Juvenile Instructor » Glenn Beck and the Revival of Mormon Millenarianism?
 


Glenn Beck and the Revival of Mormon Millenarianism?

By: Christopher - March 30, 2009

Glenn Beck, noted right-wing political pundit and Mormon convert, has recently been dubbed “Fox News’s Mad, Apocalyptic, Tearful Rising Star” by Brian Stelter and Bill Carter of the NY Times (ht: Paul Harvey). Casting him as a conservative “revivalist in a troubled land,” the writers note that Beck’s rhetoric is often more akin to a preacher than a reporter.

He preaches against politicians, hosts regular segments titled “Constitution Under Attack” and “Economic Apocalypse,” and occasionally breaks into tears.

Michael Smerconish, a fellow syndicated talk show host, said that Mr. Beck “has a gift for touching the passion nerve.”

Tapping into fear about the future, Mr. Beck also lingers over doomsday situations; in a series called “The War Room” last month he talked to experts about the possibility of global financial panic and widespread outbreaks of violence. He challenged viewers to “think the unthinkable” so that they would be prepared in case of emergency.

“The truth is — that you are the defender of liberty,” he said. “It’s not the government. It’s not an army or anybody else. It’s you. This is your country.”

Curiously absent in an article examining the almost-religious rhetoric of a man paid to talk about politics is any mention of Beck’s religion—that is, his Mormonism. As I mentioned in a comment over on the Religion in U.S. History blog, such a topic deserves further analysis. It seems to me that Beck is tapping into Mormon millenarian beliefs and/or fears that have waned in popularity ever since the days of Cleon Skousen’s political fearmongering and Ezra Taft Benson’s pointed discourses gave way to a less political (or at least less openly political) church leadership. The topics Beck regularly addresses, as noted in the Times article, include economic apocalypse and the contitution being under attack—favorite topics of both Skousen and Benson 40-50 years ago. Similarly, Beck narrates U.S. history as a story of a Christian nation battling the destructive forces of open secularism and ever-encroaching socialism.

All of this plays into Beck’s portrayal of himself and like-minded Americans as “an embattled minority” battling the not-so-subtle forces that are destoying the mythological Christian nation they so dearly love. His recently-launched 9/12 Project is open and upfront in its declarations that Judeo-Christian morality and values are central to America’s future success as a nation. That such an approach resonates with many conservative Mormons here in the United States is not terribly surprising to me. Christian nationalism, suspicion of government, and values-based voting have all lingered to different degrees within the Mormon cultural region for decades. But Mormon viewership alone does not account for Beck’s enormous cult following and consistently-high ratings. This is especially noteworthy for someone (like Beck) who is so open about his conversion to Mormonism and his love for his church.

Additionally, as noted elsewhere, the suggested reading list Beck provides for his acolytes includes Skousen’s The 5,000 Year Leap and Jay Parry’s biographies of America’s Founding Fathers. He has tapped into Mormon prophetic folklore, articulating such beliefs as the “constitution hanging by a thread.” And the 9 Principles and 12 Values articulated by Beck, while not necessarily Mormon ideals, do strike me as “Mormon” to some degree.

All of this raises a lot of interesting questions. Other than a relatively recent skirmish over an article written by Beck being pulled from Focus on the Family’s website, Beck’s Mormonism does not seem to have hindered his popularity among many grass-roots activists on the right (a group that includes numerous evangelicals). While Mitt Romney’s Mormonism, at least in part, derailed his campaign for the U.S. Presidency last year, Beck’s religiosity has received relatively little attention and/or criticism from the politically-conservative, anti-Mormon crowd. How do we account for such divergent reactions to Mormonism?

Also interesting, and deserving of further analysis IMO, is Beck’s effect on shaping, shifting, and/or reinforcing the political thought of Mormons across the United States. He seems to be quite successful in raising anew the popular fears of yesteryear—the once widespread dual threats of secularism and socialism that resonated with American Mormons of the mid-twentieth century. In doing so, he utilizes apocalyptic imagery and doomsday scenarios popularized in Mormon thought and folklore, and thus presents a somewhat unique brand of modern Mormon millenarianism. If my suppositions are correct (and they are admittedly based mostly on my own anecdotal evidence) that Beck is popular among Mormons and that he is instrumental to some degree in shaping the political thought of those Mormons, what does that reveal about the church as a community (or communities)?



65 Comments

  1. Interesting thoughts, Chris. From my own limited experience, I know that Beck appeals to the survivalist branch of Mormon conservatives. And you’re right that his becoming a phenomonon among the wider evangelical/conservative culture is surprising and bit hard to explain. Maybe Beck will be the first Mormon presidential candidate to win over the evangelical vote?

