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The End Is Near — But Why Should I Care?

Posted by BrianJ on May 20, 2007

I was asked to teach at a special conference a class on “The Signs of the Second Coming”—a strange request, since it is the topic I probably know least about. The reason for my gap in knowledge (and testimony) originates from one central “hang-up,” one unanswered question: Why should I care about the signs of the Second Coming?

Of course, it’s not that I didn’t think the Second Coming was important, but rather that I couldn’t understand the need to see it approaching. Sure, I need to be righteous so that “in that day” I will be kept safe rather than destroyed, but if I die tomorrow then it doesn’t really matter how far off the Second Coming is (whether it’s the end or merely my end, I need to be “ready” either way, right?). For this reason, it didn’t seem necessary to learn about the signs of the Second Coming, because either way I needed to live righteously each day. In other words, whether I knew the signs or not, what difference could it make? I don’t need to know the signs of the times, I need to know how to become righteous!

My hope for this post is to present a few ideas that changed my thinking, as well as other thoughts on the signs of the Second Coming. I’ll number my thoughts so they are easier to reference in your comments. I don’t want to restrict the discussion to only these points, however, so add your own at will. Please note that I am writing very roughly and quickly; please feel free to do so as well. I’m really interested in your thoughts/ideas/help/information/knowledge—all of which will help as I prepare for my class.

Also, we’ll abbreviate Second Coming = SC.

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1) Why should I care about the signs of the Second Coming (what difference could it make)?

a) Encouragement: We are told that in the days preceding the SC, “men’s hearts will fail them,” and at least part of the reason is probably due to the destruction, wickedness, and other trials of the times. Recognizing that the SC is near should give the faithful a sense of optimism and reassurance amidst despair.

b) Testimony: Knowing the prophecies and then seeing them fulfilled (or being fulfilled) should strengthen one’s testimony.

c) Responsibility: There are many things that must happen before the SC occurs. Some are things beyond our control, but some surely rest on us. for example, spreading the Gospel around the world is something we can and are participating in, and in this way we are fulfilling prophecy. We could hypothetically ask, “What if we didn’t spread the Gospel? Could the SC still happen?” If there things God wants us to do before the SC, then we should find out what they are.

d) Preparation: Is preparing to meet God when I die different than preparing to survive the SC? In other words, is it good enough to just “be righteous,” or will the SC and the Millennium require something more? For example, if I were to make a list of celestial laws, having food storage would not be one, but it may be crucial if I am to survive the SC. (Please ignore the point about “food storage shows obedience and obedience is necessary for righteousness” so that you see the point of the example.)

2) Scriptures are a tremendous source of info for signs of the SC; the Proclamation on the Family is another with interesting language for this topic.

3) How should we understand D&C 77:6? One reading is that the earth will exist for only 7,000 years, and that we are quickly approaching the end.

4) No one knows the day of the SC. Some may quote Amos 3:7 in suggesting that the prophet and Quorum of 12 actually do know, but that is simply misinterpreting scripture. The imagery in Amos 3 is that of a trumpeter sounding an alarm on the city walls: he doesn’t know when the siege will begin, he only sees the enemy approaching. Likewise, our prophets do not know the hour, but they see the signs.

5) The mark of the beast. I hesitate to open up discussion on this point, but let’s hear your thoughts. I read that the forehead in Jewish culture was symbolic of loyalty; i.e. the mark of the beast in the forehead means that people’s loyalty will be toward the beast. I don’t have a reference for this though….

6) Grouping the signs. There are probably many ways to list and organize the signs of the SC. One way is into three categories:

fulfilled
being fulfilled
yet to be fulfilled.

Another is:

Things I can accelerate (e.g. preaching the Gospel around the world)
Things I cannot accelerate or influence (e.g. earthquakes)
Things I should not accelerate (e.g. wars, faithlessness, etc.)

Any other thoughts on how to group/organize?

7) Some signs are simply rational, not necessarily “miraculous.” For example, the fact that technology is advancing at an astounding rate is to be expected; inventions feed off one another. But this is not to say that “rational signs” are not still signs. Remember, Jesus pointed to the fig tree as an example: when we see its leaves then we know that summer is nigh. Well, that’s pretty rational thinking as well. In other words, some signs of the times can be simply indicators, not necessarily miraculous or unexpected events.

8 ) Many of the signs of the SC are found in scriptures that have more than one meaning/fulfillment. Isaiah was very good at doing this, writing a prophecy that applied in his day, in Jesus’, and in our own (I’ll dig out an example from my lesson notes, if anyone wants a specific example). In some ways this makes matters more difficult: how am I to know if a particular verse applies to the last days or, say, 70 AD?

9) Wars and rumors of wars. Is the world really more at war today than at other times in history? I think of Israel, for example. I can’t think of a time in the OT when that place was ever really at peace—there was always some strong neighbor (like Egypt) vying for advantage over some other strong neighbor (like Greece). And haven’t England, Spain, and France actually been relatively peaceful over the last 100 years compared to all the fighting they did in the Middle Ages? Is this prophecy more about how we wil, in the last days, know more about the wars that are going on (i.e. the “rumors” part)?

