Material for this lesson can be found in two chapters of the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church:... (the old Priesthood/Relief Society manuals), in Joseph SmithChapter 21, in Brigham YoungChapter 45 and in Wilford WoodruffChapter 24. These can be found by going to the new “lds.org” then click on “Go to Classic LDS.org” (lower left corner), then click on “Gospel Library” then “Lessons” then “Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society.” The manuals are all found at the bottom of this page.
As with the last lesson Doctrines of the Gospel Institute Manual Chapter 34 and 35 are a wonderful resource for this lesson. It is available online at “institute.lds.org” then click on “Course Catalog” on the top bar. There are many references that could be given for the lesson title, but we will confine this blog to the subjects found in the sections of this lesson.
1 - - Jesus Christ Will Return to the Earth
In this section we read, “He [Our Heavenly Father] also expects us to be spiritually ready when the Savior comes in His glory” (p. 251). Concerning this, President Woodruff proclaimed:
As we anticipate the Savior’s return to reign on the earth, we must prepare ourselves individually, as families, and as a people.
The signs in both heaven and earth all indicate the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. …When my mind, under the influence of the Spirit of God, is open to comprehend these things I many times marvel and wonder, not only at the world but also at ourselves, that we are not more anxious and diligent in preparing ourselves and our families for the events now at our doors, for though the heavens and the earth pass away, not one jot or tittle of the word of the Lord will go unfulfilled (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 250).
Matthew 24 is quoted throughout this lesson. President Woodruff stated:
We are told in the 24th chapter of Matthew, that Jesus, on a certain occasion, taught his disciples many things concerning his gospel, the temple, the Jews, his second coming and the end of the world; and they asked him—Master, what shall be the sign of these things? The Savior answered them, but in a very brief manner.
[He then read to them from D&C 45] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 252).
1 A - - Wickedness, War, and Turmoil
This section is not really divided into the above three categories, but we will do so. ”Wickedness” is an interesting subject as a Sign of the Second Coming. Later in the blog, President Benson will be quoted as to using the patterns found in the Book of Mormon to prepare us for the Second Coming. In this great book we find:
…and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed (Mormon 4:5).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained how this will be repeated:
Before this earth becomes a fit habitat for the Holy One, it must be cleansed and purified. The wicked must be destroyed; peace must replace war; and the evil imaginations in the hearts of men must give way to desires for righteousness. How shall this be brought to pass? There are two ways: (1) By plagues and pestilence and wars and desolation. The wicked shall slay the wicked, as did the Nephites and the Lamanites in the day of the extinction of the Nephites as a nation. Plagues will sweep the earth, as the Black Death ravaged Asia and Europe in the fourteenth century. The carcasses of the dead will be stacked in uncounted numbers to rot and decay and fill the earth with stench. (Doctrines of the Gospel Institute Student Manual, 95).
The second way is the cleansing of the earth by fire, which is covered in the next lesson.
Concerning wickedness and plagues, a fairly recent newspaper headline declared, “AIDS Called Leading Killer of Women.” The story out of Geneva, Switzerland then stated:
In its first study of women’s health, the World Health Organization said yesterday that the AIDS virus is the leading cause of death and disease among women between the ages of 15 and 44 (Boston Globe, Nov. 10, 2009).
The Church’s official statement on AIDS refers to a talk that President Hinckley, then of the First Presidency, gave in conference. He proclaimed:
There is a plague of fearsome dimensions moving across the world…
AIDS is a commonly fatal malady caused primarily from sexually transmitted disease and secondarily from drug abuse. Unfortunately, as in any epidemic, innocent people also become victims.
We, with others, hope that discoveries will make possible both prevention and healing from this dread affliction. But regardless of such discoveries, the observance of one clearly understandable and divinely given rule would do more than all else to check this epidemic. That is chastity before marriage and total fidelity after marriage.
Prophets of God have repeatedly taught through the ages that practices of homosexual relations, fornication, and adultery are grievous sins. Sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage are forbidden by the Lord. We reaffirm those teachings (Ensign, May 1987, 45).
In this section it quotes, “The Lord said, ‘The love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound’ (D&C 45:27).” Elder M. Russell Ballard quoted this same scripture in a talk and then elaborated:
Citing figures from a 30-year study, Ballard referred to a 560 percent increase in violent crimes, a 400 percent increase of births outside of marriage, a 200 percent increase in teen-age suicides and a 75-point decrease in average SAT scores over the last 30 years as evidence of Christ’s prophesies. Ballard said the figures are direct results of sordid media programming and movies.
