Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Second Coming: Flee unto Zion for Safety

No comments:
Eusebius Pamphilus, Bishop of Caesarea, 4th C. AD 
To me, one of the most fascinating—and comforting—prophecies about the time previous to the Second Coming of our Savior tells of "the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God" (D&C 45:66).
And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it, and it shall be called Zion. And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety. And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another. And it shall be said among the wicked: Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand. And it shall come to pass that the righteous shall be gathered out from among all nations, and shall come to Zion, singing with songs of everlasting joy. (D&C 45:67–72; emphasis added.)
What I glean from this passage is that (1) there will be a city or land built up on earth in the last days called the New Jerusalem or Zion, (2) that if we don't "take up the sword" with our neighbors, we'll have to flee to this place, (3) Zion will be the only place on earth where the people will not be at war one with another, and (4) great dread will fill the wicked because the inhabitants of Zion will be indomitable. (I plan to focus on the New Jerusalem in a future post.)

Christ prophesied that in the last times, there would be "wars and rumours of wars" (see Matthew 24:6 and compare Mark 13:7).
And in that day shall be heard of wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them, and they shall say that Christ delayeth his coming until the end of the earth. (D&C 45:26).
Today we hear of wars and rumors of wars. These wars can consume our thoughts and make our hearts weary and perhaps fail. Luke tells us of a time when "upon the earth [there will be] distress of nations, with perplexity" (see Luke 21:25) and in modern scripture we read of "the wars and the perplexities of the nations" (D&C 88:79). Is this not our time?

I am reassured that we can "flee unto Zion for safety" now by gathering with the saints wherever they are, having genuine faith in Christ, repenting of our sins, living by the word of God rather than in fear of it, basking in the light of truth, cleansing our hearts, and becoming one, first with our families and then with those around and near us, for the Lord said, "Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine" (D&C 38:27).
And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. (Moses 7:18.) 
A fourth-century Christian bishop, Eusebius Pamphilus, wrote in his Church History (3.5.3) of the time when the early saints in Jerusalem were warned to flee the rebellious city before its destruction by Roman armies (66–70 AD):
But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella. And when those that believed in Christ had come there from Jerusalem, then, as if the royal city of the Jews and the whole land of Judea were entirely destitute of holy men, the judgment of God at length overtook those who had committed such outrages against Christ and his apostles, and totally destroyed that generation of impious men.
It is a time for us be wise. It is a time to be prepared. It is a time to set aside frivolous preoccupations. We were born in these times to stand up for the truth, and to stand by it in the midst of persecution and war.

In spite of fear and perplexity, we can rest assured that there will be a place of safety, and, even this very day, we can "stand in the holy place" (Matthew 24:15).

Monday, October 27, 2014

Second Coming: At Evening Time It Shall Be Light

No comments:
When Christ comes again, there will be an incredible sign in the heavens, something like a magnificent sunrise.
Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (Matthew 24:26–27; compare Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:25–26.)
Remember that at His first coming, at His birth, the light remained bright throughout the night, as we read in 3 Nephi:
And it came to pass that the words which came unto Nephi were fulfilled, according as they had been spoken; for behold, at the going down of the sun there was no darkness; and the people began to be astonished because there was no darkness when the night came . . . . And it came to pass that there was no darkness in all that night, but it was as light as though it was mid-day. And it came to pass that the sun did rise in the morning again, according to its proper order; and they knew that it was the day that the Lord should be born, because of the sign which had been given. (3 Nephi 1:15, 19.)
Zechariah prophesied that the same thing will happen when Christ comes a second time. In chapter 14, he tells us that when "the day of the Lord cometh" (verse 1),  after His feet shall stand on the mount of Olives (verse 4), that a similar sign will be manifest:
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: but it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light. (Zechariah 14:6–7.)
Isaiah tells us in yet another prophesy of the Lord's coming that there will be at that time a remarkable light.
Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound. (Isaiah 30:26.)
That night will be a celebration for the victory of our Lord over all wickedness. Evil will be vanquished at the presence of His light, and whether I am in a mortal or immortal state, I plan to stay up all night partying. I hope to see you there!