10) The Lamanites shall blossom as the rose (D&C 49:24). Many people see this prophecy being fulfilled in the economic growth of South American markets, such as Brazil. Problem: very, very few of the prosperous South Americans are native; most are descendants of European, African, and Asian immigrants. And sadly, I don’t see the Native Americans in the USA “blossoming” (though perhaps my perspective is too small: I only have experience with tribes in southwestern USA and western New York). Is the term Lamanite used loosely in the D&C, similar to how Nephi used it, namely, to refer to anyone living in the land that was not a follower of Christ? I really don’t want this to become a discussion of “who’s a Lamanite?” but I would appreciate some help understanding this prophecy.

11) The prophecy of Joel. President Hinckley gave a very interesting talk a few years ago in which he declared “The vision of Joel has been fulfilled….” I suggest reading the whole talk, as I will not attempt to summarize it here. But just a thought: the part about the “sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood,” is this to be taken literally—well, not totally literally—meaning, the sun will not shine and the moon will look red, or is this more symbolic, as the sun represents things celestial and the moon things terrestrial?

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Again, I am posting this as a research and study tool, so feel free to throw our ideas that are well thought out or ones that are more rough. Add to what I’ve written, correct me where I’m wrong, answer my questions—anything is helpful. Thanks!

12 Responses to “The End Is Near — But Why Should I Care?”

  1. Robert C. said

    Brian, I’m glad you got the calling so that I can hear you and others think through this topic. I’m afraid my thinking is very muddled on this topic, so I will probably not be of much help. But that never stops me from commenting, so:

    Regarding your #10, the Lamanites blossoming like a rose, the whole DNA controversy (Native Americans apparently not having any Western blood…) makes me more sympathetic to the kind of symbolic interpretation you are suggesting (Lamanite = non-believer). Also, I think blossoming might be taken in a spiritual sense rather than a physical sense. Thus, I would propose two different modern interpretations of this being fulfilled (of course there’s also the possibility that we’re still waiting for the fulfillment…): (1) we see the non-believers in this day and age are prospering a lot in worldly terms; (2) we see the Lamanite blood (or cultural?) descendants blossoming spiritually in terms of accepting the gospel (I believe the Church is growing much faster in South American than in other parts of the world…).

    Regarding Pres. Hinckley’s talk (your #11), I’m quite puzzled with what Pres. Hinckley means in quoting Joel. The paragraphs before and after his quoting of Joel talk about “enlightenment” and technological progress. This makes sense in terms of the Joel 2:28, “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh“, but I’m not sure how (or if) the darkened sun and bloody moon fit into this—are these symbols of human, technological progress (it seems I’ve heard the darkened sun as a prophecy of modern pollution, and the bloody moon as atomic fall-out…), or war, or something else??

  2. ed42 said

    You haven’t really touched on it, but another reason to know the Signs of the SC (or end -times), is to help understand (but not excuse) the actions of nations and peoples. Apparently the Pres of Iran believes himself to be involved in their end times scenario. Apparently many Christians support the wars because of last days beliefs. Learning what others think about the SC/End-times might help us predict their (re)actions.

  3. brianj said

    Robert: Regarding #10: Yes, maybe the blossoming refers to something spiritual and not physical (economic).

    Regarding #11: The more I think about it, the more I think Joel’s prophecy refers to the symbolic sun and moon. The sun (celestial things—righteousness) will be darkened; i.e righteousness will be eclipsed by wickedness in the last days. The moon (terrestrial things) will be turned to blood; i.e. the normally good desires of mankind (care for one’s family, be honest, protect the weak) will give way to more bloody (violent?) desires.

    ed42: Thanks! I will add that to my list. You write, “Apparently many Christians support the wars because of last days beliefs.” I know you are right, and it makes me sad. I think all of the wars that are prophesied would fall under my “Things I should not accelerate” category (see point #6).

  4. robf said

    I’m starting to wonder if the signs of the times are given more as warning, rather than as absolute prediction/prophecy? Maybe they are just to help us be ready for whatever may happen–even the otherwise unthinkable? Not that total social collapse or ecological destruction is destined to happen, but something we should contemplate so that a) we might be able to forstall their happening or b) be prepared should they happen.

    Or perhaps they were given for completely other purposes, as a stumbling block for those looking beyond the mark?

    I’m open to almost anything here, since the SOTT (can I use that abbreviation for “signs of the times”) are a real puzzle to me. While I tend to see them perhaps as I’ve outlined above, that represents a change for me, since as a little kid I remember watching early each year to make sure I saw a rainbow, so that I’d know for sure that the SC wasn’t coming that year!

  5. BrianJ said

    robf: I want to repond to several things you wrote:

    “I’m starting to wonder if the signs of the times are given more as warning, rather than as absolute prediction/prophecy?”