“Hollywood and TV” must be held accountable for the decline of America’s moral landscape, he added (Salt Lake Tribune, Mar. 16, 1996).
Concerning “war” Joseph Smith received a sobering revelation:
One such revelation came on Christmas Day in 1832. The Prophet spent part of this day at home, deep in contemplation about the serious problems facing the nations of the world at that time. “Appearances of troubles among the nations became more visible this season than they had previously been since the Church began her journey out of the wilderness,” the Prophet said. Events in the United States were leading toward civil war, and outbreaks of deadly diseases were widespread throughout the world. While “praying earnestly on the subject,” the Prophet received the revelation now found in section 87 of the Doctrine and Covenants. The Lord revealed to Joseph that before the Second Coming, war would be poured out upon all the nations and natural calamities would chasten the people:
“With the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations. … Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord” (D&C 87:6, 8) (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 249-50).
Dr. James Waller, a social psychologist, gave some evidence of fulfillment of the above prophecy from Joseph Smith [without reference to Joseph Smith] in a lecture given at Weber State University on April 15, 2003. He stated:
“…in the four decades following WW II, there have been 150 wars and only 26 days of peace” (The Signpost, April 16, 2003).
Concerning “turmoil” Elder M. Russell Ballard gave sobering data about earthquakes in these latter days. After quoting Matthew 24:7 on “earthquakes” Elder Ballard explained:
Although the prophecies tell us that these things are to take place, more and more people are expressing great alarm at what appears to be an acceleration of worldwide calamity. As members of the Church, we must not forget the Savior’s admonition, “Be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass.” These are difficult times, when the forces of nature seem to be unleashing a flood of “famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.”
Recently I read a newspaper article that cited statistics from the U.S. Geological Survey indicating that earthquakes around the world are increasing in frequency and intensity. According to the article, only two major earthquakes (earthquakes measuring at least six on the Richter scale) occurred during the 1920s. In the 1930s the number increased to five, and then it decreased to four during the 1940s. But in the 1950s, nine major earthquakes occurred, followed by fifteen during the 1960s, forty-six during the 1970s, and fifty-two during the 1980s. Already almost as many major earthquakes have occurred during the 1990s as during the entire decade of the 1980s (Ensign, Nov. 1992, 31).
In March of 2011 Japan had four earthquakes above seven on the Richter scale in three days.
Perhaps the earthquakes in the last days are a reaction of the earth against evil (see Moses 7:48, 56) similar to what Spencer W. Kimball stated concerning the earthquakes in the Americas at the time of the crucifixion:
These earth spasm [were] a revolt by the created earth against the crucifixion of its Creator (Pearl of Great Price Manual, 24).
Concerning “turmoil” something not mentioned here, but very much aligned with earthquakes is also mentioned in scripture as a sign of the Second Coming:
For not many days hence…also cometh the testimony of the voice…of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds (D&C 88:87-90).
When I taught earth science in high school in 1970 (I know, that is ancient history) we had a word in our text books that not a single student had ever heard of. It was “tsunami.” There are very few who do not know that word today.
Joseph Smith declared concerning these things:
The scripture is ready to be fulfilled when great wars, famines, pestilence, great distress, judgments, etc., are ready to be poured out on the inhabitants of the earth.
There will be a short work on the earth. It has now commenced. I suppose there will soon be perplexity all over the earth. Do not let our hearts faint when these things come upon us, for they must come, or the word cannot be fulfilled (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 252).
Joseph Smith also explained that even if we die in the midst of the events preceding the Second Coming, God will take care of us:
[I] explained concerning the coming of the Son of Man; also that it is a false idea that the Saints will escape all the judgments, whilst the wicked suffer; for all flesh is subject to suffer, and ‘the righteous shall hardly escape’ [see D&C 63:34]; still many of the Saints will escape, for the just shall live by faith [see Habakkuk 2:4]; yet many of the righteous shall fall a prey to disease, to pestilence, etc., by reason of the weakness of the flesh, and yet be saved in the Kingdom of God. So that it is an unhallowed principle to say that such and such have transgressed because they have been preyed upon by disease or death, for all flesh is subject to death; and the Savior has said, ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged.’ [See Matthew 7:1.] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 253).
