Monday, August 27, 2012

Like Unto the Nephites

Drought grips the country. Over half the counties in the lower 48 have been declared disaster areas. Wildfires erupt intermittently in forests and urban areas. Record temperatures in the heartland ad to the misery index. Water flows in the Mississippi have dropped to record low levels, restricting barge traffic and driving up transportation costs. The price of food and other commodities are on the rise, dramatically in some cases. Perhaps some of this directly affects you and your loved ones.
So, what’s going on?
For the answer, we might turn to the scriptures and the words of modern prophets.
A prophet’s warning
President Gordon B. Hinckley took the occasion in the October General Conference, 1998, to give us a sober warning, one which has profound implications for current events.
He began his advice by citing the Genesis account of Pharaoh’s dream, in which he saw seven fat kine (cattle) followed by seven lean kine. This dream Joseph interpreted as a prediction of a terrible famine in Egypt.
President Hinckley then made plain his intent.
“Now, brethren, I want to make it very clear that I am not prophesying, that I am not predicting years of famine in the future.  But I am suggesting that the time has come to get our houses in or­der.
“. . . I hope with all my heart that we shall never slip into a depression. I am a child of the Great Depression of the thirties.” (Ensign, Vol. 28, No. 11, p. 53.)
The fact that President Hinckley was a child in the depression, which he explicitly refers to, means that he also saw the effects of the drought that added to the misery of that crippling economic debacle. So even though he expressly stated “I am not prophesying,” the concerns he expressed were born of his own personal experience in the famished era of the Great Depression.
He then went on to use a curious weather metaphor to finish his warning:
“. . . There is a portent of stormy weather ahead to which we had better give heed.” (ibid.)
From this analysis, it seems to me that his intent was to subliminally do what he overtly said he wasn’t doing: prophesying. After all, isn’t prophecy invariably a warning as well?
President Hin­ckley clearly warned church members that the economic bubble we then enjoyed might burst, though he was careful to avoid predicting famine or drought in his extended commentary. Yet his remarks focused on the Great De­pression, which was accompanied by a severe drought. This, I believe, was purposeful on his part.
Note as well that he was deeply troubled by the burden of debt we carried in the late 1990s. As an aside this begs the question, what would he say about the debt burden we carry today which is exponentially greater?
Just to emphasize the point before we leave it, does it not seem curious that of all the scriptural examples President Hinckley could have used to make his point, he chose the one that deals with a profound famine, in spite of his denial that he was predicting such?
Next in our analysis, we must go far afield before returning to our central thesis in order to understand the present drought conditions and their connection to Pres. Hinckley’s remarks.
A scriptural warning
As readers of my book Parallel Histories: The Nephites and the Americans know, I see Nephite history as a remarkably accurate predictor of American history. The two histories are that similar.
In that book, I identified 12 overarching points of specific correlation between the two cultures, beginning to end. This puts the Book of Mormon story in a whole new light.
First published in 1989, my book was a modest analysis of the major points of correlation between the two histories, the Nephites and the Americans. The upshot of that analysis was that the Book of Mormon had been carefully edited by Mormon to reflect events that would emerge in our time, the age of the gentiles. After all, as church members universally acknowledge, the book was written specifically for us.
The most relevant segment of the Book of Mormon for our time is that which is recorded in Helaman and 3 Nephi. The events recorded there are astoundingly similar to events in our day and time, as well as predictive of what is yet to come in our time.
Among the more striking parallels cited were the similarities between the battle for the Nephite heartland, recorded in Helaman, and our Second World War. Without citing the many striking similarities between the two wars, let’s focus on the outcomes and their truly remarkable resemblance.
·         The Nephites were able to retake only one-half of their original lands when the war was over. The rest remained in Lamanite hands. *** The Allies in the Second World War had to settle for only about half of Europe. The rest fell into Communist hands.
·         When the dust of war settled, the Nephite capital, Zarahemla, remained in the hands of their arch enemies, the Lamanites. They were unable to liberate it. *** At the end of the Second World War, the capital of Germany, Berlin, remained in the hands of the Allies’ newest enemy, the Soviet Union. We were unable to liberate it.
·         The Nephites and the Lamanites fortified a line between the two opposing armies in the aftermath of the war that divided the land. It was a stalemate. There were no more battles, but both sides maintained a large standing army along the dividing line for years. *** The Allied and the Communist armies fortified a line between them in the aftermath of the war that divided Eastern and Western Europe. It was called the Iron Curtain. There was no war, but there was plenty of “sabre rattling,” part of what we termed the Cold War.
