Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Jesus Christ Is the Gift

No comments:
The first gift of Christmas was given by our Heavenly Father to all his children, His son, Jesus Christ.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16.)
This new video reminds us of the true meaning of the season. I can't remind myself of it too often.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Second Coming: Natural Disasters

No comments:
Photo courtesy LDS Media Library
A few days ago, I saw this headline from CBS News and sort of chuckled: "Big earthquakes double in 2014, but scientists say they're not linked." Here's a quote for the article:
"We have recently experienced a period that has had one of the highest rates of great earthquakes ever recorded," said lead study author Tom Parsons, a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Menlo Park, California. But even though the global earthquake rate is on the rise, the number of quakes can still be explained by random chance, said Parsons and co-author Eric Geist, also a USGS researcher (emphasis mine).
Yes, from a scientific standpoint, these earthquakes may appear random, but from a prophetic point of view, they come as no surprise: scripture tells us that there will be "earthquakes in divers places" leading up to the time of Christ's second advent (Mark 13:8; see also Matthew 24:7; Luke 21:11; Mormon 8:30D&C 45:33; Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:29.)

In fact, according to John's revelation, there will be a great earthquake at the time of Christ's Second Coming:
And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great. And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. (Revelation 16:18–20; compare Zechariah 14:4–5; emphasis added.)
Other calamities will mark the time. Here is as complete a list as I can find:
  • Thunderings 
  • Lightnings 
  • Tempests (hurricanes, cyclones, tornadoes, and so forth)
  • Famines
  • Great hailstorms (add to that snowstorms, such as the one in Buffalo in late 2014)
  • Famines (including droughts)
  • Pestilences (epidemic diseases—Ebola comes to mind)
  • Waves of the sea heaving beyond their bounds (tsunamis, for example)
Modern scripture, for example, tells of a great hailstorm in the last days:
And there shall be a great hailstorm sent forth to destroy the crops of the earth. (D&C 29:16.)
And ancient scripture supports it:
And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great. (Revelation 16:21.)
All these disasters will be a testimony to those on earth to get ready for the great and dreadful day:
And after your testimony cometh wrath and indignation upon the people. For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes, that shall cause groanings in the midst of her, and men shall fall upon the ground and shall not be able to stand. And also cometh the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds. And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people. (D&C 88:88–91; see also D&C 43:25.
I believe that natural disasters will increase in number and severity from now until "when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him" (Matthew 25:31).

We would be wise to watch for the day. I'm not saying that day is tomorrow, but I believe it will come sooner than some would like.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Second Coming: A Thief in the Night

1 comment:
Courtesy LDS Media Library
The Second Coming of Christ will take many by surprise. It will come as a "thief in the night," as the apostle Peter says in his second epistle:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10; see also 1 Thessalonians 5:2; emphasis added.)
Modern revelation reaffirms the simile:
And again, verily I say unto you, the coming of the Lord draweth nigh, and it overtaketh the world as a thief in the night—therefore, gird up your loins, that you may be the children of light, and that day shall not overtake you as a thief. (D&C 106:4–5; compare D&C 45:19; emphasis added.)
Here we learn that the Second Coming will not only surprise the world; it will also overtake it. The Lord himself says:
Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. (Revelation 16:15; emphasis added.)
Let's think about this literary image of a thief for a moment. I want to talk about three things: (1) surprise, (2) sleep, and (3) stealing. First, the surprise. Everyone on this planet will both see and hear the sign of the coming of the Son of Man. For example, we read in Luke:
For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. (Luke 17:24.)
And in the Doctrine and Covenants:
And another angel shall sound his trump, saying: That great church, the mother of abominations . . . she is ready to be burned. And he shall sound his trump both long and loud, and all nations shall hear it. (D&C 88:94; emphasis added.) 
Everyone will see the light and hear the sound of the trumpet. Most will not be ready. Dread and fear will overtake those who are not ready for that day. But to those who are ready, I think the surprise will be something like Christmas morning: you know the day is coming; you prepare for it as well as you can; but you are not exactly sure what you are going to get. It will be a truly wonderful day for those who are prepared, surprise notwithstanding.

Second, sleep. When a thief comes at night, his victims are usually sleeping. When the Lord comes again, many in the world will be spiritually asleep or spiritually distracted, like the evil servant in Jesus' Olivet discourse:
But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:48–51; emphasis added.)
That will be an embarrassing, devastating moment. Let's not "eat and drink with the drunken."

