By Christopher James Blythe
Apocalypticism was once part of the mainstream of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but, as was the case with polygamy a few years prior, Church leaders successfully pushed it to the periphery of the faith in the early twentieth century. In the digital age, a network of authors, visionaries, conferences, and internet communities have forged a unique subculture immersed in prophecy and prepping for imminent disasters.
This is not to say that the average Latter-day Saint doesn’t believe in an approaching second coming—they do—but such beliefs are vaguer and set to occur in a remote future. Through a series of books, the earliest of which gained popularity during the Y2K panic, the LDS prophecy subculture developed its own unique expectations for the end that would become increasingly foreign to that of their fellow Latter-day Saints. Particularly influential titles include Roger K. Young’s As a Thief in the Night (1990), John Pontius’s Visions of Glory: One Man’s Astonishing Account of the Last Days (2012), and Julie Rowe’s A Greater Tomorrow: My Journey Beyond the Veil (2014).
The media has given this prophecy subculture unparalleled attention since December 2019 when apocalyptic fiction author and visionary Chad Daybell and his new wife, Lori Vallow—sometimes referred to as the “doomsday couple”—began to appear across various platforms. The details surrounding the disappearance of their children and three mysterious deaths, including their former spouses,are available at any number of major news sources across the country. But few of these outlets have been able to offer much insight into a document released last week, a numbered list that Chad sent to Lori in January 2019 entitled, “Seven missions to accomplish together,” which reveals how their beliefs relate to this larger movement.
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