, or if that’s relatively common).

    I’m glad this morning that the Iraqi elections seem to be going fairly well. If, that is, you can call several suicide bombings with about 29 dead “fairly well”. Do some secretly hope for more disastrous outcomes as a sign that the Lord’s coming is ever nearer?

    During muted commercial breaks in the election coverage this morning, while browsing through a Scientific American article on recent startling hominid finds in Indonesia, I was struck with the irony of the blinders that traditional Biblical chronology might place on our perspectives of human history. I say “irony” because on the one hand, what could be more expansive (or grandiose, according to taste) than the notion of premortal rearing by Gods, followed by postmortal maturity joining them in like creative works? But on the other hand, does this Eternal Perspective carry a risk of debasing—through ignorance by choice—our fantastic mortal origins and possible destiny as a species? Considering this morning the hominid article and television coverage showing some hopeful signs, I can’t help but wonder (and even hope) that the traditional account of an abrupt start in the Garden circa 4000 B.C. and climatic finish in a crescendo of calamity circa 2000 A.D. is not all there is to mortal human history.

  81. Trenden on January 30, 2005 at 12:33 pm

    If the gospel needs to be preached to every nation before the Second Coming I think we’re barely half way there. And speaking of the Iraqi elections, considering there are a billion Muslims that have yet to hear anything of the restored gospel I’ve been wondering how the US actions in Afghanistan and Iraq and Bush’s goal of spreading democracy around the globe will further the gospel. If Bush is successful and democracy spreads throughout the middle east in coming years many a naysayer may look back one day and admit Bush was inspired, or at least admit his policies made the world a better place and furthered the work of the gospel.

  82. annegb on January 30, 2005 at 12:58 pm

    You know, I live in southern Utah, we have soldiers from here in Iraq. They are telling people about the gospel, not proselyting, but answering questions if asked. We’ve been told of conversions.

    Also, a couple spoke in Relief Society awhile back who’d been on a mission to Jordan, they converted an Iraqi, who went back to Iraq to teach his family and friends, not a mission, on his own.

    It may happen quicker than you think. Plus, I understand that the gospel needs to being TAUGHT in a nation, not the whole world converted. Is that if they allow the church in to proselyte?

    When I think of all the things that have happened in the last 5 years, it would not surprise me to see things speed up dramatically.

  83. Jack on January 30, 2005 at 3:44 pm

    Imagine how the world felt during WWII. Over 60 million deaths. It must have seemed like a universal armageddon.

  84. Hans Hansen on January 30, 2005 at 6:32 pm

    Now that you guys have settled when the Millenium will be, let’s discuss how many angels can dance on the head of a pin!

  85. Nikki on January 30, 2005 at 11:37 pm

    At BYU I worked in the archives of the Harold B. Lee Library for awhile. One of my assignments was to transcribe a book of patriarchal blessings that had been kept by a patriarch in the 1800’s. Many of the blessings promised the recipient in very straight-forward language that they would be alive when the second coming occured. The fact that these people are all dead now was strangely comforting to me because as a child I once overhead a woman in our ward telling someone that her patriarchal blessing promised that she would be alive for the second coming (she was already in her 40’s or 50’s), so I was very disappointed that I wasn’t going to get the chance to grow up and get married and have children like my parents.

  86. Jack on January 30, 2005 at 11:53 pm

    I’ve wondered about this phenomenon in patriarchal blessings. If the blessing states that one will be “alive” during the second coming, well then, it’s true even if he/she died four thousand years ago as long as he/she’s worthy of the first resurrection. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that some blessings are quite clear in setting forth the idea that some folks will live to see the second coming in their mortal bodies.

  87. Nikki on January 31, 2005 at 2:43 pm

    In the blessings I transcribed the language was generally along the lines of “you will be present in the flesh when the savior returns”. It makes sense to interpret ‘flesh’ as a resurrected body, but I’m guessing the people whose blessings they were didn’t interpret it that way.

  88. Jonathan Stone on January 31, 2005 at 6:04 pm

    As for how long it will take for the gospel to be preached in all the earth:

    The scriptures and the principles of the gospel are already available in all the earth–over the Internet. Is this a fulfillment of the prophecy? I don’t know, and I would argue that nobody else does either. But I think that it could be a fulfillment of the prophecy, so I don’t think anyone can say the Second Coming can’t occur until there are missionaries in every country. I don’t believe there will ever be missionaries in every single town and villiage on the face of the earth, so it probably doesn’t pay to be too literal in one’s interpretation.

