In a general conference address in April 1950, Elder Richard L. Evans of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “I recall a reported statement, attributed, as I remember it, to President Wilford Woodruff. Some of the brethren of his time are said to have approached him … and to have inquired of him as to when he felt the end would be—when would be the coming of the Master? These, I think, are not his exact words, but they convey the spirit of his reported reply: ‘I would live as if it were to be tomorrow—but I am still planting cherry trees!’”1
Although these may not have been President Woodruff’s exact words, they do reflect his feelings about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. He acknowledged: “I do not think anyone can tell the hour of the coming of the Son of Man. … We need not look for the time of that event to be made known.”2 However, he looked forward to the Savior’s return to reign on the earth. With a testimony that the Church had been established in the last days, he taught the Saints with great urgency, exhorting them to prepare for the Savior’s Second Coming. “The signs in both heaven and earth all indicate the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “When my mind, under the influence of the Spirit of God, is open to comprehend these things I many times marvel and wonder, not only at the world but also at ourselves, that we are not more anxious and diligent in preparing ourselves and our families for the events now at our doors, for though the heavens and the earth pass away, not one jot or tittle of the word of the Lord will go unfulfilled.”3
I will say to the Latter-day Saints, as an elder in Israel and as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are approaching some of the most tremendous judgments God ever poured out upon the world. You watch the signs of the times, the sign of the coming of the Son of Man. They are beginning to be manifest both in heaven and on earth. … We are approaching these things. All that the Latter-day Saints have to do is to be quiet, careful and wise before the Lord, watch the signs of the times, and be true and faithful; and when you get through you will understand many things that you do not today. … We are in the last dispensation and fulness of time. It is a great day, and the eyes of all the heavens are over us, and the eyes of God himself and all the patriarchs and prophets. They are watching over you with feelings of deep interest, for your welfare; and our prophets who were slain, and sealed their testimony with their blood, are mingling with the Gods, pleading for their brethren. Therefore, let us be faithful, and leave events in the hands of God, and he will take care of us if we do our duty.4
The Lord Jesus Christ is coming to reign on earth. The world may say that he delays his coming until the end of the earth. But they know neither the thoughts nor the ways of the Lord. The Lord will not delay his coming because of their unbelief, and the signs both in heaven and earth indicate that it is near. The fig trees are leafing in sight of all the nations of the earth [see Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:38–40], and if they had the Spirit of God they could see and understand them.5
If the world wants to know what is coming to pass, let them read the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants; let them read [the] revelations of St. John. As God lives they will come to pass. Not one of them will fall unfulfilled. And the hand of God is beginning to be manifest in the earth. Judgment is at the door; calamity awaits the nations of the earth; but we ourselves should be prepared to stand in holy places while the judgments of God are manifest in the earth.6
We are told in the 24th chapter of Matthew, that Jesus, on a certain occasion, taught his disciples many things concerning his gospel, the temple, the Jews, his second coming and the end of the world; and they asked him—Master, what shall be the sign of these things? The Savior answered them, but in a very brief manner. As my mind runs a little in that channel I feel disposed to read a portion of the word of the Lord unto us, which explains this matter more fully than the Savior explained it to his disciples. That portion of the word of the Lord which I shall read, is a revelation given to the Latter-day Saints, March 7, 1831. [After making this statement, Elder Woodruff read the revelation that is now section 45 in the Doctrine and Covenants.] …
We are living in a late age, although it is true there are a great many vast and important events to transpire in these days. But one thing is certain, though the Lord has not revealed the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man shall come, he has pointed out the generation, and the signs predicted as the fore-runners of that great event have begun to appear in the heavens and on the earth, and they will continue until all is consummated. If we, as Latter-day Saints, want anything to stir us up, let us read the Bible, Book of Mormon and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants; they contain enough to edify and instruct us in the things of God. Treasure up the revelations of God and the gospel of Christ contained therein.7
