Second Coming: The Fall of Rome and Civilization

Public Domain

The Consummation of Empire from The Course of the Empire by Thomas Cole (1835–36).

Nearly 50 years ago, Elder Ezra Taft Benson warned us of the consequences of the degradation of values in society.

In his April 1973 conference talk, he shared a quote from the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859), a contemporary of the Prophet Joseph Smith. After a visit to America, de Tocqueville wrote in his multi-volume work Democracy in America:

I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great. (As quoted in Prophets, Principles and National Survival, compiled by Jerreld L. Newquist [Salt Lake City, Publishers Press, 1964], 60; emphasis added.)

I believe many modern Americans are still good in the sense that they uphold moral values as given in the word of God, but we are witnessing the near culmination of a decades-long erosion of these values. Such views are not held up as they once were; in fact, they are shouted down by a growing intolerance that is teetering on the edge of fascism.

Elder Benson then went on to highlight some points from another famous book:

In 1787 Edward Gibbon completed his noble work The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Here is the way he accounted for the fall:

  1. The undermining of the dignity and sanctity of the home, which is the basis of human society.

  2. Higher and higher taxes and the spending of public monies for free bread and circuses for the populace.

  3. The mad craze for pleasure, sports becoming every year more and more exciting and brutal.

  4. The building of gigantic armaments when the real enemy was within the decadence of the people.

  5. The decay of religion—faith fading into mere form, losing touch with life, and becoming impotent to warn and guide the people.

Is there a parallel for us in America today? Could the same reasons that destroyed Rome destroy America and possibly other countries of the free world? (Emphasis added.)

Consider also this quote from Ramsay MacMullen’s Corruption and the Decline of Rome
([Yale University Press, 1988], 281) found on the History Today website. Anything ringing a bell for you here?

Bribery and abuses always occurred, of course. But by the fourth and fifth centuries they had become the norm: no longer abuses of a system, but an alternative system in itself. The cash nexus overrode[d] all other ties. Everything was bought and sold: public office including army commands and bishoprics, judges’ verdicts, tax assessments, access to authority on every level, and particularly the emperor. The traditional web of obligations became a marketplace of power, ruled only by naked self-interest. (Emphasis added.)

Growing corruption in governments, including the possibility of treason, is often sidestepped or ignored by today’s mainstream media, which may be complicit. This is a strong indicator that we’re approaching a season of unmatched economic and political turmoil, not unlike the last years of the Roman empire. Stay tuned.

The prophets never panic and neither should we. Now is the time, however, to prayerfully prepare our families and homes for the winds of adversity. But be assured, as sure as there are tribulations ahead, guidance, protection, and peace are also readily available to those who take the Holy Spirit as their guide and treasure up the words of life (see D&C 45:57 and Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:37). Such will not be deceived.

Let us be at peace, but let us also act.

“In the Last Days” Free on Kindle, April 22–23

In-the-Last-Days-KindleIn the Last Days, a book that originated on this blog, will be free on Amazon Kindle on Sunday and Monday, April 22 and 23, 2018, in honor of World Book Day. The paperback is now $3.86. I made a commitment several years ago to keep this book very low priced.

I also recently upgraded the format of the book.

Here’s a brief description:

This guide is for newcomers to the topic who wish to examine a wide variety of scriptural passages that cast light on the Last Days, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the Millennium, and the end of the world. Students of the Second Coming won’t find anything sensational, highly speculative, or particularly new or groundbreaking in this book.

Though not exhaustive, the guide walks through many of the major events surrounding the Second Coming of Christ, mainly through the Standard Works of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price—but also through some archaeological, historical, and statistical sources. (It’s a compilation of posts from the blog “Put on the Armor of Light,” written between September 2014 and November 2015.)

In the Last Days has sold thousands of copies and has hit #1 on Amazon in several categories. It was written from the heart. Get is free here.

Second Coming: Secret Combinations in Our Day

Courtesy LDS Media Library

Consider the fate of Ammonihah after they rejected the living prophets, Alma and Amulek.

So, what is a secret combination? This term is introduced to us by Nephi the son of Lehi in the second book of the Book of Mormon:

“[The devil] stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness.” (2 Ne. 9:9.)

According to the Guide to the Scriptures, a secret combination is “an organization of people bound together by oaths to carry out the evil purposes of the group.” Satan has inspired the creation of such societies in the hearts of men and women from the beginning of time (see Helaman 6:21–31). Moses tells us that these secret organizations started in the days of Cain who murdered his brother Abel to obtain his property (see Moses 5:51).