Finally, stealing. What might "the thief in the night" steal from those he overtakes? Their illusions and their false sense of security, and their over-dependence on intellectual assumptions and material wealth. Gulp.

Let us be the children of light so that the thief will not overtake us (see D&C 106:5).

Monday, November 17, 2014

Second Coming: Silence in Heaven for the Space of Half an Hour

2 comments:
An interesting phenomena will occur very near the time of Christ's coming. It's mention-ed several times in the scriptures. I like the clarity of the passage in the Doctrine and Covenants:
And there shall be silence in heaven for the space of half an hour; and immediately after shall the curtain of heaven be unfolded, as a scroll is unfolded after it is rolled up, and the face of the Lord shall be unveiled. (D&C 88:95.)
The apostle John also tells us:
And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. (Revelation 8:1.) 
Seven angels blowing seven trumpets are also mentioned in these passages, each announcing wonders on the earth (D&C 88:93–107; see also Revelation 8:2–10:11.)

I will cover the seven seals and the seven trumpets in later posts; here I only want to discuss the silence in heaven.

The Doctrine and Covenants says that there will be "a great sign in heaven" (D&C 88:93) and we will hear the first angel declare:
And another angel shall sound his trump, saying: That great church, the mother of abominations, that made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, that persecuteth the saints of God, that shed their blood—she who sitteth upon many waters, and upon the islands of the sea—behold, she is the tares of the earth; she is bound in bundles; her bands are made strong, no man can loose them; therefore, she is ready to be burned. And he shall sound his trump both long and loud, and all nations shall hear it. (D&C 88:94; emphasis added.)
A haunting image. Imagine hearing this devastating indictment pronounced on the world, followed by the long, loud sound of a trumpet that everyone hears. Everyone hears it! Then a spine-tingling half hour of silence.

What will we be thinking during that half hour? What will we be feeling? Astonishment? Anticipation? Fear? Dread? Horror? Excitement? Vindication? Exultation?

Who will you call on your cell phone? Will the airwaves be jammed?

Will you pace or fidget? Will you look up or down? Will you run and hide?
And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the [blind] moles and to the [blind] bats; to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. (Isaiah 2:19–21.)
Truly, "every ear shall hear it, and every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess" (D&C 88:104). There will be no hiding. It truly will be a remarkable moment.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Late Autumn

No comments:
Aspen leaf in fall. Watercolor. October 7, 2014 by Michael James Fitzgerald. The tree yawns, stretching bare arms,
shedding summer clothes
dyed brilliant for tomorrow's funeral.

Stubborn tatters, frigid and obstinate,
cling to her, tendering a past
she is unwilling to forget.

She dreams of one bygone
who sleeps for a cold afternoon
but awakes to inescapable joy.

—Michael James Fitzgerald

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Second Coming: List of Scriptural Passages

2 comments:
Here is a list of 78 passages of scripture that detail the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to the earth and the conditions on earth during His millennial reign. If you download the document from SlideShare by clicking the Save button, you can click on the links in the downloaded document to read each passage on LDS.org.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

She Heard the Words "Be Humble"

2 comments:
Photo courtesy LDS Media Library.
Not long ago, a friend told me a story about her 10-year-old daughter who, as she was going to bed one night, stubbed her toe on a rock that she’d picked up at the Salt Lake temple quarry a few months before. She realized at that moment that it had been a long time since she had offered a personal prayer. She knelt down right then, and while she prayed, she heard a voice in her mind speak her name, followed by these words, “Be humble.”

It was late, so she kept the experience to herself until the next afternoon when her mother had returned from work. She came into her mother’s office and sat down on the carpet. Then she asked her mom what the word humble meant. After a discussion, she came to the conclusion on her own that being humble means being like Jesus Christ. 

Ever since I heard that story, I have been rolling it over in my mind and wondering myself about the meaning of the word humble.

In addition to being like Christ, it also means to be like a child:
Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3–4; emphasis added.)
To be humble, we must yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and be submissive to the Lord as a child is to her father:
For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Mosiah 3:19.)
One thing I'd like to bring out is that we can and should be aware of our own humility. You hear some speakers say that as soon as you recognize that you are humble, you are not humble anymore; however, that does not hold up in scripture. Jesus recognized his own humility in this passage:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30; emphasis added.)
If Jesus, our Great Exemplar, can recognize meekness and lowliness of heart in Himself, so can we. So should we. If we don't see it in ourselves, how will we ever fully know we are as humble as we ought to be?

