Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Are we still a millennial church?

A few days ago I read a blog post that discussed this very issue.

Ever since the disappointment of 1890 (when Joseph would have been 85), we have been moving further and further away from the belief that the second coming is imminent. How far have we come? I know there are some people out there trying to make a buck off the fear that the coming very soon (2012?). Some of them are Mormons. While they quote scriptures and conference talks, they too are in it just for the money. I have heard them being compared to priestcrafts. It may not be fair, but I think the comparison is not far off.

I think we have come further than many of us will admit. Here is an example. In 2001, the name of the LDS church was changed in Chinese. There was a phrase in the Church name that were intended to be a translation of “Latter-day” which in Chinese means “the end of the world.” This phrase was changed to a phrase meaning “later time period.” (1)

To the missionaries serving in Tennessee in 1884, the "end was near". But we are not the millennial church we once were. Instead we now focus on spiritually preparing to meet the savior, which will happen for each of when we died regardless of when it will happen for the whole world. But we still believe we are living in the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times. What does that mean to you? Will Christ come in your lifetime? Sometime in the next 10 years? 100 years? Or 1000 years?

(1) In Chinese these were changed from the old version to a new version .

Old version

New version

Translated from left to right the first four characters mean “Jesus Christ”, the next two mean “latter-day”, the next two “saints”, and the last two mean “church.” It is the translation of "latter-day" which changed.


SmallAxe said...

This line of thinking has also popped into my head a few times the past few years. I wonder if the change in the Chinese can't be said to be a reflection of an unspoken shift in the notion of "latter"; not so much "last", but "the second" as in "the latter of the two" referring to the Church in this dispensation rather than the early Church.

Geoff J said...

All really good points and questions. A few years ago I leaned toward us being decades away from the Second Coming. Now I just have no idea.

Hunter said...

Interesting post, BruceCrow. I would say that yes, at the grass roots, the idea of the Second Coming is still very alive. However, I have noticed a definite shift away from all that talk about "signs of the times." I hear almost very little of that anymore.

Most telling, perhaps, is what I realized about myself as I read your post. As I read that part about how, when one dies, it's that person's second coming, I was nodding my head, because I have echoed that line a lot through the years. What I hadn't realized was that my iteration of that sentiment is probably a reflection of my own de-emphasis of the imminence of the Second Coming.

Thanks for this post.

BruceCrow said...

In Chinese, the first part new version of "latter-day" can have many meanings based on context. One is exactly what you describe.

I travel for a living so I dither between being afraid of being away from my family when it starts and feeling assured that it is still a ways away.

I've heard the die hard millennialists claim the lack of speaking about it is proof that the time to prepare is past. We're either ready now or we won't ever be ready.

And that de-emphasis is because you, like myself, probably think you won't live to see the actual second coming.

Bradley Ross said...

Joseph McConkie made a pretty compelling case that neither we nor our grandchildren will live long enough to see the millennium.

BruceCrow said...

Was that Joseph Fielding McConkie? I took a class from him at BYU and I think I recall his taking that position back then. It boiled down to there being jus t too much that has to happen first.

Bradley Ross said...

Yes. The details of his argument are fuzzy in my mind now, but I recall that they were related to the number of endowed members we need from each tribe.