“A Voice Not Crying in the Wilderness” by Jonathon Penny

From NHotC XIII.24.672-75:

Official Declaration 3: Outbreak Prophecy

Wryly known among LDS survivors as the “Proclamation on the Zombily,” and referred to by historians as the “Outbreak Prophecy,” “Official Declaration 3” originated as an “Official Communication” read from the pulpit on July 15, 2042. Markedly prophetic in its language, and fulfilled within weeks of its publication, OD3 is unique among revelations outside the Doctrine and Covenants, and initiated a watershed of revelations leading to a revision and expansion of the Doctrine and Covenants (2055), including the revelations since received by Presidents Vitelli, Dormer, Mbeke, Suzuki, and Smith, and Official Declarations 3-7. OD3 reads, in part, as follows:

Throughout our history, we have been counseled to ‘lay up in store’ (see Matt. 6:19-20 and 1 Tim 6:19) that which would serve us in times of need, both spiritual and temporal. The First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and all other General Officers of the Church, do now speak with a voice of warning unto the members of this, the Lord’s church, and to their friends and neighbors, wherever they might be, that the time for which we have been prepared for these two hundred and twelve years is now upon us.

Thus sayeth the Lord, ‘Gather in and lay up against hunger and thirst. Trim your lamps against the coming darkness. For behold, a sickness shall soon come upon the bodies of my children, and a famine upon their spirits, and they shall call to me from out of silence and from out of darkness as the Nephites of old did cry unto me in the days of their indenture and again after my crucifixion. And behold, I will hear their cries, and will sanctify their sufferings unto them. And the spirits of them that are afflicted shall be brought home to be judged according to their deeds, and their bodies left to the torments of the adversary of all righteousness until the morning of the Resurrection.’

 In accordance with the voice of the Lord and with His Will, we urge all who hear the words of this Declaration to prepare every needful thing.

 Stake and unit leaders were instructed to ordain all high priests, elders, and mature priests to the office of the Seventy, “as traveling ministers to the Lord’s children wherever they be found during the tribulations prophesied, that all might hear the Lord’s voice in the coming silence” (idem).

An addendum to the third edition of the GHoI II.18 (2027), posted at lds.org five days later, outlined revised worship practices to be implemented with immediate effect: those who speak would do so sotto-voce; hymns would be read silently, not sung; “Amens” would be whispered; all non-essential gatherings would be suspended, including children’s meetings; wards and branches would be divided into “companies of no more than 3 households or 15 persons, whichever is smaller” that “would gather to renew their covenants and testify and nourish each other in isolated and secure places.”

The Outbreak Prophecy and its fulfillment provoked change at the highest levels of Church leadership, as well: President Mario I. Vitelli conferred effectual keys of presidency on each of the other fourteen apostles as individuals rather than as a body, contingent on their requirement, and the Twelve were dispatched in pairs, with their spouses and small security details, to regionally strategic locations, to

 keep a record of the tribulations poured out upon the children of men, and the workings of the adversary in corrupting that life which is most sacred, that he might make all men miserable like unto himself; and to be a light and a witness unto all, whatever their persuasion, that all might see and rejoice at the hand of the Lord, stretched out forever to cover them over and gather them in at the last day. (Vitelli, Mario I. Outbreak Journal. Trans. Roberto Ianucci. New Jerusalem: Salt and Solitude Press, 2070)

 The surviving apostles were to reunite as the crisis abated, assess the condition of the Church, and reconstitute its leadership. The wisdom of this plan became apparent when, in the appointed place and at the appointed time, only three of the fifteen apostles gathered, the rest having fallen to attacks (5), accident/illness/age (4), or delayed viral presentation (3). With the exception of Hashimi Yakamoto’s and Ignacio J. Martin’s journals, which were never recovered, the apostolic records have been compiled by historian Ezekiel Bowman in Called to Exile: Apostolic Writings of the Zombie Period (New Jerusalem: New Jerusalem Digibooks, 2075).

Elder Harold W. Christensen, companion to the acting President of the Twelve, Édouard S. Nwosu, kept the most detailed account, often making observations of more broadly biological, sociological, and philosophical purport than the others. The following excerpts from 2045 offer a summary sketch of religious life during the Outbreak (see Bowman 5.II.iii):

The moaning of a zombie is the only animal thing left in it, and is remarkably similar to the yowling of a cat or the baying of a dog trying to drown out an unpleasant noise. So we assume that what there is of a zombie’s brain is very noisy, but not intelligently engaged. Sensory function is baseline at best: the Vacant[i] have very poor visual, limited olfactory, and obviously severely debilitated tactile senses, as is clear from their behavior at close quarters and their apparent insensibility to pain. [ii] (23 May)

The moaning becomes more frenzied as the Vacant approach a meal, human or animal, especially at night. This tendency appears to have elements of  echolocation, albeit a primitive form without the synaptic intelligence and complex measurement/target assessment afforded bats. [iii]

 Whatever its causes, our understanding that zombies are attracted by sound has made us quiet. Silence pervades most human gatherings. This is helpful to us, as the Fallen are almost never silent, unless their larynxes have been compromised, and even then, zombies often have broken limbs and therefore shuffle or drag or rub awkwardly against obstacles. In short, they are incapable of stealth (if it is appropriate to speak of “capability” at all, as this implies intelligence and will, both of which are lacking completely in the Vacant). So we listen, better than we did before.