Brigham Young shared great wisdom concerning all of the above and prophesies from the God of the Eternities:
When the wicked have power to blow out the sun, that it shines no more; when they have power to bring to a conclusion the operations of the elements, suspend the whole system of nature, and make a footstool of the throne of the Almighty, they may then think to check “Mormonism” in its course, and thwart the unalterable purposes of heaven [see D&C 121:33]. Men may persecute the people who believe its doctrines, report and publish lies to bring tribulation upon their heads, earth and hell may unite in one grand league against it, and exert their malicious powers to the utmost, but it will stand as firm and immovable in the midst of it all as the pillars of eternity. Men may persecute the Prophet, and those who believe and uphold him, they may drive the Saints and kill them, but this does not affect the truths of “Mormonism” one iota, for they will stand when the elements melt with fervent heat, and the heavens are wrapt up like a scroll and the solid earth is dissolved [see Isaiah 34:4; D&C 88:95] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 325).
A great concept about dealing with all of the above was given by Elder Russell M. Nelson in last April Conference after he named earthquakes, tsunamis, and governments collapsing:
But we need do not need to let our fears displace our faith. We can combat these fears by strengthening our faith (April Conference, 2011).
1 B - - The Restoration of the Gospel
From the Encyclopedia of Mormonismwe learn a simple but powerful truth of just how important is the restoration to the Second Coming:
The fundamental purpose of the restoration is to prepare the Church and the world to receive their Kind, the Lord Jesus Christ (p. 1219).
It may also be important to note that President Hinckley declared:
He [Jesus Christ] has come again to usher in a dispensation (Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley, 2:555).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland also stated:
The promised Second Coming of the Savior began with the First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1820 (CES Fireside for Young Adults, Sep. 12, 2004).
These firesides are available at “institute.lds.org” online.
President Woodruff explained how the restoration aids preparation for the Second Coming:
I want to ask who are looking for the fulfillment of these events, and who upon the earth are preparing themselves for the fulfillment of the word of the Lord through the mouths of prophets, patriarchs and apostles for the last six thousand years? Nobody that I have any knowledge of, [except] the Latter-day Saints, and I for one feel that we are not half so much awake as we ought to be, and not half as well prepared as we ought to be for the tremendous events which are coming upon the earth in quick succession in these latter days. Who can the Lord expect to prepare for his second coming but his Saints? None.
How much has the Lord plead with the nations of the earth to give them celestial glory, honor, immortality and eternal life? He has plead with them for the last six thousand years, and has raised up his servants from time to time and called upon the inhabitants of the world to prepare themselves for the great day of his second advent and coming, which is at hand. He is calling upon them loudly to-day; and, as I have said to some of my brethren lately, the Lord now wants to know whether the Latter-day Saints are willing to work with him or not. It is a day of decision.
Before Christ comes a people have got to be prepared by being sanctified before the Lord. Temples have got to be built; Zion has got to be built up; there must be a place of safety for the people of God while his judgments are abroad in the earth, for the judgments of God will visit the earth.
The organizations, which have been established in this Church from the beginning, are all helps and governments, and are associated together to carry out this great work. The eyes of the heavens are over us. The Son of God and all the Prophets and Patriarchs that have lived upon the earth are watching over this great work—this great organization preparing for the coming of the Son of Man (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 253, 254-5).
Brigham Young made an interesting statement about the restoration:
There never has been a day for ages and ages, not since the true church was destroyed after the days of the Apostles, that required the faith and the energy of godly men and godly women, and the skill, wisdom and power of the Almighty to be with them, so much as this people require it at the present time. There never was that necessity; there never has been a time on the face of the earth, from the time that the church went to destruction, and the Priesthood was taken from the earth, that the powers of darkness and the powers of earth and hell were so embittered, and enraged, and incensed against God and Godliness on the earth, as they are at the present.
The Devil is just as much opposed to Jesus now as he was when the revolt took place in heaven. And as the Devil increases his numbers by getting the people to be wicked, so Jesus Christ increases his numbers and strength by getting the people to be humble and righteous. The human family are going to the polls by and by, and they wish to know which party is going to carry the day (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 332).
I really like what Brigham Young said about Joseph and the restoration:
I feel like shouting Hallelujah, all the time, when I think that I ever knew Joseph Smith, the Prophet whom the Lord raised up and ordained, and to whom he gave keys and power to build up the Kingdom of God on earth and sustain it. These keys are committed to this people, and we have power to continue the work that Joseph commenced, until everything is prepared for the coming of the Son of Man. This is the business of the Latter-day Saints, and it is all the business we have on hand (Discourses of Brigham Young, 458).
1 C - - The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon
President Ezra Taft Benson gave us a wonderful key to understanding the “Signs of the Second Coming” from the Book of Mormon in a wonderful conference talk:
The record of the Nephite history just prior to the Savior’s visit reveals many parallels to our own day as we anticipate the Savior’s second coming Ensign, May 1987, 4).
