So I’ve been kind of watching this Julie Rowe stuff unfold. It is facinating when you think about it. Here is a person that wrote a book to share a message she got from talking to God…hmm, now why does that sound familiar?
I think it is no small coincidence that her message has caught fire amongst the LDS people in the way that it has. You see end of the world cults start all the time. They often fail sure, but every once in a while one catches and makes it to the stage of a religion. In this case it has found fertile ground in a religion (the LDS church) that has talked about the end of the world being right around the corner pretty much since its inception. 1
I remember being told I was one of the noble and great ones saved to come to earth in the last days. Heck, they even made a musical about it!!2 As a Saturday Warrior it was my job to be a shining example of goodness and to bring others to the knowledge that I had. I was super special you see because I got to come to a family that already had the gospel and knew the truth God wanted for every one. I mean billions and billions of people were born without that great privilege. Surely in the life before this I must have been Noble and Great, just like the scriptures said. I still remember a stake conference where the speaker pointed right at me from the pulpit after quoting Abraham and saying you are one of the Noble and Greats. He then waved his arm at all the rest of the youth in the room and said we were all of this generation born on the eve of Saturday to help usher in the Sunday millennium.
They don’t spend as much effort teaching this anymore, but I was taught that the earth was created in 6000 years, because 1000 years equaled one day of Kolob (the star with which God used to reckon time). It followed that after resting a ‘day’ the history of the world was to be 6000 years before the next Sunday, which would be the millennium of Christ’s personal reign. Jesus shows up around year 4000, so you do the math, that makes the end pretty close right? Well for a boy scarcely 10 years old in 1980, I was pretty sure all these guys were right.
You see all these numbers added up, they just ‘made sense’ to me. Which is another reason Mrs Rowe is so interesting. If you dig into her blog, she seems to make all sorts of leaps of faith based on the year she nearly died, and how these numbers that line up seem to indicate…well something and you’d better be ready for it!!! I have no doubt she really thinks these patterns are there. I am sure to her it is a sign of the times.
We humans see patterns everywhere, we are amazing good at it, way better than computers. (That’s why all the prove your humanity to prevent spam stuff is based in recognizing patterns.) We are so good at it that we often see patterns that aren’t really there. I mean look at this. Is there really a dragon in the clouds?
Is this Jesus or just the leftovers of a couple of passing jets?
Scientists explain this as an evolutionary adaptation that essentially saved our bacon from tigers hiding in the grass. If you accidentally saw a pattern that wasn’t there you still missed the lunch appointment with a lion. But if you failed to see it your genes were permanently removed from the pool. That made it so our pattern recognition tended to false trip way more often than simply missing something significant.
This ability to see things that aren’t there isn’t only visual, we hear things that aren’t there too. In fact all of our senses connect to the same pattern recognition machine making them all subject to being fooled in the same way: A false trip of the circuitry that originally saved our lives and helped us figure out what food was safe to eat.
It turns out this pattern seeking circuitry can also be ‘primed’. You can tell someone what to look or listen for and that alone will insert a mental frame that will bring out the pattern. Take a look at this video to see what I mean:
I now realize the back masking that was such a scary part of my childhood was just a case of pattern recognition misfires. Interesting, isn’t it! There is so much to learn about these effects and I enjoy it so much that I have to reign it in or it will totally derail this post.3
Suffice it to say, all this is misfiring of our pattern recognition circuitry is, for the most part, the secret to how magicians trick us. This is why they are called masters of illusion. They have mastered the art of manipulating our pattern recognition circuitry to see something that isn’t there.
How does this all apply to Mrs Rowe? Well she is actively seeking to identify patterns that will substantiate her experience–so many years ago–was really God. That God unequivocally spoke to her. She’s completely honest about what she sees from her perspective. This makes her very convincing to others that share the same bias to this end times mental frame. That emotion she feels when she speaks feeds the emotion they feel, which in turn reinforces her confidence in her visions. It is a feedback loop that winds ever upward in confirming their biases.
Many times a believer has posited that the beginning of the church must be true essentally because people wouldn’t buy it if it wasn’t. They proclaim, “How could a 14 year old have come up with this whole story of gold plates and all that, and more so why would anyone, in their right mind, believe him?”4
Well ask yourself this, are the people Roweing the boat to the apocalypse in their right mind? No. They keep on roweing even though their parent church is issuing statements to discredit her. People still believe her, like this person for example. She testifies this:
“Reading these books out loud what a very spiritual experience for me. I recorded during a short span of time between college semesters. The Spirit was there as I read. I felt Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ’s great love for me. I went into that project feeling a little hopeless due to ordinary young adult matters (Was I studying the right major? I had been home from a mission for a year, why wasn’t I married?) but Julie’s books helped me to realign my thoughts with heaven again. God loved me. He was watching out for me in every aspect of my life. I was excited that these books could help other people grow closer to God as well.”
His words are powerful to anyone that wants to validate their own beliefs. They are convincing. They are moving and that makes more followers of Rowe. But, maybe the patterns she sees and the patterns her followers see are nothing more than shapes in the clouds. In fact as Profet of the Fridge I’m gonna go out on a limb and predict a big ole wah wah wah this September. Pretty much a massive letdown for the followers of Rowe. But looking on the bright side for her, thanks to the backfire effect, most likely none of her preppers will be fazed much by it.
But consider this, what if she gets just a little better at making her utterances vague enough to fit all sorts of stuff after the fact. What if she gets a little more ballsy, going out on a limb running contrary to her mother religion. Isn’t it possible she just might create a modern day schism in the faith?
Wouldn’t that be interesting to see? What if she started asking people to follow her and then after a little bit happened to be killed in her prime? Then consider all of her followers getting kicked out of the church for their apostasy. Can you imagine that? Could you image how that kind of group duress might weld her followers into a core and beget a religion that began as a cult following?5 If you can, then you might see why this whole deal is fascinating to me.
- Joe Smith was a prepper, reading what he wrote he expected Jesus to return in his life time. 56 years to wind up the scene! ↩
- OMH, in researching this I just found out there is a remake of this on its way!!! I have to wonder if children are still gonna be like rain drops coming down, coming down! I will probably have to see it just for nostalgias sake :). I have the old one playing on youtube right now filling me with chills, proof the Fridge is true. I forgot how defining this play was for me. But holy crap the dialog and acting was as awful as it can get. ↩
- Google the Amazing Randi, Derren Brown and Penn Gillette for more information on how you are fooled. I also suggest Brain Games on Netflix as a great series to watch for more learnin’ on the topic ↩
- Funny how JS was actually in his 20s when he published the BoM and later started the church. But thanks to the careful correlation by the church education department, people think he was ’14’ and unschooled even though he clearly knew how to read (as that’s what he was doing when he had the question right?) Just more evidence of the mental frame the church builds for the believer via its lessons ↩
- Already according to one of them. “There have been some who claim to be close to Julie who have treated her very cruelly. This unfortunately is not anything new. I think each of us can think of a time when we’ve been treated poorly for doing what God wanted us to do. Joseph Smith writes of similar experiences in his history: he was “…persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends and to have treated me kindly, and if they supposed me to be deluded to have endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me.” As soon as the person sees every critique as a sign of truth it becomes nearly impossible to point out error. ↩