Mad Max Mormonism vs. Star Trek Mormonism

June 25, 2009    By: Geoff J @ 12:13 am   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices,Theology

My sense is that there are a lot of Mad Max Mormons in the world. Now admittedly I just made that term up, but what I mean by it is there seem to be a lot of Mormons who expect the world to get worse and worse until some massive calamity nearly wipes humanity out and just as we are in the verge of being forced to live like Mad Max in a post-apocalyptic dystopia Jesus will return and fix the world. And who could blame Mormons for such a world view? Not only are there plenty of prophesies in the Bible that seem to indicate that’s how it will come down prior to the second coming of Jesus, there are supporting modern revelations saying the same things in even more detail. The term “Latter-day” is in the official name of our church for cryin’ out loud. To most people that indicates that these are the very last days of the world.

Between the revelations about pending calamities and the “Saturday’s Warriors” plays and the Cleon Skousens and Glenn Becks and the far-right-leaning politics that dominate modern American Mormonism it seems to me that Mad Max Mormonism is flourishing and has been for a very long time.

However I find myself gravitating toward being a Star Trek Mormon. I just made that term up too but what I mean by it is I like the idea that we as a human race will work things out. I know it’s painfully optimistic of me but I prefer to think we humans will progressively become better at getting along with each other. I think we will get along with each other better as individuals and nations and that we will get better at taking care of our planet as well. And I like to think that 500 years from now our people will be exploring the galaxy in bright colored shirts as we get along with our pointy eared neighbors from other planets… Ok that last part might be going overboard but I do like to think we can work it out.

What I really suspect, based on the evidence, is that Jesus really doesn’t even want to have to come back here. What evidence is that you ask? The commandments of God. All of them. The commandments seem to me to be a recipe to working it out amongst ourselves. If we all got a little better at loving our neighbors as ourselves and if we could be taught to be just a bit more Christlike there would be no man-made Armageddon to wipe us out at all. It seems to me that all of the commandments are God’s way of yelling to his quarreling children from across the universe: “Don’t you make me come down there!”

So before we start attaching razors to boomerangs in preparation for a post-apocalyptic Mad Max fiasco, maybe we should work harder to do what the instructions we have from God seem to be telling us to do — working it out. And lest you think the modern revelations leave no room for us working it out just remember that 2000 years ago the Christians had revelations that said “The End will come in your lifetime” too. No doubt the end of the world could come in your lifetime but I get the feeling God doesn’t particularly want it to. And I don’t want it to either. I’m hoping my great-great-great-great grandchildren will be wearing bright colored Federation shirts as they explore the galaxy. Oh and of course I expect they will read my blog in some blog archive and laugh at my old-timey ways. But when they do at least they can point to this post and say: Hey, he might have been a bit daft but at least he called that one right.

(Note to my descendants: Avoid wearing the red shirts…)

124 Comments »

  1. I’ve seen the same kind of split…with a seeming prevalence of the “Mad Max” types…and it doesn’t just seem to be for Mormons either.

    I’ve heard many suggest that “Star Trek” philosophy as naive of all things, and they use such as a criticism of things such as secular humanism, liberalism, etc., It’s like they *want* people to be depressed/depressing nihilists or something.

    Comment by Andrew S. — June 25, 2009 @ 2:21 am

  2. Nice post. A Star Trek future for humanity would be great — that’s one reason why the premise of the show has always been so appealing in its idealism.

    The scriptures do seem to point to bleak and cataclysmic events though. And such outcomes have been seen many times before. The breakdown of society and the breach of all bounds of morality and decency were so complete in the Book of Mormon that the entire civilization collapsed into a disjointed clan-based hell. World history provides similar episodes in which great civilizations collapse, in some cases mysteriously disappearing entirely, in other cases degenerating into hundreds of years of clan or civil war, not dissimilar to the Mad Max scenario.

    In a certain sense, it’s hard to be an optimist in the face of world history; but despite the jarring realities of the trajectories of past empires and civilizations, world history also supports the Star Trek perspective, i.e. we are collectively developing past those pitfalls. Optimism is a valuable trait, I would think.

    Comment by john f. — June 25, 2009 @ 3:30 am

  3. So before we start attaching razors to boomerangs in preparation for a post-apocalyptic Mad Max fiasco, maybe we should work harder to do what the instructions we have from God seem to be telling us to do — working it out.

    If Mormons are able to work out the implications of variations in the geographical distribution of material resources, they will indeed have it made.

    Comment by Peter LLC — June 25, 2009 @ 4:36 am

  4. Here’s to hoping for Star trek, and preparing for Mad Max.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — June 25, 2009 @ 5:39 am

  5. I love this post.

    But I tend to think the future will be a little of both. Some aspects of society will continue to degrade and some will continue to get better.

    Comment by jondh — June 25, 2009 @ 6:48 am

  6. I’d like to be a Star Trek Mormon, but I find myself too cynical about humanity, between pollution, overfishing, energy, and dwindling resources. I’m not sure we even need the increasingly-drastic weather or an apocalyptic storm/meteor/silver surfer/lizard-aliens-after-our-water to help push us over the edge.

    Comment by Nitsav — June 25, 2009 @ 6:50 am

  7. Geoff, your analogy is flawed. Even Star Trek teaches us that you can’t have a Star Trek future without Mad Max events first. Do you remember the film “Star Trek: First Contact”? Humanity was just barely recovering from the World War III when Zefram Cochrane makes his historic flight utilizing the warp drive for the first time, which attracts the attention of the Vulcans who come to help the Earthlings and assist them in bringing about a new order without poverty.

    Obviously the Vulcans represent the city of Enoch in the real world. :)

    Comment by Kent (MC) — June 25, 2009 @ 7:38 am

  8. Brilliant characterizations, Geoff.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — June 25, 2009 @ 7:59 am

  9. Hey Kent — stop messing up my comparison with all your actual Star Trek facts!

    Comment by Geoff J — June 25, 2009 @ 8:59 am

  10. Nitsav: I’d like to be a Star Trek Mormon, but I find myself too cynical about humanity

    This seems to be the common theme. I think that Andrew has a good point when he mentions that the conservative religious types in the world seem to be the most pessimistic about the future of the planet. I just don’t think Mormons theology requires such pessimism even if it leaves plenty of room for it.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 25, 2009 @ 9:04 am

  11. In a way, looking for a “Mad Max” future is easier than a “Star Trek” future. If we think Mad Max if likely, it’s easier to just throw up your hands and give up on trying to change or fix things. To achieve a Star Trek Future, it takes a lot more work to accomplish.

    I agree with Eric to some extent, we should hope for Star Trek, but prepare for Mad Max. I actually think we should not just hope for a Star Trek, but we should actually work towards a Star Trek, while simultaniously preparing for Mad Max.

    Comment by Ian Cook — June 25, 2009 @ 9:12 am

  12. It’s not Mormon theology that I get it from, Geoff, but the “facts on the ground” as it were.

    Comment by Nitsav — June 25, 2009 @ 9:39 am

  13. I agree Ian. Another problem with the pervasive Mad Max view is that it naturally encourages abuse of the planet. I mean if we believe the place is essentially disposable and that Jesus will show up any day to clean up our mess why bother meticulously keeping the place up, right? If we take more of the Star Trek view we are looking for true long term sustainability. (And given Mormonism’s long time affinity for humanism taking the Star Trek view is not a real stretch for Mormons. This is more the case for Mormonism than most any other socially conservative Christian denomination I know of.)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 25, 2009 @ 9:44 am

  14. It would seem that the food storage requirement indicates a significant “mad max” strain of thought among church teaching. You could argue that simply preparing for a mad max scenario does not mean you think it is likely or desirable, but the stress that is placed on food storage suggests an urgency behind the teaching. This urgency seems to at least fatalistically endorse the mad max strain of thought.

    I really enjoyed your piece I just wanted to offer a little tid bit for everybody elses digestion.

