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THINGS AS THEY ARE, WERE ARE TO COME
Prophecy in the Atomic Age
ANTHONY E. LARSON
It certainly changed warfare. Historically. and Christians in general. Larson THINGS AS THEY ARE. Ezekiel. prophesied destructions of the last days such as those uttered by Isaiah. it’s hard to find some aspect of our lives that hasn’t changed in one way or another. even populations far from any battle could be held hostage to utter annihilation. has God using the same natural mechanisms of destruction in the future that he used in ancient times. predicted to occur prior to the Savior’s second coming. from the days of the primitive church up until the restoration.Prophecy in the Atomic Age Copyright © 2002 Anthony E. . nothing since Newton’s laws of gravity or Copernicus’ heliocentrism has so profoundly effected our views of the universe. the atom bomb even changed our view of the scriptures and prophecy. were seen by Christians as the forces of nature responding to the commands of their creator. The pronounced tumult and cataclysm in the heavens and on the earth. due to the advent of the atomic age. It changed science. Amos. as unlikely as it may seem to the average Latter-day Saint. Joel. the Apostle John in his Revelation and even the Savior himself were viewed as the acts of an all-powerful God. In reality. In fact. nuclear capable countries became overnight superpowers. Today’s Mormons. A clearer understanding of the matter. have a radically different view of scriptural prophecy than their ancestors. It changed politics and diplomacy. however. Try to name all of the changes that the atom bomb and technology brought to our world in the middle of the last century. thanks largely to the advent of the atomic age. WERE � ARE TO COME Mankind in the modern age has come to believe that the world will end in the mushroom cloud of nuclear war.
The bomb’s mushroom cloud looked like the pillars of “fire and smoke” envisioned in prophecy. the A-bomb was seen as the tailor-made fulfillment of prophecy. missiles and rockets. Thanks to the development of airplanes. The aweinspiring power of that blast reminded Oppenheimer of a line from the Hindu sacred book.” and the effects of nuclear radiation exposure from fallout to the “sores. deafening roar and rumble it produced became the “sound of many waters. boils.” the soot and ash from its fallout darkened the sky. that’s how Mormons saw things up until the middle of the 20th century. From that point on.” tanks and attack helicopters with a “sting like scorpions tails. Then. Joseph Smith. Robert Oppenheimer. worlddestroying light. blights and murrains” of prophetic scripture. the 20th century brought with it the development of extremely sophisticated equipment that completely replaced the crude weapons of yesteryear. The Late. What’s more. It’s easy to see why. as in prophecy. father of the A-bomb. also foresaw the calamities of the last days as a series of natural disasters. the space age took man and his technologically advanced . “A few people laughed.” and a multitude of other high-tech weapons such as missiles and lasers whose effects seem similar to the extravagant imagery of prophecy. Great Planet Earth in the late 1960s. and the long. modern warfare expanded into an entirely new realm: the skies above us. This advanced technology brought us aircraft that “roar upon the tops of the mountains.” Given its remarkable similarity to biblical “fire and brimstone. From Herbert W. Christians began to see the atom bomb as the embodiment of God’s prophesied wrath. its shockwave became the “blast from heaven. All that changed the day the first A-bomb was detonated in July 1945. most people were silent. Christian ministers began to interpret the fantastic imagery seen in prophecy as immensely powerful super-weapons. So.” Oppenheimer wasn’t the only one to see mankind in a new. who witnessed the first explosion in the New Mexico desert.” recalled J.Prophecy in the Atomic Age 3 The founder of this dispensation. a few people cried. Armstrong’s “World Tomorrow” radio ministry of the 1950s to Hal Lindsay’s book and movie. the Bhagavad-Gita: “I am become death: the destroyer of worlds. nuclear weapons being the cornerstone of their exegesis — Armageddon. blains.
