on the cover:
The Latter-day Saint church was founded on the belief that the world would soon end. Prophecies published in the Doctrine and Covenants indicated the years 1890-91 as the approximate date of Christ’s second advent, and church leaders repeatedly told the faithful that they would “not taste death till Christ comes.” Dan Erickson explores the origins of this hubris and its diffusion through the first eighty years of Mormon history.
“Balanced in judgment and well researched, Dan Erickson’s work ties the demise of a crucial Mormon belief to the fate of Utah and the nation between the 1880s and 1900. This is an essential volume for any scholar of Mormon history and doctrine.”
—Mario S. De Pillis, Professor of History Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; former president, Mormon History Association
“‘As a Thief in the Night’ is remarkable. It explores the relationship of the millennial vision to other LDS doctrines, and does so with insightful, conceptual analysis and extensive documentation. This is historical scholarship at its best.”
—B. Carmon Hardy, Professor of History, California State University, Fullerton; author, Solemn Covenant: The Mormon Polygamous Passage
on the flaps:
Jesus said, ”This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled,” meaning the end of the world if one reads the text literally. Three centuries later Church Fathers began to wonder if Jesus might have had some deeper meaning in mind, concluding over the next few centuries that when Christ enters the heart of a believer, this constitutes the Millennium, also that the holy Roman church is God’s kingdom on earth. Sixteenth-century Protestants challenged these doctrinal accommodations, but within a hundred years they had adopted their own metaphorical interpretations.
Americans held to a literal view with a New World perspective, believing that Christ’s appearance would be to Native Americans, “the lost tribes of Israel,” at the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which Puritans considered to be the “New Jerusalem.” However, ·within two centuries Boston Congregationalists saw more romantic imagery than literal truth in such teachings, and the millennialist torch passed to the frontier, to Christian primitivists and others-Jehovah’s Witnesses, Millerites, Shakers, and Latter-day Saints-who looked either to 1843 or to the turn of the new century for the Second Coming.
For Mormons everything hinged on 1890-91. The closer the hour drew, the greater the anticipation until it was obvious that the world was not going to immediately change, resulting in wide-•spread cognitive dissonance, followed by sweeping theological adjustments. What had been a radical, militant, separatist sect was transformed within a few years into a moderate, more mainstream denomination. As Dan Erickson so convincingly demonstrates, by confronting a failed millennial expectation, Mormons shared an important rite of passage with much of Christendom. Given the lesson of history, it should be another century or two before the same pattern is repeated, most likely by a dissenting splinter group.
about the author: Dan Erickson is an adjunct professor of history at Chaffey College and vice president of Union Bank in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He holds B.A. and B.S. degrees from Brigham Young University, Fullerton; and an M.B.A. from California State University, San Bernardino. He is currently a Ph.D. candicate in history at Claremeont Graduate University.
He has published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, the Journal of Mormon Histoy, the Pacific Northwest Quarterly, and Welebaethan, and has received Best Article awards from two of these publications. He lives in Riverside, California, with his wife, Jennifer, and four children.
“As a Thief in the Night”:
The Mormon Quest for Millennial Deliverance
Salt Lake City
dedication: To my wife, Jennifer K. Erickson
JACKET DESIGN: RON STUCKI
© Signature Books, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Signature Books is a registered Trademark of
Signature Books, Inc.
00 “As a Thief in the Night”: The Mormon Quest for
Millennial Deliverance was printed on acid-free paper.
It was printed in the United States of America.
2002 2001 00 99 98 6 543 2 I
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING·IN-PUBLICATION DATA
As a thief in the night : the Mormon quest for
millennial deliverance / by Dan Erickson.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Millennialism—United States—History of doctrines—
19th century. 2. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints—History of doctrines—19th century. 3. Mormon
01 – Introduction
02 – American Millennialism
03 – Modern Revelation: Origins of a Separatist Theology
04 – Early Mormon Millennialism
05 – The Gathering: Separatism Shapes a Society
06 – Mormon Nauvoo: Separatism Defines a City
07 – Mormons versus the United States: The Utah War and Civil War Periods
08 – Millennialism and the Anti-Polygamy Campaign
09 – The Decline of Millennialism
10 – Conclusion
11 – Bibliography