    Comment by Morgan Deane — June 25, 2009 @ 10:21 am

  15. Prepare for the worst, work and hope for the best. Sounds like wisdom to me.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — June 25, 2009 @ 10:29 am

  16. What about us Lord of the Rings Mormons…?

    Comment by Riley — June 25, 2009 @ 11:07 am

  17. Count me firmly in both camps. I seems to me, that we should expect a Mad Max world at some point (prophecies say as much) but God expects us to build a ‘Star Trek’-level society (prophecies about the New Jerusalem). There is the unforgettable prophecy that at some point we would be as far ahead of the world in science as we are now in religion.

    We have our work cut out for us.

    Comment by Zen — June 25, 2009 @ 11:10 am

  18. I think that one of the reasons people think like Mad Max Mormons (beyond the scriptural foundation for this view) is because the 24-hour news cycle makes them think that the world is getting worse and worse. What’s really happening is that the news agencies are getting more and more desperate.

    Stephen Pinker points out that overwhelming evidence points to the fact that the world is becoming less and less violent all the time:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_on_the_myth_of_violence.html

    Comment by Carl Youngblood — June 25, 2009 @ 11:19 am

  19. Zen: we should expect a Mad Max world at some point

    Well the question is at what point should we expect it? Soon or thousands of years from now? I suspect there is something healthy about the long view and something unhealthy about the short-time view.

    There is the unforgettable prophecy that at some point we would be as far ahead of the world in science as we are now in religion.

    I’m afraid I must have forgotten that prophecy because I don’t know what you are talking about here. Can you give us a citation?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 25, 2009 @ 11:26 am

  20. Carl,

    I think you are right that there is something to the argument about spin and information availability. Plus there is a lot a Chicken Little syndrome out there.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 25, 2009 @ 11:29 am

  21. “Zion will be as far ahead of the world in everything pertaining to learning of every kind as we are today in regard to religious matters” (Journal of Discourses, 21:100). John Taylor

    Let me rephrase myself: We should be PREPARED for a Mad Max world at some point, but actively BUILDING a Star Trek world.

    Comment by Zen — June 25, 2009 @ 11:34 am

  22. Food storage may weigh in on the Mad Max side, but encouragement for education would be on the Star Trek Side.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — June 25, 2009 @ 11:35 am

  23. I am personally inclined towards the inevitability of the Mad Max scenario but I know that those over at the Mormon Transhumanist Association are what you might call hard core Star Trek visionaries.

    Comment by A. Davis — June 25, 2009 @ 11:52 am

  24. Yeah I thought about the boys at the Mormon Transhumanist Association when I wrote this as well. Grasshopper (Christopher) and Lincoln have commented here in the past.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 25, 2009 @ 12:27 pm

  25. Geoff – these are, of course, two perspectives on the end of times with a long history in Christian thought – premillennialism (the notion that Christ must return before the millennium, usually with the corollary that we are going to screw the world up royally first) and postmillennialism, the notion that Christ will return once the church has succeeded in building Zion. Interestingly, postmillennialism was much more popular along the mainline of American Protestantism until the rise of evangelical fundamentalism around the turn of the twentieth century, when premillennialism was wedded to emerging dispensational theology to create the world of Left Behind.

    Premillennialists tend, then, to be pessimistic about human nature, emphasizing the Fall; postmillennialists tend to be optimists, emphasizing regeneration of the Spirit. Premillennialists tend to be futurists when they read scriptural prophecy; postmillennialists tend to be preterist or historicist.

    I wrote about this once:

    http://www.mormonmentality.org/2007/03/06/what-the-end-of-the-world-tells-us-about-ourselves.htm

    Comment by matt b — June 25, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

  26. I thought our Star Trek future was the millennial reign of rest; Mad Max is the last days. We get both.

    Comment by cadams — June 25, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

  27. Wow – bringing the premillennial/post-millennial arguments to Mormonism. Let the fun begin!!!

    Comment by Gilgamesh — June 25, 2009 @ 3:22 pm

  28. sidestepping pre/postmillennialism (and risking being drowned out), I’d respond to Nitsav re 6:

    It doesn’t matter if you are cynical or pessimistic. What matters is what you are willing to do about it. So Star Trek Mormonism isn’t ruined by the fact that Star Trek actually had Mad Max events at its beginning/history/whatever…what matters is that it didn’t succumb to these events and attitudes.

    You can be pessimistic all you want. In fact, pessimism can be a good motivation. It keeps you on your toes. You come to an appreciation that things will not happen on their own — they require the work of individuals putting their shoulders to the wheel. The difference is that a defeatist or fatalist is pessimistic, but then gives up. On the other hand, a humanist or whatever else you want to call the opposite, looks at the grim face of humanity and puts a goal upon himself to work, one person at a time if need be, to change that.

    The problem with pessimistic religious people is that they give up, and they think it’s ok to give up because Jesus/God/Zeus/Thor/whoever is going to nuke the world eventually.

    Comment by Andrew S. — June 25, 2009 @ 4:35 pm

  29. I agree with Andrew on the pernicious effects of fatalism of any kind. That is part of the reason I have railed against exhaustive foreknowledge over and over here in the past. In my opinion Mormonism has no place for fatalism.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 25, 2009 @ 7:57 pm

  30. matt b,

    Thanks for the link. There is definitely overlap between the two posts. I am angling for more than just a thousand years before The End though. It seems to me that Jesus would prefer not to return for a lot longer than that (based on the instructions he has given us).

    Comment by Geoff J — June 25, 2009 @ 7:59 pm

  31. Wow – that’s why I don’t like those doom and gloom, the world is going to hell in a handbasket, old man on a porch shaking his can at the world in frustration types at church. Because I am a Celestial Trekker! I too find humanism enormously appealing, and I have a hard time seeing the world getting worse. Even the TV shows are getting better.

    Comment by hawkgrrrl — June 25, 2009 @ 11:06 pm

  32. I’m ok with the earth having only a 1,000 years as it would be the last 1,000 years of humanity’s mortal phase on this earth. After that, its inhabitants become direct participants in a much larger society of countless (post-mortal) planets. Very trekkish, that.

    Comment by A. Davis — June 26, 2009 @ 5:54 am

  33. I don’t really see a lot of doom and gloom types. I think President Hinckley set a tone of optimism that was completely against such concepts. I do think we need Christ’s interaction to successfully achieve the Utopia we desire, and that simply working it out amongst ourselves is inadequate.

    One of my favorite things Joseph Fielding Smith ever said was that Jesus wasn’t going to Nuke the world. ie- the burning in hell, last days, apocalyptic etc. was metaphorical and not literal, representative of the guilt and shame of those who “shrink away” from their Father in Heaven. It’s written in my scriputre margins somewhere.

    Comment by Matt W. — June 26, 2009 @ 7:02 am

  34. Joseph Fielding said the last days and the apocalypse were metaphorical? I don’t believe he ever said that.

    Comment by cadams — June 26, 2009 @ 7:47 am

  35. cadams, the burning portion. I’ll look it up and return and report.

    Comment by Matt W. — June 26, 2009 @ 8:23 am

  36. What kind of a Star Trek Mormon are you? An Original Star Trek Mormon? A Next Generation Star Trek Mormon? A Deep Space 9 Star Trek Mormon? I Voyager Star Trek Mormon? An Enterprise Star Trek Mormon? A J.J. Abrams Reboot Star Trek Mormon?

    Comment by David Clark — June 26, 2009 @ 9:17 am

  37. For the purposes of this post they are all the same David. (Though I enjoyed TNG the most most of any series…)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 26, 2009 @ 9:20 am

  38. The burning part is suppose to be the baptism by fire, at least I think so. And I agree, I never heard any prophet say other wise.

    I think BRM thought the short season that the devil will be loosed after the millennium will be another 1000 years.

