By Douglas E. Brinley
Chapter 12 – The Fate of the Gentiles
We have traced the Antediluvians, the Jaredites, the Mulekites, and the Nephites through their rise to greatness as a people, only to see them fall into patterns of wickedness that led to their downfall. We will now consider the fate of the Gentiles, the present occupants of the land. What happens to them is important to Latter-day Saints, for we live in the midst of their culture. We are a part of them. In the Prophet Joseph Smith’s prayer at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, he prayed, “Now these words, O Lord, we have spoken before thee, concerning the revelations and commandments which thou hast given unto us, who are identified with the Gentiles” (D&C 109:60; italics added).
The title page of the Book of Mormon indicates that the book is written for the benefit of the Gentiles also. The Lord allowed the Gentiles to establish a great political and economic system to bless the house of Israel in the latter days, to bring the gospel to the remnants of Israel (1 Nephi 15:13-14). Because the gospel and the priesthood were restored to the Gentiles on this land, Latter-day Saints have the responsibility to share the message of the Restoration with those Gentiles who do not believe in Jesus Christ (3 Nephi 16:8).
Stage 1: The Lord Leads the Righteous to a Promised Land
Nephi beheld in vision the coming of the Gentiles to the promised land:
And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.
And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.
And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise. (1 Nephi 13:12-14)
Nephi described how the Lord assisted the Gentiles in gaining their independence from their “mother Gentiles.” He saw the fledgling military of the Gentiles fight against those who “were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them.” And he witnessed the miracle: “And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle. And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations” (1 Nephi 13:17-19). The Lord assisted the colonists in their quest for freedom.
The Gentiles were given this land of promise because the Nephites broke their covenants with Deity (Mormon 5:19). The clash between the Gentiles and the Lamanites, who had disintegrated
into tribal factions, is a well-known part of American history. It was foretold by both Nephi and the Savior (1 Nephi 12; 13:31; 3 Nephi 16:8-9). The Lord promised Nephi, however, that He would not “suffer that the Gentiles shall destroy the seed of thy brethren” (1 Nephi 13:31).
Stage 2: God Covenants with the Inhabitants of the Land
The covenant on this land was not known to the Gentiles at the time they arrived. They knew that God had blessed them in obtaining this land as a place where freedom of religion and a political system were born, but not until the gospel was restored and the Book of Mormon published did it become evident that the Lord was involved in bringing them to this land and placing them under the same obligations to live righteously as the former inhabitants had been under.
Perhaps for that reason, the Gentiles were (and still are) unaware of the covenant and therefore mercy has been extended to the Gentiles until Church members more fully present them the gospel. Our Father in Heaven has been patient with the immorality and wickedness that has taken place historically among the Gentiles and which is even now becoming more entrenched in the land. It is the role of Latter-day Saints to educate the Gentiles, if they will receive it, concerning the great promises extended to them by God when they are righteous (1 Nephi 13:34-35).
Thus, the emphasis of Church prophets to Church members is to spread the Book of Mormon and its message to the citizens of this land. That was the vision of President Ezra Taft Benson (“Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon,” 4-6).
It is true that the Gentiles knew about Christ before the Restoration commenced. The Bible, especially the New Testament, contains the requirements necessary to be a follower of Jesus Christ and outlines the responsibilities that come with discipleship. Recall that the covenant on the land has to do with obeying the “God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Ether 2:12). Most of the early settlers were God-fearing people who brought with them the biblical text. The early Reformers, who broke from the Catholic tradition, succeeded in getting the Bible into the hands of the common people. The invention of the printing press allowed the sacred text to be printed and placed in the hands of individuals other than clergy. Nephi makes a point of the biblical record being carried to this land by the Gentiles (1 Nephi 13:20-29; 32).
Thus, as a people the settlers were free to practice Christian principles as they are found in the Bible. Latter-day Saints are to share with the Gentiles and all others the message of the Book of Mormon along with the doctrines of the Restoration. One of the threefold missions of the Church is to take the gospel to all the world. The Book of Mormon restores the simple doctrines and principles of the gospel along with the covenants that God establishes with His children
An angel outlined to Nephi the promises and consequences that the Gentiles faced as they settled the very land where the gospel was to be restored. Those promises and consequences were based on their being aware of the Book of Mormon record:
And it shall come to pass, that if the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God in that day that he shall manifest himself unto them in word and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks –
And harden not their hearts against the Lamb of God, they shall be numbered among the seed of thy father; yea, they shall be numbered among the house of Israel; and they shall be a blessed people upon the promised land forever; they shall be no more brought down into captivity; and the house of Israel shall no more be confounded .
