Armageddon in the Atomic Age

1,538 words

© Anthony E. Larson, 2002

 Armageddon in the Atomic Age

Try to name all of the changes that the atom bomb and technology brought to our world in the middle of the last century. It certainly changed warfare; even populations far from any battle could be held hostage to annihilation. It changed politics and diplomacy; nuclear capable countries became overnight “superpowers.” It changed science; nothing since Newton’s laws of gravity or Copernicus’ heliocentrism has so profoundly effected our views of the universe.

In reality, it’s hard to find some aspect of our lives that hasn’t changed in one way or another, due to the advent of the atomic age.

In fact, as unlikely as it may seem to the average Latter-day Saint, the atom bomb even changed our view of the scriptures and prophecy. Today’s Mormons, and Christians in general, have a radically different view of scriptural prophecy than their ancestors, thanks largely to the advent of the atomic age.

Historically, from the days of the primitive church up until the restoration, prophesied destructions of the last days such as those uttered by Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Amos, the Apostle John in his Revelation and even the Savior himself were viewed as the acts of an all-powerful God. The pronounced tumult and cataclysm in the heavens and on the earth, predicted to occur prior to the Savior’s second coming, were seen by Christians as the forces of nature responding to the commands of their creator.

The founder of this dispensation, Joseph Smith, also foresaw the calamities of the last days as a series of natural disasters. So, that’s how Mormons saw it, up until the middle of the 20th century.

All that changed the day the first A-bomb was detonated in July 1945. “A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent,” recalled J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the A-bomb, who witnessed the first explosion of an atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert. The awe-inspiring power of that blast reminded Oppenheimer of a line from the Hindu sacred book, the Bhagavad-Gita: “I am become death: the destroyer of worlds.”

Oppenheimer wasn’t the only one to see mankind in a new, world-destroying light. From that point on, Christians began to see the atom bomb as the embodiment of God’s prophesied wrath. From Herbert W. Armstrong’s “World Tomorrow” radio ministry of the 1950s to Hal Lindsay’s book and movie, “The Late, Great Planet Earth” in the late 1960s, Christian ministers began to interpret the fantastic imagery seen in prophecy as immensely powerful super-weapons, nuclear weapons being the cornerstone of their exegesis–Armageddon.

It’s easy to see why. The bomb’s mushroom cloud looked like the pillars of “fire and smoke” envisioned in prophecy, its shockwave became the “blast from heaven,” the soot and ash from its fallout darkened the sky, as in prophecy, and the long, deafening roar and rumble it produced became the “sound of many waters.” Given its remarkable similarity to biblical “fire and brimstone,” and the effects of nuclear radiation exposure from fallout to the “sores, boils, blains, blights and murrains” of prophetic scripture, the A-bomb was seen as the tailor-made fulfillment of prophecy.

What’s more, the 20th century brought with it the development of extremely sophisticated machinery that completely replaced the crude weapons of yesteryear. Thanks to the development of airplanes, missiles and rockets, modern warfare expanded into an entirely new realm: the skies above us. Technology brought us jet airplanes and missiles that “roar upon the tops of the mountains,” tanks and attack helicopters with a “sting like scorpions tails,” and a multitude of other high-tech weapons such as missiles and lasers whose effects seem similar to the extravagant imagery of prophecy.

Then, the space age took man and his technologically advanced weapons into the very heavens themselves. Once the sole venue of God’s prophesied vengeance, the heavens were now mankind’s domain as well. Man could now wield god-like power both on earth and in the heavens.

All this technological development brought about a revolutionary revision in biblical interpretation in Christianity and among Mormons as well. These astounding technical advances and these super-weapons had a profound effect on the thinking of the Christian clergy as they read and interpreted prophecy. A whole new breed of millennialists appeared who saw the fulfillment of latter-day prophecies in the technological advancements of mankind. Religionists now proclaim that man with his super-weapons, not God, will be Apollyon (Abaddon), the destroyer, as noted by the apostle John in his Revelation. Mankind now had the power to single-handedly fulfill all prophecy of the last days and bring about Armageddon all on his own.