    But I am all for something along the lines of a Star Trek environment.

    Comment by CEF — June 26, 2009 @ 2:50 pm

  39. I really don’t think the food storage counsel implies Mad Max mindset. I posted about that once upon a time. The enthusiasm with which so many LDS interpret food storage as a prophecy of Mad Max inevitability is frustrating to me.

    Carl,

    That is a great link to Pinker’s TED talk. I have almost posted about that presentation several times. But it is not just violence where you get this sort of pervasive misunderstanding. The doom and gloom stuff Nitsav mentioned relative to pollution and energy are similar. We have cleaner air and water today than we have had for hundreds of years. We really need to get good at harvesting solar energy to solve the energy problem in the 1000 year range, but we have enough energy through traditional sources to power the world for well over 100 years (even accounting for population growth and increasing demand).

    Comment by Jacob J — June 26, 2009 @ 2:56 pm

  40. Excellent points Jacob.

    I can’t wait until my home in the desert is entirely powered by the sun. I expect it will be so in 15-20 years.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 26, 2009 @ 3:11 pm

  41. Can we straddle both camps? Mad-Maxy up until the 2nd coming, and Star-Treky starting on the day after?

    Comment by Bookslinger — June 26, 2009 @ 6:02 pm

  42. Sorry Bookslinger — that is all Mad Max in this case. Expecting the world to fall to pieces and then having Jesus show up to clean the mess up is the definition of Mad Max Mormonism in this post. Star Trek Mormonism as defined here is based on the world not going to hell in a hand basket at all.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 26, 2009 @ 9:23 pm

  43. The interpretation of wormwood is fairly straight forward in the Mad Max scenario. What is the interpretation in the Star Trek scenario? Is it a conditional event?

    Comment by A. Davis — June 27, 2009 @ 10:02 am

  44. Wormwood? You lost me… What are you talking about?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 27, 2009 @ 1:01 pm

  45. The time is soon coming, when no man will have any peace but in Zion and her stakes.
    I saw men hunting the lives of their own sons, and brother murdering brother, women killing their own daughters, and daughters seeking the lives of their mothers. I saw armies arrayed against armies. I saw blood, desolation, fires. The Son of man has said that the mother shall be against the daughters, and the daughter against the mother. These things are at our doors. They will follow the Saints of God from city to city. Satan will rage, and the spirit of the devil is now enraged. I know not how soon these things will take place; but with a view of them, shall I cry peace? No; I will lift up my voice and testify of them. How long you will have good crops, and the famine be kept off, I do not know; when the fig tree leaves, know then that the summer is nigh at hand.

    Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith 1839-42, p.161

    Not all prophecies are conditional. Many are simply statements of what is going to happen. Do we really need to start counting unconditional prophecies?

    I think the problem here is that some of us are trying to argue for just one, or the other, when we are going to have a lot of both. There is no getting rid of the numerous “Mad Max” prophecies (like Bruce R McConkie’s prophecy about the “nuclear holocaust which surely must come”), but likewise, we can not lightly gloss over the prophecies about the New Jerusalem, knowledge being increased, and knowledge covering the earth as the waters cover the seas.

    This is not an either/or religion. We are to build the kingdom of God (Star Trek) in good times (like now) and in bad. Not even Mad Max is going to stop it.

    Comment by Zen — June 27, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

  46. Zen,

    The question is not whether humanity as we know it will someday cease to be on this planet. Theists and atheists alike agree that day will eventually come. The question is when we should expect it and for Christians the related question is about the timing of the Second Coming. The Star Trek view I have mentioned assumes both will come a long time from now — perhaps many thousands of years from now. The Mad Max view assumes some apocalypse for humanity is just around the corner. This question on the timing of the second coming and the fate of humanity is not a new one (see comment #25).

    This is not an either/or religion.

    The question of if Jesus will return in, say, the next 50 years is an either/or question. Either he will or he won’t.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 27, 2009 @ 1:30 pm

  47. Revelation 8:
    9 And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
    10 And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;
    11 And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.

    Comment by A. Davis — June 27, 2009 @ 1:33 pm

  48. I really just used Wormwood as a prototype of the various calamities foreseen/foretold.

    Comment by A. Davis — June 27, 2009 @ 1:35 pm

  49. Hehe. Revelations 8 is pretty cryptic stuff. One can interpret it to mean vast numbers of different things. (Isn’t that one of the main places we get the idea about a third part of the host of heaven being cast out premortally?)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 27, 2009 @ 1:38 pm

  50. Geoff: this is brilliant terminology. Count me as a Trekkie. That said, there is one thing Mad Maxism has going for it: he’s way cooler than anyone on Star Trek.

    I wrote up something along the lines of not hoping for a cataclysmic end to the world when I had to teach a class about the signs of the times. I tried to view the signs in three different categories:

    1) Things I can accelerate (e.g. preaching the Gospel around the world)
    2) Things I cannot accelerate or influence (e.g. earthquakes—unless my name is Max Zorin)
    3) Things I should not accelerate (e.g. wars, faithlessness, etc.)

    Comment by BrianJ — June 27, 2009 @ 2:48 pm

  51. Geoff,

    You are correct on a few counts. We are moving toward a new world order (NWO) as portrayed in Star Trek. And a NWO is the only way for humanity to achieve world peace without divine intervention. But what you must remember is that progress toward a NWO is part of the latter-day prophecies which state that such a world government will exist and that it will be governed by the anti-Christ.

    So, I am sorry to say that there is no peaceful Star Trek co-existence in our future. The NWO that we hope will bring peace and prosperity to the world will in fact be a catalyst for Satan to exercise his power in the world. The NWO will not take us to the edges of the “Final Frontier;” it bring the apocalypse. Ultimately the Lord is the only one who can bring peace to all the world.

    Comment by Dave C. — June 27, 2009 @ 10:33 pm

  52. Awesome.

    You’re always a good source of wingnut wacko comments Dave C.

    Anyhow, how do you know there will be no divine intervention that helps us achieve a world where people love one another better and nations get along and we all work to protect our planet for the long haul, a la Star Trek? Why wouldn’t God help us keep his commandments better? It seems to me that it is much more anti-Christ to treat the earth poorly in hopes that Jesus will clean up our wasteful mess and to embrace a Kamikaze attitude about the prospects of humanity in the next century.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 27, 2009 @ 10:50 pm

  53. Dave – I’d argue you (and other likeminded Mormons) have absorbed that sort of conspiracy-ish eschatology from fundamentalist Baptists, in particular the strain of thought that runs back from Tim LaHaye to Hal Lindsay and ultimately Cyrus Scofield and John Nelson Darby.

    What you call the ‘NWO’ is the current (actually, circa 1970s) term for a particular dispensationalist interpretation of the kingdom of the anti-Christ in Revelation 13 read through Daniel 7 and Ezekiel 38. It’s the hermeneutic that links all these chapters into a single master political narrative that’s crucial; if you don’t approach all of them with the assumption that they’re all about the end of times, the master narrative you propose falls apart. To summarize: humanity is going to fall under a single political system – that’s from combining Daniel (who has a vision of four beasts which are described as kings) with Revelation (which talks about two other beasts whom humanity worships, and who’s associated with the dragon) – governed by a single actual person called the anti-Christ (which depends upon reading the term ‘anti-Christ,’ which is not actually used in any of these prophetic books, but comes from 1 John, where it’s used as a plural, not a singular, into symbols like the dragon and the beast), who will, no doubt, put barcodes in either our foreheads or palms. However, it’s by no means clear that all these visions are about the end of times; nor is it clear that we can read all of them into each other. While certainly some Christians thought they were, the weaving together of this narrative was first widely popularized by Cyrus Scofield in 1917.