Therefore, wo be unto the Gentiles if is so be that they harden their hearts against the Lamb of God.
For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other – either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually. (1 Nephi 14:1-7; italics added)
The Gentiles are accountable to God for their behavior to the extent that they have the Old and New Testaments. They have done a great work in getting this nation underway. This is their day, the day of the Gentile, the dispensation of the fulness of times (D&C 45:28-30; 112:30; 128:20).
Although the Gentiles have great promises extended to them if they will accept the gospel, Nephi saw that one major problem the Church would face in the last days was “priestcraft,” wherein clergy “preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion” (2 Nephi 26:29). Priestcraft has prevented many from coming into the true fold of God as their minds have been poisoned concerning Joseph Smith and the Restoration. As the Church moves forward “out of obscurity and out of darkness” (D&C 1:30), however, and as our missionary force increases, as our people become leaders in government and business, and as the Saints live the gospel, honest truth seekers among the Gentiles will be attracted to the restored gospel. We are reminded once again of the words of President Boyd K. Packer:
Across the world, those who now come by the tens of thousands will inevitably come as a flood to where the family is safe. Here they will worship the Father in the name of Christ, by the gift of the Holy Ghost, and know that the gospel is the great plan of happiness, of redemption, of which I bear witness (“Father and the Family,” 21).
Jacob explained that “the Gentiles shall be blessed upon the land. And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles. And I will fortify this land against all other nations” (2 Nephi 10:10-12).
Jesus, in his visit to the Nephites, talked about the latter-day inhabitants of this land and of the Book of Mormon record that would come forth among them and be taken to the seed of Lehi:
For it is wisdom in the Father that they should be established in this land, and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father, that these things might come forth from them unto a remnant of your seed, that the covenant of the Father may be fulfilled which he hath covenanted with his people, O house of Israel (3 Nephi 21:4).
The Savior then explained how the gospel would go forth from the Gentiles to the latter-day remnant of the people to whom He was speaking:
Therefore, when these works and the works which shall be wrought among you hereafter shall come forth from the Gentiles unto your seed which shall dwindle in unbelief because of iniquity;
For thus it behooveth the Father that it should come forth from the Gentiles, that he may show forth his power unto the Gentiles, for this cause that the Gentiles, if they will not harden their hearts, that they may repent and come unto me and be baptized in my name and know of the true points of my doctrine, that they may be numbered among my people, O house of Israel (3 Nephi 21:5-6).
That remnant, as we have seen, is the Lamanite. As Latter-day Saints, we know of the promises made to the Gentiles. Mormon refers to Church members among the Gentiles as those who “have care for the house of Israel, that realize and know from whence their blessings come. For I know that such will sorrow for the calamity of the house of Israel” (Mormon 5:10-11).
Although wonderful promises are extended to the Gentiles, the problem of pride, that old Nephite disease, would cause major problems with their spirituality. It seems that whenever people gain political freedom, find that labor-saving devices leave them with an abundance of leisure time, when thy enjoy economic prosperity, and a plethora of goods and services are readily available, the dangers of spiritual apathy and pride seem to crowd out humility and meekness. For this reason, Mormon called the Gentiles to repentance (3 Nephi 30).
The Gentiles, because of their belief in Christ, are under a covenant similar to that of the earlier inhabitants of the land. Joseph Smith’s first vision, wherein both God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ visited the young Prophet as a prelude to the Restoration, came forth in this land of promise and invites their investigation. The Book of Mormon, a book written for them, is now available to them in many languages (Book of Mormon Title Page).
Historically, the Lord blessed and protected this nation from the ravages of war and economic disaster that might otherwise have led to the destruction of the nation. The Civil War came close to destroying the nation, but with a humble president who sought inspiration and wisdom from God, the nation survived the most serious challenge to its continuity. God has had a hand in the affairs of this land.
President Ezra Taft Benson taught:
When this nation was established, the Church was restored and from here the message of the restored gospel has gone forth – all according to divine plan. This then becomes the Lord’s base of operations in these latter days .