You will find numerous predictions in regard to his coming, such as—“I come quickly,” “I come at an hour ye think not,” “My coming is at the door,” “I come as a thief in the night,” “I come in an hour when you are not looking for me,” and “Blessed is he who is looking for the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” I say that throughout the whole of the Scriptures—the Old and New Testament, the Book of Mormon and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, the second coming of the Lord is frequently referred to; and has the Lord promised these things without intending to fulfil them? No, he has not, they will be fulfilled.8
I want to ask who are looking for the fulfillment of these events, and who upon the earth are preparing themselves for the fulfillment of the word of the Lord through the mouths of prophets, patriarchs and apostles for the last six thousand years? Nobody that I have any knowledge of, [except] the Latter-day Saints, and I for one feel that we are not half so much awake as we ought to be, and not half as well prepared as we ought to be for the tremendous events which are coming upon the earth in quick succession in these latter days. Who can the Lord expect to prepare for his second coming but his Saints? None.9
The Lord has a great work ahead and he is preparing a people to do it before his coming. Now the question arises here, brethren and sisters, are we prepared in our hearts? Do we realize these things? As a people do we realize our responsibilities before the Lord? The Lord has raised up a kingdom of priests here in the last days to establish his church and kingdom, and to prepare the way for the second coming of the Son of Man, and the God of heaven has put into the hands of his servants the keys of the kingdom, and he has said—“Whatever I have decreed in these my servants shall be fulfilled, for to them is given power to bind and to seal both on the earth and in heaven, against the day of the wrath of Almighty God, which is to be poured out upon the world.” [See D&C 1:7–9.]
I think, many times, that we, as elders of Israel and as Latter-day Saints, come far short of realizing our position before the Lord. The work required at our hands is great and mighty; it is the work of Almighty God. We are held responsible for presenting the gospel of Christ to all the nations of the earth. … We are held responsible for all this and for building temples to the Most High, wherein we can enter and attend to ordinances for the salvation of our dead. …
… How much has the Lord plead with the nations of the earth to give them celestial glory, honor, immortality and eternal life? He has plead with them for the last six thousand years, and has raised up his servants from time to time and called upon the inhabitants of the world to prepare themselves for the great day of his second advent and coming, which is at hand. He is calling upon them loudly to-day; and, as I have said to some of my brethren lately, the Lord now wants to know whether the Latter-day Saints are willing to work with him or not. It is a day of decision.10
Before Christ comes a people have got to be prepared by being sanctified before the Lord. Temples have got to be built; Zion has got to be built up; there must be a place of safety for the people of God while his judgments are abroad in the earth, for the judgments of God will visit the earth, there is no mistake about that; the revelations are full of promises to this effect, and as the Lord has declared it, he will not fail in keeping his word.11
I think we do not realize the magnitude of this work. It is a hard matter for us to comprehend the responsibility that we are under to God, to the heavens, to the dead, as well as the living of our fellow men.
Now, when I look at these things, I also look at what there is before us. The organizations, which have been established in this Church from the beginning, are all helps and governments, and are associated together to carry out this great work. The eyes of the heavens are over us. The Son of God and all the Prophets and Patriarchs that have lived upon the earth are watching over this great work—this great organization preparing for the coming of the Son of Man.12
We are living in an important age. The prophecies relating to our time are rolling in upon us; are we prepared to meet them?13
The Savior … compared the kingdom of God unto ten virgins, which took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom [see Matthew 25:1]. “And five of them were wise and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them; But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you; but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterwards came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.” [Matthew 25:2–12.] Now, those who have got oil in their lamps, are men who live their religion, pay their tithing, pay their debts, keep the commandments of God, and do not blaspheme his name; men and women who walk in the light of the Lord; men and women who will not sell their birthright for a mess of pottage or for a little gold or silver; these are those that will be valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ.