    I’m not sure when Mormons started to absorb these ideas – indeed, it’s particularly odd to me that Mormons talk about ‘a’ anti-Christ, given the Book of Mormon clearly speaks of the concept the way 1 John does, as a category. It may have been as early as the 1930s, when Joseph Fielding Smith was reading fundamentalist literature. Certainly by the 1960s and 1970s Mormons like Cleon Skousen were eagerly picking the stuff up and combining it with uniquely Mormon touches, like secret combinations.

    Comment by matt b — June 27, 2009 @ 11:12 pm

  54. Word, Geoff.

    Comment by matt b — June 27, 2009 @ 11:13 pm

  55. Dang — you beat me to it. I was just fixin’ to say: Word, Matt.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 27, 2009 @ 11:18 pm

  56. Back at you. I’ll say one more thing than I’m done for the night. The pessimism inherent in dispensationalist eschatology strikes me as particularly un-Mormon; while I think a certain degree of humility about human ability is salutary (and appreciate the Reformers for warning us of the tendency to turn Christianity into an impersonal salvation machine that anybody can turn on), the large-scale gloominess about human history required here seems to me an uneasy mate with Joseph Smith’s real tangible dreams of Zion.

    (I’ll say as an aside, though, I have a certain degree of awe for the massive imaginative project that dispensationalist theology represents – it strikes me as the sort of religious story-making Joseph might have appreciated.)

    Our attempts to balance the two, though, has resulted in a certain odd double-mindedness – Mormons can on one hand insist that the Church has never been as glorious as it is right now and on the other moan about how the world is more wicked than it’s ever been.

    Comment by matt b — June 27, 2009 @ 11:34 pm

  57. Really enjoyed this post. I too, feel like the world is getting better, and yet I wondered how that could jive with what the scriptures say about the world getting worse and worse….

    When we have lessons at church about the “signs of the times” and we list things like war, disease, natural disasters, and so on, all I can think is that “Don’t we have far less war and disease than any time in human history? And haven’t natural disasters always happened?”

    Some of had said, well, yes, the maybe the world is becoming less violent but the family is being torn apart. And yet I found this article interesting, as it argues that that marriages are in fact getting stronger and the divorce rate is falling:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/28/fashion/28marriage.html?_r=1

    Finally, I think the best retort to those who feel we can mess up the world all we want and Jesus will come clean it up…..our bodies will one day become perfect as well, does that mean we should trash them in this life with reckless abandon?

    Comment by Katie M. — June 28, 2009 @ 9:26 am

  58. We are taught that things will get worse and better — simultaneously. I don’t think the Mad Max and Star Trek scenarios are mutually exclusive.

    Yes, there will be wrenching polarization on this planet, but also the remarkable reunion with our colleagues in Christ from the city of Enoch. Yes, nation after nation will become a house divided, but more and more unifying Houses of the Lord will grace this planet. Yes, Armageddon lies ahead–but so does Adam-ondi-Ahman! (Maxwell, CR 1981)

    Comment by A. Davis — June 28, 2009 @ 2:12 pm

  59. A. Davis: I don’t think the Mad Max and Star Trek scenarios are mutually exclusive.

    Then you are still misunderstanding this post.

    Look, if we accept that Jesus will return at some point then we can either assume that the overall condition of the world will deteriorate significantly before that return or that the overall condition of the world will improve significantly before the second coming. Those two are indeed mutually exclusive. If you think things will get better and the second coming might not occur for a very long time (perhaps thousands of years) I’m calling you a Star Trek Mormon. If you think the overall condition of the world will deteriorate significantly in the next several decades and get so bad that Jesus will have to show up to fix the mess I’m calling you a Mad Max Mormon.

    This “things will get better and worse” business is just a variation on Mad Max Mormonism as far as I can tell. It essentially says “Sure, some things will improve but overall the world is still going to hell in a hand basket and we will need Jesus to show up to fix it”.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 28, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

  60. I guess it depends on how coarse one wants to apply the filter of “overall”. I think that the world by and large will experience a veneer of improvement but that it will come crashing down (Mad Max). But, I also believe that there will be a significant population that, because of their obedience to the principles of the Gospel, will maintain the improvements (Star Trek).

    So, while I might have some degree of pessimism for the world “overall” I also have optimism and feel it my obligation to extend the conditions of that optimism to as many as I can. :)

    Comment by A. Davis — June 28, 2009 @ 7:48 pm

  61. Yeah, I imagine your version of Mad Max Mormonism is a popular one, A. Davis. It is pessimistic about the world but holds to the consolation that after everything inevitably falls to pieces here Jesus will help us clean up our mess.

    My problem is I don’t like that view and I don’t think it is inevitable at all. I think the future is open and that Jesus doesn’t want to have to come back any time soon. So the problem I have with Mad Max views in general is that they have too high of a chance of being self-fulfilling. If we are going to create self-fulfilling prophesies we should create much more optimistic ones than Mad Max scenarios.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 28, 2009 @ 8:21 pm

  62. It is pessimistic about the world but holds to the consolation that after everything inevitably falls to pieces here Jesus will help us clean up our mess.

    During the millennium a different standard of rules will apply (terrestrial rules). Those unwilling to live by those rules will be removed. This is well attested in the last-days prophecies. “Clean up our mess” has room for interpretations that are not quite an accurate description of that situation.

    One is welcome to hold the optimism that the earth “overall” will come to that level of commitment so that nobody is “burned at his coming”. I have yet to come across a single prophet with that same degree of optimism. And yet, neither has it stopped any of them from working tirelessly to further the Kingdom on earth.

    I see just as many dangers in a starry-eyed optimism as a nothing-can-be-done fatalism.

    Comment by A. Davis — June 28, 2009 @ 9:03 pm

  63. A. Davis: I see just as many dangers in a starry-eyed optimism as a nothing-can-be-done fatalism.

    I don’t.

    If we are individually keeping the commandments now (including the instructions to be prepared for earthly troubles) what could possibly be the danger of starry-eyed optimism about the short-term and long-term future of humanity? Worst case we die and receive the glorious reward of our faithfulness. Best case is we help make the world better for future generations, much like Abraham who reportedly dug wells not for himself but for future travelers in the wilderness.

    It is that optimism that would motivate us to think about preserving the planet for the people living here hundreds or thousands of years from now. It is that optimism that could drive scientific and medical and even artistic greatness to be enjoyed by future generations for thousands of years.

    I see very little good coming from this Mad Max pessimism. I think it potentially turns otherwise valuable contributors to the long term health of our species into fatalistic eco-kamikazes. As I said, being a non-optimist seems directly contrary to the good news message of the Gospel.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 28, 2009 @ 9:44 pm

  64. Why hasn’t Kent’s idea (sans actual Trek facts) had more play in this post? Isn’t there the real possibility that all the apocalyptic stuff happens without Christ coming to fix it, and we’ve got to work it out on our own before he eventually shows up? Maybe along with saying “Don’t make me come down there” He will say “You made the mess- you clean it up! I’m not coming in until you pick things up.” Are you counting this sort of Phoenix scenario as a version of your Trek alternative, or is it different?

    Comment by brady — June 29, 2009 @ 5:24 am

  65. The future will totally be Logan’s Run, baby.

    Self-congratulatory hedonists who, having solved SOME of society’s current problems (pollution, war, etc.) will thus consider themselves enlightened and superior, when in fact their lives will be dedicated to the pursuit of bodily pleasures and other vain pursuits, with nothing more than a science-based understanding of the value of human life.

    Not Star Trek. Not Mad Max. Not even Waterworld. Logan’s Run.

    Totally.

    Baby.

    Comment by Perry — June 29, 2009 @ 7:21 am

  66. We have watchmen on the tower of the city wall. Every single on of them says, “Bad things are coming. If you do X,Y, and Z, things will be ok for you.” So we create 3 basic crowds in the city.

    Group A: They resign themselves to bad things coming and do very little. “It’s all going to crap anyway.”

    Group B: They go about trying to persuade as many people that they too should do X,Y, and Z just as the watchmen have said.

