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The Last Days
by Grant E. Barton
The term "last days" refers to the current period of time, the preparatory era before the second coming of the Christ. This period is marked by prophetic signs (D&C 45:37-40). "The end of the world" is not the end of the earth, but the end of evil and the triumph of righteousness (JSH 1:4). At the conclusion of these last days, the Lord Jesus Christ will come again and personally reign upon the renewed "paradisiacal" earth (A of F 10).
During the last days, many marvelous events will occur that are signs that this preparatory period has begun (Isa. 29:14). These include the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the preaching of his gospel among all nations, the coming forth of modern scripture, and the gathering of scattered Israel. The restoration of the gospel before the coming of the Lord (Acts 3:19-21) includes the revealing anew of lost truths, priesthood power, temple worship, and the full organization of the Church of Jesus Christ, including apostles and prophets.
Christ prophesied that his gospel would be preached "in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matt. 24:1, 4). The Savior also foretold to Enoch that in the last days righteousness would come "down out of heaven," and truth will come "forth out of the earth" to bear testimony of Jesus Christ and of "his resurrection from the dead" (Moses 7:62). The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price have come forth in partial fulfillment of these prophecies. Additional sacred writings are yet to come forth (cf. 2 Ne. 29:13; Ether 4:5-7).
A further sign will be the gathering of Israel. The house of Joseph is to be gathered to the "tops of the mountains" of the Western Hemisphere (Isa. 2:2) and to "stakes" (centers of strength) in many lands (HC 3:390-91). The house of Judah will gather by the millions to Jerusalem and its environs in fulfillment of prophecy (Wilford Woodruff in Ludlow, p. 240; DS 3:257-59). Another gathering will bring the lost tribes of Israel "from the north countries," to join with the house of Joseph (DS 3:306).
In contrast to these preparatory events, the prophecies state that in the last days gross wickedness will cover the earth (2 Tim. 3:1-7). Ancient and modern prophets have written that the world's latter-day inhabitants will "defile the earth" (Isa. 24:5) and become as wicked as Sodom and Gomorrah (Wilford Woodruff in Ludlow, p. 224) and as those of the time of Noah (DS 3:20), and that if Jesus "were here to-day, and should preach the same doctrine He did then, they would put Him to death" (HC 6:58).
This wickedness will result in wars of unprecedented destruction (George A. Smith, CR, Oct. 1946, p. 149), parents and children seeking each other's lives (Mark 13:12; HC 3:391), great increases in crime (Wilford Woodruff in Ludlow, p. 228), the destruction of many cities (Brigham Young in Ludlow, p. 223), and a "desolating scourge" that will reach plague proportions (D&C 29:19).
As the end nears, the earth will be in commotion (D&C 45:26; cf. Joel 2:30-32). There will be severe lightnings and thunderings (D&C 87:6). The waves of the sea will heave themselves beyond their bounds (D&C 88:90). The earth will "reel to and fro as a drunken man" (D&C 49:23). A devastating hailstorm will destroy the crops of the earth (D&C 29:16), causing widespread famine (Brigham Young in Ludlow, p. 223). These judgments and wars will ultimately result in the "full end" of all nations (D&C 87:6).
Immediately preceding the Second Coming, unmistakable signs will appear in the heavens. The sun will be darkened, the moon will turn to blood, the stars will fall, and the powers of heaven will be shaken (D&C 45:42). In addition, the rainbow will be taken from the sky (HC 6:254). Finally, a great sign will be seen having the appearance of "seven golden lamps set in the heavens representing the various dispensations of God to man" (Wilford Woodruff in Ludlow, pp. 233-34). There will then be silence in heaven for half an hour, and "immediately after shall the curtain of heaven be unfolded as a scroll is unfolded after it is rolled up, and the face of the Lord shall be unveiled" (D&C 88:95).
As the earth becomes increasingly full of violence and immorality, the righteous will be watching the signs of the times and will call upon the Lord and seek to be worthy to abide the day of his coming (Luke 21:36; Acts 2:21). These faithful disciples of the Lord will experience "very little compared with the terrible destruction, the misery and suffering that will overtake the world" (John Taylor in Ludlow, p. 225; Moses 7:61); moreover, the righteous who fall victim to pestilence and to disease will be saved in the kingdom of God (HC 4:11).
To escape these judgments, the faithful will obey the commandments (DS 3:33-35; Luke 21:36), honor the priesthood (Wilford Woodruff in Ludlow, pp. 235-36), take the Holy Spirit for their guide (D&C 45:57), and stand in holy places (D&C 45:32). As the polarization of the righteous and the wicked increases, the righteous followers of the Savior will be called "Zion" (both the condition of purity of heart and the community of the pure-hearted). A city, Zion (the New Jerusalem), will be established on the American continent and, together with her outlying stakes, will be a place of refuge (HC 3:391). And old Jerusalem will become a holy city (Ether 13:5). From these two capital cities of the millennial era, Jesus Christ will personally rule the renewed, paradisiacal world (see New Jerusalem).
(See Basic Beliefs home page; The Gospel of Jesus Christ home page; The Last Days home page)
Ludlow, Daniel H. Latter-day Prophets Speak. Salt Lake City, 1951.
Lund, Gerald N. The Coming of the Lord. Salt Lake City, 1971.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 2, Last Days
Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company
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