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Cover image: “Second Coming of Jesus Christ” by Harry Anderson.
Earlier this week, our family had been invited to a small party last-minute. I don’t know if anyone else does this, but it was one of those things that Michael and I didn’t really want to tell our kids about in case we back out of it for some reason. It’s one of those things that is a privilege and an excitement to go, and if we told them about it, they would hold us to it or get really upset if we didn’t go for whatever reason.
When we knew for sure that we would go, we finally told our kids the plan and started getting ready. For things my kids aren’t excited about, they drag their feet, and we have to repeatedly ask them to get their shoes on, but when it’s something like this they spring into action.
The problem is, we are rushing around, trying to pull together a treat to bring to the party and find the little one’s shoes, and I’ll be honest, dragging our feet a little bit. We aren’t exactly going to be on time for this thing. The older kids who are really excited to go, get ready first, and things get out of control. My boys channel their excitement into wrestling and waiting by the front door. They might go in and out of the door and push on the doorbell a few times to remind us that we are planning to go.
Needless to say, this anticipation of going gets pretty annoying. They know that we are planning to go, but there isn’t exactly a specific time we need to be there. We have to pull the boys apart, or get them away from the front door and ask them to read a book or something, or help get the baby’s shoes on — something, ANYTHING to distract them from their excitement about going to this party!
This came to mind when preparing this article and thinking about the Last Days. My boys were getting ready, they were anxious and waiting by the door, but they were not paying attention to the things that needed to be done yet before we were all ready to go. They were hyper focused on getting out the door and wasting their time standing at the door when they could have been doing something in the meantime that would have been much more enriching than just waiting.
Preparing for the Second Coming
When I read these scriptures talking about the Second Coming and the end of the world, it’s easy to get caught up in the doctrine and feel anxious and alarmed. Jesus’ disciples were. After He told them of the temple being destroyed, they asked him in private, “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?” (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:4). I think I would have just as many questions if I were there, too!
It’s easy to get caught up in the prophesies and looking for signs that the end is near. However, don’t we already know that we are in the Last Days? Don’t we already hear about “wars, and rumors of wars”? Don’t we already see “famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places?” We already see “the love of men [waxing] cold” (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:28-29). We already know that the end is near.
Of course, we know that these signs can be scary and confusing. Even the “elect” could get confused! Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “Prophecies regarding the last days often refer to large-scale calamities such as earthquakes or famines or floods. These in turn may be linked to widespread economic or political upheavals of one kind or another.
“But there is one kind of latter-day destruction that has always sounded to me more personal than public, more individual than collective—a warning, perhaps more applicable inside the Church than outside it. The Savior warned that in the last days even those of the covenant, the very elect, could be deceived by the enemy of truth. If we think of this as a form of spiritual destruction, it may cast light on another latter-day prophecy. Think of the heart as the figurative center of our faith, the poetic location of our loyalties and our values; then consider Jesus’s declaration that in the last days ‘men’s hearts [shall fail] them.’
“The encouraging thing, of course, is that our Father in Heaven knows all of these latter-day dangers, these troubles of the heart and soul, and has given counsel and protections regarding them.” (“Safety for the Soul,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, 88).
The counsel we need to look to now is this: “whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived” (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:37). I think of this as an invitation to study, pray, serve, and follow the advice of the Prophets rather than just waiting by the door trying to anticipate when it’s time to go. Treasuring up cultivates our discernment of truth and reality. I’m going to focus the bulk of my comments here on what we can do to prepare for the Second Coming rather than then signs themselves.
President Ezra Taft Bensen commented, “There are among us many loose writings predicting the calamities which are about to overtake us. Some of these have been publicized as though they were necessary to wake up the world to the horrors about to overtake us. Many of these are from sources upon which there cannot be unquestioned reliance.
. . . aware of the fact that we need no such publications to be forewarned, if
we were only conversant with what the scriptures have already spoken to us in
plainness? [“Admonitions for the Priesthood of God,” Ensign, January 1973,
Being Anxiously Engaged
This example of the “evil servant” stood out to me. “But if that evil servant shall say in his heart: My lord delayeth his coming, And shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken, 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” (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:51-53).