    Group C: They go about saying, “Look, if we all do X,Y,Z and W” then bad things will not come.

    I understand your objection to group A. It is fatalism coupled with selfishness and laziness. But group C puts themselves in opposition to the message of the watchmen. If the watchmen wanted to say bad things won’t come if we do “X,Y,and Z” then they would have. (Consequently, group C has to add a ‘W’.)

    So, yes, yes I do see harm in the starry-eyed optimism because the message is one that is in opposition to the voice of all the watchmen. I’m going to hang around with group B. They will still be doing all the good things you describe as coming from optimism.

    Comment by A. Davis — June 29, 2009 @ 8:21 am

  67. Perry — Logan’s Run — ha! Nice pull. With an open future that is certainly feasible (though it sounds like a variation on Mad Maxism to me…)

    brady – Yeah that is a decent variation on the Star Trek “we can work it out” theme. I suppose it depends on how bad one expects things to get before we pull our crap together and work it out.

    A. Davis: We have watchmen on the tower of the city wall. Every single on of them says, “Bad things are coming. If you do X,Y, and Z, things will be ok for you.”

    Sure, of course bad things are coming. That is true in either view I have outlined in the post. Bad things always come along in life. Innumerable bad things have already passed as well. The question is how bad are the things that are coming? Or more specifically will those bad things be so bad that we can’t work it out and will the situation require Jesus to come back to clean up our mess? If Jesus must clean up the mess I’m calling it Mad max Mormonism; if we work it out and clean up our own messes I am calling it Star Trek Mormonism.

    They go about trying to persuade as many people that they too should do X,Y, and Z

    This depends entirely on what you have in mind for “X, Y, and Z”. If it means acting as if Jesus won’t be back for thousands of years and accordingly trying to improve the world to make it better for our descendants I am all for this idea.

    But group C puts themselves in opposition to the message of the watchmen.

    I don’t know of anyone who thinks nothing bad will happen on earth in the future. We still have wars and greed and hate and envy and murder. On top of that we always have natural calamities to deal with. So based on that I think your group C is a straw man that bears no resemblance to reality.

    One can be a starry-eyed optimist about the human race while still fully recognizing that we have a long way to go and that there are forces of nature we can’t control.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 29, 2009 @ 10:06 am

  68. Given what we know about human nature, if you were to look in on a world as an outside observer would you definitely be able to tell whether the inhabitants were Mad-Maxists or Star-Trekists? I don’t think you could be conclusive just by observing behavior.

    For example, in both cases people can figure that somebody else will do the fixing up.

    Comment by brady — June 29, 2009 @ 10:53 am

  69. I don’t know of anyone who thinks nothing bad will happen on earth in the future. We still have wars and greed and hate and envy and murder. On top of that we always have natural calamities to deal with. So based on that I think your group C is a straw man that bears no resemblance to reality.

    The bad things spoken of are judgments deliberately designed to “clean up” the wicked. No straw man here. We’re not talking the run-of-the-mill always-have-happened bad stuff. They proclaim both general and specific calamities designed to separate the wheat from the tares.

    17 And it shall come to pass, because of the wickedness of the world, that I will take vengeance upon the wicked, for they will not repent; for the cup of mine indignation is full; for behold, my blood shall not cleanse them if they hear me not. (D&C 29:17)

    The encyclopedia of Mormonism: Last Days has some nice commentary for consideration.

    Comment by A. Davis — June 29, 2009 @ 11:07 am

  70. Ok I see where you are coming from on this now A. Davis. You are arguing for a pre-Millennium second coming and you are claiming that all of the prophets agree with you. While a pre-Millennium second coming has become a popular theory it is still just a theory (see comment #25). Nobody knows when the second coming will happen so it could very well be in many thousands of years despite the various opinions to the contrary. Our scriptures are clear on the fact that nobody knows the actual timing:

    36 ¶ But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (Matt. 24: 36)

    32 ¶ But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. (Mark 13: 32)

    21 For the time is at hand; the day or the hour no man knoweth; but it surely shall come. (D&C 39: 21)

    7 I, the Lord God, have spoken it; but the hour and the day no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor shall they know until he comes. (D&C 49: 7)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 29, 2009 @ 11:31 am

  71. I think there is room for both types of futures, and the scriptures suggest both. Yes, there will be an apocalyptic destruction of the wicked and Babylon. However, Zion will also be built during the final times and do wonderful things. Imagine Enoch’s city being built in the period just prior to the Flood. And, of course, what is more Trekkie than to have Enoch’s city fly up into space?

    So, I actually expect portions of both: Mad Max for those who will not follow God’s commandments, and Star Trek for those who do.

    Comment by rameumptom — June 29, 2009 @ 11:49 am

  72. Rameumptom,

    See my comments starting in #59. (If Jesus must come back to clean up our mess it is all Mad Max, not both)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 29, 2009 @ 11:55 am

  73. While a pre-Millennium second coming has become a popular theory it is still just a theory (see comment #25).

    That the Messiah will arrive prior to the ushering in of the Millennium is well established. See D&C 29 for example. The handy dandy encyclopedia of Mormonism has a few scriptural references to note as well (Second Coming of Christ).

    Nobody knows when the second coming will happen so it could very well be in many thousands of years despite the various opinions to the contrary.

    It could indeed possibly be many thousands of years. I suggest, however, that such an extended time frame doesn’t jive very well with D&C 110:16.

    Comment by A. Davis — June 29, 2009 @ 12:26 pm

  74. doesn’t jive very well with D&C 110:16

    Hehe. Well then it is 4 against 1 in the war of proof texts.

    The view that life will be good after Jesus returns doesn’t preclude the possibility that life can become pretty good for a long time before he returns as well.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 29, 2009 @ 12:47 pm

  75. Hehe. Well then it is 4 against 1 in the war of proof texts.

    The scriptures you cited are fully consistent with the second coming being on the order of decades just as much as it is with millennia away. We are taught that it is the 11th hour.

    The view that life will be good after Jesus returns doesn’t preclude the possibility that life can become pretty good for a long time before he returns as well.

    Potentially. As I understand it, your motivation is that you don’t want the saints to stop trying to better the world. I don’t see it as necessary to deny that iniquity will be copiously abundant prior to the return of the Messiah and that he will indeed “clean house” as it were. The testament of the prophets is that he is coming, things will be bad, and he is going to clean house.

    Comment by A. Davis — June 29, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

  76. A. Davis: We are taught that it is the 11th hour.

    The people in Jesus’ time were taught that it was the 11th hour as well. However I fully agree that the second coming could happen this evening. Or, any one of us could die today.

    I don’t see it as necessary to deny that iniquity will be copiously abundant prior to the return of the Messiah and that he will indeed “clean house” as it were.

    There has never been a time on earth when iniquity was not copiously abundant so I certainly wouldn’t deny that people will always sin in mortality.

    Here is the question I would like to have answered: What good comes from assuming The End of the world will come in one’s lifetime that is not already covered by the realization that we will all die and face a judgment bar anyway?

    I can only see negative consequences to living one’s life under the assumption that the end of the world will happen before one’s great grandchildren will be born. Are there positive consequences to being a Mad Max Mormon that a faithful and practicing Star Trek Mormon would miss out on? I can’t think of a single one. If there are any please name some for me.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 29, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

  77. Are there positive consequences to being a Mad Max Mormon that a faithful and practicing Star Trek Mormon would miss out on?

    When Armageddon happens I won’t be surprised or dismayed. Pessimists are never disappointed, as they say. :)

    The point is our appropriate behaviors are not contingent upon the assumption of timeframe. Your thesis came across that it was.

    Comment by A. Davis — June 29, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

  78. Geoff, if it’s not the world’s calamities that prompts Jesus to come back to clean things up, what do you think finally does prompt his return?

