There are three types of millennialism in Christendom today: pre-millennialism, post-millennialism, and a-millennialism. Pre-millennialism is the belief that Christ will return after a period of destructive tribulation and bring with Him 1,000 years of peace. Post-millennialism is the belief that mankind will grow into the millennium through works and righteousness and that Christ will later come to accept it. A-millennialism is a Catholic version, which interprets the millennium as the symbolic reign of the Catholic church since Christ’s resurrection, which will later be followed by a return of Christ. The differences between pre and post-millennial beliefs can largely be drawn along political and theological lines. Pre-Millennialists are “graced” with the Millennium by Christ Himself, and this reflects a more conservative, grace-based approach to the gospel. Post-Millennialists believe that mankind will build the millennium through works, reflecting a more “social gospel” of liberal faiths.
At first blush, Mormonism seems clearly pre-millennialist. Scriptures in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants elaborate upon Second Coming prophesies from the Bible describing apocalyptic tribulations. But we also share some similarities with post-Millennialists. Our emphasis on building Zion, living the Law of Consecration, and gathering Israel are similar to post-Milliennial belief that the millennium will be built through righteous works. Thus Mormonism can be interpreted as a peculiar hybrid of both kinds of Millennialism.
Early LDS Swing from Pre- to Post-Millennialism
When I visited the Temple Lot in Jackson County Missouri, I was struck how small it was. Did early Mormons really think that this tiny parish-size church lot would usher in Christ’s reign in the New Jerusalem? Perhaps these Mormons felt Christ’s Second Coming was so imminent that there would be no time to build a great Cathedral worthy of His coming. This sense of immanency was bombastically expressed by Martin Harris in 1833, but it was nevertheless a sentiment shared by many Mormons of the day:
“I DO HEREBY ASSERT and declare that in four years from the date hereof, every sectarian and religious denomination in the United States, shall be broken down, and every Christian shall be gathered unto the Mormonites, and the rest of the human race shall perish. If these things do not take place, I will hereby consent to have my hand separated from my body.”
Attitudes shifted after crossing the plains. With the New Jerusalem far away, their prophet martyred, the Second Coming was no longer considered imminent. The Salt Lake Temple was built on a whole new standard, taking 40 years to build and representing a huge leap in vision and artistic achievement. Brigham taught that Zion was something we build ourselves, which starts in our hearts and spreads from there. In the end, the New Jerusalem would only be as beautiful as we ourselves design it. After Brigham Young’s death, pre-Millennialist fervor flared up as Mormons prepared for a final apocalyptic showdown over polygamy. But this fizzled out after the Manifesto. Since then, Mormons have ceased the literal gathering and building of Zion, embracing a more mainstream set of religious attitudes, albeit with many of the original millennialist hopes bubbling just beneath the surface. Deseret Book’s current most popular title is Robert Millet’s Living in the Millennium. It is clear that Mormons still very much see themselves as living in the “latter-days.”
Pre-Millennialist Attitudes Today
As a liberal, I prefer post-millennial utopian visions to pre-millennial apocalyptic fear-mongering. But nevertheless, I still view pre-millennialism as an important part of LDS doctrine and scripture. I value the doctrine of tribulation and apocalypse. The world can be a dangerous and unstable place. Our planet has already experienced two apocalyptic meteor collisions in its distant past that have wiped out almost all life on earth. There are many doomsday scenarios could easily overtake us. Being prepared for an unexpected demise is a fundamental principle of the gospel, whether it is on a global or personal scale. For this reason, I support the principles of financial preparedness, food storage, and standing in Holy Places. In any case, death is a universalapocalypse that we all face.
Even though I embrace potential apocalyptic scenarios, I am suspicious of the common interpretation that the world is growing more and more wicked in a continual crescendo of evil to culminate in a great apocalypse. This idea comes from an interpretation of the scriptures about “signs of the times,” the “wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes in diverse places, the love of men waxing cold,” etc. But nothing in these scriptures leads one to believe that these signs must necessarily continue to grow in frequency. In fact, this interpretation contradicts the scripture that the Second Coming will happen unexpectedly, “as a thief in the night.” These “signs of the times” have existed as long as man has been upon the earth. Natural disasters and war are routine and always have been. Christ told us to heed the signs of the times because they are symbols of uncertainty and mortality, reminders that we must always be prepared to meet our maker. Robert Millet, in his book Living in the Eleventh Hour, notes that the Second Coming has always been prophesied to be a symbolic “tomorrow.” If we knew an exact date, we would put off our preparations until the last minute. Instead, God wants us to live every day as if the Second Coming were tomorrow.
