Sunday, August 23, 2015

Second Coming: September 2015

Total Lunar Eclipse, April 15, 2014, by Robert Jay GaBany (Wikicommons)
September 2015 will be an interesting month. Several astronomical events will fall on the same days as holy days on the Hebrew calendar. I'll let you decide if these events are significant in regard to the Last Days or not. Let's take a tour of the month and see what will happen.

Happy New Year!

Rosh Hashana (ראש השנה) or Jewish New Year is also known as the Feast of the Trumpets. It begins at sundown on Sunday, September 13, 2015. It occurs on the first two days of the month Tishrei, which is the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. Lenet Hadley Reed wrote an article entitled "The Golden Plates and the Feast of the Trumpets" in the January 2000 Ensign. I recommend it.

The days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are called the Days of Awe. A partial solar eclipse will occur on September 13, 2015, though it will be visible in certain areas of the southern hemisphere.

Shemitah and Jubilee

The shemitah (pronounced schmee-ta) is the seventh or sabbatical year, a year of rest for the land according to Exodus 23:10–11:
And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof: but the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy oliveyard.
Some controversy exists about when the next sabbatical year will fall, but according to the Encyclopaedia Judaica, Second Edition ([Thomson Gale, 2006], 623–628), the shemitah began in 2014 and will end this year. (See Leviticus 25:1–7, 18–22; Deuteronomy 15:1–6; also see the entry on the sabbatical year in the Bible Dictionary.)

After seven times seven years comes the fiftieth or jubilee year (see Leviticus 25:8–17; see also the Bible Dictionary entry on the jubilee year). Some believe that 2015/2016 will be the 70th jubilee year since the nation of Israel entered the land of Canaan. However, there is much dissension about calendar dates so I will not go out on a limb here.

The Day of Atonement

Yom Kippur (יום הכיפורים) or the Day of Atonement begins at sundown on Tuesday, September 22, 2015. For Jews, it is the holiest day of the year, a day of fasting, prayer, and repentance.

Joseph Smith received the plates of gold from the angel Moroni 188 years ago on this day; however, September 22, 1827, fell on the same day as the Rosh Hashana or the Feast of Trumpets that year.

The Feast of the Tabernacles

Sukkot (סֻכּוֹת) or the Feast of the Tabernacles or Booths begins on sundown on Sunday, September 27, 2015. A total lunar eclipse will occur during the evening of September 27, 2015. If you live in northern Utah, for example, the eclipse will reach its apex at 8:47 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time. By the way, September 27, 2015 is important to me personally: I heard the first missionary discussion 40 years ago on this day and it stuck! 

The dates of the holy days and the eclipses are astronomical certainties. The Lord gave the "lights in the firmament . . . for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years" (see Genesis 1:14) so there may be significance to these phenomena. But the dates for the shemitah and jubilee are not so certain. When someone makes bold claims as to the exact date of a prophesied event, well, I am careful not to board a train for which God has not given me a ticket. But it's always good to be aware and watching. As the Savior warned, "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come" (Matthew 24:42).

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Second Coming: Be Not Moved until the Day of the Lord Come

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I recently saw this short video by David Christensen and wanted to pass it on.

