As a Thief in the Night
The Mormon Quest for Millenial Deliverance
by Dan Erickson
Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1998 (278p.) (284p.)
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 widespread 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.
More information and excerpt at publisher website