Silence has given space to meditation, meditation to consideration, and consideration to kindness in the main. Communication is usually limited to gestures and whispers, and to residual electronic means available at “way-stations” we’ve set up along our usual foraging routes and in fortified safe houses—we have enough engineers left to maintain limited power grids for now, but maintenance has to be conducted in the colder months, so service outages are common. Eventually the servers will go down and we won’t be able to repair them until after we’ve eliminated the Vacant. This will merely deepen the quiet. (3 July)

 The quiet has gentled our natures. Our interactions with the living are characterized by tenderness, respect, and stillness, in stark contrast to our interactions with the Vacant, which are characterized, when they occur, by swift, decisive, economic, and violent dispatch; though these, too, are typically quiet affairs, unless one needs to shout to draw them off from children and the elderly. 

 This means, of course, that we rarely experience unbounded mirth or joy in either play or intimacy. Music is limited. Worship and ritual are confined, staid, inward. To pray or cry or laugh aloud is to invite danger. Such expressions can occur only in the fortifications above the Z-line, which we use during the colder months, though given the cold and our habitual quietude, we rarely take advantage. (18 September)

Though Mormon worship was never particularly boisterous, it is ironic that temples—housing the most sacred of our rituals, and thus having been places of nearly monastic contemplation and virtual silence—have lost something of their peculiarity (despite all being below the Z-line and therefore accessible only during the quietest eight months of the year). This change has come not only because members can so rarely muster in sufficient numbers, and not only because most temples have been converted into way-stations, but also because our Sabbath worship has become more profoundly silent than our temple worship ever was. Our sporadic and precious gatherings, whenever two or three can gather, are punctuated by a cathedral quiet even more profound than that of the temple. (3 November)

 For eight months of the year we forage, moving from encampment to encampment, gathering and replenishing stores, clearing the bodies of the dead, culling the zombie herds the best we can, planting and later harvesting crops. And so, for eight months of the year, we move and speak in virtual silence. Children born on the trail seem to understand this preternaturally, and cry only when we return to our winter quarters: a miraculous grace, we all agree. We minister in silence, anointing and laying on hands, but praying and blessing inwardly.

The upside is that voices are never raised in anger, or even in anguish, below or above the Z-line. And because voices are not raised, or perhaps in addition, tempers rarely flare, and people treat each other with an exquisite egalitarian regard.[iv] Where zombies operate below the level of instinct, with something like compulsion, we runners have learned, it would seem, to accept death and undeath alike as givens in a world setting its own terms, and overlooking our demands on it. So we make no more demands. This is not resignation. We take love as it is, without exaggeration or noise, just as we take fear and worry and loss. We are in the world as the world presents itself to us without apology, given or received. Above all of this we are, it would appear, new creatures: elementally, essentially, irreducibly drossless, polished, efficient, and alive. The world, for now, is made sacred. (24 December)

More indelibly perhaps than even the early persecutions and travails of Church members in Missouri and crossing the Plains, this period has left its mark on Church heritage, in both practice and artifactual richness. This hymn written during the Outbreak is sung every Sabbath in July to commemorate the impact of this period in refining both the faithful and the Faith.

The Body dies, the Spirit flees,


The Body stands upright


Untethered by that righteous spark


Reduced to appetite

 

‘Til Second Death claims e’en that husk


For Resurrection’s Grace.


Pray not for death, but twinkling come


To Heav’n’s illumined Space.

 

For twinkling is a better change


From light to better light: 


Oh, pray for fine and flashing steel!


Oh, flee the shambling night![v]

The hymn is followed by ten minutes of profound and silent reflection.

 

[i] Christensen used a mixed bag of Church-specific and secular vocabulary: “the Vacant” or “the Fallen” when referring to the zombies en masse; more commonly, “walkers” for the infected and “runners” for survivors, “zombies” when referring to small herds or individuals. “Walkers” refers and “runners” alludes ironically to a popular television series from the early twenty-first century (‘The Walking Dead’, AMC, 2010-18).

[ii]The initial hypothesis that zombies were both infected and infectious, and that the “disease” would spread by fluid exchange was soon disproved. Zombies devoured anything they caught, so there was nothing left to infect. Rather, the Outbreak—a now accepted misnomer—targeted specific individuals, for reasons still not clear, with the first cases manifesting in mid-October, 2042, and the generalized “infection” culminating in early March, 2043. The 2058 global census estimates that 54% of the world’s population was killed during the Outbreak, and that roughly 34% “turned.”

[iii] Similar observations were made on “runnerblogs,” including the ironically named runnersweakly.net and ghoulrunnings.net, and the South African site Re:Boks.gov.sa. The Italian site, corrieridellasera@corridori.it, went inactive in 2047.

[iv] Personal crime had, in fact, all but discontinued within two years of the Outbreak, after the typical and anticipated initial lawlessness had abated. This was reported generally from all known regions and continents, and is reflected in nearly every known record kept of the period.

[v]Hardcastle, Wilhelmina. “God Grant me Twinkling,” 2049. Published in Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, rev. ed. Denver, CO: LDSCorp, 2056.