Pinterest—the mason jar lobby’s most effective propaganda apparatus—is an aggressively wholesome social platform. It’s The Container Store of social networks, but past the arrangements of DIY barn-wedding souvenirs, there’s another Pinterest, one focused on surviving doom.
This is Mormon survivalist Pinterest. It’s grade-AAA Pinterest, a hodgepodge of pins that remind me of the 1998 film Deep Impact combined with legitimately useful canning tips mixed with a dollop of contempt for atheists who don’t own a storage cellar.
Emergency preparedness is important in Mormonism, more so than other religions. A history of getting abruptly chased across America probably plays a role, but whatever the cause, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints loves to be ready for bad shit to go down. The official LDS website encourages church members to keep a three-month food supply and develop comprehensive emergency plans. “Members of the Church have been counseled for many years to be prepared for adversity,” the site reads.
Mormons can shop at an official LDS Distribution Store offers a “Self Reliance” section that peddles emergency preparedness gear, as they brace for anything from flooding to international economic collapse.
The LDS Preparedness Manual is a popular advice compilation passed around Mormon communities about bracing for the worst. It includes chapters like “Society’s Five Stages of Economic Collapse,” “What to Do If Nuclear Disaster Is Imminent,” and the concise-yet-evocatively titled “PANDEMICS.”
So Mormon Pinterest users pinning boards like “I’m a Prepper, You’re a Prepper” and “LDS Survivalists/Preppers” to make note of stuff like “the ULTIMATE Underground Bunker” aren’t swerving away from their religion as much as they’re taking what they’re taught on self-reliance and preparation to a logical conclusion.
There’s water purification advice, tips to make DIY survival tools (“Did you know a crayon will burn for 30 minutes?”), photoshopped images of enormous tornados ripping across presumably heathen fields, and recommendations to make sure your dog survives catastrophe.
Mormon preppers have catholic taste when it comes to disaster posts. They repin Buzzfeed—“5 Terrifying Photos That Show You What Britain Would Be Like in a Natural Disaster.” They’re preoccupied with being financially prepared for flooding. Some of the pins are morbid and fear-mongering. Others are practical and almost comforting, like something a particularly trustworthy Boy Scout leader would tell you as he tied a knot around a campfire.
The Atlantic explored Pinterest’s prepper subculture in an article called “Survivalists Are Using Pinterest to Prepare for the Apocalypse” back in 2014, but only briefly mentioned the overlap between the digital prepping community and Mormons.
Maybe he link between preppers and Pinterest may have something to do with Mormons. Seriously. Pinterest appears to be really popular with followers of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, for whom preparing for tough times is an article of faith.
The church’s emphasis on preparedness is perfectly suited to Pinterest’s compartmentalized pinboard layout, but Mormons flocking to Pinterest isn’t new, and definitely isn’t limited to disaster-based pins. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have been enamored of the digital scrapbooking platform for years; Mitt Romney’s campaign hyped Ann Romney’s idyllic Pinterest presence back in 2012.
The prepper mindset flourishes in Mormonism’s headquarters, with groups like Utah Preppers and PrepperCon holding expos in Salt Lake City. If you saw National Geographic’s show Doomsday Preppers, you may have noticed that many of the people profiled are from Utah.
The idea that there will be a literal Second Coming within our lifetime is something that is supported by mainstream leaders within the Church, including members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is one of the church’s governing bodies.
“At the time of His coming there will be a destruction of the wicked and a resurrection of the righteous. No one knows the time of His coming, but the faithful are taught to study the signs of it and to be prepared for it,” Quorum leader Dallin H. Oaks wrote in 2004. Some of the Mormon Pinterest preppers have what I’d call an explicitly Armageddon vibe, talking about cataclysm at the end of the world.
Many Mormons who identify as preppers take pains to clarify that it’s mostly about self-reliance than necessarily driven by fear of imminent global catastrophe. That said, there’s still a strong emphasis on things going really, really wrong. It’s a darker corner of the cheeriest social network, and that’s why it’s so much more interesting than the interminable repins of barns decorated in organic lace that clog up so much of Pinterest.
[h/t Alyssa Bereznak]