Apocalyptism has been important to Latter-day Saint theology and is why we’re called Latter-day Saints. In our next conversation with Dr. Christopher Blythe, we’ll get an overview of his book, Terrible Revolution, and learn more about LDS thoughts over the past two centuries about apocalypse, and how it differs from Millenarinism.
Christopher: Yes. There’s a great book by Grant Underwood, The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism. [It’s a] brilliant book, and one of the things it did was talk about Latter-day Saint last days thoughts in context of Christian theology. Grant will walk us through and say, “Post millennialism is different than millenarianism, or what we call premillennialism.” When you’re a post millennialist, you think things are going great, that society is going to get better and better and better, and then the Savior will appear, perhaps, and you’ll be in the millennium. It’ll be a wonderful–and sometimes it’s seen more symbolically, so the Savior doesn’t necessarily appear in the same way. But it’s human invention, a human turning towards Christ, it just perfects the world. Premillennialists or millenarians have a perspective that–it’s what we’re more used to seeing–the world is going to get worse and worse and worse, then Jesus shows up, destructions happen, the righteous are selected, and then the Millennium happens. So, Grant Underwood makes a point to say that Latter-day Saints, even though we have utopian ideas like building Zion as an essential part before the Savior comes, really, we’re millenarians, that we expect society to kind of crumble before the Millennium happens. So, it’s not by human invention.
Jan Shipps, or Philip Barlow, or Terrell Givens, or Grant Underwood are trying to position Mormonism into this evangelical frame. I’m less interested in that. So I wanted to jump in and say, “Yes, we’re millenarian, don’t worry about it. But what I want to talk about is apocalypticism.” That is the sort of on-the-ground disasters that Latter-day Saints are expecting and participating in. I use a term that a great scholar, Catherine Wessinger, uses to describe this. Instead of millenarianism, I talk about catastrophic apocalypticism. So we are waiting around and we are–we’re not waiting around. We’re participant in all these wonderful, building Zion ideas, doing missionary work, work for the dead, that we believe prepares the world for the Second Coming. But, also, there’s a sort of emphasis, which is what I looked at, of destructions. The world is going to erupt. These corrupt governments, which from an early Latter-day Saint view is all governments, will collapse. So, we’re waiting for that to occur.
We’ll also get a preview of his book. Check out our conversation….