    Comment by Katie M. — June 29, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

  79. A. Davis,

    A few people not being disappointed is hardly worth millions of people failing to properly take care of the planet or prepare for the thousands of years ahead based on some fatalistic view. In other words, based on the likely results of the two views, choosing the Star Trek view is a no brainer for a faithful Christian. There is virtually no downside and a big upside for ones descendants.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 29, 2009 @ 3:31 pm

  80. Katie M,

    Hmmm — that is a really interesting question. I suppose the common assumption is that Jesus will come to clean up our inevitable and irretrievable mess isn’t it? If we don’t concede that such a mess is inevitable (based on free will and an open future if nothing else) then we are left trying to figure out why Jesus would come back.

    Well I suppose we could try a couple of theories. One theory might be that even if we figure things out for several thousand years more the law of averages could catch up with us and some kind of disaster might require Jesus to return and clean up eventually. Another might be that there are a finite number of spirits to be sent here and when they run out Jesus will show up like an MC at the end of a show. Who knows?

    Honestly, I am not even sure the Clean-Up crew explanation we normally lean on makes that much sense anyway. If everyone died at once we would all meet Jesus that day so why bother coming down here? It is not like he would need to show up to vindicate the believers — everyone will know the truth one day even without a return. And if one likes the idea that we need mortality for a test then the free-pass idea for children who die needs some ‘splainin. Along those lines, being born in a world where Jesus rules as Divine Monarch is nothing like the “test” we have here… Lots of interesting questions…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 29, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

  81. cadams

    whoops, it was Joseph Smith, no fielding…

    “A man is his own tormenter and his own condemner. Hence the saying, They shall go into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone” (TPJS, p. 357)

    I think I am more of a Cinderella Mormon, where divine intervention comes in the middle and gives us a chance to work things out for ourselves, which otherwise we would not have…

    Comment by Matt W. — June 29, 2009 @ 5:08 pm

  82. Sometimes I think of the Second Coming more as our second coming to Christ rather than his second coming to us. I’d say that for most of us this is how it works, since we die.

    Comment by Matt W. — June 29, 2009 @ 5:09 pm

  83. Geoff J:

    Our scriptures are clear on the fact that nobody knows the actual timing

    Something I wonder about though: are our scriptures clear that nobody will ever know the actual timing, or just that at the moment those scriptures were given nobody knew?

    Comment by BrianJ — June 29, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

  84. The scriptures are certainly clear that the timing will be known when the main event actually occurs. cf Matt 24:23-27.

    Comment by Mark D. — June 29, 2009 @ 5:44 pm

  85. Hehe. True dat Mark.

    Until then, I am still partial to the idea that God is still waiting to see what happens here before pulling the trigger on a return.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 29, 2009 @ 5:47 pm

  86. It will be both. Just like now when our lives are safer and we have more opportunities for material, intellectual, and spiritual enrichment than ever before while at the same time the world is in horrible moral decline, progress and desolation are not mutually exclusive.

    Comment by Owen — June 30, 2009 @ 8:04 am

  87. Geoff,

    “You’re always a good source of wingnut wacko comments Dave C.”

    – My goodness, I would rather be on the side of the prophecies and doctrines of the restored gospel than on the liberal fringes where you appear to be arguing from.

    Geoff, your motives about a star trek-like existence are honorable, and I would like it more than anything else, but it is all a pipe dream. The end-day prophecies say something entirely different. The Lord has said that it is up to us to know the signs of His second coming. Those signs are all around us right now and they do not point to star trekian new world order. BUT, I enjoy the opportunity to explore the possiblities; I am on season 7 of my 7-season STNG DVDs. Do you have the 7 seasons? If so, what are your favorite episodes?

    I wear my “I was kicked off mormon archipelago for being too conservative” badge with honor. Thank you for the privilege.

    Comment by Dave C. — June 30, 2009 @ 8:25 am

  88. What about Starship Trooper Mormonism? At least Mormons show up in that movie.

    Comment by a random John — June 30, 2009 @ 8:31 am

  89. Matt,

    You have eloquently laid out an argument against the common interpretation of the last day prophecies. You may correct about the usual understanding of these last day circumstances.

    But let’s not kid ourselves about this. The prophecies about the end times are clear. Daniel’s prophecies describe the end times as tumultuous, not warm fuzzy star trekian existence. In Rev. chapter 13 and 17 there will be unions (whether political or moral, I dunnno), which suggest some type of world order. And there will be anti-christ. Now I don’t know who or what that will be. I suspect it is more a spirit of anti-christ than anything else.
    So while appreciate you pointing out the potential fallacies of traditional end times story, I am not enterily committed to that story. But I am committed to the broader prophetic message of end times turmoil and strife.

    Comment by Dave C. — June 30, 2009 @ 9:15 am

  90. Owen — See Comment #58. It won’t be both. Most people who say it will be both are really Mad Max Mormons

    Dave C — When you are an extreme political conservative everyone else in the world looks liberal. And only extremists go around preaching NWO conspiracy theories. (I’m really quite moderate to conservative in my politics.)

    You are free to think Jesus will be back any minute. Just don’t ruin our planet in your anticipation please. My great great great great great grandchildren need a decent place to live.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 30, 2009 @ 9:19 am

  91. Geoff,

    I want a good moral world for my kids and grandkids just as much as you do. I would love to have a star trek-like world! I think we should all work toward these goals.
    I also want to be aware of the end time prophecies and recognize the signs of His coming. I see the signs and it does not look promising for star trekian existence. But hey, it’s okay to dream and work toward that dream. Moroni knew the prophecies, but he worked to get his people to repent and return to God.

    Comment by Dave C. — June 30, 2009 @ 9:27 am

  92. The prophecies about the end times are clear.

    So were Jonah’s warnings to Ninevah. I don’t see why end-time prophecies must be seen as promises; i.e., even if people repent, God is bound to burn up the place anyway.

    Comment by BrianJ — June 30, 2009 @ 9:45 am

  93. Excellent point BrianJ. In fact the prophesies about Ninevah were far more clear and time-sensitive than any murky prophesies we have about our own doom as a world.

    I wonder how the Mad Maxers of the world will act if/when the people of earth start loving each other better and getting along as nations and are able to avoid destruction just like Ninevah did… Will the Mad Maxers sulk like Jonah did?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 30, 2009 @ 9:54 am

  94. I wonder how the Star Trekkers will act if/when the people on earth stop loving each other more and conflict among nations increase and are ripe with iniquity… will they still say that the end is far away?

    Nevermind that the Savior himself stated that the people collectively would not repent (see post #69).

    Comment by A. Davis — June 30, 2009 @ 10:10 am

  95. will they still say that the end is far away?

    I already know my end isn’t far away. Everybody dies. So we all need to be prepared for our own end all of the time even if it doesn’t mean the end for our descendants yet.

    Also, as the Jonah story shows, God can change his mind about the prophecies he gives. The future is not fixed.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 30, 2009 @ 10:13 am

  96. Also, as the Jonah story shows, God can change his mind about the prophecies he gives. The future is not fixed.

    But why belittle the viewpoint, consistent with the the numerous revelations on the matter, which suggests that, while individuals might repent, humanity as whole will not?

    The future may not be fixed, but I suspect God has much better predictive powers than Hari Seldon ever did.

    Comment by A. Davis — June 30, 2009 @ 11:21 am

  97. A Davis: But why belittle the viewpoint, consistent with the the numerous revelations on the matter, which suggests that, while individuals might repent, humanity as whole will not?

    I’m not out to belittle Mad Max Mormonism here. In the post I mentioned that such a view is pretty natural. I just think such a viewpoint does much more harm than good. The only positive thing anyone in this thread could come up with to defend the Mad Max view is basically “if you aim low you won’t be disappointed”. Aiming low seems to be generally at odds with Mormonism to me.

