Thursday, November 20, 2014

Second Coming: A Thief in the Night

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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

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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

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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

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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"

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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.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What Makes Love Last? 8 Virtues That Make Love Last

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True principles will never let you down. Here are a few that will help hold your relationships together.

Nothing erodes love like dishonesty. Is what you’re hiding more important than your relationship? If not, stop hiding it or it will be the only thing you have left. You can’t be honest with others without first being honest with yourself.

Respect always builds others; it never tears them down. Lasting love is impossible without respect. You can give respect as a free gift. Respect begets respect.

Trust is the only enduring currency in all relationships. Without trust, relationships simply cannot last. Honesty and respect create a foundation for trust. Sexual honesty and purity—keeping it between you and your spouse only—is a fortress that protects love and family.

You don’t have to always be right. Be sorry when you need to be sorry, say you’re sorry and mean it. The ability to admit you’re wrong builds trust. A genuine apology helps draw two people closer together. But don’t use “sorry” tritely.

If you don’t forgive, you’ll live in a self-made prison. Forgive yourself. It’ll make it easier to forgive others. Resentment means that you have some forgiving to do. Forgiveness sets you free.

If you have issues, clean them up, for your sake and for the sake of those you love. If you have an addiction or a long-term emotional hang up, you need help. Get it. Have the courage to seek therapy and support. You’ll be a lot less lonely if you do.

You’ve got to have fun with each other. Relax, lighten up, use your imagination, and try something new. Fun renews life. It renews everything.

“Love is being stupid together.” —Paul Valery 

If you dream, you can hope. If you hope, you can find tomorrow. Share your dreams with each other. Create your dreams together.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Second Coming: The Abomination of Desolation

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“The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under
the Command of Titus, A.D. 70,” by David Roberts (1796–1864)
A few days before His death and resurrection, Jesus gave this warning in what is known as the Olivet discourse:
When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) then let them which be in Jud├Ža flee into the mountains. (Matthew 24:15–16; emphasis added; compare Mark 13:14 and Luke 21:20–21.)
What is this "abomination of desolation"? I will do my best to explain.

Daniel the prophet, who lived six or seven centuries before Christ, foretold this event or phenomena, as Christ indicated in His prophecy:
And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate. (Daniel 11:31; emphasis added; compare Daniel 9:27; 12:11.)
The abomination that "they shall place" was a pagan idol set up in the temple of Jerusalem, according to the apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees. This book records the invasion of the city by the marauding forces of the Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes in the autumn of 162 BC (approximate):
Now the fifteenth day of the month Casleu [Kislev in the Hebrew calendar], in the hundred forty and fifth year, they set up the abomination of desolation upon the altar, and builded idol altars throughout the cities of Juda on every side; and burnt incense at the doors of their houses, and in the streets. (1 Maccabees 1:54-55.)
This prophecy and its fulfillment also speak of a time when Jerusalem will be compassed and besieged by invading armies, as by the Roman emperor Titus who destroyed city and the temple in 70 AD and in the last days, just before the coming of Christ (compare Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:12 and Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:32).

Jeremiah also spoke of the desolation that will occur because of Israel's abominations, just prior to the Babylonian captivity and destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon's temple in approximately 587–588 BC:
The Lord could no longer bear, because of the evil of your doings, and because of the abominations which ye have committed; therefore is your land a desolation, and an astonishment, and a curse, without an inhabitant, as at this day. (Jeremiah 44:22; emphasis added.)
Ezekiel, a contemporary of Jeremiah, spoke similarly:
Then shall they know that I am the Lord, when I have laid the land most desolate because of all their abominations which they have committed. (Ezekiel 33:29; emphasis added.) 
Modern revelation speaks of the desolation of abomination or wrath of God which will fall upon wicked:
Therefore, tarry ye, and labor diligently, that you may be perfected in your ministry to go forth among the Gentiles for the last time, as many as the mouth of the Lord shall name, to bind up the law and seal up the testimony, and to prepare the saints for the hour of judgment which is to come; that their souls may escape the wrath of God, the desolation of abomination which awaits the wicked, both in this world and in the world to come. Verily, I say unto you, let those who are not the first elders continue in the vineyard until the mouth of the Lord shall call them, for their time is not yet come; their garments are not clean from the blood of this generation. (D&C 88:84–85; emphasis added; see also D&C 84:117.) 
Therefore, the abomination of desolation speaks of at least these three things: (1) the desecration of the holy temple by setting up of an idol in its precincts, (2) Jerusalem being besieged by foreign or invading armies, and (3) a punishment of the wicked.

It has happened before and it will take place again during a siege of Jerusalem that will occur just before Christ at His Second Coming will set His foot upon the Mount of Olives