In another great talk by President Benson in the opening talk of conference, he declared:
The Book of Mormon is the instrument that God designed to “sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out [His] elect.” (Moses 7:62.) This sacred volume of scripture needs to become more central in our preaching, our teaching, and our missionary work…
The time is long overdue for a massive flooding of the earth with the Book of Mormon for the many reasons which the Lord has given. In this age of the electronic media and the mass distribution of the printed word, God will hold us accountable if we do not now move the Book of Mormon in a monumental way.
We have the Book of Mormon, we have the members, we have the missionaries, we have the resources, and the world has the need. The time is now!
My beloved brothers and sisters, we hardly fathom the power of the Book of Mormon, nor the divine role it must play, nor the extent to which it must be moved.
“Few men on earth,” said Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “either in or out of the Church, have caught the vision of what the Book of Mormon is all about. Few are they among men who know the part it has played and will yet play in preparing the way for the coming of Him of whom it is a new witness. … The Book of Mormon shall so affect men that the whole earth and all its peoples will have been influenced and governed by it. … There is no greater issue ever to confront mankind in modern times than this: Is the Book of Mormon the mind and will and voice of God to all men?” (Millennial Messiah pp. 159, 170, 179.) We testify that it is.
Now, my good Saints, we have a great work to perform in a very short time. We must flood the earth with the Book of Mormon—and get out from under God’s condemnation for having treated it lightly. (See D&C 84:54–58.)
I challenge the members of the Church to participate in the family-to-family Book of Mormon program—to send copies of the Book of Mormon on a mission for you. Sister Benson and I have been doing this for some time now, and we intend to do more. We should be sending out millions of copies of the Book of Mormon to the missionaries every month (Ensign, Nov. 1988, 4).
Four years later, a survey by Library of Congress and Book-of-the-Month Club found the Book of Mormon to be # 8 of books that most influenced lives (New York Times, Nov. 20, 1991).
In “answers.com” it states that as of 2002 there have been 115 ½ billion copies of the Book of Mormon printed in 102 languages printed. From the same source, there are about 6.7 billion people on the earth as of 2008. That means there would be about 17 copies for every person on earth.
President Woodruff explained how the restored scriptures are so crucial to understanding how to prepare for the Second Coming:
If the world wants to know what is coming to pass, let them read the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants; let them read [the] revelations of St. John. As God lives they will come to pass. Not one of them will fall unfulfilled.
I say that throughout the whole of the Scriptures—the Old and New Testament, the Book of Mormon and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, the second coming of the Lord is frequently referred to; and has the Lord promised these things without intending to fulfil them? No, he has not, they will be fulfilled.
If we, as Latter-day Saints, want anything to stir us up, let us read the Bible, Book of Mormon and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants; they contain enough to edify and instruct us in the things of God. Treasure up the revelations of God and the gospel of Christ contained therein (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 252-3).
1 D - - The Gospel Preached to All the World
President Woodruff declared the importance of the title of this section:
I think, many times, that we, as elders of Israel and as Latter-day Saints, come far short of realizing our position before the Lord. The work required at our hands is great and mighty; it is the work of Almighty God. We are held responsible for presenting the gospel of Christ to all the nations of the earth. … We are held responsible for all this and for building temples to the Most High, wherein we can enter and attend to ordinances for the salvation of our dead (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 254).
Brigham Young explained how the gospel would need to be preached to all of the world and then major destruction would take place:
All we have yet heard and we have experienced is scarcely a preface to the sermon that is going to be preached. When the testimony of the Elders ceases to be given, and the Lord says to them, “Come home; I will now preach my own sermons to the nations of the earth,” all you now know can scarcely be called a preface to the sermon that will be preached with fire and sword, tempests, earthquakes, hail, rain, thunders and lightnings, and fearful destruction. What matters the destruction of a few railway cars? You will hear of magnificent cities, now idolized by the people, sinking in the earth, entombing the inhabitants. The sea will heave itself beyond its bounds, engulfing mighty cities. Famine will spread over the nations and nation will rise up against nation, kingdom against kingdom and states against states, in our own country and in foreign lands; and they will destroy each other, caring not for the blood and lives of their neighbors, of their families, or for their own lives (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 331).
1 E - - The Coming of Elijah
This section was well covered in this blog, Chapter 40 in section # 4, “Our Ancestors Need Our Help.” A review may be helpful if needed here.