    Comment by David G. — March 30, 2009 @ 1:02 pm

  2. Christopher – you beat me to this post. I’m working up something on dispensational millennialism still, though.

    My impression is that Beck’s popular because his Mormonism – and by extension, Skousen’s, as we see it presented through the lens of his political commentary – is not that distinctively Mormon. Rather, it’s reflective of a broader genre of mid-twentieth century evangelical apocalypticism that’s not terribly uncommon among conservative Protestants. Many of its elements – a conspiratorial bent, a complicated love/hate relationship with the United States (both a pristine, God-founded nation and a place happily sliding into the sewer of socialism and cultural debauchery), a almost frantic sense of approaching armageddon – begin appearing in fundamentalist circles in the 1930s. It so happens that there’s a few elements of Mormonism that snap neatly into this puzzle, and folks like Benson were quick to use those elements as catalysts to translate this millennialism into Mormon-speak. Beck strikes me as a similar figure; particularly with his endorsement of Skousen he’s blurring the lines even more vigorously.

    Comment by matt b — March 30, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

  3. Sorry to scoop you, Matt. As your comment indicates though, you have quite a bit you can elaborate on in the limited analysis I’ve provided here. My own knowledge of 20th century Protestantism is terribly limited, so I’m grateful for your insight.

    David, I think you’re right that Beck appeals to the LDS survivalist folks, but he also seems to pull some weight with folks seemingly less kooky.

    Maybe Beck will be the first Mormon presidential candidate to win over the evangelical vote?

    Now that might make me more apocalyptic in my outlook.

    Comment by Christopher — March 30, 2009 @ 1:14 pm

  4. I don’t have anything to add, but I really enjoyed the post. It gives me good ammo to send back against all the right-wing neo-conservative email I get from my family ;)

    Comment by Ben — March 30, 2009 @ 1:14 pm

  5. I don’t listen to Beck. (I’d rather listen to more academic podcasts on politics like those at Bloggingheads TV) The times I have listened to it though I found myself really thinking his Mormonism was coming through rhetorically. How long has he been a convert because the rhetoric I have heard (the persecuted minority battling against the secularist forces trying to take over government) sounds far more like what I heard in the Church back in the 70’s and 80’s but which I’ve not heard much of since. (Except for the occasional nut)

    If Beck is a relatively recent convert (say 10 years) then it’s amazing that he’s picked up on this aspect of Mormon rhetoric. It really reminds me of late 19th century Mormonism as well as the persecution mindset that was so common until Pres. Hinkley’s efforts to mainstream us.

    Comment by Clark — March 30, 2009 @ 1:29 pm

  6. Many seem to view Beck as less threatening because of his more jovial persona (as opposed to Limbaugh or Hannity). However, his embrace and advocacy of Skousen show that he is actually that crazy. He also seems to be a bit unstable. That scares me.

    He seems to have moved rightward since joining Fox.

    Comment by Chris H. — March 30, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

  7. Perhaps Beck’s embrace by the right could make Romney more viable.

    Comment by Steve Fleming — March 30, 2009 @ 2:21 pm

  8. Romney seems to be also to be taking a hard right turn (though not the crazy stuff that Beck is talking about). I do not think it will work. Beck is appealing to the John Birch/Ron Paul element of the party. If that is the direction that the GOP embraces, their time is the minority might be very long. I am fine with that, but I do not think the GOP is dumb when it comes to political strategy.

    Comment by Chris H. — March 30, 2009 @ 2:24 pm

  9. I like Glenn Beck. Is he a bit crazy? Yes. But that’s his persona. If you ever try watching his program on Fox, he has many people on that are very respected sources. And many of them agree with him on certain issues. I’ve noticed with a smile that many of his guests later show up on other non-Fox shows (like Morning Joe on MSNBC, which I also watch).

    Why is he apocalyptic? Well, maybe he doesn’t have his head in the sand, like many people do. He was warning about an economic problem 2 years ago.

    We are going through a serious period of the world, and if we don’t walk it correctly, could see our nation in bankruptcy. Already, China and Russia are discussing a new global currency. If that gets going, you’ll see our dollar devalue even faster than it ever has.

    France and Germany are actually telling us that we’re going down a wrong/socialist road! I’m not sure how we can fault Glenn Beck for repeating what is very common in global news right now, except perhaps his angst over it.

    As for Millenarianism, Benson and Skousen (among many, many others) could very well have been right, just their timing was off. And it still may be off for now. Time can only tell.

    I think too many LDS have had their heads in the sand over the past 20 years, saying “all is well in Zion”. Sadly, Pres Hinckley warned us about debt, Depression/Recession, and food storage in 1998 in no uncertain terms, and most LDS have yet to take any of it seriously. Do you suppose Pres Hinckley’s warning from a decade ago were crazy?

    Comment by Rameumptom — March 30, 2009 @ 2:26 pm

  10. There are people who make money and gain power by making others afraid, and there are people who spend their lives being constructive and preaching peace. Beck is little more than a talented propagandist, and those who believe him little more than frightened children. President Hinckley showed us how to get prepared, put our houses in order, and then be unfaltering positive and hopeful. Fear had no place in his teaching.