It was His latter-day purpose to bring forth His gospel inAmerica, not in any other place. It was in America where the Book of Mormon plates were deposited. That was no accident. It was His design (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 571).
Stage 3: God Establishes Laws for the Goverance of the People
The legal system of the United States has been the envy of other nations, and a number of countries have modeled their own constitution after ours. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith, during a particularly intense period of persecution, that the Saints were to
importune for redress, and redemption, by the hands of those who are placed as rulers and are in authority over you –
According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles .
And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose (D&C 101:76-80).
Joseph Smith observed, “The Constitution is not a law, but it empowers the people to make laws” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 278). Thus the Constitution became a guide for fair and equitable lawmaking by the Congress. This inspired document has stood the test of time. When matters of law are appealed to the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, nine judges in the court of last resort, are to make decisions on the cases that come before them based on the merits of a law as it can or cannot be supported by principles found in the Constitution. Of course, the judges themselves can be tainted by the philosophies of men and by their own moral compass which they acquired growing up in the very civilization where they are to make judgments.
Thus, we are now hearing decisions from that court which go contrary to what “the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ,” would desire (Ether 2:12).
For example, to interpret the Constitution as supporting the killing of the unborn through abortion on demand is a decision that could only come in a society that has lost its spiritual moorings. Immoral behavior sustained by legal fiat is contrary to the will of God as revealed to his prophets and as found in the scriptures. To interpret the Constitution of the United States as supporting abortion is contrary to the Christian principles upon which this nation was founded. To interpret the Constitution as being against religious observances and practices of all kinds, even in public settings, as it has been of late, is an indication of faulty logic and misinterpretation of what the Founding Fathers had in mind.
We live in an age of activist judges who, rather than simply interpreting law so that the people can decide if more or less legislation is needed, have turned to making laws themselves by mandating enforcement of their own interpretations.
Given our early history of persecution as a Church, of members being driven from their homes, cities, and states, Joseph Smith observed that the Constitution was not always used properly to protect minorities:
The only fault I find with the Constitution is, it is not broad enough to cover the whole ground.
Although it provides that all men shall enjoy religious freedom, yet it does not provide the manner by which that freedom can be preserved, nor for the punishment of Government officers who refuse to protect the people in their religious rights, or punish those mobs, states, or communities who interfere with the rights of the people on account of their religion. Its sentiments are good, but it provides no means of enforcing them. It has but this one fault.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 326-27)
Ironically, the very Prophet of the Restoration was killed in a society in which his life should have been preserved by the Constitution.
Stage 4: When Most of the People Choose Evil over Good, the Covenant Is Breached
Are the majority of the inhabitants of this land presently choosing evil over good? Do they prefer wickedness to righteousness? Recall King Mosiah’s declaration: “And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land” (Mosiah 29:27; italics added). As long as most of the people sustain the laws of the land and live in harmony with the principles of acceptable Judeo-Christian conduct, the nation will prosper.
This righteous king also taught that “it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law – to do your business by the voice of the people” (Mosiah 29:26).
Our nation is composed of people from different philosophical and political camps. There are those who feel the country has never been in better shape. There are those, as measured by the nightly news and talk shows, who think the nation is on the verge of collapse. But the Lord, the supreme Judge and Evaluator, outlined in principle that the majority of people who live upon this land cannot become an evil, wicked population and retain their right to live here. The inhabitants are to support the principles espoused in the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no room for immorality, for dishonesty, for graft of corruption, for abuse, or for any other practice that runs counter to the principles of Christian living.
As an exercise in evaluating the spirituality of the nation’s citizens as a whole, let us consider several important issues. How does the majority of people in this land feel about these issues? How does the God of the land, Jesus Christ, view them?
