“Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments; and … to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world.” (D&C 1:17–18.)
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“Repent or perish.” There is, in my judgment, no more important message for the people of our day.
From the days of Adam “repent or perish” has been repeatedly and solemnly declared by the Father himself, his Son Jesus Christ, and their authorized representatives, the prophets.
The truth of the message has been demonstrated as regularly as it has been declared.
The Lord called upon the first generation of men to “repent.” He advised them that “as many as believed in the Son, and repented of their sins, should be saved; and as many as believed not and repented not, should be damned.” (Moses 5:15.)
The Lord told Enoch to preach to the antediluvians, “and say unto them—Repent, lest I come out and smite them with a curse, and they die.” (Moses 7:10.)
As Noah taught the people of his day the things of God, “the Lord said unto [him]: My Spirit shall not always strive with man, … yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years; and if men do not repent, I will send in the floods upon them.” (Moses 8:17.)
Noah continued his teaching through the allotted time, but his contemporaries would not repent. Consequently, they were destroyed in the flood.
The Book of Ether gives an account of the Jaredites—a great nation that flourished in America for some 2,000 years following the confounding of tongues at the great tower. To them “came many prophets, and prophesied of great and marvelous things, and cried repentance unto the people, and except they should repent the Lord God would execute judgment against them to their utter destruction.” (Ether 11:20.)
Ether, their last named prophet, prophesied “unto the people, for he could not be restrained because of the Spirit of the Lord which was in him.
“For he did cry from the morning, even until the going down of the sun, exhorting the people to believe in God unto repentance lest they should be destroyed. …” (Ether 12:2–3.)
To all these warnings the people turned a deaf and hostile ear. Ether lived to see and make record of a fratricidal war in which every member of that society except himself was killed. They learned, as did the antediluvians, in the hard way, the truth of the message, “Repent or perish.”
The Nephites, who succeeded the Jaredites in ancient America, pursued a similar course. Their founding fathers, as were the founding fathers of the Jaredites and as was Columbus, were divinely led to America, arriving about 600 B.C. Their descendants developed into two nations—the Nephites and the Lamanites.
For a brief period, following his postresurrection ministry among his disciples in the land of Jerusalem, Jesus ministered among them here in America.
During the thousand years of their history they were repeatedly taught and warned by prophets—including the resurrected Lord himself—that their occupation of the land was conditioned upon their living repentant lives.
For example, Samuel, the Lamanite prophet, thus warned the Nephites some six years prior to Christ’s birth:
“Behold, saith the Lord, concerning the people of the Nephites: If they will not repent, and observe to do my will, I will utterly destroy them, … and as surely as the Lord liveth shall these things be, saith the Lord.” (Hel. 15:17.)
He had before said, “Nothing can save this people save it be repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ. …” (Hel. 13:6.)
All such warnings were in the end ignored. About A.D. 400 the Nephites became so hardened in iniquity that in a fratricidal war they were utterly destroyed.
Other witnesses to the truth of the message “repent or perish” are the consuming of Sodom and Gomorrah and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Against this background we will do well to ponder the Lord’s diagnosis of the predicament of the inhabitants of the earth today.
“They have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant,” he said.
“They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own God, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.
“Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments;
“And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world. …” (D&C 1:15–18.)
The commandments referred to are replete with reminders to us of this generation that we must “repent or perish.”
Here are some of those reminders:
“Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh;
“And the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth.
“And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;
“… He that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven;
“And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; …
“Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.” (D&C 1:12–14, 32–33, 37.)
Many of the said commandments foretell in detail the manner in which the unrepentant shall perish. For example, we read in the fifth section of the Doctrine and Covenants “that woe shall come unto the inhabitants of the earth if they will not hearken unto my words;
“For a desolating scourge shall go forth among the inhabitants of the earth, and shall continue to be poured out from time to time, if they repent not, until the earth is empty, and the inhabitants thereof are consumed away and utterly destroyed by the brightness of my coming.
“Behold, I tell you these things, even as I also told the people of the destruction of Jerusalem; and my word shall be verified at this time as it hath hitherto been verified.” (D&C 5:5, 19–20.)