    A “new global currency” has no bearing on the value of the dollar. The fact that the currency you hold is not the benchmark currency has nothing to do with the value of your currency.

    I would be willing to bet any amount of money that when the Millennium comes, its coming will look nothing like any of us expect. When was the last time a major event in gospel history played out the way mortals expected it to? Zion’s camp anyone?

    Comment by Owen — March 30, 2009 @ 2:55 pm

  11. . When was the last time a major event in gospel history played out the way mortals expected it to?

    Pardon my French, but that is a damn good point.

    Comment by SC Taysom — March 30, 2009 @ 2:58 pm

  12. Has anyone read the Skousen book in question? I have not and am only familiar with some of Skousen’s other books/writings (yes, while on my mission).

    It does seem to me though, that after reading this summary of the book, that the book isn’t as crazy as some of the other Skousen books out there. Beck could have done worse I suppose.

    Comment by Tim J — March 30, 2009 @ 3:13 pm

  13. Attending Beck’s “Christmas Sweater” Show…thing (December 2008, E-Center, Salt Lake) gave me an interesting look at him and how he chose to represent himself to a predominantly LDS audience. His presentation (still don’t know exactly what to call it) was probably among the most straightforwardly evangelical accounts of conversion to Christ that I’ve ever heard. In view of his transparency elsewhere I thought it was surprisingly UnMormon. The show incorporated gospel music, apocalyptic imagery/storytelling, and the rhetoric of revivalism with a surfeit of tears. From this (limited exposure), I would guess Beck’s surprising popularity among evangelicals may have more to do with rhetoric and perception than the substance of his faith. Perhaps his claims to Mormonism are perceived as more quirky and nominal than substantive? Still, this would be a phenomenon since the great chasm between Mormons and evangelical Christians ostensibly proceeds from labels and root theology.

    I’m also tempted to be more surprised that Beck has apparently managed to establish such a robust Mormon following than at the fact that he has a loyal evangelical base. He acknowledges that he is – and indeed seems to be – an “unlikely” convert to Mormonism. To me he also seems an unlikely icon for the faith: perhaps he owes his status more to the dearth of mainstream ‘Mormon’ personalities in the media than to any real resonance with Mormon political views.

    Comment by Ryan Tobler — March 30, 2009 @ 3:39 pm

  14. Clark, good point. Beck converted to Mormonism in 1999, I think.

    Chris H., in what ways do you see Beck as having moved further right? And do you think such a move is the result of his new home at Fox or the fact that the Democrats are in control of the government? Perhaps both?

    Steve, interesting thoughts on Beck making Romney more viable. Its worth noting that Beck did support Romney the last go-round, and that Romney appeared on his show last October (transcript available here).

    Rameumpton, part of what I was getting at in my last question in the original post was to see if now that Prophets rarely speak out on political issues, Latter-day Saints are beginning to look to other “authoritative” voices to confirm their political leanings, and if Beck had any special credibility because of his religion. Your suggestion that Beck and President Hinckley have been sounding the same message for the past 10 years is indeed telling in that respect.

    Owen, as Steve notes, that is a good point. And thanks for noting the different between Pres. Hinckley’s and Beck’s approaches.

    Tim J, I’ve only glanced over the Skousen book in question. Perhaps others who have read it can comment. I can only say that based on my own glancing through it and the summary provided in the link you sent me, that it seems to be the sort of typical Skousen rhetoric I’ve outlined in my post. Each person can judge for him or herself if that qualifies as crazy.

    Comment by Christopher — March 30, 2009 @ 3:47 pm

  15. Very interesting thoughts, Ryan. Can you elaborate at all on how he narrates his conversion? In this LDS Living article from a couple of years ago, there is no mention of the Book of Mormon, of prophets on earth again, or of restored priesthood in Beck’s recounting of his conversion. Instead, it was the concepts of Zion and love that seemed to win him over. In that sense, you are certainly right that his conversion seems not that distinctly Mormon.

    My impression was that Beck calls himself an “unlikely” convert because of his background as an alcoholic. Of course, in that respect he is no more “unlikely” of a convert than most converts who prior to their conversion found their lives to not be in harmony with LDS teachings. And the fact that he was good friends with Mormons at nearly every stage of his life makes him a rather likely convert, no?

    Comment by Christopher — March 30, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

  16. His close friend Pat Gray who helped in the conversion process, is also in radio, and it’s really not hard to see where Glenn Beck’s link with 70s and 80s Mormonism lies. I think it lies with Pat Gray.

    http://www.ksevradio.com
    http://www.patgray.com

    Comment by NJensen — March 30, 2009 @ 4:38 pm

  17. glenn clearly reads the book of mormon. all over its pages are references to secret combinations and a secret combination (ether 8). and i dont think that skousen and pres. benson are on the outskirts of the mainstream of the church. i think that most people just ignore alot of what they read in the book that is the keystone of our religion or simply think that its writers are conspiracy theorists.