In fine, God was no longer necessary to the fulfillment of prophecy. Mankind would now provide all the elements of prophecy: pillars of fire devastating vast expanses and destroying whole populations, a quaking earth ruptured by super-powerful atomic bombs and the roaring of incredibly powerful and lethal flying machines, ashen skies that turned the moon red and darkened the sun, death from virile plagues and toxic poisons unleashed on a hapless world populace in chemical and biological weapons, a “scorched earth” warfare that would leave a vast wasteland in the wake of advancing armies with super weapons.

God could sit on the sidelines, a celestial spectator, while we would bring about the end of the world all on our own. Deus ex homonum!

Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. Clearly, the egotism and myopia of modern man had overtaken the proper view of prophecy.

The problem is that this twisted view of prophecy has been allowed to stand. Nearly every Christian – Latter-day Saints included – see the fulfillment of prophecy in these same terms. But it is a badly flawed view that should be corrected. This kind of myopic, egoistic interpretation is easily demolished when we look to the scriptures as accurate, eyewitness accounts of God’s dealings with his children.

For example, no Latter-day Saint in his or her right mind would suggest that the fire and brimstone that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah was really an atomic bomb. Early man had neither the technology nor the knowledge to produce such a weapon. It was destruction from God, not man.

And what about the fire from heaven that consumed Elijah’s sacrifice on Mt. Carmel or the blast that destroyed the Assyrian army of Sennacherib as he lay siege to Jerusalem in the days of Isaiah? Ancient man could not have done that, but God could. Recall that “all the face of the land” was changed in the “tempest,” tumult and “darkness” that overtook the Nephites at the Savior’s crucifixion. Was that their doing? Or was it God’s doing?

Was the Exodus’ “pillar of fire and smoke,” bloody water, darkness, earthquakes or plagues due to some super weapon? Or were these the forces of nature obeying the command of their creator?

Why, then, do we allow descriptions of idential latter-day calamities to suggest the cause is other than God-sent?

There is no hint of a role for man in Joseph Smith’s statement about latter-day destructions, “It is not the design of the Almighty to come upon the earth and crush it and grind it to powder.” 

The crux of this argument is the strikingly similar language used in the scriptures to describe both ancient catastrophes and those prophesied for the future. This logic is a vital key, axiomatic to understanding the scriptures and the fulfillment of prophecy that every Latter-day Saint should internalize: The calamities of the last days, prior to the Second Coming, will see a return of all the catastrophic types of destruction from the past, enumerated in the scriptures. As an example, compare the “miracles” of Exodus and Revelation for yourself.

Otherwise, why would God use the irresistible forces of nature to do his bidding in the past and not in the future, leaving that to the hand of man instead? Isn’t it more logical to assume that the striking similarities between ancient destructions and those prophesied for our future are an indication that they will be of the same nature, kind and source?

While it is true that “there will be wars and rumors of wars,” fought by man, according to Joseph Smith, the true agents of destruction will be the forces of nature, “signs in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, the sun turned into darkness and the moon to blood, earthquakes in divers places, the seas heaving beyond their bounds.”

Mormons were not immune to the distorted view of scripture induced by advanced technology and the atom bomb, but they should have been. Isn’t this what the scriptures mean when they urge us to reject any reliance on the “arm of flesh?”

We Saints have fallen prey to the delusions of our Christian brethren where interpretation of prophecy is concerned because we failed to heed the teachings of the modern prophets, from Joseph Smith to the present, and because we have failed to study the scriptures.

Perhaps it is time we returned to the proper perspective, rather than the distorted view induced by our myopic, egocentric modern views. Perhaps it is time we took man, his puny and fragile devices out of the equation – puny when compared to the forces of nature at God’s command – by recognizing that God alone will fulfill the promises made by the mouths of his holy prophets. Perhaps this should also remind us of just how widespread, devastating and earthshaking the catastrophes of the latter-days will be – far greater by many orders of magnitude than any man-made calamity – when they do come upon us.