Things Getting Better, Not Worse
The world today is arguably less violent and wicked than at almost any time in human history. This might seem an outrageous statement given the current situations in Ukraine, Iraq, and Gaza. However Stephen Pinker in his book Angels of our Better Nature: Why Violence Has Declined presents a compelling case that we are actually living at the most peaceful and prosperous time in humanity’s existence. The media gives us a false sense of insecurity with continual coverage of far-flung bad news. But when we step back and look at trends in per-capita security and prosperity, we get a different picture. The picture is so positive that we might wonder if the millennium isn’t already here! According to Pinker, World War I and II represented aberrations in a world that has overthe centuries become steadily more empathetic, less prejudiced, less violent, and less waring (per-capita). There has never been a case of war between two truly democratic nations, and more and more nations are graduating to democratic, 1st world status. Pockets of warfare in our day happen only in places where democratic, free-capitalist attitudes have yet to take hold, but broader trends favor the triumph of democracy and capitalism.
Another problem with the “growing wickedness” interpretation is that it forces us to look upon the world’s problems pessimistically. We might do nothing to bring about reconciliation between Jews and Muslims because our pre-millennialist outlook tells us it’s a lost cause. On the domestic front, we might dismiss political solutions which could improve society because we know that things will get worse, not better. We might become pessimistic about the government and the secular world, which is supposedly being swallowed up in a growing tide of evil. While government certainly has its limitations, our pessimism towards it could easily lead to attitudes of contempt and dismissiveness, which are antithetical to LDS values. Worse, we could slip into judgmental attitudes towards people who hold progressive ideals, prematurely setting them on the left hand of God, as Jon McNaughton does in his audacious painting One Nation Under God. While collectivist or utopian ideas can often be misguided, the proponents of these ideas are often good, moral people, acting according to the best light and knowledge they have been given.
Seeing our day as routinely the “worst of times” is also a bit ungrateful, considering the sacrifices that have been made in order that we can live in a safe land of freedom, prosperity and opportunity. Every step we take was bought with the blood and sweat of millions who fought and died so that we could live in a better world than they did. How would our ancestors feel if they knew we constantly complained about the world they bequeathed us, a world so much better than the one they had to live in? Our negative view blinds us to the miracle of the modern world. We become unappreciative of the sacrifices it took to build that world, including the sacrifices of progressives, abolitionists, civil rights socialists, and secular humanists, all who have shaped the world in profoundly positive ways.
Rethinking the “Growing Wickedness” Scenario
We need not interpret the modern world as growing in wickedness to retain a pre-millennialist outlook. When Geoff B. at Millennial Star presented evidence of crime and promiscuity rates falling in recent decades, Michael Towns, a staunch conservative, declared: “There is no reason why humanity can’t experience a moral renaissance.” I was impressed that someone as conservative as Michael was able to embrace the idea that there could be a moral renaissance in society at large, that things might get better before they get worse. Even if we prescribe to the “growing wickedness” scenario, we need not automatically interpret our day as growing in wickedness. We can look at a long-term scenario which might include progress in the short-term. Indeed, we could hope and pray for it.
While LDS doctrine clearly has pre-millennial elements, we need not abandon Brigham Young’s post-millennial vision for building Zion before the Second Coming. But it will have to be a different kind of vision than the one Brigham Young gave the saints. By abandoning a central Zion in America for stakes around the world, the orientation changes somewhat. The world is now our Zion, and that Zion includes everyone in it, Mormons and Gentiles. Building Zion is now an ecumenical effort because we live in diverse, multi-cultural societies. We may not share all of our beliefs in common with the Gentiles, but most of us agree that trying to eradicate malaria would be a good thing. We can all work to combat hunger and and ignorance. We can set aside our distracting feelings about hot button social issues like gay marriage and agree to disagree. Gay marriage advocates are also good, moral people, with visions and a hunger to help and change the world. In my opinion, what unites us is greater than what divides us. Alliances between humanists, scientists, educators, socialists, capitalists and religions will continue help the world become a better, more prosperous and empathetic place. I think we should join them. Indeed it is our calling to do so.