    Comment by perez — March 30, 2009 @ 4:51 pm

  18. Okay, I am not sure if Skousen’s 5000 Year Leap is crazy. However, I have read it. It is idiotic. He uses he writings of greats like Aristotle and Locke and the founders in a way that is incoherent. He obviously has no idea what the greats actually said but claims that they support his view. In the vast majority of cases they do not.

    Comment by Chris H. — March 30, 2009 @ 4:54 pm

  19. NJensen, thanks for pointing out the Pat Gray link. Fascinating.

    perez, thank you for calling us all to repentance. I’ll give that some serious thought.

    Chris H., thanks for the summary of Skousen’s book.

    Comment by Christopher — March 30, 2009 @ 4:59 pm

  20. Perez,

    Skousen is not outside the mainstream of the church and that is scary.

    Comment by Chris H. — March 30, 2009 @ 5:13 pm

  21. Apparently Beck’s endorsement of Skousen’s book has translated into big sales for the book in some circles. In mid November last year, Confetti Antiques in Spanish Fork, UT had a little trivia challenge on an email list I’m on. It was asked what book was their best selling for the month. After days without anyone coming close the hint was given that Beck had talked about it on his show. So, I looked on his website and found a link to “Books Referenced On The Show” or something and that was the only book on there that seemed like it could be a best seller in Utah County. Sure enough. It was mentioned that 600 copies had been sold in the past 4 weeks (back from mid November 2008).

    My prize for guessing correctly? A copy of the book :) Though I haven’t looked through it yet.

    I talked afterward with someone from Benchmark Books in Salt Lake and they said that on their end they hadn’t noticed an increase in requests and hadn’t sold anywhere near that many. Was quite shocked, actually.

    I don’t know how much can be read into this disparity and geography, but it would be interesting to tease out further.

    Comment by Jared T. — March 30, 2009 @ 6:14 pm

  22. Jared,

    The book was in the top 10 on Amazon’s top seller list last week, as discussed here.

    Comment by Christopher — March 30, 2009 @ 6:24 pm

  23. Oh, wow, and I guess it’s still there today. Thanks.

    Comment by Jared T. — March 30, 2009 @ 6:38 pm

  24. I think it is thoroughly amusing that anyone thinks Glenn Beck is “scary”. The Democrats hold solid control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency and are using that power to make every socialists dream come true, as fast as the nation will tolerate it, and a cable television talk show host is “scary”.

    Obama just fired the president of GM. They are setting up a plan for the government to guarantee all of GM’s warranties. They are planning on ordering GM to make green cars that few people can afford. They are considering salary restrictions on the executives of all publicly traded companies. None of that except perhaps the trillions of dollars in deficit financing is particularly apocalyptic.

    The funny thing is Glenn Beck is a mild echo of a paranoid style of politics that reached its peak on the Right about fifty years ago. These days the paranoid style of politics is thoroughly dominated by those on the Left. It didn’t take eight years of caterwauling at one of the most middle-of-the-road politicians in recent memory to discover that.

    Comment by Mark D. — March 30, 2009 @ 6:47 pm

  25. Mark D., Can you show me on this thread where anyone called Beck “scary”? Maybe you should actually read the post before commenting. Thanks.

    Comment by Christopher — March 30, 2009 @ 7:14 pm

  26. His views are scary. Our constitutional regime will protect us from such people, just the way Madison said it would. Maybe Beck should read the Federalist Papers. That way he could understand the Constitution rather than crying about it and recommending books that spread falsehoods about the intent of the founders. When it comes to the Constitution, I would side with Hamilton and Madison any day over Skousen and Benson.

    Funny thing Mark: Hamilton would supported the things Obama is doing. Madison not so much. Both would have thought these things were constitutional. They just would have disagreed about whether it was a good idea.

    I am not worried about Beck having an influence on the United States. But I do live in an LDS area where this Skousen crap is viewed as legit. I am hoping to move soon.

    Comment by Chris H. — March 30, 2009 @ 7:24 pm

  27. I don’t listen to Glenn Beck but I know an acolyte well and in the past we attended the same branch. In a smaller market, I believe he and GB operate similarly–they preach tenants of conservative social Mormonism without actually mentioning Mormonism very often; in essence, his show persona (his livelihood) profits from Gospel teachings without giving attribution. I have often heard him re-hash and extend on his Monday show a comment made in Sunday School. I have also heard him quote BoM and D&C scripture without naming the source.

    I wish he would never identify his religion because I would rather not be associated with him. His wife thinks it is great PR for the Church, but I have to believe the paranoia and ugliness expressed (toward immigrants, etc) turn off at least as many people as they don’t.

    Incidentally–I would guess that the majority of the people in the branch we shared listened to both GB and this brother (on the radio) and I think their Mormonism is a real appeal to them. Certainly, the brother was thought to be something of an authority and his comments gievn great defference at church, even though his membership status has had some major bumps. I think it comes from being well-spoken (as one would expect in that profession) and sheer star-power.