Secret combinations are still among us. That’s an understatement to be sure. Many would like to label these as conspiracy theories. I admit such theories abound and some cannot be reliably verified, but as Ezra Taft Benson said:

This most correct book on earth [the Book of Mormon] states that the downfall of two great American civilizations [the Jaredites and the Nephites] came as a result of secret conspiracies whose desire was to overthrow the freedom of the people . . . There is no conspiracy theory in the Book of Mormon —it is a conspiracy fact.” —Ezra Taft Benson, “Civic Standards for the Faithful Saints,” April 1972 (emphasis added)

(Please consider reading or listening to Elder Benson’s entire talk.)

What are some examples of modern conspiracies? They’re not apparent, but they’re prevalent. They’re often not openly reported by the media, but there are plenty of clues all around us. Here are a few to consider:

  • Unusual, unexplained deaths of politicians or those close to them.
  • Widespread, endemic spying via social media.
  • Human trafficking and pedophile rings.
  • International weapons deals.
  • Voter fraud.
  • Staged disasters or wars to forward a secret, political agenda.
  • Bribery and coverups.
  • Secret funding of news reporting.

As outlandish as these may seem or as some may characterize them, all these crimes and atrocities, and others like them, will come to light in due time. Mark my word.

The rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow; for their iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed. (D&C 1:3.)

Yes, it’s hard to believe that the intoxicatedly wealthy, business magnates, movie stars, world leaders, and celebrities could be involved in such things. I am sure we will all be very surprised and even shocked when these things begin to come into full light.

Moroni son of Mormon warned us centuries ago that:

Whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed; for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for vengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not. Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be. (Ether 8:22–23.)

I believe that the Book of Mormon is a textbook for the last days. As Elder Benson said, secret combinations and their works of murder to get gain brought about the entire destruction of both the Jaredite and Nephite civilizations. They could destroy our civilization as well.

What of our times? What is happening to our civilization? Is it possible that secret combinations have grown up around us, undetected?

And he [the Lord] had sworn in his wrath unto the brother of Jared, that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them. And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity. (Ether 2:8–9; emphasis added.)

What are we to do? We can seek, follow, and obey the true and living God, humble ourselves, repent, and offer to Him the one gift, the one sacrifice, that He wants most from us, a broken heart and a contrite spirit (see D&C 59:8;). If we do these things, we have nothing to fear and all will be well, not matter what happens.

I’m not one to get caught up in popular trends and I don’t go overboard about crazy theories, but I can smell some rotting fruit. It’s beyond ripeness and it stinks to high heaven.

And others will he [Satan] pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. (2 Nephi 28:21.)

No, all is not well in Zion. We have had these warnings in our hands for nearly 200 years—it’s time to plant them in our hearts. Now would be a great time to prayerfully open our eyes and prepare. It’s on my mind every single day.

Second Coming—Blue, Blood, Super Lunar Eclipse, plus Tu BiShvat

Griffith Observatory Video Screenshot

We experienced a once in a lifetime lunar eclipse this morning (if you live in North America). We’ve not seen an eclipse like this one since 1866. Here’s a brief run down:

  • A “blue moon” is the second full moon in a month. They occur every 2.7 years.
  • A “blood moon” is when red light filters through the earth’s atmosphere, casting a reddish hue on the moon during a total eclipse.
  • A “super moon” is when the moon reaches perigee (when it’s orbit is nearest the earth), making it appear much closer and brighter than usual.
  • Tu BiShvat is the Jewish holiday known as the “New Year of the Trees.” It marks when the fruit-bearing trees in Israel begin their new season of growth.

The Lord appointed “lights in the firmament . . . [to] be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years” (Genesis 1:14). “Signs of what” you ask? Let’s look at what the prophet Joel said:

The sun shall be turned into darkness [August 21, 2017], and the moon into blood [January 31, 2018], before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come. (Joel 2:31.)

I’m not saying that we have seen the complete fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. I’m not predicting the end. Other signs will certainly come our way. They must come, as the scriptures mandate. But I am watching the signposts along the road and preparing myself mentally, physically, and spiritually. That’s our job.

Our job is not to perspire on our way to the Second Coming, but to inspire. I’m not getting hung up on dates or the fabulous and varied calculations so prevalent today. I am hanging onto my faith, however, clinging to anything of eternal value. Everything else will likely be left behind. These are the last days, you know.

Second Coming: 16 Questions about the Last Days and the Coming of Christ

64a2d-the-second-coming-39618-mobile

I’ve listed here a few yes-or-no questions about the last days and Christ’s Second Coming based on Matthew chapter 24 and other scriptures. How many questions would you say deserve a yes?