This reminded me of my boys getting rowdy because they are expecting to leave for the party right away. The whole point for them is to get out the door and they forget about the process of getting ready to go! But Jesus said, “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 I have told you must come to pass; but the end is not yet.”
How sad would it be to get so close to the End, and allow ourselves to get lazy or short-sighted having almost a false sense of security? Perhaps the time is not yet, so we think we don’t need to be urgent or excited about the signs and wonders we see. We distract ourselves forgetting what we were waiting for in the first place.
Elder Uchtdorf encourages us to be patient with the Lord. He said, “In this age of instant answers—where seemingly absolute and unassailable knowledge is merely a Google search away—we sometimes get frustrated when answers to our most personal, important, and urgent questions are delayed. We lift up our hearts to heaven, and all we seem to get is a frustrating, spinning ‘wait cursor.’
“We don’t like waiting.
“When we have to wait more than a few seconds for a search engine to respond, we might suppose the connection is down or broken. In our frustration, we might even abandon the search. But when it comes to eternal questions, matters of the soul, we must be more patient” (The Adventure of Mortality, Worldwide Devotional, January 14, 2018).
If we get too comfortable or forgetful, we might start to get casual in our observance of living the gospel. I thought about how I would feel if someone caught me in a place that did not align with my values. What if the Second Coming happened while I was watching some raunchy television show? What if my kids walked into the room and saw me watching it? If I wouldn’t want to be caught doing it, then why would I do it at all?
When I talk about family culture on my platforms, I’m talking about how we align our family values with our strategies for optimal success! We cannot say one thing and do another. Our family culture is the vehicle that carries us to our family vision. Our ultimate vision should include where we want to be in the event that we are called Home, or the Savior returns!
So, how do we prepare? Let’s talk for a moment about he parable of the Ten Virgins. It is clear that the five wise virgins could not share their oil with the five foolish virgins. I’ve heard it said that the oil represents their testimonies, and that is something we need to acquire on our own.
When I think of filling my oil, I believe that it is something that I have to acquire over time. I don’t believe that testimonies happen, and then we live off of that one-time conversion for the rest of our lives. We have to continuously fill our lamps and replenish our oil. When I think of the faith it takes to keep our lamps filled, I think of what Henry B. Eyring called “Law of Increasing Returns.” He said, “The simple fact is that there is a God who wants us to have faith in him. He knows that to strengthen faith we must use it. And so he gives us the chance to use it by letting some of the spiritual rewards we want most be delayed. Instead of first effort yielding returns, with a steady decline, it’s the reverse. First efforts, and even second efforts, seem to yield little. And then the rewards begin, perhaps much later, to grow and grow.”
Sometimes, our efforts seem to yield very little fruit, but the Law of Increasing returns means that the little work we do along the journey will yield a great harvest! Elder Eyring says we need to keep our vision fixed on the end goal as we endure the trials and tests of this life (A Law of Increasing Returns, Devotional 1982).
Investing ourselves into useful causes is part of our preparation for the Second Coming. Jesus told the parable of the talents, and warned of slothfulness. He told the servant with the one talent that he buried “Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:26-30).
Preparing ourselves for the Last Days is a matter of personal development, and investing our talents into building the Kingdom of Heaven.
Hastening the Work
When I think of what it takes to truly be anxiously engaged, especially as it relates to the Last Days, it is better to work toward “living after the manner of happiness” rather than focusing on the fear of the signs of the times. Health psychologist and author, Kelly McGonigal said, chasing meaning is better for your health than avoiding discomfort.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland describes three ways we can live after the manner of happiness. First, we must live the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). “And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it” (Mosiah 2:41). Additionally, Alma taught “wickedness never was happiness” and remaining in a carnal state, we “are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness” (Alma 41:10-11). Happiness is living the gospel.
Next, Elder Holland says we must choose to be happy! “Happiness comes first by what comes into your head a long time before it comes into your hand. Joseph Smith was living ‘after the manner of happiness’ in a very unhappy situation when he wrote from Liberty Jail to those on the outside who were also the victims of great injustice and persecution: ‘Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; . . .
’The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth.’” Elder Holland suggests, we have our agency to choose happiness. In fact, we can cultivate this agency by doing the work of the Lord and becoming more competent at tasks we endeavor. With competence, we become more confident, and thus happier!
