My wife and I felt our family home evening had been a success. We had discussed the prophecies about the events preceding the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and our need to be prepared for that day. We restocked our year’s supply, our emergency backpacks, and our first-aid kit. We taught the children how to shut off the natural gas line into the house as well as other utilities in the event of a disaster. We also taught them how to start our backup generator in case an electrical blackout occurred. We felt prepared.
We did not realize the disturbing impact this experience had on our children until a few nights later. One of our children was carrying a plate of food, when suddenly the lights went out. The plate went flying as our child instantly recalled the fearful prophecies we had discussed. We immediately reassured everyone that all was well; then when the lights came back on, we faced the chore of cleaning up macaroni and cheese strewn all over the kitchen.
Just as our child reacted in fear, many of us are apprehensive about the Second Coming. In contemplating “the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (D&C 2:1), we may have a tendency to overlook the “great” and accentuate the “dreadful.”
Some of the prophecies can seem overwhelming. Earthquakes, thunder, lightning, hailstorms, plagues, famine, waves of the sea heaving beyond their bounds, a desolating scourge, the sun darkened, and the moon turned to blood are all worldly conditions predicted to usher in that “great and dreadful day.” The inhabitants of the earth will endure weeping and wailing, wars and rumors of wars, iniquity, false Christs and false prophets, men’s hearts failing them, and the proud and the wicked burning as stubble.
Some prophecies are even quite grotesque, such as this one:
“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 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 29:18–20).
In discussing this particular scripture during family home evening, one child, visualizing the swarms of flies and maggots, declared, “I’m gonna wear a beekeeper’s suit.”
As dreadful as these prophecies sound, let’s keep them in perspective. These fearful conditions contain a qualifying phrase indicating they are intended not for the righteous but for the wicked and unrepentant. For example, the verse immediately preceding the above scriptural passage is clear: “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” (D&C 29:17). A “desolating scourge” is prophesied for the inhabitants of the earth “if they repent not” (D&C 5:19).
Even if we are righteous, we may not be spared the effects of some of these plagues. But as we will discuss later, the Lord will support and help us. And for every dreadful prophecy directed at the wicked, there are wonderful prophecies that proffer signs and hope for the righteous. These prophetic signs or events could be divided into three categories: events the Lord controls, events Church leaders control as directed by Him, and events we personally control through the use of our agency.
Both the Lord and the leaders of the Church are fulfilling their part. The Lord has brought forth the Book of Mormon and the Restoration of the gospel with its priesthood and keys. The Brethren continue to move forward with many details that must be completed to usher in the return of the Savior. These events are in the Lord’s hands as He works through inspired prophets, seers, and revelators. As members of the Church, we have no control over these events.
We do, however, have control over whether we personally will be prepared for the day when the Savior comes again. Our daily decisions will determine whether that day is “great” or “dreadful.”
The scriptural statement “if ye are prepared ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30) is key to the Second Coming of Christ. Preparation creates a climate that is the opposite of fear: a spirit of assurance, peace, hope, confidence, and courage. To overcome fear, we must have our “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (D&C 27:16). The gospel of Jesus Christ is the great preparer.
How do we prepare? How do we ensure that our feet are shod with the gospel? From the beginning, God has covenanted to gather His elect so that they may instruct and edify each other. The Lord has declared, “I give unto you a sign, that ye may know the time when these things shall be about to take place—that I shall gather in, from their long dispersion, my people, O house of Israel, and shall establish again among them my Zion” (3 Ne. 21:1).
The doctrine of gathering is eternal in nature and broad in scope. We shouted for joy while gathered in the Grand Council in the premortal life (see Job 38:7). Our prophets have wisely taught us to gather to the stakes of Zion in our homelands “for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth” (D&C 115:6). We gather in general and stake conferences to receive counsel from our prophets and leaders. We gather each Sunday to be taught, to testify, and to renew sacred covenants. We gather for auxiliary and leadership meetings to get organized and to enjoy the company of other Saints. We gather in holy temples to redeem the dead and remind ourselves of holy commitments.
But the home is the vital gathering spot. We find refuge in our homes as we gather each Monday night in uplifting family home evenings. There is safe haven as we gather daily in family scripture study and family prayer. We gather for bonding conversation at meals. Each day we find a few moments of peace and calm in a troubled world as we gather up our scriptures and immerse ourselves in them. Our feet are shod with the gospel at each gathering. Each gathering is a defense and a refuge from the world. Indeed, each gathering strengthens, purifies, and prepares us. Remember, “if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.”
We live in a fearful world. Some of us live next door to the wicked and unrepentant. The calamities predicted for them can affect us. Our task is simple. We keep our shod feet on the narrow path by keeping all the covenants we have made. It is a covenant people who receive the promise:
“All they who suffer persecution for my name, and endure in faith, though they are called to lay down their lives for my sake yet shall they partake of all this glory.
“Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full” (D&C 101:35–36).
We are not promised a life without problems but are assured that we will be supported in them. Alma affirmed, “I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 36:3).
Referring to the dreadful conditions we face today, Nephi made these reassuring statements: “He will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous”; “He will preserve the righteous by his power”; “The Lord will surely prepare a way for his people”; “He gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him” (1 Ne. 22:16, 17, 20, 25). Twice he repeats, “The righteous need not fear” (1 Ne. 22:17, 22).
I echo Nephi’s message. If we are prepared, and if we are trying to draw closer to the Savior every day, we need not fear the events of the Second Coming.
For more information on “the great and dreadful day of the Lord,” see 2 Ne. 12–14, 20–24; Isa. 2–4, 10–14; Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. (1954–56), 3:1–79; Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. (1966), 687–98.