    I think some people can be just as guilty of postponing their expectation of the Second Coming based on honest but erroneous interpretation of prophecy as others are of anticipating it too soon.

  89. Sheri Lynn on February 1, 2005 at 12:57 am

    The scriptures and the principles of the gospel are already available in all the earth–over the Internet. –Brother Stone

    Could some young woman in Saudi Arabia or on the steppes of Mongolia hope to access it that way? The former might actually have internet access, but I would be *so* surprised to find out that she could just log on to http://www.lds.org and read about us, the Book of Mormon, et cetera.

  90. John David Payne on February 2, 2005 at 2:05 am

    “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Romans 10:13-15)

    Jonathan, you know of any baptisms that are the result of someone randomly surfing onto the church website? I don’t. And I don’t think “the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” until our missionaries have “penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country,” etc. But that’s just my interpretation.

  91. Hyrum on February 2, 2005 at 5:23 pm

    This alll just made me remember Elder McConkie’s conference talk from April 1979, which includes the following:

    “Bands of Gadianton robbers will infest every nation, immorality and murder and crime will increase, and it will seem as though every man’s hand is against his brother.”

    ***

    “It is one of the sad heresies of our time that peace will be gained by weary diplomats as they prepare treaties of compromise, or that the Millennium will be ushered in because men will learn to live in peace and to keep the commandments, or that the predicted plagues and promised desolations of latter days can in some way be avoided.
    We must do all we can to proclaim peace, to avoid war, to heal disease, to prepare for natural disasters—but with it all, that which is to be shall be.”

    ***

    “It may be, for instance, that nothing except the power of faith and the authority of the priesthood can save individuals and congregations from the atomic holocausts that surely shall be.”

  92. Anna on February 3, 2005 at 10:46 am

    Maybe no one is reading this thread anymore, in which case no one will be bothered if I go off on a tangent. Of course, that means no one will respond to my tangent either, when I actually would prefer responses to silence.

    Several comments (most recently, #85-87) have mentioned patriarchal blessings promising now-dead recipients that they would live to see the second coming. As noted, these are documented occurrences and not just faith-destroying rumors from by anti- and ex-Mormons. I’m wondering how we explain such blessings, and what they suggest about patriarchal blessings more generally. Possible explanations I have brainstormed:

    1. All patriarchal blessings are bunk. No element of genuine divine revelation is involved. The patriarch might be a conscious fraud (isn’t inspired and knows it) or a sincere fraud (isn’t inspired but thinks he is), but either way it doesn’t matter: he’s just not inspired.

    This is clearly not a believing perspective, so perhaps I will get in trouble for even mentioning it. However, it *is* an available explanation, and I’m sure it is the explanation of choice for many people, so I’m including it in the interest of thoroughness.

    2. Patriarchal blessings represent some mix of divine truth and human falsehood. Some of what the patriarch says is inspired, and some of what he says is not. Promises to dead individuals that they would live to see the second coming suggest that these promises are examples of uninspired patriarchal speech (although some patriarchal speech is taken to be inspired).

    This explanation is somewhat analogous to the “a prophet is a prophet only when speaking as a prophet” argument in that it attempts to defend someone’s revelatory gifts by saying that an inspired person who errs just must not have been inspired at that particular moment. The problem with patriarchal blessings, though, is that a patriarch giving a patriarchal blessing is clearly speaking as a patriarch *throughout* the blessing. He doesn’t issue a disclaimer before he begins saying, “Sometimes I’m speaking as an inspired patriarch, but sometimes I’m just expressing my personal opinions, so take this blessing with a grain of salt.” I think patriarchal blessings would be rendered largely worthless under this interpretation. What good is a semi-inspired blessing if you don’t know which parts are inspired?

    3. Some of what the patriarch says is inspired and true, and some of what he says is inspired and false. By that I mean that the patriarch may sometimes tell the recipient things that he knows are not strictly correct because he thinks the net effect will be positive. For example, the patriarch might tell someone that he or she has the gift of tongues (even if he/she definitely does not) in order to encourage the person to study languages more, or the patriarch might tell someone that he/she will live to see the second coming (even if he/she definitely will not) because such a promise will encourage the person to live righteously in a way that some more-literally-correct promise would not.