- Do you see LDS doctrine as more pre- or post-millennialist?
- Is the world becoming more wicked or less wicked?
- Do you think that our doctrine of latter-day signs of the times must necessarily include growing wickedness?
- Could there be a moral renaissance before the Second Coming?
- Should we put aside our differences on hot-button moral issues for the sake of working together on the values we share?
I do think that the world is becoming more wicked; to be perfectly clear, I think it is polarizing and more and more people are getting off the fence, and making a commitment one way or another. By “wicked” I do not necessarily mean “evil,” and I don’t think the prophets always do either. I simply mean that a large segment of the population no longer regards God or religion as important in their lives, or believes that faith offers them any guidance. They may, or may not, do things that we wouldn’t do becase of our faith. They don’t necessarily act evilly, immorally, or horribly. “Wickedness never was Godliness,” but it isn’t active Satan-worship or casual mass-murder, either.
The Hebrew words translated as “wicked” in the OT (KJV) mean something like “guilty one,” “one guilty of crime,” “foolish.” In the NT, the Greek can mean “impious,” “tricky,” “out of place,” “ungodly,” or a number of other things, but not necessarily evil.
I see LDS doctrine as off the traditional scale, as usual. The churches steeped in the Great Apostasy have done a nice job of defining and categorizing their differing beliefs, but all of the definitions seem to be kind of limiting. Like describing the Godhead, it’s easier just to tell people what we believe than it is to describe it in the dry and nitpicking language of academic theology. Things are going to get worse, we work as hard as we can to build Zion, and at some point, the Savior returns and the Millennium begins. There is an old Jewish proverb that reads something like, “Wait for Zion, but plant a garden in Babylon.” I like that.
On one thing I’m clear: no Rapture! None of this silly “empty suits of clothes lying around,” “this car unmanned,” “Left Behind” nonsense.
One more thought on your opening paragraph: Although it seems small to look at as currently configured, the original Temple Lot plot was more than 63 acres (and IIRC includes the current “Spam Can Strip” CoC temple area), and Joseph envisioned a City of Zion plan for Independence with 24 temples filling a variety of ecclesiastical and administrative functions, so it was a lot more capable of administering the Kingdom than that little cow pasture outside the CoCTL would indicate.
This is probably my favorite article you’ve ever written (and I am a longtime follower)!
As a Western woman, I have benefited immensely from the struggles of the past. My life is appreciably better than those that came before me. I loved how you phrased it, “Our negative view blinds us to the miracle of the modern world. We become unappreciative of the sacrifices it took to build that world, including the sacrifices of progressives, abolitionists, civil rights socialists, and secular humanists, all who have shaped the world in profoundly positive ways.”
This reminds me of a that book I recently read (and loved) by Brian McLaren, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road?:Christianity in a Multi-Faith World. He encourages Christians to build our faith on “benevolence and solidarity rather than rivalry and hostility.” As you said, “what unites us is greater than what divides us.”
Christians have a mandate to be peacemakers and show love to all. “By this shall all men know ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” John 13:5
I agree we have greater peace now then we have at any other time in history.
With that said, it is my observation that most conflicts and problems center on poverty, with desperate people doing desperate things. Most of the conflict in the Middle East, Africa and Saint Louis (for a recent example) finds its roots in poverty. Finding real solutions to poverty is the real answer to lasting peace.
Unfortunately, governments the world over have created social programs that pay people to be poor rather than finding sustainable solutions to this epidemic. It has translated into trillions of dollars in debt in Europe, Japan and the United States. When small countries like Greece or Iceland go bankrupt or nearly bankrupt, it has a global impact.
At present, the United States is bankrupt. I realize we have the largest GDP and 1,100 of the top 2,000 companies. However, we have more debt both individually and as a nation than we can ever pay back. We are addicted to debt. Living off our credit cards personally and as a nation has artificially propped up the economy and the associated social programs (Welfare, Medicate, Medicare, Social Security, corporate subsidies, etc) that are paid for by a healthy economy. Likewise, the most powerful military machine ever thrives off that healthy economy.