A whole new breed of millennialists appeared who saw the fulfillment of latter-day prophecies in the technological advancements of mankind. death from virile plagues and toxic poisons unleashed on a hapless world populace in chemical and biological weapons. Once the sole venue of God’s prophesied vengeance. Religionists now proclaim that man with his super-weapons. a celestial spectator. In fine. eyewitness accounts of God’s dealings with his children. will be Apollyon. while we would bring about the end of the world all on our own. not God. Clearly. Mankind would now provide all the elements of prophecy: pillars of fire devastating vast expanses and destroying whole populations. the destroyer. But it is a badly flawed view that should be corrected—most especially in the restored church. as noted by the apostle John in his Revelation.Prophecy in the Atomic Age 4 weapons into the very heavens themselves. This kind of myopic. egoistic interpretation is easily demolished when we look to the scriptures as accurate. Deus ex machina! Deus ex homonum! Yet. The problem is that this twisted view of prophecy has been allowed to stand. Man could now wield god-like power both on earth and in the heavens. the heavens were now mankind’s domain as well. Nearly every Christian—Latter-day Saints included—sees the fulfillment of prophecy in these same terms. ashen skies that turned the moon red and darkened the sun. God was no longer necessary to the fulfillment of prophecy. . These astounding technical advances and these super-weapons had a profound effect on the thinking of the clergy as they read and interpreted prophecy. Mankind now had the power to single-handedly fulfill all prophecy of the last days and bring about Armageddon all on his own. God could sit on the sidelines. nothing could be further from the truth. the egotism and myopia of modern man had overtaken the proper view of prophecy. a “scorched earth” type of warfare that would leave a vast wastelands in the wake of advancing armies with super weapons. All this technological development brought about a revolutionary revision in biblical interpretation among Christians and Mormons as well. a quaking earth ruptured by super-powerful atomic bombs and the roaring of incredibly powerful and lethal flying machines.
Early man had neither the technology nor the knowledge to produce such a weapon. He said.Prophecy in the Atomic Age 5 For example.” The crux of this argument is the strikingly similar language used in the scriptures to describe both ancient catastrophes and those prophesied for the future. This logic is a vital key. darkness. earthquakes or plagues due to some super weapon? Or were these simply the forces of nature obeying the command of their creator? Why. compare the “miracles” of Exodus and Revelation for yourself. will see a return of all the catastrophic types of destruction from the past. “It is not the design of the Almighty to come upon the earth and crush it and grind it to powder. according to Joseph Smith. but God could. Carmel or the blast that destroyed the Assyrian army of Sennacherib as he lay siege to Jerusalem in the days of Isaiah? Ancient man could not have done that. then. Was that their doing? Or was it God’s doing? Was the Exodus’ “pillar of fire and smoke. not man. the true agents of destruction. why would God use the irresistible forces of nature to do his bidding in the past and not in the future. And what about the fire from heaven that consumed Elijah’s sacrifice on Mt. As an example. enumerated in the scriptures. Ask yourself. no Latter-day Saint in his or her right mind would suggest that the fire and brimstone that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah was really an atomic bomb. prior to the Second Coming. Recall that “all the face of the land” was changed in the “tempest.” fought by man. . It was destruction from God.” bloody water. kind and source? While it is true that “there will be wars and rumors of wars. do we allow descriptions of such latter-day calamities to suggest the cause is other than God-sent? There is no hint of a role for man in Joseph Smith’s statement about latter-day destructions. leaving that to the hand of man instead? Isn’t it more logical to assume that the striking similarities between ancient destructions and those prophesied for our future are an indication that they will be of the same nature. axiomatic to understanding the scriptures and the fulfillment of prophecy that every Latter-day Saint should internalize: The calamities of the last days.” “tumult” and “darkness” that overtook the Nephites at the Savior’s crucifixion.
Perhaps it is time we took man. with his puny and fragile devices. egocentric modern views. the sun turned into darkness and the moon to blood. rather than the distorted view induced by our myopic. Perhaps this should also remind us of just how widespread. “signs in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. For more essays from this series: http://mormonprophecy. newsletters and published books exploring this material in depth: http://www. videos.com/ For online classes.Prophecy in the Atomic Age 6 will be the forces of nature.blogspot. the seas heaving beyond their bounds. out of the equation — puny when compared to the forces of nature at God’s command — by recognizing that God alone will fulfill the promises made by the mouths of his holy prophets. but they should have been. earthquakes in divers places.com . We have been seduced by the same illogic to which our Christian cousins succumbed. Isn’t this what the scriptures mean when they urge us to reject any reliance on the “arm of flesh?” We Saints have fallen prey to the delusions of our Christian brethren where the interpretation of prophecy is concerned because we failed to heed the teachings of the modern prophets. devastating and earthshaking the catastrophes of the latter-days will be — far greater by many orders of magnitude than any man-made calamity — when they do come upon us.com/ Your questions or comments are welcome: email@example.com. and because we have failed to study the scriptures.” Mormons were not immune to the distorted view of scripture induced by advanced technology and the atom bomb. Perhaps it is time we returned to the proper perspective. from Joseph Smith to the present.
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