  1. Not only is this a well-written essay, but your conclusions are right on. It would be impossible for man-made weapons to take the place of what God has prophesied concerning the destruction of the wicked in the last days. The calamities of the last days will indeed be an amazing sight to see, brought about by the means that God has prepared beforehand – the same ones tat he used in ancient times. Prophets saw our day and have foretold the destruction in symbolism that they understood. It is up to us to study and interpret that symbolism in order that we might be better prepared for the events of cataclysmic proportion that will come to pass in due course of time just preparatory to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to usher in the millennium. Thanks.

  2. I grew up being taught about a time when Missouri would be utterly destroyed from off the map. Complete and utter desolation will visit Zion in the great war of Gog and Magog, I was told. Nuclear obliteration could certainly match this prophecy of Joseph Smith’s, in fact, I was taught that the obliteration would come through the devices of war.

    But if we’re still waiting on the Second Coming, then we’re still at least 1,000 years away from this mankind-imposed destruction that will wipe out the Midwestern United States.

    As for the events prior to the Second Coming, Joseph Smith, Jr., also spoke about rainbows disappearing for a year and then floods as in Noah’s day. From all I’ve read about Joseph Smith, Jr., it seems the disappearance of the rainbows and Noachian flooding proceeds most of the other natural disasters of the end times.

    As for the devices of war fulfilling prophecy in our modern times, I think you can check this one off:

    “And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.” — Revelation of John 17:16

    I interpret that as: Babylon the world will hate Babylon the place and will devour her flesh with fire.

  3. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith
    Section Six 1843-44, p. 340

    I have asked of the Lord concerning His coming; and while asking the Lord, He gave a sign and said, “In the days of Noah I set a bow in the heavens as a sign and token that in any year that the bow should be seen the Lord would not come; but there should be seed time and harvest during that year: but whenever you see the bow withdrawn, it shall be a token that there shall be famine, pestilence, and great distress among the nations, and that the coming of the Messiah is not far distant.

  4. no rainbows and flooding proceeds other disasters == no rainbows and flooding precedes other disasters

    Proceeds usually come after, I meant comes before. *grin*

  5. I placed the comment I’m about to make under one of these other posts regarding signs but I can see it fits this one better.

    The way you Guys explain things on these posts makes me think you must be the Rocket Scientists of Gospel understanding and I feel almost out of place to comment as I do. I hope my lack of literary skill dosen’t deminish my maybe having some thing of worth to comment on.

    Regarding the discovery of Atomic and Nuclear processes, I have noticed that maybe the destructive use of this technology has provided us with a significant sign of the End , described as the Sign of the Coming of the Son of Man.

    On August 6th and 9th TWO bombs were dropped on Japan in close time proximity of each other.

    This was a once in the World History event that was viewed by all the World. It’s ironic that the secrets of the very forces that God uses to create organized matter from it’s chaotic state, has been reverse engineered by Man to create chaos of organized matter. But I guess that really dose make sense. Anyway…

    The nature of the destructive force of these bombs seem to mirror in type, the same destructive nature of the return of Christ in FULL GLORY.

    So why TWO bombs as opposed to one to serve as a sign of the impending firery End ?

    Is there not also a major series of precursury judgements to preceed the FINAL HU RAH ?

    And is not this precursury judgement to be initiated and conducted by a particular Servant of God who holds the Septer of Great Power, seemingly on ly second to the power of Christ Himself ?

    And just as the second bomb was dropped on Japan a SHORT time latter, dosen’t Christ follow things up with the REAL BIG GUNS a short time latter ?

    It’s interesting to note that the numbers 6 & 9 represent Judgement. The # 6 representing a level of precursurary Judgement While the # 9 represents FINAL Judgement ie Second Coming.

    The very construction of the bombs and the different methods they employ to create thier power is also indicative of the realitive power and authority of the Servant of Christ and Christ Himself.

    Go to Wiikepedia on their comparitive statistics to get a better idea of this.

    Now of course, if these are signs of God of the impending distaster that lies ahead ,these sings must be indicative of coming from His presence.