·         Eventually, the two groups were reconciled, and the barrier between them vanished. Nephites were able to travel in Lamanite lands, and Lamanites were welcomed in Nephite territory. *** As our recent history recalls, the Iron Curtain between East and West in the Cold War collapsed, stimulating exchange and travel between two former enemies.
·         Once the standoff between Nephites and Lamanites was over, they enjoyed exceptional prosperity because the time and resources once dedicated by both sides to the stalemate were redirected to prosperous pursuits. *** The end of the Cold War between the East and the West in our time brought about what came to be called the “peace dividend,” a prosperity enjoyed because of the subsequent reduction in defense expenditures.
This brief example of the similarities between Nephite and American history is typical of all the parallels seen between the two, beginning to end. Of course, their “end” will be our future, making large segments of the Nephite narrative predictive of events and conditions in our time.
This is where this analysis and comparison becomes pertinent and invaluable: We can predict events and conditions in our time with a considerable level of confidence by simply looking to the Nephite record to see what happened to them.
This allows us to foresee the direction of events in our time, to see where the flow of history will take us next. It also has the unique feature of making some verses from Helaman read like today’s headlines or lead TV news stories. We are literally seeing ourselves in the Nephite mirror, reading about ourselves in the history of our Nephite doubles.
This makes the Book of Mormon a prophetic book as much as history, a remarkable conclusion unanticipated by most of us who have read the book. Yet, it seems quite clear that this was, at the very least, a significant part of Mormon’s intent in compiling the record.
Further analysis and comparison of the two wars and subsequent key historical events, which was treated in my book, revealed a number of striking similarities between cultures, events and conditions—most prominent among them being the discovery that the terrorists of our time find their counterparts in their Gadianton robbers!
This and other astonishing similarities will be examined in even more detail in planned online classes.
Suffice it to say, the closer one looks at the two histories, the more similarities emerge. And while there are substantive differences, they are far outweighed by the likenesses.
That brings us back to the subject of this analysis: drought.
Prominent parallel today
In Nephite history, our blueprint for American history and futurity, Mormon reported a severe drought in Helaman’s time, which caused a total economic collapse and famine among the Nephites and Lamanites. It began when Helaman prayed, “O Lord, do not suffer that this people shall be destroyed by the sword; but O Lord, rather let there be a famine in the land, to stir them up in remembrance of the Lord their God, and perhaps they will repent and turn unto thee. (Helaman 11:4.)
Since Helaman was, in effect, the president of the church among the Nephites at the time, this brings us back to Pres. Hinkley, who was president of the church when he made the aforementioned statements—yet another parallel. And while he specifically noted that his declaration was not prophecy, there was, he said, “. . . a portent of stormy weather ahead to which we had better give heed.” (op. cit.)
Sounds a bit like prophecy to my ears.
Mormon, the true voice in Helaman, is editing and commenting in the Helaman account, tailoring it, I believe, to more accurately reflect events he had seen in visions of the “Gentiles” . . . us! The Nephite prophets called this practice “likening,” comparing one thing to another, equating the history of one nation to another. In proposing my thesis, I’m using the same rhetorical device.
So, Mormon goes on to comment on the record of Helaman. “And so it was done, according to the words of Nephi. And there was a great famine upon the land, among all the people of Nephi.” (Helaman 11:5.)
And so we come full circle to the central topic of this monograph: the expanding drought in the United States and Europe at this time.
While it’s far too soon to know with any certainty if this is the corollary in our time to the Nephite drought, it certainly has all the significant earmarks.
Let’s look at how it developed in Nephite times.
Like unto us
“And thus in the seventy and fourth year the famine did continue, and the work of destruction did cease by the sword but became sore by famine.
And this work of destruction did also continue in the seventy and fifth year. For the earth was smitten that it was dry, and did not yield forth grain in the season of grain; . . . .” (Helaman 11:5, 6.)
The above passage makes it clear that it was the third year of the Nephite drought, perhaps allowing the suggestion that our drought may span more than just this one season. Note that the conditions quite closely matche what we see going on in our drought, even though this is only the first year of truly significant or serious drought in our time.
The news media are certainly convinced of the drought’s significance.
“The worst drought in more than half a century has caused serious harm to the U.S. corn crop, reducing yield and export prospects, and is beginning to cut into soybean production prospects. . . .   Nearly two-thirds of the contiguous United States were suffering from some level of drought as of July 31, more than a fifth of it classified as extreme drought or worse, according to the Drought Monitor, a weekly report compiled by U.S. climate experts.” (Reuters, Aug. 6, 2012.)