Finally—and I plan to write more about this in upcoming posts—let's remember that after the millennial day, when the earth becomes a celestial sphere, the new Jerusalem will descend again to earth (see Revelation 21:2, 10) and Christ Himself will be the light of that city:
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. (Revelation 21:23–24.)

Photo courtesy LDS Media Library

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Second Coming: The Sun Shall Be Darkened

1 comment:
Courtesy LDS Media Library
One prophecy about the time leading up to the Second Coming that appears again and again is a sign from the heavens. Isaiah mentions it:
For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. (Isaiah 13:10; compare Isaiah 24:23.)
As does the prophet Joel:
The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining . . . . The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come. (Joel 2:10,31; see also Joel 3:15.) 
Ezekiel also adds:
And when I shall put thee out, I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over thee, and set darkness upon thy land, saith the Lord God. (Ezekiel 32:7–8.)
The Savior also spoke of this prophecy just days before His crucifixion, death, and resurrection:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. (Matthew 24:29; compare Mark 13:24–25 and Luke 21:25.)
And modern scripture repeats the refrain:
But, behold, I say unto you that before this great day shall come the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall be turned into blood, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and there shall be greater signs in heaven above and in the earth beneath. (D&C 29:14; compare D&C 34:9 and D&C 88:87.)
There are several things that come to mind readily that could contribute to this phenomena. For example, the sun and moon could be obscured by smoke from a fire or there could be a solar or lunar eclipse.

If we dig a little deeper, though, it appears that this sign will actually accompany the Lord's coming. Section 133 of the Doctrine and Covenants sheds this additional, compelling light:
And so great shall be the glory of his presence that the sun shall hide his face in shame, and the moon shall withhold its light, and the stars shall be hurled from their places. (D&C 133:49.)
This verse indicates that it will be the glory of His presence that will obscure the light of these orbs, that He himself will eclipse the light of the sun and moon, and hurl the stars around the sky. This seems quite fitting when we remember that another heavenly sign: a new star appeared when He was born (see, for example, Matthew 2:2, 9, 10Helaman 14:1–7, and 3 Nephi 1:15–19).

In conclusion, the prophet Micah adds this spiritual insight:
Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them. (Micah 3:6.)
Once again, we can only speculate on exactly how these things will manifest themselves, but if we continue to prayerfully study the scriptures, we'll be better prepared to grasp these heavenly signs when they actually happen.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Second Coming: Upon My House Shall It Begin

2 comments:
In the last days, our days, darkness will prevail on the earth and all flesh will become corrupt, in spite of technological advances and an explosion of information. Just when knowledge and information flourish, so does self-deception and unbelief through the universal sin of pride. Doesn't this contrast seem strange? It's like we're starving to death while standing in the middle of a fully stocked grocery store.

To me, the best way to explain this contradiction was given by Jesus Himself when, one night in or near Jerusalem, He had a conversation with a Jewish leader named Nicodemus:
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. (John 3:19, 20; emphasis added.)
Jesus lays out the issue straightforwardly: men prefer darkness over light and they don't want to come to the light for fear that they'll be found out. Hence, darkness prevails.

According to the scriptures, it's going to get worse before it gets better, though individual results may vary.

This darkness will be put to flight by the remarkable appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ when, like a whirlwind, vengeance, wrath, and desolation will descend upon all the face of the earth.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, darkness covereth the earth, and gross darkness the minds of the people [see Isaiah 60:2], and all flesh has become corrupt before my face. Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord. And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord; first among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord. (D&C 112:23–26; emphasis added.)
The interesting point is, this wrath and desolation will begin at the house of God, meaning, I believe, the household of God or His Church. Peter strengthens this assertion by offering this prophesy in his first epistle:
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17; emphasis added.)
Sadly, it appears that the long-prophesied judgment and destruction will "first begin at us," most likely among the hypocrites "in the midst of [His] house" (D&C 112:26). And who can claim to not be a hypocrite? Aren't we all, at least to some degree? Gulp.

Takeaways? I don't really know what all this means or how it will happen, but I believe from the context that something will happen before or perhaps at Christ's coming to those in His church who are not living the gospel as they should live it, who may perhaps be socially attached but without being spiritually attached to their faith, who are covering their sins, lest they be reproved (see John 3:20).

We've got some work to do. I certainly do.