- Abortion on demand
- The Sabbath day as a day of worship
- Consenting adults being sexually involved (adultery, fornication, homosexual liaisons)
- Living together without a legal marriage
- Acknowledging God in public – prayer, the Ten Commandments
- Same-gender marriage or civil union
- Abuse of children, spouse, elderly
- Dishonest business practices
- Honesty in paying tithing, taxes
- Alcohol, drug use
- Cursing, swearing, taking the Lord’s name in vain
- Divorce, broken homes
- Pornography, R-rated movies
- Violence in the media, gangs, rape
- Rudeness, manners, road rage, criticism, complaining
- Failure to vote, to serve on juries, or to carry out other responsibilities of citizenship in the land of promise
- The need for the Ten Commandments
- Personal anger, temper
- Morality of public servants
As we think about matters of this kind, we begin to see that there has been some major spiritual slippage under Gentile leadership. Certainly the foregoing are not of equal value, but they indicate some of the issues that are weakening the spiritual foundations of this land. We must ask ourselves: Have we passed the point beyond which the majority of Americans are on the side of evil? Does the majority support views that are contrary to what God requires of the inhabitants of this land? It could be argued that these issues, taken together, reflect a measure of the spirituality of our nation. The Lord, of course, assesses when the majority of people choose evil over good. He knows when people need a reminder of the responsibilities that accompany the blessings of freedom.
The future of America does not depend on what political party is in control of the White House or the Congress; rather, the righteousness of the people themselves determines whether we have the blessings of heaven as a nation. We cannot be blessed if we are living contrary to the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Stage 5: The Lord Warns the Inhabitants When They Are in Danger of Being Swept Off
In 1974, President Spencer W. Kimball, for the first time in this final dispensation, called every worthy young man into missionary service.
What does such a call from the Lord’s prophet mean? Let’s put it in perspective. If the nation’s president were to call all able-bodied men into the military (as was done in World War II), it would be assumed that a serious threat to the peace and stability of the nation existed. So, likewise, when a prophet of God calls every worthy and prepared young man into the mission field, that is an indication that the spiritual welfare of the country (and the world) is in a serious decline. The ripening process is well underway. As a missionary church, we have two important responsibilities:
- We must share the message that the gospel of Jesus Christ and His priesthood have been restored to the earth. New scriptures have come forth that are written to the inhabitants of the earth, especially to those who live on this land. These scriptures warn of the consequences of disobedience to the fundamental laws of God.
- We must be a warning voice to the people of this land as well as of the world that the judgments of God are looming if His laws are continually broken. The ripening process is moving this nation toward the edge of the precipice. Similarly, other nations will be accountable for their level of understanding of the laws of God (Alma 20:8).
The call to repentance has gone forth to all nations. As president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in 1975 President Ezra Taft Benson warned:
As humble servants of the Lord, we call upon the leaders of nations to humble themselves before God, to seek his inspiration and guidance. We call upon rulers and people alike to repent of their evil ways. Turn unto the Lord, seek his forgiveness, and unite yourselves in humility with his kingdom. There is no other way. If you will do this, your sins will be blotted out, peace will come and remain, and you will become a part of the kingdom of God in preparation for Christ’s second coming. But if you refuse to repent or to accept the testimony of his inspired messengers and unite yourselves with God’s kingdom, then the terrible judgments and calamities promised the wicked will be yours.
The Lord in his mercy has provided a way of escape. The voice of warning is to all people by the mouths of his servants. If this voice is not heeded, the angels of destruction will increasingly go forth, and the chastening hand of Almighty God will be felt upon the nations, as decreed, until a full end thereof will be the result. Wars, devastation, and untold suffering will be your lot except you turn unto the Lord in humble repentance. Destruction, even more terrible and far-reaching than attended the last great war, will come with certainty unless rulers and people alike repent and cease their evil and godless ways. God will not be mocked. He will not permit the sins of sexual immorality, secret murderous combinations, the killing of the unborn, and disregard for all his holy commandments and the messages of his servants to go unheeded without grievous punishments for such wickedness. The nations of the world cannot endure in sin. The way of escape is clear. The immutable laws of God remain steadfastly in the heavens above. When men and nations refuse to abide by them, the penalty must follow. They will be wasted away. Sin demands punishment. (“Message to the World,” 32)
The call to every young man to enter the missionary force has been possible only in the past quarter-century, when there has been no mandatory military service, or draft. When wartime conditions require the nation’s youth to bear arms, it is impossible for every young man to serve a mission because the draft usually begins at age eighteen. During the Korean and Vietnam wars, for example, the number of missionaries from each ward was curtailed. Now, however, every worthy young man can carry out the divine mandate to take the gospel to the entire world. We have been truly blessed as a people economically and politically. We have the ability at the present time to generate sufficient resources to send every worthy young man who will go. We are, from a historical perspective, living in a time when, without a military draft, the window of opportunity allows our worthy and spiritually, physically, and emotionally healthy young men to take the gospel to the world.