    The notion of intentional yet well-meaning fraud is always troubling to me. I’m especially uncomfortable with such fraud coming from individuals who claim divine inspiration. Does God want them to stretch the truth? Does God rely on fraud to accomplish His purposes? I’m not ruling out the possibility, but as I said, it unsettles me. When coupled with the “if you are worthy…” aspect of patriarchal blessings, promises to see the second coming seem more like manipulative tools to prod the recipient into righteous living than actual “blessings” to me. It might also be hard to argue that the net effect of promises about the second coming has been positive when anti- and ex-Mormons have so eagerly seized upon such promises for ammunition.

    4. Patriarchal blessings are consistently, reliably inspired. However, because a patriarch must express that inspiration in his own language, some human errors are introduced. In cases where dead individuals were promised to live to see the second coming, maybe the patriarch had a genuine impression that led him to make that promise, but his choice of wording was less than ideal.

    The parallel here is the description of the Book of Mormon translation process as Joseph Smith’s expression of divine inspiration in his own language, which is sometimes used to account for grammatical errors, seeming anachronisms, and close similarities with King James Bible passages. For patriarchal blessings, I doubt even those defending them as thoroughly divinely inspired would be willing to say that they result from word-for-word divine dictations, so I imagine this interpretation has significant appeal. However, I’m not sure it helps us out much with regard to promises to now-dead people that they would live to see the second coming. If “you will live to see the second coming” is merely the garbled expression of some more accurate inspiration, what could that more accurate inspiration possibly be? That the person would see the second coming after the resurrection? Then why is that so much more difficult to say?

    5. Patriarchal blessings are inspired, including the promises about the second coming, but we often misinterpret them, including those promises. Thus, such promises may refer to seeing the second coming while living as a spirit, or after dying and being resurrected.

    I suppose this is possible, and this seems to be one of the more common defenses of these promises and blessings. But believing the individual will see the second coming *before* death and resurrection is the most obvious interpretation of such phrases (especially “you will not taste of death…”). Why discard the most obvious interpretation in favor of one requiring more contortions? It also seems likely that the people giving and receiving the blessing would have assumed the most obvious interpretation–should we blithely discount the meaning imputed to a patriarchal blessing by the persons most intimately invested in it?

    Furthermore, I find this attitude somewhat problematic for interpreting patriarchal blessings more generally. I certainly understand that some interpreting must take place, but if our interpretations of seemingly straightforward passages can be so wrong, how much can we rely on any of our interpretations of patriarchal blessings? And if “it will happen in the next life if it doesn’t happen in this one” is always an escape hatch, does that at all diminish the value of patriarchal blessings as guiding stars for *this* life?

    6. Patriarchal blessings are inspired, but are meant to be metaphorical, not literal. Promises about the second coming might be meant to emphasize that we’re in the last days, or to convey to the hearer a sense of what awaits at the second coming, or they might mean something else more symbolic still.

    See the above comments about the literal interpretation being the most obvious. The patriarchal blessings in the Old Testament are often expressed in symbolic language, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard modern Church leaders or members suggest a metaphorical reading of patriarchal blessings. Indeed, it seems to me that metaphorical patriarchal blessings would be of dubious value.

    7. All patriarchal blessings are conditional on the worthiness of the recipient. If these people had been more righteous, they *would* have lived to see the second coming.

    Hm. If the second coming has a fixed appointed time which has not yet arrived, then this amounts to saying these people would have lived to be super-old if they had been more righteous. That hardly seems defensible. So we must suppose that the second coming is contingent, which in this case seems to suggest that if these people had been more righteous, the second coming would have been hastened by decades. Aside from being a rather odd notion on its own terms, this explanation casts aspersions on the righteousness of a few random people who, on the whole, were probably pretty righteous. Placing the fault for the postponement of the second coming at their feet for whatever shortcomings they did have hardly seems fair or merciful. (On a related note, I find it emotionally unsatisfactory to assume automatically that those who claim not to receive an answer to, say, Moroni’s promise are just not sincere enough, or trying hard enough, or worthy enough.) And between the two excuses “if it doesn’t happen now, it will happen in the next life” and “if it doesn’t happen now, it’s because the recipient wasn’t worthy,” have we sapped patriarchal blessings of much of their strength?

    8. The second coming is contingent, but not on the righteousness of these few individuals. Perhaps at the time the blessing was given, it was correct that the person would live to see the second coming, but then someone or something altered the course of events enough to push back the time of the second coming beyond the person’s death.

    Intriguing. And convenient, since it diverts the blame for a delayed second coming away from the patriarch and the recipient onto some unknown third party. This explanation assumes a fairly high degree of contingency for the timing of the second coming, which some may not be willing to accept. It also leaves quite a bit unanswered about what could have postponed the second coming this way. And if the timing of the second coming is so contingent on outside factors, and hence whether the patriarchal blessing recipient is alive at the time of second coming is so contingent, why would the patriarch use language that sounds confident and certain, not contingent and uncertain?

