The first song in the current hymnal of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “The Morning Breaks.” It was written by Parley P. Pratt.
THE MORNING BREAKS
This song is an appropriate beginning to the hymns of the restoration when the shadows of confusion and uncertainty began to dissipate. We were told in the most General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that we now have over sixty-five thousand missionaries who have been sent into the world to disperse darkness and unfurl Zion’s standard to lift an ensign to the nations-and thousands more who will soon join them.
Isaiah told us what the Lord would do in the last days.
“And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth; and behold, they shall come with speed swiftly; none shall be weary nor stumble among them. None shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken; Whose arrows shall be sharp, and all their bows bent, and their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind, their roaring like a lion. They shall roar like young lions; yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and shall carry away safe, and none shall deliver” (Isaiah 5: 26-29; see also 2 Nephi 15:26-29).
This passage of scripture is a wonderful description of modern missionary work.
“HE WILL LIFT UP AN ENSIGN TO THE NATIONS”
An ensign is a flag. Standard and banner are used in the scriptures with the same meaning. Isaiah speaks of this ensign six times. The words of Isaiah and other prophets help us understand the nature and the purpose of this ensign that will be lifted up “to the nations.”
Its purpose in every case is to “assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (Isaiah 11:12). It is a message to the “inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth” (Isaiah 18:3). The result of the lifting of this ensign is that “there shall come unto her out of every nation under heaven” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:43).
The Ensign would be located in the mountains, “as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill” (Isaiah 30:17). The commandment through Isaiah was to “Lift . . . up a banner upon the high mountain,” (Isaiah 13:2).
Doctrine and Covenants 64:41, 42 tells us that the ensign will be Zion and the “glory of the Lord” that is upon her.
Doctrine and Covenants 45:9 tells us that the everlasting covenant will be “a light to the world, and . . . a standard for my people, and for the Gentiles to seek to.”
“HE WILL HISS UNTO THEM FROM THE ENDS OF THE EARTH”
A hiss is a sharp, piercing whistle-a call for action and involvement. The hiss in this case is the word of the Lord. “And my words shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth.” (2 Nephi 29:2). Jesus commanded his disciples to go into “the uttermost part of the earth” and bear witness of him (Acts 1:8). To the righteous and honest in heart, that witness will be like the sound of a trumpet, awaking and alerting people to gather to the ensign of the Lord in the tops of the mountains.
“THEY SHALL COME WITH SPEED SWIFTLY”
In 1834, a group of Latter-day Saints calling themselves Zion’s Camp took forty-nine days to travel from Ohio through Indiana and Illinois to western Missouri. Imagine the difficulty that would accompany such a journey: the stumbling and weariness; the sleeping and arising; the putting on and taking off of shoes and clothing. The History of the Church tells of feet that were sore and blistered and stockings that were wet with blood; about rattlesnakes and drinking water filled with small red animals called wigglers. There are other notes about mud reaching over the tops of the travelers’ boots as they helped to pull wagons with ropes, and about ravaging diseases (HC, Vol. II).
My son served a mission in Indiana covered twice the distance of that journey in just a few hours when he flew from Salt Lake to Indianapolis. Isaiah saw our day and said of the Lord’s missionary messengers, “They shall come with speed, swiftly.” My son did not have to take off his shoes or his clothes for the trip. “None shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken . . .”
“WHOSE ARROWS SHALL BE SHARP AND ALL THEIR BOWS BENT”
These missionaries will be hard-working and obedient. They will be prepared for battle. With their sharp arrows and bent bows they will wage war with Lucifer for the souls of men.
Jacob tells of a vision of their work in this way: “And it came to pass that the servants did go and labor with their mights; and the Lord of the vineyard labored also with them; and they did obey the commandments of the Lord . . . in all things” (Jacob 5:72).
“THEIR HORSES’ HOOFS SHALL BE COUNTED LIKE FLINT, AND THEIR WHEELS LIKE A WHIRLWIND”
These messengers of glory and goodness will come like a tsunami, a great unstoppable force. The imagery of the sparks flying from the horses’ hooves and the majestic power wheels like a whirlwind suggest a force of divine power sent to gather people to the ensign.
“THEY SHALL ROAR LIKE YOUNG LIONS”
Isaiah saw that these messengers of glory would roar like lions. We have all seen the documentaries of lion with their prey, roaring to keep the jackals and other scavengers away.
Isaiah compares these missionaries to lions, and particularly to young lions. A recent change in the procedures of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints allows young men to serve at the age of 18, and young women at the age of 19.
They will lay hold of the prey-those who hear and believe the words that hiss forth unto them-and carry them away to the safety of the ensign, and “none shall deliver.”
What a wonderful description of missionaries!
WE LIVE IN A BRIGHTER DAY
It is a marvelous blessing to live in this day-a brighter day-when “clouds of error disappear,” and the light of revealed truth spreads across the world, accompanied by God’s messengers. It is wonderful to hear the hiss (the whistle, the trumpet) of the Lord’s words, reaching out to the believing and willing among all nations with an invitation to embrace the fullness of the gospel and to learn more of the redemptive suffering of the Lord in their behalf, and to gather to the ensign that has been raised by his people.