Much of Paul’s message to faithful Timothy is one of warning concerning the current and impending apostasy which was and would be besetting the church of the meridian saints, and would be a major concern for those who would be living in the last days.
Paul’s love for Timothy and care for him to remain faithful and true to the bedrock values of his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5) are evident throughout the two letters. Timothy is a type of each of us living in the latter days. Paul, with all the prophets of old and of modern day, wants the saints to be faithful and true from youth on until we have “fought a good fight,” and finished the course, and that we can truly say, “I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly,” Paul wrote, “that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron…” (1 Timothy 4:1,2). Elder Bruce R. McConkie gave further explanation of these verses:
“Some shall depart from the faith] Some shall fall away beginning in Timothy’s day; some other shall forsake the truth after it has been restored in our day, with this difference: The apostasy from the primitive Church shall, in due course, be universal; spiritual darkness will cover the earth and envelop all peoples; but in the day of restoration, though individuals and groups shall fall away, the Church itself shall remain to prepare a people for the Second Coming of the Son of Man.
“Seducing Spirits] Devils, evil spirits who lead men astray; also, the fanatical crazes and false spirits which sweep through whole nations and peoples, as the spirit of false zeal which led to the Crusades, or the spirit which unites and impels a whole nation to invade and plunder its neighbor.
“Doctrines of Devils] False doctrines in which there is no salvation; doctrines that lead men away from the truths of salvation; doctrines which are contrary to the mind and will of God and which are encouraged and sponsored by Satan, as for instance: That God is an immaterial Spirit essence filling all immensity; that revelation, gifts, and miracles ceased with the apostles; that infants must be baptized to be saved.”(1)
Paul continues in his second letter to Timothy, giving the Saints of our day a vivid picture of the times in which we would be living. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness; but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
Looking at the meanings of some of these words brings an all-too-familiar view to our minds of our day and age:
Covetous — inordinately desirous; excessively eager to obtain and possess; avaricious; grasping; greedy; miserly.
Blasphemy — profane or mocking speech, writing, or action concerning God or anything regarded as sacred. Wanton and malicious revilement of God and the Christian religion.
Without natural affection — “an inevitable result of demeaning the family unit so that it is no longer deemed to be the basic unit of society.”(2)
Incontinent — not restraining the passions or appetites, particularly the sexual appetite; indulging lust without restraint; unchaste, lewd.
Fierce — vehement, violent, furious; rushing; uncontrolled; savage; wild; of a violently cruel nature.
Traitor — one who betrays his country, cause, friends; one guilty of treason.
Heady — rash, hasty, precipitate; disposed to rush forward in an enterprise without thought or deliberation.
Highminded — proud, arrogant.(3)
Paul warned again: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3,4).
Elder McConkie explained: “All false doctrines are fables. That is, they are stories which have been imagined, fabricated, and invented as opposed to the gospel which is real and true. Apostasy consists in turning from true doctrine to fables.”(4)
Strength of Youth
Paul reminds Timothy over and over again of the blessings and gifts that were given to him in his youth. “Let no man despise thy youth,” Paul wrote, “but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
This is not dissimilar to the duties of the priests and teachers in the Aaronic Priesthood as outlined in the Doctrine and Covenants: “The priest’s duty is to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize, and administer the sacrament, and visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties … and visit the house of each member, exhorting them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties … The teacher’s duty is to watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them; and see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking; and see that the church meet together often, and also see that all the members do their duty” (D&C 20: 46,47,51,53-55).
Paul’s exhortations to Timothy continued: “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor or me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:6-8). Timothy was reminded to use the gift of the Holy Ghost, to understand His promptings, to learn to head the still small voice of the Spirit, to know the fruits of the Spirit.
Alma’s counsel to his son Shiblon is also counsel for our youth and for us who live in the latter days:
“I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day…
“See that ye are not lifted up unto pride; yea, see that ye do not boast in your own wisdom, nor or your much strength. Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love…” (Alma 38:5, 11,12).
Alma’s words to Helaman were of the same caliber:
“O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.
“Yea and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and withersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever.
As we follow the above admonitions, from Paul, the Lord, and from Alma, the choicest blessings of heaven will be ours.
1. McConkie, Bruce R. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary. Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, 1973, Volume 3: 85.
2. Ibid, p. 109.
3. Definitions were taken, except where noted, from Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged. Noah Webster. William Collins Publishers, Inc., 1979.
4. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3: 114.