Mormon leaders reassure faithful: Sunday’s “blood moon” isn’t sign of apocalypse.

Mormon Leaders Reassure Faithful: Sunday’s “Blood Moon” Isn’t Sign of Apocalypse

Mormon Leaders Reassure Faithful: Sunday’s “Blood Moon” Isn’t Sign of Apocalypse

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Sept. 26 2015 11:09 AM

Mormon Leaders Reassure Faithful: Sunday’s “Blood Moon” Isn’t Sign of Apocalypse

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The moon appears to be to have an orange-red hue as the earth's shadow covers the moon during a total lunar eclipse, in Griffith Park in Los Angeles, California on October 8, 2014.

Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Astronomy buffs are getting their telescopes ready for the show in the sky Sunday when the rare confluence of a lunar eclipse and a supermoon will lead to a “blood moon”—a phenomenon that won’t happen again for 18 years. Some Mormons, in contrast, are stockpiling canned goods. The “blood moon,” coupled with recent natural disasters and unrest, has led some to believe the end of times are coming and retailers who sell emergency preparedness kits are making a killing.

The Salt Lake Tribune explains how the doomsday scenario plays out:

History, some preppers believe, is divided into seven-year periods — like the Hebrew notion of "shemitah" or Sabbath. In 2008, seven years after 9/11, the stock market crashed, a harbinger of a devastating recession. It's been seven years since then, and Wall Street has fluctuated wildly in recent weeks in the wake of China devaluing its currency.
Thus, they believe, starting Sept. 13, the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days, there will be another, even larger financial crisis, based on the United States' "wickedness." That would launch the "days of tribulation" — as described in the Bible.
They say Sept. 28 will see a full, red or "blood moon" and a major earthquake in or near Utah. Some anticipate an invasion by U.N. troops, technological disruptions and decline, chaos and hysteria.
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It’s unclear how many are buying into the theory but it seems the warnings, part of which appear to be fueled by Mormon author Julie Rowe’s writings, have heightened speculation that the apocalypse is nigh. The church has warned its leaders to avoid Julie Rowe’s books, which it has included in a list of “spurious materials,” reports KUTV. Regardless of the exact numbers, it seems the concern is widespread enough that it led Mormon leaders to issue a rare public statement to warn the faithful to not get caught up in theories about the end of the world, reports the Associated Press.

Church of Latter Day Saints spokesman Eric Hawkins has called on the faithful to be “physically prepared for life's ups and downs” but to “avoid being caught up in extreme efforts to anticipate catastrophic events.” The full statement, posted by KUTV, reads:

The Church encourages our members to be spiritually and physically prepared for life's ups and downs. For many decades, Church leaders have counseled members that, where possible, they should gradually build a supply of food, water and financial resources to ensure they are self-reliant during disasters and the normal hardships that are part of life, including illness, injury or unemployment.
This teaching to be self-reliant has been accompanied by the counsel of Church leaders to avoid being caught up in extreme efforts to anticipate catastrophic events.
The writings and speculations of individual Church members, some of which have gained currency recently, should be considered as personal accounts or positions that do not reflect Church doctrine.

Although many Mormons probably have not even heard of the doomsday theory, the release of a public statement shows how church leaders are, at the very least, worried that doomsday talk is spreading. “For it to filter up to that level and for them to decide to send out a policy letter means that they felt there was something they needed to tamp down on,” Patrick Mason, the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California, tells the AP.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.