Sunday, September 13, 2015

Blood moon will bring doom, say followers of popular Mormon author

Despite living in the Mormon Mecca of Utah, I had not heard this about my fellow citizens until this past Friday: Some Mormons, called “preppers,” are stocking up on emergency supplies for what they see as an impending doomsday. Their fear isn’t based on anything scientific, but on the word of a woman who writes books for Mormon readers. The story originated in a couple of Julie Rowe’s books, A Greater Tomorrow: My Journey Beyond the Veil, and The Time is Now.

Julie Rowe, author and visitor to heaven.

In 2014, this Mormon mom of three published her visions from a near-death experience, where she “visited the afterlife, and was shown visions of the past and future.” (I get my information on this phenomenon from a copyrighted article by Peggy Fletcher Stack in The Salt Lake Tribune, September 11, 2015.)

Ms Roweֹs “prophecies” have something to do with seven-year periods of history. As reporter Stack tells it, “Here’s how the doomsday scenario plays out: History, some preppers believe, is divided into seven-year periods — like the Hebrew notion of ‘Shemitah’ or Sabbath. In 2008, seven years after 9/11, the stock market crashed, a harbinger of a devastating recession. It’s been seven years since then, and Wall Street has fluctuated wildly in recent weeks in the wake of China devaluing its currency.
“ . . . Starting September 13 [that is today as I write this], the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days, there will be another, even larger financial crisis, based on the United States’ ‘wickedness.’ That would launch the ‘days of tribulation’ — as described in the Bible.

“They say September 28 will see a full, red or ‘blood moon’ and a major earthquake in or near Utah. Some anticipate an invasion by U.N. troops, technological disruptions and decline, chaos and hysteria.”
Whew. That is some heavy stuff. I was unaware of this drama going on in parts of my community. I thought, these people believe a woman who claims to have visited heaven, but how many of my religious Republican neighbors believe in the thousands of scientists who preach that climate change is real, and have actual evidence to back up their belief?

The other thing that caught my attention was that “near-death experience.” It is not explained in the article. How near death was it? Obviously she survived it, so she was fortunate. Did a skilled physician pull her back from heaven? When she awoke did she complain? “Hey, Doc! WTF? Send me back!”

As another Tribune writer, columnist Robert Kirby (himself a practicing Mormon, although with a satirical sense of humor about church beliefs that must cause brain-freeze to LDS leaders) put it, “I’ll believe an NDE [near death experience] claim when the person relating it was all the way dead. None of this waking up an hour later and saying heaven is like Disneyland only free, or that angels gave them a painless bikini wax. I mean dead, embalmed, and in the ground for, oh, say, a year at least. That’s dead.” (“Death and What Comes Next?” by Robert Kirby, Salt Lake Tribune, February 27, 2015.) Kirby’s comments were not about Julie Rowe, but about people who claim to have visited heaven, then come back to earth and reap earthly rewards when they sell their book or movie based on the “event.”

Up until now, the official position the LDS Church takes on movements that are started by rumor, misreading of scripture or pop culture —  like Rowe’s books —  is usually to keep quiet and let people think what they want to think. This time is different. They actually responded publicly by, according to the newspaper article, “ . . . sending a memo to administrators and teachers in the Church Education System, saying, “Although Sister Rowe is an active member of the [LDS Church], her book is not endorsed by the church and should not be recommended to students or used as a resource in teaching them. The experiences . . . do not necessarily reflect church doctrine, or they may distort doctrine.” Sister Rowe responded, contritely, by saying, “My story is not intended to be authoritative nor to create any church doctrine. It is simply part of my personal journey that I have chosen to share in hopes that t can help people to prepare for the times we live in by increasing their faith in Christ and by looking to our prophet and church leaders for guidance.” That statement might be enough to keep Julie out of the hot seat of a Bishop’s Court, where she could be called in by church elders to explain herself, and why she shouldn’t face excommunication.

Of course Mormons aren’t the only group who believe in doomsday scenarios coming from the full wrath of God, smiting the wicked (i.e., those who don’t agree with the religious types). Every few years there are stories going around about one prophet or another picking a date when everything collapses and the world ends, Christ returns, and all of the sinners and non-believers begin their eternal sentence in a lake of fire. In my opinion those stories are fables told to keep a group in line, designed with religious trappings and scripture to fool the devout.

Just in case, maybe we should all put in a stock of bottled water and tins of Spam to carry us past September 28, in case, you know, doomsday just might be real.

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