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Maybe you’ve heard that the Second Coming is at hand. Of course we don’t know the hour and we are advised to look forward to many signs before it is upon us, but prudent people believe that preparation is a good idea. The last time the Savior appeared to the world, cataclysmic events ensued. The entire geography of the Nephite and Lamanite nations was altered. Few catastrophes have rivaled that which occurred in the Americas. The Fall of Adam, the division of the continents in Peleg’s day and Noah’s great flood come to mind.
In the eighth chapter of 3 Nephi, Mormon records scenes of “a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land.”[i] For three horrific hours the storm unleashed unimaginable power in deadly multiples, all of which seemed to indicate that the Earth was experiencing such profound mourning over the death of her Creator that in a fit of intense anger she intended to cast off every semblance of wickedness from her face.
When the “great and terrible tempest” erupted, it was coupled with deafening and “terrible thunder” that “did shake the earth as if it was about to divide asunder.” That terrifying event was accompanied by “exceedingly sharp lightnings, such as never had been known in all the land.”[ii]
There was no place to run or hide. The capital city and other “great and notable cities” took fire while additional cities either sank in the ocean or were swallowed whole by the earth. Most of the buildings collapsed or were incinerated; “highways were broken up, and level roads were spoiled.” So extensive was the damage that many “places were left desolate.” “The face of the whole earth became deformed.”[iii]
If things were not bad enough, that which followed exceeded all previous horrors. Three days of absolute darkness choked out every attempt at light: “neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all.” The people could actually “feel the vapor of darkness!”[iv]
Everyone was abandoned to grope in the terrifying darkness with no apparent hope of deliverance. Had they sinned too long and too far? “There was great mourning and howling and weeping among all the people continually; yea, great were the groanings of the people, because of the darkness and the great destruction which had come upon them.” They were left utterly alone in thick darkness, tortured by the vivid recollection of their sins and apathy.[v]
No wonder that we read that these same people, who were now gathered at the temple in Bountiful, were “marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.”[vi] Who could blame them? Little of their world remained, and that which did remain was completely unrecognizable.
Keep that scene in mind as we now discuss the Second Coming of the Lord, which is in our near future. As terrible as was the calamitous event in Nephite history, it will be like a stroll in the park compared to that which will occur when Jesus comes again.
In Revelation, the apostle, John, foresees the annihilation of one-third of life on the earth-plant, land and aquatic animal and human beings-before the Second Coming. [vii] Elder Bruce R. McConkie writes:
“The greatest war, slaughter, carnage, bloodshed, and desolation of all the ages will be in full swing at the very hour when Christ returns. There shall be a time of trouble,’ says Daniel, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time.’ (Dan. 12:1.)…. It will be A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains’…. (Joel 2:2-3).”[viii]
No wonder that kings, great and rich men, chief captains and mighty men will hide “themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains,” and cry, “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?”[ix]
The entire world will be at war until, like the Nephites and Jaredites, the insanity results in “an end to all nations.”[x] This will be a holy war, states Elder McConkie. “There will be political overtones, of course…. But the underlying causes and the moving power in the hearts of men will be their views on religious issues.”[xi]
“And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations.”[xii]
At the Lord’s coming, the face of the entire earth will be radically altered. Oceans, lakes and rivers will become scalding caldrons: “For the presence of the Lord shall be as the melting fire that burneth, and as the fire which causeth the waters to boil.”[xiii] The surface of the earth will become molten: “Element shall melt with fervent heat,”[xiv] and “mountains shall flow down at thy presence.”[xv]
As a prelude, a mighty earthquake-the mother of all earthquakes-will shake the entire globe causing untold damage and loss of life. To the earthbound looking heavenward, the stars will appear to fall from the sky. In fact, the heavens themselves will change and depart “as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.” Possibly, the earthquake’s aftermath of fires, smoke, ash and dust will cause the sun to become “black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon [to become] as blood.”[xvi]
This earthquake, along with other earthquakes and violent commotions in the earth, such as wars, pestilences, plagues and desolations, are meant to add a second witness to that of the testimony of the apostles and the elders and sisters who preach the gospel message.
For not many days hence and the earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man; and the sun shall hide his face, and shall refuse to give light; and the moon shall be bathed in blood; and the stars shall become exceedingly angry, and shall cast themselves down as a fig that falleth from off a fig-tree.
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.
