Every Saturday morning, the Rev. James H. Powers leads a special prayer for world leaders.
The size of the circle has more than quadrupled in recent weeks, and the Rev. Powers attributes some of the growth to headlines trumpeting the Persian Gulf crisis.For those who believe Biblical prophecy to be literal prophecy, daily newspaper headlines might appear to be a fulfillment of the familiar verses in Matthew 24: "And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars . . . For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places."
Many Christians believe Armageddon, the last, great battle to take place before the Day of Judgment and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, will be fought on the sandy soil of the Middle Eastern desert. That's one reason Saddam Hussein's assault on Kuwait has given rise to so many end-of-the-world whispers. That thought is fueled by the massive earthquakes that have shaken the world, from Armenia to California, from Mexico City to the Philippines.
"The eyes of the world are on Israel, you know," said the Rev. Issac Max Jaramillo, of the Miracle Rock Church. "It's sort of like a chess game. Everybody is watching them to see" what is going to happen.
The Rev. Powers, pastor of the Full Armor Bible Center in South Salt Lake, has seen an upsurge in interest about Biblical predictions proclaiming the end of the world. Besides attendance at his prayer circle - which grew from about three people to 15 people - Powers said pews at his church are more crowded on Sundays.
"I'll tell you one thing that you see whenever you see any kind of problem or pressures in the world like this - you always see attendance go up," Powers said.
Powers and other local religious leaders say churchgoers are expressing more interest in the prophetic books of the Bible, especially Daniel and Ezekiel. "It's kind of like reading the headlines today," Powers said.
At the Intermountain Christian Bookstores, the "Prophecy" section is hosting more browsing customers. "I think there has been an upturn in interest in end-time books," said Tom Constance, who owns the stores with his brother, John.
"People are always looking for books related to the issues that are facing them in their daily lives," John Constance said.
"When value systems are challenged, when our world order is challenged, people tend to think a little bit more about their spiritual values. It's kind of like a student coming up on a big exam."
Central Adventist Church, at 460 S. 800 East, is holding a seminar on the Book of Revelations, titled: "The fascinating world of the Apocalypse!" And the Rev. Jim Schaedler, at the Metro Fellowship, just preached a sermon - as he does several times a year - concerning prophetic updates. This time he focused on the Middle East.
"I believe what we're seeing is the initial symptoms of the end," the Rev. Schaedler said. "I think Christians are really excited. I think they like to hear these issues addressed. I do think people are tuning into spiritual things."
Sales of emergency food supplies are up at Harvest Valley Foods, said owner Debra Tims. "In August, it was like someone turned on a faucet. It was like a total triple increase."
All over the country, August was a good sales month for the wholesale and distributing company. Food storage sales are traditionally tied to major world disasters, she said. "Whatever they see on the news, if it effects them, then they're in here the next day to buy."
She's overheard customers in the Sandy store talk about the Persian Gulf crisis. "They say they're getting prepared with their food and stuff in case the economy falls and we go to war."
Eddie Peterson, owner of Holladay's Magic Mill/Bosch Center, agrees that food storage sales are up. "End of the world? Nobody's saying it that way specifically," he said. But customers have expressed worries about the Middle East situation and the unstable condition of the world's economy. "There's no panic," Peterson said. "People are just feeling concern."
Pastors agree that neither the curious or the convicted should fear, but that both camps should examine their own lives.
"I kind of feel in my spirit it's all winding down," the Rev. Powers said. "We're not fearful. We trust the Lord and he's going to have his day.
"We're all feeling that. We don't know the day and we're not going to pinpoint that, go up on the mountaintop and wait."
"The general prophetic picture is what affects my faith," the Rev. Schaedler said. "Prophetic events will play themselves out, and it's God's calendar, not ours."
"As far as being worried, no, because we're on the winning side, you know," said the Rev. Jaramillo, of Miracle Rock. "I think that it does cause people to be more self-examining as to where they stand."
The Rev. Tom Goldsmith, of the Unitarian Church, expresses a laid-back attitude to the Biblical warnings of wars and they how relate to current affairs. "We are far from taking the Bible literally," he said. "We take the Bible with a grain of salt. It's a fine piece of literature.
"I can safely say out of 350 members not one would give that a passing thought."