    Judgement coming dirrectly from Gods presence is always depicted as coming from an EASTWARD dirrection, ie. ( EAST WIND , King Cyris approaching from the EAST ect…)

    Where is Japan Geographically situated on the Global Sphere ? It ain’t just EAST, it’s as FAR EAST as you can get.

  6. Hey, one thing’s for sure…Bombs are dangerous and REALLY BIG BOMBS, are even MORE dangerous.

    Make sure you have some welders goggles tucked away in your Food Storage…Your going to NEED THEM !

    We have a friend of the Family who was an Air Force General and worked his final years in the Pentagon.

    He told us that it wasn’t a matter of IF but rather a matter of WHEN.

    So get down to your local welding shop and get a pair before they run out of stock.

    There may be a run on these goggles by the time 2012 roles around and the Political Machine strips us BARE of our Defences…Both PERSONAL & NATIONAL.

    Our Spiritual Nakedness is the REAL problem we have with Defence. And NOBODY in charge, seems to be ADDRESSING that need to Clothe Ourselves.

    The “SIGNS” we’ve been given, are soon to become REALITY.

    Those Myans ( Remnants of Israel ), let that Calendar run out, because they knew that beyond 2012, they woundn’t be able to SELL anymore.

  7. Do we have doctrinal reasons to suppose that super-bombs will detonate in the US?

    When words are spoken in General Conference…that means something. The prophet presides over the meeting…and would correct any incorrect doctrine if it was spoken. It is like the spoken canon of the church.

    Understanding this doctrine makes conference that much more meaningful…as we go to hear the actual word of the Lord to us…not flippant words spoken off the cuff.

    This understanding makes the words spoken by Bruce R. McConkie in General conference in 1979 that much more sobering. In one short breath he spoke prophetically of a future… “atomic holocaust which surely shall be”… Here it is in it’s context…

    “We do not say that all of the Saints will be spared and saved from the coming day of desolation. But we do say there is no promise of safety and no promise of security except for those who love the Lord and who are seeking to do all that he commands.

    It may be, for instance, that nothing except the power of faith and the authority of the priesthood can save individuals and congregations from the atomic holocausts that surely shall be.”

    While we know that the “atomic holocaust…surely shall be”…there is no indication as to where it will take place.

    In a 1961 Improvement Era article authored by Elder Harold B. Lee, written in honor of J. Reuben Clark on his 90th birthday. Quoting from Elder Lee’s article:

    “We heard him reply in answer to a question as to why he had put his life’s savings into his presently owned Grantsville ranch: ‘ This is all I have to leave my family when I die, and if they are not too lazy to work it, they won’t starve. I have told them that when the first atomic bomb is dropped here in America, that they are to go out there on the ranch and stay until it is all over.’ This last seemed not only to be wise counsel, but also a prophesy. . . .” (Harold B. Lee, “President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. An Appreciation on his Ninetieth Birthday” The Improvement Era, Sept. 1961 pp.632-633.)

    So there you read the witness of one apostle Elder Harold B. Lee(who would eventually be President of the church)…quoting the witness of another apostle…J. Reuben Clark…and it being “witnessed” out a third time into a printed church publication!!

    Then there are a scriptures that could be interpreted to be nuclear bombs going off. Some of them speaking of “Vapors of smoke”…like in 1 Nephi 22:18.

    There is a book called “Superbombs, Saints, and Scriptures”..that explores scriptural passages that could be speaking of atomic events. You can get it for really cheap if you want to look into that more.

    Getting Ready

    Bruce R. McConkie said just after his comment about the atomic holocausts to…

    “Take heed; prepare; watch and be ready. There is no security in any course except the course of obedience and conformity and righteousness.”

    We need to prepare! We must not fall into the lie that is perpetuated by the lazy that “All you have to do is have faith and be righteous” THE LORD HAS TOLD YOU TO BE PREPARED for the many things that will come…not just to have faith without works!! Part of being “righteous” is obeying the command to prepare…not just cherry picking at the one’s we like to keep best.

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s