The debt will be our downfall and will collapse our economy. It is a huge bubble yet to pop. When it pops it will have a global impact and break most of the countries in Europe, Japan and China who depend on the US economy as a place for their goods. Moreover, the poorer nations that receive billions from the US in aide will likewise collapse. It will have biblical implications.
Over 50 million people that depend on the government will be looking for their next meal. They will be desperate. Russia, China, Syria, Iran and various other dangerous countries will flex their military muscle without the threat of the US military.
Unfortunately, the debt problem in the US is real and eventually bond holders will lose faith in the dollar and it will loose its status as the world’s reserve currency. This will lead to a very desperate situation in the US, which will lead to international chaos.
The level of wickedness in each individual is the same as it ever was. People are people, and some seek to hurt others, some seek to help others, and some simply seek to be left alone. But thanks to the common man overthrowing the ruling class and establishing governments that concern themselves with the needs of the many, instead of the masses simply being used by the ruling class, civilized society is more concerned with the average person having a fair opportunity.
The church has taught that the world will become more and more evil as the second coming approaches. This is pure nonsense. The world is so much LESS evil now than in its past, it is laughable to say otherwise. How much of the world’s population was in slavery hundreds of years ago, be it as literal slaves or serfs or simply people being so poor that they were at the mercy of their employer or landlord? The percentage of people who can choose their way in life now, compared to any time in previous history, is so much higher now than it ever has been.
Further, look at the way women were treated historically. Sadly, in many areas of the world they are still struggling for basic rights, but even civilized society used to treat women as property. How long have they been able to vote even in this wonderful country? 1920. That’s not even 100 years! The progress in the last few hundred years is astounding. The rights of women have increased substantially. Racism, although certainly still a problem, is so much less pervasive than it used to be. Economically, the standard of living has grown exponentially for the common man. Throughout most of history, there have been the elite ruling class, while the vast majority suffered and struggled. Now, the size of a large middle class has provided so much opportunity, and so much less struggle, for hundreds of millions of people. Heck, billions.
Put simply: slavery, rape, murder, robbery, and incest were all more common in the past than now. Sure, there are countless evil men and women in the world doing horrible and atrocious things. But compared to yesteryear, when people being legally bought and sold as chattel was common, we have come a long way. I am proud to say the world is becoming a better place, we are making progress as a human race, but there is still tons of work to do!
I guess I should have just said I agree completely with Pinkel’s conclusions 🙂
But I am curious if he shares theories for what is causing these conclusions, can the author shed some light on that?
Enjoyed the post. and agree completely on recognising the work, effort etc of our ancestors.
The terms pre/post millenialist are not ones I’ve come across before, and in the admittedly little reading I’ve done on the subject the slant seemed to be more one of a millenialist mindset actively trying to bring about the millenial reign, often by forcing the conditions said to lead up to it, which I think is rather different to the working to build up zion you mean. By which I mean looking at the conditions said to exist, and then attempting to impose them on a population, and also rejoicing in the signs (wars/earthquakes etc etc) that they see in the world in general. I don’t think I’m explaining that well, but it sounded rather horrible to me, and I wouldn’t know where to place them in your breakdown.
New Iconoclast, thanks for clarifying Joseph’s intentions at Temple Lot. Looks like they were more post-millennial than I originally thought.
Thanks for the positive feedback Anonymous, Dexter and Hedgehog.
I just wanted to address Ken’s apocalyptic scenario about the debt crisis. Most economists seem largely unconcerned about it, and I don’t know whether to be alarmed or reassured by that fact. I’m partial to “expert” opinion, like Paul Krugman, who insists that government debt cannot be treated or compared to household debt. And I’m sceptic all of right wing pundit’s analysis, as it seems so out of touch with expert consensus, and so contrary to almost all my other views. But in the end, I sometimes wonder if Glen Beck won’t one day turn out to be a true prophet in this regard.