Here are the quotes with sources from the video. Ezra Taft Benson said on March 4, 1979 at BYU:
For nearly six thousand years, God has held you in reserve to make your appearance in the final days before the Second Coming of the Lord. Every previous gospel dispensation has drifted into apostasy, but ours will not. True, there will be some individuals who will fall away; but the kingdom of God will remain intact to welcome the return of its head—even Jesus Christ. While our generation will be comparable in wickedness to the days of Noah, when the Lord cleansed the earth by flood, there is a major difference this time. It is that God has saved for the final inning some of his strongest children, who will help bear off the Kingdom triumphantly. And that is where you come in, for you are the generation that must be prepared to meet your God. . . . There has never been more expected of the faithful in such a short period of time as there is of us. Never before on the face of this earth have the forces of evil and the forces of good been as well organized. Now is the great day of the devil’s power, with the greatest mass murderers of all time living among us. But now is also the great day of the Lord’s power, with the greatest number ever of priesthood holders on the earth. And the showdown is fast approaching.
George Q. Cannon said on May 6, 1866 in Salt Lake City in (probably) the Old Tabernacle:
God has reserved spirits for this dispensation who have the courage and determination to face the world, and all the powers of the evil one, visible and invisible, to proclaim the gospel, and maintain the truth, and establish and build up the Zion of our God, fearless of all consequences. He has sent these spirits in this generation to lay the foundation of Zion, never more to be overthrown, and to raise up a seed that will be righteous, and that will honor God, and honor Him supremely, and be obedient to Him under all circumstances.
Henry B. Eyring said on January 5, 2005 at BYU Idaho:
Fear shall come upon all people. But you and I know that the Lord has prepared places of safety to which He is eager to guide us. . . . As the challenges around us increase, we must commit to do more to qualify for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Casual prayer won’t be enough. Reading a few verses of the scripture won’t be enough. Doing the minimum of what the Lord asks of us won’t be enough. Hoping that we will have the Atonement work in our lives and that we will perhaps sometimes feel the influence of the Holy Ghost won’t be enough. And one great burst of effort won’t be enough.
Recorded in the May 1982 edition of the New Era magazine are these words from Ezra Taft Benson:
This preparation must consist of more than just casual membership in the Church. You must learn to be guided by personal revelation and the counsel of the living prophet so you will not be deceived. . . . We know not the day nor the hour of His coming, but of this you may feel assured: You stand close to the great day of the Lord! In His words of modern revelation, we say to you, “Seek the face of the Lord, always” (D&C 101:38).

You will live in the midst of economic, political, and spiritual instability. When you see these signs—unmistakable evidences that His coming is nigh—be not troubled, but, “stand … in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come” (D&C 87:8). Holy men [and women] stand in holy places and these holy places include our temples, our chapels, our homes, and the stakes of Zion, which are, as the Lord declares, “for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth” (D&C 115:6).
Thomas S. Monson as the new president of the Church said on April 6, 2008 in the Conference Center:
I know without question, my brothers and sisters, that God lives. I testify to you that this is His work. I testify as well that our Savior Jesus Christ is at the head of this Church, which bears His name. I know that the sweetest experience in all this life is to feel His promptings as He directs us in the furtherance of His work. I felt those promptings as a young bishop, guided to the homes where there was spiritual—or perhaps temporal—want. I felt them again as a mission president in Toronto, Canada, working with wonderful missionaries who were a living witness and testimony to the world that this work is divine and that we are led by a prophet. I have felt them throughout my service in the Twelve and in the First Presidency and now as President of the Church. I testify that each one of us can feel the Lord’s inspiration as we live worthily and strive to serve Him.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Second Coming: Secret Combinations

"Cain and Abel" by Pietro Novelli (1603–1647)
Cain and Abel by Pietro Novelli (1603–1647)
The phrases secret combination or secret combinations appear 20 times in the standard works, mostly in the Book of Mormon. A secret combination is a pact between two or more parties to commit criminal acts, usually violent, under a cloak of secrecy—often involving secret societies and the exchange of oaths and signs—for gain, power, and the glory of this world.

Probably the first secret combination was made between Satan and Cain who slew his brother Abel in order to obtain his flocks. The annihilation of the Jaredite and Nephite peoples who once lived on the American continents were precipitated and accelerated by secret combinations, as Moroni explains:
And it came to pass that they formed a secret combination, even as they of old; which combination is most abominable and wicked above all, in the sight of God; for the Lord worketh not in secret combinations, neither doth he will that man should shed blood, but in all things hath forbidden it, from the beginning of man. And now I, Moroni, do not write the manner of their oaths and combinations, for it hath been made known unto me that they are had among all people, and they are had among the Lamanites. And they have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking, and also the destruction of the people of Nephi. And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed; for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for vengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not. (Ether 8:18–22; emphasis added)
In 1833, the Lord explained that He gave the Word of Wisdom "in consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days" (D&C 89:4). This also suggests the possible presence of secret combinations. Let me explain.

In the revelation known as section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord counsels us against using such addictive substances as alcohol and tobacco. It seems that the modern businesses that purvey these and other addictive and harmful substances have likely been cooked up by "conspiring men" for gain, under the protection of local and national laws. I am assured that such businesses will cease to exist when Christ reigns supreme over this earth again.