    Comment by ESO — March 30, 2009 @ 7:28 pm

  28. Christopher: In #6 I did say that he scares me. I was talking about my impression of him as an unstable human being.

    Comment by Chris H. — March 30, 2009 @ 7:30 pm

  29. Let me clarify: when I say they teach the Mormonism without the name, I mean some actual Mormonism (like food storage, forgiveness, and word of wisdom moderation) and some psuedo-Mormonism like the US Constitution being a holy document, etc.

    Comment by ESO — March 30, 2009 @ 7:33 pm

  30. Christopher, Yes. To be more accurate the proposition that his views were mainstream among members was considered scary. I think that day passed everywhere except perhaps very rural areas of the Intermountain West about two decades ago.

    Even if such views were prevalent today, I don’t recall anyone’s health and welfare being impaired very much because of it. The worst excess I have heard of is a very small number of people who could afford to build houses with an unusually high degree of security features. I grew up in a formerly rural Utah town, and I never met anyone who did anything more radical than try to assemble a year’s food supply.

    At best, it was mostly a diversion and topic of idle conversation even for those who took it most seriously. I wouldn’t see a reason to find that point of view scary even if everyone in the country held it. Odd perhaps, but not much to worry about.

    Comment by Mark D. — March 30, 2009 @ 7:42 pm

  31. Right, Chris. No mention of the Book of Mormon, no talk about Joseph Smith…much emphasis on the love of God and redemption in what he characterized as apocalyptic moment of his own life (related to his alcoholism). He gave an account of his conversion narrative and described it as a dreamlike experience that was somewhere between sleep and waking. It was all a bit fuzzy, and was tacked onto the end of his Christmas story, making it hard to tell how much of it all was autobiographical.

    Not sure if there’s any such thing as a likely or typical candidate for conversion, but Beck’s lifelong association with members certainly makes his membership more understandable. What I meant to say is simply that there seems to be quite a gap between Beck’s Mormonism and more mainstream varieties. He’s a spotlight figure and Mormon in name, and this – not ideological agreement – is all that is needed to win him attention among Mormons who are starved for a cultural leader. If he can sustain his popularity, that will be an indication that his ideas have some genuine appeal.

    Comment by Ryan Tobler — March 30, 2009 @ 8:53 pm

  32. Chris H., what led you of all people to read this book? Just found it funny. I was expecting just about anybody else to chime in and say they had read it. :)

    Christopher, I certainly agree that the description fits Skousen’s usual rhetoric. My only point was that of all the Skousen books Beck could have chosen to recommend, he possibly chose the least crazy of them. One that at first glance, fits a lot of Christian views of this country.

    Comment by Tim J — March 30, 2009 @ 9:56 pm

  33. Tim J.

    I got it from a friend for my 30th bithday. He loves it. Needless to say, we do not agree on much when it comes to politics and economics.

    It is actually a pretty quick read. It falls under my “know your enemy” reading. I have also read a lot of Ezra Taft Benson’s political writings and the writings of Milton Friedman.

    Comment by Chris H. — March 30, 2009 @ 10:37 pm

  34. I am the Baptist preacher living in Ammon, Idaho, who reads endtime LDS fiction books. This morning, I was emailing friends about how these books remind me of Glenn Beck. And then I read this post, tonight.

    Wow . . . two very different guys thinking about millennialism and Glenn Beck on the same day.

    Thanks for the post, Christopher.

    Glenn Beck rocks in Southeastern Idaho.

    Comment by Todd Wood — March 30, 2009 @ 11:19 pm

  35. […] 30, 2009 by Todd Wood Christopher is talking about Glenn Beck today.  So I need to add my two cents on this […]

    Pingback by An LDS View in 2008 of the Collapse of America « Heart Issues for LDS — March 30, 2009 @ 11:23 pm

  36. Another reason why Beck’s approach appeals to the conservative mainstream is his focus on principles as a uniting force as opposed to political parties and religious groups.

    Both of the major political parties have been extremely disappointing and we’re feeling alienated and just plain tired of it.

    I first appreciated Stephen R. Covey’s emphasis on principle-centered living. I see Beck’s 9/12 project as an extension of that.

    Comment by BrentW — March 30, 2009 @ 11:58 pm

  37. Chris H, thanks for clarifying that someone did refer to Beck’s views as scary. My apologies, Mark D., for jumping on you for that.

    Mark D., such ideology is alive and well in Provo, Utah, and as Chris H. points out, in Rexburg, Idaho. The survivalist LDS groups David mentions in comment #1 do much more than store food, too. They gather ridiculous amounts of guns and ammunition, set trip-wires around their homes, and have plans to move to and live in remote tent cities in the mountains. Maybe that doesn’t strike you as particularly kooky, but it scares the hell out of me that fellow Latter-day Saints whom I worship next to each Sunday come to church armed and hold such extremist points of view–though the guns scare me much more than their worldview. Glenn Beck doesn’t scare me; I just find it interesting that he plays upon LDS fears of doomsday scenarios and prophetic folklore. That was the point of the post.