    But what kind of warning, and to whom? I think you get at those questions as you continue….

    “Maybe they are just to help us be ready for whatever may happen–even the otherwise unthinkable? Not that total social collapse or ecological destruction is destined to happen, but something we should contemplate so that a) we might be able to forstall their happening….”

    Ahh, that’s an interesting position, one I had not considered. In point #6, I suggested there are signs we “should not accelerate.” You suggest something different: that some signs we should actively prevent. Of course, it is necessarily a losing battle, no? If, for example, I try to deter wickedness—a noble cause, yet one that I know is doomed to fail because it has been prophesied that wickedness will abound in the last days. Nevertheless, my actions may reduce the amount of wickedness or the duration of time that wickedness abounds (i.e. will wickedness reign for 10 years or 500 years before the SC?). I think you are on to something.

    “…or b) be prepared should they happen.”

    I think you are getting at what I wrote in 1d.

    “Or perhaps they were given for completely other purposes, as a stumbling block for those looking beyond the mark?”

    This is a very new thought to me, and my initial feeling is to reject it (but that is without giving it much thought). I’ll admit that it’s simply because I’m not comfortable with the idea of God creating stumbling blocks. (We sort of discussed this idea in Robert’s “Secrecy in the Gospel of Mark” post, but you bring it up in a much broader context; it may be worth a separate post on this topic.) I’m okay with the idea that God points out stumbling blocks, or that he predicts that something will become a stumbling block. But in this case, the actual prophecy would be the stumbling block, instead of a warning about a future stumbling block.

    Nevertheless, I can see that the signs of the SC are stumbling blocks to some: they become obsessed with them, become convinced of a certain day or hour of arrival, etc.

    “I’m open to almost anything here, since the SOTT…are a real puzzle to me. While I tend to see them perhaps as I’ve outlined above, that represents a change for me, since as a little kid I remember watching early each year to make sure I saw a rainbow, so that I’d know for sure that the SC wasn’t coming that year!”

    How does that represent a change for you? Is it because once you saw the rainbow, you felt you were safe to sin for another season?

  6. robf said

    As for the rainbow, I used to take the SOTT very literally, and would worry each year that Jesus might be about to appear, but when I saw the rainbow I’d know it was still at least a year away. Now I am perhaps not expecting the Lord to show up so soon and perhaps take the SOTT more as warnings, things to ponder, perhaps be prepared for, or try to forestall. So, perhaps instead of seeing the SOTT as evidence that we are in the last days, or the end is near, I may see them more as warnings for us in the “last” days, even if that means that the SC is still very, or perhaps interminably, distant.

  7. m&m said

    Nevertheless, my actions may reduce the amount of wickedness or the duration of time that wickedness abounds

    Could such efforts to reduce wickedness or delay its effects also be at the level of a personal test? “Who’s on the Lord’s side, who?” and all of that. That’s the way I feel about some of the issues we are asked to take a stand on. I sense that the effort is not to eliminate the evil that is there, because it will always be there, but to delay the effects, as much for my benefit and test of obedience and faith as it is for the larger cause that may exist.

  8. BrianJ said

    robf: thanks, that clarifies things. You see the SOTT as warnings that we are “in the times,” not so much as warnings that the SC is upon us. I think that may be a more beneficial way to think about this—after all, the things that lead up to the SC are, for some people, much more to worry about than the SC itself.

    m&m: Good point. We may only be able to eliminate the evil within ourselves, not in our communities (and frankly, the former seems hard enough to me).

  9. GDM said

    Just a short reply here Brian to one comment above. You stated:

    “And sadly, I don’t see the Native Americans in the USA “blossoming”

    Are you sure about that? I want to share the Savior’s words in 3 Nephi 20: 14-16 speaking to descendants of Lehi in America.

    14 And the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you this land, for your inheritance.
    15 And I say unto you, that if the Gentiles do not repent after the blessing which they shall receive, after they have scattered my people—
    16 Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.

    Now in the context of this scripture and coupled with the idea of the Lamanites blossoming as a rose, think…… Indian Gaming!

  10. brianj said

    GDM, #9: I think that you wrote that in jest, but I will respond seriously. Yes, Indian Gaming is something I am well aware of, and I don’t see it as something that is beneficial to the Native Americans. Not only is it unable to solve economic problems within the tribes, but it has also perpetuated negative stereotypes (at least where I live).

  11. GDM said

    I’m dead serious that I believe in this way they are fulfilling the prophecy from 3 Nephi that I quoted above. While we see that this Indian Gaming is a negative thing now, I believe they are being used to “treadeth down and teareth in pieces” the wicked Gentiles. We still do not know how the end will play out, perhaps their financial success and political clout through this gaming nonsense is only preperatory; yet necessary, to bring them to their ultimate “blossoming” which the Lord has in store for them.

  12. […] (We’ve been through some of these issues before on this blog.) […]

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