As we read through the signs of the Lord’s Coming delineated in Matthew chapter 24 and in other places in the scriptures, this phrase, “earthquakes in diverse places,” is repeated again and again and particularly brings strongly to mind just how difficult it is to predict or otherwise understand these amazingly powerful natural phenomena.
With the 5.7 magnitude quake centered in Magna, Utah, 35 miles north of our home in Eagle Mountain, just after 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, the unpredictability of earthquakes was brought home with the sound as of a great wind shaking the house. It certainly seems to be especially designed to get our attention and to surprise us.
Scientific Basis for Earthquake Study
Since the Lord includes earthquakes in His short list of important signs and wonders that we should be on the lookout for, why not learn more about the science behind the earthquakes and why it might be that the Lord considers them such great signs of His Coming. Do not such great signs seem designed to encourage us, or even jolt us to repent and more diligently prepare for that Coming?
As the earth’s surface plates grind against each other, mountains and valleys are created and fault lines determined where earthquakes punctuate the ongoing titanic pushes and pulls of the earth’s continents against each other and eventually toward a stable, more or less, non-shaking condition.
The Richter scale is used in calculations of the energy of these quakes making the formulas exponential in nature. A 5.7 magnitude earthquake like the one that happened today is not just one measure of power more than a 4.7 magnitude earthquake, but is 10 times more powerful than that 4.7 smaller earthquake.
Similarly, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake is 100 times more powerful than a 4.0 magnitude earthquake. Being so much smaller in magnitude, you can then see why we mostly ignore 3 or 4 magnitude quakes, even mostly cannot feel them when close by, so much less powerful are they than the ones when magnitude 5, 6 or even higher power levels occasionally happen.
Toward the west from the Wasatch Mountains from Brigham City in the north to Nephi in the south are a series of fault segments of one of the longest active fault lines in the nation during the last 10,000 years. Every 300-400 years on average, an amazingly powerful earthquake of 6.5 to 7.5 magnitude ruptures the surface along this Wasatch Fault Line.
So, one very interesting characteristic of the Wasatch Fault segments is that they don’t trigger magnitude 5 or 4 or other lesser sized quakes. It is only, it seems, interested in a super high powered tug of war of at least magnitude 6.0 or higher—leaving behind the smaller quakes relegated to the smaller set of faults near Magna on the western side of the Salt Lake valley or elsewhere.
So, Who Does Know about These Earthquakes down to their Infinite Details?
One of my favorite scriptures discusses the set of “all things” that the Lord does take credit for knowledge and understanding of even “that” (hand measurement gesture) big, even “Giant super-sized” large set of entities big.
“Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.” (Mosiah 4:9)
A favorite quote from Elder Neal A. Maxwell magnificently proclaims the omniscience of God—even in this complicated, random, terribly unpredictable world of earthquakes or volcanoes.
“God, who knows the beginning from the end, knows, therefore, all that is in between. . . .
“Below the scripture that declares that God knows ‘all things’ there is no footnote reading ‘except that God is a little weak in geophysics!’ We do not worship a God who simply forecasts a generally greater frequency of earthquakes in the last days before the second coming of His Son; He knows precisely when and where all these will occur. … there are no qualifiers, only flat and absolute assertions of the omniscience of God.” [emphasis added] [iii]
And, not only do we have a very unusual quite powerful slippage of a fault line near Magna, but we also have, of all things to happen also today, but there was considerable damage to the Angel Moroni statue atop the Salt lake Temple as the temple’s four year construction and upgrading period is beginning. And, the temple is not very close to the center of the quake in Magna (14 miles). [iv]
And, making a combination of all these things at the same time all that more impossible, the entire world is now a few weeks into the Coronavirus health battle.
And, definitely not done with it—And yet, this year we also celebrate the magnificent opening of the modern “Restitution of All Things” with the 200th anniversary of the First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1820.
More than just amazing! It is miraculous!
] UTAH EARTHQUAKES
Here are the magnitude 5 and over in the past century, according to the U. Seismograph Stations
2020 — Magna 5.7
1992 — St. George 5.8
1989 — South Wasatch Plateau 5.4
1962 — Cache Valley 5.7
1962 — Magna 5.2
1961 — Ephraim 5.0
1949 — Salt Lake City 5.0
1910 — Elsinore 5.0
1909 — Hansel Valley 6.0 ]
[ “Utah earthquake: Big aftershock hits, acid plume no longer dangerous, emergency declarations issued,” Salt Lake Tribune, 3/18/2020.
[iii] Merrill J. Bateman, “Nothing Shall be Withheld,” May 22, 2007.