    I suspect God has much better predictive powers than Hari Seldon ever did

    I agree. So the question is was God predicting the actual future that must be or warning against a possible future that might be? It seems to me that warning in order to prevent disasters would make a lot more sense than simply fatalistically noting that we are all hosed.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 30, 2009 @ 11:51 am

  98. Will the Mad Maxers sulk like Jonah did?

    I don’t know, but I’ll bet Mad Max looks really hot when he sulks.

    Nevermind that the Savior himself stated that the people collectively would not repent (see post #69).

    No, he said that the “wicked” would not repent (which is, perhaps, just the very definition of “wicked”). Even if we take this warning as a guaranteed future event, we still have to ask whether “wicked” = “people collectively”—as you assert.

    Comment by BrianJ — July 1, 2009 @ 6:16 am

  99. Dangers of denial of the end-days with optimism that man will take care of things without the need of the Lord coming to clean house:

    And in that day shall be heard of wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them, and they shall say that Christ delayeth his coming until the end of the earth. (D&C 45:26)

    If one adopts unrealistic expectations about what humanity will do despite our hypothetical capacity to do otherwise, their hearts will fail them.

    It seems to me that warning in order to prevent disasters would make a lot more sense than simply fatalistically noting that we are all hosed.

    While the warning is to everybody, the Lord in his wonderfully accurate foresight, notes that it will largely go unheeded. But, as individuals we can escape. We are not all hosed – just those that don’t listen (which will be most people).

    Benefits of realistic acceptance of end-days prophecy:
    1. Hope and cheer even when the world starts to get real bad. (A more positive spin on the “pessimists are never disappointed” quip.)
    2. Recognition that one can escape relatively unscathed the judgments being poured upon the nations.

    Comment by A. Davis — July 1, 2009 @ 8:22 am

  100. No, he said that the “wicked” would not repent (which is, perhaps, just the very definition of “wicked”).

    Yes. The wicked won’t repent – changing their status from wicked to not wicked. They won’t do it.

    we still have to ask whether “wicked” = “people collectively”—as you assert.

    Easy enough.

    And the whole world lieth in sin, and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin. (D&C 84:49)

    Or are you seriously suggesting that we, humanity, are collectively in a state of righteousness undeserving of the promised judgments? Is this a result of your Star Trek optimism? That would be bad.

    Comment by A. Davis — July 1, 2009 @ 8:25 am

  101. It seems to me that warning in order to prevent disasters would make a lot more sense than simply fatalistically noting that we are all hosed.

    I thought you said my scenario in post 66 wasn’t realistic. And yet here you are saying exactly what I said group C was saying.

    Comment by A. Davis — July 1, 2009 @ 8:29 am

  102. Very good post. I think most people fall somewhere in between. We are sure prepared for Mad Max in Utah; we fear an apocalypse, but expect it to be followed by peace. It’s that apocalypse time, when we will be short on light bulbs, toilet paper (and possibly, common decency?) that I wish we could avoid.

    Comment by annegb — July 1, 2009 @ 9:40 am

  103. A. Davis,

    I agree that the fatalism sword swings both ways. If a person thought a Star Trek future was fated his heart might fail him if things turned out differently.

    But if we agree that the future is completely open then we must agree that anything can happen. We could very well have a Star Trek future or we could have a Mad Max future depending on the collective free choices of the people. So with both of those free possibilities open, my point is that expecting a Mad Max future is nearly the same as inviting a Mad Max future. In other words, it could become a self-fulfilling prophesy and for that reason it is dangerous and detrimental to expect the world to crash around us in our lifetimes. Preparing for the worst is wise but fully expecting the worst might be an inadvertent way of bringing the worst on our own heads.

    Second, there is a real problem with trying to separate the world into white hats and black hats. It might be an interesting way to give a macro narrative but on the ground it doesn’t work that way. Inevitably the story teller sees himself as the white hat (righteous) and the “other” as the black hat (wicked) but as you pointed out, our scriptures sometimes say we are all wicked and black hats. The narrative is less enticing when we are part of the bad guys.

    Or are you seriously suggesting that we, humanity, are collectively in a state of righteousness undeserving of the promised judgments?

    Well God obviously doesn’t think the inhabitants of the world need to be punished with Armageddon yet so I’ll take his word that we don’t deserve it yet.

    And yet here you are saying exactly what I said group C was saying.

    I guess I misunderstood what you meant with group C. If it matches my first two paragraphs here then maybe we are on the same page with that.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 1, 2009 @ 9:44 am

  104. A.Davis: I think the scripture you cite to show why optimism is dangerous actually has a touch of Mad-Maxism to it:

    and men’s hearts shall fail them, and they shall say that Christ delayeth his coming until the end of the earth. (D&C 45:26)

    I see the potential danger for a Trekkie here, but a Mad Maxer should also beware: the awfulness of the world convinces him that Jesus is on his way, but when things fall apart around him and no Savior is in sight, does he have a crisis of faith (i.e., does his heart “fail him”)?

    Re: foresight. Can you please describe this warning/prophecy/foresight as it applied to Ninevah? Thanks.

    Benefits…. Recognition that one can escape relatively unscathed the judgments being poured upon the nations.

    Unless one is experiencing sore trials from the judgments poured out upon nations. ‘Cause if yous hurtin’, then you must be sinnin'; and if yous a sinnin’, then you gonna be burnin’.

    Yes. The wicked won’t repent – changing their status from wicked to not wicked. They won’t do it.

    Exactly. Which means that the scripture in question is a tautology, not really a prediction.

    And the whole world lieth in sin, and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin. (D&C 84:49)

    You probably won’t be pleased to learn that I think that might be a poetic exaggeration. I mean, if we take “whole” at face value, that means 100% of the world and there are 0% who escape destruction.

    Or are you seriously suggesting that we, humanity, are collectively in a state of righteousness undeserving of the promised judgments?

    I’m suggesting that the world today is a lot better than it was years ago and that it is getting better and better. I’m also suggesting that God doesn’t really want to kill most everyone, and that very few people “deserve” to be burned up or eaten by locusts (or whatever). And that God just might have other plans for bringing about righteousness than destroying everyone who isn’t just perfect—plans that include patience, longsuffering, etc.

    And are you suggesting that some people will actually deserve all the rewards of the Millennium on their own merit?

    Comment by BrianJ — July 1, 2009 @ 7:29 pm

  105. I think it will be a mix of both. Zechariah & Joel talk about some real big upheavals, for starters. Yet, we are warned the Second Coming will be like a thief in the night, i.e. some surprise factor.

    Comment by Mike H. — July 1, 2009 @ 10:00 pm

  106. Mike H,

    See #59. It can’t be both. Either things are soon going to get so bad that Jesus will have to come back and clean up the mess or they won’t.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 1, 2009 @ 11:17 pm

  107. I see the potential danger for a Trekkie here…

    I agree that the fatalism sword swings both ways.

    Yay. My point exactly. I could address the other points, but this is sufficient.

    The end result to me, however, is that so long as I am obedient to the Gospel and work towards the betterment of the earth (both missionary and secular good works), it doesn’t matter if I think that in all probability the world won’t repent and dire judgments face us or if I suspect that we, humanity, might just get better and avoid most of them.

    What matters is that I follow the counsel of the watchmen – be prepared, repent, etc. We can’t let our expectations (either way) lead us to neglect or believe such counsel is unnecessary (more of a Star Trek danger than a Mad Max danger in my opinion).

    Anyway, that’s the tack I’d take if I were to author a similar blog post. :)

    Comment by A. Davis — July 2, 2009 @ 8:37 am

  108. We can’t let our expectations (either way) lead us to neglect or believe such counsel is unnecessary (more of a Star Trek danger than a Mad Max danger in my opinion).

