With apologies to President Kimball, I’m not diminishing the role of faith in producing miracles, but only suggesting that additional phenomena may be indicators.
Each of the Savior’s appearances is by definition a miracle. The Second Coming and His subsequent squashing of evil in this shabby world will obviously be one as well.
So are there commonalities that preceded Christ’s historical appearances that may forewarn us and help us better prepare for the big one yet to come?
I submit one such commonality for consideration: the acceleration or compression of events that preceded each of Christ’s appearances – a quickened pace or even a frenzy, if you will.
Let’s look at what was going on in four situations.
Christ’s Birth in Bethlehem.
We do not know many details of events in the immediate years preceding the Savior’s birth, but we do know that …
- Faithful believers were actively anticipating a Messiah;
- Rome was aggressively consolidating its hold on its conquered territories;
- Herod had restored the temple at Jerusalem to ingratiate himself with the Jews 16 years prior, and his puppet-ruler family members were actively enforcing their will; and
- Though it was perhaps only a month-long phenomenon, society was disrupted as people returned to their places of birth to register under Caesar’s census decree. A frenzy of a smaller variety, to be sure, but frenzy enough that there was no room in the inn.
Lucifer obviously knew the birth of the Messiah was imminent and was doing all he could to establish a rule evil enough to kill all the children in Bethlehem and coastal regions once the miracle was noised about. Heightened preparations, I would say.
Signs of His Birth on the Western Hemisphere
Samuel the Lamanite prophet agitated Nephite society when he twice came warning them to turn from their wicked ways, then topped it off with his 36-hours-without-darkness prophecy that the Messiah would be born in five years.
One can imagine how passionately the righteous and the wicked must have argued that it led non-believers, obviously a powerful majority, to decree that if Samuel’s prophecy were not fulfilled by the given date, lights out for the believers. Talk about the prospect of death focusing the mind. Frenzied activity had to be the order of the day as the wicked prepared to subjugate and then herd the Christian faithful to whatever mechanisms of death they had planned.
Not the most idyllic five years, to be sure.
His Crucifixion and Resurrection
The compression of events during the last few days of the Savior’s mortal life was more theological than secular. In the days after He triumphantly entered Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday, he taught seven of His most famous parables, cursed the fig tree as a lesson about show vs. substance, taught the chief priests about authority, stymied the Pharisees with His “tribute to Caesar” lesson, silenced the Sadducees on points of marriage, reiterated the two great commandments, pronounced woes upon the scribes and Pharisees for their blindness, described the calamities that will precede His Second Coming, and cleansed the temple to boot.
Frenzy can never be a label for the Savior’s actions, as they will always be deliberate and appropriate, but acceleration and compression are accurate descriptions because all of the above teachings and events happened within 72 hours. (Note chapters 21 through 25 of Matthew and then verses 1 and 2 of chapter 26.)
His Appearance on the Western Hemisphere
From the reign of judges until Christ’s appearance on the American continent, the Nephites experienced at least five cycles of righteousness to wickedness and back to righteousness, some laps as short as about eight years. The political unity cycle especially showed a compressed wave immediately prior to the Lord’s resurrection.
As these previous miracles demonstrate, a speeding up of events prior to the Second Coming should not be a surprise. The Lord said He would hasten His work in its time and we have numerous prophecies that suggest this quickened pace.
- Wars and rumors of wars – increased frequency and buzz
- Earthquakes in diverse places – an increase in places experiencing earthquakes (hello, Oklahoma)
- World shall be in commotion – another word for frenzy
- Men’s hearts will fail them – due to an overload of events perhaps
- World’s crops destroyed – that doesn’t happen often
- Seas heaving their bounds – note the plural
Even so, many of us marvel when the events we are experiencing in the here and now seem to be spinning out of control.
- What will happen to the euro and the dollar? Is a financial meltdown coming?
- What will happen in the Middle East? Will Israel attack Iran’s nuclear complexes?
- If Iran, despite Israel’s attacks, develops nuclear weapons, will its leaders use them to intimidate or annihilate?
- How far will the depraved elements of society be allowed to push the envelope?
- What is happening to civility in political discourse? Is class warfare moving beyond rhetoric?
Accelerated events may not indicate the Second Coming is imminent, but neither will it happen without them. No one can come away from reading the prophecies and think it will be business as usual until SC-Day minus one, and that today’s events could not possibly be connected.
On a much smaller scale, today’s events remind me of the frenzies in my youth – specifically college days before exams.
It’s time to cram for finals.
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Gary Lawrence’s book “Mormons Believe … What?! Fact and Fiction About a Rising Religion” answers 24 misconceptions and rumors about the Church. Please visit MormonsBelieveWhat.com
Comments are welcome: [email protected]