1 F - - Lehi’s Descendants Will Become a Great People
Jacob 5 gives a wonderful pattern of how the Lord placed Israel all over the earth in the scattering (see Chapter 42). Concerning the children of Lehi, Brigham Young stated:
Those islanders [of the Pacific] and the natives of [America] are of the House of Israel—of the seed of Abraham, and to them pertain the promise; and every soul of them, sooner or later, will be saved in the Kingdom of God, or be destroyed root and branch (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 325).
Alma 63:5-8 tells of Hagoth who took fleets of ships from Zarahemla. Many believe the islands of the Pacific were populated by these children of Lehi. In 1991, Robert E. Parsons, emeritus professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU, presented a paper at the Sixth Annual Book of Mormon Symposium. The paper, "Hagoth and the Polynesians," is reprinted as a chapter in The Book of Mormon: Alma The Testimony of the Word, published by BYU's Religious Studies Center. In this paper, Professor Parsons quoted the following:
Elder Hugh B. Brown, in the closing prayer at the cornerstone laying ceremony at the New Zealand Temple: " . . . We humbly thank Thee that this building is erected in this land, so that those faithful Maoris who came here in early days, descendants of Father Lehi, may be remembered by their descendants. . . . "
President David O. McKay, in the dedicatory prayer at the New Zealand Temple, April 20, 1958: "We express gratitude that to these fertile islands thou dist guide descendants of Father Lehi and hast enabled them to prosper."
Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, at the dedication of the New Zealand Temple, April 20, 1958: " . . . Here are two great strains of the house of Israel and the children of Ephraim from the isles of Britain, and the children of Lehi from the isles of the Pacific."
President Joseph F. Smith: "I would like to say to you brethren and sisters of New Zealand, you are some of Hagoth's people, and there is No Perhaps about it!"
Professor Parsons then stated:
In conclusion it seems fair to state that although the Church has no official, published declaration on the origin of the Polynesians, there have been enough semi-official statements by prophets of the Lord to leave little doubt that the Church believes that the Polynesians are direct blood relatives of Lehi's colony… “Hagoth believed to be link between Polynesia and peoples of America” Church News, Saturday, July 25, 1992).
A friend of mine, Jonathan Woodstock, researched out the following:
Eighteen of the nineteen nations with the highest percentages of LDS in their population are in the Pacific Islands (the first seven) or South America (Chili is number 8 at about 3 ½ %). The United States is the only other one in the top nineteen (it is number 13 on the list at about 1.8 %). Tonga and Samoa are almost 50% and 40% respectively.
“Lehi’s Descendants” are already becoming “a Great People!”
1 G - - Building of the New Jerusalem
In the Millennium there will be two ruling centers, one in old Jerusalem and one in New Jerusalem, or Independence, Jackson County, Missouri. Joseph Smith was excited when it was revealed to him concerning New Jerusalem:
In early June 1831, just weeks after the gathering from New York to Ohio was complete, the Saints assembled in Kirtland for a conference of the Church. On June 7, the day after the conference ended, Joseph Smith received a revelation that turned Church members’ thoughts toward Zion: “The next conference … shall be held in Missouri, upon the land which I will consecrate unto my people” (D&C 52:2).
The Saints were intensely interested in establishing Zion—a holy city…
“I received, by a heavenly vision, a commandment in June , to take my journey to the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and there designate the very spot which was to be the central place for the commencement of the gathering together of those who embrace the fullness of the everlasting Gospel. … seeking diligently at the hand of God, He manifested Himself unto us, and designated, to me and others, the very spot upon which He designed to commence the work of the gathering, and the upbuilding of an ‘holy city,’ which should be called Zion—Zion, because it is a place of righteousness, and all who build thereon are to worship the true and living God, and all believe in one doctrine, even the doctrine of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Now Church leaders would be leaving immediately to determine the location of Zion. Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and others started the 900-mile journey to Jackson County, Missouri…
In mid-July, the Prophet arrived in western Missouri, a beautiful area of rolling, fertile prairie, thick with flowers. There, in reply to his pleading to know Zion’s specific location, the Lord revealed that “the place which is now called Independence is the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse” (D&C 57:3) and that tracts of land should be purchased. On August 2, Joseph Smith and others met to begin the building of Zion. The Prophet recorded: “I assisted the Colesville branch of the Church to lay the first log, for a house, as a foundation of Zion in Kaw township, twelve miles west of Independence. The log was carried and placed by twelve men, in honor of the twelve tribes of Israel.
The Saints worked diligently to build up Zion, but by late 1833, they had been driven out of their homes in Jackson County by severe persecution, leaving behind their dreams of establishing Zion and building a temple there. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord revealed that the conditions for the redemption of Zion in that land were not yet fulfilled and that the establishment of Zion must “wait for a little season” (D&C 105:9). (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 183-5).