    Comment by Christopher — March 31, 2009 @ 12:22 am

  38. ESO, that Bob Lonsbury does seem to be cut from the same cloth as Beck. Guys like him have been around (and popular in Utah and rural America to varying degrees) pretty constantly. Talk radio in Utah is flooded with similar figures. What makes Beck unique is that he’s connected with such a large audience. But thanks for bringing folks like Lonsbury into the discussion. Quoting from Mormon scripture without specifically naming the source was a favorite approach of ETB as well.

    Ryan Tobler, I hope my initial response didn’t come across as disagreeing with what you wrote. In fact I’m quite intrigued. Thanks for elaborating on his conversion story. If nothing else, I hope this post (and Paul Harvey’s initial post over at Religion in U.S. History) generates further and closer analysis of the religiosity of Beck and other folks like him. And I think you’re right that if he is able to sustain such popularity in the years to come, especially when the economy recovers, the troops eventually come home, and the cultural climate in America becomes a little less-friendly to apocalyptic scenarios.

    Comment by Christopher — March 31, 2009 @ 12:31 am

  39. Tim J, fair points on Skousen’s book. My guess is that this book more directly addresses the issues Beck is interested in than any of Skousen’s others. It is worth noting that Beck has authored a foreword (or introduction or something) the the most recently-released printing of The 5,000 Year Leap.

    Todd, what a crazy coincidence. LDS endtime fiction books, huh? I’m not surprised, but I didn’t even know those books existed. You have a favorite you’d recommend?

    BrentW, I’m not sure that I agree that the “conservative mainstream” is as disenchanted with the Republican party as you suggest, but your point on party politics is well taken. And your suggestion that Beck reminds you of Stephen Covey is especially interesting.

    Comment by Christopher — March 31, 2009 @ 12:39 am

  40. Christopher, I agree that trip wires are not only spooky, they are illegal. And I would worry about anyone collecting inordinate amounts of ammunition. I just maintain that Glenn Beck and the overwhelming preponderance of those members who give some credence to apocalyptic scenarios are pretty tame by comparison. It is a great topic for a post though.

    Comment by Mark D. — March 31, 2009 @ 2:57 am

  41. 40 comments? (41 now) Yeah, I’d say this was a topic just screaming for a post. Anything above 15 comments is a good post at the JI.

    Comment by David G. — March 31, 2009 @ 7:51 am

  42. #41: I thought the same thing…But why so much interest by this Blog group? Why all the ” apocalyptic scenarios “…about “apocalyptic scenarios”?

    Comment by Bob — March 31, 2009 @ 9:02 am

  43. Thanks, Mark. If nothing else, its generated fun conversation. If you’re interested, check out ldsavow.com for all the kooky fun you can handle. See here (check out pp. 137-38) for more on the trip wires, and here for how to get included in the planned tent cities.

    Comment by Christopher — March 31, 2009 @ 9:26 am

  44. Bob, we’re not (at least I’m not) interested in any spiritual or personal way about the apocalyptic scenarios alluded to by Beck. But as an aspiring academic, I am interested in what such interest reveals about millennial thought in Mormonism today, and from a historical perspective, how such ideology has played out throughout Mormon history.

    Comment by Christopher — March 31, 2009 @ 9:28 am

  45. I agree we need a history of these threads in Mormon thought. It would be interesting to see how much they reflected trends in evangelical and conservative communities and how much Mormon thinkers innovated or served as catalysts.

    I am not too worried by Glenn Beck’s rising popularity. Obama’s approval rating just reached 66 percent. And 42 percent of Americans now think the country is on the right track, up from only 34 percent before the election.

    Comment by Sterling Fluharty — March 31, 2009 @ 9:43 am

  46. Mark H #26 wrote: Hamilton would supported the things Obama is doing. Madison not so much. Both would have thought these things were constitutional. They just would have disagreed about whether it was a good idea.

    Really???? You think that Madison would have agreed with this????? I’ve read the Federalist Papers many times, as well as Madison’s writings elsewhere. He would NOT have agreed with the federal government stepping in and tearing apart businesses. I think he would have viewed this as big a threat to the Constitution as was Hamilton’s Alien and Sedition Acts that he foisted upon John Adams – something that Pres Adams later wrote to Thomas Jefferson as the biggest regret of his presidency.

    In the Virginia Report of 1799-1800, Madison wrote about Pres Washington’s first Congress under the Constitution. He explained the two parties, federalists and republicans. “The former, under the sagacious lead of Alexander Hamilton…fearful of a recurrence of that anarcy which had overtaken the country under the imbecile government of the Confederation, were inclined to a vigorous exercise of the federal power, and consequently adopted a liberal construction of the Federal Constitution. The Republicans, on the other side, headed by Mr. Jefferson, were apprehensive of a gradual absorption, by the central government, of the powers reserved to the states and to the people. Consolidation was their great terror….and consolidation they viewed, justly, as the forerunner not of monarchy only but of despotism.”