In any case, we’ve been through crisis like the Great Depression and WWII before, and yet Christ didn’t come. If we have another similar disaster, who is to say we won’t just move on and rebuild stronger than ever afterwards?
I think apocalyptic scriptures can be applied metaphorically to events like WWII and the Great Depression. Even though Christ didn’t come in a literal way, still millions were taken to meet their maker, the world burned, and a newer, more peaceful and prosperous world followed. We take scriptures so literally that we miss potential metaphorical truths they might have to teach us about our daily lives, our personal apocalypses and millenniums.
I think the lack of posts illustrates a point. Mormons are a bit embarrassed by our ties to Millennialism.
In the early Church, everyone thought the Second Coming was around the corner. Then, there was many who thought so towards the end of the 19th Century. And, who can forget those who thought 2000 was the magic date?
Frankly, I think most of us are kind of like Elder Packer: The end is sometime in the indefinite future, probably the FAR future.
The vestige we have left is the claim that the world is getting worse and worse and worse. But, I suspect that will fade as the younger generation ages, most who don’t believe that at all. I, for one, thinks that the state of the world today is significantly superior than 20 years or 50 years or 100 years ago.
Paul Krugman is to economists what Homer Simpson is to Nuclear power plant engineers.
That is the last person I would rely on for financial advice. Instead, I would rely on people that have actually created wealth; people that have made payroll with their own money.
I would appeal to your common sense and consider the following. Financial success, for anyone or organization, comes from spending less than you bring in and wisely investing the difference. In contrast, financial ruin comes from spending more than you bring in and financing the difference.
The national debt in the US is real and presently equates to over $272,000 per taxpayer (those who actually pay). A little over 5 Trillion is held by two of our foes (China and Russia) and two of our friends (Great Britain and Japan). The remaining 12 trillion is intergovernmental debt, which is largely tied to pensions.
If Japan is willing to go to war with China (and eventually the US) over economic issues in
the 1940’s, I’m guessing China and Russia wouldn’t be all excited about being stiffed by the US. Not paying our debt would also be a great way to destroy key allies. I’m also guessing the people holding those pensions aren’t going to be voting to just give them up. How can anyone say national debt is not real and is not impactful if not paid?
The other alternative is to print more money and when the production cannot keep up it would translate into inflation and if unchecked, hyper-inflation. This is what lead to Germany’s demise from 1914 to 1922, which lead to the rise of Hitler’s socialist party.
Both interpretations of the golden rule apply here: he who has the gold rules and do unto others. According to Ezekiel, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of “pride, a fullness of bread, an abundance of idleness and she did not strengthen the hand of the poor and needy”. The earth is full and there is enough to spare AS LONG AS we take care of the needy. When we do not, we sow the seeds of destruction.
Paul Krugman and his Keynesian crowd have created a fine house of cards. When it falls, it will translate into international tumult. in my opinion, it will be the start of the great destruction before the second coming.
Ken, your arguments are “common sense” as you, say, which is why the resonate with voters, who respond to common sense arguments. It’s with these armchair quarterback arguments that they are constantly crying “throw the bums out!” every two years. But economics is extremely complicated and multi-dimensional, and regardless of how you are disparaging Krugman, expert consensus among economists is on his side. I believe one has to know when to use their own personal common sense, and when to trust expert consensus. I choose to trust experts, which can certainly be wrong, but not more wrong than my own judgement frequently is. But I grant that you could be right, since I don’t know any better. I’d rather choose to view the situation more optimistically. But it’s not because I’m burying my head in the sand. It’s my philosophy: I trust expert consensus more than the common sense of political pundits.
Steve, thanks for your comment and I hope you are right. By the way, what exactly did Pres. Packer say about the 2nd coming that puts it in the distant future? Somehow I can’t imagine that, but I’m hoping you will surprise me.
I’ll elaborate a little on my initial comment. I agree with a number of the posters that the world is getting “better” in many ways – technologically, in terms of standard of living in many countries, and so on. However, it is also getting increasingly secular in many ways, and that equals “wicked” in Scriptural terms. I would also submit that humans are becoming increasingly economically dependent on their governments and large corporate institutions, and are thus losing individual liberty. The fact that many of them are willing to make this trade to get a better standard of living is not inconsequential; however, it means that the mechanisms of social control are being put in place. History suggests that they will be used, and not for good.
