Second Coming: The Mother of Harlots and Abominations

In the the book of Revelation, an angel shows the apostle John a rather disturbing vision of a woman:

Arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: and upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. (Revelation 17:4–5.)

She’s riding a beast with seven heads and ten horns, sitting upon many waters.

Hans Burgkmair the Elder [Public domain]
“The Whore of Babylon.” Woodcut by Hans Burgkmair the Elder, AD 1523 (1473–1531).

What does all this mean? If you do homework on this, you’ll find many possible interpretations, but by now you’ve probably come to understand that I am not a big fan of controversial interpretations. When things get confusing and complicated, that’s when the Holy Spirit steps out of the picture and I don’t want that.

I’ll do my best to lean on what the scriptures have to say, and you can draw your own conclusions. If you know my other writings on this topic, I make an effort to not draw conclusions, but simply and straightforwardly to be familiar with what the Lord has said on the subject. I want to be ready to finally learn the meaning of the scriptures from Him, when the time is right, when the true meaning is evident. My motto: let’s not get wrapped around an axle of contention.

The Beast, the Horns, and the Waters

The woman is riding on a scarlet-colored beast with seven heads and ten horns. We find similar beasts in chapters 12 (a red dragon) and 13 (a beast with seven heads and ten horns; see Revelation 17:3 and compare Revelation 12:3; 13:1.)

The dragon in chapter 12 represents Satan (see Revelation 12:9; Joseph Smith Translation, Revelation 12:8), and we learn in Revelation 13:4 that “the dragon [the devil] gave power unto the beast.” The beast seems to be a symbol of a Satanic order or organization that supports political or governmental leaders or nations.

We also hear from the angel that “the seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth” (see Revelation 17:9), and that the ten horns are ten kings who, at the time of John’s writing, had not yet reigned (see Revelation 17:12).

The seven mountains are commonly attributed to the seven hills of Rome, but we don’t know that the seven mountains are located there. Many cities rest on seven hills. Just a thought: the world has seven continents, each in essence a mountain rising out of an ocean floor.

To me, speculation on who these kings are is not as valuable as just knowing that a succession of political leaders and nations will serve the “great whore,” Babylon the not-so-great.

The water that the woman sits upon represents “peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues” (see Revelation 17:15).

Let me also point out that Daniel had a similar vision. He saw four beasts in Daniel 7, the fourth, having ten horns, was “dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly” (see Daniel 7:7). There are many interpretations about what this beast represents. I’ll just point out that it seems related to our beast in Revelation 17, though not strictly so.

Who or What Is the Mother of Harlots and Abominations?

The angel tells John that “the woman [the mother of harlots] which [he saw] is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth” (Revelation 17:18). A city is “a center of population, commerce, and culture” according the the American Heritage Dictionary.

Nephi also saw a similar vision recorded in chapter 14 of 1 Nephi that identifies the mother of harlots as the “great and abominable church” founded by the devil:

The day cometh that the wrath of God is poured out upon the mother of harlots, which is the great and abominable church of all the earth, whose founder is the devil. . . .(1 Nephi 14:17; see also 1 Nephi 14:9, 10, 13, 16.)

It’s more than just a city in ancient Iraq. It’s not just a place or a congregation of worshipers or a group of citizens. It’s a pervasive socioeconomic, political, governmental, and religious system, founded and supported by and inspired by the devil, that is designed to undermine and destroy souls and the future of God’s kingdom.

In closing, let’s think through the harlot angle for a bit. What does a harlot or prostitute do? (I know, ew, but bear with me.) She or he sells for money one of the most precious gifts we can offer to another human being: our fully trusting, unguarded soul. When we give that away or sell it for money, we in effect deny an ultimate truth of our divinity. (This, of course, doesn’t have a bearing on someone sold into sex slavery.)

Maybe that’s the main business interest of the mother of abominations, the great, abominable church: to steal and destroy the identity of men, women, and children, the essence of their direct connection with God.

I haven’t got adequate words to describe what I think of this deplorable enterprise.

The Lord implores us to “go . . . out of Babylon” (see Doctrine and Covenants 133:5, 7; see also Isaiah 48:20). It’s time we high tailed it out of there.

Farewell, Thomas S. Monson

IMG_4793On Thursday morning, January 11, I was blessed to attend the viewing of President Thomas S. Monson at the Conference Center where he lay in state in the Hall of the Prophets. There was a presence there, a great peace. I “heard” the whispers of unseen angels. It was solemn yet joyful. I loved the feeling so much that I went again at 3 o’clock that afternoon with a friend. It was an unforgettable experience for me.

I’m sad to see President Monson go, but I am also very happy for him and for his beloved Francis who went before him several years earlier. What a reunion that must have been. The doorway of death is, reportedly, not a frightening one but rather one to look forward to. I look forward to it myself, but not until I complete my mission—on the Lord’s timetable. Let’s not rush it.