In the 29th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, we read that before the great and terrible day of the Lord shall come, “there shall be weeping and wailing among the hosts of men;
“And there shall be a great hailstorm sent forth to destroy the crops of the earth.
“And it shall come to pass, because of the wickedness of the world, that I will take vengeance upon the wicked, for they will not repent; for the cup of mine indignation is full; for behold, my blood shall not cleanse them if they hear me not.
“Wherefore, I the Lord God will send forth flies upon the face of the earth, which shall take hold of the inhabitants thereof, and shall eat their flesh, and shall cause maggots to come in upon them;
“And their tongues shall be stayed that they shall not utter against me; and their flesh shall fall from off their bones, and their eyes from their sockets;
“And it shall come to pass that the beasts of the forest and the fowls of the air shall devour them up.” (D&C 29:15–20.)
Although these scriptures, and numerous others to like effect, clearly and forcefully emphasize the message “repent or perish,” they are not unkind, harsh, nor flippant. Neither are they arbitrary. They express the logical and inevitable consequences of the violation of natural law—that law which was “decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated.” (D&C 130:20.)
These warnings have been declared to the world now for more than 140 years. The world is without excuse.
The signs of the times bear ominous testimony that for this generation the hour of reckoning approaches.
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matt. 11:15.) If we keep the foregoing scriptures in mind, they will help us understand the “signs” of our times.
As dark as the picture seems, however, there is a bright side to it. He who really listens will find that all the warnings, ancient and modern, have a silver lining that give cause for rejoicing. Both history and the scriptures are as replete with promises and proof that the repentant shall live, as they are with warnings that the unrepentant shall perish.
In the days of Adam, “the Lord God called upon men by the Holy Ghost everywhere and commanded them that they should repent;
“And as many as believed in the Son, and repented of their sins, should be saved. …” (Moses 5:14–15; italics added.)
A great lesson from the ancient world is evidenced in the contrast between the destiny of Enoch’s Zion and the fate of the wicked at the time of the flood.
In the days of Enoch “there went forth a curse upon all people that fought against God;
“And from that time forth there were wars and bloodshed among them; but the Lord came and dwelt with his people, and they dwelt in righteousness.
“The fear of the Lord was upon all nations, so great was the glory of the Lord, which was upon his people. …
“And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; …
“… And lo, Zion, in process of time, was taken up into heaven. …” (Moses 7:15–18, 21.)
The same contrast may be seen between the glorious society enjoyed by the righteous Nephites during the two centuries following the ministry of the resurrected Lord among them and their ultimate destruction.
Of them it is written:
“In the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, … and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.
“And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
“… and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.” (4 Ne. 1:2, 15–16.)
We come now to the promises the Lord has made to us of this last dispensation:
As long ago as 550 B.C., Nephi, seeing in vision our day, was moved by the spirit of prophecy to say:
“The Lord God shall commence his work among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, to bring about the restoration of his people upon the earth.
“And with righteousness shall the Lord God judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth. And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
“For the time speedily cometh that the Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will he destroy; and he will spare his people, yea, even if it so be that he must destroy the wicked by fire.” (2 Ne. 30:8–10; italics added.)
When the Saints were being driven from Jackson County, Missouri, the Lord gave the prophet Joseph Smith a comforting revelation in which He said:
“I have sworn … that I would let fall the sword of mine indignation in behalf of my people; and even as I have said, it shall come to pass.
“Mine indignation is soon to be poured out without measure upon all nations; and this will I do when the cup of their iniquity is full.
“And in that day all who are found upon the watch-tower, or in other words, all mine Israel, shall be saved.
“Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.
“Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered.
“They that remain, and are pure in heart, shall return, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion.” (D&C 101:10–12, 16–18.)
In conclusion, I quote again from the Lord’s preface to the Doctrine and Covenants:
“Verily I say unto you, O inhabitants of the earth: I the Lord am willing to make these things known unto all flesh;
“For I am no respecter of persons, and will that all men shall know that the day speedily cometh; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand, when peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion.
“And also the Lord shall have power over his saints, and shall reign in their midst …” (D&C 1:34–36; italics added.)
That we shall repent and not perish, I humbly pray.