But despite the warnings, the wicked will reject the testimonies and sprint toward extinction: “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.”[xviii]
We pride ourselves in advances in medicine, but scientists will not be able to halt a pandemic that will cover the earth. This “desolating sickness” will rival any plague that has decimated past populations. “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.” The only protection that will stand between the obedient Saints and certain destruction will be the Lord’s intervening power: “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.”[xix]
More natural disasters and starvation will follow. “And there shall be a great hailstorm sent forth to destroy the crops of the earth.” The carcasses of the dead will litter the face of the earth: “Wherefore, I the Lord God will send forth flies upon the face of the earth, which shall take hold of the inhabitants thereof, and shall eat their flesh, and shall cause maggots to come in upon them; And their tongues shall be stayed that they shall not utter against me; and their flesh shall fall from off their bones, and their eyes from their sockets; And it shall come to pass that the beasts of the forest and the fowls of the air shall devour them up.”[xx]
Why, then, given the magnitude of these plagues, do the prophets speak in terms of optimism and hope? As seers, they are not ignorant of what is coming. Could it be that they see another reality? That reality is called “the year of the Lord’s redeemed.”[xxi]
Elder McConkie explains,
“To the righteous who have waited for him and kept his laws, the Second Coming will be a day devoutly to be desired, a day of peace and redemption, a day when injustice will cease and wickedness be banished, a day when the vineyard will be cleansed of corruption and its rightful Ruler reign in the midst of his saints. Yea, when thou comest down, and the mountains flow down at thy presence, thou shalt meet him who rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, who remembereth thee in thy ways. For since the beginning of the world have not men heard nor perceived by the ear, neither hath any eye seen, O God, besides thee, how great things thou hast prepared for him that waiteth for thee….’And now the year of my redeemed is come.'”[xxii]
The year of the Lord’s redeemed will result in two diverse and extreme experiences for the wicked and the righteous.
For behold, and lo, vengeance cometh speedily upon the ungodly as the whirlwind; and who shall escape it?
The Lord’s scourge shall pass over by night and by day, and the report thereof shall vex all people; yea, it shall not be stayed until the Lord come;
For the indignation of the Lord is kindled against their abominations and all their wicked works.
Nevertheless, Zion shall escape if she observe to do all things whatsoever I have commanded her.
But if she observe not to do whatsoever I have commanded her, I will visit her according to all her works, with sore affliction, with pestilence, with plague, with sword, with vengeance, with devouring fire.
Nevertheless, let it be read this once to her ears, that I, the Lord, have accepted of her offering; and if she sin no more none of these things shall come upon her;
When the Savior appeared to the righteous Nephites, they had gathered and spoke about “the great and marvelous change which had taken place.”[xxiv] Given all the destructions that will attend the Second Coming, we might expect that we might also gather to marvel and wonder at the extraordinary events that will transform of the earth to its “paradisiacal glory”[xxv] and the eradication of evil.
But amazingly that subject will not dominate our conversation.
The scriptures tell us exactly what we will be discussing in the “year of my redeemed.” What will the righteous saints gather to talk about? “They shall mention the loving kindness of their Lord, and all that he has bestowed upon them according to his goodness, and according to his loving kindness, forever and ever.
The Lord’s loving kindness. That is the subject that will occupy our thought and conversation “forever and ever.” Not the mountains made low or the elevated valleys or the boiling oceans or the collapse of Babylon – no, these topics, as interesting as they are, will not capture our imagination. Rather, we will exult continuously and eternally about the Savior’s loving kindness.
Ammon summed up the rejoicing of the redeemed. Of all the experiences that he could have shared with his brethren as they recalled their missionary efforts, he chose to exult in the loving kindness of the Lord. “Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his power, and his mercy, and his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I cannot say the smallest part of what I feel.”[xxvii]
And evidently we, too, will struggle to find adequate words to describe how we feel about the Savior. This sentiment is captured in the dedicatory prayer of the Ogden Temple:
“And it is our desire to be instruments in thy hands to prepare a people for the coming of thy Son; for the day when every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; for the day when the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and he shall stand again on earth; for the day when thy saints shall be redeemed, and shall mention the loving kindness of their Lord, and all that he has bestowed upon them according to his goodness, and according to his loving kindness, forever and ever.’
“O, our Father, we long for the day when the Prince of Peace shall come, when the earth shall rest and righteousness be found again upon her face; and it is our prayer, spoken out of humble and contrite hearts, that we shall abide the day and be found worthy to live with him whom thou hast appointed to stand as King of kings and Lord of lords, to whom be glory and honor and power and might both now and forever.”[xxviii]
No subject in time or eternity will be as prominent in the consciousness of the redeemed than the loving kindness of the Lord. Perhaps, therefore, in preparation for the year of the Lord’s redeemed, we should learn to focus on and converse about the Lord’s loving kindness rather than dwell on the coming catastrophes that will have the greatest impact on another population.