From the Life of Joseph F. Smith
President Joseph F. Smith bore strong testimony to the reality of the Second Coming of the Savior. He counseled the Saints to study the words of the prophets of God concerning the Second Coming and to prepare themselves for that event by honoring their covenants. He taught that the Church is a “special harbinger of the Savior’s second coming”1 and is preparing the earth for His millennial reign. The Savior’s coming is “not far distant,” declared President Smith, “for the signs of his coming are now very plain.” He and the other members of the First Presidency urged the Saints to “labor in the fear of God that we may be with His holy company when He comes. For He will come in the clouds and save His saints while His angels will reap the earth and cleanse it from sin.”2
In a spirit of hope and joy President Smith said: “The clouds of error that overspread Christendom during those ages of misconception and contention are clearing away, and a broadening prospect is opening to view of the speedy coming of the great Millennium predicted by all the inspired prophets of the past. We congratulate the whole world on the brightness and glory of the dawning of that millennial day, and the extending of its rays throughout the earth.”3
Teachings of Joseph F. Smith
God’s prophets have foretold the signs of Christ’s Second Coming.
In regard to … the judgments of God that are about to be poured out upon the nations, if the people will … read the predictions of the prophets concerning them, especially those referred to by the angel Moroni, when conversing with the Prophet Joseph Smith, at the opening up of this dispensation, I think they will be thoroughly satisfied and convinced, if they have any faith at all, that these coming judgments are not matters of mere speculation or supposition, nor of tradition handed down from remote ages, but that they are matters of fact, or will be ere long, when God shall consummate his designs against the wicked and ungodly of the world. For not only have prophets and inspired men declared these things, but they have been declared by the voice of the Lord, and by holy messengers sent from the presence of God, as well in modern as in ancient times.
The Angel Moroni, who visited Joseph Smith on the 21st of September, 1823, quoted the Scriptures concerning these judgments, and declared that the predictions of the prophets had not yet been fulfilled, but that they would be in this dispensation, and that the beginning was now at hand, even at the door. Among these quotations I would like to call your attention to Malachi, [third] chapter: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me,” etc. “But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap, and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver,” etc. “And I will come near to you to judgment, and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from the right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of Hosts.” [Malachi 3:1–3, 5.]
And again, Malachi, 4th chapter—all of which was quoted by Moroni—“For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be as stubble, and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” [Malachi 4:1.] Again, Moroni quoted the 11th chapter of Isaiah, in which are these words on this subject: “But with righteousness shall he 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.” [Isaiah 11:4.]
Again, Acts, 3d chapter, 22d and 23d verses—quoted by Moroni just as they read in the New Testament—“A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you. … Him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you, and it shall come to pass that every soul which will not hear that prophet shall be destroyed from among the people.” Now this is strong language, and to the point. Moroni declared that this prophet was Christ at his second coming; that this scripture was not fulfilled, but was about to be fulfilled in the literal coming of the Son of Man to reign upon the earth and to execute judgment upon the world. Moroni also quoted Joel, 2d chapter, 28th to the 32d verses, declaring that this scripture was also shortly to be fulfilled: “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke, &c. And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered, for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.” [See Joseph Smith—History 1:36–41.]
Now, it seems to me that none of the interest or importance of this vital subject are lost in the fact that we are not left to the traditions of the fathers nor to the written word solely, nor to any uncertain means for the verification of these predictions, but rather our interest should be awakened from the fact that an angel from heaven, an actual messenger from the presence of God, has re-iterated these very predictions to man on the earth in this generation.
Some of these passages of scripture quoted by the angel were presumed to have been fulfilled in the days of the ancient apostles. Thus the world was in ignorance respecting them. All uncertainty upon this subject is now, however, dispelled, and the truth is made plain to all. For Moroni declared to Joseph Smith that these scriptures had not been fulfilled, but that the set time had come when they would be fulfilled, every whit, and the coming of Christ, the execution of the judgements, and the ushering in of the final reign of peace therein referred to, should be consummated in this dispensation. The power of the wicked nations of the earth will be broken. Thrones shall totter, and kingdoms fall, while Zion shall arise and shine, and put on her beautiful garments, and be clothed with power, wisdom, majesty and dominion upon the earth. Babylon must fall to rise no more.4
The righteous will heed the signs and prepare themselves for the Savior’s coming.
