The world didn't end May 21 as predicted, did it? All this started when 89-year-old Harold Camping, head of the Family Radio broadcasting network, with 150 outlets, made his bold prediction that Jesus would return to Earth and the world would end. Camping's "prophecy" is nothing new, as he predicted the same thing back in 1994, which, of course, also didn't happen. Having recalibrated his calculations, he came up with the new date for Judgment Day.
Camping spread his message on 2,000 billboards worldwide, suggesting that the end is near. More specifically, he said that the righteous, which total 3 percent of the world's population, would be whisked upward to heaven in a "rapture" while the rest stayed behind to endure five months of terrible natural disasters. At the end of this period, Oct. 21 to be exact, God would destroy everything. Many of Camping's followers left their jobs and families and even spent their life savings to spread the word, in what has been described as Project Caravan. A convoy of buses and recreational vehicles had been traversing the country to issue a warning to all who would listen.
As it turned out, at the appointed hour of 6 p.m. on May 21, I found myself having a quiet dinner with our bishop and his family. My family and I figured we might as well stay close to him, just in case. I'm joking, but I can't help but feel for these poor folks who were so passionate about their beliefs. I wonder how they're feeling today. Has their faith been shattered? Do they feel foolish? How will they face their families, friends and co-workers?
I have seen how many people have ridiculed them already, and I'm sure late-night comics will be having a field day with these folks for some time to come. While unkind reactions may be common, I hope we choose to resist the temptation. As Latter-day Saints, we too have some peculiar and often misunderstood doctrine. We have been made fun of before (just see "The Book of Mormon" musical now playing on Broadway) and most likely will be again.
Perhaps it is best to show compassion toward these individuals. Yes, they are misguided, but they are mostly good people who believed in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This is the perfect opportunity for us to put into practice the Savior's counsel of "thou shalt not judge." We ask others not to judge us, so it's only fair to extend the same to them.
Dr. Elia Gourgouris is a well-known personal and business coach. He is also a nationally known speaker, relationship expert and author of “The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going from Surviving to Thriving.“ Elia's column, "Ask Dr. Elia," appears Tuesdays on MormonTimes.com. He can be contacted through his websites, LDSCoaching.com or www.AskDrElia.com, or by calling 303-523-6396.