Gospel Symposia are making a comeback


Carol and I are flying up to Salt Lake on Friday to attend a gospel-related symposium on prophecy and cosmology. In other words, it is a seminar about Armageddon and the last days. It is being held at the Provo Marriott in the Aspen room. Attendance is expected to be several hundred. I am encouraged by the interest in the subject and by the very idea that such an event is being held.

Let me explain why. A few years back in the LDS Church, there were a number of people in Utah who started holding gospel study groups in their homes to discuss doctrines that were not being taught in depth in the regular church meetings. One of those doctrines was Armageddon and the events of the last days. You could say that some participants were just a little obsessed.

Gospel study groups in the home

You may recall that the Manti group formed out of a gospel study group that met in the home. For those who don’t know, that was the forerunner of yet another polygamous split-off called the TLC started by James Harmston. It was a sad period in the history of the church because it was also about this time that several outspoken LDS intellectuals were excommunicated for apostasy.

This was also the time that Bo Gritz was running for president and was promoting his ideas of being prepared for the impending collapse of the current socio-economic order. He taught there was a secret conspiracy and new world order being planned and that we should do all we could to resist it. His encouragement of paramilitary preparation was very popular in Utah and Idaho.

The decline of church firesides

The response of the church to the Manti group, the intellectual apostates, and those who went so far as to quit their jobs and hide in the mountains with large supplies of ammunition and food, was to send out a letter to all priesthood leaders warning them of the dangers of people holding study groups in their homes. President Packer also referred to this in General Conference.

The result was that there was an immediate decrease in firesides held throughout the church. I noticed it and so did a lot of others who enjoyed a group gospel discussion outside of church. It is unfortunate that the stimulating intellectual growth that comes from a group setting discussion was curtailed as the result of a few individuals who went too far and led others to apostasy.

Unintended consequences

I can understand the response of the Brethren in doing what they did. Their duty is to protect the church and to see that the doctrines taught are pure. The unintended result was the demise in legitimate intellectual dialog. I guess what I’m saying is that gospel doctrine classes don’t meet the needs of some individuals when it comes to wanting to increase their gospel knowledge.

I have missed the firesides that we used to have growing up where we talked about the last days and the signs of the times. I confess that I’m a little bit unorthodox when it comes to wanting to know more about Armageddon. I don’t think I am obsessed but my interest is keen, especially as events that I see as being fulfillment of the signs of the times become more and more abundant.

Exploring ideas together

That’s why I am so excited about this symposium and would invest the time and money to travel from California to Utah to attend this two-day event. Now don’t go thinking that I’m following after one of those individuals that is trying to lead the people of the church astray. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anthony Larson is a respected author and authority on the subject.

I have read all five of his books and all of his essays over the years and can tell you that he is in no way advocating anything other than loyalty to the church and to the Brethren who lead it. He does, however, have some rather unique views on what is prophesied to happen in the very last days as the advent of the Savior draws nigh. It has to do with an unorthodox view of cosmology.

Common interests

I think such a symposium like this can be held again because of the way that the Internet has filled the vacuum for intellectual gospel discussion. The church has embraced new technology and is encouraging members to speak out through all aspects of the new media in sharing the message of the restored gospel. Those with common interests have found each other online.

It is true that a subject like Armageddon can bring out the whackos among us. I have seen this on several of the online discussion groups, blogs and websites. It is also a subject about which mainly guys are interested. Carol finds it boring and is only attending the Friday evening meeting as a courtesy to me. She is spending Saturday taking pictures on the BYU campus.

Unorthodox views

What is unique about this symposium is that Anthony Larson is considered a crackpot by some in the LDS academic community. His ideas are unorthodox, unproven and in fact, go against what modern science teaches about cosmology. But that’s what I like about him and his ideas. He has studied this out in detail all his life. Isn’t he entitled to some inspiration on the subject?

So I’m going to give him a fair chance. I’m going to hear his ideas out and consider what he has to say on the subject. I have an advantage in that I have already invested dozens of hours over the years in reading and understanding his published material. But still, I have never met the man nor have I seen what kind of individuals attend his symposia. I may be in for a shock.

Preparing for Armageddon

Academic symposia in the LDS community are not new. Sunstone and similar groups have held such events continuously over the years. I am not a Sunstone kind of person. I find that some of the material they publish is not faith promoting. Independent thinking is encouraging, but not at the expense of loyalty to the prophets and apostles who lead the true church of the Lord today.

I am confident that what I hear from Anthony Larson this Friday and Saturday will in no way cause me to feel any less inclined to follow the Brethren. I do expect to have my understanding of the cosmological events of the last days increased. After all, haven’t the prophets always warned us to watch and be ready that we may be prepared for the days when the Lord returns?

Note: I have also written a report of the symposium

8 Responses

  1. I have read Anthony Larsen’s Blog but have not read any of his books yet. I like some of the ideas he presents and find his research valuable. He is out there, but then so was Joseph Smith. Please make sure to take good notes and share the information you glean from this conference with your readers! :)

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  2. Tim, I am somewhat aware of Anthony Larsen, and would be curious to hear what he says, so please do provide an update.I know Sunstone has a bad reputation from the early 90’s, but there are plenty of faith-promoting topics there too. Check out my post about my First Sunstone last year.

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  3. Thanks for stopping by. I’m taking my laptop to take notes so I will be sure to report on the symposium. I just realized that I wrote that Anthony is perceived as both a respected author and a crackpot. Can you be both? I guess it depends on your point of view. I’ve had him described both ways to me by my readers.I remember reading your essay about your experience at Sunstone awhile back. I was especially impressed with all the comments. I confess that I became a little more biased against Sunstone after my dialog with Paul Toscano in the comments of one of my essays on the nature of the Godhead.I understand the purpose of presenting papers and arguing for their defense, but Paul was just using Sunstone as a way to get back at the church for his excommunication way back then. Maybe now his approach has changed. Do you recall him presenting his paper last year? It was entitled, “Whether There Be One God Or Many.” Of so, did you find it persuasive?

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  4. Please allow me to introduce myself. I am David C Hardy. I have questioned established cosmology for the last 50 or more years and many of my predictions have come to be true. My finished work is called ‘Genesis Continuous’ and one of the greatest lifts I received was from a mormon lady called Lorna, who said to me, after I had told her of my theory of how the planets were formed, ‘Have you read chapter 3 of the Book Of Abraham” in the Pearl of Great Price. I said that I hadn’t and she gave me a copy to read.What I read was, truly amazing and without a great deal of imagination, precisely how my theory was modelled, and that is that the planets further away from the sun are progressively older. The closest to the sun, Mercury is the youngest and any beyond Jupiter will be older still. There should be 15 planets according to the Book of Abraham. I agree.That info spurred me on to question more and more about the model offered by Science – and, well here is the url homepage http://homepages.xnet.co.nz/~hardyThe short version of ‘Genesis continuous’ is titled, The ‘Infinite universe’ The history of earth is written in the progressive evolution of Mercury, Venus, earth and Mars, where 2.5 billion years could well be the birth periods between them, the asteroid belt, and on out to the most distant ones. Let’s say that our sun has given birth to 15 planets and that would make her maybe 38 billion years old.Before you laugh that off, there is evidence to support my claim in my work. As for Armagedon, yes it will happen sometime in the future, but it is up to us to delay its coming as long as possible. It is well accepted now that man has had and is having a very negative effect upon our ‘Garden of Eden’. It was God’s greatest gift, and if greed over-rules common sense, that precious creation my not support life as long as it should. After all we have the power to do the wrong thing, surely we have the power to rectify it.When you have read my work, you will see how close to reality some of the old scriptures were, but maybe in a slightly different context. David

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  5. Hi Tim,I am so interested in this subject, too! I wish I could go to the conference, but I will really look forward to reading your notes and impressions. Thanks for being a reporter on this conference, for those of us who can’t attend. God Bless!Bethie

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  6. Tim, you wouldn’t be referring to me as one of those wackos on my blog, now would you?

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  7. ldsanarchy: No, I wasn’t referring to you in particular, but you know that you get some whackos that leave crazy comments on your blog just like I get on mine. Anthony gets them on his blog as well. Some of their ideas are so far out there that there is just no way to trace them back to any kind of a justifiable triggering thought or event. They are just out in left field with talk about the poles switching polarity or the energy hum from space or planet X stuff.By the way, the sumposium was well attended and well presented. I took five pages of notes and learned quite a few new things. Even after having studied what Anthony has written about and shared on his website and blog over the years, it was great to hear him put it all together. I’m still pondering what would be most interesting to share and plan to do so early next week.Thanks for stopping by.

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  8. very interesting I don’t have anything to contribute but curiousity.The sky’s the limit to learning and when minds combine we can learn from other’s discoveries. Hope to hear ( and understand) what you discovered. p.s. i got my 2nd follower to my blog! I am pretty excited.

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