The many eruptions, earthquakes and tidal waves which have occurred … are signs which the Savior declared should foreshadow his second coming, although he said his advent should be as a thief in the night, still he gave certain signs which would indicate as surely his coming as the budding trees the coming of summer. The wise and prudent will heed the warning and prepare themselves that they be not taken unawares. Not the least of the signs of the times is this, that the gospel is being preached unto the poor, as a witness unto all nations.5
The Latter-day Saints … believe in the statements of the Holy Scriptures, that calamities will befall the nations as signs of the coming of Christ to judgment. They believe that God rules in the fire, the earthquake, the tidal wave, the volcanic eruption, and the storm. Him they recognize as the Master and Ruler of nature and her laws, and freely acknowledge his hand in all things. We believe that his judgments are poured out to bring mankind to a sense of his power and his purposes, that they may repent of their sins and prepare themselves for the second coming of Christ to reign in righteousness upon the earth.
We firmly believe that Zion—which is the pure in heart—shall escape, if she observes to do all things whatsoever God has commanded; but, in the opposite event, even Zion shall be visited “with sore affliction, with pestilence, with plague, with sword, with vengeance, and with devouring fire” (Doctrine and Covenants 97:26). All this that her people may be taught to walk in the light of truth and in the way of the God of their salvation.
We believe that these severe, natural calamities are visited upon men by the Lord for the good of his children, to quicken their devotion to others, and to bring out their better natures, that they may love and serve him. We believe, further, that they are the heralds and tokens of his final judgment, and the schoolmasters to teach the people to prepare themselves by righteous living for the coming of the Savior to reign upon the earth, when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ.
If these lessons are impressed upon us and upon the people of our country, the anguish, and the loss of life and toil, sad, great and horrifying as they were, will not have been endured in vain.6
I … testify, that unless the Latter-day Saints will live their religion, keep their covenants with God and their brethren, honor the priesthood which they bear, and try faithfully to bring themselves into subjection to the laws of God, they will be the first to fall beneath the judgments of the Almighty, for his judgments will begin at his own house.
Therefore, those who have made a covenant with the Lord by baptism, and have broken that covenant, who profess to be saints and are not, but are sinners, and covenant-breakers, and partakers of the sins of Babylon, most assuredly will “receive of her plagues,” for it is written that the righteous will barely escape [see Revelation 18:4; D&C 63:34]. This is my testimony in relation to these matters. We rely upon the word of the Lord in these things, and not upon the word of man, for not only have angels, but God Almighty has spoken from the heavens in this our own age of the world, and we know his word is true.
That we as a people may be prepared not only for the judgments, but for the glory and coming of our Lord, that we may escape the calamities to be poured out upon the wicked, and receive the welcome plaudit of the faithful servant, and be counted worthy to stand in the presence of the Lord in his glorious kingdom, is my prayer.7
We hear about living in perilous times. We are in perilous times, but I do not feel the pangs of that terror. It is not upon me. I propose to live so that it will not rest upon me. I propose to live so that I shall be immune from the perils of the world, if it be possible for me to so live, by obedience to the commandments of God and to his laws revealed for my guidance. No matter what may come to me, if I am only in the line of my duty, if I am in fellowship with God, if I am worthy of the fellowship of my brethren, if I can stand spotless before the world, without blemish, without transgression of the laws of God, what does it matter to me what may happen to me? I am always ready, if I am in this frame of understanding mind and conduct. It does not matter at all. Therefore I borrow no trouble nor feel the pangs of fear.
The Lord’s hand is over all, and therein I acknowledge his hand. Not that men are at war, not that nations are trying to destroy nations, not that men are plotting against the liberties of their fellow creatures, not in those respects at all; but God’s hand is not shortened. He will control the results that will follow. He will overrule them in a way that you and I, today, do not comprehend, or do not foresee, for ultimate good.8
Obedience to the gospel will prepare the world for the coming of the Savior.
