The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that we should be looking forth to the second coming of Christ, whether in this life or the next:
I will prophesy that the signs of the coming of the Son of Man are already commenced. One pestilence will desolate after another. We shall soon have war and bloodshed. The moon will be turned into blood. I testify of these things, and that the coming of the Son of Man is nigh, even at your doors. If our souls and our bodies are not looking forth for the coming of the Son of Man; and after we are dead, if we are not looking forth, we shall be among those who are calling for the rocks to fall upon them.(1)
Both Sides of the Veil Preparing for the Second Coming
We are very aware of the many scriptures that warn us to be ready for the coming of Christ. President Wilford Woodruff learned that the Prophet Joseph Smith and others were busy preparing for the second coming on the other side of the veil:
Joseph Smith continued visiting myself and others up to a certain time, and then it stopped. The last time I saw him was in heaven. In the night vision I saw him at the door of the temple in heaven. He came and spoke to me. He said he could not stop to talk with me because he was in a hurry. The next man I met was Father Smith; he could not talk with me because he was in a hurry. I met half a dozen brethren who had held high positions on earth, and none of them could stop to talk with me because they were in a hurry. I was much astonished. By and by I saw the Prophet again, and I got the privilege to ask him a question. "Now," said I, "I want to know why you are in a hurry. I have been in a hurry all through my life; but I expected my hurry would be over when I got into the kingdom of heaven, if I ever did." Joseph said: "I will tell you, Brother Woodruff. Every dispensation that has had the Priesthood on the earth and has gone into the celestial kingdom, has had a certain amount of work to do to prepare to go to the earth with the Savior when He goes to reign on the earth. Each dispensation has had ample time to do this work. We have not. We are the last dispensation, and so much work has to be done, and we need to be in a hurry in order to accomplish it." Of course, that was satisfactory to me, but it was new doctrine to me.(2)
The Righteous in the Spirit World Will Resurrect and Come With the Lord in Glory
The Lord counsels the righteous to not fear death. They are promised that they will partake of all the glory that is associated with the second coming:
And all they who suffer persecution for my name, and endure in faith, though they are called to lay down their lives for my sake yet shall they partake of all this glory.
Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full.
Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul. (D&C 101:35-37)
The righteous dead resurrect and come with the Lord clothed in glory:
For a trump shall sound both long and loud, even as upon Mount Sinai, and all the earth shall quake, and they shall come forth — yea, even the dead which died in me, to receive a crown of righteousness, and to be clothed upon, even as I am, to be with me, that we may be one. (D&C 29:13)
And they who have slept in their graves shall come forth, for their graves shall be opened; and they also shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven — They are Christ's, the first fruits, they who shall descend with him first, and they who are on the earth and in their graves, who are first caught up to meet him; and all this by the voice of the sounding of the trump of the angel of God. (D&C 88:97-98)
Living to participate in the glory of the second coming does not seem to be an issue for the righteous. As the scriptures just referred to point out, the righteous will be blessed with the wonders and blessings of the second coming whether in this world or the world to come.
We become aware of the excitement felt by those who are about to be resurrected from D&C 138.
All these had departed the mortal life, firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection, through the grace of God the Father and his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. I beheld that they were filled with joy and gladness, and were rejoicing together because the day of their deliverance was at hand. They were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death. Their sleeping dust was to be restored unto its perfect frame, bone to his bone, and the sinews and the flesh upon them, the spirit and the body to be united never again to be divided, that they might receive a fulness of joy. While this vast multitude waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death, the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful; And there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance. (D&C 138:14-19)
It will be a joyous time for the righteous as they resurrect and are delivered from the last enemy (death). The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that, "Salvation is for a man to be saved from all his enemies; for until a man can triumph over death, he is not saved."(3)
The Wicked are Made Desolate Both in this World and in the Next
The Savior made it clear in D&C 29:8-9, that wickedness would not be tolerated on the earth at his coming. Tribulation and desolation will come on the wicked, that wickedness will no longer be on the earth. The earth is to be cleansed from all corruption whether of man, beast, fowl, or fish (D&C 101:24). Even in the spirit world, desolation awaits the 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. (D&C 88:84-85, emphasis added)
Notice that the term used here is the reverse of the term "abomination of desolation" used by Daniel in Daniel 9:27 and quoted by the Lord in Matthew 24:15; JS-M 1:32. In these verses the wicked (the abominable) destroy (make desolate) the temple and the city of Jerusalem. However, when the Lord comes he will make desolate (destroy) all that is wicked (abominable), thus the desolation of abomination of the wicked both in this world and in the world to come. It therefore appears that both the righteous and the wicked on both sides of the veil participate in some way in the second coming. Thus it becomes, as Malachi prophesied, "... the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (Malachi 4:5). It is great day for the righteous and dreadful day for the wicked on both sides of the veil.