The extent of the warning message of the Lord’s servants depends on the spiritual level of people. If people are wicked, if they are ripe in iniquity, if the judgments of God are nearing, then the message will be stern and threatening, as it was in Enoch’s day (Moses 7:10).
Noah likewise warned the people of his generation: “Believe and repent of your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, even as our fathers, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost; . and if ye do not this, the floods will come in upon you” (Moses 8:24).
The prophet Samuel declared to the Nephites:
Ye do not remember the Lord your God in the things with which he hath blessed you, but ye do always remember your riches, not to thank the Lord your God for them; yea, your hearts are not drawn out unto the Lord, but they do swell with great pride, unto boasting, and unto great swelling, envyings, strifes, malice, persecutions, and murders, and all manner of iniquities.
For this cause hath the Lord God caused that a curse should come upon the land, and also upon your riches, and this because of your iniquities. (Helaman 13:22-23)
We are now moving forward in a new millennium, but our message to the world is not yet one of hellfire and destruction. Rather, our missionaries call on people in their homes and in the streets to invite them to listen to a message about the Savior. Yet relatively few people care enough to really want to know more about the gospel. If they do not want to hear our message, we quietly and respectfully leave without dusting off our feet. Many good people still abide in the land, and there are people who will listen to our message of hope. Decent and wholesome people outside the Church contribute a positive effect to the social order. The ripening process has not reached the point of threatening judgments of death and destruction to anyone – yet. Many Christians, Jews, Lamanites, and Muslims still believe in the dignity of mankind. They sustain order and participate in the political process, believe in a Supreme Being, and oppose efforts to take God out of the pledge of allegiance and His name from our coins and paper money. They insist that the Constitution be upheld. Many people love their spouses and their children. So we are not to the point – yet – where the prophets are threatening imminent destruction. Specific calamities are not being pronounced by the servants of God at the moment. The Lord’s prophets still are able to travel the country and the world teaching, building, and lifting others with inspiring messages of encouragement. The Saints are prospering, and so are the Gentiles. We are in a period of tolerance and acceptance that allows Latter-day Saints to practice their religion without threat of incarceration, death, or serious persecution by those whom we seek to enlighten.
But who cannot see the ripening process among the Gentiles? We are not blind to the immoral behavior and the political and corporate corruption taking place. Shockingly, more people now live together without being married than we have members of the Church worldwide! Immoral lyrics and media messages abound. Lifestyles offensive to God proliferate. President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke of the ripening processes going on in our land:
Never before, at least not in our generation, have the forces of evil been so blatant, so brazen, so aggressive as they are today. Things we dared not speak about in earlier times are now constantly projected into our living rooms. All sensitivity is cast aside as reporters and pundits speak with a disgusting plainness of things that can only stir curiosity and lead to evil.
Some to whom we have looked as leaders have betrayed us. We are disappointed and disillusioned. And their activity is only the tip of the iceberg. In successive layers beneath that tip is a great mass of sleaze and filth, of dissolute and dishonest behavior.” (“Walking in the Light of the Lord,” 98-99)
Prophets define where we are in the ripening process. It is to them that we look to find out how we are doing as a Church, as a nation, and as a world community. The growth of the Church in recent times has been spectacular, and general conference messages in past decades have been, for the most part, upbeat and positive. They have spoken with appreciation for the faithfulness of the Saints and their generosity and faithfulness in paying tithing, building temples, serving missions, researching family history, giving humanitarian aid, contributing to educational programs, and donating means and time to serve in a lay church. But interlaced with those comments are concerns about our commitment to share the gospel, about the need for more older couples to serve missions, and about the necessity for all to avoid offensive media presentations and to flee from pornography and other evils that are a large part of the Gentile culture and against which we are not immune.
Stage 6: The Inhabitants Respond to the Warnings from God’s Servants
The inhabitants of the land who are warned must choose their response: Will they accept the warning? Reject it? Tolerate it? We might ask, How well is our message being received? As, hopefully, the number of missionaries serving in the field increases, does the number of converts increase? Are more people accepting the message of the gospel?