The yeses are a strong indication of how close we are getting to the actual winding up scene. I’ll let you be your own judge, but I think it’s safe to say were getting really close. What does that mean in terms of days, months, and years? I don’t know. But I do know this: Now is the time to get ready.

  1. Are you hearing of wars and rumors of wars? (Matthew 24:5–6.)
  2. Are there famines, earthquakes, pestilences, tempests, and waves themselves heaving beyond their bounds (tsunamis) in various places? (Matthew 24:7; Doctrine and Covenants 88:89.)
  3. Have false Christs and false prophets appeared, deceiving people, including the very elect? (Matthew 24:5, 11, 23, 24.)
  4. Are the saints hated in all nations for His name’s sake? (Matthew 24:9.)
  5. Are there many who are offended, betraying one another, and hating one another? (Matthew 24:10.)
  6. Does iniquity abound? (Matthew 24:12.)
  7. Has the love of many waxed cold? (Matthew 24:12.)
  8. Has the gospel been preached in all the world as a witness? (Matthew 24:14.)
  9. Has the “abomination of desolation” appeared—the pollution of the holy temple and likely the setting up of an idol therein? (Daniel 11:31; Daniel 12:11; Matthew 24:15.)
  10. Has a great tribulation appeared, “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time”? (Matthew 24:15.)
  11. Are there signs in the heavens? (Luke 21:11.)
  12. Has the sun been darkened, the moon refused to give her light, and the stars fallen from heaven? (Matthew 24:29).
  13. Has the earth reeled to and fro as a drunken man? (D&C 45:48; 88:87.)
  14. Has the antichrist, the Son of Perdition, been revealed? (2 Thessalonians 2:14.)
  15. Have the angels sounded their trumpets for all the world to hear? (Matthew 24:31.)
  16. Has the sign of the coming of the Son of Man appeared? (Matthew 24:27, 30.)

I give about half of these questions a yes, and believe in my heart that the other half could happen pretty quickly, as a “thief in the night” (2 Peter 3:10; Doctrine and Covenants 45:19).

But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch. (Mark 13:32–37.)

Made Perfect

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/jesus-parables-mount-of-olives-1221043?lang=eng

Those familiar with the New Testament know this verse from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48).

That’s a loaded verse. Is Jesus commanding us to be flawless in character and behavior, today? Is He asking us to be perfect like God the Father right now? If so, I think the human race is sunk. Who among mortals could live up to such a charge? Not I.

What does perfect mean in this context? From the Greek translation of this verse, the word τέλειοι (telios) has seven definitions:

  1. brought to its end, finished
  2. wanting nothing necessary to completeness
  3. perfect
  4. that which is perfect, 4a) consummate human integrity and virtue, 4b) of men, 4b1) full grown, adult, of full age, mature

Hmm. Noah was described as “a just man and perfect in his generations” (see Genesis 6:9). The NIV translates this “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time,” while The Message translates it “a good man, a man of integrity in his community.”

So perfect can mean a number of things, but I like the definitions mature, complete, finished. These are qualities that seem far more reachable than flawlessness, which is a common and burdensome misconception of the word.

Hebrews 12:23 speaks of “just men made perfect.” That makes sense to me, that we are made perfect rather than getting there all by our determined selves.

Then there are these words near the very end of the Book of Mormon, written by Mormon’s son Moroni:

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. (Moroni 10:32–33; emphasis added .)

According to these beautiful words from Moroni, our perfection will come through the grace of God, if we love God with all our might, mind, and strength, denying ourselves all ungodliness, by the grace of God we will be made perfect. A perfect plan made by a perfect creator.

That doesn’t mean we are not accountable for our actions and for constant improvement. On the contrary. We are accountable, whether we believe it or not.

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 haven’t written much about the Second Coming since the release of my book, In the Last Days, but I continue to study the topic with great interest. In my heart, I feel these events are imminent.

I see it in the behavior of the faithful Saints around me. The truly faithful are watchful, wary, but not worried. They are listening carefully to the counsel of leaders, but not overdoing it. They are quietly and carefully preparing, without fanfare and without fear-mongering.

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

I was recently struck by this verse in Luke from his chapter on the 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.)

What can we do to be “worthy to escape” the desolations that will precede the Second Coming? Here are three suggestions that will help:

  • Keep your eyes and ears and heart open to what is good and right and true though at odds with popular sentiment. “Watch . . . and pray always” (Luke 21:36).
  • Treasure up the words of eternal life, for “whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived” (see Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:37).
  • Don’t get distracted by the empty promises of the world, shutting off divine communication through “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in” (see Mark 4:19).

When the Romans attacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D, 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 by “worthy to escape.”