Four Appearances of the Lord Associated with the Second Coming
When the Lord returns he will make some appearances to specific groups and then culminate his return by his appearance in great power, majesty, and glory, in such a manner that all the world will see him (see D&C 133:17-22 and 101:22-23). Four appearances of the Lord have had particular mention by the prophets: two of these appearances will be to the Saints; one appearance will be to the Jews; and the fourth will be his final coming to the world.
1. The appearance at the city of New Jerusalem. The Lord "shall suddenly come to his temple" (D&C 133:2), a temple yet to be built in Jackson County, Missouri (see D&C 84:1-5; 97:10, 15-16). Elder Charles W. Penrose said that the Lord would make his appearance first among the Saints and "that appearance will be unknown to the rest of mankind. He will come to the Temple prepared for him, and his faithful people will behold his face, hear his voice, and gaze upon his glory. From his own lips they will receive further instructions for the development and beautifying of Zion and for the extension and sure stability of his Kingdom." (Millennial Star, 10 Sept. 1859, pp. 582-83.)
2. The appearance at Adam-ondi-Ahman. The Lord will appear to the Saints in a solemn assembly of priesthood to be held at Adam-ondi-Ahman in Daviess County, Missouri, attended only by those who have held the keys of the priesthood during all the gospel dispensations and by others living who are specially invited. The Prophet Joseph Smith said that "Daniel in his seventh chapter speaks of the Ancient of Days; he means the oldest man, our father Adam, Michael, he will call his children together and hold a council with them to prepare them for the coming of the Son of Man. He (Adam) is the father of the human family and presides over the spirits of all men, and all that have had the keys must stand before him in this grand council." (History of the Church, 3:386-87; see also D&C 116.)
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
Not many years hence there shall be another gathering of high priests and righteous souls in this same valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman. At this gathering Adam, the Ancient of Days, will again be present. At this time the vision which Daniel saw will be enacted. The Ancient of Days will sit. There will stand before him those who have held the keys of all dispensations, who shall render up their stewardship to the first patriarch of the race, who holds the keys of salvation. This shall be a day of judgment and preparation. In this council Christ will take over the reins of government, officially, on the earth, and the kingdom and dominions, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the saints of the Most High ... Until this grand council is held, Satan shall hold rule in the nations of the earth; but at that time thrones are to be cast down and man's rule shall come to an end …Then shall he give the government to the saints of the Most High ... [This council] shall precede the coming of Jesus Christ as a thief in the night, unbeknown to all the world." (Way to Perfection, pp. 289-91.)
President Lorenzo Snow, speaking of those who will be living in Jackson County at that time, said: "If you will not have seen the Lord Jesus at that time you may expect Him very soon, to see him, to eat and drink with Him, to shake hands with Him and to invite him to your houses as He was invited when He was here before" (Deseret News, 15 June 1901, p. 1).
3. The appearance at the Mount of Olives. The Savior's appearance to the Jews will occur when Jerusalem and its environs are besieged by many nations. At the close of a long and costly war, known as the battle of Armageddon, the Jews will flee for safety to the Mount of Olives. There the Savior will make his appearance. (See D&C 45:48-53; 77:15; 133:35; Revelation 11:1-13; Zechariah 14:1-9).
Elder Parley P. Pratt summarized the events associated with that appearance:
Zechariah, chapter 14, has told us much concerning the great battle and overthrow of the nations that fight against Jerusalem, and he has said, in plain words, that the Lord shall come at the very time of the overthrow of that army; yes, in fact, even while they are in the act of taking Jerusalem, and have already succeeded in taking one-half the city, spoiling their houses, and ravishing their women. Then, behold, their long-expected Messiah, suddenly appearing, shall stand upon the Mount of Olives, a little east of Jerusalem, to fight against those nations and deliver the Jews. Zechariah says the Mount of Olives shall cleave in twain, from east to west, and one-half of the mountain shall remove to the north while the other half falls off to the south, suddenly forming a very great valley into which the Jews shall flee for protection from their enemies as they fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah; while the Lord cometh and all the saints with Him. Then will the Jews behold that long, long-expected Messiah, coming in power to their deliverance, as they always looked for him. He will destroy their enemies, and deliver them from trouble at the very time they are in the utmost consternation, and about to be swallowed up by their enemies. But what will be their astonishment when they are about to fall at the feet of their Deliverer and acknowledge him their Messiah! They discover the wounds which were once made in his hands, feet, and side; and on inquiry, at once recognize Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews, the man so long rejected. Well did the prophet say, they shall mourn and weep, every family apart, and their wives apart. But, thank heaven, there will be an end to their mourning; for he will forgive their iniquities and cleanse them from uncleanness. Jerusalem shall be a holy city from that time forth." (Voice of Warning, pp. 32-33.)