    9. The promises given in these patriarchal blessings were not only inspired, but literally, factually correct. The second coming has already occurred.

    Although the second coming may surprise us like a thief in the night, I’ve never heard that the thief would go unnoticed for decades. I don’t know what the point is of promising people they will live to see the second coming if neither they nor anyone else on earth (except possibly Baha’i) recognize the purported second coming as such.

    10. Patriarchal blessings are inspired. We do not know why some people who are now dead were promised that they would live to see the second coming. We will place this question on the shelf until said second coming and in the meantime simply strive to understand and live up to our own patriarchal blessings as best we can.

    This explanation may not explain all that much, but it could be more logically consistent than many of the other available explanations. Personally, I understand why it makes sense to retreat to this sort of position of “believing agnosticism,” but I can’t help wishing we understood more.

    Thanks for reading through this massive long-winded comment. Please understand that my concerns are sincere, and not meant to be cynical or contentious. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. My own confusion about patriarchal blessings is a major reason I haven’t received one yet.

  93. Sheri Lynn on February 3, 2005 at 11:11 am

    Awesome post Anna and much to think about. I hope other people more learned in the Gospel comment. This is my less learned comment:

    “Does God rely on fraud to accomplish His purposes? I’m not ruling out the possibility, but as I said, it unsettles me.”

    Me too, because the answer is clearly YES. There are many OT examples and probably some NT. The example that comes to mind most readily however is from the Book of Mormon. It’s one of the first things investigators will read, too. 1 Nephi 19-30. Zoram was NOT a bad man, not unrighteous. Yet he was the victim of a terrible and frightening fraud, followed by force. Nephi and his brothers dealt honestly with Laban, who was a bad man indeed, until it became necessary to slay him to accomplish their task–they did not use subterfuge on him.

    Zoram was tricked into betraying his employer’s trust in him, then forced to leave. Wasn’t this act an abduction, kidnapping, man-stealing, in every sense of that word? He had to be tricked and forced into “joining the church.” He was ever after treated as one of them, as far as I can tell, and Nephi did keep the promise made to him–but only because Zoram kept a promise made under duress. Zoram was very important to God’s purposes indeed and his blood flows, I presume, in my veins, since I have Cherokee ancestors, and surely Zorma’s descendants married into the Lamanites as well as the Nephites. I am grateful he joined with Nephi instead of hollering for Jerusalem’s law enforcement. I have to admit, however, that it would have taken an angel to stop me from resisting Nephi myself, had I been in Zoram’s place. It wouldn’t matter that my murdered boss deserved his end. Laman was clearly a VIP. Had Zoram gone back to report what he knew, the sons of Lehi and probably the whole family would have been in irons and sent for trial! Obviously, the Holy Ghost had to be working hard on Zoram, or Zoram was a coward, or else…? But we don’t have his side of that story here. A man who worked for Laban and retained sufficient sensitivity to the Spirit to know that despite what Nephi had done, it was Nephi whose word he should obey…wow.

    The Lord was behind every step of this process, inspiring Nephi and lending him more strength, and that much is as clear as crystal. Yet it was fraud, fraud on an honest and good man, fraud Nephi committed on the heels of an act even more fearful. I do not understand. I have faith that it happened as written and was necessary to secure not only the Gospel but Zoram himself for the Nephites and for us today.

    Let me add on a personal note that my patriarchal blessing is of great value to me. It doesn’t make me any promises I don’t believe with all my heart can be fulfilled. Of most value is its very apt cautionary notes. I didn’t have to kill or kidnap anyone ot get it, either.

  94. Sheri Lynn on February 3, 2005 at 11:23 am

    I can also think of many examples from Church history. The early Saints, especially those in plural marriages, had to accomplish many a very substantial subterfuge.

  95. Kaimi on February 3, 2005 at 11:47 am

    Very nice comment, Anna. I think you’ve more or less got the universe of possibilities covered.

    I think that I vaguely lean towards #10, since many of the others have serious problems, as you’ve pointed out.

    (I would add that it’s my understanding, based on discussions with a well-read Catholic friend, that there is a significant branch of Catholic theologians who believe that the Second Coming has already occurred. As I understand it, their reading is premised on the idea that, to the early apostles, anything like the present level of acceptance of Christianity (large portions of the world being Christian) would be a miracle, a Second Coming of Christ, so to speak, and in a sense an acceptance of Christ by the “whole world.” I don’t know the details on that position — it makes the Second Coming sound rather metaphorical — but it sounds like another data point to add to your #9. I don’t think that that position is easy to reconcile with LDS statements about the Second Coming, however.)