In the past decade or so, Latter-day Saints have consistently averaged one-fourth to one-third of a million converts worldwide each year. Our missionary force is becoming more effective in teaching the gospel, and we are concerned about retaining those who join the Church. Temples are springing up worldwide. The Saints, in general, have been blessed financially by a combination of economic stability and relatively low unemployment. But underneath the recent eras of prosperity (there will always be recessions and those who suffer financially even in good times) and increased productivity, the popularity of obscene movies, raucous music, and vulgar lyrics, use of the Internet to view pornography, immoral presentations on television, blatant messages about same-gender sex, and heterosexuals living together without marriage offend the ears and hearts of those who know and love the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When people reject the gospel, they live without the added light of revelation. If individuals are not interested in seeking truth about Heavenly Father and His plan of salvation, apathy and pride bring about selfishness, greed, and hopelessness. As morale declines, it becomes more difficult to share the message of the restoration because of the wickedness and evil that exists among the people. “The love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound,” said the Lord to His latter-day prophet (D&C 45:27).
Moroni spoke to those who were apathetic, who care not for truth, and who, when they are taught the gospel, lack the courage to accept it and implement it:
For the time speedily cometh that ye shall know that I lie not, for ye shall see me at the bar of God; and the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man, like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the dust?” (Moroni 10:27). The day will come when those who are not willing to listen, who are not willing to seek truth, will be held accountable for their decisions. To the terrestrial kingdom go those “who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it” (D&C 76:74).
As committed Latter-day Saints, on the other hand, we must exercise a spirit of charity in dealing with those not of our faith. In today’s world, people are mobile and preoccupied. Two missionaries who knock at the door during dinner or when a baby is crying may not find that moment the most propitious time for the residents to stop what they are doing and listen to two strangers. Most people are apathetic about religion, and in a day of burglaries, questionable salespersons appearing at one’s door, busy schedules, some antipathy or disillusionment toward religion (televangelists clamoring for dollars), the false assumption that it doesn’t matter which church you belong to as long as you have “orthodox” Christian beliefs, gives little incentive to people to listen to the missionaries.
The attitude of “My grandfather was a _______, my parents were ______, and I am not going to change” contributes to a lack of interest in searching for spiritual truth.
But people cannot be condemned if a knock at the door is their only means of learning about the Church. Hopefully, as world events change, as economic realities change, as wickedness in the world obviously ripens before their eyes, as more and more judgments command the attention of people, and as people are forced to reexamine their lives, they will seek spiritual meaning, seek answers to questions concerning Deity and the purposes of life. We hope that as Latter-day Saints, we will play a role in causing people to examine their lives and belief in God and desire to know the truth about religious thought and practices. The Church, through radio and television advertisements, sends messages into Gentile homes because guarded gates often prevent missionaries from reaching doors.
And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts;
Wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the Father that they shall be gathered in unto one place upon the face of this land, to prepare their hearts and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked (D&C 29:7-8).
As Latter-day Saints, we have a duty to live by example and by word to attract people to the gospel. Most people show an interest in the Church when they have met members of the Church whom they respect. When the majority of a people rejects the message and the messengers, the society moves to Stage 7.
Stage 7: When the People Reject Prophetic Warnings, the Judgments of God Begin
The Gentiles have two options: accept the gospel and participate in the building of the Lord’s kingdom in the latter-days or continue in wickedness to such an extent that the judgments of God will destroy them. The Lord discussed this issue during his visit to the Nephites:
And blessed are the Gentiles, because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father.
Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles, that the fulness of these things shall be made known unto them.
But wo, saith the Father, unto the unbelieving of the Gentiles – for notwithstanding they have come forth upon the face of this land, and have scattered my people who are of the house of Israel; .
And because of the mercies of the Father unto the Gentiles, and also the judgments of the Father upon my people who are of the house of Israel, verily, verily, I say unto you, that after all this, and I have caused my people who are of the house of Israel to be smitten, and to be afflicted, and to be slain, and to be cast out from among them, and to become hated by them, and to become a hiss and a byword among them – And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them. . . .
But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel (3 Nephi 16:6-13; italics added).
To reject the message of the prophets and missionaries is to bring the judgments of God upon the land. Such judgments have historically come as natural disasters – famine, earthquake, pestilence - as well as war and economic downturns. Numerous prophecies concerning the future of this land exist. The Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith:
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 (D&C 88:87-88).
The Lord indicated that the day would come when
there shall be weeping and wailing among the hosts of men;
And there shall be a great hailstorm sent forth to destroy the crops of the earth.