    I agree with this sentiment. It seems like a variation on “Hope for the best, plan for the worst”

    In the end my problem is that I don’t think a Mad Max Mormon can legitimately claim to be hoping for the best. By definition a Mad Max Mormon reads the prophesies of a pending apocalypse for the entire world as things they must happen, not things that might happen. That belief system leaves little or no hope for “the best”. So Mad Mad Mormons usually have no hope for the best (defining the best in this case as humanity working it out and our avoiding a horrible apocalypse) and instead fatalistically prepare for the worst. I just think that is really problematic on more than one level.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 2, 2009 @ 12:36 pm

  109. What about Moroni 9:6? 1 Nephi 17:43? I think these scriptures, as well as what I said in #68, imply that even if the world as you know it has already ended through destruction and there’s no hope for the rest of the world as you know it, it’s possible to maintain the same type of optimism as if you were living in a Star Trek world.

    Comment by brady — July 3, 2009 @ 4:01 am

  110. I don’t know about you guys, but I have spent much more time worrying about recovering from the Earth’s Baptism by fire than I have deciding how to trash it.

    Why is it we are deciding the prophecies are suddenly conditional? Some are, certainly, but many are not. If we make all prophecies conditional, they don’t seem to mean very much any more.

    Comment by Zen — July 5, 2009 @ 10:39 pm

  111. [Mad Max Mormonism] leaves little or no hope for “the best”.

    I was thinking about this over the weekend. The main problem, in my mind, is that Mad Maxism obscures what is good and what is bad. Let’s say that A, B, and C are relatively radical events/developments that please God, and X, Y, and Z displease him; i.e., he would implement ABC during the Millennium and abolish XYZ. Now let’s suppose that by some miracle, several countries around the world manage to implement ABC and abolish XYZ. Does a Mad Maxer recognize this as a good thing? If he’s true to his Mad Maxism, I don’t think he can.

    Why is it we are deciding the prophecies are suddenly conditional?

    What is the alternative—viewing prophecies as arbitrary? If so, then they lose all meaning.

    Comment by BrianJ — July 6, 2009 @ 6:59 am

  112. Geoff, in #72 you explained that if Christ has to fix things, then it is Mad Max.

    I still think it is both. He will not have to “fix things” for Zion, once it is established. As I understand the scriptures, Zion will be established prior to his return, and it will be a refuge. D&C 45 tells us that those “among the wicked who will not pick up the sword to fight, must needs flee to Zion for safety.” We’re also told that the wicked will stand afar off and not attack Zion, for fear that it is too strong.

    I see us as in the days of Enoch, where Zion didn’t need any fixing. It was the refuge that Christ returns to reign in. However, the rest of the world will need fixing, and will become a Mad Max situation.

    Comment by rameumptom — July 6, 2009 @ 9:17 am

  113. Can a prophecy or revelation be stopped, or just prolonged? (Speaking of the horror before Christ’s return.) In order to be a prophecy, it must take place, or it is not prophecy. True a prophecy can be fluid and be prolonged depending upon the action of the people, but ultimately sooner or later the prophecy will happen. Now, I’m not talking about warning/consequence prophecies (if you do this, this is the outcome)- these types of prophecies can be stopped, so long as you not do what it is that will cause the neg. consequence (by not heeding the warning). The prophecies of the wickedness and horrors before christ return and the eventual return of Christ will take place, it may be prolonged, but not stopped.

    Comment by Trevor — July 6, 2009 @ 7:28 pm

  114. Now that I think about it — I suppose that if the second coming happened thousands of years from now we could sort of go for the “both” answer. So let’s say humanity works it out for the next few thousand years and creates a near-utopia Star-Trek-like society during that time. But let’s say eventually things break down and Jesus has to return to clean things up in, say, the year 5485 AD. That would be an example of a Star Trek future but a Mad Mad end I guess.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 6, 2009 @ 8:36 pm

  115. a Star Trek future but a Mad Mad end

    Well, Mad Max was the ultimate Christ figure, so that’d be appropriate.

    Comment by BrianJ — July 6, 2009 @ 9:34 pm

  116. I lean toward the Mad-Maxian view, however I am not looking forward to wearing studded black briefs and half a football shoulder pad.

    Comment by stephen — July 7, 2009 @ 8:16 am

  117. I would like to sign up for the Star Trek Mormon program please. And I would also be interested in the LOTR program if anyone has details. I really want to dress like one of the elves in the movies.

    I never posted on here before, thanks for having a site I can relate to without wanting to give up in despair by the end of reading the comment section. And thanks especially for mentioning Glenn Beck in a non-flattering way–we have a cult dedicated to him in my ward and it makes me quite agitated but I keep it to myself.

    Comment by Arwen — July 26, 2009 @ 1:21 pm

  118. I’d have to classify myself as a wee bit of both. I think it’s going to get really bad, then it’ll get better. Then, in STAR TREK fashion, some of will get to join the Q Continuum, whilst others don red, blue and gold shirts and traverse the universe. And for the really bad people? Ferengi….

    Helm…take us out, warp eight!

    Comment by John Roberts — July 29, 2009 @ 9:13 pm

  119. I’m a 100 % Mad Max Mormon…

    Ether, Chapter 8

    22 And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed; for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for vengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not.
    23 Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get apower and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be.
    24 Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this asecret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up.
    25 For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who beguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath hardened the hearts of men that they have murdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning.

    Comment by Steve — October 20, 2010 @ 6:40 am

  120. Mormonism has always required people to think in dualistic terms. Pres. Hinckley said we are an optimistic people. Pres. Young said if 3/4 of the world would repent, the Lord would throw out all the latter-day judgments. We can look at Jonas who was commanded to preach repentance to Ninevah, and he wouldn’t because he was certain they were too awful to repent. There’s definitely a lesson there.

    On the other hand, the scriptures do abundantly say the judgments will be BAD. There are both public and private accounts of dreams and visions of these judgments, and there’s no denying that things are going to get truly rough.

    Mormons are commanded to preach and warn of the day of desolation and abomination. We are to stand in holy places – and learn to be holy.

    And make no mistake, the Lord does want to come, and He does appear to some already. He wants to visit and dwell with His people. He made frequent appearances to the Nephites. The 4 generations of Nephites were even acquainted with the Father because of their righteousness. This is how things are meant to be, and to believe that Jesus does not wish to be amongst us is apostate thinking. I do think it’s fair to say he’d rather come in joy to all than in burning.

    And Star Trek is very humanistic. They preach that technology will solve our problems, which is Babylonian thinking and what the builders of the Tower of Babel intended. Technology is not our savior, Jesus is.

    Comment by jd — October 20, 2010 @ 6:38 pm

  121. Mormonism has always been “very humanistic”

    Comment by Geoff J — October 20, 2010 @ 6:55 pm

  122. To me it’s an outward optimisim guarding an inward realism that things are going to get bad. does it mean they it has to get bad? No, not if we are genuinely free. But I do tend to look at the scriptures and modern day prophets as prepairing us for the world to get Mad Maxish. Now whether it is a teaching ploy, like a parent scaring their kid into neing a certain way, I don’t know. I’d like to both hope not and hope so.

    Comment by Riley — October 21, 2010 @ 8:28 am

  123. Yes, that’s it. Saturday’s Warrior’s used to be the gospel truth when we were kids, that changes (ironically). Imagine what Brigham Young would think about Saturday’s Warriors. If I’m not mistaken, he staged a few productions himself so he would eventually get it. But he’d def. need some hand-holding.

    So yea, Max Mormonism is like played out, for now. But it’s worth revisiting. If the church were named the Church of Star Child Saints then for sure one of the FAQ at Mormon.org is going to be “So what the hell does that mean?”

    Instead, we need to ask Brother Max, I mean Mitt, so was that just a Y2K thing or is this in fact a wrap? Top of the ninth? Overtime? Lay it on us bro.

    Comment by Jack Chavez — October 22, 2012 @ 8:25 am

  124. Wow — that was a stream of consciousness comment, Jack Chavez. Not sure what you meant but at least it sounded vaguely poetic.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 22, 2012 @ 10:06 am

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