The level of freedom, in economic and poltical terms, is decreasing in some surprising and alarming places around the world – most notably in the United States and in the other Western democracies, where the threat of global terror and social unrest is being used to allow a level of governmental intrusion into private life and control over personal and economic activity that would have been unthinkable 20 or 50 years ago.
Life is better – but more people watch you live it, and have a say in how you lve it, than ever. That does not bode well for freedom of worship, association, property, or any of the other liberties we generally believe the Constitution was inspired to protect.
In short, we’re in trouble. The water is getting warmer; the frog is still laying back on his air mattress with sunglasses and a cold brewski and not noticing the boiling bubbles forming at the bottom of the pot. We’re giving away the store bit by bit, while looking down the road for a huge disaster. It is coming like a thief in the night.
Back in the late 1980s I helped edit the fundraising materials developed at Herald Publishing House for the (now-Community of Christ, then-RLDS) Temple in Independence, Missouri. There were some within the church leadership who favored using indirect (or even not-so-indirect) scripture references to the Second Coming of Jesus. I’m sure that would have made for a successful emotional appeal (albeit cringe-worthy theology), but fortunately saner voices prevailed. Several RLDS revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants instead promoted the concept of the Temple as the centerpiece of the church’s efforts in pursuit of peace. In the end the Temple, along with improvements to the Auditorium across the street and upgrades to parking areas and other items, was fully paid for before the Temple was dedicated in April 1994.
The Community of Christ Temple, along with the LDS visitors and stake centers, the Church of Christ–Temple Lot (sometimes referred to as the Hedrikites), and a portion of the land under the Auditorium all sit on the original 63-acre site dedicated by Joseph Smith Jr. Of course, his unfulfilled plans called for 24 buildings to serve as temple(s).
Just as a side note: I personally consider the reference used in a previous comment (“Spam Can Strip” CoC temple) to be derogatory and offensive. It’s perhaps something like the comment I once heard from someone who had toured an LDS temple open house: “That’s by far the nicest funeral home I’ve ever been in.”
Hi Rich, thanks for commenting. I guess I got my point about the temple lot totally wrong. I admit I must have had completely myopic views on my tour of Jackson county, somehow only internalizing the “official” LDS portion. But I really did enjoy visiting the CoC temple, which is a beautiful building with a good spirit.
New Iconoclast, as far as your definition of “wicked,” and it could be Biblical. But I ask myself is “secularism” really any worse than any other apostate religion? I’ve often heard it said that atheism itself is a religious belief, the belief in scientific creeds, rather than religious ones. When I recently visited Israel, and I saw all the Jews at the Western Wall pronouncing curses upon their enemies at the Dome of the Rock, and vice versa, I wondered: “is apostate religion a net positive, or a net negative?” It is the ultra religious Jews that are building settlements in Palestine, ruining chances for peace with a two-state solution. It is the secular Jews that are the most pro-peace. Would it have been better if the Jews became lost in the masses of Gentiles, same as all the other lost tribes? Would it have been better if Mohammed had never been born? Apostate Christians aren’t better by much. Many of them are hawkish and intolerant, inciting further misunderstandings between Muslims and the rest of the world.
Mormons judge the Gentiles for abandoning Christianity and religion in general. But should we really judge them for abandoning apostate religion? Should we not rather celebrate that they’ve seen the Great and Abominable Church for what it is, and celebrate it’s demise?
Nate, in 14 you ask, But I ask myself is “secularism” really any worse than any other apostate religion? I’ve often heard it said that atheism itself is a religious belief, the belief in scientific creeds, rather than religious ones.
I may not have explained myself clearly. I often find that my thoughts outstrip my ability to type. That’s a very good question; I don’t know whether it’s better or worse (and I agree with, and know atheists who agree with, that definition of atheism). I simply think that many people may be looking past the mark as they scan the world for “wickedness” and look under every rock or behind every world leader for the Antichrist. To paraphrase Pogo, we may have met him, and he’s us.