And it shall come to pass, because of the wickedness of the world, that I will take vengeance upon the wicked, for they will not repent; for the cup of mine indignation is full; for behold, my blood shall not cleanse them if they hear me not (D&C 29:15-17).
In a general conference address years ago, before the “ripening process” was as far along as it is now, Elder Spencer W. Kimball assessed the attitude of people in this modern age:
Jesus Christ our Lord is under no obligation to save this world. The people have ignored him, disbelieved him, failed to follow him. They stand at his mercy which will be extended only if they repent. But to what extent have we repented? Another prophet said, “We call evil good, and good evil.” Men have rationalized themselves into thinking that they are “not so bad.” Are they fully ripe? Has the rot of age and flabbiness set in? Can they change? They see evil in their enemies, but none in themselves. Even in the true Church numerous of its people fail to attend their meetings, to tithe their incomes, to have their regular prayers, to keep all the commandments. We can transform, but will we? It seems that we would rather tax ourselves into slavery than to pay our tithes; rather build protections and walls than drop to our knees with our families in solemn prayers night and morning.
It seems that rather than fast and pray, we prefer to gorge ourselves at the banquet tables and drink cocktails. Instead of disciplining ourselves, we yield to urges and carnal desires. Numerous billions we spend on liquor and tobacco. A Sabbath show or a game or a race replaces solemn worship. Numerous mothers prefer the added luxuries of two incomes to the satisfactions of seeing children grow up in the fear of God. Men golf and boat and hunt and fish rather than to solemnize the Sabbath. Old man rationalization is with us. Because we are not vicious enough to be confined in penitentiaries, we rationalize that we are pretty good people; that we are not doing so badly. (“Listen to the Prophet’s Voice,” 938)
Stage 8: The Spirit of the Lord
Withdraws from the People
Of course, wickedness of individuals or nations causes a withdrawal of the Lord’s Spirit. When a nation ripens in iniquity, as we have seen with the Jaredites and Nephites, the influence of the Spirit of the Lord is diminished. Our making a judgment about divine judgments at this point is difficult because our society has a great many people who champion and promote Christian ideals. The fruit is not yet ready to be cast out. Joseph Smith wrote to the editor of a newspaper:
For some length of time I have been carefully viewing the state of things, as it now appears, throughout our Christian land; and have looked at it with feelings of the most painful anxiety. While upon one hand I behold the manifest withdrawal of God’s Holy Spirit; upon the other hand, I behold the judgments of God that have swept, and are still sweeping hundreds and thousands of our race, and I fear unprepared, down to the shades of death .
. the Gentiles have not continued in the goodness of God, but have departed from the faith that was once delivered to the Saints, and have broken the covenant in which their fathers were established (see Isaiah xxiv:5); and have become high-minded, and have not feared; therefore, but few of them will be gathered with the chosen family. Have not the pride, high-mindedness, and unbelief of the Gentiles, provoked the Holy One of Israel to withdraw His Holy Spirit from them, and send forth His judgments to scourge them for their wickedness? This is certainly the case. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 13-15)
Individually, people live their lives along a continuum from righteousness to extreme wickedness. Many individuals and organizations understand the significance of the decline of morality in this land. Wonderful people in our nation have a sense of decency and desire wholesome influences in their lives. On the other hand, we also live in an age of easy access to pornography and visual media repugnant to the Spirit of the Lord and offensive to Christlike people. When efforts have been made to curb the gross filth and wicked behaviors portrayed in movies, the cry of “censorship” goes up. And with the courts ruling in favor of freedom of speech and the right to publish indecent material, the moral backbone of this nation has slipped dramatically. Elder Boyd K. Packer has said:
Today I speak to members of the Church as an environmentalist. My message is not on the physical but on the moral and spiritual environment in which we must raise our families. As we test the moral environment, we find the pollution index is spiraling upward .
The rapid, sweeping deterioration of values is characterized by a preoccupation – even an obsession – with the procreative act. Abstinence before marriage and fidelity within it are openly scoffed at - marriage and parenthood ridiculed as burdensome, unnecessary. Modesty, a virtue of a refined individual or society, is all but gone.
The adversary is jealous toward all who have the power to beget life. He cannot beget life; he is impotent .
With ever fewer exceptions, what we see and read and hear have the mating act as a central theme. Censorship is forced offstage as a violation of individual freedom.