  96. Jack on February 3, 2005 at 12:32 pm

    11. A small percentage of Patriarchs are over-zealous (though well intended) in their own ideas about the signs of the times and set forth those ideas in some of the blessings they give–though the overall tone of the blessing is still appropriate to the needs of the one receiving the it.

    Perhaps, because we are called in our weakness to serve in the kingdom, the Lord will accept our best effort even when it falls short of the mark. I’m one to believe that in many cases the Lord will support His servants when even they err, so long as they are striving to be faithful. It is my guess that many of the PB’s in question may be interpreted as seeing the Lord’s return in a resurrected body, thus narrowing the more problematic blessings to a very small percentage. As for those few blessings which unambiguously state that the recipient will live to to see the second coming in their mortal bodies; perhaps the Lord, according to the faith of the recipient, can turn such weakness into the very challenge he/she needs to strengthen his/her faith. Is this too optimistic?

  97. Sheri Lynn on February 3, 2005 at 9:14 pm

    My husband and I were discussing this post of Anna’s.

    Further examples of the Lord working through subterfuge and fraud:

    Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. He fully expected to have to go through with it. It’s a wonder it didn’t stop his heart. He was probably praying to die before he had to lift the knife.

    The entire scenario with Job. Imagine you’re Job and you’ve proven yourself faithful through your trials, and been given a new family, new home, new wealth again. Could you ever look at it without anticipating another ordeal? When my son was diagnosed with autism, at age 3, I stopped keeping his baby book and the baby books of his sisters. It didn’t seem worth keeping track of milestones achieved anymore. They all seemed like promises sure to be broken.

    I am not faithless or unbelieving and I love the Lord. I do not believe that I understand these scriptures, or I wouldn’t see them the way I do. I thought about Zoram all afternoon. Likely he prayed to be released from his service to Laban, and welcomed the chance to escape it. Could all of that really have been for Zoram as much as for Lehi and Nephi? There are other books we don’t have yet. Is there a book of Zoram back in the sealed plates?

  98. Rosalynde Welch on February 4, 2005 at 12:39 am

    Anna–wow! Nice analysis. On your #3, while I don’t think it works with patriarchal blessings, I do think there’s something to the notion of “divine fraud,” although I would prefer to call it “divine theater”… I don’t have the reference right now–and not sure if it’s digitized online anyway–but Eugene England wrote some on the ways in which “healing theater” (essentially a “fraudulent” situation in which a counterfactual narrative is presented) can work profound moral change on the human heart. Since reading that piece in college, I find “healing theaters” everywhere in the scriptures (and literature generally, including Shakespeare, on which Gene based his argument).

    Patriarchal blessings are tricky because they’re one of the few forms–perhaps the only form?–of falsifiable revelation. Most prophecies are so generally and indirectly framed that it’s difficult to prove that they are false–but in situations like the ones you describe, it’s very hard not to reach precisely that conclusion. My feeling is that the patriarch simply misinterpreted inspiration in those instances–and, we must conclude, in other instances that are not so clearly falsifiable.

    But I don’t think the possibility that *some* patriarchal blessings contain *some* elements that were incorrectly transmitted ought to shake us up–especially because I think the “promises and counsel” portion of the blessing less important than the lineage portion. While I value my PB, and I think we are rightly counseled to value and consult them as forms of personalized revelation, I think we sometimes misunderstand the real value of the blessing. Their primary purpose, in my view, is not to map out the course of our life, but rather to bind the individual to the collective body of the Lord’s people through the lineage and legacy of the Abrahamic covenant. To the modern eye, the declaration of lineage can seem irrelevant at best and bizarre at worst–and in a certain way, the precise lineage *is* irrelevant. But the fact that we are adopted into the tribe, and thus bound socially–familially, really–to one another and to the Lord through covenant, is at the heart of our covenant theology. More and more it seems to me that this is one of Mormonism’s great and unique doctrines: the sociality of salvation. Salvation requires both the performance of ordinances and the development of Christlike character. Christians have long recognized the importance of relationships in developing Christlike attributes, chief among which is charity–an attribute that is meaningless outside a social context. But I think most Christians understand ordinances as individual rather than social matters. Mormon ordinances, however, are inherently social–they *require* us to relate to others. Baptismal covenants require us to bear one another’s burdens; temple covenants only reach their apogee in groups. I think the patriarchal blessing should be understood in this context: the blessing binds us forward and backward in history to a covenant collective.

  99. Orson Scott Card on February 25, 2005 at 1:47 pm

    I must go on record as admitting to being strange. The only place I wear shoes is to church, and then they’re black Reeboks. I sing the tenor part very loudly in sacrament meeting (though only when everybody else is singing) and write hymns while the speakers are speaking. When I was Young Men’s president in our ward I never allowed basketball to be used as one of our activities. And now I’m directing fullscale musicals and get large numbers of young men to sing and dance in them. That, plus my goatee, makes me downright bizzarre.

    However, I am not ornery. I always agree with every single person in my stake on every subject, and never argue with anybody. I have even been known to do my home teaching. I don’t know what this “stake member” is talking about. I think he or she is a fake. Or he/she met the OTHER Orson Scott Card.

    Meanwhile, more seriously: Martha Nibley Beck’s supposed “recovered memories” of abuse by her father are subject to the same warnings as any other “recovered memories”: that “recovered memories” are more likely to be fictitious than not. I knew Martha and the rest of the Nibley family during the time when she was supposedly being abused, and she exhibited none of the signs that usually mark abused children. I find it extremely unlikely that there is even a grain of truth in what she’s saying. The far more likely explanation is that in the process of therapy, she “recovered” memories that were actually supplied by suggestion or wishful thinking (not that she wanted to be abused, but rather that she wanted to have a stick to beat her father with). What saddens me most is where Martha has come from the bright, funny, delightful person she used to be, to the embittered, hostile anti-Mormon that she seems to have become.

    It is a mistake, however, for anyone to try to block publication of Martha’s book. Everyone has a right to speak, and suppression is almost never the answer – answering is the answer.

    As for the millennium: The sad truth is that this IS the millennium. And in my opinion, it just isn’t all that it was cracked up to be.

    – Orson Scott Card

  100. Orson Scott Card on February 25, 2005 at 1:57 pm

    As for patriarchal blessings, I loved Anna’s pert-near-exhaustive list of possibilities. May I add another?

    Some patriarchs are simply better at their job than others. While most limit their words to things that they are actually inspired to say, others (rarely) are so eager to be prophets that they “push the envelope,” persuading themselves that if it comes into their mind it MUST be inspiration, even if it comes into their minds because they really want it to be true.

    As I understand it, there are only two things a patriarchal blessing is REQUIRED to do: Declare the lineage, and promise that the recipient will rise on the morning of the first resurrection – which will certainly be true of anyone who lives true to the laws and covenants of the gospel. When one of these is omitted – and it happens – then the person is declared to have been misblessed (my own word – I thought we needed it, though) and a new or supplemental blessing is in order. I knew one person it happened to. Yet, oddly, he declares that the only part of his blessing that he actually remembers comes from the first misblessing, not the second, more correct blessing.

    Patriarchs are human, and while the vast majority fulfil their responsibilities with modesty, faith, and generosity, there are always a handful who are not always competent, and an even smaller group whose blessings are more about their own ego than about anything the Spirit might be saying. The Church is composed of imperfect beings; we trust others to do well, but when they don’t, it shouldn’t disturb us, merely disappoint us. And, as Anna pointed out, it is quite possible for genuine inspiration to show up in the midst of an imperfect blessing.

    – Orson Scott Card

  101. john fowles on February 25, 2005 at 4:11 pm

    OSC # 100 wrote As I understand it, there are only two things a patriarchal blessing is REQUIRED to do: Declare the lineage, and promise that the recipient will rise on the morning of the first resurrection. I would add the the Patriarch is also charged with pronouncing a blessing of guidance as directed by the Spirit.

    But as to lineage, I have wondered about this. My wife and I know someone who is black and whose patriarchal blessing does not assign him a “tribe” of Israel but rather pronounces him merely “a descendant of Ham.” My wife and I have felt uncomfortable about this–could this be grounds for a “misblessing” as you have put it?

  102. Keith on February 25, 2005 at 4:34 pm

    “As I understand it, there are only two things a patriarchal blessing is REQUIRED to do: Declare the lineage, and promise that the recipient will rise on the morning of the first resurrection.”

    I’m not certain the morning of the first resurrection thing is required. My blessing doesn’t say this. Of course, maybe this just portends bad things for me. . .