Joseph explained how this would fulfill prophesy:
The city of Zion spoken of by David, in the one hundred and second Psalm, will be built upon the land of America, ‘And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads’ [Isaiah 35:10]; and then they will be delivered from the overflowing scourge that shall pass through the land (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 188).
Joseph clarified the two ruling centers:
first he quoted Moses 7:62]
Now I understand by this quotation, that … righteousness and truth are to sweep the earth as with a flood. And now, I ask, how righteousness and truth are going to sweep the earth as with a flood? I will answer. Men and angels are to be co-workers in bringing to pass this great work, and Zion is to be prepared, even a new Jerusalem, for the elect that are to be gathered from the four quarters of the earth, and to be established an holy city…
next quoted 3 Nephi 20:22]
Now many will feel disposed to say, that this New Jerusalem spoken of, is the Jerusalem that was built by the Jews on the eastern continent. But you will see, from Revelation 21:2, there was a New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, adorned as a bride for her husband; that after this, the Revelator was caught away in the Spirit, to a great and high mountain, and saw the great and holy city descending out of heaven from God. Now there are two cities spoken of here. As everything cannot be had in so narrow a compass as a letter, I shall say with brevity, that there is a New Jerusalem to be established on this continent, and also Jerusalem shall be rebuilt on the eastern continent [see Ether 13:1–12]. ‘Behold, Ether saw the days of Christ, and he spake also concerning the house of Israel, and the Jerusalem from whence Lehi should come; after it should be destroyed, it should be built up again, a holy city unto the Lord, wherefore it could not be a New Jerusalem, for it had been in a time of old.’ [Ether 13:4–5.] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 188-9).
Joseph was devastated when the Saints were expelled from Jackson County:
I cannot learn from any communication by the Spirit to me, that Zion has forfeited her claim to a celestial crown, notwithstanding the Lord has caused her to be thus afflicted, except it may be some individuals, who have walked in disobedience, and forsaken the new covenant; all such will be made manifest by their works in due time. I know that Zion, in the due time of the Lord, will be redeemed; but how many will be the days of her purification, tribulation, and affliction, the Lord has kept hid from my eyes; and when I inquire concerning this subject, the voice of the Lord is: Be still, and know that I am God! (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 185).
Joseph did not give up on Zion being redeemed in the future:
If Zion will not purify herself, so as to be approved of in all things, in His sight, He will seek another people; for His work will go on until Israel is gathered…
So long as unrighteous acts are suffered in the Church, it cannot be sanctified, neither can Zion be redeemed.
Let every one labor to prepare himself for the vineyard, sparing a little time to comfort the mourners; to bind up the broken-hearted; to reclaim the backslider; to bring back the wanderer; to re-invite into the kingdom such as have been cut off, by encouraging them to lay to while the day lasts, and work righteousness, and, with one heart and one mind, prepare to help redeem Zion, that goodly land of promise, where the willing and the obedient shall be blessed.
But Judah shall obtain deliverance at Jerusalem. [See Joel 2:32; Isaiah 26:20–21; Jeremiah 31:12; Psalm 1:5; Ezekiel 34:11–13.] These are testimonies that the Good Shepherd will put forth His own sheep, and lead them out from all nations where they have been scattered in a cloudy and dark day, to Zion, and to Jerusalem (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 186-8).
In 1842 Joseph firmly declared his knowledge that these things would surely come to pass in the Wentworth letter, now Article of Faith# 10:
We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth…
Brigham Young continued this hope:
The Lord has restored the Priesthood in our day for the salvation of Israel. Does he design to save anybody else? Yes; he will save the House of Esau, and I hope to live until I see Mount Zion established, and saviors come up to save those poor, miserable beings who are continually persecuting us—all who have not sinned against the Holy Ghost. Our labor is to save ourselves, to save the House of Israel, to save the House of Esau, and all the Gentile nations—every one that can be saved.
What will be the final result of the restoration of the Gospel, and the destiny of the Latter-day Saints? If they are faithful to the Priesthood which God has bestowed upon us, the Gospel will revolutionize the whole world of mankind; the earth will be sanctified, and God will glorify it, and the Saints will dwell upon it in the presence of the Father and the Son (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 244, 324).
Likewise did President Joseph F. Smith:
There is never a time, there never will come a time to those who hold the Priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, when men can say of themselves that they have done enough. So long as life lasts, and so long as we possess ability to do good, to labor for the upbuilding of Zion… (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 247).