    Comment by Rameumptom — March 31, 2009 @ 1:21 pm

  47. Rameumptom, not to pull out a big “authority” stick and hit you with it, but Chris H. is a professor of political philosophy. He has far more credibility on these issues than the rest of the commenters here combined.Ok, I’ve gotten that out of the way, and he can now address you substantively. ;)

    Comment by David G. — March 31, 2009 @ 1:30 pm

  48. I just asked my white salamander what Madison thinks of what is going on in the world right now and he told me to put all of my money in cricket futures.

    Anyone ever notice that the “All Is Safely Gathered In” (divine caps sic.) pamphlet doesn’t specify what caliber of firearms we should be stock piling to protect our food storage when the liberal zombie hordes invade from the East? Do those directions come in one of the secret not-from-a-prophet prophecies that seem to direct the millenarians’ fear mongering? I really need to know, since I heard from a guy who cheats at paintball that Obama is about to outlaw all the really good guns.

    BTW, I keep two extra pairs of hiking boots in the basement in number 10 cans for the walk to Missouri.

    Comment by Owen — March 31, 2009 @ 3:32 pm

  49. Ram:

    I said that Madison would not have favored it to the extent that Hamilton would. However, that does not mean that he would have said it was unconstitutional. It was his plan for the Constitution that ensured that the United States would have sufficient power to control its own commerce. My reading of the Federalist Papers leads me to think that Madison wouldn’t have opposed the government stepping into the market for the common good. Madison and Jefferson opposed things such as the national bank because they viewed it as only benefiting the rich, not exactly for free market reasons.

    Obama is not destroying the banks or GM. He is saving their corporate asses. This somewhat bothers the socialist in me. However, a complete collapse of the economy does not seem to benefit anyone.

    David, I am just another fool. However, thanks for the plug.

    Comment by Chris H. — March 31, 2009 @ 4:09 pm

  50. Chris H., can I just say that I love having a socialist around to answer to charges flippantly thrown around that everything Obama does is socialist? Seriously, thanks.

    And Owen, next time the Niblets come around, I’m nominating your #48 for best comment.

    Comment by Christopher — March 31, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

  51. #45 “…42 percent of Americans now think the country is on the right track, up from only 34 percent before the election.”

    The difference must be the 8 per cent who will be receiving direct benefits from pork in the stimulus package.

    Comment by BrentW — April 3, 2009 @ 6:48 pm

  52. I wrote a little thing on Beck a while back.

    The Skousen 5,000 Year Leap book is a mess of quote-mined context-wrested nuggets of wisdom from all sorts of folks. It makes rather outlandish claims about the Israelites, and suffers from an overwhelming case of self-congratulation and wishful thinking.

    Comment by BHodges — April 4, 2009 @ 11:13 pm

  53. Like all things in Politics and life, you need two extreme opposing views in order to have a level minded, logical, prosperous, righteous compromise.
    We need Beck and Cooper, Clinton and Cheney, Hatch and Jackson, Limbaugh and Stewart, Dawkins and Stein and other polarizing figures in order to form a more perfect union.

    Comment by Desert Rat — April 5, 2009 @ 11:45 am

  54. Just out of curiosity, and so I can read the discussions in this thread with a clearer lens: to what extent is the following statement (from comment #29) generally accepted among the commenters?

    “psuedo-Mormonism like the US Constitution being a holy document”

    I find this relevant for two reasons; 1) the notion of the sacred/holy nature of the U.S. Constitution is not up for debate, according to Beck and his audience, and 2) the notion of the sacred/holy nature of the U.S. Constitution seems to be generally settled among LDS leadership, if not among the membership.

    The relevance here can hardly be overlooked, since Christopher’s initial intent was, I think, to get at the appeal of Beck’s constitutional Mormon fundamentalism (fair to coin that term?). I think it reasonable to assume, at least in part, that the foundation of Beck’s world view is set upon the bedrock of the divine origins of the Constitution as a document.

    In short: U.S. Constitution = Holy document?
    a) Official LDS doctrine
    b) Cultural LDS mindset
    c) Mormon folklore
    d) Fringe fundamentalist staple
    e) Any combination of the above

    Other follow-ups:
    To what extent is the concept of Divine Constitutionalism central to other Mormon sub-cultures or political strata?
    In what ways do personal (read: partly line) political views affect the interpretation of the divine nature of the U.S. Constitution?
    Are differences among political ideologies surrounding the meaning of the Constitution deep enough to negate the utility of holding it up as a Holy document?