My wife and I were able to attend the funeral the next day, Friday, January 12, also in the Conference Center. I’ve watched many of these funerals over satellite or on television, the first being the funeral of President Spencer W. Kimball in November 1985. I was deeply moved by the remarks Friday, especially from President Monson’s daughter, Ann M. Dibb, and from President Russell M. Nelson, on whose shoulders the prophetic mantle has fallen as president of the Quorum of the Twelve.

IMG_4794

I’ve been watching some of President Monson’s past conference talks. If you want to listen to a classic, try this one, “Abundantly Blessed,” the closing address of the April 2008 general conference where he was sustained as president of the Church. It is pretty funny and comforting (about 10 minutes long).

President Monson was sustained as a member of the Twelve when I was five years old. I became acquainted with his positive, kind voice when I was 18, shortly after I joined the Church. I’ll continue to miss him, but I am delighted that his mortal trials are behind him, finally.

God bless you, Tom Monson. You’ve been a light and an example to me for all my adult life. The world needed you. I needed you too.

What President Monson Said about Kindness, Charity, and Love

Courtesy LDS Media LibarayWhen President Monson spoke at the beginning of priesthood meeting instead of the end this past April, I felt on edge. It is hard to fight the feeling that his time is short. (Of course I don’t know that for sure: I feel it. And many times, feel turns into know for me.)

I listened intently to those brief remarks.  I have since thought, “Could he have spoken on a more vital topic than the pure of Christ?” My answer, to myself? “No.”

Here are a few thoughts from the talk that got my attention.

  • “We do not honor the priesthood of God if we are not kind to others.”
  • “Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all . . .” (Moroni 7:46.)
  • “‘Kindness is how a Christlike person treats others'” (from Joseph B. Wirthlin).
  • “Let us examine our lives and determine to follow the Savior’s example by being kind, loving, and charitable. And as we do so, we will be in a better position to call down the powers of heaven for ourselves, for our families, and for our fellow travelers in this sometimes difficult journey back to our heavenly home.”

What President Monson Said about the Book of Mormon

april-2013-general-conference-1124543-tablet

President Monson’s words were precious and few at our last general conference (April 2017). In two talks, he covered a lot of ground in a matter of 6 or 7 minutes.

I was deeply touched by what he said about the Book of Mormon. What if these were the last words we will hear from him across a pulpit? I think they may be and are therefore worth our careful attention. We’ve been hearing from him for a long time. I mean, I was five years old when he was called as an apostle.

Here are some highlights that jumped off the page at me. Simple, to the point, and very poignant, especially the promises at the end.

  • There is a “critical need [for] members of this Church to study, ponder, and apply its [the Book of Mormon’s] teachings in our lives.”
  • “If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so.”
  • “If you do not have a firm testimony of these things, do that which is necessary to obtain one.”
  • “I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives.”

"Tom Monson!"

Courtesty LDS Media Library
President Thomas S. Monson

A friend from work, Rob, recently told me about an experience he had with President Thomas S. Monson in the early 1990s.

Rob was a Sunday School president in his ward back then and he had been asked to take charge of a sacrament service at a care facility in his stake. Leadership in his ward took turns holding the meeting, and he had arranged with several youth to help him with talks and administering the sacrament.

As the meeting time approached, no youth appeared. Rob was getting nervous. Then a car pulled up in front of the building and out came President Monson from the back seat.

President Monson extended his hand to Rob and said with some energy, “Tom Monson!”

“I know who you are, President,” Rob replied. President Monson was a member of the First Presidency and a counselor to Ezra Taft Benson at the time. His mother had lived at the building before she died and he still visited there regularly.

Rob was embarrassed to admit that his plans for sacrament meeting were not coming together. President Monson assured Rob that they, the two of them, could pull something off and handle things just fine.

“Would you like me to bless the bread or the water?” President Monson asked.

“Well,” said Rob, “I think you are presiding.”

“Yes, but you are in charge.”

“Okay, will you do the bread then?”

President Monson agreed. Rob also asked him to be the concluding speaker. Rob would speak first.

They blessed and passed the sacrament together and gave extemporaneous talks. The meeting went very well. They parted company and President Monson went on to bless others at the care center. Rob was left with an unforgettable experience.

I have thought since about the youth who didn’t show up that day. How did they feel afterwards when they learned who and what they had missed that day? I know how I would have felt. This story is a reminder to me to be where I am supposed to be when I am supposed to be there.

One place I plan to be this weekend is at general conference, to listen to a prophet of God, President Thomas S. Monson. I love conference weekend. I am very excited to learn what the Lord would like me to learn and to feel the healing presence of His Spirit.