To me, several signs that herald this are (1) when members of Christ's church persist in serious and secret transgression and don't rely on the Atonement of Christ daily, (2) when they persecute other members of His Church for living the gospel more circumspectly than they do themselves—internal persecution—and (3) when members of the Church rise up against the prophets because of what I call "social righteousness."

That's my view. It's a limited view to be sure. But I see these things happening before my eyes. I'm sure you do too. We're going to see more and more of this. On the other hand, we'll also see faithful saints endure these trials and become closer to the Lord because of them.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Second Coming: A Desolating Sickness

No comments:
This post is part of an ongoing series on the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. I'll be posting on this topic from time to time in the coming weeks, perhaps months.  We cannot know all the when and where and how of the Second Coming, but we can be aware of the signs so that when they appear we will be prepared to act. That is my hope. 

Before the Second Coming of Christ, an overflowing or desolating scourge—a desolating sickness—will be poured out from time to time upon the earth. Shortly before the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem, Isaiah prophesied to scornful men who ruled the once holy city (see Isaiah 28:14):
Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us . . . [but] your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. (Isaiah 28:15, 18.)
When mortals boast that they can escape death of themselves, God is obliged to disabuse them of the notion. On several occasions, such as in 588 B.C. and 70 A.D, He has flattened Jerusalem when the people of that city rejected and killed the prophets including, ultimately, the Son of God.

A scourge, according to Merriam-Webster, is "a cause of wide or great affliction," but it appears from latter-day scripture that this scourge is more than an affliction: it will lead to the death of many souls "until the earth is empty":
For a desolating scourge shall go forth among the inhabitants of the earth, and shall continue to be poured out from time to time, if they repent not, until the earth is empty, and the inhabitants thereof are consumed away and utterly destroyed by the brightness of my coming. (D&C 5:19.)
Later in modern scripture we read:
And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land. (D&C 45:31.)
Here the Lord tells us that the scourge will be a desolating sickness that will cover the land.  It is easy to imagine, given recent news, that a disease or series of diseases could get out of control and take thousands even millions of lives, in spite of the frantic efforts of modern medicine.

The knowledge and wisdom of men cannot save us from the decrees of God which will remain in force unless the inhabitants of the earth repent. Given what we know, that repentance is not likely. But one can hope.

Monday, October 20, 2014

What Will Happen on the Day Christ Comes Again?

4 comments:
Courtesy LDS Media Library
On a day not far distant, Christ Himself will return to the earth. What will that day be like?

We rely on the scriptures to tell us this story but even when we rely on the best sources, it is often difficult to see how all the pieces fit together chronologically. But there is a coherent story. I find it fascinating—riveting really.

On that incredible day there "will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven," said the Prophet Joseph Smith. "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 morning coming out of the east" (History of the Church, 5:337; Matthew 24:27D&C 45:36; Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:26).

On that day, we will see Him "in the clouds of heaven, clothed with power and great glory . . . with all the holy angels" (D&C 45:44). Enoch prophesied that "the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds" (Jude 1:14–15). What we will see and hear on that day will be very convincing.

When Christ comes again, it will be a day of vengeance. We read that He "shall be red in his apparel, and his garments like him that treadeth in the wine-vat" (D&C 133:48). Why will His garments be red? He answers that question for us: "I have trodden the wine-press alone, and have brought judgment upon all people; and none were with me; and I have trampled them in my fury, and I did tread upon them in mine anger, and their blood have I sprinkled upon my garments, and stained all my raiment; for this was the day of vengeance which was in my heart" (D&C 133:50–51; Isaiah 63:2–4; Revelation 19:13–15).

On that day of vengeance, "the Lord shall utter his voice, and all the ends of the earth shall hear it; and the nations of the earth shall mourn, and they that have laughed shall see their folly. And calamity shall cover the mocker, and the scorner shall be consumed; and they that have watched for iniquity shall be hewn down and cast into the fire" (D&C 45:49–50).

Unfortunately, that great day will be an unhappy day for many. "And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and [will say] to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" (Revelation 6:15–17).

Just before that time, all nations will be gathered against Jerusalem and the city will apparently be under siege. Half the city will be taken captive but "the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city" (Zechariah 14:2).