I am not much on conspiracy theories and I don't wish to delve into or postulate on them, but I constantly see evidence of coalitions of evil intent which the scriptures describe as secret combinations. I fear they will become so widespread that they will prove the near overthrow or near entire destruction of families, corporations, governments, societies, even civilization itself, before the Lord comes again. But they will not succeed.

Monday, August 3, 2015

What Does MTC Mean to You?

Missionaries in Africa. Courtesy LDS Media Library.
Missionary Training Center. That's what MTC stands for, right? Well, it depends on you.

I remember in a previous ward where we lived, around the time a young man was about to leave on a mission, his younger sister was worried because she thought her brother was going to the Empty Sea. You know, that big, vast, scary waterless ocean? That's what she thought until her dad sat her down and gave her a little better explanation.

Then there's the teenager who thinks that MTC stands for My Trial's Coming. A mission is an ominous, mysterious obligation to outwardly anticipate but to inwardly dread. No fun.

And what about the moms? Some think it's short for Mother's Torture Chamber. It's where they separate from their babies. Which is really hard. (It's not so easy for the dads either.)

Finally, there's the dedicated missionary, the one who's there because she wouldn't rather be any other place in the world, the one who willingly forgets how to complain, the one who feels the Spirit so strong that she finally feels like she's found home. For such a missionary, MTC means My Time with Christ.

Your definition of MTC might be different than others', depending on where you are in your life. It's not so much a matter of age or station, but it has a lot to do with attitude and spirit, two things that determine what road you'll travel.

I prefer the high road. The view's a lot better. The road signs are much easier to read. And there's always 24-hour roadside service. And no matter what, you'll always arrive at your destination in one piece.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Second Coming: Whatsovever Nation Shall Possess This Land Shall Serve God or Be Swept Off

Destruction of Jerusalem by Gary L. Kapp. Courtesy LDS Media Library
The Book of Mormon is a textbook for the latter days. Most everything that happened to the previous nations that possessed the lands that we now call North and South America will happen to us. One of the things that will happen is that the wicked will be swept from the land when the fulness of God's wrath will be visited upon them.

Near the end of the book, Moroni wrote these words as he related the history of the nation of the Jaredites from the Book of Ether:
And he had sworn in his wrath unto the brother of Jared, that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them. And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity. For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off. (Ether 2:8–10; emphasis added.)
This seems to apply to any land of promise. For example, when Jerusalem fell into spiritual ruin, the Babylonians (pictured above; see 2 Kings 24, 25) and the Romans destroyed and flattened the city. In the Book of Mormon, insuperable destruction swept the land of wicked inhabitants at the time of the Jaredites, at the time of Christ's death, and when the Nephites were destroyed by the Lamanites in the early centuries after Christ appeared in America.

I wish to say that there is a difference between the wicked and the righteous. Given the political rhetoric of our day, sometimes we hear evil called good and good called evil (see Isaiah 5:20), but rest assured that there will be a day that will burn as an oven where all the proud and wicked will be as dry stubble in the field and the righteous "shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of [their] feet" (see Malachi 4:1, 3).

We seem to live in the midst of a cyclone of iniquity. The storm could quiet through repentance, through the acceptance of God's existence and laws, but such will not be the case. Not in this era.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Second Coming: The Same Day Lot Went Out of Sodom It Rained Fire and Brimstone

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"The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah" by John Martin, 1852
Sometime before His Olivet discourse, which He gave only days before His death, the Savior prophesied of His Second Coming in Luke chapter 17:
And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. (Luke 17:26–30; emphasis added.)
As it was in the days of Noah, as it was in the days of Lot, so will it be when the Son of God returns again to earth. It seems that day will be a scene of sudden, mass destruction. Why? I'll explore what happened to Lot and his family. It'll give us an idea of what might happen on the "great and dreadful day of the Lord" (Malachi 4:5).

Lot Moves into a Bad Neighborhood

Before Sodom was destroyed, Abraham and Lot, Abraham's nephew, lived near Bethel and Ai, probably about 15 to 20 miles (24 to 32 kilometers) north of Jerusalem. Between them they owned a lot of livestock and they couldn't live near each other without their herdsmen arguing, so Lot and his family departed to the east, to the fertile, alluvial plain near the city of Sodom. This area was likely just northeast of the Dead Sea (also called the Salt Sea). 

Lot was in for a little trouble though because "the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly" (Genesis 13:13).

