End of the World, ca 1923

While we have all joked and pondered regarding rapture and the end of the world over the past few weeks, I’ve also pondered on a similar event closer to home for me.

According to stories told me by my grandmother, my great-great uncle, C.C. Smith was a very religious blacksmith in Oklahoma.  He always had his Bible sitting on his anvil as he worked. One day, the wind blew the Bible open and the scripture he read told him to go forth and preach the gospel.  As my grandmother explained it, he asked “who me?”, the wind opened the Bible to another spot, and it said, “yeah, you.”

He organized a church with Walter White, named the Followers of Christ.  The church moved to Idaho (now in Oregon), where my great-grandparents were followers of the Church.  Walter White was a very powerful preacher and used the pulpit to promote his religion.  He quickly wrested power from my g-g-uncle and others, and was known as the “Apostle.”  Being in Idaho where there are many LDS, White preached often against Mormonism.

One day, he pronounced that the end of the world was coming, and gave the date in the early 1920s  (which I do not recall what it was).  The members of the church sold everything they had, excited to be among the few to be saved.  My great-grandparents sold everything.  They sold most of their possessions to White at a heavy discount, as they would no longer need any of it.

The date came and passed, with no apocalypse nor Second Coming. My g-grandmother Eleanor Jennie Southard died in 1925 of a broken heart. Her husband, Henry Edward Smith died in 1930.  The Followers of Christ Church divided with White and many of the members moving to Oregon.

(note, this was what my grandmother told me. My aunt just told me that the end of the world was predicted to be in 1940. So the story may have some flaws, but still applies mostly, with White disappointing my g-grandparents on some other regard).

This tragedy didn’t end for my family.  My grandfather remained aloof from the FoC for many years, due to how it impacted his parents.  He married my grandmother, who was LDS, and attended with her for several years until he became disaffected to the LDS Church, at which time he returned to White’s Church.  My grandparents separated and divorced, but briefly reconciled.  My grandmother said they attended White’s church, where my uncle was forced to sit in the front pew with his FoC cousins holding him in place.  Meanwhile, White told the young boy that he was a “filthy Mormon deacon” who would essentially rot in @#!*% .  My grandmother asked my grandfather to do something about it, but he froze in his seat.  White was powerful, and held the group spellbound with his @#!*% fire and damnation sermons.  My grandmother arose, took my young uncle out of the church, and never went back to my grandfather.  It would be decades before my uncle attended LDS services regularly.  I have no doubt that such division also affected my own father, who spent much of his life as an alcoholic, just like his own father.

For LDS today, we do not have to fear one man controlling things as did Walter White or the pastor of the Family Radio program of today.  With councils that provide checks and balances, we obtain carefully considered decisions that do not stray far from foundations.  For instance, we understand that no one will know the time of the Second Coming, except for Heavenly Father (Matthew 24).  Official doctrine goes through the First Presidency and Council of Twelve, and often through a sustaining vote of the membership of the Church, prior to becoming official doctrine.  With a minimum of fifteen independent thinking men considering such concepts, each step is prayerfully and carefully arrived at.

That said, we can also have confidence in our prophets.  For example, President Hinckley gave a discourse in General Conference in October 1998 about a looming economic downturn.  He hoped it would not be like the Great Depression, but spoke in depth about the effects of the Depression. He quoted Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams of good and bad years. He told us to get out of debt, own a modest home, and prepare for difficult years ahead.  Those who listened were prepared for the Great Recession of 2008, which we are still struggling through.

We see signs that the Brethren are preparing for the Second Coming: smaller temples to dot the land, area authority seventies, more autonomy for stake presidents, new CHI, etc.  However, they (and we) do not know if it will happen tomorrow, next year, or in one hundred years.  We just know we must be prepared for the day.

As a false prophet, Walter White destroyed many lives, including those of my great-grandparents.  Thankfully we have true prophets and apostles that carefully deliberate and pray to seek God’s will concerning the LDS Church and the world.

