Institute director J. Spencer Fluhman and Christopher James Blythe discussed Blythe’s book “Terrible Revolution: Latter-day Saints and the American Apocalypse” Oct. 7. The discussion was presented on YouTube with a live Q&A for viewers to participate.
Blythe’s book focuses on early Latter-day Saint visions of the end of the world. The early visions shaped modern-day culture within the Church and became folklore. “A lot of the book is thinking about how people have responded to those founding visions,” Blythe said.
“In the book, really what I try to look at is not only those major conversations that prophets and these early apostles were having, but really everyday Latter-day Saints, who were also talking about these things but also experiencing them,” Blythe said.
“You’ve sketched out for us a kind of official apocalyptic tradition from Church leaders, and then this kind of tradition of folklore where individual Latter-day Saints both comment on and interact with, but also have their own visions to interact with that official tradition,” Fluhman said.
Blythe is a research associate at the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies at the Maxwell Institute and co-president of the Folklore Society of Utah. He attributed his interest in apocalyptic studies to his youth. He shared an experience when a family member first told him about the subject. He said it “shook” his world.
He was later baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the topic of the end of the world had always been a point of interest to him. As he was investigating the Church, he read the Book of Mormon and found the same connections.
“One of the first things I realized in reading in the Book of Mormon at 13 before I was converted to the Church was the Book of Revelation is just throughout this Book of Mormon,” Blythe said. He became interested in the stories or folklore told of the apocalypse.
“The Book of Mormon as a text has apocalypses within it. It is the story of several major destructions,” Blythe said.
Blythe explained part of the belief is there will be a shift in power after the apocalypse. This desired change gave the early Latter-day Saints hope during difficult experiences. He explained this future event “tells a people who consider themselves oppressed that better days are going to happen.”
“Chris, you’ve written a brilliant and fascinating work,” Fluhman said.