“The worst drought in 50 years has intensified across the US midwest, not only condemning this year's corn crop but threatening the prospects for next year's too, new figures showed on Thursday. . . . The latest drought map, released on Thursday by the National Drought Mitigation Center, showed the drought intensifying across the grain belt in the midwestern and plains states. . . . The intensifying drought has deepened fears of a global food crisis, with reduced stocks abroad and higher prices for US consumers at home. About 48% of the corn crop is now rated poor or very poor, the US department of agriculture said on Wednesday. About 37% of the soybean crop was rated poor or very poor. The crop failures have already raised fears of price rises later in the year.” (The Guardian, Aug. 2, 2012, italics added.)
The effects of the Nephite drought were certainly devastating.
“. . . and the whole earth was smitten, even among the Lamanites as well as among the Nephites, so that they were smitten that they did perish by thousands in the more wicked parts of the land.” (Helaman 11:6.)
Will this be our fate? Only time will tell. But if the numerous, remarkable similarities between the two histories are any indication, our drought stands to deepen at the very least.
The equivalent of Lamanite lands in our time would be Europe, which coincidentally is also seeing serious drought, especially in Russia where crop losses are already major—yet another remarkable equivalence.
It’s hard to imagine that things could get as bad in our day as they were in Nephite times, though the indication is clear that they could. But even if our drought doesn’t rise to the dimensions or devastation levels of the Nephite famine, it can easily qualify as a parallel event when we recall that the two histories are only similar to one another, not exact equivalents.
That being the case, we can also consider the alternative: Our drought may last longer and be more devastating. If so, it could easily exceed the damage seen in the Nephite account: “They did perish by thousands in the more wicked parts of the land.” (Ibid.)
We are the Nephites
Through comparison with the Nephite famine, this analysis predicts a drought-related economic collapse in the U.S. and Europe for our time.
This author has been looking for such to occur for over a decade, indicating that events in our time do not follow the same time intervals or even sequence as those of Nephite times. That is, the order and dimensions of each condition and event is most certainly going to be a bit different. American history is not a carbon copy of Nephite history, only a reflection.
Yet, given the notion that Mormon, the writer, editor and compiler of the Book of Mormon, sought to convey to us, the gentiles, the remarkable similarities between the two nations by preparing his golden book to obviously reflect what would transpire in our day, we would be wise to prepare for this eventuality simply as a reasonable precaution. What harm is there in being prepared? As they say, hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
A stronger economy might be able to survive effects of a profound drought without too much harm, as has been the case in past droughts. But the current fragility of the American economy, weakened by severe and ongoing recession, political intrigue and legislative gridlock, makes it particularly vulnerable to the catastrophic effects of a drought.
A prophecy of optimism
But there is hope that can be derived from the Nephite account as well. They repented, and their famine abated.
And it came to pass that the people saw that they were about to perish by famine, and they began to remember the Lord their God; and they began to remember the words of Nephi.” Helaman 11:7.)
We can only hope that the drought we see emerging in our world today triggers that same result. Since we are not immune to the obvious cycles of boom and bust, of wickedness and repentance seen in the Nephite story, there is light at the end of our tunnel, just as there was for them.
And it came to pass that in the seventy and sixth year the Lord did turn away his anger from the people, and caused that rain should fall upon the earth, insomuch that it did bring forth her fruit in the season of her fruit. And it came to pass that it did bring forth her grain in the season of her grain. (Helaman 11:7, 17.)
Turning once again to Pres. Hinkley’s remarks, we can see that he may have had the same insight into our future that Helaman did into that of his day.
Words of a modern prophet
Taken as isolated remarks, President Hinkley’s observa­tions seem to be simply a casual warning to the Saints that they need to put their financial house in order. However, when his re­marks are considered in light of the parallel histories thesis and the timeline it prescribes for America, it takes on ominous and prophetic implications—President Hinkley’s own assertions to the contrary notwithstanding. He did say, “There is a portent of stormy weather ahead to which we had better give heed.” (op. cit.)
It also prompts one to wonder if our prophet did not seek to intercede on our behalf, as did Nephi for his people, to spare us the immediate destruction by the sword by pleading for an alternate chastisement instead—one that would bring us to repentance without utterly destroying us. Perhaps that is why he felt compelled to overtly warn us (ironically, in the context of the ancient famine in Egypt) to put our economic houses in order.
And it’s worthy of mention that he did so on at least two and possibly three occasions, thus reinforcing the notion that he felt this to be a vital message.
So, the warning for us at this point in our history is clear. The drought we see developing will almost certainly become worse, perhaps even exceeding that of the dust bowl days of the last century.
The question of the hour is: Will we listen to the warning?