If we spent as much time examining ourselves as we do defending ourselves, we would be more humble. Self-defense is a common form of pride, and pride is the fruit of disdain, disdain for others and for God, and, in a sense, for ourselves.

Pride is a treason against self. When is a long night of sin not also preceded by the dusk of pride? Pride is a spiritual disease, a virus that lives in all of us and rages to a fever in a moment. We need to install the Lord's anti-viral software: humility. Humility and gratitude are two solvents that dissolve pride.

Humility will enable us to get out of the Lord's way so that He can hasten His own work.

I want to conclude my thought by sharing a very humbling experience from the life of Joseph Smith. Joseph and Emma were living in Harmony, Pennsylvania in 1828, near Emma's parents home. Martin Harris visited them from Palmyra, New York,  and assisted Joseph with the translation of the Book of Mormon from April 12 of that year until June 14. Martin, who turned 45 years of age while staying with the Smiths that season, struggled with his doubts and begged the prophet to allow him to show the 116 pages of the translation to his wife, Lucy, and a few others.

Joseph inquired of the Lord through the interpreters, the Urim and Thummin, and was told no. Martin was not satisfied, and Joseph asked again. The answer again was no. Joseph pressed the Lord a third time and received an affirmative answer, but Joseph made Martin swear a solemn oath that he would only show the pages to five people.

Martin departed for New York with the manuscript in tow and thus began a very difficult season.

The next day, June 15, 1828, after a strenuous labor, Emma bore a baby boy, Alvin, named for Joseph's older brother who had died. The baby died that same day. Emma was also near death after a  difficult delivery, and Joseph tended her night and day for two weeks. As Emma began to recover, she sensed Joseph's anxiety and encouraged him to return to Manchester and find out what Martin was up to as they had not heard from him since his departure. Joseph took a stagecoach north.

After Joseph arrived in Manchester, the Smith family invited Martin to come to their home for breakfast at 8:00 o'clock in the morning. They did not see him ambling along the road until early that afternoon, eyes fixed on the ground, four and a half hours late. When he came to the gate in front of the Smith's home, he did not enter it, but sat on the fence with his hat pulled down over his eyes.

Martin finally came into the house, but when he lifted his knife and fork to eat his very late breakfast, he immediately dropped them on the table, exclaiming, "I have lost my soul! I have lost my soul!" Joseph jumped to his feet and asked if Martin had broken his oath and brought them both under condemnation. He confirmed that he had and Joseph cried out, "All is lost!"

It turned out that Martin had kept the manuscript locked in his wife's bureau. One day, a friend—not one of the five enumerated in the oath—visited the Harris home and wanted to see the pages. Lucy being out, Martin picked the lock of his wife's bureau and damaged it. After making this compromise, Martin showed the manuscript to anyone who stopped in. Soon, the 116 pages of foolscap disappeared, never to be recovered.

Joseph paced the floors of his house that day, sobbing. He deeply regretted his actions and worried that the news of this loss would kill his ailing Emma. He was only 22 years old. (See Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling [New York:Alfred A. Knopf], 66–69.)

What bitter fruit this season bore. Nevertheless, after being deeply humbled, Joseph and Martin recovered and went on with their lives. Joseph soon received a revelation, a stinging rebuke, now recorded as section 3 of the Doctrine and Covenants. The interpreters, which had been taken from Joseph, were finally returned on September 22, 1828. A year later, Martin was chosen as one of the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon plates and saw a glorious vision. The Book of Mormon was translated and published within two years and the Church was organized less than two weeks after that. After many trials, missteps and triumphs, both died true to the faith, Joseph in 1844 and Martin in 1875.

Whether we humble ourselves or are compelled to be humble, humility teaches us important lessos. It opens hearts and doors. It inspires gratitude, cures pride, and heals relationships. It is absolutely essential to all spiritual progress.

In closing, I'd like to share a verse from the Doctrine and Covenants:
Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers. (D&C 112:10.)
We would be wise to heed the counsel given to a young girl, "Be humble."

From a devotional address given at the Publishing Services Department All-Hands Meeting, November 5, 2014.