On that glorious day, Jesus will set His foot upon the Mount of Olives, just east of Jerusalem, and there will be a great earthquake. The mountain will split in two, to the north and south, and there will be a great valley through which the residue of the Jews in Jerusalem will escape (see D&C 45:48; Zechariah 14:4–5).

On that day of great awakening, the remnant who escapes will finally recognize their King. The Lord says, "the Jews [will] look upon me and say: What are these wounds in thine hands and in thy feet? Then shall they know that I am the Lord; for I will say unto them: These wounds are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. I am he who was lifted up. I am Jesus that was crucified. I am the Son of God. And then shall they weep because of their iniquities; then shall they lament because they persecuted their king" (D&C 45:51–53; Zechariah 13:6).

In summary, on that day of all days, Jerusalem will be under siege and half the city will be taken captive. Christ will descend with holy angels and there will be a great sign in heaven. All the ends of the earth shall hear His voice. Many shall see their own iniquity and shall attempt to hide from His wrath. He will be in red apparel for it will be a day of vengeance. His foot will touch the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem. There will be a great earthquake and the mountain will split in two, creating a great valley, through which the residue in Jerusalem will escape. Then they will recognize the wounds in His hands and in His feet and mourn for their iniquities and how they persecuted their true King.

I am not overconfident in my own private interpretation of these events, but as best as I can tell, this is what will happen when the arm of the Lord shall fall upon the nations on that great day (see D&C 45:47).

Monday, October 13, 2014

I Wrote a Novel and This Is What I Learned

No comments:
Courtesy LDS Media Library
I recently finished writing a novel. It was my second attempt at writing one. My first attempt over 20 years ago was a flop because I gave up. I was wrong to give up so easily.

I've learned a few things along this road, lessons that go beyond writing, life lessons worth sharing. Here's five of them.
  1. Don't give up. If you are engaged in a good cause and you're growing by your efforts, don't give up. I got discouraged with my first attempt at writing a novel. I got embarrassed, really. So I gave up. I had written several drafts but on one furiously immature day, I threw in the towel and stopped working on it. I actually discarded all copies of it. That was a big mistake. I should have kept going. I learned from the experience, but I could have learned a lot more if I hadn't given up. I've learned that perseverance is the solution to almost any problem we'll face in life. 
  2. Accept criticism. If you want to grow, you have to be open to criticism. You have to be willing to take a hard look at yourself and what you're doing, and then make positive changes, make things better. If you want your life to be better and you want adventure, you have to take risks. Big ones. You have to be willing to expose your true self to others. It can be discouraging to listen to critics—or it can fuel for your passion. You get to choose. Your critics are not always right, but if they are right, do something about it. Lesson? You may feel safe wrapped in a blanket of self-defense, but you won't go very far in life. 
  3. Believe in yourself. Even if everyone else in the world doesn't believe in you or your cause, believe in yourself. Even if all you have is a flicker of divine light in your heart, believe in yourself. That light is there for a reason. It won't go out. You may try to snuff it out, but if it is divine, the flame will burn on. Lesson? If you don't believe in yourself, who else will? Okay, maybe your mom, but you won't believe her either. 
  4. Set your fear on fire. If you're afraid to follow your dream, take a match to your fear and light it on fire—with passion and courage. Fear may protect you in certain instances, but most of the time, it's just bad advice. Therefore, what? Reduce your fear to ashes and keep going. 
  5. You've got mountains to climb. Are you climbing a mountain or resting in a valley—with a remote in one hand and a diet Coke in the other? If you are not climbing a mountain, a really big mountain, your life will likely feel aimless and probably pretty boring. If you are caught up in the dailiness of life and not allowing yourself to have a big goal that you are pursuing daily, I'll bet you're feeling lost. What now? Somewhere, there's a mountain with your name on it. Find it and climb it.
Song of Falling Leaves is book 1 of the Wanderer series, a four-volume set. It's a story of a 14-year-old girl who, with the help of a pair of falcons, an unbreakable stallion, a small army of rattlesnakes, a cougar, and two coyotes, discovers that she is much more than she ever imagined she could be.

This series is my mountain to climb. I've only climbed a quarter of the way. It took me six and a half years to get that far. But I'm looking up and I'm still climbing.

I've converted my fear to ashes. I'm listening to what others have to say. I believe in myself and I'm not giving up.