180 Years Ago: Signs of the Times [Mad Libs Edition]

Each month, I plan to feature an article, story, or document of interest that was published 180 years ago that same month in a Mormon periodical. There are some fascinating gems in the early newspapers, and interesting developments in thought can be traced throughout them. Last month’s entry, representing December 1832, is found here: 180 Years Ago In Church Periodicals: Joy to the World: The Lord Is Come!


I couldn’t help but feel, as I read the following short New Year’s selection by editor W. W. Phelps, that I’d recently read similar tracts and warnings on certain LDS blogs, forwarded emails, message boards, and proclamations by certain LDS political pundits, with just a few simple substitutions in the details. That being said, I find this January 1833 assessment of the times as being helpful as an enlightening commentary on modern or current interpretations of contemporary ‘signs of the times.’

To illustrate, I am presenting the selection first as a Mad Lib, I.E. the original terms and subjects have been removed, and replaced by a descriptive term in red. I’d like to invite commenters to play along in two fun ways.

  1. Try and guess (without looking it up!) what the original content by W. W. Phelps contained in January 1833.
  2. If this message were an email forward, or a BYU devotional today, or your last month’s Quorum/Relief Society Lesson, what would be in those spots?

I’ll add further thoughts below (and confirmation of the answers) as discussion and comments come in! I’d love to discuss what has changed, what hasn’t changed, and why or why not that perhaps might be.

The Evening and the Morning Star 1.8 (January 1833) – “Signs of the Times”

Signs and appearances are such, that even the most unbelieving dread coming events; and no wonder, for when the Lord comes out of his place to rebuke the nations, all hearts are faint, and all knees do tremble.  Every man has a right to do as he pleases, being an agent to himself, but we ardently hope, while such important signs, and extraordinary commotions, as:–

  • [1. Terrible Epidemic] spreading over the whole earth;
  • [2. Form of Devastation] breaking out in [3. Eastern Nation] ;
  • The Revolutions of [4. Continent or Nation] ;
  • The [5. Current Domestic Constitutional Crisis] ;
  • The gathering of the saints to Zion, and
  • The assembling of the Jews at Jerusalem,

are passing in rapid succession, that some will turn to God and live.  Such strange movements of men; such dreadful sickness; oh! such fearful looking for the wrath of God to be poured out upon this generation, together with the evidence of Holy writ, ought to convince every man in the world, that the end is near; that the harvest is ripe, and that the angels are reaping down the earth!

It is certainly a day of dilemmas: The political party that has just been crowned with victory [6. Reaction] at the prospect before it.  Horror, with all its fearful gloom blackens in one place, and commotion, or rebellion, with all its crimson warnings, reddens in another, showing, if ever there was a time when the sword of the Lord hung by a single hair, over the heads of them that have seated themselves round the feast table, it is now. 

The man that undertakes to run from the pestilence, runs to danger; and he that would leave [7. Continent or Nation]because her kingdoms are crumbling to pieces to come to America, beholds the links in the chain of Freedom break, as the new ropes in the hands of Sampson: and he looks, but looks in vain for peace, for the hour is nigh, when it shall be taken from the earth.  In the east there is trouble; in the west there is fear; in the north there is no peace, and in the south there is consternation.  Well may we exclaim, all things must change: but virtue shall endure forever.


180 Years Ago: Signs of the Times [Mad Libs Edition] — 5 Comments

  1. Pingback: Suday in Outer Blogness: Education Edition! » Main Street Plaza

  2. Alright, I give 😉

    1 – Cholera
    2- The plague
    3 – India
    4 – Europe
    5 – Dissolution of South Carolina from the Union
    6 – shudders
    7 – Europe

    I will note that I find #5 the most interesting, for several reasons. First of all, it was first included as a ‘sign’ in a revelation text just the month before on Christmas Day, December 25 1832 [ D&C 87 – http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/revelation-25-december-1832-dc-87 ], but would remain unpublished in full until after Joseph’s death.

    Second, it is one of the only “to occur in the future” signs of the times introduced and promulgated during the time of Joseph Smith that contemporary Mormons generally view as having had a concrete historical fulfillment (decades after its first mention in a revelation text), and no longer look for a future ‘rebellion of South Carolina’ in any eschatological sense.

    The others are far more typological, with various disasters, wars, and rebellions all being regularly filled in and rotated out with the current havoc of the moment.

  3. No, you gave up too soon! I was putting a list together. I suspected India might be right, because of the epidemic.

  4. 5 days without a comment feels like an eternity in the blogosphere, Alan 😉

    Is anyone, however, aware of any LDS writings that, post Civil War (the time when the revelation text in question was fully appropriated as being specifically about that conflict), those scriptures have been used to express the idea that there would be any further South Carolinian attempts to remove themselves from the Union?

    I am not aware of any. And, even with sometimes strained attempts to fit the Civil War event in the full context of the December 1832 revelation, it appears to be unique as a modern specific prophetic statement that has a conclusive generally accepted historic fulfillment after the fact (not counting the subjective experience of the Kirtland Temple visitations).

  5. David,

    Good point, I can’t think of any other LDS writings like that. Perhaps a few about the establishment of the state of Israel, so I’ll check what Legrand Richards had to say.