  103. Jack on February 25, 2005 at 4:34 pm

    OSC,

    You are right on about the problem of “recovered memories”. I think we’re just beginning to get a glimps at how powerfully creative the mind can be when people are desperate for answers.

    You said” As for the millennium: The sad truth is that this IS the millennium. And in my opinion, it just isn’t all that it was cracked up to be.”

    I’d like to hear more about this.

  104. annegb on February 25, 2005 at 7:15 pm

    Mr. Card,

    Uh, I said that I’d heard you were onery and strange. Or maybe strange and onery. I went for a massage and the girl who gave it was from North Carolina, and I said you were from there and she said she knew, she was in your stake. She said you or maybe it was your wife was a young adult leader and at a dance, you got mad, but I can’t remember if it was because the kids went home early or late. Sound familiar? She didn’t seem to dislike you, she laughed when she said it. That’s what happens when you’re famous?

    Thanks for writing Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow.

  105. annegb on February 25, 2005 at 7:18 pm

    I’ve said this before, but I also distrust recovered memories. I believe that some people have a desire to please and they get a therapist who plays on that. I think it’s voyeuristic.

    I’m sort of in shock that Orson Scott Card wrote to our blog. I guess that would be you guys blog. Let’s try to get some other famous people. How about Chris Rock? Should I insult him, too? (I’m not sure that can be done, but I could give it the old college try.) :)

  106. Jack on February 25, 2005 at 11:02 pm

    “The sad truth is that this IS the millennium. And in my opinion, it just isn’t all that it was cracked up to be.”

    Does this imply a gradual transition into paradisiacal conditions?

    Does this imply a post-millennial return of the Savior in his glory?

    Does this imply that maybe not all of those kooky patriarchal blessings were so kooky afterall?

    To tell you the truth, I like these implications. I like the idea that we must shoulder the burden of improving our conditions. I like the idea that the veil which covers paradise is a subtle and that it is not beyond our ability to part it as a global community, though it may take a little time. I like the idea of equating that great and terrible day with a time after which there will have been ample opportunity to finish the work of Elijah. For if that day comes too soon than the earth will be utterly wasted. Therefore, if the prophecies of B. Young regarding temple work during the Millennium are true, then it makes sense that the day wich shall burn as an oven must follow the Millennium. (not that I agree with B. Young on that point, or that I flatly assume that the day of burning must be the Lord’s coming in His glory) I like the Idea that it is our duty to change the world and not just a temporary responsibilty that we’re charged with to keep us busy and out of trouble.

  107. Jack on February 25, 2005 at 11:09 pm

    Oh yeah,

    I also like the idea of not getting fried.

  108. Larry on February 26, 2005 at 1:31 am

    Orson,

    Since my kids worship the ground you walk on, it’s good to know you are human.

    You are right about the Millenium being here. The only problem is deciphering how long a half an hour is. I used to believe that it meant that there would be no women in heaven, because my sisters were insessent talkers.

    I always use the Church as my gauge and not the world at large. Using D&C112:24-25 make it pretty clear to me that we are a ways away from that point right now. As long as we each do our part to further Zion we aren’t there – but as soon as we get satisfied… It would be rather interesting to be a translated being at that point.

  109. Sheri Lynn on February 26, 2005 at 4:33 am

    What happens to Lovelock??????! I’ve read it three times this month since my husband warned me not to read it. You might say it is the perfect book for me right now.

    Brother Card, thank you for posting on this thread. And if you agree with everyone in your stake, I want some of whatever you take before you go to church. :-D

  110. Peggy Snow Cahill on February 26, 2005 at 6:26 am

    Annegb-
    There was someone else famous here, or mostly famous–Ken Jennings. And people started saying, you don’t think that’s really Ken Jennings, do you? Funny how nobody asked that about Brother Card. I am a fan of Ken Jennings, for sure, but not anything like I am a fan of OSC. I shouldn’t think he would be too offended by the “ornery” part, since according to his website, ornery came from the word ordinary, and is a good thing! (And Brother Card, if you come back this way and read this message, thank you so very much for the wonderful stuff you write, especially the Alvin Maker series!)

  111. Stephen M (Ethesis) on February 26, 2005 at 8:22 am

    4. Patriarchal blessings are consistently, reliably inspired. However, because a patriarch must express that inspiration in his own language, some human errors are introduced. In cases where dead individuals were promised to live to see the second coming, maybe the patriarch had a genuine impression that led him to make that promise, but his choice of wording was less than ideal.