    Comment by Raedyohed — April 8, 2009 @ 11:09 pm

  55. Raedyohed,

    I think that the official position of the brethren is that the Constitution is an inspired, not a holy document. I think this is the only way to justify its active support of slavery and white supremacy. To label it as holy is tantamount to canonization which I would completely reject.

    Comment by Joel — April 9, 2009 @ 6:53 am

  56. I agree with Joel, but just to complicate things, I believe that ETB equated the Constitution to scripture (I at least had a couple of BYU profs paraphrase him that way), but I’m not sure it is wise to take ETB’s opinions as anything close to being an official position.

    Comment by David G. — April 9, 2009 @ 7:28 am

  57. Joel’s distinction (#55) is well placed, and in light of David G.’s comment (#56) contrasts the main thrust of my inquiry. That is, whether or not a distinction ought to be made between “inspired” and “Holy” vis a vis the Constitution, and whether or not LDS General Authorities have consistently made such a distinction, is such a distinction important in our understanding of Beck et al.’s Constitutional position and passion? In other words: would Beck et al. answer a, b, c, d, or e, and is that answer central to his appeal (wisdom aside) among both Mormons and other Christian demographics?

    Comment by Raedyohed — April 9, 2009 @ 9:37 am

  58. Raedyohed,

    I suspect “Beck et al.” would answer A, as would a lot of other LDS people, but the nuance of what is meant might vary a lot.

    I think the root he reason why LDS people would feel the U.S. Constitution is special and deserving of care and attention is found in LDS scripture which teaches that God himself established the Constitution. (See Doctrine & Covenants 101:77, 80.)

    The too-frequent (and perhaps lazy or over-simplified) extrapolation which inflates that scriptural statement into a worldview that elevates the Constitution to some sort of holy, unchangeable, canonical document misses other passages of LDS scripture that clarify or specify exactly what it is about the Constitution that is special and should be preserved. Specifically, the unique defense-worthy character of the Constitution lies in that portion which “support[s] that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges,” and it “belongs to all mankind.” (Doctrine & Covenants 98:5].

    To me, then, the thing that is most important about the Constitution is its fundamental support for the principle of individual agency and choice. These statements correspond to Article of Faith 11, which avers that Mormons believe we should let all people “worship how, where, or what they may.”

    Sometimes, it seems like those who stump the hardest for “preserve and protect the Constitution” are doing so to accomplish exactly the opposite purpose that the most vital part of the Constitution is meant to accomplish.

    I am also very aware I am in the minority in thinking this.

    Comment by Coffinberry — April 9, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

  59. […] a follow up to my post on Glenn Beck’s drawing upon a certain strain of Mormon apocalyptic folklore in articulating […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » “The government is the devil”: Glenn Beck and Mormonism Redux — May 5, 2009 @ 10:53 pm

  60. I see that Beck is hosting this year’s Stadium of Fire, reaffirming his status as a Church spokesman. As an aside I think the Church leadership is as conservative as ETB was, considering that they don’t have any problem with hosting Sean Hannity on their radio stations. Things really haven’t changed much from when I was a kid, except for blacks and the priesthood.

    Comment by Lew — June 24, 2009 @ 1:59 pm

  61. Yea, Lew, and since the Jonas Bros. are also performing at the Stadium of Fire, I guess that reaffirms their status as Church spokesmen too. A step down from Miley Cyrus’ ambassadorship last year. Great thinking.

    Comment by Jared T — June 24, 2009 @ 2:07 pm

  62. […] http://www.juvenileinstructor.org/glenn-beck-and-the-revivalism-of-mormon-millenarianism/ […]

    Pingback by Glenn Beck An Embarrasment To Mormons–Perpetuates Harmful, Untrue Stereotypes « Messenger and Advocate — August 11, 2009 @ 9:39 pm

  63. […] I fully agree (and was indeed among the very first to argue) that Beck is tapping into Mormon folk millennialism of yesteryear, I’m afraid Daughtrey […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » The Tea Party as a Religious Movement: A Response — June 4, 2010 @ 10:21 pm

  64. […] Owen, continuing a discussion of whether James Madison would have liked things President Obama has done, in a comment on Christopher’s post “Glenn Beck and the Revival of Mormon Millenarianism?” at the Juvenile Instructor: I just asked my white salamander what Madison thinks of what is going on in the world right now and he told me to put all of my money in cricket futures. […]

    Pingback by Zelophehad’s Daughters | Nacle Notebook 2009: Funny comments — June 20, 2010 @ 10:50 pm

  65. I don’t know what all the fuss is about Glenn Beck. If you REALLY want to dive into some apocalyptic fantasy, try “The Late, Great Planet Earth”, or the “Left Behind” chronicles. What is even scarier is the fact that the fans of that delusional crap comprise the greatest proportion of American religious believers–i.e., they’re “mainstream”…! Their expectation was the “rapture”, sometime between 1985 and 2000. Wow…gosh I guess it didn’t happen…!

    Comment by Harland Carpenter — February 22, 2011 @ 12:50 pm