I’m not judging Gentiles for abandoning apostate religion, and I apologize if my comment came off as such. Au contraire, abandoning it seems to me to be a perfectly rational reaction, one that I took myself, and a position I steadfastly maintained until my conversion. I held then, and hold now, that religion has been a huge force for evil in the world, with examples such as the ones you cite – and we could add the Crusades, the Inquisition, and a hundred other examples from ancient and modern history. That doesn’t make a secular position less “wicked” in the scriptural sense. The angel tells Nephi that there are only two churches, “the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil;” he simply fails to mention how many flavors the latter comes in. 🙂 As I said, humans are starting to polarize. The middle ground is becoming more sparsely populated.
Rich, I apologize for offending you with regard to my description of the exterior appearance of the CoC temple in Independence. I don’t know how old you are, but Spam cans used to open with a little “church key” thing that peeled off a spiral of metal, separating the can into two halves. The first time I saw the spire, its design reminded me of that little spiral. The building itself is beautiful and my last visit there was both interesting and edifying. My comment related only to the appearance of the spire, and my taste in architecture (or lack thereof) shouldn’t be construed as a theological commentary. Come to think of it, I can certainly see many similarities between your average LDS temple and a funeral home, except maybe for the color of the suits of the quiet-spoken, obsequious, helpful attendants.
Nate: I remember a few years ago when the LDS Church announced plans for a temple in the Kansas City metro area. The location turned out to be north of the Missouri River, just a few miles outside Jackson County near Liberty in Clay County. Some of my CofC friends wondered why Independence wasn’t chosen. A church history friend suggested that there’s probably still considerable opinion within the LDS membership that building a temple on the original 63-acre site in Independence would send an unwarranted signal that Jesus was about to return. I’m in no position to comment on how extensive that idea is among current LDS. But I do know that one of the chief criteria in picking a location is high visibility. The KC temple sits next to Interstate 435, a main route to and from Kansas City International Airport. Plus I recall the church PR department made much of the connection with nearby Liberty and the historic jail where Joseph Smith was incarcerated.
Back in 1980 when my wife I and moved from Vancouver, BC, to Jackson County, Missouri, we stopped for a couple days at a campground near Salt Lake City (it was in the middle of a cherry orchard, I believe). We were chatting one day with a woman working in the campground office or gift shop, and she must have assumed we were LDS. When we told her where we were moving, she replied how fortunate we were in doing it then–before the “end times” when all the faithful would “flee to Zion.” She also seemed to believed that by then the Great Plains would be turned into a higher mountain range than the Wasatch or Rockies.
New Iconoclast: Apology accepted. An yes, at age 63, I’m quite familiar with Spam 😉 I’ve had occasion to visit four LDS temple open houses (St. Louis, Boston, KC, and Nauvoo). Perhaps because of its historic situation and my own interest in church history, Nauvoo was the only one that didn’t offer that somewhat “funeral home” aura, although I do appreciate all the temples are sacred and meaningful places for LDS members.
A church history friend suggested that there’s probably still considerable opinion within the LDS membership that building a temple on the original 63-acre site in Independence would send an unwarranted signal that Jesus was about to return. I’m in no position to comment on how extensive that idea is among current LDS.
I have no idea how extensive it is, either – but I’d be willing to bet that the construction of such a temple would set off a spate of speculation, some of which would take the somewhat disingenuous form of “. . . not that I really believe this is a sign, but . . .” 🙂 I’ve also heard LDS members say that the church won’t build an Independence temple until they can place it where the actual cornerstones are, that is, when they somehow manage to repossess that chunk of the Lot from the Hedrickites. Who knows? I do think that the actual location is important in the thinking, so that reasoning rings true to me. For at least some evidence, I submit the Nauvoo Temple rebuild. The Church completely destroyed the original foundation and grounds, an archaeological and historical artifact of immense interest and significance, because the Lord designated the spot for the temple right there – not one block west, where plenty of room existed to build the new one while preserving the old foundation. I nearly wept.
Temples are all sacred and meaningful, yes – but the Nauvoo Temple is a gem. In part it’s the history, but in part it’s also the unique layout, the beautiful dark woodwork, and the “extra mile” effort that went into its interior decoration. It’s simply much more striking than the, dare I say it, cookie-cutter smaller temples like our much-loved local one in Saint Paul.