This is the way I feel to-day. I feel to warn my brethren and sisters, the Latter-day Saints, to live their religion, to trim their lamps, because as the Lord lives his word will be fulfilled. The coming of Jesus is nigh at the door. … The man that is righteous cannot save the wicked. We have got to live our own righteousness, that is keep the commandments of God.14
The parable of the ten virgins is intended to represent the second coming of the Son of man, the coming of the Bridegroom to meet the bride, the church, the Lamb’s wife, in the last days; and I expect that the Saviour was about right when he said, in reference to the members of the church, that five of them were wise and five were foolish; for when the Lord of heaven comes in power and great glory to reward every man according to the deeds done in the body, if he finds one-half of those professing to be members of his church prepared for salvation, it will be as many as can be expected judging by the course that many are pursuing.15
The word of the Lord to me is that it is time for Zion to rise and let her light shine; and the testimony of the Spirit of God to me is that this whole kingdom, this great kingdom of priests … who have borne the priesthood, have thoroughly fulfilled one part of the parable of the ten virgins. What is that? Why, that while the Bridegroom has tarried we have all slumbered and slept; as a church and kingdom we have slumbered and slept, and the word of the Lord to me is that we have slept long enough; and we have the privilege now of rising and trimming our lamps and putting oil in our vessels. This is the word of the Lord to me.16
Now the question is, how can we keep oil in our lamps? By keeping the commandments of God, remembering our prayers, do[ing] as we are told by the revelations of Jesus Christ, and otherwise assisting in building up Zion. When we are laboring for the kingdom of God, we will have oil in our lamps, our light will shine and we will feel the testimony of the Spirit of God. On the other hand, if we set our hearts upon the things of the world and seek for the honors of men, we shall walk in the dark and not in the light. If we do not value our priesthood, and the work of this priesthood, the building up of the kingdom of God, the rearing of temples, the redeeming of our dead, and the carrying out of the great work unto which we have been ordained by the God of Israel—if we do not feel that these things are more valuable to us than the things of the world, we will have no oil in our lamps, no light, and we shall fail to be present at the marriage supper of the Lamb.17
Who is going to be prepared for the coming of the Messiah? [Those] who enjoy the Holy Ghost and live under the inspiration of the Almighty, who abide in Jesus Christ and bring forth fruit to the honor and glory of God. No other people will be.18
I pray that we may live in such a manner as not to be among the foolish virgins, but understand the signs of the times, do our duty, maintain our integrity, overcome the world, and be prepared to receive our Redeemer when he comes, with joy, and not in grief and shame.19
Trust in God. Do your duty. Remember your prayers. Get faith in the Lord, and take hold and build up Zion. All will be right. The Lord is going to visit his people, and he is going to cut his work short in righteousness, lest no flesh should be saved [see D&C 84:97; Matthew 24:22]. I say to you, watch the signs of the times, and prepare yourselves for that which is to come.20
Consider these ideas as you study the chapter or as you prepare to teach. For additional help, see pages v–ix.
Review the first paragraph on page 250. What lessons do you learn from the statement Elder Evans attributed to President Woodruff?
How can we learn about the signs of the Savior’s Second Coming? (See pages 252–53.)
What are the purposes of the signs of the Second Coming? (See pages 251–53; see also D&C 45:34–39.) What evidence do you see that some of these signs are being fulfilled? How can we remain “quiet, careful and wise before the Lord,” even when some of these signs include tragedy?
Review President Woodruff’s teachings about the Church’s role in preparing the way for the Second Coming (pages 253–55). How can we participate in this work?
Why should we be concerned about our own preparedness rather than about the exact timing of the Second Coming? In what ways can we help our families prepare? How can we “stand in holy places while the judgments of God are manifest in the earth”? (page 252).
In the parable of the ten virgins, who are represented by the wise and foolish virgins? by the bridegroom? by the bride? What is represented by the marriage supper? by the oil in the lamps? As we prepare for the Second Coming, what can we do to “keep oil in our lamps”? (See pages 255–56, 258; see also D&C 45:56–57.)