That which should be absolutely private is disrobed and acted out center stage. In the shadows backstage are addiction, pornography, perversion, infidelity, abortion, and – the saddest of them all – incest and molestation. In company with them now is a plague of biblical proportion. And all of them are on the increase.
Society excuses itself from responsibility except for teaching the physical process of reproduction to children in school to prevent pregnancy and disease, and providing teenagers with devices which are supposed to protect them from both.
When any effort is made to include values in these courses, basic universal values, not just values of the Church, but of civilization, of society itself, the protest arises, “You are imposing religion upon us, infringing upon our freedom.”
While we pass laws to reduce pollution of the earth, any proposal to protect the moral and spiritual environment is shouted down and marched against as infringing upon liberty, agency, freedom, the right to choose.
Interesting how one virtue, when given exaggerated or fanatical emphasis, can be used to batter down another, with freedom, a virtue, invoked to protect vice. Those determined to transgress see any regulation of their life-style as interfering with their agency and seek to have their actions condoned by making them legal. (“Our Moral Environment,” 66)
The Savior told Joseph Smith that “as it was in the days of Noah, so it shall be also at the coming of the Son of Man” (Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:41). In Noah’s day, “the wickedness of men had become great in the earth; and every man was lifted up in the imagination of the thoughts of his heart, being only evil continually” (Moses 8:22; italics added). If that extreme condition comes again in our day, it will be sad for us, for when men and women reach a certain level of thinking and behavior that has little room for goodness and decency, society cannot survive long on this land.
Stage 9: The Inhabitants Become Fully Ripened in Iniquity and Cast Out the Righteous
The ripening of fruit proceeds in only one direction. The Lord told Joseph Smith in modern times, “Behold, the world is ripening in iniquity; and it must needs be that the children of men are stirred up unto repentance, both the Gentiles and also the house of Israel” (D&C 18:6). Again, He said, “For the hour is nigh and the day soon at hand when the earth is ripe; and all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that wickedness shall not be upon the earth” (D&C 29:9).
In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord states that “in that place they shall lift up their voices unto God against that people, yea, unto him whose anger is kindled against their wickedness, a people who are well-nigh ripened for destruction” (D&C 61:31). In the coming days, the ripening process will be hastened.
The wicked seek legal means to shut the mouths of the righteous. Once again, we see lies and distortions about those with religious motives. Using the label “religious right,” many attempt to make religious people appear as fanatics or radicals. When such attacks fail, the wicked move to forcibly cast the righteous out of their presence, as they did with the Nephites before the coming of the Lord to them. But the Lord will not tolerate His people being cast aside by the wicked as long as they are doing their best to obey His will. He will fight their battles when there are sufficient numbers of righteous saints. This time He will not need to lead away a righteous colony as he did with the Jaredites, Mulekites, and Lehites because the Saints will be of sufficient number and righteousness for the Lord to intervene in their behalf.
After seeing in vision events of the last days and commenting on Isaiah’s prophecies, Nephi said of the latter days:
For the time soon cometh that the fulness of the wrath of God shall be poured out upon all the children of men; for he will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous.
Wherefore, he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fulness of his wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore, the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire.
. I say unto you, that these things must shortly come; yea, even blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke must come; and it must needs be upon the face of this earth; and it cometh unto men according to the flesh if it so be that they will harden their hearts against the Holy One of Israel.
For behold, the righteous shall not perish; for the time surely must come that all they who fight against Zion shall be cut off .
And the righteous need not fear, for they are those who shall not be confounded. But it is the kingdom of the devil, which shall be built up among the children of men .; yea, in fine, all those who belong to the kingdom of the devil are they who need fear, and tremble, and quake; they are those who must be brought low in the dust; they are those who must be consumed as stubble .
And the time cometh speedily that the righteous must be led up as calves of the stall, and the Holy One of Israel must reign in dominion, and might, and power, and great glory (1 Nephi 22:16-24).
Then Nephi spoke of millennial conditions:
And because of the righteousness of his people, Satan has no power; wherefore, he cannot be loosed for the space of many years; for he hath no power over the hearts of the people, for they dwell in righteousness, and the Holy One of Israel reigneth .
But, behold, all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people shall dwell safely in the Holy One of Israel if it so be that they will repent (1 Nephi 22:26-28).
Nephi outlined the choices available to the Gentiles: “Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts! For notwithstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny