The Anointing of Jesus

The New Testament gives several accounts of Jesus being anointed in the days prior to His death and Resurrection. John places an anointing six days before the Passover (see John 12:2–8) while Matthew and Mark place the event two days before (see Matthew 26:6–13 and Mark 14:3–9). There are similarities in the accounts but also distinct differences.

I have always thought they were two accounts of the same event, but this video opened my eyes. I am now reconsidering my assumptions. Always a healthy thing.

Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

I love the Easter season more than any time of the year. The Easter story, or rather, the story of the events leading up to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, are very powerful to me and mean so much.

I recently watched this video from the Messages of Christ channel on YouTube. I think it does an excellent job of explaining the significance of Jesus’s prophetic entry into Jerusalem on what we traditionally call Palm Sunday. I hope you enjoy it.

Second Coming: Comparison of Matthew 24 and Joseph Smith—Matthew

Image of Christ's Second Coming. Icon from Greece, circa 1700.
Icon of the Second Coming of Christ. Anonymous, Greece, circa 1700.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of Matthew 23:39–Matthew 24:51 and Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:1–55. Differences are highlighted in the right column in bold. Subtle changes, such as exchanging the word you for ye, are in bold italics. Words that have been deleted are struck through. I hope this helps you as you seek to discern the signs of the times. They are coming at us pretty fast. (You can download a PDF version of this chart here.)

Matthew 23:39–Matthew 24:51 Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:1–55
23:39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. 1 For I say unto you, that ye shall not see me henceforth and know that I am he of whom it is written by the prophets, until ye shall say: Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord, in the clouds of heaven, and all the holy angels with him. Then understood his disciples that he should come again on the earth, after that he was glorified and crowned on the right hand of God.
1 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple; and his disciples came to him, for to hear him, saying: Master, shew him show us concerning the buildings of the temple, as thou hast said—They shall be thrown down, and left unto you desolate.
2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. 3 And Jesus said unto them: See ye not all these things, and do ye not understand them? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here, upon this temple, one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down.
3 ¶ And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? 4 And Jesus left them, and went upon the Mount of Olives. And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying: Tell us when shall these things be which thou hast said concerning the destruction of the temple, and the Jews; and what is the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world, or the destruction of the wicked, which is the end of the world?
4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 And Jesus answered, and said unto them: Take heed that no man deceive you;
5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. 6 For many shall come in my name, sayingI am Christand shall deceive many;
9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. 7 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you, and ye shall be hated of all nations, for my name’s sake;
10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. 8 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another;
11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. 9 And many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many;
12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. 10 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold;
13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 11 But he that shall endure unto the end remaineth steadfast and is not overcome, the same shall be saved.
15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 12 When you, therefore, shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, then you shall stand in the holy place; whoso readeth let him understand.
16 Then let them which be in Judæa flee into the mountains: 13 Then let them who are in Judea flee into the mountains;
17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: 14 Let him who is on the housetop flee, and not return to take anything out of his house;
18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. 15 Neither let him who is in the field return back to take his clothes;
19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 16 And wo unto them that are with child, and unto them that give suck in those days;
20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: 17 But Therefore, pray ye the Lord that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day;
21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 18 For then, in those days, shall be great tribulation on the Jews, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, such as was not before sent upon Israel, of God, since the beginning of the world their kingdom to until this time; no, nor ever shall be sent again upon Israel.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows. 19 All things which have befallen them are only the beginning of the sorrows which shall come upon them.
22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. 20 And except those days should be shortened, there should no none of their flesh be saved; but for the elect’s sake, according to the covenant, those days shall be shortened.
23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 21 Behold, these things I have spoken unto you concerning the Jews; and again, after the tribulation of those days which shall come upon Jerusalem, then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe him not;
24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. 22 For in those days there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant.
6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 23 Behold, I speak these things unto you for the elect’s sake; and you also shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled, for all these things I have told you must come to pass; but the end is not yet.
25 Behold, I have told you before. 24 Behold, I have told you before;
26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. 25 Wherefore, if they shall say unto you: Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: Behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not;
27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 26 For as the lightning of the morning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, and covereth the whole earth, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.
28 For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. 27 And now I show unto you a parable. For Behold, wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together; so likewise shall mine elect be gathered from the four quarters of the earth.
28 And they shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars.
7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 29 Behold I speak for mine elect’s sake; for nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
30 And again, because iniquity shall abound, the love of men shall wax cold; but he that shall not be overcome, the same shall be saved.
14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. 31 And again, this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come, or the destruction of the wicked;
32 And again shall the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, be fulfilled.
29 ¶ Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 33 And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.
34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. 34 Verily, I say unto you, this generation, in which these things shall be shown forth, shall not pass away until all these things I have told you shall be fulfilled.
35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. 35 Although, the days will come, that heaven and earth shall pass away; but yet my words shall not pass away, but all shall be fulfilled.
30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 36 And, as I said before, after the tribulation of those days, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken, then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory;
31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. 37 And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived, for the Son of Man shall come, and he shall send his angels before him with a the great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together the remainder of his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 38 Now learn a parable of the fig treeWhen his its branches is are yet tender, and it begins to put forth leaves, you know that summer is nigh at hand;
33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 39 So likewise ye, mine elect, when ye they shall see all these things, they shall know that it is he is near, even at the doors;
36 ¶ But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. 40 But of that day, and hour, no man one knoweth; no, not the angels of God in heaven, but my Father only.
37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 41 But as it was in the days of Noah were, so it shall be also at the coming of the Son of Man;
38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 42 For it shall be with them, as it was in the days that which were before the flood; for until that the day that Noah entered into the ark they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage;
39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 43 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.
40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 44 Then shall be fulfilled that which is written, that in the last days, two shall be in the field, the one shall be taken, and the other left;
41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 45 Two women shall be grinding at the mill, the one shall be taken, and the other left;
42 ¶ Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. 46 And what I say unto one, I say unto all men; watch, therefore, for you know not at what hour your Lord doth come.
43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. 47 But know this, if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to have been broken up, but would have been ready.
44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. 48 Therefore be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.
45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? 49 Who, then, is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 50a Blessed is that servant whom his lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing;
47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. 50b and verily I say unto you, that he shall make him ruler over all his goods.
48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; 51 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart: My lord delayeth his coming,
49 And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; 52 And shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken,
50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, 53 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,
51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 54 And shall cut him asunder, and shall appoint him his portion with the hypocrites; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
55 And thus cometh the end of the wicked, according to the prophecy of Moses, saying: They shall be cut off from among the people; but the end of the earth is not yet, but by and by.

Early Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision Retold as a Single Narrative

Let Him Ask of God Kindle CoverIn honor of the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, I just published a new book on the subject that combines many early accounts and weaves them into a single narrative. From the introduction of the book:

Joseph Smith’s First Vision in 1820 is one of the best attested visions in recorded history. In honor of the 200th anniversary of this sacred event, I’ve carefully reviewed Joseph’s primary, first-person and the contemporary, third-person accounts of this remarkable vision, the story together into a single narrative, attempting to fit the pieces together into completed puzzle.

This book is a sort of translation of historical fragments and part historical fiction, subjectively told but intended to help create a picture of what actually happened. It’s a “based on actual events” retelling that takes as little literary license as possible, though certainly some is taken. I did my best to preserve the original story with great sensitivity as I wove the parts together, seeking to favor the reader’s experience over the critic’s.

I modernized or corrected spelling, added quotation marks, altered some word order and punctuation, dropped some words and phrases in favor of clarity, and added transition words to help with the flow of the story.

I first heard the story of the First Vision from a close friend when I was 17 years old when not yet a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The moment I heard the story, I believed it with all my heart. It filled my soul with fire and set me on a lifelong path of faith and joy. I totter from time to time, but I’m still on the path.

I learned on my journey to baptism that disbelief is based on filling in blanks with assumptions. I call it “closed case” thinking. Real faith, on the other hand, is based on seeking with an open heart and mind. It is “cold case” thinking, a relentless detective’s search, never giving up, never stopping short but searching far and wide and deep for answers. (

See Steven C. Harper’s Joseph Smith’s First Vision: A Guide to the Historical Accounts, chapters 1 and 8 for an inspiring comparison of seeker versus assumer. I highly recommend his book.
)

I trust you will find this retelling of the First Vision worthy of your consideration. When I meet Joseph again and he beats me soundly at stick pull, should he beat me over the head with that stick for being so audacious to publish a book like this, I’ll take my lumps and love him still.

I’ve priced it low so it’s within reach of any budget. You’ll find it on Amazon.

Second Coming: A Desolating Sickness

Painting by Peirart dou Tielt (ca. AD 1353).
Pierart dou Tielt, Tractatus Quartus bu Gilles li Muisit (Tournai, c. 1353). Burying victims of the Black Death.

Before the Second Coming of Christ, we know from scripture that an overflowing scourge or desolating sickness (likely  sicknesses) will be poured out from time to time on the earth.

We can’t know all the whens and wheres and hows of the Second Coming, but we can be aware of the signs so that when they appear, we will be prepared to act. I hope we can notice them early enough to act.

When men or devils boast that they can escape disease, death, or justice by their own power, that they can defeat the purposes of Almighty God, He is obliged to disabuse them of such a notion. For example, on several occasions, such as in 588 B.C. and A.D. 70, He flattened Jerusalem when the people of that city rejected and killed the prophets, including the Son of God. Mormon once asked, “Do ye suppose that ye can get rid of the justice of an offended God, who hath been trampled under feet of men. . . ?” (see 3 Nephi 28:35). The answer is no.

The Overflowing Scourge

Shortly before the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem, Isaiah prophesied to scornful men who ruled the once holy city (see Isaiah 28:14):

Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us . . . [not so!] your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. (Isaiah 28:15, 18.)

Among Jesus’s last sermons during His mortal life was the Olivet discourse where He prophesied that pestilences—devastating epidemic diseases—would precede his Second Coming:

And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. (Matthew 24:6–7; emphasis added. Compare Mark 13:8 and Luke 21:10–11.)

A Desolating Sickness

A scourge, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a cause of wide or great affliction,” but it appears from latter-day scripture that this scourge is more than affliction: it will lead to the death of many souls “until the earth is empty”, as written in the Doctrine and Covenants:

For a desolating scourge shall go forth among the inhabitants of the earth, and shall continue to be poured out from time to time, if they repent not, until the earth is empty, and the inhabitants thereof are consumed away and utterly destroyed by the brightness of my coming. (Doctrine and Covenants 5:19; emphasis added.)

Later in that same book of modern scripture we read:

And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land. (Doctrine and Covenants 45:31.)

And similarly in the same book:

For I, the Almighty, have laid my hands upon the nations, to scourge them for their wickedness. And plagues shall go forth, and they shall not be taken from the earth until I have completed my work, which shall be cut short in righteousness—until all shall know me, who remain, even from the least unto the greatest, and shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord . . . (Doctrine and Covenants 84:96–98; emphasis added.)

Here the Lord tells us that the scourge will be a desolating sickness that will cover the land, that plagues that will not be taken from the earth until His work is complete.  It is easy to imagine, given recent news, that a disease or series of diseases could get out of control and take thousands, even millions of lives, in spite of frantic human efforts.

With regard to COVID-19, active in 2020 and declared as a global pandemic, I’ll say it’s a possible candidate as one of these desolating sicknesses. I’ll also go out on a short limb and say we are living in prophetic season.

The knowledge and wisdom of men alone cannot save us from the decrees of God which will remain in force unless the inhabitants of the earth repent and turn to Him. He is both a just and merciful God, but mercy is not plentiful for the non-repentant. Given what we now see with ever-widening eyes, repentance is not always the first thing on people’s minds these days, but one can hope. You’ve heard this good advice which I repeat: hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

Those who are sincerely repentant are not doomed to suffer. Quite the contrary. They are promised an escape, but such promises are not extended to those who are too proud to repent or too blind to see a need for humility.

These are the last days. Of this I am certain.

This updated post was first published in October 2014.

Second Coming: Worthy to Escape

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NinthAvStonesWesternWall.JPG
Stones “thrown down” from the wall of the temple in Jerusalem, 70 A.D.

I’ve released a revised and expanded version of my book on the Second Coming, In the Last Days: A Brief Guide to Christ’s Second Coming for Latter-day Saints — Revised and Expanded. I continue to study the topic with great interest. I feel these events are imminent.

I’m watching the behavior of faithful Saints around me. They’re watchful, but not worried. They’re listening to the counsel of inspired leaders, but not overdoing it. They’re quietly and thoughtfully preparing, without fanfare or fear-mongering or by drawing attention to themselves. They have a quiet confidence.

Ye hear of wars in far countries, and you say that there will soon be great wars in far countries, but ye know not the hearts of men in your own land. I tell you these things because of your prayers; wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear. (Doctrine and Covenants 38:29, 30.)

They’re spending more time in the temple and in the scriptures, two things they treasure, and they’re repenting and drawing closer to God. They don’t worry so much about public standing as they do kneeling in private. They have confidence and peace in God and in themselves.  They’re not deceived by the mockers who are leaning out the windows of the great and spacious building, accusing and pointing their fingers. Some are leaning out so far they’re about to fall out (see 1 Nephi 8:26, 27).

I was recently struck by this verse in Luke from his chapter reporting Jesus’s Olivet discourse:

Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. (Luke 21:36; emphasis added.)

I see a cross-reference with this verse the great sermon by King Benjamin:

If ye shall keep the commandments . . . ye shall prosper in the land, and your enemies shall have no power over you. (Mosiah 2:31; emphasis added.)

What can we do to be “worthy to escape” the desolations that will precede the Second Coming and live so that our “enemies [will] have not power over” us? Here are a few suggestions that will help:

  • We can strive to do and be our best. We can work on keeping the commandments and correcting ourselves when we mess up. Perfection is not required but persistence in doing what is right is, aka “keep on keeping on.”
  • We can heed good counsel and keep our eyes and ears and heart open to what is right and true though it may be at odds with popular political sentiments. “Watch . . . and pray always” (Luke 21:36).
  • We can treasure up the words of eternal life, for “whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived” (see Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:37). That’s a great promise from Jesus Christ.
  • We can avoid getting distracted by our devices, the media, and the empty promises of the world that can dull the lines of divine communication. Satan’s spider web is “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things” (see Mark 4:19). We can see it glistening with the dew of pride; we don’t need to walk into it.

When the Romans attacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D, fulfilling Jesus’s Olivet prophecy, tradition holds that the early Christians escaped to a gentile settlement called Pella, having been warned by “an oracle given by revelation” (Eusebius [260–340 A.D.]). May we all likewise be found “worthy to escape.”

This updated post was first published in July 2017.

“The Lamb” by William Blake

John Tavener’s arrangement of “The Lamb,” a poem written by William Blake in the late 18th century, touched me deeply this Christmas season. See lyrics below. This is the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge singing Tavener’s arrangement in 2014.

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed,
By the stream and o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee.
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and He is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!

William Blake was an English Romantic poet and painter who lived from 1757 until 1827. This poem was first published in Songs of Innocence in 1789.

[First posted in May 2010. Thanks to Paul S. for sharing a link to a 2008 recording of King’s Choir. ]

A Book of Possibilities

Painting of a girl by a stream, surrounded by orbs, by Gilbert Williams

There was a girl
by a stream
who wrote a book
of possibilities.
She left her heart
on every page.

She painted the world
with a palette of stars
and a canvas of
earth and sky.

And she sang a secret hymn
to the trees and the flowers
and the birds—
a song only she could sing—
and the stars heard
her song, a song
pure in heart.

And Heaven was
very near to her,
the home of her
dearest Friends,
and she loved
every living thing
and knew all their
names by heart.

Michael James Fitzgerald

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols — December 24, 2019

a5d46-kingscollegechapelSince 1918, a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols has been a special Christmas Eve service held in King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, England. Now in it’s 101st year, it is broadcast to millions of people around the world. The service is always opened with “Once in Royal David’s City” followed by many other traditional carols, interspersed by Bible readings.

Construction of King’s College Chapel began in A.D. 1446 under King Henry VI, and was opened in A.D. 1515 under the reign of Henry VIII.

You can read more about the service here and listen live here (8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. MST, December 24, 2019).