Posts Tagged ‘Gospel Symposia’
Two weeks ago Carol and I traveled to Provo from our home in California to attend a unique symposium on the subject of prophecy and the last days. The presenter was Anthony Larson, an LDS author and publisher of five books on the subject. I read Anthony’s books back in the 80’s when they were first published and again over the last year after he and I started corresponding.
Anthony has a unique view of cosmology that incorporates many of the writings of Velikovsky (Worlds in Collision) and of David Talbott (The Saturn Myth). Some of his most recent work embraces the discoveries of Anthony Peratt and the Birkeland currents. Anthony Larson brings an LDS perspective to these theories, adding relationships between ancient history and prophecy.
Report of the Provo symposium
Anthony claims that there is a connection between scriptural accounts of catastrophic events and the irregular motion of planets in our solar system as recorded in ancient myths. He connects errant heavenly bodies with the signs of the last days. He teaches that Earth’s ancient planetary history has had a distinct effect upon the language of the prophets and Gospel interpretation.
Observing the attendance at the symposium, I believe interest in the events of the last days has increased, or at least it has among Latter-day Saints. The event was organized and sponsored by Doug Mendenhall of Publishing Hope, a small LDS book publisher out of Mt. Pleasant Utah. Doug is known for publishing a book about his daughter’s illness and visit to the spirit world.
Authors want to sell books
Carol attended the Friday night introductory lecture but did not sit with me through the all-day symposium on Saturday. Based on her expression of interest, I thought the material would only be interesting to guys like me who are into theoretical explanations of cosmological events. But I was pleasantly surprised to see an equal mix of men and women listening intently to the lecture.
The Aspen room of the Provo Marriott was packed with over 200 attendees who paid a small fee to cover the cost of renting the room. I can’t imagine that there was enough profit other than to pay for Anthony’s travel and accommodations. I did see a lot of his books going out the door from the back table so I think his motivation is mainly to educate people and promote his books.
The material is a little advanced
Anthony loves to study, write and to share what he has learned with others. That was obvious to those who were in attendance. He was very comfortable at the podium and had no problem with keeping our attention for hours on end. He has a command of his material and presented it in an interesting manner with PowerPoint slide shows and videos with his own musical compositions.
At times he was passionate about defending his material and unless you know a little about what he has had to deal with over the past fifteen years, you might not understand why. As you can imagine, Anthony’s theories are not orthodox and not embraced by the majority of the Latter-day Saint community. In fact, he has been labeled a crackpot by some academic scholars at BYU.
More than just interesting material
I consider myself extremely conservative, orthodox and typical of most Latter-day Saints when it comes to what I teach and share in any official capacity in the church. In other words, when I teach a class or speak from the pulpit, I am a stickler for teaching only what the Brethren have said is appropriate and authorized. I make every effort to know and teach only current material.
You probably know where I’m going with this. What Anthony teaches is not something that you are going to hear in your gospel doctrine class and probably not from the pulpit. It is considered way out there. I would put it in the class of interesting to know but not essential to either our salvation or exaltation. Anthony feels otherwise, or so he expressed in his Friday night lecture.
We need to study on our own
We are so concerned in the church with teaching only the basics of the gospel that we rarely talk about the things that Anthony presented. He gave us quote after quote from the early Brethren, including Joseph Smith that laid a case for his claims of impending cosmological catastrophism. The evidence was methodically presented, allowing the audience time to absorb and understand.
Anthony’s material consisted of a series of separate lectures, each focusing on one aspect of his research and each presented logically and systematically. He laid the evidence out there and then expressed his opinions and conclusions, leaving the audience to determine on their own if they agreed or not. He often paused and reminded us of the importance of studying this on our own.
Teachings based on the prophets
He did not teach that the end of the world is imminent. In fact, he said the exact opposite and backed up his view with many evidences from statements of prophets of the past. He clearly taught that we must first look for the one grand sign that the Prophet Joseph taught would be the harbinger of the coming of the Son of Man. The whole world will see this approaching planet.
That was surprising to me. Had he aligned himself with the Planet X theorists who claim that the end of the world is closely tied to the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012, I probably would have packed my laptop up and walked out. But he didn’t. He was very careful to point out that we need to base our understanding of the last days on what the prophets have taught on the subject.
Anthony’s viewpoints are fairly unique
So I continued my note taking and filled five pages with point after point that demonstrated a lifetime of research and collection of evidence to support his theories and conclusions. Anthony has no qualms about acknowledging that he is alone in what he is teaching. He knows that there are very few in the church or the world who agree with what he says, let alone understand it.
He has been misunderstood and maligned by those who have not studied his material or attended one of his lectures. As I wrote in a previous essay, I had never met Anthony but intended to go with an open heart and an open mind. I came away convinced that he is right about most of the things he is teaching. I agree with his conclusions and appreciate all of the supporting evidence.
Cosmological connections to the temple
I wish I had a chance to sit down one on one with Anthony and ask him to clarify what he meant when he taught Friday night that this material is so crucial, even central to our salvation and our exaltation. I have not yet made that leap and neither has Carol. Of all the things she heard, that was the one statement that made her feel that she could dismiss or ignore the rest of his lecture.
He taught some things about the temple and connections with cosmology on Saturday afternoon that are far beyond my understanding. I had trouble absorbing it but took lots of good notes and will study it out for myself as he suggested. I think he could write a whole new book about what he taught but it would have to be presented very carefully with the detailed supporting evidence.
Endorsement of the symposium
And that’s the problem with teaching anything that is deep or advanced in this church or among the LDS people. There are wackos out there that start teaching their theories of the end of the world and then they are suddenly claiming that God told them to re-introduce polygamy. Let me make it clear that Anthony is very adamant in advocating that we follow the prophet of our day.
As one who has now studied Anthony’s material over many years, both what is contained within his published books and more recently with what he has placed online, may I offer my heartfelt endorsement and recommendation that you go and listen to what he has to say. He is offering two additional symposia this weekend in Arizona – Snowflake on the 8th and Mesa on the 9th.
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.
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.
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.
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