In an interesting prophesy, Joseph declared:
Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the temple, and water come out from under the temple, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed [see Ezekiel 47:1–9]. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple, etc.; and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make His appearance. There will be wars and rumors of wars, signs in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, the sun turned into darkness and the moon to blood, earthquakes in divers places, the seas heaving beyond their bounds; then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, etc. But the Son of Man will come as the sign of the coming of the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east [see Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:26] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 252-3).
Since there will be a temple at both old and New Jerusalem, we would do well to heed the plea from President Howard W. Hunter in a First Presidency Message:
It would be the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church be temple worthy (Ensign, Oct 1994, 2).
Where better to prepare for the coming of the Lord than in a House of Lord!
2 - - Knowing the Signs of the Times Can Help Us
This section quotes D&C 49:7 in that concerning the Second Coming “The hour and the day no man knoweth…” (p. 255).
While he did not tell us when, Joseph Smith did caution:
We shall … do well to discern the signs of the times as we pass along, that the day of the Lord may not ‘overtake us as a thief in the night.’ [See D&C 106:4–5.]” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 251).
President Woodruff added:
I do not think anyone can tell the hour of the coming of the Son of Man. … We need not look for the time of that event to be made known.
You will find numerous predictions in regard to his coming, such as—“I come quickly,” “I come at an hour ye think not,” “My coming is at the door,” “I come as a thief in the night,” “I come in an hour when you are not looking for me,” and “Blessed is he who is looking for the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 250, 253).
On the day after Christmas President Hinckley was on a panel on CNN’s Larry King Live, hosted by Larry King. The following is an excerpt:
KING: And you’ve been waiting so many years for this, the return of the Messiah. When do you expect it?
HINCKLEY: I don’t – I don’t know. Even the angels in heaven don’t know. I have no idea. But I’d welcome it at any time. The world has so many problems, that if he were to come, it would be better, I think – far better/
KING: There’s no doubt that, in your mind, he is coming.
HINCKLEY: He is coming, but I have no idea when (Dec. 26, 2004).
President Woodruff’s suggestion is also appropriate:
In a general conference address in April 1950, Elder Richard L. Evans of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “I recall a reported statement, attributed, as I remember it, to President Wilford Woodruff. Some of the brethren of his time are said to have approached him … and to have inquired of him as to when he felt the end would be—when would be the coming of the Master? These, I think, are not his exact words, but they convey the spirit of his reported reply: ‘I would live as if it were to be tomorrow—but I am still planting cherry trees!’” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 250).
Elder Boyd K. Packer gave wonderful advice concerning this in a conference talk:
Teenagers also sometimes think, “What’s the use? The world will soon be blown all apart and come to an end.” That feeling comes from fear, not from faith. No one knows the hour or the day (see D&C 49:7), but the end cannot come until all of the purposes of the Lord are fulfilled. Everything that I have learned from the revelations and from life convinces me that there is time and to spare for you to carefully prepare for a long life.
One day you will cope with teenage children of your own. That will serve you right. Later, you will spoil your grandchildren, and they in turn spoil theirs. If an earlier end should happen to come to one, that is more reason to do things right (Ensign, May 1989, 53).
Joseph Smith added an interesting “near-the-end” sign:
I have asked of the Lord concerning His coming; and while asking the Lord, He gave a sign and said, “In the days of Noah I set a bow in the heavens as a sign and token that in any year that the bow should be seen the Lord would not come; but there should be seed time and harvest during that year: but whenever you see the bow withdrawn, it shall be a token that there shall be famine, pestilence, and great distress among the nations, and that the coming of the Messiah is not far distant” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 252).
In this section, D&C 45:59 is quoted, “For the Lord shall be in their midst” (p. 255). The Lord is in our “midst” by way of His prophets. Joseph Smith declared:
It is not the design of the Almighty to come upon the earth and crush it and grind it to powder, but he will reveal it to His servants the prophets [see Amos 3:7].
Regarding a man who claimed to have seen the sign of the Son of Man, the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “He has not seen the sign of the Son of Man, as foretold by Jesus; neither has any man, nor will any man, until after the sun shall have been darkened and the moon bathed in blood; for the Lord hath not shown me any such sign; and as the prophet saith, so it must be—‘Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets.’ (See Amos 3:7.) (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 253).
Another time Joseph added:
Behold the prophecies of the Book of Mormon are fulfilling as fast as time can bring it about. The Spirit of the living God is upon me; therefore, who will say that I shall not prophesy. The time is soon at hand that we shall have to flee whithersoever the Lord will, for safety (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 256).