    5. Patriarchal blessings are inspired, including the promises about the second coming, but we often misinterpret them, including those promises. Thus, such promises may refer to seeing the second coming while living as a spirit, or after dying and being resurrected.

    It is interesting how Brigham Young went on at length about the flaws inherent in communication between God and man due to the weaknesses of our language and expression. It was a theme he returned to, over and over again.

    Also, Stake Presidents are supposed to audit patriarchial blessings to confirm that the Patriarchs aren’t straying off base. That does indicate to me that Patriarchs are are human … and a part of mortality, rather than an exception to it.

    I should note that in a different context, I’ve heard at least one blessing, delivered with power, that appeared to be one thing. On reflection I realized it was a part of the second endowment and had a completely different meaning than I had ascribed to it.

    I’ve also sat and watched while God communicated to someone in spite of an extreme “noise to signal” ratio (less than 5% of what the guy said was correct, but the listener was tuned into the Spirit and received a very strong, but very different, message. I was only 20 or so at the time and it made a very significant impression on me about how God works in spite of the imperfections of men).

    john fowles — your friend should contact the Church and get a proper blessing. Indeed.

  112. Shawn Bailey on February 26, 2005 at 10:02 am

    Orson Scott Card, Neil Labute, Ken Jennings, several bright stars in Mormon studies, that Michigan philosophy professor who will never, ever, forget the nuances of the Mormon doctrine of proxy baptism that he recently had the privilege to learn . . .

    Yes, Times and Seasons has been graced by some famous people. And who knows what General Authorities (other than members of the Strengthening the Members Committee) are reading without commenting!*

    I would like to think that there is something about our Christianity (which I understand to eschew mortal status markers)—or the maturity and intelligence of the participants here (which I think consistently inspiring)—that would lead us to avoid getting too excited about celebrity in itself.

    This is not a comment about any particular post. I will gladly join the grateful chorus thanking Orson for his work (which I enjoy immensely). I just want these people to stick around (and other similarly brilliant people to join us) so that we can engage their ideas. I suppose I am afraid that too much engaging them as famous celebrities to be fawned over will bore them and ultimately scare them away. Of course, I could be completely wrong. Maybe they like that kind of thing. I just don’t think that I would if I were in that position.

    *Aside: I think the treatment of General Authorities as celebrities is particularly sad. These people want to bring souls to Christ! Not sign autographs and pose for pictures! Still, as far as I have seen, they are gracious when put in this awkward position.

  113. annegb on February 26, 2005 at 10:21 am

    Who is Neil Labute?

  114. Shawn Bailey on February 26, 2005 at 10:38 am

    Neil is a playwright, film director, film producer, etc. Works include Bash, In the Company of Men, and Fat Pig (currently playing off-broadway). Rosalynde did an excellent post or two here on him/his work. I would link, but the T&S search feature is so handy (and I’m not sure how to do it). He has ties (historical atleast) to the church and BYU.

  115. Sheri Lynn on February 26, 2005 at 11:52 pm

    What is ‘fame,’ but to have suffered the breach of the barriers between others and one’s own excellence–or baseness?

    There isn’t a famous writer whose writing doesn’t suffer from his or her fame. So I forgive Brother Card his cruel and discouraging failure to answer my passionate fan letter for FOLK OF THE FRINGE, even though I DID enclose an SASE.

    :-)

    (You can keep the stamp. Really.) (Heh.)

  116. a random John on February 27, 2005 at 1:00 pm

    Sheri Lynn,

    Have you tried e-mail? I don’t wish to speak for OSC, but he has responded kindly each time I have emailed him. His address isn’t too hard to find on his website.

  117. annegb on February 27, 2005 at 2:14 pm

    He didn’t answer my e-mail. Of course, few do. I think the word has gotten around. :)

  118. Sheri Lynn on February 27, 2005 at 10:16 pm

    Now I’m getting to it, I’m getting to it. Think of how much fan mail I get, annegb. You have to give me TIME.

    (thanks a random john, but you know, everybody gets just ONE SASE from me, and then that’s it.)

  119. annegb on May 21, 2005 at 7:26 pm

    I think it was on this thread that somebody recommended Mormon Lives, by Susan Taber, to me.

    Whoever you are, I bought three copies, two for friends of mine. I love that book. I am savoring it. Thanks.

  120. Darrick Evenson on October 27, 2005 at 8:52 pm

    Dear Friends,

    The Lord did come! The Lord Jesus visited His temple in Salt Lake City on Sept. 28th, 1912.
    You can read about that at:
    http://www.angelfire.com/mo/baha/1912.html