Consider the Second Coming
How Awesome Will It Be? is a teenager’s guide to understanding and preparing for the Second Coming. Roger A. McKenzie, religious education instructor at Brigham Young University and popular Especially for Youth (EFY) speaker, uses his many years of interaction with LDS youth to create a book that speaks directly to teens about the awesome events of Christ’s Second Coming.
Unfortunately, the topic of the Second Coming can sometimes lead to foreboding thoughts about the future, visions of disgusting plagues, flies, and natural disasters of every kind, not to mention the literal burning of the wicked. It doesn’t make for pleasant imagery. Without perspective and understanding, we could easily look to the future with fear.
Awesome or Terrifying?
The book opens with McKenzie’s retelling of an experience he had teaching the Second Coming to a group of seminary students. He bought five hundred plastic flies and stuck them to the walls and ceiling of his classroom. He hung Styrofoam balls for hail around the room. Then “to really freak out my students” he writes, “I bought a cup full of mealworms (to represent maggots, of course) … I made overheads of all the frightening scriptures related to the Second Coming to remind my students of the horror that was shortly to come … I couldn’t help but think about how much fun my students were going to have and about what an awesome teacher I was!” (1).
Watching his students file into the classroom, McKenzie says “a quiet, cynical laugh slipped from my mouth” (2). Surprise turned to shock as they investigated the unusual dcor. When they saw the maggots, they began to freak out. “Just what I wanted!” he thought. As he read them the horrifying scriptures of carnage, death and destruction, eyes grew as big as bowling balls. “Satisfied with what I had done, I asked for questions. My students just sat there in stunned silence. It had worked! This was a lesson they would never forget” (2).
Finally, one girl raised her hand and asked, “What if I don’t make it?” She wondered what she would do if riding her bike home from school, she was attacked by flies and didn’t make it! “Brother McKenzie, I want to be saved, but you make it sound like there’s no hope. What will I do?” (2).
It was then that McKenzie realized he had gone too far. He had paralyzed his students with terror and fear! Any enthusiasm for his lesson evaporated as he thought, what have I done? “Several years have passed since I gave that horrible lesson …I have changed my outlook on the Second Coming” (3). Realizing he omitted a most important principle – hope, McKenzie explains, “for the righteous, hope, not fear, will help us look forward to the Second Coming … Flies, hailstorms, and maggots shouldn’t occupy our minds. Rather, we should look forward to the awesome day when Christ comes to bring peace and joy. That’s what the Second Coming is all about” (3).
Understand and Prepare
The book is made up of four parts – four sections that will help young readers understand why the Second Coming will indeed be “awesome” and why they can look forward to that day with excitement rather than dread. The four sections are titled Understanding the Second Coming, The Signs of the Second Coming, What Will Happen When He Comes? and Preparing for the Second Coming.
From Adam-ondi-Ahman and the city of temples in Independence, to Armageddon and the Mount of Olives, McKenzie covers it all. He uses the scriptures and writings of apostles and prophets as doctrinal foundation. He supplements with personal anecdotes and clever analogies. Throughout each section, he continues to emphasize that principle of hope, speaking of the incomparable peace that will accompany the righteous.
McKenzie points out that seeing signs is not a reason to be frightened. Instead, we “see them as a reason to rejoice that we are getting closer to our destination” (45). He repeats several times that signs warn us, motivate us and inspire us. He encourages youth to listen to the right sources when it comes to interpreting signs – namely the prophets and apostles. He reminds readers that fear is what Satan wants us to experience. The Lord wants us to feel peace. To the youth he writes, “If you are doing your best to live the commandments of the Lord, this will be a great day for you – not a day to fear. You will remember his love on this day” (40). He does, however, insert this self-deprecating disclaimer, “We look forward to the Second Coming with hope or dread, depending on whether we had good seminary teachers who taught the peace of the Lord or crummy seminary teachers who taught about scary maggots and stuff” (40).
Entertaining but Doctrinal
As you can see, McKenzie’s style of writing is humorous and casual. He writes like he is speaking to a large EFY group but this colloquial style is captivating and straightforward enough to keep anyone engaged. He jokes with the reader, makes fun of himself, and writes in language that is plain and simple. In truth, he is entertaining. With so many signs of the Second Coming to understand, so many events to take place in a particular order, this compact explanation of what will happen is actually quite helpful. Succinct and clear-cut, events are explained in memorable ways. An effortless read, this book offers sound doctrine in a clever and creative package.
Here are two more examples of McKenzie’s amusing writing. The first is taken from a chapter entitled, What Will Happen to Satan? “When Christ comes, Satan will be bound by our righteous living. He won’t be able to do anything but sit home and knit. What a boring time for him – nothing to do but wish he were out wreaking havoc somewhere (D&C 101:28) …Can you imagine being grounded for a thousand years? That’s how long Satan will be bound. You think it’s bad when your parents ground you for a day or two or even a week. Well, whine no more. We just discovered the ultimate grounding – a thousand years! For the righteous, however, the thousand years of the Savior’s personal reign on earth will be a time of incredible joy, peace, and harmony. Think how great it will be to live in a world without sin, bad thoughts, or even bad desires. It will be wonderful!” (109-110).
In another chapter, that explains what will happen to the earth, McKenzie writes about a favorite vacation place for his family – Craters of the Moon in Idaho. “It’s a weird place that’s covered with miles and miles of black lava rocks and dormant volcanoes. It looks much like the surface of the moon, except that there’s no vegetation on the moon …Whenever I have an opportunity to look across the area’s bleak nothingness, I imagine what the earth will look like after Jesus comes.
I wonder if it will end up being a barren world of black nothingness, with mist rising from the depths of the cracks in the rocks … the scriptures tell us the earth will be burned to a crisp when [Christ] comes again (Jacob 6:3). Christ himself will burn the earth” (89-90).
McKenzie explains that after this burning or cleansing of the earth with Christ’s glorified presence, the earth will be returned to its paradisiacal state. He continues, “Can you imagine living in a place like the Garden of Eden? Wow! I can hardly wait to experience that new world when Christ comes. That’s something to look forward to and be excited about …It will be a new world for us to live in – a place of peace and safety, a place where God can bless his righteous children. So get rid of any ideas about some nasty looking piece of charcoal for an earth. We have so much to look forward to if we are righteous. God’s greatest blessings are being saved for the faithful, one of them being an incredible new world” (91).
An Awesome Message
McKenzie hopes that his youthful audience, like the girl in the first chapter who wondered if there was any hope for her during the Second Coming, will find comfort in the words of his book. He wants our journey in the days ahead to be one of “joy, excitement, and preparation” (158). He testifies, “I know there is hope for you, just as our prophet knows there is hope for you. President Gordon B. Hinckley said: I do not know how anybody can feel gloomy for very long who is a member of this Church. Do you feel gloomy? Lift your eyes. Stand on your feet. Say a few words of appreciation and love to the Lord. Be positive … this is the day which has been spoken of by those who have gone before us. Let us live worthy of our birthright …Walk in righteousness, and the Lord will bless you and prosper you and you will be a happy and wonderful people. (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 412-13)'” (158).
How Awesome Will It Be? is perfect for, but not limited to, its intended audience of teens. Parents and teachers of youth will find it helpful, as well as engaging. I hope we see more from McKenzie. The positive vibes from his guide to understanding and preparing for the Second Coming are lasting. They allay fears and offer hope. No more nasty flies and Styrofoam hail. And no more crummy seminary teachers! McKenzie’s book is “awesome” in its delivery and, more importantly, in its message.