4. The Second Coming: the appearance to the whole world. As the Lord's second coming approaches, signs will mark this epochal event. One of the last of these signs is the sign of the Son of Man (see D&C 88:93; JS-M 1:36). The Prophet Joseph Smith said, "Then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven. 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 the morning cometh out of the east." (Teachings, p. 287.)(4)
In one of these appearances the Lord will be dressed in red. Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, "In multiple scriptural references, Jesus is described as having trod the winepress alone. In fact, the very symbolism of the red-colored garment that Jesus will apparently wear in one of His appearances at the time of His majestic second coming will be a reminder of how, drenched in blood, He once trod the winepress alone."(5)
Signs of the Second Coming
The Savior taught the parable of the fig tree to help his disciples know when his second coming would be (Matt. 24:32; Luke 21:29; D&C 45:36-39). There are certain events that must take place before the Lord comes. For example the Prophet Joseph Smith taught:
Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the temple, and water come out from under the temple, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple, &tc.; and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make His appearance. There will be wars and rumors of wars, signs in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, the sun turned into darkness and the moon to blood, earthquakes in divers places, the seas heaving beyond their bounds; then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven. 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 the morning cometh out of the east. (April 6, 1843.)(6)
The temple in the New Jerusalem is to be built by the law of consecration and the saints are to be there and looking for the coming of the Lord:
And it shall come to pass, that after they are laid before the bishop of my church, and after that he has received these testimonies concerning the consecration of the properties of my church, that they cannot be taken from the church, agreeable to my commandments, every man shall be made accountable unto me, a steward over his own property, or that which he has received by consecration, as much as is sufficient for himself and family.
And again, if there shall be properties in the hands of the church, or any individuals of it, more than is necessary for their support after this first consecration, which is a residue to be consecrated unto the bishop, it shall be kept to administer to those who have not, from time to time, that every man who has need may be amply supplied and receive according to his wants.
Therefore, the residue shall be kept in my storehouse, to administer to the poor and the needy, as shall be appointed by the high council of the church, and the bishop and his council;
And for the purpose of purchasing lands for the public benefit of the church, and building houses of worship, and building up of the New Jerusalem which is hereafter to be revealed — That my covenant people may be gathered in one in that day when I shall come to my temple. And this I do for the salvation of my people. (D&C 42:32-36)
And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem. Moses 7:62)
Gospel to Cover Earth before Second Coming
The gospel must be in every nation and they will have stakes and the temple ordinances according to Elder Bruce R. McConkie:
And I have no hesitancy whatever in saying that before the Lord comes, in all those nations we will have congregations that are stable, secure, devoted, and sound. We will have stakes of Zion. We will have people who have progressed in spiritual things to the point where they have received all of the blessings of the house of the Lord. That is the destiny.
We have revelations that tell us that the gospel is to go to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people before the second coming of the Son of Man (Matt. 24:14; JS-M 1:31). And we have revelations that recite that when the Lord comes, he will find those who speak every tongue and are members of every nation and kindred, who will be kings and priests, who will live and reign on earth with him a thousand years (Rev. 5:9-10; 1 Ne. 14:12; D&C 90:11). That means, as you know, that people from all nations will have the blessings of the house of the Lord before the Second Coming.(7)
With a little humor and a great deal of seriousness, I tell my students that we know the coming of the Lord is nigh when we can:
A. Visit the temple, built by consecration, in the New Jerusalem
B. Visit the temple in Old Jerusalem on the temple mount
C. Fish fresh water fish from the Dead Sea
D. Visit a stake conference in Bagdad, Iraq, presided over by an endowed native Iraqi stake president
The prophet Nephi portrays a world with the gospel in every nation before the second coming of Christ:
And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the whore who sat upon many waters; nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small, because of the wickedness of the great whore whom I saw. (1 Nephi 14:12)
The Ends of the Earth to be Warned to Repent
We learn from the first coming of the Lord to the Nephites, the purpose of signs as a warning device. Samuel the Lamanite gave several purposes for signs in Helaman 14:28-29. The Lord wanted no cause for unbelief and he wanted the wicked to bring upon themselves their own condemnation. The signs were seen by all and they all knew that Christ would come:
And they began to know that the Son of God must shortly appear; yea, in fine, all the people upon the face of the whole earth from the west to the east, both in the land north and in the land south, were so exceedingly astonished that they fell to the earth.