Quoting author Elizabeth Gilbert, Elder Holland says, “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and . . . look for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness . . ., to stay afloat on top of it.”
Building on the second, a third way Elder Holland suggests we can live after the manner of happiness is by putting ourselves to work. “Learn to work” he says. “Serve diligently. Don’t be idle and mischievous. A homespun definition of Christ-like character might be the integrity to do the right thing at the right time in the right way.”
It can feel overwhelming to think of all the things we can and must do to prepare for the Second Coming of the Savior, but Elder Uchtdorf offers this suggestion: “do small things perfectly.” He says “Don’t get overwhelmed by the many large, difficult tasks of life. If you commit to doing the ‘easy’ things—the ‘small’ things God asks you to do—and you do them as perfectly as you can, big things will follow. Some of these ‘small and easy’ things you could do perfectly are daily prayer, studying the scriptures, living the Word of Wisdom, attending church, praying with real intent, and paying tithes and offerings”
“Your ‘small and simple’ sacrifices are the dots of daily living that make up the masterpiece painting of your life. You may not see how the dots connect now, and you don’t need to yet. Simply have faith enough for the moment you are living in now. Trust in God, and ‘out of small things [will come] that which is great’ [Doctrine and Covenants 64:33]” (The Adventure of Mortality, Worldwide Devotional, January 14, 2018).
Concerning these Last Days, Elder D. Todd Christofferson said, “First, the work of ministering to temporal needs is vital and must continue. The second was unexpected, yet powerful and clear. It was this: beyond selfless service, it is supremely important to prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ…let us devote ourselves more diligently to the preparations needed for the day when pain and evil are ended altogether, when ‘Christ [shall] reign personally upon the earth; and … the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.’ It will be a day of redemption and judgment” (Preparing for the Lord’s Return, General Conference, April 2019).
I often feel like there are two parallel perspectives going on about the Last Days. On the one hand, there is fear and trepidation about the calamities and destruction that will be happening. On the other hand, there will be those dedicating themselves to hastening the work of the Lord, dedicating themselves to chasing meaning rather than avoiding discomfort! I would rather find myself in the latter camp.
Elder Christofferson lists two ways we can hasten the work:
- Missionary work: “The Latter-day Saints have always been a missionary people. Hundreds of thousands have responded to mission calls since the beginning of the Restoration; tens of thousands currently serve. And…all of us can participate in simple and natural ways, in love, inviting others to join us at church, visit in our homes, become part of our circle. Publication of the Book of Mormon was the signal that the gathering had begun. The Book of Mormon itself is the instrument of gathering and conversion.”
- Temple and family history work: “vital to the preparation for the Second Coming is the great redemptive effort on behalf of our ancestors. The Lord promised to send Elijah the prophet before the Second Coming, ‘the great and dreadful day of the Lord,’ to ‘reveal … the Priesthood’ and ‘plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers.’ Elijah did come as promised. The date was April 3, 1836; the place was the Kirtland Temple. In that place and in that moment, he did indeed confer the promised priesthood, the keys for the redemption of the dead and the union of husbands, wives, and families across all generations of time and throughout all eternity. Without this, the purpose of creation would be frustrated, and in that sense, the earth would be cursed or ‘utterly wasted.’”
What can you do?
- Do family history work
- Go to the temple to perform ordinances by proxy
- Collect stories from your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and siblings
- List those things you can do: commandments you can live perfectly, your talents, and ways you can serve
- Keep an current temple recommend
- Study the words of living prophets concerning the Last Days and how we can prepare
- Serve the missionaries in your ward
- Talk about the gospel with your friends and neighbors
- Be more aware of how you’re observing the Sabbath
- Audit your media consumption or the places you frequent that don’t align with the gospel
- Study talks from General Conference and observe those things that stand out to you, then act on those promptings
- When you catch yourself feeling afraid of those things you witness on the news or otherwise, ask yourself what you can do about it, or ways you can pursue meaning for yourself
- Perform acts of service and charity to strengthen against “love waxing cold” and consider the love of our Heavenly Father for all of His children
- Study agency in the context of self-efficacy and your capacity to enact change in your life for yourself!