Obedience to the Gospel will save the world from sin, abolish war, strife and litigation, and usher in the millennial reign. It will restore the earth to its rightful owner, and prepare it for the inheritance of the just. These are all principles of [the] Gospel of Christ, and the effects which will flow from their acceptance and adoption by mankind.9
The gospel is salvation, and without it there is nothing worth having. We came naked into the world and shall go hence the same. If we were to accumulate half the world, it would avail us nothing so far as prolonging life here, or securing eternal life hereafter. But the gospel teaches men to be humble, faithful, honest and righteous before the Lord and with each other, and in proportion as its principles are carried out so will peace and righteousness extend and be established on the earth, and sin, contention, bloodshed and corruption of all kinds cease to exist, and the earth become purified and be made a fit abode for heavenly beings; and for the Lord our God to come and dwell upon, which he will do during the Millennium.10
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints … regards it as part of its mission to prepare the way for the literal and glorious coming of the Son of God to the earth, to reign over it and dwell with His people. As part of that work of preparation the Saints believe that Israel, so long scattered among the nations of the earth, will be gathered together and restored to the lands promised to their fathers as an everlasting inheritance. …
… Those who have received the Gospel in the world … will be factors in carrying out God’s purposes. They will be conjoint laborers with Him in bringing to pass not only their own salvation in time and in eternity, but the salvation of all Israel and of the Gentiles who will receive the Gospel. They will be fulfillers of ancient prophecies. Isaiah, in the glow of the inspiration of God, saw them and their labors when he cried aloud: “It shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isaiah ii:2–3). Of them Jeremiah was speaking when he repeated God’s promise to Israel to be fulfilled in the last days: “I will take you, one of a city and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion, and I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding” (Jeremiah iii:14–15).11
The Lord … decreed a decree which He said His people should realize: That they should begin from that very hour to prevail over all their enemies and, inasmuch as they continued to be faithful in keeping His laws He had given unto them, it was decreed that they should prevail until all enemies were subdued—not subdued by violence or the spirit of contention or of warfare but subdued by the power of eternal truth, by the majesty and power of Almighty God. … The increased power of the righteous and of the upright covenanted people of God should be magnified and increased, until the world shall bow and acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ, and that there is a people preparing for His coming in power and glory to the earth again [see D&C 103:5–8].12
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is no partisan Church. It is not a sect. It is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is the only one today existing in the world that can and does legitimately bear the name of Jesus Christ and his divine authority. I make this declaration in all simplicity and honesty before you and before all the world, bitter as the truth may seem to those who are opposed and who have no reason for that opposition. It is nevertheless true and will remain true until he who has a right to rule among the nations of the earth and among the individual children of God throughout the world shall come and take the reins of government and receive the bride that shall be prepared for the coming of the Bridegroom.13
Suggestions for Study
Why is it important to us that God’s prophets “in modern as in ancient times” have foretold the Second Coming of the Savior?
Why have we been given signs of the Second Coming? Who will recognize these as signs of the Savior’s coming? How can we apply the information about these signs to our lives?
In what ways might natural calamities be “for the good of [God’s] children”? How should we respond when they fall upon us?
What must we do to “escape the calamities to be poured out upon the wicked”?
What blessings would come to the world if people would obey the principles of the gospel?
In what ways does God “overrule” the results of evil “for ultimate good”?
How will the Saints finally subdue all their enemies?
Why is the Second Coming both a “great” and a “dreadful” day? (See D&C 110:16.)
What can each of us do to help prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Savior?
In James R. Clark, comp, Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (1965–75), 4:154.
In Messages of the First Presidency, 3:287.
In Messages of the First Presidency, 4:294.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1880, 95–96; paragraphing added.
In Messages of the First Presidency, 4:132.
Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), 55.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1880, 96.
Gospel Doctrine, 89.
Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 19 Feb. 1878, 1.
Gospel Doctrine, 84–85.
“President Joseph F. Smith on ‘Mormonism,’” Millennial Star, 19 June 1902, 385–86.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1902, 2.
Gospel Doctrine, 137.