chapter  12
20 Pages

Mormonism and The Family International: Toward a Theory of Prophecy in the Development of New Religious Movements

In this chapter we are concerned with understanding the emergence and institutional development of prophetic religions – that is, new religions that originate in peoples’ acceptance of and adherence to prophetic claims made by religious founders. In particular, our focus is on what Max Weber (1978: 339634) classified as ethical prophecy in occidental, monotheistic religions rather than the exemplary prophecy tradition of oriental religions.1 Wherever we refer to prophets or prophecy we are talking about the former rather than the latter mode of prophetic expression. By prophetic claims we mean more than simply forecasting future events, cataclysmic or otherwise. Prophecy and the individuals deemed to be prophets by their followers characteristically proclaim a moral vision through divine guidance. This is in contrast to the justification of a particular moral order based on tradition or rationally reasoned arguments. Prophetic figures in the Western tradition claim a transcendent source of authority and typically invoke access to supernatural powers.