Cover image: Parable of the Ten Virgins, by Dan Burr.
Section 45 is a revelation intended to comfort Saints who are fearful of the last days.
Although it contains alarming prophecies of conditions prior to the coming of the Lord, it is filled with reassurance for those who keep their covenants. For them, all the promises connected with those covenants will be fulfilled. Let’s examine the promises to the faithful and the consequences for those who choose to reject the covenants of the Lord.
The first and most heartening promise to the faithful is that the Lord Himself will be our advocate. He calls to us, “Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him” (45:3).
An advocate is one who speaks in our defense. At some point, we along with all the other children of God will be “arraigned at the judgment bar” of God (see 2 Ne. 33:15; Alma 11:44). Imagine being on trial in that courtroom. We will be asked to defend ourselves against the devil (Satan means “accuser” in Hebrew), who will try to bring before the court all our faults, failings, and sins. But if we have truly repented, the devil will have no case to make. Our great advocate will stand beside us and say, “Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed” (45:4). The blood of Christ will overcome any accusation that can be made against us—not because we are guiltless, but because He is, and He has paid the penalty for our transgressions.
That He is our advocate is perhaps the most comforting doctrine at the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The word “advocate” means “one who is called to our side.” It is the translation of the Greek word parakletos, which also means “comforter.” Faced with the fears of these last days, we can look to Jesus Christ as the Great Comforter if we are true and faithful to our covenants. His presence in our lives and His promises to see us through are the only true source of consolation as the world descends into a deeper darkness before His coming.
Note that He “is pleading your cause” before the Father—in the present tense. Your great Advocate is always at your side, defending you, guarding, preserving, and securing you as long as you do not stray off the covenant path. And if you do stray, He is anxiously calling you back and pleading with the Judge at the same time: “Father,” He cries, “spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life” (45:5).
Although our world faces destruction, the Lord promises to save us from calamity just as he saved the people of Enoch from destruction in another time. “Wherefore, hearken ye together and let me show unto you even my wisdom—the wisdom of him whom ye say is the God of Enoch, and his brethren, who were separated from the earth, and were received unto myself—a city reserved until a day of righteousness shall come—a day which was sought for by all holy men, and they found it not because of wickedness and abominations” (45:11-12).
The world of Enoch was profoundly wicked, just as ours is, and was about to be cleansed by the great flood, just as ours will be cleansed by fire. But if we “hearken together” to the Savior’s voice, He promises to spare us as He spared the city of Enoch. Somehow, we will be “separated from the earth” and “received unto” the Lord.
However, the righteous will not be mere onlookers as others suffer. Joseph Smith taught, “Concerning the coming of the Son of man . . . it is a false idea that the Saints will escape all the judgements whilst the wicked suffer—for all flesh is subject to suffer—and ‘the righteous shall hardly escape’” (“Journal, 1839,” p. 13, The Joseph Smith Papers).
We come into this world to gain experience by the things we are called on to endure, and we can be sure that the last days are and will be a time of serious testing. Section 45 describes some of those trials:
“In that day shall be heard of wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them. . . .and the love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound. . . . They shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land. . . . there shall be earthquakes also in divers places, and many desolations; yet men will harden their hearts against me, and they will take up the sword, one against another, and they will kill one another. . . .And they shall behold blood, and fire, and vapors of smoke. And before the day of the Lord shall come, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon be turned into blood, and the stars fall from heaven” (45:26-42).
Many of these trials are upon us now, and an even more tumultuous future awaits us. “He that feareth me shall be looking forth for the great day of the Lord to come, even for the signs of the coming of the Son of Man” (45:39). But to “fear” or respect the Lord is not to fear the future; the signs of His coming ought to mark a time of anticipation for us, of growing excitement and zeal in preparing for His coming. Section 45 invites us to watch for the signs and to prepare ourselves for their manifestation in the world as well as in our personal lives.
Although the outer world will surely undergo upheavals, perhaps it’s more important to apply the lessons of Section 45 to our inner lives. What in our individual lives corresponds to “wars, commotion, sickness, desolations, blood, fire, and vapors of smoke”? What is it that darkens our days as if the sun, moon, and stars were darkened?
We can’t forget in the midst of tumult and trial that our reason for being here in mortality is to undergo tumult and trial. The scriptures and the temple teach us that Adam and Eve—who represent each of us—descended into a darkened world to experience heartaches for their own good. We can’t forget that distress or disaster can befall any of us at any time. President Russell M. Nelson has said: “Heartaches will come. I’ve lived through the death of a wife and the death of a daughter. I’ve seen the troubles that divorce brings. Children or grandchildren go astray. There will be disability, illness, injuries. The hearts of men and women too will fail them” (an interesting comment by a heart surgeon).
But he then offers this advice: “To the individual who is weak in the heart, fearful in the heart, be patient with yourself. . . . As you let the Lord help you through that, He will make the difference. I’m so grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ that allows me that kind of strength in these tumultuous times” (Russell M. Nelson, “Men’s Hearts Will Fail Them,” video at ChurchofJesusChrist.org). To those of us who worry about the future and the bleakness of the world around us, our prophet reminds us to stay focused on the promises of the Gospel.
In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve made sacred covenants with the Lord, and He made certain promises to them that sustained them through a world of toil, heartache, and death. When the Israelites made covenants with the Lord at Sinai, He promised He would be with them through the “great and terrible wilderness” that they had to go through to arrive at the Promised Land (Deut. 1:19). Likewise, when we make sacred covenants with the Lord, He promises to stand by us, to be our advocate as we make our way—stumbling, falling away and struggling back—along the path to His kingdom. “Be not troubled,” He says, “for when all these things shall come to pass, ye may know that the promises which have been made unto you shall be fulfilled” (45:35).
The signs of His coming are signs of that fulfillment. He is beside us at every step. Unless we forget our identity and purpose, we will endure well the trials of life and enjoy the blessings of Enoch and his people, to be “taken up” into “the bosom of the Father and of the Son of Man” (Moses 7:24). If we have “taken the Holy Spirit for our guide,” we “shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day” (45:57).