In time, holy men came to Abraham and Sarah to tell them of the the birth of Isaac, and as the men departed, the Lord revealed his intentions for Sodom to Abraham:
And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. (Genesis 18:20–21; emphasis added.)
Abraham reasoned with the Lord, pleading that He spare the cities if only ten righteous people were there. The Lord promised that He would not destroy them for the sake of ten. Nevertheless, in the end, the cities were not spared.

Lot Warned by Angels

When two angels arrived in Sodom, they stayed in Lot's house. I'll rely on the New International Version to tell us clearly what happened next.
Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. . . . [can't bear to leave in the part about Lot's daughters] Don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”
“Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door. But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door. (NIV Genesis 19:4–11.)
Jude, who was likely Jesus's younger brother, wrote in his epistle that:
Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. (NIV Jude 1:7.)
But immorality and perversion weren't Sodom's only sins. The Lord also condemned Jerusalem by the mouth of Ezekiel the prophet, comparing her to Sodom:
Thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters. Yet hast thou not walked after their ways, nor done after their abominations: but, as if that were a very little thing, thou wast corrupted more than they in all thy ways. As I live, saith the Lord God, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters. Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread [overeating], and abundance of idleness [unconcerned, perhaps lazy or apathetic] was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good. (Ezekiel 16:46–50; emphasis added.)
Lot Escapes, Barely

Lot tried to warn his sons in law, but they thought he was full of beans. When Lot lingered the next morning, the angels took Lot and his family by the hand and ("set") them outside the walls of the city. After they entered the nearby village of Zoar (Bela), "the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground" (Genesis 19:23–25).

Remember Lot's Wife

When Lot's wife looked back at the destruction, which she had been forbidden to do, she was reduced to a pillar of salt.

In his testimony to His disciples, Jesus warned: "Remember Lot's wife." What should we remember about her? Against the counsel of angels, she looked back. She chose her own way and suffered the fate of those who remained in the city.

I don't know precisely what happened to Lot's wife, but I have a suspicion that she not only looked back, she actually turned back and placed herself within the sulfuric strike zone. What was she after? I don't know. But this we do know: she brought her punishment upon herself. (Jeffrey R. Holland gave a wonderful devotional at BYU entitled "Remember Lot's Wife." Recommended reading.)

What Can We Learn from This Story?

Heed the warnings of the holy prophets, warn others to flee from sin, flee from sin ourselves, and don't look back.

One Last Word: Where Was Sodom? 

The archeologist Steven Collins believes that Tall el-Hammam, just northeast of the Dead Sea, is a geographical and archeological match for the site of ancient Sodom. He has been excavating the tell since 2005 and has discovered a thick layer of ash and other evidence that the city was exposed to a sudden, intense heat reaching 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. After the city was destroyed, the location was uninhabited for some 700 years. We can't be certain that Tall el-Hammam is the same place as Sodom as there are arguments against it, but I believe it might just be the place. 

Why do I write these posts? I know the Lord wants me to write them. I hope they help someone out there to feel better prepared for the Second Coming. Writing them has helped me feel better prepared, that's for sure.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Freedom Modesty Brings

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Courtesty LDS Media Library
That title? Not my words. They came from Kaylin Koslosky. This is a short post. I would only like to draw some attention to the Chastity Project and to a post on their site by Kaylin, "I Never Knew a Bikini Could Hide So Much." Among other things she says:
Modesty veils physical beauty in a world obsessed with it, in order to reveal the inner beauty that is often overlooked. It prevents lust, harmful comparisons, and insecurity and gives rise to confidence and a greater capacity to love yourself and others by recognizing your own worth without needing the affirmation of each person that sees you.
It is hard to turn back once you discover the freedom modesty brings.
Wherever you are at in this journey ask yourself this: What beauty am I revealing to the world, and is it leading me to the love my heart yearns for? But beware! You may be starting down a path of no return.
You do not veil yourself because you believe you are ugly, you veil yourself because you know that you are beautiful.
I was inspired by Kaylin's wise and courageous words. I hope you are too. 

Read More

Other posts from this blog on modesty:

When Clothes Really Do Make the Girl
A Few Thoughts on Modesty
Different Perspectives on Modesty
Quotes on Modesty
More Quotes on Modesty
Even More Quotes on Modesty