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Bo, Rowe, & Pontius: LDS Apocalypticists

We’re moving into modern day apocalypticism.  We’re going to talk about 3 main figures:  Bo Gritz, Julie Rowe, and John Pontius. Bo was former army officer and Mormon convert who ran for president of the United States in 1992, receiving a significant number of votes in Utah.

Christopher:  Yes, absolutely. In the 1990s, Bo Gritz is a great representative, as well as guys like Jim Harmston, and others, of a Latter-day Saint who’s become concerned about New World Order conspiracy theories.  The United Nations, what role are they going to play in sort of setting up the scene for an anti-Christ figure and certainly our own distrust of the idea of the sort of global government? I just find that really interesting how Latter-day Saints turn in that direction as well. This is a moment where far right conservative, political ideas–John Birch Society is functioning in Utah and sometimes, John Birch Society isn’t far enough for some people in Utah County.

Julie Rowe currently has a YouTube channel where she shares her beliefs. John Pontius has written an influential book called Visions of Glory.

Christopher:  John Pontius wrote this book, “Visions of Glory,” which is Spencer’s story of his near death experience. Then there’s Julie Rowe, whose publisher Chad Daybell, helped her write several books about her experiences. Some people have wanted to say, the reason Spencer had so much more influence, particularly amongst mainstream Latter-day Saints, is because he was a man, Julie was a woman. I think that’s related to what’s going on here. But I actually think something else is going on here, because Spencer played the rules.  The rules are, you don’t want to become a celebrity, you’re not trying to build a following away from the Church. He makes himself anonymous.

His narrative is about how he actually had this vision and didn’t share it until God told him to.  He was friends with an apostle, and that apostle discouraged him from sharing it until he received revelation to do so.  His details are so thoroughly–I mean, it’s really a Last Days’ event, that is about the power of the church, like the church coming together. I mean, he plays by all these rules, but the most important rule he does is he doesn’t continue to write. He doesn’t show up in podcasts. He doesn’t have a website you can watch him. You can’t send him money for energy work.

Whereas Julie, and Julie would say, she’s received direction to do this. Part of her message is what she’s going to do. She’s going to be this general in a Last Days’ army, this nine-month war.  She needs to prepare camps and gather supplies for individuals. She wrote multiple books. She started a YouTube channel. You can pay her a significant amount of money to have energy work done.  I assume she’s doing it for the best of reasons, but she’s an entrepreneur. This is something that most Latter-day Saints would think is a little too close to being a paid preacher, or a little too close to being schismatic. So, I think it’s interesting to piece those two together, and think why would one be prosperous in these stories and one not? Ultimately, it’s interesting to me that these visionaries rise to popularity, and then they rise and fall. So, when one falls another shows up. I trace that most of these are based on near death experiences. So, I think it’s interesting that Betty Eadie, the first major near death experience writer who wrote her own book, was a Latter-day Saint.

Dr. Christopher Blythe will tell us more about these recent figures.  (We will focus on Chad in our next episode.)  Check out our conversation….

By the way, here is a link to Dr. Blythe’s book, Terrible Revolution.  It’s currently over 40% off, here’s your chance to get a good deal!

Bo Gritz, Julie Rowe, and John Pontius our modern-day LDS apocalypticists.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Dr. Blythe!

463: World Wars & Apocalypse

462: Civil War Prophecy & Joseph’s Apocalyptic Death

461: Mormon History of Apocalypse

460: Maxwell Institute: A Religious Thinktank

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How Hinckley Prevailed Over Benson on Civil Rights (Part 12 of 13)

Ezra Taft Benson clearly wasn’t a fan of civil rights and called it a communist conspiracy.  But his counselor in the First Presidency, Gordon B. Hinckley, made peace with the NAACP and helped name a state holiday in Utah after King.  Dr. Matt Harris tells more about Hinckley’s effects on Benson.

Matt: For years, Dr. King’s been called a commie. Latter-day Saints of at least two generations grew up with this sort of thinking. So, what do you do about this? Well, when the Martin Luther King holiday was proposed in the early ’80’s, of course, the State of Utah just recoiled in horror. They can’t support the Martin Luther King holiday. The idea was, not only is he a communist, but he’s an adulterer and all the other things that these people had said about him. So, what happened was Utah decided they were going to call it Human Rights Day instead of Martin Luther King Day. There are a few other states that had gone that path, too.

Matt: Hinckley is privately befriending members of the NAACP. He’s doing a lot of stuff behind the scenes to really undo, quite frankly, what Elder Benson had spent much of his apostolic ministry doing: denouncing civil rights and Martin Luther King. So, President Hinckley is doing much of this stuff on his own. To finish the story here, that President Hinckley gives his support to rename the holiday after Martin Luther King. He tells the church lobbyist, he says, “Why don’t you go up to the hill and let them know that the church supports the renaming of Martin Luther King Day?” He’d been working in private with NAACP leaders. They have been pushing him hard. “Why can’t the church support this? Because you know, if the church supports this, that the legislature will fall in line.”

President Hinckley thought, “Oh my goodness, why don’t we support this? It serves no purpose in the 21st century, or as the 21st century approaches to not rename this after this iconic civil rights leader.” So, President Hinckley tells the church lobbyist, “Go up to the hill and tell them that the church supports the changing of the holiday.” It was done. And so in 2000, Utah became, I think it was like the 49th or 50th state in the union to recognize Martin Luther King holiday. What that means is that President Hinckley, yet again, is trying to modernize the church and to let Latter-day Saints know that, it’s unchristian to demean people of color and to call them a commie, and to deny them civil rights. That’s really, I think, one of, in my humble opinion, one of President Hinckley’s most enduring legacies is to really open up a new day for race relations with the church. As far as I know, because of President Hinckley, the NAACP has maintained cordial relations with the church hierarchy, because of him.

He also makes some interesting comments about Sheri Dew’s biography of President Benson.

Matt: If you look at Elder Benson’s biography that Sheri Dew did, that was published in 1987–this was during the early years of his presidency, which is really interesting if you look at this. And this is not a fault to Sheri Dew–otherwise I think it’s actually a pretty fine biography. But there’s no mention of the Birch Society, Robert Welch, none of that stuff. These guys were extremely close. And to not mention that in a biography is really extraordinary. Again, not a criticism of Sister Dew, but clearly somebody had prevailed upon her that, you know, “We’re trying to move beyond this stuff. This isn’t good for business.”

GT: So, you think she purposely was told to leave that out?

Matt:  Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I’m just speculating of course, but she had access to his papers and she knows how close they are.

Check out our conversation, and don’t forget to purchase Matt’s new book on Benson called Thunder from the Right.  My copy arrived on Tuesday and I’m just digging into it!


Gordon B. Hinckley made outreach to the NAACP and helped undo the harm of President Benson's race relations.
Gordon B. Hinckley made outreach to the NAACP and helped undo the harm of President Benson’s race relations.

Here are our other conversations about President Benson!

253: The End of Benson’s Political Aspirations (Harris)

252: Benson on Civil Rights & Communism (Harris)

251: Benson and John Birch Society (Harris)

250: How Ezra Taft Benson Joined Eisenhower (Harris)