8 thoughts on “End of the World, ca 1923

  1. Good post. I’m not convinced we get all the benefits of charisma and of checks and balances without any of the downside of either, but we do ok.

  2. I miss the charisma of speakers such as LeGrand Richards, Bruce R. McConkie, and even Paul H. Dunn.

    I like Elder Uchtdorf’s charisma. And I think President Monson has turned his down a bit since becoming prophet, as if the mantle weighs heavy on him.

    Who else among our general conference speakers can be said to have charisma?

    On the other bit, no man knows the hour or the day, but does anyone want to place a bet on the year?

  3. Adam G,

    Of course there are still risks. With a prophet like Brigham Young, who pretty much man-handled the Quorum of Twelve into doing things his way, there were some awkward teachings, and some terrible consequences on occasion.

    But I believe we are beyond that. We now understand the power and safety of councils much better. The new CHI is highly focused on strengthening councils on all levels. We have been encouraged to have the sisters in leadership have more of a voice in councils. The chances of a LDS prophet going rogue is less likely than in the past, IMO.

    Right now, my heart goes out to those who were deceived by Harold Camping. I wonder if some will leave Christianity altogether, thinking that if their leader was wrong on something as big as this, what if he’s wrong on other things as well. And given that this is the second time he’s done it to the people, are many still going to foolishly continue following him? How many wrong prophecies does it take before you no longer believe?

  4. BTW, an article tells what Camping’s response to all this is:

    Camping, who made a special appearance before the press at the Oakland headquarters of the media empire Monday evening, apologized for not having the dates “worked out as accurately as I could have.” Through chatting with a friend over what he acknowledged was a very difficult weekend, the light dawned on him that instead of the biblical Rapture in which the faithful would be swept up to the heavens, May 21 had instead been a “spiritual” Judgment Day, which places the entire world under Christ’s judgment, he said.

    The globe will be completely destroyed in five months, he said, when the apocalypse comes. But because God’s judgment and salvation were completed on Saturday, there’s no point in continuing to warn people about it, so his network will now just play Christian music and programs until the final end on Oct. 21.

    “We’ve always said May 21 was the day, but we didn’t understand altogether the spiritual meaning,” he said. “The fact is there is only one kind of people who will ascend into heaven … if God has saved them they’re going to be caught up.”

    Read more: Camping got date wrong again

  5. “The chances of a LDS prophet going rogue is less likely than in the past”

    Could you clarify this, Rameumptom? Has a prophet (i.e., Brigham Young) truly “gone rogue” in the past?

    “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty. (Wilford Woodruff, 61st Semiannual General Conference of the Church, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah)

  6. One of the main things that most rapturists get wrong is the timing of the rapture in relation to the tribulation.

    Most rapturists believe that believers will be “raptured out” at the _beginning_ of the tribulation and miss those 3.5 (or 7) years of tribulation. Whereas a more literal reading of Revelation (and what I think has been past LDS teaching on it), is that the “rapture” occurs at the _end_ of 3.5 years of tribuation, and that the “rapture” coincides with the very hour of the 2nd Coming of Christ.

    The way I read Revelation is that when the believers get “caught up in the air” to meet Christ, they _immediately return_ with Christ and the angels and the righteous dead who resurrect that morning.

    So the timeline as I understand it is:

    1) 3.5 years of tribulation for everybody: good, bad, indifferent.

    2) Resurrection of the righteous dead, rapture (getting caught up in the air) of the righteous living, and the return of Christ (and a bunch of angels) all happen on the same day. (Note: rapture is like skydiving in reverse, so that might be a good way to “practice.” :-)

    3)The resurrected, the righteous living, Christ, and the angels all _come (back) down_ from the air.

    4) The intense glorious presence of Christ literally kills off the wicked who physically and spiritually cannot abide being in the presence of such glory. They are literally and figuratively burned by His glory.

    5) Thus begins the Millennium, and it takes 3.5 years to clean up the mess from the previous 3.5 years of tribulation and the destruction that occurs at the day of the 2nd Coming.

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