For they knew that the prophets had testified of these things for many years, and that the sign which had been given was already at hand; and they began to fear because of their iniquity and their unbelief. (3 Nephi 1:17-18)
Therefore, the Lord's judgments were considered righteous because all had been warned. However, before he appeared to them most of them had turned like a dog to his vomit and had become wicked again (3 Nephi 7:8).
Similarly, in the last days the Lord has proclaimed that his voice will be unto the ends of the earth and there are none to escape (D&C 1:2). Again, in D&C 88:81-81, the Lord reaffirms that he wants all warned so that they are without excuse and their sins are upon their own heads. One method of warning is by his servants sent forth into all the world (D&C 1:4-5). Also, the Lord has revealed that he will use many signs including the thunders and lightning as well as his own voice to warn the world:
For the day cometh that the Lord shall utter his voice out of heaven; the heavens shall shake and the earth shall tremble, and the trump of God shall sound both long and loud, and shall say to the sleeping nations: Ye saints arise and live; ye sinners stay and sleep until I shall call again. Wherefore gird up your loins lest ye be found among the wicked.
Lift up your voices and spare not. Call upon the nations to repent, both old and young, both bond and free, saying: Prepare yourselves for the great day of the Lord; For if I, who am a man, do lift up my voice and call upon you to repent, and ye hate me, what will ye say when the day cometh when the thunders shall utter their voices from the ends of the earth, speaking to the ears of all that live, saying--Repent, and prepare for the great day of the Lord? Yea, and again, when the lightnings shall streak forth from the east unto the west, and shall utter forth their voices unto all that live, and make the ears of all tingle that hear, saying these words--Repent ye, for the great day of the Lord is come? And again, the Lord shall utter his voice out of heaven, saying: Hearken, O ye nations of the earth, and hear the words of that God who made you. O, ye nations of the earth, how often would I have gathered you together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not! (D&C 43:18-24)
After quoting the above scriptures, Elder Orson Pratt made this comment:
It is true that the Lord has not yet spoken by the voice of thunders, calling upon the people from the ends of the earth, saying, "Repent and prepare for the great day of the Lord," but such an event will come; and when it does come it will not be a mere ordinary, common thunderstorm, such as we experience occasionally, extending only over a small extent of country, but the Lord will cause the thunders to utter their voices from the ends of the earth until they sound in the ears of all that live, and these thunders shall use the very words here predicted — "Repent O ye inhabitants of the earth, and prepare the way of the Lord, prepare yourselves for the great day of the Lord." These words will be distinctly heard by every soul that lives, whether in America, Asia, Africa, Europe, or upon the islands of the sea. And not only the thunders, but the lightings will utter forth their voices in the ears of all that live, saying, "Repent, for the great day of the Lord is come." Besides the voices of thunder and lightning, the Lord himself, before he comes in his glory, will speak by his own voice out of heaven in the ears of all that live, commanding them to repent and to prepare for his coming (emphasis added). I do not know how the Lord will send forth his voice so as to make all the people on the four quarters of the globe hear it, for the loudest sound that we can produce only extends over a small area, a few miles at most; but the Lord has power to make his voice heard by all that live on the four quarters of the earth, and when he fulfills this prediction, all that live will literally hear the words that are here named; and the wicked will perish out of the earth as they did in the days of Noah, and so far as they are concerned the earth will be made empty and desolate.(8)
As with the Nephites, the coming of the Lord to the world will leave the wicked with no cause for unbelief. However, it is expected that many will reject these signs as taught by the Lord:
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. But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die. And there shall be earthquakes also in divers places, and many desolations; yet men will harden their hearts against me, and they will take up the sword, one against another, and they will kill one another. (D&C 45:31-33)
1. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols., introduction and notes by B. H. Roberts [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-1951], 3: 390.
2. Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses, 5 vols. [Burbank, Calif., and Woodland Hills, Ut.: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987-1992], 5: .
3. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 305.
4. The Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual - Religion 324-325, (CES, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, 1981), pp. 404-405.
5. Neal A. Maxwell, Meek and Lowly [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 119.
6. Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 286.
7. Bruce R. McConkie, Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1998], 173.
8. Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 15:332- 333.