This section begins with a terrific question, “How can we remain calm and at peace even when some of the signs are terrifying and dreadful?” (p. 355).
President Uchtdorf gave us terrific counsel in his talk for the 2010 First Presidency Christmas Devotional given Dec. 5, 2010:
…look steadfastly for His coming. The early disciples of Jesus Christ yearned for the time when He would come again. For them, mortality was a time of preparation and growth, of sifting and refining, a time for trimming their lamps and preparing for the return of their beloved Savior.
Brothers and sisters, 2,000 years later we also stand as His disciples. We are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The term latter-day is significant. We live and serve in a time prior to the Lord's triumphant return. Our work is to prepare ourselves and the world for the coming of the Messiah in glory!
Not long after His mortal ministry, Christ said to the Apostle John, "Surely I come quickly." And John answered, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
Our work is to prepare ourselves and the world for the coming of the Messiah in glory!
We live in the 11th hour before the coming of the day of our Lord. Let us therefore look forward to that blessed day when the King of kings descends with a shout takes away death, dries up tears, and ushers in a new era of peace, joy, and learning.
While the Christmas season is typically a time for looking back and celebrating the birth of our Lord, it seems to me that it should also be a time of looking to the future. Let us look forward. Let us prepare for that blessed day when He will come again. Let us be as wise as those ancients who watched for His coming. As His disciples, let us have in our hearts and minds the words of John: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (found at “ldschurchnews.com”).
Perhaps one of the best things we can to prepare is follow the counsel given by Joseph Smith:
When I contemplate the rapidity with which the great and glorious day of the coming of the Son of Man advances, when He shall come to receive His Saints unto Himself, where they shall dwell in His presence, and be crowned with glory and immortality; when I consider that soon the heavens are to be shaken, and the earth tremble and reel to and fro; and that the heavens are to be unfolded as a scroll when it is rolled up; and that every mountain and island are to flee away, I cry out in my heart, What manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness! [See 2 Peter 3:11.]
Let us be wise in all things, and keep all the commandments of God, that our salvation may be sure. Having our armor ready and prepared against the time appointed and having on the whole armor of righteousness, we may be able to stand in that trying day [see Ephesians 6:13] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 254-5).
Brigham Young’s counsel is also wonderful:
Are you prepared for the day when the Lord will consume the wicked by the brightness of his coming? No. Then do not be too anxious for the Lord to hasten his work. Let our anxiety be centered upon one thing, the sanctification of our own hearts, the purifying of our own affections, the preparing of ourselves for the approach of the events that are hastening upon us. This should be our concern, this should be our study, this should be our daily prayer, and not to be in a hurry to see the overthrow of the wicked.
We have the Kingdom of God to build up, Zion to redeem; we have to sanctify ourselves so that we may be prepared to be caught up with the Church of the Firstborn, and if we improve every day and hour, then if we die we shall be found justified. But if we continue to live, we must become Saints in very deed, or come short of the fulness of the glory of God that is to be revealed.
Whether the world is going to be burned up within a year, or within a thousand years, does not matter a groat [a kernel of grain] to you and me. We have the words of eternal life, we have the privilege of obtaining glory, immortality, and eternal lives, now will you obtain these blessings?
The Lord’s time is not for me to know; but he is kind, long-suffering, and patient, and his wrath endureth silently, and will until mercy is completely exhausted, and then judgment will take the reins. I do not know how, neither do I at present wish to know. It is enough for us to know how to serve our God and live our religion, and thus we will increase in the favor of God (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 334; also Journal of Discourses, 9:3).
As is that of President Woodruff:
All that the Latter-day Saints have to do is to be quiet, careful and wise before the Lord, watch the signs of the times, and be true and faithful; and when you get through you will understand many things that you do not today (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 251).
Our current prophet, Thomas S. Monson, also gave terrific counsel in a conference talk:
Since last we met together in a general conference six months ago, there have been continuing signs that circumstances in the world aren’t necessarily as we would wish. The global economy, which six months ago appeared to be sagging, seems to have taken a nosedive, and for many weeks now the financial outlook has been somewhat grim. In addition, the moral footings of society continue to slip, while those who attempt to safeguard those footings are often ridiculed and, at times, picketed and persecuted. Wars, natural disasters, and personal misfortunes continue to occur.
It would be easy to become discouraged and cynical about the future—or even fearful of what might come—if we allowed ourselves to dwell only on that which is wrong in the world and in our lives. Today, however, I’d like us to turn our thoughts and our attitudes away from the troubles around us and to focus instead on our blessings as members of the Church. The Apostle Paul declared, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith (Ensign, May 2009, 89).