Chapter 34: The Signs of the Times

Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, (2000), 94–96


Introduction

Through the prophets the Lord has revealed many signs that pertain to this dispensation to help latter-day Israel prepare for His Second Coming and the great events that will precede it. In January 1831 the Lord stated through the Prophet Joseph Smith, “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30).

Doctrinal Outline

Supporting Statements

  • A.

    The signs of the times in our day are events that were prophesied to take place in the latter days before the Second Coming of Christ.

    • Signs are the recognizable events or occurrences which identify present and which portend future events. They are omens, prodigies, wonders, and marvels of abnormal occurrence. Time means the age, era, period, or dispensation involved. Thus the signs of the times for our age or dispensation are the marvelous events—differing in kind, extent, or magnitude from events of past times—which identify the dispensation of the fulness of times and presage the Second Advent of our Lord” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 715–16).

    • “Many things have taken place during the past one hundred and thirty-six years to impress faithful members of the Church with the fact that the coming of the Lord is near. The gospel has been restored. The Church has been fully organized. The priesthood has been conferred upon man. The various dispensations from the beginning have been revealed and their keys and authorities given to the Church. Israel has been and is being gathered to the land of Zion. The Jews are returning to Jerusalem. The gospel is being preached in all the world as a witness to every nation. Temples are being built, and ordinance work for the dead, as well as for the living, is performed in them. The hearts of the children have turned to their fathers, and the children are seeking after their dead. The covenants which the Lord promised to make with Israel in the latter days have been revealed, and thousands of gathered Israel have entered into them. Thus the work of the Lord is advancing, and all these things are signs of the near approach of our Lord” (Joseph Fielding Smith, in Conference Report, Apr. 1966, 12–13).

    • “Before this earth becomes a fit habitat for the Holy One, it must be cleansed and purified. The wicked must be destroyed; peace must replace war; and the evil imaginations in the hearts of men must give way to desires for righteousness. How shall this be brought to pass? There are two ways: (1) By plagues and pestilence and wars and desolation. The wicked shall slay the wicked, as did the Nephites and the Lamanites in the day of the extinction of the Nephites as a nation. Plagues will sweep the earth, as the Black Death ravaged Asia and Europe in the fourteenth century. The carcasses of the dead will be stacked in uncounted numbers to rot and decay and fill the earth with stench. (2) Then, at his coming, the vineyard will be burned. The residue of the wicked will be consumed” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah, 378).

      Resurrection restores the body completely.
    • “All we have yet heard and we have experienced is scarcely a preface to the sermon that is going to be preached. When the testimony of the Elders ceases to be given, and the Lord says to them, ‘Come home; I will now preach my own sermons to the nations of the earth,’ all you now know can scarcely be called a preface to the sermon that will be preached with fire and sword, tempests, earthquakes, hail, rain, thunders and lightnings, and fearful destruction. What matters the destruction of a few railway cars? You will hear of magnificent cities, now idolized by the people, sinking in the earth, entombing the inhabitants. The sea will heave itself beyond its bounds, engulfing mighty cities. Famine will spread over the nations and nation will rise up against nation, kingdom against kingdom and states against states, in our own country and in foreign lands; and they will destroy each other, caring not for the blood and lives of their neighbors, of their families, or for their own lives” (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, 111–12).

    • “In the very nature of things, the signs of the times will not cease until the Lord comes. Those that involve chaos and commotion and distress of nations will continue in the future with even greater destructive force. Men’s hearts will fail them for fear in greater degree hereafter than heretofore. Wars will get worse. Moments of armistice and peace will be less stable. Viewed in the perspective of years, all worldly things will degenerate. There will be an increasing polarization of views. There will be more apostasy from the Church, more summer saints and sunshine patriots who will be won over to the cause of the adversary. Those who support the kingdom because of the loaves and the fishes will find other bread to eat. While the faithful saints get better and better, and cleave more firmly to the heaven-sent standards, the world will get worse and worse and will cleave to the policies and views of Lucifer” (McConkie, Millennial Messiah, 404).

    • “The coming of the Son of Man never will be—never can be till the judgments spoken of for this hour are poured out: which judgments are commenced. Paul says, ‘Ye are the children of the light, and not of the darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief in the night.’ It is not the design of the Almighty to come upon the earth and crush it and grind it to powder, but he will reveal it to His servants the prophets.

      “Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the temple, and water come out from under the temple, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple, and etc.; and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make His appearance. There will be wars and rumors of wars, signs in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, the sun turned into darkness and the moon to blood, earthquakes in divers places, the seas heaving beyond their bounds; then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, etc. But the Son of man will come as the sign of the coming of the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 286–87).

  • B.

    A knowledge of the signs of the times can help us turn to the Lord and prepare ourselves for His Second Coming.

    • “I will prophesy that the signs of the coming of the Son of Man are already commenced. One pestilence will desolate after another. We shall soon have war and bloodshed. The moon will be turned into blood. I testify of these things, and that the coming of the Son of Man is nigh, even at your doors. If our souls and our bodies are not looking forth for the coming of the Son of Man; and after we are dead, if we are not looking forth, we shall be among those who are calling for the rocks to fall upon them” (Smith, Teachings, 160).

    • “One of the great incentives which encourages and entices men to live lives of personal righteousness, is the doctrine of the Second Coming of the Messiah. Many revelations speak of the signs which shall precede our Lord’s return; others tell of the tragic yet glorious events which shall attend and accompany his return to earth; and still others recite the good and ill which shall befall the living and the dead at that time. All this is preserved in holy writ so that men will be led to prepare themselves for the day of the Lord, the day when he shall take vengeance upon the ungodly and pour forth blessings upon those who love his appearing” (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:674–75).

      If we are prepared we needn't fear.
    • “Treasure up the Lord’s word. Possess it, own it, make it yours by both believing it and living it. For instance: the voice of the Lord says that if men have faith, repent, and are baptized, they shall receive the Holy Ghost. It is not sufficient merely to know what the scripture says. One must treasure it up, meaning take it into his possession so affirmatively that it becomes a part of his very being; as a consequence, in the illustration given, one actually receives the companionship of the Spirit. Obviously such persons will not be deceived where the signs of the times and the Second Coming of the Messiah are concerned” (McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:662).

    • “Our souls cry out: ‘God hasten the day of the coming of thy Son,’ and yet we know that such cannot be. The day is fixed and the hour is set. The signs have been, are now, and will hereafter be shown forth. Our obligation is to discern the signs of the times lest we, with the world, be taken unawares” (McConkie, Millennial Messiah, 405).

    • “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.

      “Are you priesthood bearers 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?

      “Let me give you the sure word of prophecy on which you should rely for your guide instead of these strange sources which may have great political implications.

      “Read the 24th chapter of Matthew—particularly that inspired version as contained in the Pearl of Great Price [Joseph Smith—Matthew].

      “Then read the 45th section of the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord, not man, has documented the signs of the times.

      “Now turn to section 101 and section 133 of the Doctrine and Covenants and hear the step-by-step recounting of events leading up to the coming of the Savior.

      “Finally, turn to the promises the Lord makes to those who keep the commandments when these judgments descend upon the wicked, as set forth in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 38.

      “Brethren, these are some of the writings with which you should concern yourselves, rather than commentaries that may come from those whose information may not be the most reliable and whose motives may be subject to question. And may I say, parenthetically, most of such writers are not handicapped by having any authentic information on their writings” (Harold B. Lee, in Conference Report, Oct. 1972, 128; or Ensign, Jan. 1973, 106).